All posts by Karl Schnelle

1/43 diecast collector

The 40 Series: Early Post-War English Saloon Cars Made by Dinky Toys

By Terry Hardgrave

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

With all toy production halted during World War II, Meccano Ltd. was anxious to start up again, and in early 1946 production resumed, albeit at a fairly low level. At first, almost all of these Dinky Toys were re-issues of pre-war models that were easy to put into production or use up existing stocks of leftover parts. But very quickly, a decision was made to design and build a new series of models, which would feature the latest English production cars, as the automotive industry was also getting back on its feet. New, modern cars were going to be in demand, and young boys would want the latest Dinky Toys that modeled them.

So, starting in 1947, and ending in 1954, ten new models were introduced, which were to prove very popular, and along with new models of American cars, propelled Meccano into it’s best sales years ever by the mid-1950’s. These new models comprised the 40 Series, and along with two other cars labeled 140a and 140b, are the subject of this article. These models were very long lived in the Dinky Toys lineup… they were in production for 7 to 12 years and were arguably one of the most important series of models that Dinky Toys produced. Dinky did a masterful job in modeling each of these to very high standards for that era.

The first 40 series model Dinky Toys introduced, in 1947, was 40a, the Riley Saloon. The real car was a Riley RMA 4-door sedan, which was introduced in 1945 and in production until 1952. This car really retained pre-war styling, and the body was still framed with wood. Dinky Toys finished it in several shades of green, grey, or blue, and it was re-numbered in 1954 to 158. Like most of the 40 series of models, it was discontinued in 1960.

The next model, introduced in 1948, was 40b, the Triumph 1800 Saloon. The real car was also known as the Renown, and it was introduced in 1946 and was famous for its “razor edge styling”. Looking very much like a smaller Bentley, these were comfortable and well built cars, and Dinky was very quick to design and build a model of it. It was offered in grey, black (very rare), fawn, and two shades of blue, and was re-numbered in 1954 to 151. Also in production until 1960. This is my personal favorite of this series of models.

Next was 40e, the Standard Vanguard Saloon, also introduced in 1948. This was a model of a brand new car introduced in England in 1947, and it was made in several different versions until 1963. The early Dinky models had open rear wheel arches and a unique rear axle clip. In 1950, the model was changed to show covered spats or wheelcovers at the rear, and the rear axle clip was discontinued. Colors were several shades of tan, two shades of blue, cream, or maroon. In 1954 it was re-numbered to 153, and it remained in production until 1960.

Next in line for 1949 was 40d, the Austin Devon Saloon. The actual car was called the Austin A-40 Devon and was an all-new design introduced in late 1947. It continued until 1952 when it was replaced by the Somerset model. This Dinky model was also re-numbered in 1954 to 152. Available colors were red, maroon, green, tan, several shades of blue, or a later two tone scheme. Discontinued in 1960.

1950 saw the introduction of 40g, the Morris Oxford Saloon. The actual car was called an Oxford Series MO and was in production from 1948 through 1954, when it was replaced by the Oxford Series II. Another Dinky Toys re-numbered in 1954 to 159. Colors from Dinky were dark green, fawn, grey, light tan, or a later two tone scheme. Discontinued in 1960.

40h, the Austin Taxi, was introduced in 1951. The actual vehicle was named the Austin FX3 Metropolitan Taxi and was first shown in 1948, then produced starting in 1949. It was a very popular taxi in London and was made until 1958, when it was replaced by the FX4. Renumbered in 1954 to 254. Colors from Dinky were dark blue, black, yellow and a later two tone scheme. Discontinued in 1962.

The other model Dinky Toys released in 1951 was 40f, the Hillman Minx Saloon. The actual car, the Hillman Minx Mark IV, was introduced in 1949. Over the subsequent years, several newer versions were built. Renumbered in 1954 to 154. Dinky colors were light or dark tan, pale or dark green, and a later two tone scheme. Discontinued in 1958.

The last of the 40 series of saloon cars was 40j, the Austin Somerset Saloon, brought out in 1954. It was quickly re-numbered later in the year to 161. The real car was called the Austin A-40 Somerset and was produced from 1952-1954, when it was replaced by the then new Austin A-40 Cambridge. Colors available from Dinky included red, blue, or a later two tone scheme. Also discontinued in 1960.

I have included the next two models, even though they are not technically part of the 40 Series, as shown above. But they were issued at the same time and are also British automobiles of that period, so they rightly belong here.

140a, the Austin Atlantic Convertible, was introduced in 1951 and was the first Dinky Toys convertible to feature a fully detailed interior, including a dashboard. The actual car was labeled the Austin A90 Atlantic and was made in several versions. This was a nice, more sporting car, aimed largely at the US market, but the introduction of the all-new Jaguar XK120 at the same time basically doomed this car to very mediocre sales; it was only made from 1949-1952. Renumbered in 1954 to 106. Dinky Toys produced this in blue, pink, or black, and rare red or medium blue export versions. It was discontinued in 1958.

140b, the Rover 75 Saloon, was also introduced by Dinky Toys in 1951. It was based on the Rover P4 75 model, first shown in late 1949 at the Earl’s Court Motor Show and then available in 1950. It was an upscale automobile, with styling influenced by the early 1950’s Studebaker’s. This version was made until 1954 and was very highly regarded as a quality automobile. Renumbered in 1954 to 156. Dinky Toys colors were maroon, cream, or a later two tone scheme. Discontinued in 1958.

Footnote: The keen reader will observe that 40c was never issued but was planned to be a Jowett Javelin. 40i was skipped perhaps because it was too similar to the letter j.

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A Plastic Volvo 240 GL Estate by Emek, Finland

The 1:22 One-Year, One-Hit Volvo Dealer Promotional

By Frank Koh

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

Most avid collectors of Volvo model vehicles are familiar with the soft plastic (poly vinyl) 1:22 scale Volvo dealer promotional models by Stahlberg, produced from the sixties thru the very early nineties in Finland. There is, however, just ONE unique 1:22 scale Volvo promotional model, produced only in 1991. It was manufactured by Emek, and was different from the Stahlberg promos because it was done in hard polystyrene plastic.

And it was available in the following colors: Red (the most common), followed by White, then Blue, and reportedly there was even a Black variant which was so rare that I have never seen photos of one.

It came in an attractive window box too, and had special wheels plus chrome headlights, which made it look more “convincing” than the signature toy-like white headlights that the Stahlberg models were famous (read: notorious) for.

As these photos prove, the Emek Volvo 240 GL Estate looked a lot like the Stahlberg Volvo 240 Estates. That’s because Emek Muovi bought the Stahlberg company, including all its tooling, hence the Emek Volvo 240 Estate model actually used the Stahlberg tooling. Surprisingly, no other Stahlberg tools were used by Emek; hence, no other Volvo passenger cars from that era, including the other 240, 740 and 760 models, etc., were ever produced. EVER. And most likely because the Volvo 240 series was the about to be phased out (1993), Volvo did not commission Emek to make any subsequent Volvo passenger car promotional models.

Resplendent in its window box, the Emek exuded class and distinction. The old Stahlberg Volvo promotionals that were regularly packaged in plastic bags were characterized by a more plebeian appearance. Sadly, after this particular model, no more Volvo passenger car miniatures were produced by Emek, in any scale.

The wheels on the Emek model are unique and were never used on the earlier Stahlberg models. They were presumably original Emek castings.

Emek on the left below; Stahlberg on the right. Emek’s chrome headlights exude more realism than the white units on the Stahlberg. I have to admit, though, that it was those trademark white headlights that endeared Stahlberg models to a whole lot of collectors, including yours truly.

Here’s a slightly modded Emek unit with blacked-out door handles, panel shut lines, and cowl vent openings detailed with a wash of Tamiya black panel line accent paint. That looks much more realistic.

Today Emek continues to manufacture Volvo promotional models, but only of 1:25 scale styrene plastic Volvo TRUCKS. In ironic summation, the model that signaled the end of the grand era of 1:22 scale Stahlberg Volvo passenger car promotional models was made by Emek, the surviving entity that took over the old company. Such was the destiny of those cool, off-scale plastic wonders that graced the pegs of the parts departments of the better Volvo dealers worldwide.

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The Matchbox Adventure 2000 and Judge Dredd Comic Book Connection

By Bob Neumann

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

In the 1970’s, Matchbox was expanding their range to include larger scale die-cast models that had more working features and play value for children, while retaining the high Matchbox quality. Following up to the Superkings and SpeedKings series of large scale trucks and cars, they introduced the “Battle Kings” range of Military models that included tanks, transporters, missile launchers and ambulances.

Following that, Matchbox went on to produce the Adventure 2000 range which were Superking/Battle King scaled models with a Science Fiction theme. All of these models were made in England by Lesney. I recently found out through the “Miracle of the Internet” that the Judge Dredd comic book series adopted one of the Adventure 2000 models to serve as a critical vehicle in the plots of the comic books. The model that was chosen to feature in the comics was the K-2001 Raider Command, a model that featured a futuristic cab with treaded trailer that included a missile launcher. Here is a mint and boxed example.

Thanks to Wikipedia, here is a brief explanation of the Judge Dredd comic book character: “Judge Joseph Dredd is a fictional character created by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra. He first appeared in the second issue of 2000 AD (1977), a weekly anthology comic magazine. He is the magazine’s longest-running character.”

Adventure 2000 model joined together

Now back to the Matchbox connection! Lesney was already in production with the Adventure 2000 series which included three large scale models when the K-2001 was chosen to be used for the comic strips. In the comics the front vehicle was called the “Killdozer” and the rear treaded vehicle was called the “Land- Raider”. The Killdozer connected with the Land-Raider to form the “Land-Raider”, which is kind of redundant, but that is what is described in the comic book reprints below.

Back of Adventure 2000 K-2001 Box

After the model was featured in the comics, Lesney Matchbox sponsored a competition to win the three current Adventure 2000 models. So Lesney was quite aware of the use of their toys’ image in the comics. What I do not understand is why Matchbox did not do a separate marketing strategy and create new packaging for the models as “Judge Dredd” vehicles. A missed opportunity for Matchbox. And they needed that marketing kick.

Matchbox Competition Advertisement

In fact due to cost cutting, the fourth model in the Adventure 2000 series was a recolored Missile Launcher from the Battle Kings, and the fifth model, the Shuttle Launcher, is now one of the rarest Matchbox models out there. It was painted metallic blue, a change from the rest of the series which was painted light olive green, and was produced in low numbers due to Matchbox canceling the Adventure 2000 series.

The series was canceled due to poor sales and simultaneous feedback from some European markets to block the importing of “violent” themed toys. The entire series was to be recolored metallic blue, but alas only the Shuttle Launcher was released in the new color. Three Superfast models were also recolored metallic blue to be included in an Adventure 2000 gift set, but due to the canceling of the range these three Superfast models were “dumped” on the market and are now also quite rare. Below are further pictures from the comic books and a nice fan illustration.

Unattributed photo from the Web. Artist Mike McMahon. Copyright acknowledged.
Unattributed photo from the Web. Artist Mike McMahon. Copyright acknowledged.
Unattributed photo from the Web. Artist Mike McMahon. Copyright acknowledged.
Unattributed photo from the Web. Artist Mike McMahon. Copyright acknowledged.
Computer generated fan rendering of the Judge Dredd “Land-Raider”. Copyright acknowledged.

Editor’s Note: This article was published in December 2018 in the Illinois Collector’s Club Newsletter, Volume 22, Number 6. The club is open to new members around the world and can be contacted through their website at, or by contacting Bob Neumann at PO Box 1582, Bridgeview, Illinois 60455 USA; or

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Dinky Toys French Ford Trash Truck

By Terry Hardgrave

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

This is another favorite Dinky Toys model of mine, this time made by the French factory from 1952 to 1955. It is the French Ford Refuse Truck, or Trash Truck, number 25v, and features the tilting rear bed, with sliding covers and the opening rear compartment door. In French, it was called the Ford Benne à Ordures. This is another one that I bought directly from H. Hudson Dobson in the US.

One of my early Dinky Toy “jewels”… why do I call it a jewel? Because I bought this when I was only about 14, and I was immediately impressed with how solid and impressive it was. This refuse or trash truck is somewhat smaller than the English Bedford version, but, to me, it is just more impressive. It has a rack to raise the rear bed, the sliding covers are a much more precise, and tighter fit, and the dark green finish looks like it was poured on.

This was my very first Dinky Toys French commercial vehicle bought  in 1959, during a crazy two year stint where I bought dozens and dozens of new Dinky’s.  And, after almost 60 years, it is still one of my favorites.  As a young boy, I was immediately struck and impressed with this French Ford trash truck… first, and most noticeable, was the gleaming, mile-deep dark green paint. 

But I was also impressed with the snug, closely fit sliding doors on the top. Sliding them open, then closed, was amazing; they were so smooth… very different than its English cousin, the Bedford trash truck.  Then, there was the tilting mechanism, with a rack and gear operation, that was also so smooth and precise.  There was a lot going on, in a fairly small package!

Years later, I would aspire to slowly collect the other French Ford trucks, a rather unique set of about 8 different models, with two different wheelbases: a short and a long version.  Great little trucks from a bygone era, but this is the one that really caught my attention, so long ago… and it is still almost pristine!

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Chevrolet Impala SS 510 Prototype

The Summum Bonum of Full Size American Sedans

By Frank Koh

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

Chevrolet was enjoying the immense popularity and the consequent record-breaking sales of the introduced-in-1991 Caprice series. Because of its swoopy, Bauhaus-like contours, the Caprice earned the moniker “The Jellybean”, but Canadian cops fondly referred to it as “The Suppository”. The car handled exceptionally well despite its 4100+ lb curb weight, and the high performance LT1 motor with 260 bhp was ready for fitment into the Caprice 9C1 Police Package variants in 1993.

Product planners realized the immense sales potential of a large American grand touring sedan, and in due time the prototype of the Impala SS 510 was being developed. AutoArt released a fabulous 1:18 scale replica of the prototype SS 510 around 2002-03, and the photos speak for themselves. Actually the AutoArt SS 510 was a modification of the UT Models casting of the regular production Impala SS that the company produced around 1998.  Right before that, mother company Gateway Global phased out the UT Models brand and subsequently ruled that AutoArt would become the surviving entity. And the rest is model car industry history.

I love big old full-size/full-chassis General Motors B-Body cars; hence, this 1:18 scale Chevrolet Impala SS 510 Prototype is one of my favorite models from the brand. The AutoArt version is vastly improved over the UT Models, with opening rear doors, flocked carpeting, correct wheels and tires, and an accurate representation of the heavily modified 510 cubic inch V8 that was used in the actual prototype.

This model is from the early batches of AutoArt models, and it did not stay in production for very long. I certainly hope that the real Impala SS 510 SS prototype is in good hands today. It is a very historic car, because it served as the development mule for the 1994-1996 Impala SS.

AutoArt did a great job in replicating the SS 510 prototype’s wide, meaty alloy rims and high performance steel belted radials. The earlier UT Models Impala SS was criticized for the use of “undersized” wheels and tires which literally made it look like a football player wearing ballet shoes.

That “510” rear license plate proclaims what’s under the hood of this prototype. Regular production Impala SS vehicles got the LT1 260 bhp engine, essentially a detuned version of the engine in the C4 Corvette of the era.

The shape of the the B-Body 1991-1996 Caprice/Impala SS was ahead of its time. The outward visibility of the large “greenhouse” of the car was close to 360 degrees, in fact.

Unlike the UT Impala SS models whose rear doors did not open (despite being cast as separate pieces), the AutoArt SS 510 featured all four doors that would open independently. There was flocked carpeting and an accurate rendering of the modified 510 cubic inch V8 too.

All 3 variants of the UT Models regular production 1996 Impala SS in all the three actual exclusive colors of the real car: Black, Teal Green and Dark Cherry. This is as good (and as complete) as it’ll ever get.

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More Models by Barry Lester

By Barry Lloyd

Editor’s Note:  After publishing Patrick’s article about the Alfa P2 by Barry Lester, we received this email from another Barry, who knew Barry Lester personally.

In MAR number 90 (April 1995), Max Tomlinson wrote a comprehensive  article on Barry.  No mention of him working in resin, although (see  later) his early models were all in wood (balsa and thin plywood) and  acetate. I’ve re-read the article and had forgotten how involved Barry was with Adrian Swain, who according to Max, mastered the first Auto  Replicas kit, the ERA.  The resin ‘exception’ appears to be AR42, a kit of a Tatra 77A, a reworking of AR09, an earlier version in white metal.   Max’s listing shows AR42 as ‘resin’.

Barry was also involved with Pete Atkinson and Acorn Models…  They  parted company when Pete A decided to abandon the business and run a bar in Ibiza!  Barry L was eventually paid for all his pattern making work in SMEC kits. (Some of which no doubt ended up with me!) And I’ve missed a trick – apparently Barry did the masters for the  Franklin Mint Vanwall and Auto Union in a 1:43 range.  I’ve often seen the Vanwall, but have resisted it so far.  May be tempted now…

Here are my three Barry Lester models!

The 1:43 Brescia Bugatti was built ca. 1967 according to Max (from his  correspondence with BKL).  Barry built several in wood, and of course it became one of the Auto Replicas range of white metal kits.

The 1:32 SMEC Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix kit that I bought from Barry in early 1991 is shown below.  I don’t  know when he built it, but it didn’t look ‘old’ then.

The Bugatti T57SC Atlantic is to Barry’s odd 1:17 scale and is all metal (hand beaten brass body), apart from the interior trim, and is stamped  underneath BKL 98.

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Do It Yourself!

The Easy, Medium and Hard Way…

By Sergio Luis dos Santos

All text and photographs are copyright of the author.

How many times do we want to have “that special version” from a specific car or racing event?  Sometimes we wait for years until it surfaces but what about those that never show up?  The only way to go is to customize an available model.

Some projects need only a few decals and some fine touches to be finished. More elaborate work might need a complete set of new decals for the entire car, but the most complicated ones need a complete repaint as well.

Here are the easy ones from my 1:43 collection.

1 – Minichamps released this Porsche 911 GT3 from the Porsche Michelin Supercup 2006 in a “neutral” livery without a driver’s name. This was the easiest one: no decals to be removed.  I added a set of white names for the side windows plus the smaller ones with the Brazilian flag above the doors provided by Jbot Decals. I left the rear window without the Senna name, since I could not locate any image to confirm this.

2 – Best Model released this Alfa Romeo 33.2 as the car driven by José Carlos Pace and Marivaldo Fernandes at 3 Hours of Rio de Janeiro in 1969. In reality, the model as it was released matches the car raced by Pace and Marivaldo at 500 Km. de Salvador.  For a correct Rio race car, a large Alfa Romeo badge was applied in the front white panel under the number 33. I also replaced the  small Alfa badge for a new one, both provided by Jbot Decals.

3 – In 1996 the International Touring Car Championship had a round at Interlagos, São Paulo on 27 October. This Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI was the mount of British driver Jason Watt. Japanese driver Naoki Hattori drove it in the Japanese round, so HPI released it in Hattori markings. In the Interlagos race the car was driven by Max Wilson in the same livery, so a new set of Wilson in white for the side windows did the trick.

4 – Also in the ITC Championship in 1996, Ricardo Zonta drove this Mercedes Benz C Class in Germany at Nurbürgring on 1 September. This car was released by Minichamps as raced by Jan Magnussen from Denmark. A set of white large Zonta for the side windows and the smaller ones with the Brazilian flag for the hood provided by Jbot Decals were used. The real car is preserved as raced by the  Colombian Juan Carlos Montoya in Silverstone!

5 – Flávio “Nonô” Figueiredo drove this Vauxhall Vectra for the Vauxhall Sport team at the 1998 British Touring Car  Championship.  Onyx released both cars from this team, the number 88 of Derek Warwick and number 98 of John Cleland. Again Jbot Decals produced a set of Figueiredo names plus the new number 99 with a white background in a perfect matching size to cover the older ones.

Now let’s see the ones I call the medium category. In this category,  we must remove all decoration, decals, etc, and keep the original colors, sometimes with small color touch-ups.

6 – This Aston Martin DBR9 from IXO had all decoration removed with a new set of decals from Race Track Decals to finish it. Brazilian Fernando Rees had his debut in GT car racing at Mil Milhas Brasileiras 2007 at Interlagos with Gregor Finsken, Steve Zacchia and Roland Berville. A pair of small front wings were added to match period photos.

7 – Augusto Farfus, Gregor Finsken, Steve Zacchia and Roland Berville raced this BMW 320d at 24 Hours of Nurbürgring 2008 obtaining a 1st place in the S1 Class.  A Minichamps BMW 320si had all new decorations put on, then a new set of decals from Race Track Decals were used. Only color change was the external rear view mirrors in black.

Next are the hard ones… These models had all paint removed to add new colors plus custom made decals. Both models are based on real cars down to the license plates.

8 – Volkswagen Beetle, or as Mexicans say, Escarabajo. Using a Mexican taxi from an Altaya partworks collection, the old green and cream livery was changed to white and blue from Acapulco using automotive paint.

9 – This Volkswagen Santana is a taxi from Curitiba City, in Paraná, Brasil. In truth this is the Chinese VW version but a close match to the Brazilian one. This model belongs to a Del Prado partworks collection. The silver color was removed and replaced
by actual reddish-orange automotive paint obtained from an auto workshop through a friend doing a trip to Curitiba, who also provided some photos of the real taxi!

It’s worth mentioning here that the models in the medium and hard categories were made possible due the skills and hard work of my friend Afonso Giordano Netto.  He sadly passed way in December 2017.

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A Bronze Mystery

By Frank Koh

All text and photographs are copyright of the author.

I have owned this “bronzed” Yonezawa Diapet 1/40 scale Mitsubishi Galant A-II coupe from the early seventies for two years now, but I have yet to find out what material it is made out of.  Could it be some specially treated zamac (zinc) alloy, white metal, brass or brushed anodized aluminum?  And what would be the logic behind the production of this rare and special piece?  Was it some sort of special dealer promotional model, or simply the product of a creative imagination?

The finish is unpainted, and there does not appear to be any form of “clearcoat” to protect the surface of the metal. If it were unpainted zamac (zinc), the finish would have been well-oxidized after more than 45 years sitting totally untouched in its mint box.  Brass oxidizes too, so could it be some sort of brushed anodized aluminum?

Just like the “regular” painted variants of this Diapet Galant A-II, the lines and proportions are very, very convincing. Why this particular model was rendered in this esoteric treated metal alloy of still-undetermined origin remains a mystery.

And like most Yonezawa Diapet models of the sixties thru the very early nineties, this proudly Japan-made piece features opening doors, hood and trunk, plus reclining front seats! Tremendous play value for what was originally intended to be a toy car, but hey, when rendered in this mystery material, was it some sort of special dealer promotional model or just the product of a creative imagination, resulting in an interesting, if not frivolous adult conversation piece?

A friend who knows how to read Japanese said the literal translation of what’s written on the box is “Antique Color (Bronze)”.   The photo on the box is the exact same “bronzed” piece as the actual model, whereas the “regular” painted Diapet Galant A-II variants had a painted car in the photo. What is the real intent of the manufacturer in producing this bewildering model?

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Dinky Thunderbolts

By Terry Hardgrave and Karl Schnelle

All text is copyright of the Authors.  All photographs are copyright of Terry Hardgrave.

Those two silver record cars are the same vehicle, but Dinky Toys  finished them differently over time, one pre-war and one post-war.

The car was called the Thunderbolt speed car and was owned and driven by Capt. George Eyston.  In the late 1930’s it held the land speed record for awhile, at something like 350 mph, before John Cobb surpassed it.

The real car was quite interesting: very large and heavy, and quite complex.  The men that drove these at Bonneville had to be part crazy!

This Dinky is a bit crude, although a fair representation of the real thing. The pre-war version (shown with its box below) was never imported to the US, to my knowledge, so these are fairly rare over here today.

Dinky brought out their first version, number 23m,  around 1938, and it was the most accurate. It had black accents and also had a Union Jack flag painted on the tail fin.  The 23m was only made in this color combination.  This version was made pre-war; Mike and Sue Richardson (1981) report it was made 1938-41.

The Dinky Toys name was also changed from Thunderbolt to Streamlined Racing Car and the car re-numbered 23s in 1939.  They may have done this  because the record was already two years old or perhaps because it wasn’t the record holder anymore, so Dinky chose to make it “generic” in name.  It was painted either green or blue, with no Union Jack.

After WWII, Dinky decided to re-issue 23s, and at that time they also painted it in silver, with blue, red, or green trim, like the one shown in blue above.  When they changed their numbering scheme, it was renumbered again as 222 and lasted until 1957.

The early pre-war version also came in a nice box, with a nice description of the real car and its accomplishments.  Here is a closeup of the box end.

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Early Alfa Romeo P2’s

When the First World Champion Becomes Possibly the First Resin Model Car

By Patrick Italiano

All text and photographs copyright of the Author.

When you collect model cars in the XXIst Century, you become accustomed  to having a huge, almost infinite choice of models (and collection themes), with an endless list of new offers coming every month. Cheap models come from China with a quality of finish, details and in most cases an accuracy of the shape that was hardly to be expected from high end models 25 or 30 years ago. If you are old (experienced?) enough, you can remember two choices, back in the 80’s of either die-cast models, something like refined toy cars, or model kits needing your skills, and some money for the current standard then. Those kits were typically made either of white metal or resin.

Now try to imagine yourself quite long before that, say 50 years ago. What could you expect to collect as model cars?  Dinky Toys or similar toy cars, and that’s about it.  In addition to the toy manufacturers of the time who added a couple new models every year, there was nothing else in sight.  [Click on any photo to enlarge.]

Alfa Romeo P2 by Paddy Stanley

Yet of course, some pioneers were starting to create models dedicated to collectors, and that is what we are dealing with here. The “good news” for an Alfa Romeo collector is that one iconic Alfa, namely the P2 racer which won the first ever world championship back in 1925, is among the very first 1/43 resin models (possibly even the second ever after a Ferrari GTO made by Brian Jewell).

The surprise with that peculiar model in question is that, opposed to common resin cast which have quite thick bodies, this one is actually hollow, and its sides are very thin indeed. This is because, for the first experiments with resin, a glass fibre ribbon was used for some stiffness, and the cars were produced by hand, using a very labour-intensive process. So that’s what you have when you are lucky enough to have brought home one of those very rare early models.

But more astonishing even is that the man behind this 1/43 model  premiere was an Army chaplain, and that he did his experiments when posted at remote sites, namely in Cyprus for this Alfa P2. The “standard” scale 1/43 was chosen in order to fit the existing Dinkies. The P2’s choice derived from the appeal of the large prewar tin toy by CIJ featuring the Alfa, and the availability of scale drawings back then.

Paddy Stanley

This former Army chaplain is called Paddy Stanley, and you can enjoy his memories of those pioneering times on this page.  While those recollections date the creation of this P2 from 1965-66, in the years immediately after that, further names of model makers pop up in the same hobby:  Barry Lester, another resin pioneer, and John Day, who was the first to use white metal and became famous over the next several decades.

Paddy Stanley and John Day

Those two names are relevant to this article because both of them also produced very early Alfa Romeo P2s, so we can compare the interpretations of the same car by three different, let’s say it, ‘artists’.  Each of them has its specific charm, so far from the coldness of computer designed, machine produced, industrial models of today, no matter how accurate they may be.

Barry Lester

Each of them tried his best to carve an exact reproduction of the 1924 racer, using quite good (but not perfect) drawings as reference, but in the end issued their interpretation of the P2, and that’s just what makes them so special.

Barry Lester

Lester and Day came with their P2 later onto the market around 1971, as it was not among their very first models (1971 is written under my example of the Lester, other sources have it as early as 1967).  Despite them representing very early experimental techniques of construction, they all have stood the test of time, even after 50 years.

Barry Lester

Possibly, the only one showing a slight weakness is the most conventional, white metal, John Day: it’s the only one with some weight, and so the tiny axles bend under load over the years – this can be cured, but it’s always tricky, so the John Day showed here displays some unneeded negative camber at all four wheels.

The John Day is also interpreted with a more curvy front end shape, and has its underside fairing represented. All the features of the bodies show a certain level of interpretation from the modeler: none seem wrong at first sight, but look at them next to each other, and no shape is treated in the same way – without seeing the actual P2, you can’t say for sure which one is closer to the real thing. But does it matter, after all, when all three are pleasant representations of the P2?

Barry Lester, Paddy Stanley, and John Day (left to right)

If you think about all the technical challenges in those times, you ponder all the mechanical parts: suspension (actually axles and leaf springs), steering, starting handle, … The fact that the P2 had a rear suspension “concealed” in the tail helped it to be chosen as the first model by Paddy Stanley, he says. That saved him from building a stiff enough rear frame and suspension. Now only the John Day got “proper” front shock absorbers. But the other challenge, unsurprisingly, was the wheels. Even today, with photoetched wire wheels available everywhere, the cost and ease of assembly makes the wheels the weakest part of the model’s accuracy, either because of the standard size not fitting the needs of the modeler or the rims being too thick when clamped to the ends of the spokes.

Barry Lester, Paddy Stanley, and John Day

It was pretty much worse back then: hardly anything could be thin enough, and the  modeler needed “ways around” the problem. John Day used for years some well known white metal cast rims: thick spokes, small diameter, but what else could you do?

In the ’70s, Carlo Brianza introduced “real” spoke wheels. He managed to do so with existing techniques at the cost of using about one third of the number of spokes it should have needed. Surprisingly, Paddy Stanley in his pioneering work cast plastic (?) spoked wheels of a more suitable size than the later John Day. It’s Barry Lester here who took the “shortcut” and used what larger scale models did back then: he could afford thinner spokes by engraving them on a clear disk!

Barry Lester, Paddy Stanley, and John Day

So here are the pictures of those three early model cars for you to enjoy (I hope!) and compare to much newer attempts at the same subject: Minichamps, some years ago issued a very well made P2, a
press series (partworks) also came out with the Alfa Romeo collection in Italy years ago (good body, cheap cast wheels), and several small runs are also available (second hand), for instance from FB Models. They are better detailed, no doubt. But guess what: if I had to save a few from, say, a fire, I would certainly take the Stanley and the Lester.

If you enjoy being brought back to the pioneering times of modelling, stay tuned! There’s more to come with even older models, but still about my favorite marque, Alfa Romeo.  In the meantime, please check out my Italian blog  where not only stone-age models are presented on a regular basis but many rare and special Alfa models.

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