By Maz Woolley
All text and photographs are by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.
The model discussed in this article is the sixteenth release in the DeAgostini Classic Dinky Toys collection and one that has a strong appeal as it did not appear in the Atlas Dinky series. It has been made for them by Norev in China. It is #268 Renault Dauphine MInicab. It is unusual for this series by being a UK Dinky release, though based on a well established Dinky France casting #524 from 1959 with fitted windows which replaced the same car without windows sold as 24E from 1957. So why did Dinky UK adopt this French model?
In the early 1960s a small firm called Carline realised that the Black Cab (mainly Austin FX3s and FX4s) monopoly in London was based on them being the only service allowed to ply for hire but that if people ordered a car over the phone to a central office who dispatched the cars the service could be provided outside the Hackney Carriage regulations. Starting with a small fleet of Ford Anglias Carline’s minicabs began to hit the streets of London in early 1961.
Shortly after that Michael Gotla a young, and publicity conscious, entrepreneur started Welbeck Motors who went on to be the public face of the early Minicab. He ordered a large number of red Renault Dauphines and also gained further income by applying adverts to them, something that only happened to Black Cabs in the 1980s. Dialling WELbeck 0561 would summon a car for one shilling per mile, considerably cheaper than a Black Cab. At this time Black Cabs were not keen to leave Central London as it made picking up the next fare more difficult so calling a minicab was often quicker as well as cheaper particularly in Outer London suburbs.
There were several pubic conflicts between Black Cabs and Minicabs, as there have been recently between Taxis and Uber drivers in a number of Cities. This generated a lot of publicity and press coverage which encouraged Dinky to show themselves as up to date by modelling the minicabs which were being regularly pictured in the press and seen on TV. After all all they had to do was get raw castings and glazing sent to them from France, create a new baseplate and box, apply some red paint, and add transfers.
Following an unfavourable court case the first generation of minicabs faded away in London only to return later when regulations became more favourable. The short period of operation of Wellbeck Motors didn’t matter to Dinky who sold the model from 1962 to 1967.
The model from DeAgostini differs from the original Dinky in one key way. Unable to get a license from Meccano to reproduce their advert on the model DeAgostini had Kenwood printed on both sides which reduces the accuracy of the replica though sets of transfers are available if anyone wanted to add a Meccano advert over one of the Kenwood adverts.
The Dinky France Renault Dauphine was a good casting though already over five years old when used as a minicab. It captures the real car well and it is 1:43 scale unlike most UK Dinkys of the time, though this is not stated on the UK made baseplate. The printing of the adverts is well done on the replica with some depth to it replicating the bulk of a transfer, though of course the absolute accuracy and well aligned prints are perhaps ‘better than new’.
Certainly an interesting model for DeAgostini to offer and one that it is worth seeking out by those who are not collecting the series because they already have the Atlas Dinky Collection.
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