By Robin Godwin
All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.
Finally we’ll look at one of Italy’s older toymakers, Mercury, and a relative newcomer, Mebetoys. With lots of time to examine real prototypes, and for Mercury at least, with many years of diecast experience behind them, one would expect nothing short of perfection. Alas, these two examples are among the worst.
Mercury #4 was introduced in 1965, according to Mercury Tutta la Produzione, by Bocco, Clemente, Coen, Pereo and Pontoni, published in 2005. It is identified as a Giulia Super on the box, but as a Giulia TI on the base (Alfa Romeo made a Giulia TI, a Giulia TI Super, and a Giulia Super, all different). Perhaps pedantic, but according to Wikipedia, the Giulia TI Super was a special lightened road going (but produced for racing) version introduced in 1963. Only 501 were built, all white save for one red and one grey version. They were easily identified by having mesh grills in place of the inner two headlights, and no overriders on the bumpers. The Giulia Super was introduced at the March 1965 Geneva Auto Show and was a regular road-going sedan that incorporated some of the performance features of the earlier Giulia TI Super. My guess is the tooling was underway for a regular Giulia TI when the Giulia Super was introduced at Geneva. It was easy to change the box printing to give the impression that they were first with the latest model, but they never updated the base of the model. That said, they also managed to put a three-spoke plastic steering wheel into the interior, which was a standard Giulia Super feature. But that is the only discernable feature in 1:43. Enough history. The model is otherwise pretty abysmal with half opening doors and a totally incorrect rear window profile. They completely missed the notchback styling with wrap around rear window. The top rear passenger side window profile is incorrect as well, being too rounded.
The model comes with opening doors and a separate detailed engine part underneath the opening bonnet. Jewelled headlights adorn the front but rear lights are painted. There is a separate oil pan/ transmission housing casting screwed into the base plate. Bumpers are separate chrome plastic pieces. There is a reasonable attempt at the Alfa Romeo steel wheels. That they are chromed is a good thing, as that provides a barrier between plastic wheels and rubber tires. There is evidence of wheel melt on the inner surfaces of my wheels, but that does not affect displayability.
Mercury issued a rallye Giulia version, also as model #4 in 1971. Bumpers were removed with the holes thru the body filled in, and additional spotlights were cast in the grill. Jewelled headlights were deleted, but the remainder of the casting looks unchanged. I have seen one of these on eBay for hundreds of euros, possibly the most expensive early Giulia you can buy. I have seen replacement racing decals online, so caution must be exercised if one is in the market for an original version. Although the Mercury scale is listed as 1:43, it is noticeably larger than the Edil and French Dinky 1:43 versions. The wheelbase is exaggerated, being longer than the (claimed) 1:42 Mebetoys and also longer than the two 1:41 plastic models from Politoys and INGAP, so something was amiss at the design stage.
Mebetoys was the most prolific of the early Giulia modelers, producing a regular TI in many versions starting in 1966, a Giulia Super from 1968, and later, a Nuova Giulia with horrible whizzwheels from 1978. I have not seen in the flesh a Giulia Super from Mebetoys and suspect it may be a nomenclature version (or just the addition of a three spoke steering wheel). The Nuova is a casting change. If anybody has a Super, can they please send a photo to the editor. I have seen a Nuova with earlier more accurate wheels on eBay, but suspect it may be a fake. The base on the Mebetoys attaches with screws, so all bets are off when it comes to purported wheel and interior colour variations.
The model came with opening front doors, less quarter windows, chromed plastic bumpers, front and rear, a chromed one-piece plastic insert for the headlights and grill, and working suspension. There were no jewelled headlights, like most of the other models in this review. The scale is cast as 1/42 on the base, and when placed alongside the French Dinky and Edil, seems about correct – the Mebetoys has a slightly longer wheelbase and body. Curiously, the box is marked 1/43.
I don’t have a later variation of the model, so cannot say if the scale on the base was eventually changed to match the box, or vice versa. The improved wheels appeared sometime after 1967, which was the issue date of the model pictured. They look to be quite accurate renditions of the Alfa Romeo steel wheels.
I talked about the Edil moulds moving to Turkey, but of course it is well known that Politoys (plastic, fibreglass, and metal) and Mebetoys moulds also travelled to different countries. However, I have never seen a Giulia TI from these early issues reproduced in their new homes. If any reader has proof otherwise, please send a photo to the editor.
So there is a summary of the contemporary models issued shortly after the first Giulia TI rolled off the assembly lines. We have highlighted six companies that produced miniatures, some very well, and others less so. I was fortunate to start collecting these in the eighties, since they have more recently become extremely sought after and, accordingly, very expensive.