by Karl Schnelle and Koen Beekmann
In Part VII of this series, we looked at the Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider and Kamm-tail Spider. Now, we will examine two Togi show cars from the early 1970s.
In a recent article, the American magazine Autoweek said these ’70s concept cars were all about “decadence and design”. We believe it and these two Togi’s prove it. The Carabo was introduced by Togi in 1970 and the Montreal in 1971, (Photos by the authors, unless otherwise noted.)
In 1968, Bertone presented their design concept at the Turin auto show, the Carabo, which was based on the Alfa Romeo 33 race car, Several other automobile design firms also showed studies there based on this racing car. The Carabo was designed by Marcello Gandini, who was employed at Bertone at the time, and was the first car with upward hinged, or scissor, doors. We know them now mainly because of the Lamborghini Countach; that is no coincidence because Gandini designed that car also.
The name Carabo was based on the name for a bright green beetle that inspired Bertone’s use of the iridescent color for the car. The color and wedge design was at that time very progressive and seemed to come from another planet. The car was also equipped with reflective safety glass with a golden mirror surface.
The actual car is now at the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo in Arese. The first author was very excited to see it a few weeks ago!
This concept car inspired many model car brands to bring out their own versions: just think of Dinky Toys, Mercury, Politoys, Solido, Verem, Matchbox, Hotwheels, and later Spark (and there are even more out there). Togi also got into the mix with their 1/23 version, probably the most expensive Carabo model back in the early 1970s. However, the Togi was probably not the best scale model, due to its poor proportions and very simple design. Even other Togis had better proportions and details at that time. Many other Carabo toy models from that time look better in scale: for example, the 1/43 Solido or the 1/25 Politoys.
As with most Togis, there was a kit and a factory built version, shown in this old catalog page.
On this model, everything can be opened: the doors hinge upwards, the rear trunk opens, and the flip-up headlights are opened with an ingenious mechanism that works by pushing the steering wheel towards the dashboard. Unfortunately, the Togi uses ordinary flip-up headlights while the real Carabo had 3 slats that rotated up.
The instruction for opening the headlights is stamped on the box insert.
There seems to be two versions of the wheel design on the older models; we are not sure which came first. One version has flat wheels, the same wheels that later came on the 2000 Berlina and the Giulia GTA. The two versions are evident on the black-green car with flat wheels in the front right and the gray-green car with hollow (recessed) ’33 style wheels’ behind on the left (photo Benjan Spiele).
It seems pretty remarkable that Togi decided to completely change the wheel design, unless it was a cost cutting measure. The hollow wheels are much closer to those of the original than the flat wheels. But the hollow version has other differences: the color of the rear is brighter (closer to the real one, so that’s a good adjustment) and the black plastic pieces have been replaced by dark gray, while the actual concept car is black. So better wheels but less realistic color choice – why?
The different colors and wheels are clearly visible in the photo below. The gray version has no side windows. This is not an error on this one copy because it is seen often like this. (photo Benjan Spiele)
Below is an old Togi flyer, with the Carabo shown with a complete cardboard kit box. That cardboard box dates this flyer because in the early seventies they replaced it with a plastic inner box. Frustratingly, we can’t see which wheels are on the model and so the mystery remains: which wheel came first.
The Carabo has not always been in Togi’s range if we believe the catalogs. After 1995 and the takeover by FongalTogi, this model came back again, but with a big difference: the headlights can no longer be opened and closed. They are cast with the bodywork. It is unclear whether this adjustment had been carried out before 1995, or only afterwards. Togi catalogs can lead you down the wrong track and are often of no help, because they sometimes re-use very old photos.
The newest version with molded in headlights and side windows is shown below. . It is cast in zamac and quite heavy, like all the recent Togis. The older versions are made of light alloy, probably aluminium. These hollow wheels have larger wheel nuts here and are darker in color, which makes them look different.
Here is a close-up of the newest wheel design, with the real one below it.
Also, there is less red on the rear of this latest Togi version! Compare to the full size rear below!
An interesting side-note is that an American toy car magazine published an article on the Carabo kit shortly after it came out. Car Model in December 1971 reviewed the Carabo kit and factory-built Giulia GT. At that time in the US, Togi were not imported so the reviewer relied on a friend to carry them back from Italy.
A year before the introduction of the one-off Carabo, Gandini also penned the Montreal for Expo 67 in Montreal, Canada. The concept car was updated and upgraded and introduced as a low volume production car in 1970. Alfa produced the chassis and mechanicals and then sent it to Bertone for the bodies. The white one below is the prototype in the Museo – notice that it has 7 slots behind the door. Production versions had 6!
Less than 4000 were made before being discontinued in 1977. The two below were seen by the first author in Italy this summer, the orange in the Museo and the red in a private collection!
The authors have not researched the Togi Montreal in depth so we are unsure if there are multiple versions or variations.
The original Togi is made of light alloy and always in orange, and the newer FongalTogi is made of heavier zamac in several colors. Also the newer one is recognizable by its nickle colored wheel nuts instead of chrome ones. Both doors and the hood open on this one!
This post-1997 example came in a plain white box with this sticker on top.
Please let us know if you have any other Togi versions of these two supercars! So now this series of Togi articles is well into the 1970s. Thus, in Part iX, we will look at all their Alfasud variations!
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