By Maz Woolley
All photographs are by, and copyright of, the Author. With the exception of the drawing which is copyright of Oxford Diecast.
Oxford Diecast‘s recent release in 1:76 scale of a D. DiMascio Ice Cream van will strike a chord with anyone who grew up in the Coventry area in the 1950s through to the 1970s. So strong was the presence of this firm’s vans that for many Coventrians the words “D. Di” meant ice cream in the same way that Hoover meant a vacuum cleaner. A van would be parked outside the gates of my secondary school in spring, summer and autumn ready for “home time”. The phrase “I’ll have a D. Di on the way home” was a common one. Another Coventry habit was taking a bowl out to the D. Di van and they would fill the bowl with ice cream for a suitable number of old pennies, I can remember my Mum doing that as a special treat for us in early 60s Cheylesmore. This is the second D. Di van in the Oxford range as they have previously modelled the “Little D. Di“ Ford Thames van.
Dionisio Di Mascio came from Cassino in Italy in the inter-war years and started his business in Coventry after working for his Uncle in Glasgow. Before the war the vehicles were limited and the business dominated by D. Di Mascio’s ice cream parlour. Sadly, their premises were destroyed in the blitz. With the huge post-war growth of Coventry and its relative prosperity the firm grew quickly adding vehicles based on converted cars running two Rovers, six Standards and even an Austin. They also had some larger vehicles like an Austin K8 and Morris PVs.
As business grew D. Di started to standardise on BMC J type vans and soon a fleet of 24 J types was in use. For those of us growing up in the 1960s and 1970s these were the vans that we saw all the time and that is the type of van represented by the one modelled by Oxford Diecast. Sadly none of the vans is known to have made it into preservation. The van modelled is based upon WHP 881 which was registered on 1st August 1958 and driven by Marico.
The Oxford model captures the D. Di livery well and although D. Di vans were not all identically bodied the body is very close to several pictures that can be found on the web. Certainly close enough to make me wish that they made this model in 1:43 scale as well.
For those who want to know more about D. Di Mascio and their vans I can recommend “D. Di Mascio’s Delicious Ice Cream” by Roger de Boer, Harvey Pitcher, and Alan Wilkinson which has provided much information for this post.
I now live in the Northampton area where local ice cream sales are dominated by Gallones. I have recently found out that the current owner of Gallones is the grandson of Dionisio DiMascio which explains the fact that one Morris LD in the D. Di Fleet was ex-Gallone. Perhaps other vans went from D. Di to Gallones? I would certainly welcome a Gallones van from Oxford maybe based upon an LD or Commer van which would offer lots of other opportunities for other liveries like Mr Whippy and Mr Softee as well.
We welcome your comments and questions. Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page, or email us at maronlineeditor @ gmail.com.