Tag Archives: DUGU

Two 1923 Fiat Mephistopheles

By Karl Schnelle

After editing and publishing the Dugu series here at MAR Online, I wanted to search out their 1/43 Fiat SB4 “ELDRIDGE”.  I had had the Brumm version for many years and thought a comparison would be fun.  So after two years of searching, I have the Dugu in hand now.

The Brumm is r14 in their Revival Oro series which started in 1977 so it had to have come out soon after that.  Brumm discontinued it in 2001 according to their website.  They called it a Fiat Mefistofele  Eldrige [sic]  1923 on the box. Mefistofele is the “demon with whom Goethe’s Faust wagered his soul with the devil. …the fire-spitting beast of a car was indeed a terrifying sight.” (ultimatecarpage, downloaded 9/2018)

Their short history on the bottom of the box (in 4 languages!) stated that “English Sir Ernest A.D. Eldrige” put a Fiat A 12 bis aero engine from World War I into a 1908 Fiat chassis.  It was nicknamed Mefistofele and set a record at Arpajon, France, of 234 km/hr in 1924.   Of course the Italian spelling of Mefistofele  uses ‘f’s; it is a Fiat after all!

The Dugu is not marked Dugu on the model or the box at all.  It was produced from their molds after the factory went out of business by the Milanese model car store, Zeppelin. They did spell Eldridge correctly though!

With the two models side-by-side, it is easy to distinguish them: the Brumm has  a brighter white Fiat on the radiator and a larger white section of the exhaust pipe.  Otherwise, they look very, very similar and have the same dimensions.  Both use metal bodies and other parts in plastic.

It’s hard to favor one over the other but the Dugu was limited to 1000 pieces and numbered on the box and chassis. Both have separate engine hood straps – the Brumm is plastic, but the Dugu seems to be real leather!

Further Reading

There are a few good websites with the history of the car and the owner.  Eldridge was a fascinating character.  Some good photo galleries are also online: ultimatecar and favcars. The car was at Goodwood 2001 and 2011, so I think some of those photos are from there;  it’s currently in the Centro Storico Fiat in Turin.

In addition to wiki,  the English journal Motor Sport has their historical issues digitized, where they discuss Mephistopheles: 1961, 1925. and again 1925.  Fascinating reading!

We welcome your comments and questions.   Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page,  or email us at maronlineeditor at gmail.com.


Dugu 1/43 Models: Part IV

By Karl Schnelle and Chris Sweetman

This article is the final part of the Dugu story, as far as we know.  The end of the company is a bit murky, but this final chapter has been pieced together from reference books, catalogs, and websites.

Parts I – III are based on the original article, which appeared online in 2015 by Alberto Spano in Italian.  The author kindly gave his permission for the English translations.  Part I covered background and history, Part  II covered the MiniautoToys Series. and Part III the Museo Series.  Finally, this Part covers SISPLA, catalogs, and other topics.


Around 1973, Dugu moved from Varallo Sesia to Quarona Sesia and soon after closed down.  SISPLA took over around 1974 (or Dugu was just renamed then).  They issued one catalog (seen online) identical to the last Dugu one, except the name SISPLA was on the cover.  Then, SISPLA only lasted until 1975 or so, when Old Cars took over some (all?) of their equipment and business.

The price list shown below has 1973 hand-written on it and no other date. Notice the company name and address at the top!


Tractors and Trucks

If we back up to the circa 1969 Dugu catalog (see below), we see one tractor pictured: the Same Centuaro from 1966. Dugu listed it as 1/15 scale. Force (1992) lists another tractor:  the Fiat 550 plus four trucks  in 1/43 scale.  He lists them all under the name SISPLA. However, Rampini (1992) shows them as four Dugu tractors:  the Fiat 550 plus a Fiat 600, Fiat 640, and a Someca 640.   So perhaps there were five tractors in total? They all look to be the same orange tractor with different decals.

Both Force and Rampini show the 4 trucks (sold as Sispla or Dugu or both?):  Fiat 697N 6-wheel dump truck, Fiat 90NC open truck, OM N100 with the same open truck bed, and a Fiat 90NC oil tanker “Olio Fiat”.

Notification of the first Dugu truck model also appeared in the British Scale Models magazine, July 1974. Reg Miles provides confirmation that this was released under the Dugu brand. An illustration is also included of a Fiat 90 NC tipping truck. In the Scale Models’July 1976 issue, there is an advert from Auto Replicas which states that they are sole distributors of the Dugu range of trucks. Furthermore, the August 1976 issue of Scale Models features illustrations of the four types of trucks available including the 697 tipper, and Reg Miles still refers to these models as being from Dugu. He also notes that the firm recently went out of business.

FIAT 697N LOW SIDED TIPPER LORRY (photos by Chris Sweetman)

The 6-wheel dump truck or tipper lorry is marked ‘SISPLA’ on the cab base. However, Dugu’s owl symbol is cast in the base of the engine block as is ‘Made in Italy’. After Sispla collapsed, this truck became part of the fledgling Old Cars range.


This model seems to be designed from the outset as a promotional model to be used by Fiat. Hence this model features detailing not found on contemporary toy trucks. Most notable are the wheel hubs. These are exactly the same as used on the full scale Fiat. Also the tyres are prototypical with Pirelli neatly featuring on the side walls.


The cab is die-cast zinc alloy with interior detailing featuring seats and steering wheel in the RHD position. Separate plated plastic door handles are inset into the doors and a similar method is used for the grill. A Fiat badge is also a separate item applied just above the grill area. Surprisingly the chassis is made from plastic and this component includes the front bumper area. On the bumper are the headlights which are another separate item represented in clear plastic. The fuel tank has a plated plastic cap. For the low sided tipper body and for the hinged tail board zinc-alloy is the material selected. Underside details have not been neglected either with neat representations of the suspension system, axles and prop shafts.


The tipping action comprises of a plastic component with one end featuring a hook shape and the other an extended arm pivots on a metal bar in a central location on the chassis. One end of this bar is shaped as a handle. Operating this handle releases the hook and the arm raises the tipper body. The action is not as smooth as the ‘hydraulic’ styles found on contemporary toy tippers but is still effective.


The model was issued in an all card Fiat promotional box. There are no references on the box to Sispla or Dugu as being the model manufacturer.

Connection to Old Cars

The 4-5 tractors and 4 trucks are rare and infrequently appear on ebay.  Rampini says Old Cars started in 1975 in Quarona Sesia, which is a big coincidence.  He pictures the Fiat 697 and 90NC trucks, as well as two orange tractors (Fiat and Someco) as Old Cars!

Interestingly, Old Cars also produced 4 different vintage cars around 1976: 1931 Bugatti, 1907 Ford Model T, 1909 Opel, and 1905 Fiat 24 HP (open and closed versions).  Both Rampini and Force show these with very cheap silver plated, spoked wheels; not up to Dugu’s level of detail or finesse. So we assume that Old Cars did not continue any of the Dugu vintage cars, but they tried to reduce costs and introduce an even cheaper range.

So it seems Old Cars continued the tractors and trucks as they increased their range of Italian vans, buses  large trucks, etc.  When Rampini published his book in 1992, he lists them as still releasing many new products! And to this day, they still do: see www.oldcars.it.

The Catalogs

The following catalog dates are estimated based on release dates of the models contained in each one.   Year of release is taken from Alberto Spano’s original Italian article.


Front and back are shown.  This is a three-color, two-fold catalog.




1966 is lightly larger than the previous year and is a three-fold catalog.  Similar photos are shown of both series.




The catalogs now fold along the long side and are in color.  Front and back are shown below.  This and the rest of the catalogs now show each model with a photo backdrop.


New for 1968

A 2-page catalog (front and back) with new items only is shown below.



The same style catalog was produced for ~1969 with the full ranges shown. Front and back are shown, then the middle page.




Finally, the last one we have is a 1-page insert (front and back shown) from circa 1972 that was placed in the 1969 catalog.  Three new models were shown.


With two of the catalogs, these small inserts were included.  Perhaps they were originally inserted in the box with the specific model?

1908 Brixia-Züst


1912 Itala


That brings us to the end of our four part series on Dugu.   If you have any additional information, please contact the Editors at the locations noted below.

Check out hobbyDB to see if any other catalogs have been found.


Force, Edward, Classic Miniature Vehicles: Made in Italy, Schiffer, 1992.

Rampini, Paulo, Automodelli 1/43 Made in Italy, 1900-1991, Edizioni Paolo Rampini, 1992.

We welcome your comments and questions.   Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page,  or email us at maronlineeditor at gmail.com.

Dugu 1/43 Models: Part III


by Alberto Spano  (Trans. and Ed. Karl Schnelle)


Dugu produced two series of model cars.   Part III of these articles concentrates on the second range, called the Serie Museo (Museum  Series).   At time of production, all the cars belonged to Museo Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia (in Turin, Italy), now called the Museo Nazionale dell’ Automobile.

This series was meant to be at a cheaper price point and thus had less detail and less extra parts.  However, some of the Serie Museo are just as beautiful and collectible as the original series. The box and all 14 models are described and pictured below.

The boxes of the Museum Series are made of yellow and blue cardboard,  without windows. It was economical but customized for each model. On the two larger yellow faces, the name of the model and a simplified drawing are given.





The red plastic wheels make the model look cheaper but this is the economy series after all.   The Victoria (actually “Viktoria”) was the first four-wheeled vehicle produced by Karl Benz.   One color was offered,  in dark green only.  Introduced 1964.



Same type of cheap plastic wheels, but white this time. Maroon was the only body color offered. Introduced 1964.

3  BENZ 8 HP BREAK 1899


In dark green only. Introduced 1964.

4 DARRACQ 9½ HP 1902


Red with white accents only.  Introduced 1964.



Ivory with green seats, running boards.  Introduced 1964.

6 LEGNANO  Mod. A 6/8 HP COPERTA 1908


The Legnano Mod. A was produced by FIAL (Italian Automobile Factory Legnano) from 1906 to 1909.  In fact, the Mod. A was also the one and only product that they made.  Red only with closed roof. Introduced 1965.

7 LEGNANO Mod. A 6/8 HP  SCOPERTA 1908


Open version of the #6 model. same color. Introduced 1965.

8 FIAT 500A “TOPOLINO” 1936


Very well done, with less extra parts than the previous models.  But less parts were needed for this ‘simple’ car. Topolino is Mickey Mouse in Italian, because the prominent headlamps resemble the ears of a mouse!  Came in many color choices including: burgundy, beige , dark green,  light gray, sand and orange. Introduced 1966.



The founder of the brand, Roberto Züst, was Italian and his car factory opened its doors in 1906 in Brescia. Remained in operation until 1912.  The Dugu came in red and black only. Introduced 1967.



Cisitalia was founded by Piero Dusio and Piero Taruffi in 1946 and lasted until 1963.  The elegance of the Pinin Farina bodywork, very innovative for its time, attracted the likes of MOMA (Museum of Modern Art in New York City), where one resides today.  MOMA describes it as “one of the world’s six most beautiful cars”.  The 202 is also one of the most famous Dugu models, because the 202 had not yet been reproduced by any other manufacturers. 

The model is very simple in its construction. The second photo shows the zamak body, with the open bonnet, minimalist interior (lacking even the steering wheel), the one-piece window, the wheel axles with spoked wheels, and the grooved tires. The front hood has no hinges: it is held in the closed position by one of the two screws that secure the baseplate.  Red only. Introduced 1968.

11 LANCIA THETA – 1914


This Lancia was made from  1913 to 1918: it was the first European car to have a 6v electrical system inside the body with an electric starter motor (with foot control).  The traditional “crank”, provided in the car’s tool kit, was for emergencies only.  Brick red only. Introduced 1968.

12 ANSALDO 4A – 1920


Ansaldo Cars derived from it’s parent company’s aeronautical division.  They produced vehicles in Turin  for about 13 years, from 1919 to 1932.  Lemon yellow only. Introduced 1970.



Open version of #8. The grill was improved on the open version, so that the body color does not show through.  The baseplate still shows #8 though.   Same colors.  Introduced 1969.

14  FIAT 519 S – 1923


The 519 S was equipped with hydraulic brakes on all four wheels, a real novelty at the time. Came in red and the more rare black.  With black or white seats. Introduced 1971.


The original article appeared online in 2015 in Italian.  The author kindly gave his permission for these English translations.  Part I covered background and history, and Part  II covered the MiniautoToys Series.  Finally, Part IV will cover Sispla, catalogs, and other topics.

We welcome your comments and questions.   Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page,  or email us at maronlineeditor at gmail.com.



by Alberto Spano  (Trans. and Ed. Karl Schnelle)


Dugu produced two series of model cars.   Part II of these articles concentrates on the first range, called the MiniautoToy Series.  Two types of boxes and all 24 models are described and pictured below.

MiniautoToy Series – The Boxes

The first type boxes were cardboard with two circular windows on opposite sides in order to see the color of the model inside. The same heat-sealing material for the windows, were very fragile.  The boxes were customized to individual model: the item number was printed in a colored circle and the type of model was written in white on a yellow rectangle. Exposure to sunlight fades the yellow rectangle making it unreadable. The little car was held in place by a thin strip of soft foam or small pieces of the same material.


The first boxes were of two different sizes: big, pictured above (Itala “Palombella”), or small, pictured below (Fiat 3.5 HP).


Using this same type of box, Rio were initially marketed by Dugu. In that case the item number used the letter “R” at the beginning.

The second type box is composed of a transparent plastic case with colored plastic base, contained in an outer box with a large open side. The excessive size of the opening made the outer box easily torn. For this reason it is sometimes difficult to find one in good condition.


The box came in two different sizes: large models (Duesenberg pictured above) and small models (Fiat 509, Fiat 3.5 HP, …). The model was held in place by pads or rubber bands). These boxes were generic: the model name was found on a label applied to the case, visible through the window (pictured below, Fiat 509).


MiniautoToy Series – The Models

Twenty-four models were released from 1962-1971.

1 FIAT TIPO 4 (COPERTA) 1911-1918

Coperta means closed top, which was held on by two, real leather straps. Diecast zamak body with plastic parts ans rubber tires.   The model was produced in three different colors: red brick, dark green, and gray. The fenders, the interior and the soft top are always black. Introduced 1962.



The model was produced in different colors: red lacquer, dark green, beige, sand yellow, and light gray. The fenders, the interior and roof are always black. Introduced 1962.


3 FIAT TIPO 4 (SCOPERTA) 1911-1918

This is the open  (scoperta) version of # 1.  Same colors were offered. Introduced 1963.



4 FIAT 130 HP F2 “GRAND PRIX” 1907

A splendid model with a wealth of detail: instrumentation, chain drive, leather  hood strap, copper coils and fuel lines, brass fittings,, side panels made of canvas, rubber grooved tires.  One color choice: red, but there are three versions of the base depending on how much writing is there.  Introduced 1964.  Also was sold or given away in the US in the Brown Box series.




Open version of # 2 with a nice instrument panel. In the same five color choices.  Introduced 1964.


6 ITALA 35/45 HP “PALOMBELLA” 1909

The nickname “Palombella” was coined by Queen Mother Margherita of Savoy, who owned one of these Italas. The model was produced in only one color:very dark green with black roof. The seat, rear fenders, running boards and the seats are always black. Silver accessories. Introduced 1965.


7 ITALA 25/35 HP (COPERTA) 1912

More leather straps to hold down the roof!  The model was produced in a unique combination of colors: bright red, white convertible top, and blacks seats and fenders.  Red wheels. Note the very spectacular serpent horn! Introduced 1965.


8 ITALA 25/35 HP (SCOPERTA) 1912

Same color and same snake as # 7, but in open version!  Introduced 1965.




This little tricycle car is now quite rare: only 2000 examples were produced (documented by the enclosed certificate) and was never listing for sale. It was available only to members of Dugu HiFi Club when they subscribed.   They then had to pay 3,500 lira. (Regular issues were 2000 lira back then) Only one color combination: red with a white roof. Introduced 1966.




Same color as #9 but in open form.  Was in the normal series sold to the public, but is still very rare.  Introduced 1966.


11 FIAT 3½ HP (SCOPERTA) 1899

No steering wheel but a control column!  One color choice only, dark blue and yellow. Introduced 1966.



12 FIAT 3½ HP (COPERTA) 1899

Same as #11 but with top up. Same colors. Introduced 1966.



13 DUESENBERG “J” – 1931

With a “Coupe de Ville” or “Town Car”  body, three colors were offered: light green, ivory, and yellow .  Chrome exhaust pipes are nicely done on the side.  Fits the Dugu plastic box perfectly, tight from bumper to bumper!  Introduced in 1967.



14 FIAT 509 A (CHIUSA) 1925

Dark red hard top with black roof only. Introduced in 1967.



15 FIAT 509 A (SCOPERTA) 1925

Same as #14 but with open soft top.  Same color. Introduced in 1967.


16 ITALA 35/45 HP 1909

Same as # 6 but with gold accessories. Red with black roof. Introduced in 1968.




A delicate, all plastic model.  Built with opening hood and doors. Introduced in 1968.




The model was produced in three different colors: light green, violet, and orange-red.  The red one on the left in the photo below is a Model of Yesteryear for comparison. Note that in the Dugu catalog, this model is called a Cord Phaeton 1936.  The 1936 (the Cord 810) is similar but did not have the chrome side exhaust pipes.  Introduced in 1968.




Same as # 13 but with top down.  Came in many colors, with red or white being common. Introduced in 1968.




Same as #18 but with no top. Seen in orange-red or light green online but never with a # 20 box.   Introduced in 1968 (perhaps?).



Actually the car produced by Dugu is a Phantom II Continental DHC.  Most common color is black , then yellow, green,  white.  [Third photo: Ghosthunter] Introduced in 1969.



Same as # 21, but with roof down. The most common color is yellow, then  dark green, white, black. Introduced in 1969. [Third photo: Corky]




Who knows how many beautiful patterns Dugu would have been able to produce if economic difficulties had not brought them to closure! Really, this model is beautiful, but it does not show the owl nor the Dugu name on the baseplate or the box. Dugu was able to make the molds and some prototypes, but then nothing… A few years later, those molds produced a thousand copies by the owner of the Italian shop Zeppelin. One thousand numbered copies  (this is the 304).   Only the edition number are on the box and the baseplate, and no manufacturer’s marks anywhere.

This Fiat is a land speed record car prepared the Englishman Ernest Eldridge in 1924.   It was immense and hellish –  and not by chance it was renamed “Mephistopheles.”

But we collectors consider them a Dugu and collect them with the others.  Produced in 1972.





This beautiful model, produced in 1971, depicts the mammoth by FIAT record car, S.76 of 1911, also known as the FIAT 300HP RECORD, or even more appropriately as “The Beast of Turin.” Look at the two seats and imagine in proportion to the size of the driver: standing next to the car, his head just reaches the top of the bonnet. A real monster propelled by a four-cylinder of over 28,000 cc  (7,000 cc per cylinder!!)

It is, unfortunately, the last model produced by Dugu.  Produced in 1971.



The original article appeared online in 2015 in Italian.  The author kindly gave his permission for these English translations.  Part I covered background and history, and Part III will cover the Serie Museo.  Finally, Part IV will cover Sispla,  catalogs and other topics.

We welcome your comments and questions.   Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page,  or email us at maronlineeditor at gmail.com.


Find them on

Dugu 1/43 Models: Part I


by Alberto Spano  (Trans. and Ed. Karl Schnelle)

NOTE: This article originally appeared on an Italian web site dedicated to 1960’s model cars, www.aessemodels.it.


Dugu were not the first collector’s models, but they weren’t too far behind.  RAMI  and the famous Models of Yesteryear were both started in 1956.    Dugu was founded a few years later in 1961 by Bartholomeo Chiodo in Varallo Sesia, Italy; he started production of vintage car models in 1:43 scale in 1962. “Dugu” in the local dialect is the owl, which was the nickname of the inhabitants of the older district of Varello Sesia where the company started!   (People in the newer section of town are called “falcheits”, hawks!) Thus, the brand logo represents a stylized owl on the baseplates and boxes.

The founder’s intentions were certainly not to produce children’s toy cars. Looking at the first models, it is clear that the intended recipient of those objects was the collector, usually an adult with a passion for cars of the past.  Dugu’s first model, the #1 1911-18 Fiat Tipo 4 (top up) is shown below.


Interestingly, Dugu in the beginning were in direct competition with those of Rio, another well-known Italian producer.  Rio was founded not too far away in Cernobbio, also in 1962.  In fact the production of Dugu were commissioned to the Tatterletti brothers (to their company Stampoplastica) in Cernobbio, Their agreement brought the Dugu models to market initially, but they also starting making their own RIO models.  Probably because Rio did not yet have its own sales and marketing network, Dugu boxes were used initially, with the item number followed by an “r ” or with a Rio sticker on the Dugu box. The agreement lasted only a short time, until their own sales network was established.


The Dugu and Rio models are quite similar, which comes as no surprise. Rio were a little ‘less finished’ and  Dugu seem to have more little attached parts. Dugu are thus more fragile, with many glued parts.  They have to be admired from a distance, without touching them.  Both manufacturers have initially suffered from metal fatigue that crumbles the diecast zamak bodies over time.. With the use of zamak alloys made with electrolytic copper (and therefore devoid of traces of lead), the situation normalized, and the models became much more stable.   (Copper required for the alloy was not pure enough and contained lead residues.  However, copper produced with the electrolytic process solved the problem. With this new process,  copper deposits on the electrode exceeding 99.9% purity.)


In the images shown, metal fatigue inevitably affects the hood and body of an early  green FIAT type “4” of 1911 (#1 of Dugu) and finally crumble the body of a red Fiat 501 Torpedo (#4 Rio).


If you store these models together with those still healthy, some collectors  believe they are contagious and infection will occur. Isolating the models that have this defect by placing them in a permanent quarantine may help.  Restoration involves grouting the cracks and subsequent painting.


When they came out, Dugu models cost a third more than Rio, about 2,000 lire each.  This might be why Rio  managed to survive until just a few years ago, when it was bought by M4,   Dugu closed its doors in 1973 soon after moving to Quarona Sesia, just 7 km to the south.

To try to extend the life of the company,  production of an ‘economy’ series was started called the “Museum” series, or Serie Museo, which really was not too much lower in quality and finish than the  original series.  The new series were all based on vintage cars from the “Museo Carlo Biscaretti of Ruffia” in Turin, 130 km to the southwest.  Extensive use of the cars and the precious documentation center at the museum enabled the creation of these beautiful models.  Today, after a restoration, it is called the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile

Indeed, some models of the Museo series are very beautiful (for example, the Topolino, the Cisitalia, the Fiat 519S, and the Lancia Theta) and could all hold a candle to the Miniautotoys series.  The Museo series were also numbered starting from 1, which makes collecting them all a bit confusing.  The first one is shown below, the 1893 Benz Victoria.


By 1974, Dugu has become SISPLA (still in Quarona), with an identical catalog and production, and then closed its doors soon after. perhaps in 1975.  What remained was taken over by Old Cars, but they failed to continue producing vintage vehicles, preferring to devote themselves to commercial vehicles and promotionals.



Above is shown an advertisement from  Dugu that appeared in Topolino, the Italian Mickey Mouse magazine,  in the sixties.  The model of the Bernardi tricycle (the covered version) had been produced in a limited edition of 2000 pieces, available only to members of the “Dugu HIFI” Club. Today, the Bernardi tricycle is rare, even in the open version.


The original article appeared online in 2015 in Italian.  The author kindly gave his permission for these English translations.  Part II will cover boxes and all examples of the original Serie MiniautoToys, and Part III will cover the Serie Museo.  Finally, Part IV will cover Sispla, catalogs, and other topics.

In Model Auto Review 32, from Summer 1988, Chris Sweetman had a two-page article on Dugu. Then, Horst Macalka had a short Catalog Corner on then in MAR 38, Summer 1989.  Mike Richardson had a great article in Model Collector, August 1996, pp 18-21. if you can find a copy. And another famous collector, Paulo Rampini, has his 2015 Dugu book as a pdf on his website.  Also, HobbyDB will have photos of all the models as well as catalogs.

We welcome your comments and questions.   Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page,  or email us at maronlineeditor at gmail.com.

The Brown Box Mystery!

Highway Travel, Lakeside Press, USA, 1965



[photo source: Marcel Colijn]


Over the last 8 years, I have been finding these common 1:43 cars in plain brown boxes in different places around the USA.  They are all from various manufacturers.  All I know about this series is what is printed on the enclosed pamphlets; the Lakeside Press was planning to publish a new series of Highway maps of the US, so perhaps they used these European model cars as a form of advertisement or incentive? Copyright 1965.  The back of the brochures all had similar text, as seen in the photo below.


[photo source: Marcel Colijn]

All models came in the identical brown box with soft foam packing. Did they have permission to use these models? What other castings were in the series? Lakeside was part of R R Donnelley & Sons of Chicago, famous for printing the Sears catalog, the Yellow Pages, etc.

brown box Tekno Jag 2 Highway

I have found seven so far in the series, all by mainstream European 1/43 diecast makers, all for sale in or just before 1965.  Did Donnelley buy these from a US distributors and re-package, or directly from the manufacturers?   How many were distributed and why?

I found three of them online back in 2008 and have been looking for more ever since.  In 2011, I found the DUGU Fiat broken in half but reparable. Also, this one did not come with a brochure for itself, but for numbers 6 and 7!   Next, I went digging around the internet and found a  google book,  Catalog of Copyright Entries. Third Series: 1965: July-December,  that lists a 32-page booklet and 8 items under “the changing world of highway travel”, all with a copyright date of July 1965.  I would love to find a copy of that booklet.

brown box Solido l'age d'or MOY Highway

So now the evidence points to eight cars being planned, one for each decade.

Most Recent Finds

Finally in 2015, a fellow collector in the Chicago-land area pointed me to three of the series being for sale.  I quickly contacted the seller and had three more in hand – two new ones and one duplicate.  However, these had no brochures with them or any label on the brown box.   There was a story behind them though!   The seller got them as a boy in 1970 from his uncle. The uncle worked for R R Donnelley as a truck driver to delivery air cargo from the printing presses to O’Hare airport at night. Like most of their employees back then, he received many employee gifts – Christmas hams, thee three toy cars, etc. The nephew never played with them and does not know anything more about them.  So did these brown box models go to employees only, or also to customers, or were they for sale to the public next to their booklets and maps?  Many questions remain unanswered…

The following table lists all the known models and when they were introduced in their original packaging by their manufacturers.

# Decade Model Model Introduced
1 pre-1900 RAMI #19 1898 Hautier electric taxi 1964
2 1900 RAMI #16 1907 Ford Model T 1963
2? 1900 DUGU #4 1907 Fiat GP (w 6,7 brochure) 1964
3 1910 Models of Yesteryear #11 1912 Packard Landaulet 1964
4 1920 SOLIDO #132 1928 Mercedes SS, top up 1964
5 1930 RIO #13 1932 Fiat Balilla, blue 1965
6 1940 pictures a WW-II Jeep
7 1950 pictures a ’61 Thunderbird but refers to being introduced in ’54
8? 1960 TEKNO #926 1961 Jaguar E type, open top, gray 1964

All the models listed in the table above are described below.


The Models

  1. The RAMI Hautier is the first in the series and was one of the first brown box models I found. It’s not too easy to find the normal issue but does not seem to be very collectible as they aren’t too pricey.  The photo below shows the corner of the box with a small sticker: The Lakeside Press symbol (a native American with a brown/cream graphic behind it). The green brochure cover shows the Hautier and a ‘mystery’ Jaguar E Type.

Highway Travel 1898 Hautier brown

RAMI were made in France from 1956 to 72.  They were documented in Model Auto Review 5,6 and 7 many years ago.  This example has opening front doors and was a very early electric taxi!

2. The second model is also by RAMI, a FORD Model T.   The white wheels, this time, really contrast with the black body.  This Model T has strange cut-outs instead of front doors.

Highway Travel Model T brown

The corner of the box is shown again with an inside page of the brochure.  All the brochures showed a drawing of the model with some words about that decade related to the actual car.  No mention of the model itself though.

An alternate #2 is the broken DUGU Fiat that I found in the brown box but without a brochure.   Perhaps this was planned as the second one but never realized? I assume that it could have been considered for #2 because it is 1907 Fiat and thus fits that decade. DUGU were made in Italy from 1962-73 (Rampini, 1992).

DUGU F-2 Highway Traveler brown

3.  The Matchbox Models of Yesteryear comes next, no more RAMIs.  The Packard is one of the first issues, with metal steering wheel and 4-point spare wheel holder.  An inside page of the brochure is pictured at the top.


[photo source: Marcel Colijn]

Mine came in a plain brown box with no small sticker or brochure.

4.  From Solido of France comes the 1920’s models, the Mercedes SS.  Like the Yesteryear, this is a very early version with metal bumpers and a license plate sticker.

Highway Travel Mercedes SS brownHighway Travel Mercedes SS 2 brown

Solido produced these starting in 1964 in their l’Age d’Or series. It is also pictured above in the text with the Packard.

5. Again, another manufacturer produced the next model, Rio of Italy.  The Fiat Balilla is in a  nice shade of blue and represents the 1930’s.

Highway Travel Fiat Balilla brown

6.  Both 6 and 7 are still mysteries but luckily I have their brochures. Perhaps they were never produced and only planned?  I have no idea, but this sixth one seems to be  a WW-II era Jeep.  In or just before 1965, who made a diecast 1/43 Jeep?

I asked the ‘vintage automobile models’ and ‘The Vintage Diecast Cars Club’ groups on Facebook and they suggested many good examples: Sam-Toys and Politoys in plastic, Champion (France), Lone Star, and Dinky of course.  My best guess might be the French Dinky #816 1956 Army Jeep (Hotchkiss-Willys M201) which came out in 1962.  Or the slightly older Danish Tekno #814 1952 Army Jeep (Willys M38A1) came out in 1958 (Clausager, 1990).  Both of these are post-war Jeeps which does not fit the decade.  Perhaps a brown box version was not ever released?

7.  The other mystery is the 1950s decade with a brochure picturing a 1961 Ford Thunderbird but refers to being introduced in ’54.  Solido made the #128 1961 FORD Thunderbird which came out in 1963,  That’s the closest I can come to estimating what might have been!

8.  This one came in a plain brown box with no brochure, so I wonder if it was ever released?   It’s a typical Tekno Jaguar E Type in grey. It fits the 1960s decade so must be #8!  The brochures I have show it on the cover with the Hautier, so perhaps these are the first and last planned models in the series.

brown box Tekno Jag

The Jag was packed like all the other models, in foam cut to fit the models.

brown box Tekno Jag Highway

This brings us to the end of the brown boxes.  When and if I learn more, I will let you know.  And please contact us on Facebook if you have any of the answers!

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