The Three Versions of the Dinky Supertoys Mighty Antar Transporter – A Hit for Meccano Ltd.
By Terry Hardgrave
All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.
Please click on the photos to get a larger view.
The 1950’s were fun times for many young boys, and most were fascinated with military models. Meccano saw that interest develop with the start of World War II, and was quick to bring out several Dinky Toys models that became very popular, both right before and right after the war. By the early 1950’s, the old pre-war style military vehicles were obsolete, so starting in 1954, several new models were introduced. But the really big play for Meccano was unveiling the new Dinky Supertoys #660 Tank Transporter in May-June 1956. Based on the very large Thorneycroft Mighty Antar truck, this was a most imposing model for that era, measuring over 13” with its rear ramps down, and loaded with play value.
In spite of its high sales price of $4.50 in the US (very expensive in 1956), it was a must-have for many boys, and, from all indications, Dinky amped up production and made these by the thousands. This is a story about the original Mighty Antar vehicle and the three versions that Dinky made over a period of 8 years.
The Thorneycroft Mighty Antar
Development of this outsize truck really began in the late 1940’s, as a suitable vehicle for oilfield work, transporting oversize pipe hundreds of miles in the desert. This called for many abilities: being able to traverse rough, unpaved terrain; climbing mountainous grades; and hauling large capacity loads. So the chassis was designed as a 6×4 layout, with a large V-8 engine to provide power. The engine was designed by Rolls-Royce, was a cut-down version of the V-12 used in tanks, and was called the Meteorite. This engine displaced 18 liters and ran on gasoline. Rover ended up making these engines, to the Rolls-Royce specifications. Later in production, a diesel version was developed.
The first customer, and whom the truck was really designed for, was the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. That is significant when one considers the name, Mighty Antar… the name Antar was a reference to Antar Ibn Shaddad, a pre-Islamic poet-warrior, so using that name was very flattering.
Shortly after the initial trucks were produced, it was quickly considered to be ideal as a tank transporter, to carry the then somewhat new British Centurion Tanks, and this is where it garnered most of its fame and use.
Weight of the tractor: 44,220 lbs
Length of the tractor: 27’
Trailer capacity: 50-60 tons
Engine: Rolls-Royce designed Meteorite, V-8, 18 liters
Top speed: 28 mph
Transmission: 4 speed, with a 3 speed transfer case
Versions: MK 1, MK 2, MK 3 (the Dinky's are the MK 1)
The Dinky Supertoys #660 Tank Transporter
Introduced in May-June of 1956 to much fanfare, this was the first of the three Mighty Antar versions produced by Meccano, and was in production until 1964. When first made, it featured a driver, an attached trailer, no windows, and was made to a scale of about 1:51. In most ways, this is a very accurate model of the real vehicle, with a couple of exceptions: in the 1950’s, Meccano insisted on using single rear tires and wheels, when many trucks had duals. It wasn’t until later in the 1960’s that they finally came around on this detail, which would have looked much better on this model. The other slight error was using the same size tire and wheel for the trailer. The photo of the original clearly shows the trailer wheels and tires being of a smaller size than the tractor.
Around 1959, Dinky Toys decided to allow the trailer to become detached from the tractor unit….originally it was pinned in place. And in March of 1961, windows were finally added. In 1957, Meccano wisely decided to offer the Tank Transporter together with the #651 Centurion Tank… a gift set #698 which sold for $6.95 in the US. This was produced until 1965.
The Dinky Supertoys #986 Mighty Antar Low Loader with Propeller
Following on the great success of the Tank Transporter, Meccano saw an opportunity to get some more mileage out of its Mighty Antar unit, so in June of 1959 they introduced the Low Loader with Propeller version. This used the same Mighty Antar tractor unit but was now paired with a new low loader type of trailer, upon which rested a realistic model of a large brass ships propeller. As was common with Dinky Toys in the 1950’s, this was in painted bright colors, that appealed to young boys, so the cab was finished in red, with the trailer in grey.
Early versions had the trailer permanently attached to the tractor unit, as well as no windows, but by 1961 it had both. I believe this was the very first Dinky Toys to use plastic in some form, as the propeller was made of polystyrene, and has the word “Scimitar” on a decal, referring to the manufacturer. When introduced, this model was also $4.50, making it somewhat out of reach as an ordinary toy, but it made a fine Christmas gift. While not as popular as the tank transporter, it still sold quite well, and was discontinued in 1964.
The Dinky Supertoys #908 Mighty Antar
By 1962, the Mighty Antar model had been around for some time and had, understandably, lost some of its allure. So it was probably a bit surprising when Meccano announced that they would make one more version of this iconic model… they would revert back to the original military version, with its tank trailer, but would convert it to civilian livery, and add a somewhat unique load….a very large 5,000KVA transformer. What is interesting about this is that the French Meccano factory was also re-purposing its Berliet Tank Transporter to a similar version, carrying the very same transformer. This transformer was another early use of plastic, and was actually made in France, and included with the model in a plastic bag, needing assembly.
Since the tank was quite heavy and could easily sit on the trailer, Meccano engineers had to design some way to keep the much lighter transformer from sliding around during play. So they wisely decided to add some mounting brackets or flanges to the bed of the trailer, and the transformer fits snugly in those. The French did not do this for their version, so the transformer does in fact slide around.
By the time this was introduced, the market for toys was rapidly changing, with much more competition, and this look was also quite dated by 1962, so this model was never a big seller, and Meccano discontinued it in 1964. All of these came with both windows and the detachable trailer, and since they were never a big seller, are now quite hard to find and expensive for mint copies.
By the early 1960’s, Meccano Ltd was in serious trouble, with mounting debt, out of control costs, and rising competition on many fronts. By 1964 things had deteriorated so badly that the company was forced to accept a bid by Lines Brothers to take over the company, and so over half a century ownership by the Hornby family ceased.
By 1968, things had worsened even more, and the company decided to sell off some of its die making and tooling equipment, especially on some of the older, obsolete models. In 1968, a quantity of tooling and dies were sold to the Indian firm S. Kumar and Company, trading as Atamco Private Ltd. in Calcutta, along with a license to use them. But subsequent quality control was so poor that Meccano, upon seeing the work, insisted that the names Dinky Toys be removed from the baseplates, and new boxes designed and used. These were then named Nicky Toys, and were sold for some time.
These toys did use the original Meccano Dinky Toys dies, but were assembled, painted and packaged by others, to different standards, so they are considered to be a subset of real Dinky Toys, but are, nonetheless, collected by hobbyists. One of the more striking examples was their re-issue of the Mighty Antar Transporter, finished in a similar color scheme used on the Meccano Transformer version, but now without the transformer.
More recently, French based DAN-Toys has reproduced several of the Dinky Toys models, from their factory in China. These are pretty well made and very closely match the original Dinky Toys. Because they employ new technology and techniques not available in the 1950’s and 1960’s, they always appear to be finished to a higher standard… some would argue too nice. To date, they have made copies of both the Mighty Antar Low Loader with Propeller and the Mighty Antar Transporter with Transformer. Below is a photo of the latter, with its transformer still boxed and unassembled.