Thunderbirds by Corgi

Mike Pigott looks at Corgi’s models from 2003 and 2016 that were based on Gerry Anderson’s classic Thunderbirds series.During the 1960s, Corgi Toys was the leader in TV-related diecast vehicles. In 1965 Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds was the top-rating children’s TV show, and Corgi was so confident of obtaining the franchise that a working prototype of FAB-1 was developed even before a contract was signed. In a surprise move, the Thunderbirds franchise was awarded to rival Dinky Toys of Liverpool, a company that had no history of licensed products. It wasn’t until 2003 when Corgi finally acquired the Thunderbirds license, with two models produced that year and a further two after quite a long gap, in 2016.

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Matchbox Matchcaps

Mike Pigott looks at this colourful 1990s range of diecast cars from Matchbox which included a number of collectible ‘POG’ discs in each pack.During the 1990s, one of the big collecting crazes was POGs, collectible discs that could be swapped or played with competitively. To capitalise on this massive craze, Matchbox produced a line of miniature cars in vivid colours which included four discs in every pack.

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Hot Wheels Convertables

Mike Pigott looks at this range of Hot Wheels vehicles from 1991 that featured colour-changing and shape-changing bodies.

In 1988, Hot Wheels introduced a range of model cars with colour-changing paint, which turned a different shade when exposed to heat, returning to the original colour when cooled. These proved popular at the time, having been sold under various brand names including Color Racers, Automagic, Color FX, Colour Turbo and Color Shifters – these are still available today. Also produced in the 1980s was a range called Crack-Ups, which were cars with rotating panels that simulated collision damage. In 1991 Hot Wheels combined the novelty features of these two lines, and came up with the Convertables, which changed both shape and colour when exposed to heat and cold.

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Siku Ships

Mike Pigott looks at the semi-waterline ship models in 1/1400 scale made by Siku of Germany.

In 2013, the long-established German company Siku introduced a range of cruise liners to its popular diecast line. These model ships were somewhat unorthodox, being of a semi-waterline design and made to the unusual scale of 1/1400, but were interesting replicas of modern liners not previously modelled.

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Johnny Lightning Hot Rods

Mike Pigott looks at this range from 1997 that was based on real American street rods.

When the Playing Mantis toy company revived the Johnny Lightning marque, dormant since 1972, the first models made were reproductions of those from the 1960s, called the Johnny Lightning Commemorative Series. However, soon a range of new castings were introduced, including classic muscle cars and American dragsters. One of these early ranges was a set of ten street rods which was first released in 1997. Unlike Matchbox and Hot Wheels, which produced mainly fantasy hot rods, the Johnny Lightning Hot Rods were all based on real cars that were well-known on the American street-rod scene and had won awards in custom car shows. Some were quite famous cars built by big-name customizers. The vehicles modelled ranged from the 1920s through to the mid-’80s.

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Fire Engines by Reader’s Digest

Mike Pigott returns to the subject of fire engines with a look at this unusual range that was given as a premium with subscriptions to Reader’s Digest books.The long-running and popular monthly magazine Reader’s Digest contains a selection of condensed articles on a wide range of subjects, and for many years was one of the best-selling magazines in the world. Reader’s Digest also publishes books; probably the best known of these are Condensed Books, which are hardcover volumes containing four abridged novels. There are also sets of encyclopaedia and large reference books.

To encourage sales of the books, Reader’s Digest often sends premiums with book orders. While these are frequently things such as pens or coffee mugs, they can occasionally be diecast models. Sets of two or four models were given as the ‘free mystery gift’ with large reference books, while individual models from a series were included with each condensed book or encyclopaedia volume. There were various types of model vehicles given away, including vintage cars, classic cars, classic trams, trains, delivery vans and vintage planes. And, as we’re about to see, fire engines!

The fire engine series consisted of eight different models of classic American fire trucks. They were only issued in the USA, and were produced in 2000. Like most of the Reader’s Digest models, they were made by Chinese budget company High Speed. As with many models from this manufacturer, quality and accuracy was somewhat lacking. However, what made the series collectable was the extremely unusual models included; they were all-new castings and not copies of other brands, as was the case with Summer Toys. Some of them were fire engines from incredibly obscure companies… where else are you going to find a Knox-Martin or a Task Master?

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Marvel Comics Vehicles by Tomica

Mike Pigott’s takes a look at some dynamic Marvel Comics vehicles made by Tomica of Japan.

Over the years, there have been a lot of model vehicles based on Marvel Comics characters…although not many good ones. One of the reasons for this is because not many of the heroes actually drive cars, so it’s not easy making models of vehicles that don’t exist. So Batman from rival DC Comics has always been dominant in the diecast world, as he has a Batmobile – or rather, lots of different Batmobiles and other Bat-vehicles, from his various comic books, films and TV series.

Generally, characters who can fly, shoot webs, or possess powered exo-skeletons rarely need cars. There have been a lot of Marvel character vehicles produced since the 1970s, but very few have been authentic. Corgi made several fun Spider-Man vehicles during the ‘70s, despite the fact that Spidey never drove a car. Corgi’s other Marvel hero models were just unrelated, regular Corgi Toys with character figures and decals added.

More recently, companies such as Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning have produced large numbers of licensed Marvel products, but these were just stock-standard car and truck castings with character designs and logos tampo-printed on them. Majorette and Hot Wheels have both produced Marvel ranges that were caricatures of super-heroes; they were cartoony vehicles with the colours and characteristics of Marvel heroes and villains. But again they bore no resemblance to anything from the comic books or films. So it was interesting to see Japanese company Tomica produce a small range of Marvel characters which were significantly different that previous offerings.

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Swissair Lockheed Orion by NZG

Mike Pigott focuses on the only aircraft model made by German company NZG, a vintage Lockheed Orion.

The German model manufacturer NZG is known today mainly for models of construction equipment and heavy trucks, but over the years has produced a wide range of different types of vehicles. NZG, like its compatriot company Conrad, are specialists at producing commissioned models for the original equipment manufacturers. These companies have become the ‘go-to’ manufacturers for industries which require promotional or commemorative models of products to give to prospective clients or sell as souvenirs. While NZG is mostly associated today with big trucks, cranes and plant machinery, since the company was founded in the 1970s, a wide range of different miniatures have been produced. These have included promotional car models for Porsche and Mercedes-Benz dealers, buses, fire engines, vintage vehicles, and very specialist items, such as diesel engines. Possibly the most surprising model was made by NZG in 1980 – a model of a classic aircraft.

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Siku Diecast Trains

Mike Pigott looks at the 1/120 scale diecast railway models made by the German company Siku.

gwOjWgoAIn 2010, the long-established German company Siku added a number of railway items to its popular ‘Super Series’. The Siku Super Series dates back to 1975, and is mostly a Hot Wheels sized range, but with cars to a constant scale of 1/55. Siku models are made to a much higher quality than Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars, with realistic wheels, detailed interiors and opening parts. However, Siku vehicles are usually two or three times the price of other makes.

The train models were not made to the regular 1/55 scale, which would have been too large; they were instead produced to a size that fit the standard blister packs. Fortunately, that size was 1/120 scale, or TT gauge. While TT gauge was something of a fad in Britain and the USA during the 1960s, it was extremely popular in Eastern Europe and has recently enjoyed a huge revival in Germany. Other manufacturers, such as Corgi and Lionel, have also produced diecast locomotives in 1/120 scale. The Siku trains were not intended to be compatible with TT model railway layouts, they were much simpler than the more detailed electric trains, and were aimed at children rather than collectors. However, they were reasonably good replicas, and – unlike the ranges by Lionel and Corgi – there were carriages produced to accompany the locomotives. All the models had rolling wheels and working ball-and-socket couplings.

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Jurassic World by Jada

Mike Pigott continues his series on the Jurassic Park franchise as we look at Jada’s small range of models based on the 2015 film Jurassic World.Jeep WranglerJurassic World, the fourth instalment in the Jurassic Park series of films, was released in 2015, 22 years after the original movie. As with the previous episodes, there were diecast toys produced to tie in with the film, although this time the license was given to two different companies. Matchbox produced a large selection of 1/64-ish vehicles which had very little to do with anything actually seen in the film. A small range of larger scale models was made by American company Jada Toys, which were (mostly) more authentic to the film.

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