ZERO-X by Aoshima

Mike Pigott looks at another one Gerry Anderson’s TV-21 models… a spectacular model of the interplanetary spacecraft seen in the feature film Thunderbirds Are Go!, produced by Aoshima of Japan.

The 1966 film Thunderbirds Are Go was a feature-length spin-off from the popular TV series Thunderbirds. However, the real star of the movie was not one of the Tracy brothers or a Thunderbird craft, but an interplanetary spaceship with the code-name Zero-X.

Many years later, in 2006, Japanese hobby company Aoshima released an incredible diecast model of Zero-X that could perform most of the functions of the ‘real’ craft!

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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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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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UFO Commander 7 by Shinsei

Mike Pigott looks at this high-quality but bizarre range from Japan that consisted of futuristic construction vehicles, flying saucers and robots!UFO Commander 7 Packaging view 2An extremely popular entertainment types in Japan is ‘Mecha’, a science fiction genre involving giant robots, and thousands of comics, TV shows and films have been based on their adventures. Many toy companies produced licensed versions of these robots, which were massively popular in Japan during the 1970s and ’80s. Shinsei, a hobby company best known for diecast construction vehicles, jumped on the bandwagon with a line of diecast robots and futuristic construction vehicles that looked like they were based on a licensed property – but weren’t!

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Batman by Tomica

Mike Pigott looks at the models based on Batman feature films made by the famous Japanese manufacturer Tomica.Camouflage and black 4th BatmobilesTomica is a long-running range of Hot Wheels-sized model cars made by Takara-Tomy of Japan. Tomica first produced a range of five Batman vehicles in 2012, and later added a number of Bat-vehicles to its ‘Dream Tomica’ line of fictitious cars. As with other Japanese manufacturers, Tomica only did models of Batmobiles seen in feature films, and did not bother with vehicles from TV or comic books.

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Batman by Bandai

Mike Pigott continues looking superhero at vehicles, as he examines some high quality diecast models made by Japanese company Bandai based on the 1989 Batman film.

Batwing (view 2)

Over the years, there have been a huge number of diecast models based on Batman and his various vehicles from films, TV shows, cartoons and comic books. Most notable among these would be products from Corgi, Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning. However, less well-known are the models from Japanese companies, such as Bandai and Tomica, which are usually only distributed in Japan and neighbouring countries in the Far East. In fact there have been a number of miniature Bat-vehicles produced by Japanese manufacturers, and to a very high quality. For some reason, the Japanese companies only seem to be interested in Batmobiles from feature films, and don’t bother with those from other media. Bandai only made one diecast Batman product, a four-piece set based on the 1989 film Batman, released in 2004.

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Demolition Man by Hot Wheels

Mike Pigott examines the Hot Wheels models based on the 1993 action film starring Sylvester Stallone and directed by Marco Brambilla.

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Although Hot Wheels appears these days to dominate the diecast character toy market, this was not always the case. In the 1990s, Hot Wheels produced very few licensed models, and the 1993 sci-fi / action film Demolition Man was one of the very few franchises that was modelled by Hot Wheels during this time. A range of nine diecast cars was issued, based on the concept vehicles seen in the movie.

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The Pink Panther by Bburago

Mike Pigott looks at a large model of the popular cartoon cat made by Italian company Bburago.


While the Pink Panther models made by Dinky of the UK are probably the most well known toy cars based on the character, there were a wide range of miniature vehicles featuring the famous colourful cat. The Pink Panther was extremely popular in Italy, and there were several toy vehicles featuring his likeness, including a large racing car made by Bburago.

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Batman by Johnny Lightning


Mike Pigott looks at this high quality range of diecast kits based Batman’s vehicles from the pages of DC Comics.

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Since the Johnny Lightning brand was revived in 1994, it had developed a reputation for producing high quality models of nostalgic character-related models. In 2002 the company obtained the franchise for Batman, although due to licensing issues, could only produce construction kits.

What was most interesting, however, was the fact that these kits were based on vehicles from the comic books, rather than TV and movie vehicles as previously modelled by Corgi, Ertl and Kenner. There were six kits produced; four in 1/64 scale and two in 1/24, both scales being particularly popular in Johnny Lightning’s home market of the USA.

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Mike Pigott looks back (or is that forward?) to this small range of futuristic vehicles produced by Corgi in 1979.

 X-Ploratron packaging.

Corgi was never a big player in the science fiction  field. One of the reasons for this was because rival company Dinky Toys held the licenses to most of the popular TV sci-fi programmes. Other than a strange futuristic vehicle called Lunar Bug from 1970, it wasn’t until nearly a decade later that Corgi released a whole range of original sci-fi vehicles.

These were the X-Ploratrons, and there were four in the series: Rocketron, Lasertron, Magnetron and Scanotron. It was never made clear whether they alien craft of futuristic Earth vehicles. They were described (badly) in the 1980 Corgi catalogue as ‘21st Century global guardians centred in a fictitious futuristic world, the four X-Ploratrons have their own individual role in the battle against disaster from within and without the planet.’ However, the comic strips on the backs of the boxes certainly looked like they were set on a future Earth.

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