Most of the vehicles produced by Dinky originated from the factory located in Binns Road, Liverpool. In fact, ‘Binns Road’ has become a label that itself describes Dinky to many collectors. However, it should be remembered that throughout the history of Dinky there was also a factory in Bobigny, a north-eastern suburb of Paris, that produced a range of models primarily for the French market.
The Bobigny output not unsurprisingly comprised many French, but also other European and American vehicles. The products of the French factory were not usually offered for sale in the UK, and so are more difficult to come by, relatively unknown and often under-rated (in the UK). This is a great shame, because as we shall see, they created some absolutely fantastic military models! Moreover, although Bobigny started their military range only in the late 1950s, by the early 1970s it had grown to parallel that of Binns Road.
The subject matter of the French range is firmly focussed on those used by the French army, though this includes a selection of US-manufactured vehicles. This extension of scope is a breath of fresh air. The Paris factory appears to have followed the same production processes as the UK parent, and thus the two sets of models are clearly from the same stable, and so a good match for each other.
One of the first Dinky military models manufactured in France, was the Panhard EBR (‘Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance’ meaning ‘armoured reconnaissance vehicle’ or, more simply, armoured car). It’s an interesting vehicle, so let’s take a look at the model.
Dinky 815 EBR Panhard
Year first produced:1957
L93xW40xH38, Metal 135g, Scale 1:60, Features: 2
As already mentioned, the French Dinky models share a great many features with those produced at Binns Road.
In common with the English made models, the main elements of the Panhard EBR are mazak castings, in this case of the hull and turret. When fixed into the hull, the turret can rotate through 360 degrees. Four axles carry 2 wheels each, although the central four are of a different design and lack tyres. Plenty of detail is captured on the upper surfaces including stowage such as tools and a rolled canvas at the rear of the turret.
The bottom of the casting is closed off with a baseplate embossed with the standard Dinky markings, e.g.
“DINKY TOYS”, “E.B.R. PANHARD”, “MECCANO”, “MADE IN FRANCE” and “80A”
NB: The EBR was initially numbered 80A, but renumbered to 815 in 1959 (the baseplate was not updated, though). It is perhaps a surprise that the markings are all in English, a practice that was followed on all of the military models…
As you might have expected from Dinky, the vehicle is painted army green overall – but this time it’s olive green, as used by the French army. The headlights are silvered, and tricolour transfers applied to the turret. As in the UK, the French Dinky models were also sold in yellow card boxes, this one carrying an illustration of the vehicle on the sides.
I think the EBR is a gorgeous model. The level of detail is easily up to that of the British manufactures, but my main reason for liking this model is that is so unusual looking, and so … French! To see the difference, compare it to the more traditional design embodied by the British 670 Daimler armoured car. Let’s look at the history and design of the EBR.
The Panhard EBR was a novel and advanced design. Perhaps the most amazing thing about it is that the essentials of the design were worked out prior to World War 2 when Panhard designed and built a prototype of the Type 201 armoured car. The German invasion in 1940 put a stop to this development, but the knowledge was retained and the approach resurrected in 1944 when France regained independence. Prototypes of the new vehicle were produced in 1948, and production occurred throughout the 1950s.
The EBR is an odd-looking armoured car. It had large and incongruous wheels, and a low-slung hull topped by a shallow saucer-shaped turret. The whole vehicle had a low profile, but at first acquaintance looks rather ungainly. This is misleading.
The EBR had 8 wheels of two types, both quite large in diameter compared to the weight of the vehicle. At each end of the hull were a pair of road wheels with tyres, upon which the EBR could reach speeds of 100kph (just over 60mph). In the centre were two further pairs of wheels, but this time they were tractor-like all-metal wheels with deep treads. These wheels were not used on roads or hard ground, and so were normally raised off the ground. When required for cross-country travel, they could be lowered, which spread the weight of the EBR over all 8 wheels thus lowering ground pressure, and increased traction, giving it a good performance on rough or soft surfaces. (It is perhaps worth noting here that on the Dinky model, the wheels are positioned in a halfway position, neither raised nor deployed, and the treads both face the same direction, whereas on the original vehicle they slant in different directions.)
Not only was the EBR unusually agile for an armoured car, but it had a further mobility trick up its sleeve. When viewed from the side, it is symmetrical. It had two driving positions and usually carried two drivers, one front and one rear. This allowed it to reverse at full speed and with full control if required, without having to turn the vehicle. The engine of the vehicle was placed in the centre of the hull, below the floor of the turret, which meant that it had to be especially designed to be flat, with a height of only 20cm.
The FL11 turret that the EBR initially carried was of an oscillating design, meaning that the top part of the turret was hinged on the lower part, which fitted into the hull and rotates the whole as required. The 75mm gun (with the two crew positions for serving it) was fixed within the upper part of the turret, meaning that gun operations always took place from the same positions, and was elevated by tilting this on the lower part.
The EBR was fast, mobile and small, with light armour and a decent gun to boot. It was a classic reconnaissance vehicle, expected to use its mobility to gather information, set ambushes and raid enemy lines of communication, while avoiding direct confrontation with more powerful enemy forces. See my story about the Vickers light tank for an altogether less successful reconnaissance vehicle!
However, the design which enabled this made it a complex machine and difficult to maintain. In particular, to work on the engine required the removal of the turret; and of course, it required an extra driver. As a result, although 1,200 were built and they were extensively used by the French army in Algeria, and by Portugal in their African colonial wars, export sales were disappointing.
In 1954, a new version of the EBR was introduced that substituted the FL10 turret and gun fitted to the AMX-13 light tank. To represent this real-world development, the Bobigny factory ceased production of model 815, and replaced it with a new model 827 Panhard FL10. This model is a marriage of the hull of 815, fitted with the FL10 turret already produced for their model of the AMX-13 (817).
Just to complete the circle, in 1963 the EBR was up-gunned with a 90mm gun using the original FL11 turret, and the FL10 models phased out. With little to visually distinguish this final variant of the EBR from the first version, model 815 can be used to represent either.
Many other French military vehicles were produced by Dinky including the 800 Sinpar 4×4 and 824 Berliet Gazelle trucks, and the 817 AMX-13 light tank.
Other armoured cars modelled by Dinky include the 670 (Daimler) Armoured Car and, also from Bobigny, the 814 AML Panhard.