What is it?
A challenge for any collector is to accurately identify the models that they acquire. Usually the subject is obvious, and by using reference books it is possible to pin down which model one has and access all sorts of data about it. However, sometimes … it isn’t quite as easy as that! To illustrate the point, let’s consider the strange case of the Dinky Vickers Viscount.
The Vickers Viscount was a medium-range turboprop airliner that entered service in 1953, the last flying aircraft being retired in 2009. Between 1948 and 1963, 445 were produced. At the time, it seemed a very modern aircraft, with the newly designed turboprop engines (significantly quieter than the piston engines previously used), large windows and a pressurised cabin allowing the aircraft to cruise above 20,000 feet. Passenger capacity was modest with the original production type 700 able to carry 48, but this was increased to 75 in the final type 810. Major users of the aircraft were British European Airways (BEA) and Air France.
The Viscount was a reliable and cost-effective aircraft, with a top speed of 300 (later 350) mph. Ultimately, however, turboprop airliners like the Viscount were replaced by jets, which could of course fly much faster.
706 Vickers Viscount
Dinky 706 Vickers Viscount
Year first produced:1956
L128xW148xH45, Metal 111g, Scale 1:195, Features: 2
The Dinky model of the Viscount was first released in 1956, in Air France livery. The main diecast pieces consist of a lower half comprising the lower fuselage, the wing and engines and the undercarriage; and an upper half with the upper fuselage, nose and tail. The two were joined in typical Dinky fashion by placing two spigots projecting from the upper piece through holes in the lower, the tips then being flattened to hold the model together.
To the four engines are fixed propellers secured by pins, and underneath the model are three sets of landing gear, each consisting of an axle and a pair of wheels. The propellers and wheels rotate freely. The model is painted silver, with a white upper fuselage and tail, and decorated with decals along the fuselage side, on the tail and on the upper wing surface the registration F-BGNL.
Under the wings, the model carries the markings
“DINKY TOYS”, “VISCOUNT”, “MADE IN ENGLAND” and “MECCANO LTD”.
The smart yellow cardboard box carries a picture of the model, and on the back some short paragraphs describing the Viscount. I shan’t quote the text here because, frankly, it isn’t very accurate!
To complete the identification of our model, we should also confirm which version of the Viscount it represents. At the time the model was released, the aircraft in service were of the first production version, the type 700. Air France only purchased this type, and F-BGNL was one of them. We can confirm this identification because the type 700 had 10 cabin windows per side, and this is the number depicted in the fuselage decals.
What scale is the model? Well, the wingspan scales out at roughly 1:195, the length at just over 1:200.
It’s a nice model in excellent condition. As many reference works will confirm, Dinky did indeed produce a model of the Viscount in Air France livery, numbered 706 as shown on the box. So, is that the end of the matter?
Well, not exactly. Consider for a moment that the paintwork on the model is very bright, with no tarnishing or chipping, and the box too, is suspiciously crisp, unmarked and uncreased. For a model produced in 1956, this is frankly unbelievable!
This prompts a little research and a closer examination, and other oddities become apparent:
- the tail on the aircraft is painted white where it should be silver
- the font of the ‘AIR FRANCE’ decal doesn’t look quite right
- the underwing markings should include the number 706, identifying the model, but this is absent
So, what is going on?
Before going further, I should mention here how important it is to have access to authoritative reference works. Without them, you are reduced to guesswork when trying to identify models. You can see the major sources that I use on my Sources page. It also helps that I spend quite a lot of time handling these toys as part of my trading activities, so I get used to how models should look and feel.
Now, the history of the Dinky Vickers Viscount is slightly complicated…
As we have seen, in 1956 Dinky released model 706, the Viscount decorated in Air France livery. Strangely, this model was almost immediately retired. Why? Probably because in 1957 the Dinky factory in France released their model of the Vickers Viscount, also in Air France livery, numbered 60e!
The French casting is slightly different and, I think, slightly superior to the British one. It has
- longer undercarriage legs, and moulded open doors
- raised rims showing where the three fuselage doors would be
- a longer bulge in the roof behind the cockpit
- larger pointed spinners (nose cones) on the propellers
The underside markings are also different, showing
“DINKY TOYS”, “VICKERS VISCOUNT 60E”, “MADE IN FRANCE” and “MECCANO”.
Note that they include the model number: 60E. In addition, the decals are slightly finer and the registration number is F-BGNX. However, in just about every other way the two castings are identical, which tempts me to think that the French is a modified version of the British – but who knows?
Now, I haven’t been able to find out why the two versions were created. Was there a miscommunication between the factories who both simultaneously set out to create models of the Viscount? That seems unlikely. Or, was it always intended that Bobigny should ’take over’ the Air France model, and they simply took the opportunity to improve it while doing so?
Whatever the situation, a year later, the Liverpool factory released model 708, which was the same casting as 706 except that the model number 706 was removed – but not replaced with 708 – leaving the model without an identifying number. It was also decorated in British European Airways colours.
The box, however, now claimed that the model was a type 800 aircraft, and this intention is confirmed both by the registration G-ADJA, which belonged to a type 800, and by the decal showing 12 windows per side. The type 800 Viscount was slightly lengthened compared to the type 700, in order to carry more passengers, and hence more windows. However, as we have seen, the casting itself was not lengthened and so is slightly too short.
So, having surveyed the rather complex history of the Dinky Vickers Viscounts, what do we think of our model?
Judging by the marks on our model, especially the absence of a model number, the casting must be a Dinky 708 Viscount, which, as we have seen, would normally be in the livery of a BEA type 800 aircraft. Instead, it is in the colours of the earlier (and rarer) 706 Air France model. This suggests to me that someone has recently repainted and re-decalled a model 708 to represent a model 706. During this process, some mistakes were made – the tail was painted white – and the decals used are not an exact match. The box, so pristine, is on close inspection almost certainly a reproduction printed on an inkjet printer.
So, do we have a fake?
Well, it’s very possible that the model may have been repainted for the enjoyment of a previous owner, without intending to pass it off or sell it as a genuine 706. But personally, I’d have liked to see the model marked in some way to indicate that it is a repaint, to avoid that potential misuse. Still, it serves to remind us that accurately identifying a model is not always as easy as it may seem, that reliable reference works are essential, and – as if it needed to be said – buyer beware!
Other post-war airliners created by Dinky include 702 DH Comet, 998 Bristol Britannia (the so-called ‘Whispering Giant’) and from Bobigny the impressive 60c Lockheed Super ‘G’ Constellation.