Dinky Aircraft – Big Planes

Bigger and Better?

The Big Planes

The last of the roughly 1:200 series of aircraft models that we have so far been examining was produced in 1960, and the range fairly quickly faded out of production. But after a short hiatus, the first new aircraft of what is generally called the Big Planes range was released in 1965, and this was followed over the next 10 years by another 15 models.

The new range was clearly different from the older production in several ways. The models were much larger and in general, they were given more colourful paint schemes. They incorporated working undercarriage, and most significantly (for their advertising at least) another moving feature of some sort. Subjects included contemporary warplanes, warbirds from World War 2, and a few civilian aircraft.

This advert from September 1972 shows the Big Plane range at that time.

Let’s take a look at the range by examining the mysteriously named “MRCA”. What sort of a beast was that?

MRCA Tornado

The MRCA, later named the Tornado, was developed by a consortium called Panavia, consisting of British Aerospace, Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm and Aeritalia. The original intention was to create a truly adaptable aircraft – hence the MRCA (Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) designation – but in the event emphasis was primarily given to the ground attack or strike role. 

The first flight of the Tornado took place in 1974, and it entered service in 1979. In total, 990 aircraft were built and it was operated by the air-forces of Britain, Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the most notable episode in the operational life of the Tornado was its employment during the Gulf War in making low-level strikes against Iraqi air bases, during which campaign 6 RAF Tornados were lost.

A Tornado in flight. Note the extended wings (the aircraft is probably flying as slowly as possible, for the benefit of the photographer).

The Tornado is a large aircraft with twin engines and two crew – one to fly the aircraft and the other to manage the weapon systems. In addition to a cannon in the fuselage, the aircraft can carry an impressive total of 19,000lbs of underwing ordnance (missiles and bombs).

However, the most exciting feature of the aircraft was probably the relatively novel use of a swing-wing configuration, whereby the wings can be fully extended out from the fuselage for efficient slow-speed flight and during take-off and landing, or swept back for high supersonic speed (the Tornado being capable of a maximum speed of 1,500mph).

729 MRCA Tornado

Dinky 729 MRCA Tornado

Year first produced:1974

L200xW162xH61, Metal 243g, Scale 1:85, Features: 2

The model is created from four main metal mazak castings: an upper and lower half of the fuselage, and the two wings. The nose wheel consists of a metal leg to which two wheels are pinned, while the main undercarriage is composed of a single metal piece bearing the two legs to each of which a single wheel is pinned. Three plastic pieces finish the model: a black nose cone, the twin engine exhausts, and the clear cockpit cover.

The fuselage halves are joined by two slot-headed screws, so that, unlike many diecast toys, you can undo the screws and expose the internal workings of the model. Inside, there is a shaped plastic plate that engages with the wheels and wings, and includes a lug which projects through a slot in the upper fuselage. When the model is assembled, the lug can be pushed forward or back (it’s a bit stiff, but do-able). When forward, the wings sweep back against the fuselage, and the wheels are raised. Push the lever back, and the wings open out to their full extent, and the undercarriage lowers. It’s a simple but ingenious feature!

The sliding plastic plate moved the undercarriage and wings in unison.

Underneath the model are the following marks:


The relatively bare underside of the model. Note the swept wings and retracted wheels.

The Tornado is painted with a grey and green camouflage scheme to the upper surfaces, and finished with transfers (on our model, a previous owner has replaced some of the roundels with more lightly coloured stickers).

The model is, of course, much larger than the earlier range. Measuring 20cm long, the scale is c1:85. It isn’t a particularly detailed model, and the underside is largely bare, while the wings and central fuselage are not entirely accurate (for example, the wings are far too thin at the roots). Maybe this was due to Dinky rushing the model out while the real aircraft was still in development, and having to work from limited information.

There’s no doubt that the swinging wings and moving undercarriage is an impressive feature, but I wonder why Dinky chose to link the two systems? After all, because they are connected, it isn’t possible to extend the wings without lowering the undercarriage, as the Tornado would have appeared when flying slowly. And, sadly, for such a heavily armed strike aircraft, the model carries absolutely no under-wing munitions.


As we have seen, the Tornado model is big when compared to the earlier range of models. However, Dinky didn’t take the opportunity to adopt a standard scale for their new models (if only they could have standardised on 1:72!), retaining the philosophy of scaling their models so that they all ended up being roughly the same size. Still, the larger model inevitably has more ‘presence’.

The Tornado alongside the diminutive Hawker Hunter model from the earlier range.

The increased size of the model allowed an ingenious play mechanism to be installed. Compare this to the simple play opportunities that were on offer in the earlier models, and you can easily see the attraction. You could certainly do more with it than with the earlier models, but was it a better-looking model compared to the miniatures of the earlier range? Well, I think not: the level of detailing is limited, and there are inaccuracies. But then, as always, it’s a matter of personal opinion.


In addition to selling the Tornado as a finished model, Dinky also sold it as a kit of bare metal parts with decals and paint, no. 1045, requiring assembly and painting. This is a great way to see how the toy is constructed, and a temptation to use other paints to finish it in something other than the standard RAF camouflage scheme.

Other Cold War jets produced by Dinky during the 1970s were no. 722 Harrier GR MK 1, no. 725 Phantom II and no. 731 SEPECAT Jaguar, all of which were used by the RAF. As with the Tornado, the undercarriage on all three models was retractable and each sported a special action feature, as follows.

On the Harrier model the undercarriage and thrust nozzles are linked. As the nozzles are turned backwards for forward flight, so the undercarriage retracts; turn the nozzles downwards for hovering, and the wheels drop for landing.

The Phantom carries what looks like a drop-tank under the fuselage, which can be released by pressing a button on the side of the aircraft. Dinky, perhaps not surprisingly, claimed that this was a ‘stand-off’ missile, and the contemporary packaging showed it being launched with lethal intent!

This image from the 1975 catalogue shows how important Dinky felt the play features of the big planes were.

The Jaguar has a lever on the top of the fuselage which ejects the pilot, the cockpit canopy flipping upwards on a rear hinge. I like to think this may have been inspired by the James Bond Aston Martin with its ejecting passenger seat…

Author: hexeres

Amateur photographer, military toy enthusiast, footslogger, dog lover, history buff and ebay trader to mention just a few...

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