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.
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We are usually too busy enjoying the toys we buy to waste time thinking about how they are made. However, every once in a while, doing so can reveal what an amazing enterprise toy-making was, and sheds light on the models themselves. What can we learn from the Dinky production process?
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Understanding the Context
Toys, like most objects, reflect the times they are made in. They can do this in many ways, but perhaps the most obvious is through the choice of subject to be modelled. When I see a model, I like to be able to identify the subject and understand why it might have been made. Researching this can open the door to some fascinating history, and teach us a little about the past.
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High Fidelity or Artistic License?
The Question of Accuracy
Dinky proudly claimed that their models were accurate reproductions, but is this true?
Before examining this question, we need to set down some ground-rules. Dinky models were – like all models which are smaller than the subject they represent – simplifications. In fact, if you consider it for a moment, all models must omit detail that would be too small or fragile to be rendered in scale. In that respect all models are inaccurate.
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Features! We Want Features!
Now, the thing about toys is that they are meant to be played with. It follows therefore that a good toy is likely to be one that encourages play, or as I shall put it, has high ‘play value’.
What sort of play? The youthful, imaginative, physical type. Whether that means the more sedate pastimes of thoughtfully arranging dioramas, or rougher forays into imagined battle amongst the garden shrubbery, the important thing is that it is children we are talking about. After all, adults are perfectly content to collect and admire toys, but don’t tend to play with them. Yes, I know there are exceptions, but honestly, when was the last time you pushed a model tank along the floor with a “brrrrum”? Don’t answer that! I’m also not considering here the use of toys in wargaming, because although this is a type of play, the model is being used not as a toy, but as a game token.
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Toy ranges often include items that work best in combination with others. Sometimes this combination is essential – without one item, a second has no purpose. For example, what use is a tank transporter without a tank to transport? At other times, items have a more generic role and can work well with many other models. A bridge-layer, for example, lays a bridge that a whole convoy can cross over, and a recovery tractor may pull a variety of wayward vehicles out of ditches or bogs, and tow them to a repair depot.
These combinations provide great play scenarios, and manufacturers like them as they encourage sales and provide natural subjects for sets. Dinky made many. Let’s take a look at one of the most well-known of these, the 25-pounder gun, limber and tractor.
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Classic Simplicity in Green
Dinky Military Toys
Dinky Toys is a legendary brand in the history of British toys. It was created in the mid-1930s by Meccano Ltd as a name for their newly-introduced range of dinky (charmingly small) diecast model vehicles. Meccano, founded at the turn of the century by Frank Hornby, was already a highly successful toy manufacturer, with well-established ranges of construction toys (Meccano) and trains (Hornby Trains). Dinky was immediately successful, and by 1938 the range boasted of almost 300 items including vehicles, aircraft and ships.
After a hiatus during the Second World War, production picked up again and perhaps the 1950s was the golden decade for Dinky. Competition gradually grew, however. In 1964 the range was taken over by Tri-ang Ltd, and in 1971 with the demise of Tri-ang, Dinky passed to Airfix. A decade of frantic innovation to update the Dinky range came to an end in 1979, when manufacturing in the UK ceased.
Continue reading “Dinky Military – Introduction”