When designing a new model, two factors have to be balanced when considering how many components to use. On the one hand, the fewer that are used, the simpler the production process and consequently the lower the costs. A good example of this approach is the Dinky military range. On the other hand, the more components, the more detail can be included, and features added into the model. Solido vehicles are big and chunky, so there is certainly room for lots of parts. To examine the Solido approach, let’s start with a fairly complex machine – a military half-tracked personnel carrier of WW2, the SdKfz 251.
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Ringing the Changes
One way that toy manufacturers can maintain a stream of new releases is by creating new versions of existing models, simply by altering the paint scheme and markings, and possibly changing plastic accessories. This allows them to advertise new products and keep their customers interested, without having to invest in expensive new metal mould-making.
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Almost as soon as Britains started making figures of soldiers, they provided artillery pieces to field with them. Some of them are pretty impressive. In 1902 for example, they produced their first version of the 4.7” Naval Gun (mounted on a land carriage and used by the British during the 2nd Boer War), a model that measures some 20cm in length.
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With military toy ranges, I always want to know how accurate are the models they create? After all, since the models are based on, and represent real-life subjects, most people will assume that they have a reasonable degree of fidelity. But this is always dependent on the quality of the research done, and subject to the constraints of the production process. Many compromises are made in order to reduce costs.
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In 1973, Matchbox, until that time known chiefly for their range of diminutive diecast vehicles, entered the plastic kit market. Their most numerous products were 1:72 scale aircraft, of which they produced about 120 up to the end of production in 1989. A variety of warplanes and civil aircraft were modelled, including both classic warbirds and some unusual subjects. The range was notable for containing parts moulded in 2 or more bright colours. Many of the moulds were subsequently acquired by Revell, who continue to release some of them to this day.
The warbird par excellence is, of course, the Spitfire, and it is unsurprising that this iconic aircraft was one of the first releases made by Matchbox. It’s a great starting place for examining the Matchbox range.
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A common practice amongst toy manufacturers is to extend the play possibilities of their core ranges by creating accessories that can be used with them. By providing these, the central range is made more attractive and sales are increased. One obvious adjunct to any range of toy soldiers is the artillery that supports them, but in this story we’ll consider the vehicles that they may travel in and fight from. Britains were not slow to produce a range of these for their new Deetail range.
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Britains is a world-famous toy manufacturer known through the first half of the twentieth century for their extensive range of often stiffly-posed lead soldiers. Following the Second World War, plastic became a viable alternative material to work with. In order to take advantage of this development, Britains merged with the up-and-coming plastic soldier manufacturer Herald in 1955. Several ranges of plastic soldiers were subsequently produced.
It was in 1971 that the innovative, colourful and animated ‘Deetail’ range of 1:32 figures and accessories were introduced. Deetail figures certainly were, as the name suggests, nicely detailed, but their distinctive characteristics were that they were pre-painted and well-animated. Uniquely, the plastic figure was also mounted on a metal base, thus giving the figure stability and heft.
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