The Märklin 8000 series
by Philip D

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Treibstoff Tankwagen - ARAL
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What did Germany’s post-war motoring landscape look like? Märklin’s 8000 series provides a fascinating insight into this period with finely featured die-casts. With the recommencement of car production in Germany after the war, toy manufacturers with long traditions such as Schuco or Märklin kept pace by satisfying the dreams of a new generation of children. Just as for manufacturers of the full-size products, toy producers also carried over pre-war designs but soon these gave way to new products. Built from 1948 to mid/late 60s depending on model with a few of the commercials surviving till 1971 the story of the 8000 Series is fascinating and an excellent snap-shot of Germany’s car universe of the time.

By no means all encompassing in their variety, Märklin’s die cast toys reflect a vibrancy, attention to detail and authenticity to the original, both in proportions and colours that are hard to find in the products of their contemporaries whether they were Dinky, Corgi, Norev or Mercury. Great attention to detail in evident throughout, with fine detailing and hand-painted trim applications like lights, bumpers or number plates with overall excellent finish.

The scale in which the models were produced was an unusual 1/45 while the commercial vehicles were roughly at 1/55. At least the 1/45 scale was consistent and hence the models look very homogenous when placed next to each other.

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Mercedes 300 'Adenauer'
more on 8003 (5523/1P, 5524/ >

Uniquely, Märklin chose to concentrate only on German brands, except curiously for their first model of a car, which was of a Buick, actually named Luxuslimousine or ‘luxury limousine’ in the catalogues! Post war deference to the victors, or satisfying a curiosity to what new horizons of aspirations of prosperity? We will never know, but this Buick, initially issued in 1948 went through at least three major cycles. Initially produced in die-cast form, with a proper windscreen and backlight, fitted separately into the casting, it transitioned to a thermoplastic ‘casting’ in 1952 for a couple of years, with die-cast versions still being produced in parallel – die casting prevailed and the Buick stayed in the catalogue through 1956. Three other models went through similar cycles. These were the Mercedes 300, the Lanz Tractor and the MAN BV Aral tanker. The Märklin thermoplastic cars do not seem to suffer the deformations that we see in contemporary Norev models. This could perhaps be attributed to the base plates, which were always die-cast! Base plates are of a very high quality finish and seem to be more substantial than those of Dinky/Corgi – most of them are also fixed with screws rather than rivets, which is at least the case with Model No. 8022, BMW 507 Touring Sport. It must be noted that some of the early Buicks also had a bench seat made of plastic material riveted to the die-cast base plate…

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Porsche 356
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The post war automotive scene in Germany developed slowly and gathered momentum in the early 50s. Some pre-war brands like Adler, Horch and Wanderer did not survive but others reorganized and launched a rich variety of cars in all price classes, from the lowly Glas Goggomobil to the luxurious Mercedes 300 and BMW 501/502. Ford, Opel, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz initially produced revamped pre-war models but BMW, in 1951 showed the 501 which by 1954 developed into the 502 and bore the first post-war German V8, soon followed by the gorgeous 507 – these two BMW products were very expensive and inevitably sales were very low, just 248 examples of the 507 being built! It is these two models that Märklin chose to include in their line-up, ignoring the Isetta bubble car and later 600. It was not till the 1500 in the mid-60’s that BMW would offer something for the middle classes. Meanwhile, Borgward presented the Isabella in 1954, a car a cut above contemporary Opels and Fords and more of a Mercedes competitor; sadly, the company declared bankruptcy in 1961 in rather murky circumstances. The Porsche 356 in coupe form was first shown at the Geneva Show of 1949 – it was really something of a hot rod VW and started life sporting a prosaic 1086cc VW engine tweaked to produce 40 bhp instead of 25, a far cry from today’s progeny…the proportions of the Märklin model, released in 1954 (No: 5524/2 & 8004) are excellent with fine details of the Porsche name on the bonnet and engine cover clearly legible as well as the hand painted rear lights! Of course the new rising star was the VW Beetle, which was also a Porsche design. Interestingly, in its life as a Märklin model, it was the only one to have two significant versions produced, the difference being in the form of the rear window – the early models in 1955 had an oval window. The model stayed in production through 1964 and some time around 1960 was revised to the oblong rear window shape; the rarest though is the original oval window version with plastic wheel hubs.

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Ford Taunus 17 M de Luxe Baroque Angel
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The German divisions of General Motors and Ford paralleled developments of Vauxhall and Ford UK but with unique products which amazingly had no common parts – unthinkable from today’s perspective. It is strange that Märklin ignored the very interesting Opel designs as well as DKW (Auto Union), Glas, Lloyd or NSU but they gave us two Fords, the 15M in 1957(No: 5524/4, 8018) and 17M in 1959 (No: 8027). The 15M had started life as the 1.2 litre 12M in 1952 and upgraded to the 15M in 1955. In Germany, these were nicknamed ‘Weltkugeltaunus’ which translates to ‘Globe-Taunus’ and refers to the centrally located stylized planet Earth on the upper side of the grille between the headlamps. In 1959, Ford gave it a facelift, removing this central globe, but Märklin maintained the model unchanged through 1963. The other Ford featured, the 17M was launched on the German market in 1957 at the height of the American tailfin craze. The Germans simply nicknamed it the Barock-Taunus, as it was replete with chrome accents and looked heavy and staid, which it truly was as it was powered by the same unit as for the 15M. Märklin’s models are very true to the original with very fine detailing of the grille, lights, nicely proportioned windows, and the three versions of two-tone colour schemes chosen were very authentic and correctly matched the real life versions. They were a little more creative in colour with the 6 monochrome versions - salmon red, light grey, light green, turquoise, green, blue.

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Borgward Isabella
more on 8015 (5524/15) >

An important model that was produced was that of the Borgward Isabella. Both Dinky and Dinky France produced a version of the coupe but the very finely detailed and authentically coloured Isabella Sedan is a rare pleasure – a very sought after model indeed. Apart from the Mercedes 300 (Adenauer) other models of the make produced were the Mercedes Racing Car, the 190SL roadster, and the 300SL – again, very fine and delicate detail which captures the early years of the car beautifully – perhaps, the one criticism one can make is the weedy width of the tires, and this applies to most of the Märklins, however the quality of the rubber is superb – even old well played-with examples rarely show wear! Mercedes was therefore honoured with the greatest selection of models – upward mobility aspirations?

Talking of wheels, a fine detail to note are the spun aluminium wheel hubs without exposed axles at either end. There is very little play on the axle and hence the stance of the model always looks ‘right’. Some early models of the Buick, Mercedes 300, VW Beetle and the trailer had plastic hubs, which appear to weather quite well with time, better, in fact than the plastic hubs Märklin utilised in the 1800 series a couple of decades later.

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BMW 507 Touring Sport
more on 8022 >

As models were being issued in a choice of colours, each box had a small hole on one side so that the buyer could inspect the colour without having to open the box – all boxes were essentially monochrome, with a different colour for each model; most reflected a different stylized image of the model inside on two sides of the box as well as the indication that inside were Miniature Autos, in three languages, German, French and English, indicating that they were intended for world markets. To the best of my knowledge they were sold in the UK, North America, France, Benelux, Switzerland, Italy and Cyprus…where most of my collection was put together and probably in many other countries too. The boxes of earlier models show MADE IN GERMANY on them whilst later ones show MADE IN WESTERN GERMANY.

Open end of a box showing the text
Open end of a box showing the text.

A rather unique element of German thoroughness and sense of order are the markings on the boxes which also indicate the date of issue of the model on one of the flaps; e.g. on the inside flap of one of my VW Karmann Ghias with Model Nr. 8021 (on sale from 1958 to 1967), I can see a code number and then 11 57 whilst another one is numbered 05 62. At least the respective boxes were printed in November 1957 and May 1962 respectively.

My collection all stems from Cyprus, where the pound was used as a unit of currency (moving onto the euro effective 1 January 2008); in those days the Cyprus pound was already metric, in 1000 units and at par with Sterling and pricing of the models is interesting (I recall as a child the prices being rather high compared to contemporary English die-cast toys); here some examples which I can see on the boxes and must be from around the late 50s to early 60s:

small picture Porsche 356 (8004) CY£0.225 (or in shillings 4/6 or 22.5p)
small picture VW Van (8008) CY£0.255 (or about 5/1 or 25.5p)
small picture Trailer (8012) CY£0.310 (or about 6/2 or 31p)
small picture Borgward (8015) CY£0.280 (or about 5/6 or 28p)
small picture Phoenix Truck (8017)CY£0.960 (or about 19/2 or 96p)
small picture Borgward (8021)CY£0.200 (or about 4/- or 20p)

The 8000 series finally comprised of 28 basic models and some small variations. Initially numbered in the 5500 series, by 1957 a switch to the 8000 series was undertaken. The Aral BV tanker with Nr. 5521/27 became 8000. Some models were produced with the new series number hand-printed on the box, e.g. the Phoenix Box truck 5524/17 was overprinted 8017. No 8020, the two tone Borgward Isabella was the first solely 8000 series numbered model, but curiously, the base plate still showed 8015 – one of the few aberrations in the otherwise Teutonic thoroughness…the other numbering oddities were of the monochrome Taunus 17M, No 8028 but bearing the bi-coloured No 8027 on the base and even stranger, the base plates of VW Vans and the Porsche 356 never bore a number !


Catalogue No: Model Main Variations
8000 (5521/27) MAN BV-ARAL Tanker Aral Blue/Silver; early models had a tank part made of plastic with a metal weight fixed in it
8001 (55217/52S, 5521/52P) Buick (Luxuslimousine) 1948-51 Die-cast
1952-54 Thermoplastic
1952-56 Die-cast
1957-58 Die-cast
8002 (5521/71, 5521/71) Lanz Tractor 1950-51 Theremoplastic}(8 colour variations)
1952-56 Die-cast
1957-58 Die-cast (9 colour variations)
8003 (5523/1P, 5524/S) Mercedes 300 ‘Adenauer’ 1953-54 Theremoplastic (12 colour variations)
1953-58 Die-cast
8004 (5524/2) Porsche 356 14 colour variations; some with number plates
8005 (5524/3) VW Beetle Oval Window: 12 colour variations
Oblong rear window: 5 colour variations
Wheel hubs plastic or aluminium
8006 (5524/5) VW Van - monochrome 5 Colour variations
8007 (5524/5G) VW Van - Gasolin Red/White/Grey
Some have a rear bumper and indicator lights in the front
8008 (5524/5Z) VW Van (Two tone) 9 Colour variations
Some have a rear bumper and indicator lights in the front
8009 (5524/10) Krupp Truck Blue or Grey
Some without a number plate in the front
8010 (5524/11) Mercedes Racing Car Silver; made from 1955 to 1967
8011 (5524/11A) Mercedes Racing Car with No Silver; made from 1955 to 1967; various racing numbers on the models appeared e.g. 3, 8 etc
8012 (5524/12) Two axled trailer Blue, Grey; some with plastic wheel hubs Made from 1953 to 1969
8013 (5524/14E) VW Minibus (monochrome) Blue, Grey, Beige
8014 (5524/14Z) VW Minibus (Two tone) 6 colour variations; some with full rear bumper and front indicator lights
8015 (5524/15) Borgward Isabella (monochrome) 9 colour variations
8016 (5524/16) BMW 501 10 colour variations
8017 (5524/17) Phoenix Box Truck With Firestone-Phoenix tyre decals. Early versions had three instead of the more common two hinges on the rear doors
8018 (5524/4) Ford Taunus 15M 7 colour variations; earlier versions had slightly smaller hubs
8019 (5524/18) Mercedes 300SL 10 colour variations
8020 Borgward Isabella (Two tone) 7 colour variations; base plate shows 8015 although two-tone boxes were marked 8020
8021 VW Karmann Ghia 8 colour variations
8022 BMW 507 6 colour variations
8023 Magirus Fire Engine Red; Made from 1959 to 1971
8024 Porsche 356 Police White/Dark Green
8025 Mercedes 190 SL Roadster 7 colour variations
8026 Tempo Pick-up truck 9 colour variations; the box came in either yellow or orange
8027 Ford Taunus 17M (Two tone) 3 colour variations; Sky Blue/White, Turquoise/White, Red/White. I have also seen a Blue (whole upper body & roof)/White (restoration gone wrong?)
8028 Ford Taunus 17M (One tone) 6 colour variations
8029 Lanz Tractor 3 colour variations; Red or yellow hubs; Made from 1959 to 1971
8030 VW Ambulance Cream; some with full rear bumper and front indicator lights
8031 Magirus truck with winch Red, Yellow, Blue; Made from 1960 to 1971
8032 Mercedes Aral Tanker Blue/Silver, Blue/White; Made from 1960 to 1971; Boxes in yellow or blue; some had ARAL – ARALIN decals on the side instead of just ARAL A promotional for Messer Griesheim GmbH was produced in dark blue/white and yellow stripe along the tank
8033 VW Van Promotionals Der Spiegel, Sillan, Union, Main Post, Exporit, Richard Dläser KG, Hans Fickert, Edm. Seidel, Borgmann, Jouet Weber/Franz Carl Weber are known to exist
8034 Krupp Truck Grey; came with plastic ‘windows’; Made from 1962 to 1971; boxes in green or yellow
8035 Fuchs 301 Digger Blue, Red or Yellow; Made from 1963 to 1971
8036 Kälble Truck Yellow, Red; boxes in yellow or orange-yellow
8037 Two axled trailer Grey; identical to 8012 and made for Krupp truck (8034)

Although relatively few models were ever produced, building a complete collection from scratch at this time might prove quite a challenge! Currently living in Switzerland I rarely come across finds here regardless of condition and mint & boxed examples are rarely seen and command high prices. Some of the VW Van promotionals, which have been offered for sale at auction are in the stratospheric price range whilst the commercials tend to go for values similar to their junior stable-mates. Some of the commercial vehicles have been reissued in recent years depressing values of the old originals.

Thanks to Philip D