By Major James Augustus
The Dinky 673 Scout Car heralded a post-war resurgence by the English Meccano factory in producing realistic military models. It was now over 8 years since the end of World War II and the memories of the horrors of war were beginning to fade. A whole new generation of baby boomers was now reaching the age where military toys could be played with and in many cases, still seen on the roads as ex-army surplus.
Why Dinky chose the scout car, which was based on the BSA Daimler vehicle used during the war, as their first new release is unknown but it was a basic 2 piece design with an upper and lower body that was relatively easy to model. It also led the way for the new 3 digit numbering system that was to be introduced across the range from 1954.
Obviously the sales department at Binns Road, Liverpool was planning an invasion of the market as a large range of military vehicles quickly followed the introduction of the scout car. Next came the 623 Bedford covered wagon, the 621 Bedford 3 tonner, the 651 Centurion tank and then the 622 Foden 10 ton truck. In addition the popular 641 1-ton cargo truck, 670 Armoured Car and 674 Austin Champ were all released during 1954. A total of 8 new military vehicles not including the 676 Saracen based Armoured Personnel Carrier, which arrived in February 1955. The tooling department must have been working overtime!
All carried the Royal Armoured Corps transfers and it is not hard to imagine that there must have been some connection between Dinky and that branch of the military. However it was to be another 6 months until the release of another military model in the form of an artillery piece - the 692 5.5 Medium Gun. This was a very realistic model with split trailing arms that hinged together for towing. Perhaps the fitting of towing hooks to the Bedford and Foden trucks had been in anticipation of this.
It was to be June 1956 before another military model appeared in toyshop windows. This was a very realistic model of the Thornycroft Mighty Antar Tank Transporter (No.660), which was designed to carry the Centurion tank (No.651). It was over 13 inches (336mm) long and was very accurately detailed with hinged rear loading ramps and a roof hatch where a bren gun could be mounted to protect the occupants.
In September 1956 the 626 Military Ambulance was introduced. This was based on the Fordson Thames chassis and had hinged rear doors and large Red Cross markings on the sides, top and rear. Until now the military models had carried very little marking except for the small armoured corps transfers and this model gave some relief to their overall military olive drab colour.
In May 1957 an "orphan" appeared in the form of the 642 Pressure Refueller. This was to be the only RAF based Dinky vehicle and was in a scale all of its own. Perhaps Dinky had planned a range of RAF related vehicles or simple colour variations but then decided to concentrate their RAF models on aircraft.
In any event the release of the Scammell 661 Recovery Tractor and 697 25-Pounder Field Gun set in June/July 1957 quickly led the return of the army based models and by the end of 1957 the 689 Medium Artillery Tractor based on a Leyland 6-wheel drive truck had appeared.
Next Edition We look at some of the models in more detail.