by Jarek Skonieczny and Derek Redmond
Just as the name "jeep" is sometimes used erroneously to describe any 4x4 vehicle, the popularity of Dinky Toys has resulted in the term "dinky toy" sometimes being applied to any small diecast vehicle. Over the years, only the popularity of Matchbox has come close to matching the type of enthusiasm and therefore value that is bestowed upon these small metal vehicles, which were originally intended to be dress-up props for O-scale model railroads.
The first Dinky Toys Jeep was a Willys MB casting in O scale, or 1:48. Produced in various versions from 1946 to 1955, it was quite detailed, including blackout parking lamps (see a left front view, 60K JPEG) and painted rear side reflectors (left rear view, 60K JPEG.)
This example is the early-1950s number 672, built for export to North America. Its original olive-drab paint and invasion star on the hood have been painted over in green.
Dinky Toys were introduced as "Modelled Miniatures" in 1933 by Frank Hornby, who soon had a lock on British schoolboys, with Dinky Toys, Hornby Trains and Meccano all being produced by his factories (see Jeep Models Built With Meccano.) The name "Dinky Toys" was applied to them a year later, and production took place in England and France. The Second World War brought production to a standstill, but when operations started again in 1946, the first new model to be produced was a Jeep. The majority of the models however, were based on British protoypes such as Austin, Rover and Hillman. In a 1954 Dinky Toys ad from Meccano Magazine (45K JPEG) illustrating thirteen new models, a Jeep CJ-3A and a Hudson are the only American vehicles.
This collection of all of the Dinky Toys Jeep models produced in France and England between 1946 and 1979, belongs to Michel Cousineau. The photo is a good reference for the different scales of the toys, which are described individually below.
There were five original Jeep castings over the years of Dinky Toys operations, most of which represented the Willys MB. The first casting, made in England, was in use from 1946 to 1954. This MB model is very detailed with grab handles and a shovel on the side of the body. The all-metal steering wheel turns in its base; early versions had a solid steering wheel, later replaced by a spoked wheel.
The overall length of this model is 68mm. Army versions were painted green and had a star decal on the hood, and "civilian" ones were simply painted other colours. See more details on Dinky Toys 153A, 25J and 672: The Early Jeeps on CJ3B.info.
In 1946, while the English factory was producing the 68mm casting, the French factory issued a larger Willys MB as number 24M. This 80mm casting did not have any tools on the sides of the body, but from 1946 to 1948 it was available in U.S. Army olive drab with a white star on the hood. The wheels were metal without any rubber tires. From 1948 to 1949 eight civilian colours were released: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, tan, gold, and silver. Unlike any of the other Dinky Toy Jeeps, this one was never available in a box of its own, but rather in grey cardboard twelve-packs for shipping.
The third casting had an overall length of 82mm, and represented a civilian Universal Jeep CJ-3A, although the handmade wooden prototype was based on the newer CJ-3B Universal Jeep. It was initially manufactured in 1952-53 as number 25Y in red or green. This illustration for CJ3B.info has the two Dinky Toys replacing the real Jeeps in a Willys magazine advertisement. (See the original ad, 110K JPEG.) The 25Y came with either smooth rubber tires or the newer treaded ones.
In Britain the 25Y was also sold in light blue and light yellow, and it was also shipped unpainted to South Africa where it was painted by Arthur E. Harris (Pty.) Ltd. in off-white or green, with red hubs.
In 1954 the Dinky Toys numbering system was changed to eliminate letters from the model designations, and the 25Y became the 405. Production of both green and red versions apparently continued until 1967. Cast metal wheels gave way to plastic ones sometime during the 405's production run. A Dinky Toys catalogue page (160K JPEG) in Italian shows the 405 with the 340 Land Rover and several other "vehicule comercial."
See more details on Dinky Toys 25Y, 405 and 669:The Universal Jeeps on CJ3B.info.
A special issue of the 405 casting as a U.S. Army Jeep, sold in North America only, was produced from 1956-58 under the number 669. Photo courtesy of Jacques Dujardin, author of a comprehensive CD-ROM index to Dinky Toys.
By 1956, Corgi Toys had become a major competitor, and Dinky gradually found itself struggling to keep up with the changes. The introduction of Hot Wheels in the late sixties resulted in deep financial troubles for Dinky. The French plant shut down by 1972 while the English operation struggled on until 1980.
Many Dinky Toys dies were sold off to small toy firms which continued to manufacture some of the toys under new names. The 405 Jeep dies were sold to S. Kumar & Co. in Calcutta, India who manufactured it under the trademark Nicky Toys in the early 1970's. It was painted in red, orange, light blue or khaki, and can be recognized by the solid metal between the front bumper and grille.
Meanwhile, the next Dinky Toys casting was a 68mm model, produced only in France in 1958-59 as number 80B. This model was similar to the first Dinky Toys MB, but with flat hood and round axle ends. It was later updated to include a folding windshield.
Versions of the model, based on the French Hotchkiss M201, were produced in France up to 1971. They include the red wrecker shown here (see also the box illustration, 20K JPEG). Wrecker conversions of war surplus Willys and Hotchkiss Jeeps were common in France, as were firefighting conversions.
French Dinky 829 was a recoilless rifle carrier. The folding windshield of the later version of the casting can be seen here. Model number 828 was a missile launcher (20K JPEG).
See more details on The French Dinky Toys Jeeps:80B, 80BP, 816, 828, 829 and 1412 on CJ3B.info.
The fifth casting was again a Willys MB, but in a larger (1/32) scale. It measured 108mm in length, and a popular version produced for ten years (1968-78) included a driver and a howitzer in tow (100K JPEG).
The 1973-79 "Commando" version (seen here in action in North Africa) had a half windshield and extra machine guns, but no Howitzer. See another catalog page, 55K JPEG).
Of note is that this casting came equipped with plastic Speedwheels, Dinky's answer to the Hot Wheels threat of the time. But another planned marketing effort, a M*A*S*H version of the MB, was never carried through.
In 1987 Matchbox acquired Dinky Toys and brought the name back to life by using it on some Matchbox cars, and the name now belongs to Mattel. The last original Dinky Toys Jeep however, was produced in 1979.
When Dinky Toys closed their doors in 1980, some of its operations were farmed out to Universal of Hong Kong (the firm that ended up owning Matchbox) who also put the Dinky name on its already existing line of vehicles. These models were being sold in North America under the Kidcobrand name. In England, Airfix Products imported the Universal castings,which were modified to their specifications and marketed under the Dinkybrand name. Model number 120 was a 1/64 scale CJ-7 "Jeep Renegade" which came in yellow with a black roof and green body stripes.
The model is similar to the Yatming Hong Kong casting and all the China CJ-7s that followed, including the current Speed Wheels. The main differences between the Universal Dinky Toy and the other CJ-7s is the chromed plastic base which also extends to include the grille. The base has "Dinky Toys made in Hong Kong" on it. The Dinky name was only applied to this casting for one year, and its value to collectors remains at a fraction of that of the "real" Dinky Toys.
Thanks to Peter Pearson and Jarek Skonieczny for research and photos for this page, and Jarek for compiling the list below. Thaks to Kenneth Gray for the 153a photo, and Jacques Dujardin for the 669 photo. -- Derek Redmond
Elsewhere on the web, see three pages in French on Les Jeep Dinky Toys.
Casting #1 (68mm)
MB Unassembled Kit
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