The Roy Rogers TV Show from the 1950s featured Roy's sidekick Pat Brady and his Jeep "Nellybelle". The popular cowboy show spawned a few Jeep toys that have become real collector's items. See The Original Nellybelle for more details on the series and the original Jeep.
This picture is an acrylic painting titled "Roy and His Pals" by Sean Sullivan. Rick Morris told us that it was also sold as a postcard at the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum. The original was listed, along with Nellybelle, among the items to be sold at an auction in New York in July 2010 after the closing of the museum. The painting sold for $10,625.
Here's a look at some of the toys:
To make a convincing Nellybelle toy, you couldn't just slap her name on a standard toy Jeep. She had unique bodywork which gave the impression of armor around the cowl and doors, and side storage compartments in the rear.
Marx had a plastic version (approx. 1:32 scale) in its Roy Rogers Rodeo Ranch set (30K JPEG). The Jeep included the extended bodywork and also the support bow for the canvas soft top, always in place on the real Nellybelle (below) even though she never seemed to be wearing her soft top.
Since the TV show was in black & white, the colour of Nellybelle was not obvious to most of us, and it's not surprising toymakers might want to take some liberties with her grey paint job. She was in fact a "colorful" cantankerous character on the show, always likely to be losing her brakes on a steep hill, or refusing to start when her services were required.
The large pressed-steel Marx Jeep was also available in a Roy Rogers edition. This was perhaps the most accurate Nellybelle toy in color, bodywork, and the plastic Pat Brady figure holding on to his hat while "Queen of the West" Dale Evans obviously wishes she was driving. To get the true Nellybelle spirit though, the windshield should be kept folded down.
The Marx toys are also among the few which included the gun slot in the front armor plate. David Wiley points out that "The cut-out below the windshield was there so Pat Brady or Roy could shoot their pistol through it. I was only 5 or 6 years old I believe and maybe someone told me that's what it was for. To me that was an important part of the authentic models. I had a pedal car replica in the mid 1950s which had the cut-out. It may have come from Sears-Roebuck, I'm not sure."
The Marx version also included the bow for the soft top, seen in the photo above but missing from the example here.
See also a rear view photo (12K JPEG) and a bottom view photo (12K JPEG).
The Marx steel Jeep was 11-3/4 inches long and 5 inches wide. For more details, see Precursors of the Tonka Jeep on CJ3B.info.
A small (approx. 1:43) diecast Nellybelle by Stuart was a less-accurate but also popular 1950s toy, steered by many kids along the "Happy Trails" in their sandboxes.
The Ideal plastic set included white character figures, as well as a red trailer with Roy's horse Trigger. Including the trailer, the set measured approximately 15 inches long, 3-1/2 inches wide and 4 inches high.
It came in various colors, including grey with yellow wheels, and yellow with red wheels (20K JPEG). The horse trailer had "RR Ranch" and "Trigger" molded into the sides. The Jeep had "Nellybelle" stickers on the sides, which are usually missing now. It's marked "Ideal Made in USA 3554M3" on the bottom.
The Nellybelle pedal-drive Jeep, made by Hamilton, was apparently released in 1954 at the height of the TV show's popularity. It featured a top bow and special bodywork (150K JPEG) that was fairly accurate. The front bumper (230K JPEG) on this nice example has been attached backwards. Photos courtesy Michael Watson.
Original color schemes included blue with red windshield. Decals provided Nellybelle's name, plus a drawing (130K JPEG) of Roy on Trigger, which was a smart use of the space on the large, prototypical doors.
Like the Hamilton U.S. Air Force Jeep, the Nellybelle pedal car was produced in grey as well as blue. A prototype USAF Jeep would have been blue, but grey is the correct color for Nellybelle (minus the red wheels of course.) Photos courtesy LiveAuctioneers.com.
Some of the Nellybelle toys represented her as having a high hood, similar to the model CJ-3B, released by Willys early in the run of the TV show. See particularly a front view photo (30K JPEG) of the Ideal toy, which also shows Roy's very recognizable face.
The cutout Nellybelle below, from a set in Gary Keating's collection, also is clearly a 3B. The set includes characters, horses and accessories, but Gary doesn't have the original packaging to identify the manufacturer. It may be from the Post cereals promotion (see Win a Willys Jeep from Post Cereals). Nelleybelle lapel pins (40K JPEG) given away by Post also show a green high-hood Jeep.
Although Roy Rogers was seen driving a CJ-3B in the Post cereals promotion, Nellybelle on the screen was always a CJ-2A as far as we know. The cover of Gary's 1956 Pat Brady coloring book shown here has a pretty accurate 2A illustration as well. Gary says there are lots of Nellybelle pictures to color inside, along with other scenes from the ranch.
See The Original Nellybelle for more details on the series and the original Jeep.
Thanks to Federico Cavedo, Jarek Skonieczny, Len Dunn, Thomas Miller, Randy Brown and Gary Keating. -- Derek Redmond
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