There is quite a long history of craftsmen building detailed
miniature replicas of transport vehicles and machinery, but it
wasn't until 1934 that diecast model cars and lorries arrived on
the market in any great numbers.
At that time the model cars and trucks weren't regarded as
collectable items in their own right - they were produced to
lend added realism to model railways.
Since the early
1920s Frank Hornby had been making increasingly complex train
sets. One of the sets, Meccano Set No 21, was embellished with
six diecast models, consisting of a motor truck, a sports coupe,
a delivery van, a sports car, a farm tractor, and an Army tank.
These were the first Dinky models, issued under the "Meccano
Modelled Miniatures" label, as Set No. 22.
diecast cars were fairly crude by modern standards, being cast
from an alloy with high lead content which didn't lend itself to
a high degree of detail. Also they didn't attempt to depict
genuine vehicles, although the sports car bore a resemblance to
the S.S.1, a popular make of the period and a precursor of the
In terms of scale, they were not very well suited
to the train sets which they were intended to adorn.
soon became apparent, however, that there was a healthy market
for such models, and it wasn't long before individual diecast
replicas based on real cars and trucks were produced and sold
separately. Dinky Set 30 was based on the Rolls Royce, Set 36A
on the Armstrong Siddely, 36B a Bentley, and 36F was a Salmon
With the passage of time the quality of
detail and reproduction greatly improved. The Dinky sets had
diecast alloy bodies and tinplate radiators and rubber tyres.
The later models also came with drivers and passengers. The
Armstrong Siddely had a footman and chauffeur. Just before the
Second World War some superb military models were produced,
including tanks with catterpillar tracks and rotating turrets.
Few models from that era have survived in acceptable condition,
and examples in good condition are extremely collectable -
pre-war Dinkies can fetch prices up to $1000 in auction.
In the 1950s, new production techniques heralded a new era in
the history of diecast model cars. Lesney, famous for their
splendid Coronation Coach, and Corgi, ("the ones with the
windows"), entered the market to provide competition to Dinky.
This new generation of diecast vehicles, with finer detail,
better running gear, and better color finish, leads up to the
present day, where millions of precision diecast replica models
are produced, at quite affordable prices for the collector.
About the Author:
Colin Lloyd is a regular contributor to
http://www.diecast-vintage-cars.com. For a great selection
of diecast model cars, going back to the earliest days of the