Dinky Toys, packaged in colourful boxes and built to scale, were introduced for the first time in 1934, when Frank Hornby’s Meccano factory in Liverpool began to manufacture model railway accessories under the Dinky name. It wasn’t long before Dinky introduced their first model car, numbered 23a – a sports car modelled on an MG. The range soon expanded to include a tractor, a tank, a truck, and a number of other cars.
After the Second World War, Dinky Toys began a golden era of production. In the late 1940s, the company began to produce the 40 series – a range of toys modelled on British saloons such as the Riley Saloon and the Hillman Minx. A ‘Supertoys’ range of trucks – Foden and Leyland – followed. In 1954, Dinky cars began to be sold in small individual cardboard boxes which were illustrated with an image of the car contained within. These boxes soon became as cherished as the toys themselves.
Later in the 1950s, Dinky began to produce models of American cars: Packards, Plymouths and Studebakers. In 1958, Dinky introduced the smaller-scale Dublo range, which were economical to produce, as they consisted of a single die-cast metal body, a base plate and plastic wheels.
As competition from Corgi and Matchbox increased, Dinky responded by introducing such innovations as working suspension, detailed interiors and jewelled headlights. Sadly, in the mid-1960s, Dinky went into receivership and was taken over. In the late 1960s Dinky won the contract to produce models of the vehicles from Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds TV series and other oddities such as the Mini Moke from the cult series The Prisoner.
Dinky cars were a beloved part of childhood for so many people that it was inevitable the toys would become collectable – old models now change hands for very large sums of money. Recently, some models have been reissued, housed in pristine copies of the original packaging.