Originally set up as Martoys in 1974, Bburago produced diecast models in Burago di Molgora, Italy, between 1976 and 2005. The second 'B' in the name apparently refers to the Besana family, three brothers from which founded the company. They had previously operated the Mebetoys company which they ultimately sold to Mattel. Bburago made models in a variety of scales, particularly 1:43, 1:24 and 1:18; in the latter they dominated the market until the mid 1990s when East Asian manufactured brands began to catch up. Bburago struggled to compete and eventually called in the receivers in 2005. Bburago was purchased by May Cheong, owners of Maisto, and Bburago was relaunched in 2007 and continues as a brand although now manufactured in Thailand and China.
Benbros took its name from its founders, brothers Jack and Nathan Beneson. Formed after World War II, the company started diecast toy production in 1954 in Walthamstow, north-east London, with their 'T.V. Series' range which were similar in size to Lesney Matchbox toys and packed in boxes resembling early television sets. The range was subsequently renamed to 'Mighty Midgets'. Benbros also produced larger-scale models, some under the 'Qualitoy' trade mark and later as Zebra Toys which along with Mighty Midgets continued until the company was taken over in 1965 and ceased toy production.
Charbens was founded in the late 1920s by brothers Charles and Benjamin Reid. The company was based in North London, an area which was home to a number of diecast toy manufacturers including Britains. Pre-war production consisted of a range of hollow-cast lead figures, mainly civilian subjects, and included some horse-drawn vehicles. Zinc diecasting was introduced after the war and the range of models widened. In 1955 the 'Old Crocks' series of miniature veteran cars was introduced, a range which grew to around 35 models. Some plastic components and figures started to appear in the range during the 1960s, and in 1967 the majority of the diecast vehicles were discontinued in favour of plastic figures which continued in production until 1973.
Conrad, unusually, is a family-owned company that manufactures its diecast models in Germany. Conrad specialises in trucks, cranes, excavators and similar heavy plant in 1:50 scale, and is known for the quality and detail of the castings. The origins of the company lie in the Gescha toy company, established in 1923, which initially used the Conrad name as a brand before it gradually replaced the Gescha name during the 1970s.
Crescent Toys was a UK toy manufacturer active between 1922 and 1980. Originating in a small workshop in de Beauvoir Crescent, London N1, the company relocated 3 times before the Second World War as the demand for its hollow-cast lead figures grew, ending up in Tottenham N15. Following the war the company turned its attention to diecast toys, the diecasting work being undertaken by nearby firm DCMT (Die Casting Machine Tools). In 1949, taking advantage of development grants, Crescent opened a new factory in Cwmcarn, Wales, and within 2 years all production had transferred there. At around the same time, DCMT split away from Crescent to manufacture and market toys in their own right under the Lone Star brand. As well as diecast vehicles, Crescent's post-war production included toy guns and plastic figures, as well as a version of the TV favourite Muffin The Mule.
A German company, Cursor Modell is particularly known for the plastic 1:40 scale models of veteran and vintage cars it produced from about 1969 for the Daimler-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. In about 1970 Cursor also started making promotional models for German car manufacturers. From 1978, the range expanded to include contemporary trucks, now often diecast, as well as construction and agricultural vehicles and cars in 1:35 scale. Production eventually ceased in the late 1980s.
Bestbox commenced production of diecast toy cars in Limburg, Holland, at the beginning of the 1960s. With the closure of the coal mines, Dutch State Mines set up a new workshop for unemployed miners to continue the production of Bestbox models. The name was changed to Efsi to reflect the financial backing from the Fund for Social Institutions (FSI), and the Bestbox name was discontinued in 1971.
Efsi toys were popular in the Netherlands, but did not achieve the wider success in Europe of other brands such as Matchbox.
Based in France, Eligor is one of the few companies still manufacturing diecast models in Europe. Founded in the mid 1970s, the company went through a number of changes of ownership but since 1996 has been owned by the Vullierme family. As well as their standard range of 1:43 scale cars and trucks, Eligor also takes commissions for customised promotional trucks.
John Hill & Co, known as Johillco, was founded in 1898 and based in Islington, North London. Between the wars it produced a large range of hollowcast soldiers and other figures, as well as promotional and novelty items, and was second only to Britains for quality. In the 1930s the company had over 400 employees. After the Second World War, the company was acquired by a Lancashire businessman and production was transferred to Burnley. The range was developed and expanded, and included space figures. However, John Hill was slow to make the transition to the use of plastic for its figures and finally ceased trading in 1960.
Kemlows Diecasting Products was formed in North London in 1946, named after the founding directors, Charlie Kempster and William Lowe. As time went on, an increasing proportion of Kemlows' production was being bought by wholesaler BJ (Bertie) Ward, who in the earky 1950s developed his own marketing literature and 'Wardie' brand, dropping the Kemlows name from their products. BJ Ward also introduced the Master Models range at this time, concentrating on 00 scale model railway buildings and accessories mainly made by Kemlows but also other manufacturers. Meanwhile, Kemlows were also producing the 'K' series range of road vehicles and accessories in various scales under the 'Master' and 'Wee World' banners, as well as the 'Sentry Box' range of Matchbox-size military vehicles. The 1960s saw plastic models joining the range, manufactured for Kemlows by Collis Plastics. Kemlows' toy production gradually ceased during the 1970s in favour of industrial castings, which the company still manufactures to this day.
Founded in 1967, Maisto produces a wide range of diecast vehicles in various scales. Maisto is part of the May Cheong Group (MC Toy), which also now owns the brands of former Italian manufacturers Polistil and Bburago.
Milestone Miniatures produced hand-built white metal 1:43 collectors' models, including the Gems & Cobwebs brand. Based in Redruth, Cornwall, UK, the company traded in various manifestations from 1991 until 2010. They specialised in classic saloon and racing cars with a particular leaning towards Jaguars, and these highly-detailed models are now sought after.
The Morestone brand was started by Morris and Stone, a wholesaler in North London, to market items made by Modern Products. Morestone started its own die-casting operation in 1954 with Rodney Smith, co-founder of Lesney. The Morestone and, from 1959, Budgie ranges were produced until 1966 when Budgie Models Ltd went into liquidation. Modern Products stepped in and continued the Budgie miniatures range until 1969, after which the business turned to making a limited range of toys specifically for the London tourist trade - principally the Routemaster bus, FX4 taxi and Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.
Norev is a French model vehicle manufacturer, founded in 1946. Initially producing plastic models in 1:43 scale, Norev did not start using diecast metal until 1965. In recent years Norev has acquired the rights to a number of famous brands from the past, and has reissued CIJ and Spot-On models amongst others. Much of Norev's production today is in China.
Founded in Nuremberg in 1968, NZG is a family company specialisingin diecast models of heavy machinery, trucks and other equipment. Most of the current range is 1:50 scale but there are also some 1:87 models. During the 80s and 90s NZG also produced cars and vans in 1:43 scale. Many of NZG's models are promotional items for manufacturers of the real vehicles, and feature a high level of detailing.
A Portuguese diecast manufacturer founded around 1988. Particularly noted for its detailed model racing cars in 1:43 and other scales.
A relative newcomer although with strong historical links to Corgi, Oxford Diecast was formed in 1993. UK based with subsidiary companies in China, Oxford Diecast continues to offer a very wide range covering road vehicles, railway rolling stock, ships and aircraft in scales from 1:18 to 1:1200.
Polistil originated as Politoys in Milan, Italy around 1960. Initially producing plastic cars in 1:41 scale, the company switched to diecast (via fibreglass) and 1:43 scale in the mid 1960s. About 1970 the company name was changed to Polistil and in the early 1970s other model ranges were introduced in larger and smaller scales. The focus was always on realistic models rather than 'fantasy' items. In the late 1980s Tonka acquired Polistil to market the larger scale models in the USA, but Polistil subsequently disappeared when Tonka dropped the brand in 1993.
Schabak was formed in 1966 in Nürnberg, Germany, initially as a distributor mainly of Schuco toys. When Schuco went bankrupt in 1976 Schabak acquired much of their tooling. Over the years Schabak became known in Europe for their high quality models of German cars in 1:43 scale and later 1:24. In 1982 Schabak also started to produce 1:600 model airliners. Meanwhile, the Schuco name had been acquired by Gama and Schuco re-emerged as an independent company again in 1996. Thus it came to pass that in 2006 Schuco was in a position to acquire Schabak, which by then was concentrating solely on its aircraft range and which is now absorbed into the Schuco brand.
Schuco is one of the oldest makers of toy vehicles and other mechanical toys, originating as Schreyer and Co. in 1912 in Nürnberg, Germany. The early tinplate clockwork toys were extremely popular, including the 'Pick-Pick Bird' over 20 million of which were sold over 5 decades. Model cars joined the range in the 1930s, transitioning to plastic and diecast during the 1950s. Famous post-war products included the 'Varianto' wire track system, the small scale Piccolo range and the Micro Racer. In the 1970s Schuco experienced financial difficulties and became bankrupt in 1976. The name was subsequently acquired by GAMA, and Schuco re-emerged as an independent company in 1996 and continues to produce high quality collectors' diecast models including reproductions of its classic toys of the past.
Although the Sieper company of Lüdenscheid, Germany, ws established in 1921, it was not until 1950 that it diversified into the manufacture of toys under the Siku brand. Siku is an abbreviation of Sieper Kunststoffe (Siku Plastics), and the original ranges of figures and vehicles were indeed all plastic. Diecast vehicles made of zinc alloy began to appear in 1963, marking a gradual shift away from plastic. The main vehicle range from 1958 was 1:60 scale, changing to 1:55 in 1975, although Siku went on to produce other ranges including the 1:32 Farm range in 1983. Today Siku remains a major producer of model vehicles and also owns the Wiking brand.
The famous French diecast brand, established in 1930 and still producing models today.
Originating in 1928 in Copenhagen, Denmark, as a manufacturer of constructional toys, Tekno started producing toy cars after World War II. Their models gained a reputation for detail and solid construction, and competed with Dinky and Corgi. Promotional models were part of the range from an early stage, and the company gradually shifted into the adult collectibles market, specialisiing in trucks and buses. In 1972 Tekno ceased production in Denmark; the tooling was sold to the Dutch firm Vanmin BV which continues to produce models under the Tekno brand.
Founded in 1938, Timpo is an abbreviation of 'Toy Importers Ltd', and as the name suggests, the company was initially concerned with importing toys. Timpo turned its attention to manufacturing at the outbreak of war in 1939 when importing was no longer possible. The first hollow-cast lead items began to appear during the war years, but it was not until 1946 that the main Timpo range was established, using moulds purchased from other companies. Their diecast production lasted only until 1951/2, but from 1950 Timpo began producing its own range of figures, notably toy soldiers, which were manufactured in plastic from 1954. Timpo ceased trading in 1978.
The Tootsietoy brand was created by the Dowst brothers in Chicago, USA, and claims to be 'America's oldest toy company', having produced toy cars from around 1910. Their diecast and plastic toys were dominant in the US market for several decades although often cruder in design than their European counterparts. Tootsietoy is now a trademark of J. Lloyd International, with the majority of products being made in China.
Brimtoy originated in 1923 when British Metal Toy Manufacturers Ltd, established in 1914, was reborn as Brimtoy Ltd. In 1932 Brimtoy merged with A. Wells & Co. Ltd, itself a tinplate toy manufacturer established in 1919. Trading as Wells-Brimtoy, the company had dual manufacturing locations in Walthamstow, London and Holyhead in Wales. The Brimtoy brand continued to be used for train sets and the Pocketoys range while the Welsotoy brand was launched in 1955 for other ranges. The company continued to trade until 1970 when it was taken over by CMT Group.