Atlas Editions is part of the DeAgostini Group which specialises in themed partwork publications and collectibles. Atlas offered several collections of diecast models on a subscription basis, including licenced reproductions of Dinky Toys cars and trucks, and the Great British Buses series in 1:76 scale. Atlas stopped taking orders for partwork collections in 2018, but many of the models remain available direct from DeAgostini.
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, and controlled by the Conrad family since the mid 1950s. The Conrad brand gradually replaced the Gescha brand during the 1970s.
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.
Mattel's Hot Wheels cars were the first to have low-friction wheels for use on gravity tracks, and their enormous popularity forced rivals such as Matchbox and Corgi to adapt their existing ranges similarly in order to compete. Always offering a mixture of fantasy vehicles and models of actual cars, the Hot Wheels range offers marvellous detailing at a low price, thanks in part to modern tampo printing techniques.
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.
The Lone Star brand was launched in 1951 by Diecast Machine Tools (DCMT), who had until 1949 been manufacturing on behalf of Crescent Toys. DCMT/Lone Star became well-known for its toy guns, but also produced hollow-cast lead and, later, plastic figures. The company joined the diecast vehicle bandwagon in 1956 with its Roadmaster series, with the Roadmaster Impy range following in 1966. Other ranges included OOO scale push-along and electric trains, which effectively pioneered todays N gauge model railways. DCMT went into receivership in 1983 and the Lone Star brand was acquired by a German company, production moving to Hong Kong in 1988. Nowadays the Lone Star name is owned by the Heinrich Bauer Group, a producer of toy guns.
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.
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, Spot-On and Dinky Toys 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 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.
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.
Tomica is the diecast model vehicle brand of the Tomy corporation of Japan. Tomy was founded in 1924, but the Tomica brand did not appear until 1970 in response to the increasing worldwide interest in diecast model cars sparked by Mattel's Hot Wheels, Matchbox Toys and others. Tomica specialises, understandably, in models of Japanese vehicles.