About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Friday, March 30, 2012

P is for Palitoy Plastic Prototypes

One of the more interesting things to appear on this blog, and not figures!

Originally formed in 1909 to manufacture celluloid and other early acetate, Bakelite-type and phenolic plastics; the Cascelloid company was taken over by one of its rivals (British Xylonite), and the new company chose Palitoy as a friendly sounding trademark for the new toy division as in 'Pally Toy', this was in 1935.

These model aircraft - among the earliest things known to come from that toy division - are quite mythical within toy collecting circles, the favourite story being that they were made from the plastics recycled from downed German 'planes during the Battle of Britain! Well...it's not that far fetched, the aircraft types so far identified as being in the range (in addition to the three illustrated below - I'm pretty sure I've seen a Hurricane...whispers; but don't quote me!) are all types that were common in the skys leading up to the Second World War - they also made a Sunderland flying boat and a crude Spitfire.

So a date of 1938-41 would be quite a reasonable starting point for these models, making them among the earliest British plastics of their type. Some sources claim they are post war, but I suspect that while the Palitoy 'take' on the Thomas Toys pull-motor helicopter was added to the range post-war; the rest of the range are wartime if not earlier.

As to the plastic - It is not stable and warping of some level is found in every example encountered, and there seems to have been three main issues; plain greys (light and dark), silvery-grey or aluminium colours, mottled/swirling mixed-pellet, and plain but bright colours (red, light and dark blue, pink and British Racing Green), . It's my belief that they were probably issued in that order, with the greys made from clean material before the war or before wartime proscriptions/restrictions, then the mottled examples from 'recycled' plastic and finally after the war - but from the same set of moulds (hence the early/pre-war aircraft types) - the more colourful ones which match the later helicopter addition. It must be said though - this is pure guesswork and it may be that the mottled ones were first and all the plain ones part of a second 'tranche'.

Other reasons for placing them earlier than the post-war dates I've seen given to them is that A) had they been issued in 1955 (one date ascribed to them on a forum) they would have been more up-to-date types (Mosquito, Typhoon, Lancaster...), B) They would have been made from more stable plastics such as those being used post-war by Airfix, Thomas, Irwin et al, and C) British Xylonite/Palitoy began injection moulding in 1941, the probably date for these, as you would reasonably be expected to experiment with a new technology by making a cheap toy you could get some return on, if it all went a bit Pete Tong!

The 'Welly', with a close up of the wing markings with "PALITOY RED'G. NON-FLAM" on one wing and "MADE IN ENGLAND" on the other, the aircraft type was printed in the upper fuselage section/roof. Wellingtons first flew in 1936 and became a service aircraft in 1938.

There are versions of the Sunderland with a fixed-key clockwork motor, I don't know if the body of the Wellington is large enough to take the mechanism - I've certainly never seen one.

There you go Bud! Brand-spanker...
...and we've even painted those targets you limeys like on the wings!

Yes...thanks awfully old chap, no chance of your lot joining this show then?

This model helps with the dating; as it is called a Lockheed Bomber, again; first flew in 1938, RAF service aircraft by 1939 when it became the Hudson, why is it not called the Hudson? Most pre/early-war recognition pamphlets and Boy's own Annuals etc...describe the 'plane as a Lockheed bomber, so this must have been on the drawing boards of Palitoy's toy department quite early? Or even already in the pattern-room when the Hudson moniker was officially adopted by HMG.

Another 'Hudson', one of the plain metallic ones (photographed at Sandown Park toy fair) which I think may pre-date the mottled ones, but I could be wrong, they may well go together with the coloured ones which I - myself - think are later? Warping - as can be seen in the photo's, is not as severe with these silvery ones. I have also seen some with a chromium like finish, I haven't guessed their place in the cannon! Also of note with this one is the more realistic wheel/propeller colour, most examples having red or pink wheels and propellers.

The Boulton-Paul Defiant (first flight; 1937, service item; 1939), this was a real early-war type, and again has a staring role in early coverage of the pre-war and Fall-of-France/Battle of Britain RAF in popular journals, magazines and 'boys annuals', so further adding to the evidence for an early issue date of this range. B-P had a furniture factory in Southampton-Eastleigh until quite recently!

This is one of the mottled ones, and to deal - finally - with the myth, re. bits of Dornier and Messerschmitt being the base material for these models...While it is possible that some plastic recycled from downed aircraft did find its way into the war-time material supply-chain (in which case there would be plenty of Spitfire, Hurricane and even Boulton & Paul pieces in the mix!), the truth is more likely that British Xylonite must have been producing components for the War Effort and would have been allowed to use sprue, flash, off-cuts and machinings from those contracts to make the 'planes as the models would have been seen as a moral-booster.

It is a depressing fact of human nature that war brings an renewed interest and corresponding production increase in 'war toys'.

Father - buying one of these on the way home with his gas-mask round his neck would have been happy to say "There you go son - it's made out of bits of a bloody Nazi fighter", not having the knowledge or inclination to say "There you go son - it's made from bits of radio-set dial off-cuts"! or even; "There you go son - it's made from bits of a real one some chap I went to school with died in - flying to protect us..."

[Note - If anybody has a Sunderland or Spitfire (or even Hurricane?) that they could take some decent pictures of, I'd love to add them to this post for completeness, full credit given]

In the end I added the Spitfires Here
...and a 'Flying Wing' Here
...and finally - the Sunderland flying boat


Tara Yeoman said...

Those were very wonderful plane toys for children but this entertainment and joy we feels were traumatized by some scares and fears due to some threats that use to say that some toys were contaminated with hazardous chemicals.

Maverick Collecting said...

Yeah? Whatever love!

As it happens I know the boss of Really Useful Boxes personally, have watched his company grow from a little idea into a company with its products in a dozen outlets of any High Street, and I only use them, so you spammed the wrong person!!

To anyone else reading this...use Really Useful boxes, not her over-priced shite!

Anonymous said...

I've got one bomber plane by Palitoys just like the one illustrated here. I got it, as a child, on a holiday trip to England in 1949, if this can help. My parents bought it brand new in a souvenir shop in Newcastle. I love that toy !

Maverick Collecting said...

Thanks anonymous - Was/is it a silver one with black wheels and propeller, or a coloured/flecked one with pink/red accessories?