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.

Monday, December 29, 2014

M is for More Merry Micro Minis from MPC-Multiple

A Christmas present for all, including me! I'm never 100% sure of the difference between coincidence and synergy, I guess the later is more beneficial? Anyway...I'm calling the events behind this post 'the synergy of coincidence' and it has been coincidence leading to synergy...so probably just synergy!

On the 22nd of December I got an eMail from Marc Frattasio in the US on the subject of the MPC mini 'planes I posted a month or so ago, which detailed an idea he had actioned re. his nephews, and some wider research he'd done. I suggested it was worthy of the comment section and would he mind if I posted the crux of the mail on the blog? Marc was happy for me to do that and offered images which I accepted gratefully...

Thinking it would all sort itself out in the new year I got on with celebrating the season with family, only to find when I logged-on late on Boxing Day that Paul Harrison from across the boarder in Ottawa, Canada had also written to me on the same subject, however this time the mini-AFV's were the main thrust. A quick exchange, with details of the earlier correspondence led to the offer of more images.

Those images arrived the next day! I then wrote back to Marc, with the developments and he sent his images earlier today (yesterday now), leaving me feeling slightly guilty that I may have 'chivvied' him along a bit (double 'v' - how weird), sorry Marc! A quick session in Picasa, and this is the edited results of both lots of correspondence, with all images contributed - bar one.

Paul's instruction sheets, you may remember (links at bottom of article), that these are printed on the box with my example, with Paul's later version, the instruction sheet was included in the box.

Paul's Box, which he remembers as slightly later than mine, something I'm happy to go along with as mine came from the James Chase collection which was heavily represented by inter-war and early post war examples, petering-out in the 1960's-early 70's.

In Paul's own words...

"My first two sets of 40 was purchased in Watertown, New York in about 1965. The boxes were as per your box on the blog. In about 1966 my parents bought two more sets (my brother and I had lost the first two in various sand piles as kids). The boxes are actually a change to the first sets of boxes. The second sets also came with a set of printed instructions for assembly. All sets were on a sprue? like all the model kits in the 60s-80s had.

Many years later I eventually had collected 12 sets of various colors. I still have two sets of the blue in each of the two types of boxes. They were all made in the early 60s by MPC, in Brooklyn NY as I recall.

Regarding colours, I have a few examples of two shades of blue, some grey and also Green.

I can track these down if you would like any pictures, I know that they are in the basement somewhere with some of the MPC Airplanes. (As a kid at one point I'd collected about 2000 of the planes, as they were very common and made well into the early 70s, unlike the vehicles)".

Also of interest is that while various sources will tell you they were called one thing, then the other, the fact is this box has both the 'Products' and 'Toymakers' slogans/logos, side-by-side. And there's an additional 'Teenies' added to the artwork, still states 40 vehicles though, same as my box...

Go on...count them...41 aren't there? I got so annoyed trying to make sense of these last night! My box says 40, but lists 42, Kent Sprecher had 41 but listed the red-eye separately...oh, but so did my box...and the Honest John was listed separate...

Not to be defeated; I copied Kent's list into a table and started listing from all my pictures and the above (also from Paul) in a second column. As I worked I thought "OK, re-twin the trailer and the rocket gives you 40, where's Kent gone wrong? Hold on...they have only listed one Pz.IV [as a Pz.IV, not a flakwagen], that put us up to 41 again...wait a mo, the Thornycroft and trailer have been split as well...re-twin them and we're back to the magic 40!"...

...Kent still had forty-one...Doh! Eventually while trying to work out the designations on my box-art for the various German equipments it became clear that while it's illustrated in the assembly instructions, the Sd.Kfz.234's not in the printed listing! So Kent was right, my - by this point - frazzled brain and cross-eyes were correct and MPC were wrong...there ARE 41 separate vehicles, not 40, with the 'redeye' trailer, tank-transport trailer and Honest John tactical ballistic missile/battlefield rocket paired-up with their prime-movers; the Jeep, Thornycroft 'Mighty Antar' and M289 6x6x truck respectively.

The list in full with the MPC designation in plain and my embellishments/explanations in brackets:

M34 Eager Beaver (6x6 truck)
M29C Weasel
LVT4 Landing Craft (tracked AVF)
Amphibious Jeep
M3 Personnel Halftrack (track-units incorrect 'Blue Box' style)
M3A1 Weapon & Personnel Halftrack (track-units correct)
Jeep (Willy's)
8" Howitzer on Wheeled Carriage (same carriage as 155mm 'Long Toms')
M-40 w/155 mm Self Propelled Cannon
M47 Patton Tank
Honest John Rocket
Honest John Rocket truck (6x6 prime-mover/erector/launcher)
Fuel truck (6x6 truck)
Ambulance (Dodge)
M50 Ontos
Redeye (Jeep trailer with three motar-bomb shaped rockets attached by 'spruelettes')
Staff Car (Dodge command car)
M4-A Prime Mover (tracked artillery tractor for 8" howitzer)
M59 Tank Personnel (tracked APC, precursor to M113)

3 Ton Ford Service Ambulance
Thornycroft (Tractor/cab unit - FV 12002 'Mighty Antar', wide-bonnet Mk2)
Tank Transporter (FV 3001/5 Trailer)
MkIII Centurian [sic] Tank (Centurion, not Cromwell)
Saracen (Alvis 6x6 APC)
Saladin (Alvis 6x6 armoured car)
Ferret (turret-less scout car)
Scout Car (WWII armoured car with turret; Daimler?)
3 Ton LKW (WWII CMP-cab styled lorry)
Land Rover (civil/staff 'safari' configuration)
T110 Triumph (motorcycle and left-hand side-car)

EBR 75A Panhard (8-wheeled armoured car)
AMX-13 Light Tank

Stalin Tank (JS III)
T54 Tank
T34 Tank (T34/85 long barrel)
Personnel Carrier (BTR 50)

Heavy Weapon Carrier (SWS with radar dish and searchlight)
AUF-SFL Self Propelled Gun (WWII experimental 88mm SPG)
Tiger Tank
HS 30 Armoured Personnel Carrier
Panzer IV 57mm Self Propelled Gun (40mm Mobelwagen, single barrel)
(Flakpanzer IV 20mm Wirbelwind) [not listed on early box] Quad-AA, showing only 2 barrels
(Sd. Kfz 234 Puma) [not listed on early box] WWII, 8x8, armoured car

Of course, this would not have been a problem if I'd had Bob Maschi's guide! Mine is in storage, it's a very good little guide to all four ranges (It'll be a long time before the cars appear here, I have a handful and they are mostly copies!). I'm still looking for him if anyone knows where he is, I owe him money!

Paul asked if there was anything in particular I wanted photographed and I asked him to photograph the marks on the green versions to compare with the IPA JS III I have, he did better and shot all colour-ways from two angles, they seem to have started green, switched to the metallic blue of the MPC American Civil War figures and some of the GI's and then the silvery-grey, which (by coincidence?) is similar to some of the post-MPC aircraft mouldings we looked at the other day.

They are all clearly marked, the same, with the MPC-in-a-circle logo, so the IPA's are a later version (not I suspect piracy...as Marc has found the old moulds for the aircraft - see links below), giving us a definite return to the subject when I get my example out of storage.

Right-click on the image and select "open in new tab" (which works for most images on this blog) to get the larger version up, a left click (if you get a plus-sign cursor) will enbiggen it further.

Getting on to the eMail from Marc...the upper image here is a shot of two vintage sets, the earlier boxed-set of 70 'planes and a later pierced peg-board/tree-rack bagged set of 47 pieces...the lower shot is the best bit...I'll let Marc tell the story...

"Recently, I picked up an unopened bag of 47 MPC airplanes that was made in 1969 on the popular Internet auction web site "eBay".  I spent several subsequent months checking eBay every day and buying just about every lot of loose MPC airplanes that I found on eBay.  I reproduced the original header card, found some clear plastic bags of the right size, made up five perfect replicas, and plan to give them to all my younger nephews for Christmas (in stockings) this year.  I printed up a note explaining that these were my favourite toys when I was there age, explaining how I obtained and put the replica sets together, etc.  Don't know if it will sink in but I think I did a pretty extraordinary thing".

I think you did a wonderful thing Marc, the best way to seed a future generation of collectors! How did they like them? This could be applied to any of the commoner toys or figures out there. Bagged Jean wild west anyone?

Paul also sent a couple of shots of the mini aeroplanes, he has only kept a few, his favourite, most of which are missing from my sample, I could have used that Spitfire when I was looking at/comparing the 'others' the other day!

Marc also reminisced about what sounds like the copies we looked at the other day...

The last time I saw a bag of the airplanes was during the summer of 1973 or 1974.  They were bags of 100 that were sold at the long defunct Almy's store in Hanover, Massachusetts (USA).  I remember them well.  They were on hooks on a wall next to similar bags of the small MPC automobiles.  I remember distinctly that I did not buy any because they were so poorly molded, with lots of visible flash and wings and tail surfaces that were missing or mis-molded lumps.  I'd like to think that the original molds are still around but fear that they were used so much over the years that they basically fell apart towards the end of production in the early 1970s.

...although in finding what seem to be the original mouldings, he was given the run-around?

I've done some research and there appear to be a few Chinese companies that may still be making and marketing MPC knock-offs.  See [links at bottom of page] for details.  The latter manufacturer's products actually look like they came from the MPC molds.  I contacted the manufacturer to try to find out if they had the MPC molds and also what variety of miniature aircraft they had but got the run-around.  Basically they indicated that they could make anything I wanted, which is not what I wanted to hear.  Part of the problem with these Chinese companies, so I've been told, is that they will often use images of other companies' products on their web sites.  I'm on the board of directors of a small military aviation museum and if I could find the actual MPC aircraft molds, or a good knock-off even, I'd buy them for sale at the museum.

While Marc also sent me a shot of a few ships he had - lower shot. He's missing the little plug-ins, and I remembered taking some photographs of mine which I never used here, but I can only find the one (upper picture), there should be a red/green one and some close-ups, I don't know where they've gone, but it's another excuse to return to these MPC minis another day!

They were a large collection (64 mouldings?) of an eclectic range, with civil-war monitor types sitting next to WWII battleships, turn-of-the-century liners and tiny little harbour-craft or coastal steamers and were originally sold from comic-book adverts like the Giant/Lucky stuff in large batches (102 items in the ad on Kent's site, link below). The little plug-ins are attached by small sprulettes and are easily lost once they come loose.

So...many, many thanks to Marc and Paul, both for their kind words about and visits to the blog, and for their contributions which have added to the sum total of information available to anyone coming here in the future and clicking on MPC in the tag list!

The reproduction idea is brilliant and I hope others with younger family members will have a go next year, all you need is a scanner and an image manipulation program to clean-up the old packaging (Picasa - free - would be enough if you don't have a Photoshop-type program, play with its 'Retouch' feature to remove blemishes).

Relevant links;

Links to modern production supplied by Marc;
Cheepie Christmas-cracker type versions
Apparent holders of the original moulds
Larger rack-toy mouldings - these 3" 'planes used to be in silver/grey and had little stickers, they are the ones I think of as Trigan Empire!

Links to MPC minis already on the blog;
Military Miniatures / Teenie Tanks
MPC Miniature 'Planes and Copies
Similar Types and Poorer Copy 'Planes
Italian Harbert Packaging

MPC minis on Kent Spreacher's
Toy Soldier HQ

Marc J. Frattasio is the author of:
- The New Haven Railroad in the McGinnis Era
- Dining on the Shore Line Route
- Bob Tweedy: Engineer
- The Minutemen of VP-92: The Story of New England's Naval Air Reserve Patrol Squadron
- VP Association Sea Story Library Volume One: Tales from the Naval Air Reserve at NAS South Weymouth, Massachusetts
- VP Association Sea Story Library Volume Two: Tales from the Naval Air Reserve at NAS South Weymouth, Massachusetts
- NAS Squantum: The First Naval Air Reserve Base

- NAS South Weymouth: The Home of New England's Weekend Warriors  (coming soon)

Some of Marc's written output on;

Final thought...if you pair-up the US 8" Howitzer with the M4-A tracked-tractor...you get 40, from 44?


Paul Foster said...

Excellent post Hugh.

Those teenies look very well detailed.

All the best for the new year mate!

Hugh Walter said...

Well...it's really Marc and Pauls post...I was just the editor!

Happy This Year to you and yours too Paul.