Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Space the Final Frontier...
1976 had to be one of the most wonderful years, as far as toys go, because it produced the Dinky Toys U.S.S. Enterprise. This Enterprise is actually my childhood one, you can see that I tried my hand at detailing this toy by adding black to the windows to make them stand out and I even tried to paint the detail on the shuttle bay doors, or what should be the shuttle bay doors on the back. Apparently I didn't have a thinner paint brush at the time.
Dinky Toys is an English company, so besides covering the American series Star Trek, it introduced me to some wonderful English properties. My Dinky Toy collection consisted of and Eagle from Space 1999 (yes it's somewhat American, but it's Gerry Anderson so it could be considered British), Thunderbird 2 from the Thunderbirds (via Gerry Anderson), The U.F.O. Shadow truck and missile launcher (another Gerry Anderson production), I even had this crazy little tank that could launch something like twelve little missiles (not sure where that one came from, assuming U.F.O. as well), plus of course my Enterprise.
Dinky's I still secretly wish I would have picked up along the way, the Aston Martin from James Bond, complete with machine guns, rotating plates, and a shield from pursuing gun fire, also the funny looking jet from U.F.O. that launched a big honking projectile from it's nose. I was close on that one.
Dinky Toys used to be kept in a special area of the toy store (at least all the ones I went to back then), usually near the cash register and in a glass display case. You could easily see all that the store had to offer and once you made your selection, the shop keeper (read employee) would unlock the case and from behind the display toys produce they toy of your dreams in a package. It was like magic. Now I have never seen Dinky Toys sold in any other way, always a glass case under lock and key, always packaged product buried within the case. If you remember seeing it displayed or sold any other way I would love to hear about it.
The U.S.S. Enterprise at the time was the toy to have, too young to build the models, and the shortage of "accurate" Starship toys to be had, the Dinky Toy version was as close to show as you were going to get. For the life of me this is one of the only toys I cannot remember getting as a gift for Christmas or a Birthday, I'm not saying it couldn't be, but I believe this came from either Toy Land at the Air Force Base Exchange or the Toy Box from Windsor Park Mall. It was more than likely the result of me begging and pleading for the pride of the Federation and the eventual purchase made by a parent. I never remember opening this on a Christmas morning or un wrapping it in a hail of birthday gifts, so it had to be from a toy expedition.
The Dinky Toys U.S.S. Enterprise was an amazing ship, not only did it come with a bottom that opened to reveal a little orange shuttle craft, but it came with these little solid "Photon Torpedos" that could be loaded into the main hull (the circular part) and with a twist of what would be the bridge you could fire them as fast as you could twist your little wrist. From what I remember these things shot rather far and hard. I think that was the best part about Dinky Toys, those little jewels could shoot missiles!
Okay so I mentioned the shuttle craft and it's landing bay... did I mention it was in the wrong place. Anyone who knows Star Trek knows the shuttles come out of the back of the Enterprise. Funny thing is years later the show "Enterprise" would show shuttle craft dropping out of the bottom of the ship, but that's another ship entirely. This little over sight used to bug the hell out of me as a kid. I would sit and wonder if I could modify this thing so that the shuttle would come out the back. I must have beat and pounded on this toy repeatedly try to figure out how to "crack it". But as a testament to the quality that is Dinky Toy, the Enterprise held, sure it's a little looser, but the damn thing held together. Eventually I gave up my quest to modify the toy. What I didn't mention is that the bottom shuttle bay actually has a duel purpose, the doors make a handy stand to display the ship. Now I knew it could do that, but I didn't appreciate that it could at the time.
Star Trek also had a Klingon Battle Cruiser, but I didn't care for that at the time, if it wasn't the Enterprise I didn't want anything to do with it. Besides who the hell wanted to be the bad guy??? The Klingon even came packaged in a set with the Enterprise and would shoot the Klingon equivalent of the Photon Torpedo, theirs happened to be white not yellow.
I remember for a while, when Star Wars hit, that they tried keeping the die cast vehicles from Kenner in the Dinky Toy case. That didn't last long, Dinky Toys were in a class by themselves, plus you know the clerk tired of open the case every five seconds to retrieve a TIE fighter of Land Speeder. I think this sort of confused me, because to this day I call the larger die-cast toys Dinky Toys, not so much Star Wars, mostly the Corgi and Ertl stuff.