Found in the Letterbox
The following are e-mail responses to 'Tales of Toy Cars' and The Breithaupt Miniature Motorcar Museum. Your letters are welcome and may be submitted via the 'Guest Book'.
Editor's response: I know I'm not the only one who is a bit envious
Missing brands of three-inch diecasts:
Aguti (Argentina, 1970s)
Gama Minette (Germany, 1968-1970)
Guiloy (Spain, 1980s)
Hubley/Real Types (USA/Canada, early 1960s)
Metalcar (Hungary, 1970s-date)
Metchy (Hungary, 1980s-date)
Mira (Spain, 1970s/80s)
Polfi (Greece, 1970s/80s)
Rei (Brazil, late 1970s)
Smer (Czechoslovakia, 1960s)
Solido Mosquito (France, 1952-1957)
Summer (Hong Kong/China, 1990s-date)
Welly (Hong Kong/China, 1990s-date)
I am sure there are many others, but these are all I can think of at the moment. I am mainly a collector of Matchbox Miniatures, but I am always interested in acquiring information on all small-scale models (both diecast and plastic). Besides I am a Citroen fan, so I collect all small-scale models of larger Citroen cars (i.e. hydropneumatic suspension models). Congratulations on your 1:1 scale SM, a car which I admire very much. I enjoyed reading your article about it.
Here is what I know: Best Box / Efsi: I have been familiar with these brands since my childhood as they used to be readily available here in Austria in the late 60s / early 70s. It is obvious that Efsi is the successor of Best Box because there are many models of these two brands which differ just by the brand name on the base. One example is a Citroen ID Break which was done in many different colors and with a few different wheel styles. I have five Best Box and four Efsi versions in my own collection, one of the latter being an ambulance.
The name change must have occurred around 1970; I know for sure that in 1972 the name was already Efsi. I do not know the reason for the change, but it may well be that Lesney Matchbox enforced it somehow because of the similarity of the names.
Here is a list of Efsi models from 1972 (taken from the back of a blisterpack):
101-109 Model T Ford in several versions
201 BRM Racing Car
202 Honda Racing Car
203 Ferrari Racing Car
204 Brabham Racing Car
205 McLaren Racing Car
206 Lotus Racing Car
302 Commer Va
303-305 Mercedes Trucks
306-307 Truck Trailers
401 Ford Taunus 17m
402 Porsche 911 S
403 Jaguar E Type
404 Mercedes 280 SL
405 Opel Rekord 1900
406 Mercedes 250 SE Coupe
407 BMW 2000 CS
408 VW 1600 TL
409 Citroen ID 19 Break
410 Citroen Dyane 6
411 Ford Transit Van
The company existed until the early 1990s but made only H0 scale truck models in its later years. I remember seeing their stall at Nuremberg Toyfair in 1991, when they offered mainly promotional liveries on their truck castings. Afterwards they disappeared.
Smer - This company still exists but produces mainly H0 scale plastic models. In the 1960s they made some diecasts in 3-inch size; the only ones I know are models of Tatra trucks. I do not know if they ever made diecast models of passenger cars.
Polfi - Yet another company which produced just plastic models in recent times (do not know if they still exist). My attention was drawn to the brand by a diecast Citroen CX obviously made in the 1970s which resembles the Majorette model but is of worse quality. I have a brown saloon and a red Fire Chief version (with roof light) in my collection. The only other Polfi diecast model I know of is a 1970s Mercedes S Class. The back of the Citroen's blisterpack gives the company's address as Polfi Toys S.A., Potiris - Lalos - Fragopoulos, 6 Chr. Lada Str., 121 32 Peristeri, Athens, Greece, tel. (01) 5739 911. (Decide for yourself if it is worth trying to contact them.)
There are many more brands you could mention in your list. For example I am thinking of French companies like CIJ, Gitanes and Jadali which made diecast models in the 1950s and 1960s. All of these were slightly smaller than what you would call 1:64, but then Matchbox models of that era were also smaller. I have got a Citroen DS by Gitanes which is even smaller than H0 scale and still reminds me very much of the early Matchbox DS (number 66A). It is not easy to decide where to draw the line.
Also of course there are numerous brands of 3-inch diecasts made by companies from the far east. If you visit a large toyfair like the one in Nuremberg, you inevitably pass dozens of stalls offering hundreds of small diecast models which all look somewhat similar. It is impossible to tell which of the exhibitors are just distributing other companies' products and which are proper manufacturers. Even the Tootsietoy brand has been reintroduced with a range of 3-inch diecasts made in China which are very similar to current Matchbox or Maisto models. In the UK, Maisto models are available under the brand name Chad Valley, which is also a name with a very long history. (Edocar is the same in Holland; so if you list Edocar, you should also list Chad Valley, shouldn't you?) And so on...
I think nobody will ever be able to draw a complete picture of the world
of 3-inch diecasts. But it's still fun trying!
Christian Falkensteiner, Linz, Austria
Editor's response: Christian sent me this e-mail in response to my attempt to chart the history of 1:64 scale diecast. His expert information is worth sharing, especially the Efsi list.