with Fun Ho!
by Kimmo Sahakangas
Chevrolet Bel Air package
Chevrolet Bel Air
Military Mover Jeep
Fun Ho! models were manufactured by a New Zealand company known as Underwood Engineering Co., Ltd. for over fifty years. Jack Underwood began the company in the 1930's with the first toys manufactured in lead (1). In the 1950's the company made cast aluminum toy cars and commercial vehicles. See www.Fun Ho.com for history of the company. The website introduces the Fun Ho! National Toy Museum located in Inglewood, New Zealand where the models were also manufactured.
Fun Ho! diecast models have very much of an English flavor (2), with some vehicles very similar in selection although in a smaller scale. In addition, the line included models of Australian cars not commonly produced by other manufacturers (3). Models are simple castings with distinct painted colors. The "copper plating" look was also rendered on several models. Wheels are reminiscent of the Matchbox regular wheels. There are no plastic inserts for window glazing. Models typically have an unpainted base with the name, number, and "Made In New Zealand".
The Fun Ho! "Midget Scale Model Series" was born in 1962 for which the company would be remembered (4). A total of 72 models at one point are included in the miniature diecast scale, many as single castings, other numbers were duplicate castings utilizing a different theme. The "Mighty Movers" series were produced simultaneously (5). It appears that the former were sold in boxes and the latter sold in blister packs.
Various types of packaging were employed with the offerings. Packaging types include a box of simple graphics with yellow and orange colors. Inside the box, a small single sheet depicting 40 models in the series would be wrapped around the model. Another is the window box that reveals the model. Different types of blister packaging, and gift sets are also offered. Others most likely exist. Later, 72 models make up the series, with a portion being the same models in an "Army" guise, packaged in "Military Mover" blister packs.
The series did not have a wide distribution and are not easy to find today, however, the models were sold only in New Zealand and Australia (5). In addition they are not well known elsewhere and it may be possible to pay far less for them than for the popular names in the diecast arena. Exceptions to the rule would be bidding on ebay for particular models that are sought by the avid diecast collector. An example is the Number 25 M.G. Sports Car, selling for a high bid of 56 dollars. Less desirable models go for considerably less.
In 1982 the line was discontinued due to competition from other sources. The factory finally closed five years later (1). The legacy continues with the Fun Ho! National Toy Museum opening in 1990. Former Purchasing officer Barry Young gathered together a full collection of Fun Ho! toys. (1)
In the mid 1990's, models with actual Fun Ho! castings were assembled featuring translucent window glazing. Even the boxes were reproduced almost exactly as the originals. (6) The basic color schemes do not take away the modest and elegant nature of the models, however, the originals have a higher quality finish due to the fact that a larger and precise production system was utilized.
I discovered Fun Ho! diecast models for myself over twenty years ago. Earlier, in the late 1960's, I do remember a series of model cars very similar to Fun Ho! that were sold in a set of 16 to 20 models at Montgomery Ward. They were most likely not Fun Ho! although the vivid and unusual color schemes of the models I saw were not forgotten!
In concluding this article, I hope to hear from other collectors who enjoy collecting the Fun Ho! line of miniatures and include any additional information that was overlooked by me.
Jaguar Mk. X
Rolls Royce package
Mighty Mover Bedford