Diecast on the Cheap - Summer (SM) Sunshine (SS)
by Doug Breithaupt

They come in a variety of packages and under different names but the toy car models of Summer carry the flag in the category of 'cheap diecast'. You often have to buy them in sets of 50 although they sometimes come in two-packs. For the better part of two decades, the models of Summer (SM) or Sunshine (SS), originally from Summer Metal Products Manufacturing, Ltd., have been the diecast poster child for crude Asian toy cars. While these models seem to carry various names, let's just call them Summer for the sake of simplicity.

What follows is surely the first (and perhaps last) attempt to create a catalog of Summer's toy cars in 1:64 scale. You may be asking why anyone would bother to attempt such a thankless task. Before you disregard Summer models as junk, take a closer look. You will find that while the quality is often as low as the price, Summer has actually produced some unique and yes, even collectible models. If you happen to have a 1949 Tucker by Summer, consider yourself lucky as this model is the only small-scale Tucker and considered quite a find by some collectors. As you look at the models below, note how many others are cars seldom seen in this scale.

Summer is perhaps best known for their 1:36 scale diecast cars, often found in discount or 'dollar stores' for a buck or two. The 1:64 scale models may carry a number but many do not. Most castings appear to be original work but some Matchbox models have provided clear 'inspiration' for Summer castings. Summer does have a Website and is currently producing some nicer models in 1:36 scale. Perhaps we will see the same thing happen in 1:64 scale as Welly and others have done. There seems to be a tie of some sort between Summer and Yat Ming. Some Yat Ming castings have a distinct Summer look to them and I recently found Summer's '55 Ford Thunderbird in a Yat Ming package.

Summer models have a mix of identifying features. If the base is numbers with an 's' prefix number, it is likely a Summer. Square wheel cut-outs appear on some of the cars. While different wheels have been used over the years, the most common are the 4-dot and 5-point star versions. One series of Summer castings appear to be their version of premier edition models. These feature opening doors and plastic interiors as opposed to the interior being cast with the base, usually in chrome. The Porsche 944 model is shown both ways below. While the Porsche 944 and Mercedes-Benz 350SL are much like Matchbox models of the same cars, the BMW 325i Cabrio and Jaguar XJ-S are unique castings in this series. Some of the earlier models like the Lancia Stratos and BMW 3.0 include the Summer name or SM logo. Where included on the base, numbers are provided. The Ferrari 308GTB shown here is also a Summer and features a pull-back motor.

Here are the Summer models I have and I am certain that this list is incomplete. If you want to contribute to the list, click here and send an attached image with your e-mail. I will be happy to update the list.

1953 Buick Convertible

1953 Chevrolet Coupe

1957 Chevrolet Belair

1958 Checker Marathon

1955 Ford Thunderbird

1956 Ford Thunderbird

1966 Pontiac GTO

1969 Pontiac GTO #S8504

1963 Chevy Corvette Stingray #S8506

1984 Chevrolet Corvette #S8564

1965 Ford Mustang

1949 Tucker

Alfa Romeo 2900 cabriolet

BMW 3.0CS #S890

BMW 635CSi

BMW 325i Cabriolet

Ford GT40 #89-27

Jaguar XJ6C #S689

Jaguar XJ-S

Lotus Esprit S4

Porsche 911 Turbo #S672

Porsche 928 #S8554

Porsche 944 Turbo

Porsche 944 Turbo (opening doors)

Porsche 917 #S8009

Renault Alpine A310

Rolls Royce Silver Spirit #S692

Rover 3500

Lancia Stratos race #S8006

Lancia Stratos rally #S673

Volvo 850 #S8802

Ferrari 308GTB #S8902

Maserati Merak

Nissan 280ZX #S8562

Mercedes-Benz 350SL Cabriolet

1965 Ford Mustang (w/sun roof)

Perhaps we should give Summer a break. One important consideration is that it is unlikely that Summer's 1:64 scale toy cars are intended for the major markets in North America or Europe. While I can't prove this, I bet that Summer exports their products to many developing nations where the low price of the product allows children in Africa, Asia or South America to afford a toy car. Where $500 a year is still considered a representative annual income, even a $1 toy car is a big purchase. Are Mattel's toy cars priced for these economically disadvantaged markets?

A Summer toy car, even with it's crude casting, could still have plenty of play value for a child. If that toy can be purchased for $.25, a parent in these developing economies may be able to bring the simple pleasure of a toy car to their child. Perhaps that is what I like most about toy cars, simple pleasure at a price anyone can afford. If Summer can do this, they deserve our thanks.