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History of Spot-on

Spot-On was a brand name for a line of toy cars and commercial vehicles built in Northern Ireland (UK). Spot-on is also British slang meaning "just so" or "exactly right".

Spot-On was a new range from Tri-ang, a division of Lines Brothers, who, at one time, claimed to be the largest toy maker in the world. In the 1950s Dinky Toys, made in Liverpool, England, had a successful range of cars. These were joined in 1956 by Corgi Toys made by Mettoy. Corgi quickly grew to be the equal of Dinky in both the range and quality of its products. Not wishing to miss out on a commercial opportunity, Lines Bros. started its own range in 1959 using its factory in Northern Ireland. Murray Lines was put in personal charge of model selection.

The objective of Spot-On was identical to that of Dinky and Corgi - to make true-to-life models that also served as toys. Consequently, these models needed to be detailed but robust. As Dinky and Corgi were already established, Spot-On required a marketing gimmick. Dinky and Corgi were both a little loose with their scale - typically around 1:48 for cars, but Spot-On decided always to be exactly, "spot-on", 1:42. The company also adopted this scale for buses and commercial vehicles which made these models much larger than most Dinky and Corgi toys.

Spot-On tried first to establish itself in the British market, concentrating on a choice of cars that were familiar to Britons (the first was a UK Ford Zodiac). Even its name was one that was more easily understood in the UK than, for instance, in the States where Dinky and Corgi sold a large number of models. Spot-On models were well made, detailed and heavy. This, together with their larger size and smaller production numbers, made them more expensive than the competition. Consequently, they made a relatively small impact on the toy car market. However, backed by the Lines Brothers empire, the product range did not need to make an immediate profit to survive.

Although more conservative than Corgi Toys, Spot-On did introduce some innovations. In particular, several cars were redesigned to incorporate battery powered working headlights and, subsequently, detailed interiors which often featured interestingly dressed drivers and passengers.

Both large and small cars were chosen for inclusion in the range to fully accentuate the fixed 1:42 scale. Rolls Royce were represented initially by the Silver Wraith and, later, by the even larger Phantom V which featured working lights and members of the Royal Family as passengers. Smaller vehicles included the Isetta bubble car, the rare Meadows Frisky, the Fiat 500 and the Goggomobile. Also added were exotic sports cars such as the Aston Martin DB Mark III, Jensen 541, Daimler SP250, and Bristol 406, along with more mundane models such as the Hillman Minx and Austin A40.

In 1964, Lines Bros. acquired Meccano, the parent company of Dinky Toys and, rather than support two brands simultaneously, the owners decided to discontinue Spot-On in favour of Dinky. Some production continued in New Zealand and it was planned to produce, in Hong Kong, a range of American Cars for export to the United States but these were eventually re-labelled as the Dinky Toys "57" series - but retaining the 1:42 scale. From this point on Dinky adopted 1:42 as a general scale for its own new car and bus models although unlike Spot-On they did not always stick to this scale and continued to make both larger and smaller scales models to fit in with different price points in the market. Spot-On also made a line of doll's house furniture, using a different (1:16) scale.

Today, Spot-On models are as collectible as Dinky Toys and Corgi Toys and can command high prices. The Morris Minor 1000 is a particular favourite of collectors, because this car, which has almost cult status, was not in the Corgi and Dinky ranges. Unfortunately, many Spot-On models had artificial chrome attachments that have tended to not last as well as Dinky Toys of the era. However, there is a market in replacement parts, and some commercial enterprises will undertake full restoration of the models.

History of Solido

Solido is a french manufacturer of model cars and trucks based in Oulins, Anet, France, about 40 miles west of Paris. Cars are usually made of the alloy zamac in varying sizes, but mostly 1:43 scale.

Solido was established in 1930 by Ferdinand de Vazeilles in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre, France. Vazeilles' first product was a Gergovia spark plug on wheels. The first Solido lines (Major, Junior and Baby) were introduced in 1932, 1933, and 1935, respectively. The Major series was 1:35 scale and was already phased out by 1937 according to Edward Force. These were simpler toys, fragile and subject to metal fatigue.

After World War II, the company was relocated to Anet. In 1952, a smaller rather crude 1:60 scale 'Mosquito' series was introduced with 12 models. The first 1:43 scale '100' series was started in 1957 and this set the stage for Solido's ascendance, though models were not numbered until 1962, according to Force. The first military vehicles, for which Solido became particularly well known, appeared in 1961.

Through the 1960s, models continually improved in detail and realism, and were often based on blueprints from actual car manufacturers. The '100' series was a combination of realistic production cars as well as competition models, mostly from European manufacturers. French Citroen, Peugeot, Renault and Matra were often the focus, but vehicles from Italy and Germany were also dominant. British selections were not so common. In the mid-1970s, there were about 50 models in the standard line.

By 1970, the company was fairly diversified, making a line of classic cars (L'Age d'Or - about 12 models), Les Militaires (about 40 models), commercial vehicles (Toner Gam - about 15 models), and "Poids Lords", a series of larger heavier diecast trucks (about 10 different models). Several gift sets were available. During the early 1970s Solido became the benchmark of the collectible 1:43 scale diecast vehicle.


Solido GAM 2 series Peugeot 504 Rallye from the late 1970s (1:43 scale)

Although Solido was already established by the time Dinky reached the French market in 1934, the two ranges were not in direct competition as the Dinkies were smaller and cheaper and did not have clockwork motorFor example, Corgi Toys and Dinky Toys used flashy, but inauthentic "jewels" for head and tail lights while Solido distinguished itself by prudently using clear plastics for enhanced realism. While some 1:43 scale diecasts like the Italian Polistil in the late 1960s with their Politoys M-Series, used a very handsome metal "wire" wheel, Solido beat that. In their 100 and GAM 2 series in the 1970s, they impressively copied the wheel styles from the actual vehicles - so Solidos usually had a unique wheel style for every model. To keep down production costs, the competition usually used one (often simple or unattractive) style common to most vehicles in their lines. Eventually, even for Solido, this became impractical and the company stopped using unique wheel designs around 1980.

The trade-off in superior wheel detail was in not having all parts open or move, as seen with Politoys' M Series, Mebetoys or the German Gama Toys. Solidos would have an opening engine lid or doors, but not all parts functioned. By the late 1970s, Solido's GAM 2 series more commonly had no moving parts. Nevertheless, Solido detail remained impeccable and their cars remained the industry standard (for the price) through the early 1990s.

Around 1980, Solido dies were made in a slightly simpler form and sold as the Verem brand. Boxes from the time say that Verem was based in Rouvres, a couple miles south of Oulins.

Other sizes, besides 1:43 were also introduced, such as the 1:18 scale Prestige line that was popular in the 1990s. The Mini Cooper in this larger size was actually made in 1:16 scale.

A more recent Lancia Dialogos (scale 1:43)

Solido Today

The company was bought by the well-known and concurrent Majorette in 1980, a time of some simplification of models, but without harm to overall quality. The company became part of toy producer Smoby when it bought Majorette in 2003. Smoby became part of the Simba Dickey Group which also owns German model producers Schuco and Schabak. Majorette was to be divorced from Smoby again in 2008 and sold to MI29, a French investment fund which owns Bigben Interactive, for nearly €4,000,000.

Over the last couple of decades, Solido 1:43 scale diecasts have more recently moved into a more premium and ultra detailed model - more for the collector and less for children - competing with the likes of French Eligor Models and Portuguese Vitesse Models.