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Strange New Worlds Issue #08
Issue #08
plus shipping
24 pages
two-color cover, black-and-white interior

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Die-cast toys
available online



Strange New Worlds Issue 8 - Apr/May 1993

A Thunderbirds Buyers Guide :
Diecast Thunderbirds Spaceships and Other Vehicles

by Mark Kulenich

Die-Cast Vehicles - Dinky

There is a plethora of "Thunderbirds" Die-Cast Vehicles available on the market. The most desirable pieces are the old Dinky TB2s. The original Dinky was six inches long, green, and constructed of metal except for the plastic legs and engine pods. A button below each wing controlled the spring release of the vehicle's legs. Inside the separating pod was a little plastic TB4. Several years later Dinky reintroduced the same set as a bluish-green TB2 that was an inch longer. The first version is the more prized among collectors, although both versions are desirable.

Dinky also produced a magnificent Fab 1. Pink, with a clear canopy, this toy car had fairly nice representations of Parker behind the wheel and Lady Penelope in the back seat. The grille opens, missiles fire from the front, and harpoons fire from the taillights. This is an extremely interesting toy.

Both the TB2s and the Fab 1 were packaged in England in cardboard display boxes; in the States they were packaged on a cardboard base with a clear vacu-form top. No further "Thunderbirds" die-cast was available until the 1990s.

Die-Cast Vehicles - Matchbox

8-matchbox-diecast1-4.jpg (16888 bytes)

Matchbox’s metal and plastic TB1 is beautifully crafted to scale and features folding wings. It is packaged on a colorful card with a painting of TB1 coming in for a landing with retrorocket firing.

I have mixed feelings about Matchbox’s TB2 with separating pod. It is roughly the same size as the original Dinky. They added surface detailing to it . . . some of it enhances the vehicle, some doesn’t. It still features the flap-down legs, but bright red buttons are on the top instead of on the sides. They added a rather large red pod-release lever on the back; I assume this was so a little tyke could drop this heavy piece of metal on Mom or Dad’s bare foot. These three red triggers detract from the overall look of the toy. Of course, the key word here is "toy." It was never designed to be an accurate scale model. The TB4 that comes with this, however, is stunning. Manufacturing it in metal allows more details than plastic. It is also larger than the original Dinky plastic version. Though only an inch long, it’s a treasure.

Matchbox’s TB3 is fantasticly detailed. This and the TB1 are the nicest of the Matchbox vehicles.

8-matchbox-penelope.jpg (18743 bytes)Matchbox's Fab 1 leaves much to be desired. It is far too short and stubby. The clear windshield is outrageously out of proportion. The interior is fair. You could probably do something with it. We made a smaller canopy for it and modified a HO scale slotcar chasis to transport the Rolls. It looks neat running around on the race car track. I have some old Aurora cars that are similar to the background cars used in the show and it looks nice. The cost of a Fab 1, is low enough that most people are going to want to take them out of the package to play with and customize.


Matchbox also sells the five Thunderbird vehicles in two gift sets. The Rescue Pack comes in a 14" x 12" box with lovely artwork on a hinged lid. The vehicles are displayed in a diecut cardboard box. The Commemorative Set was distributed by BBC Radio Times. It includes the same five vehicles, but comes in a considerably larger box with different art and a lift-off lid. The vehicles are displayed under a vacu-formed sheet. Inside is an absolutely gorgeous, full-color lithograph of the vehicles and their pilots. This was offered as a premium. As a collector of artwork, I recommend the Commemorative Set. It is a much more impressive piece, but also much more expensive.

8-thunderbirdsrescuepack.jpg (93989 bytes)

The die-cast Tracy Island Playset is huge. Packaged in a terrific box, it is designed to display the Matchbox Thunderbirds vehicles. Pressing different buttons throughout the Playset activates realistic rocket sounds and pilot voices. It is a unique toy. These are presently extremely difficult to locate. However, they will shortly become readily available. Initial reports announced that the set was all metal; it is not. But considering the overall result, you can forgive them that. This set must be seen to be believed.

(Visit the Matchbox Store)

Die-Cast Vehicles - Bandai

Bandai has already ripped off the Matchbox Rescue Pack. Bandai’s TB6 Scramble Set offers a Matchbox TB3 and a Matchbox Fab 1. They do not attempt to hide that they are selling Matchbox items; the logo is stamped clearly on the bottom. The Scramble Set includes a different TB2, much smaller with detachable legs, a separting cargo pod, and a tiny Mole. The included TB4 is about three inches long with terrific detailing. What makes this set so interesting is the addition of a die-cast TB5. With the exception of the IMAI plastic kit, this is the best reproduction of TB5 I have ever seen. It has full antennae rigging, top and bottom. As in the IMAI kit, TB5 is mounted by wire to a small portion of the Earth for its base. A TB3 can dock with it.

8-tb1-diecast.jpg (24283 bytes)

Bandai’s 5" Thunderbird 1 is pretty lame. The nose-cone is out of proportion. It has a little lever underneath to fold back the wings. I dislike the little gantry display base — its not very exciting. With this low-budget item, you get what you pay for.

Bandai’s 9" Thunderbird 1 comes elevated on a blue plastic base that makes it look as if it is in flight. The base is a replica of the International Rescue logo. Molded in chrome plastic, it is beautifully painted. You must add some details and decals, but it is well worth the effort. If you press one of the letters in the word "Thundbird," the wings slowly open. If you press the "U," a small LED flashes and the sound of machineguns erupts from the plane. It’s a beautiful, displayable piece.

Bandai’s TB2 is 6" long. The profile is poor, but this is a nice, heavy piece with separating pod, opening door, and a detailed plastic Mole. Bandai has recently released an expanded version with two pods and eleven plastic Rescue vehicles. I was very impressed with this set.

The Granddaddy of all TB2s, as far as preassembled vehicles, is Bandai’s 16" metal and plastic version. It features separating pod, functioning door, three elevator cars, a Firefly, a Recovery Vehicle, a TB4, a Mole, and the five Tracy brothers as little plastic figures. This, to me, is the cornerstone of a good "Thunderbird" toy collection.

Bandai’s 4" TB4 is finely detailed and quite heavy. The box is particularly nice. Bandai’s battery-operated Mole is cool and offers lots of action features. Priced quite high, this is definitely a case of getting what you pay for.

Buyers Guide:
Thunderbirds Plastic Model Kits
Thunderbirds Diecast Vehicles
Thunderbirds Action Figures
Shop Thunderbirds collectibles
Thunderbirds Books


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