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
Matchboxs 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 Matchboxs 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 doesnt. 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 Dads 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, its a treasure.
Matchboxs TB3 is fantasticly detailed. This and the TB1 are the nicest of the
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.
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
Die-Cast Vehicles - Bandai
Bandai has already ripped off the Matchbox Rescue Pack. Bandais 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.
Bandais 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.
Bandais 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. Its a beautiful,
Bandais 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 Bandais 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
Bandais 4" TB4 is finely detailed and quite heavy. The box is particularly
nice. Bandais 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.
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