60 years on from Jaguar’s incredible success at Le Mans 1957, Michael Driver looks back at the early die-cast toys
The Matchbox 1-75 ‘Jaguar Racing Car’ offerings, from left to right, the smaller version with die-cast wheels and the larger version with plastic wheels, spoked wheels and red plastic wheels.
The crowning glory for the Jaguar D-Type came 60 years ago. In 1957, for the third year running, a D-Type was driven to victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours Race. This was an achievement in itself, but incredibly, in that year five D-Types were to finish in the top six places. The winning car was driven by Ron Flockart and Ivor Bueb; Ninian Sanderson and John Lawrence came in second; Jean Lucas and Jean Brousselle, third; Paul Frere and Freddy Rouselle fourth, and in sixth place were Duncan Hamilton and Masten Gregory. Jaguar had certainly made its mark on motor racing history!
It is now 63 years since the D-Type prototype, a car designed with the express intention of winning at Le Mans, first appeared, in 1954. In that year’s race it came in second, driven by Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton. The following year, 1955, however, Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb went on to win the race in a D-Type. This was a momentous moment both for Jaguar and the D-Type, and one that was to be repeated in 1956, when Ron Flockart and Ninian Sanderson crossed the finishing line.
Many years later, during a visit to Jaguar at Browns Lane, I had just parked when I heard the deep roar of a car engine. This, it turned out, was being omitted by a Jaguar D-Type from the Jaguar Heritage Collection. Leaving my own car and moving closer to admire this awesome beast, I could only imagine the impact the D-Type must have made when it first raced at Le Mans back in 1954.
Not surprisingly, the sheer success of the Jaguar D-Type saw a number of toy manufacturers sit up and take notice. Over the years, of course, a vast number of Jaguar D-Type models have been released, by manufacturers worldwide, but I am not going to include all of these in this article. Here I will be looking solely at the work of the toy makers who were around in the 1950s, in the golden age of die-cast toys.
It must be remembered that these were toys and, as such, while they captured the essence of the car, they were not always true scale models, despite adverts claiming them to be so. The names toy manufacturers used for the D-Type vary, but at least all refer to the car as a Jaguar. Also some of the models came in curious colours, but these simply provide the variety essential for toys.
The tiny (1:86 scale) Midget Cars Company of France ‘Jaguar 24h. du Mans’ with it original card box.
Read the full article in Model Collector September 2017
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