Perhaps the most popular of the Eagle toys worldwide, the Dinky Eagle was (and still is) highly sought after in almost any condition. Marketing was quite different back in the 1970’s and perhaps led to Dinky’s demise, but what a ride it was.
Dinky had a great track record selling Gerry Anderson show toys from the 60’s and 70’s, so it was no surprise that Dinky/Mecanno snapped up the Eagle plans (back then, better known as the MTU which was originally in the mold during its original production). Chris Bentley laid out the historical details on the production of the Eagle in the Space: 1999 Vault book. Below are the authentic (and rarely seen) Freighter blueprints shared by Martin Ackroyd.
As Brian Johnson created a wonderful and aesthetically pleasing multi-purpose moon hopper, Dinky jumped on that band wagon and produced not one, but two Eagle editions. The Transporter and the Freighter. A great marketing idea at the time since Dinky now needed to just produce one Eagle tooling mold but two different pod molds with the potential of doubling their money minimizing production costs.
Yes, the conversation as long as those silly die cast ships have been out, the main question always has been “why is the main Eagle, the one everyone wanted, was produced with the green color”? We may never know, but there are several interesting speculations that folks have come up with. Whether it was a marketing reason to get the kid’s attention, to ensure that there was obvious distinctions between the two editions, Dinky had so much green paint they needed to just use it (so, why didn’t they do that with Thunderbird 2 vice using blue paint, you say?) and the list goes on. Using this engineered toy design and the colors set the stage for others to follow. Companies like Yot Toys, LJN Roadstars, AHI, and Helm toys all used either green or a blue-green color to their Eagle release. They even used the unique spine design that Dinky use pretty much outright copying it almost to the last detail.
“Eagle Zoom to the Year 2000!” The advertising campaign was very strong with UK/US/Europe in-store posters, magazine and comic advertising in full swing. Dinky also produced a very nice annual colorful catalog that showcased the Eagles. The artwork was expertly branded and had its own unique look that was very appealing to the would-be customer. As Christ Bentley mentioned, there were tens of thousands of those Eagles produced in the first year alone and sold very well for the first three years of production. Dinky actually produced both of those Eagle from 1975 thru 1979. What toy company does that nowadays? Even Hasbro changes up the Star Wars lines every year with new goods. Towards the end, Dinky (shoulda,woulda,coulda hind sight) might not have failed if they won more licenses and produced fresh new toys, but that is a different story not exactly relevant to this article except that the Eagle itself was a part of Dinky’s end.
One big highlight in the States was the “Dinky Club of America”. They offered a nice quarterly short lived newsletter, a certificate, a poster and a few other goodies (thank you Plaid Stallions for the reference photos). They also offered members some great 50% off discounts (yeah, imagine that really cool Eagle Freighter at just $6). This was also the time they just won the license to release the Star Trek TOS Enterprise and Klingon ships. As 1999 was winding down and moving further away from the initial cancelation, there was significant more focus on moving the Star Trek merch. They knew that there was motion picture potential and when the time came, they ended up releasing the miniature die-cast Enterprise and Klingon battle cruiser line. I personally had all of this material “back in the day”.
Where to begin on the Eagle variants. Well, Catacombs hosts a website that offers extensive information on the different Eagle releases and while most of the information is correct, there are some additional subtle differences in those releases that gets into the boundaries of meaningless information unless you really need to know this stuff. Such as the first release transporter flat head screws versus Dinky using Phillips head. Or the differences of the blue Freighter below. My thoughts on this subject are rather important and rarely discussed. Dinky Eagles really have stood the test of time, but a number of things to note are rather important in order to maintain a level of “mintiness” to both the Eagle and the box that it came it. For instance, the silver parts that are used for the screws, the spine frame, the landing feet and the engine fuel cells all had a bad issue of corroding/rusting and is somewhat difficult to remove it to the original glory of the silver gleam. One thing to really take into consideration is to ensure that they are displayed inside the box or covered up somehow (under plexi/Perspex or the like) to minimize the humidity which leads to the rusting in the first place. I have spent many an hour using some sort of metal polish to remove that rust and some examples are much worse than others. There is a level of no return unless you’re going for more of a restoration rather than just a clean-up. Unfortunately, that rust has a tendency of leaving stains on the original box itself, especially the bubble-top (or plinth) version.
Another issue that I have ran into time and time again is the unnecessary chipping of the paint due to a loose grabber from the spine, unsecure shipping practices or someone was “playing” with the Eagle in between some display setups. Even I am guilty of “whooshing” the Eagles around the room from time to time. All that leads to wear and tear of those pods. Another headache is the bubble top turning a dark green and becoming very brittle due to that type of plastic suffering from UV damage. Rarely do you see a minty bubbletop that had so exposure. Although there is a company that produces repro boxes, they aren’t quite the same but display very well. If having the original box is not important to you, then perhaps that would be a road well-traveled. One other tid-bit about the boxes. Please, please, please either ship or ask the seller to ship the Eagle outside of the box. Whether the bubble top or the peg box editions, those silly Eagles have serious weight to them and WILL move around inside its own packaging almost guaranteeing box damage in shipping. Food for thought.
Inspired by Dinky Toys, Steve Walker of Sixteen12 Collectibles had produced a “Retro” edition of his 12″ Eagle Dinky style. For both the Transporter and the Freighter.
What can I say about the Dinky Eagle that hasn’t been said already? It was one of the pinnacle goto toys back in the day. The Space: 1999 mainstay. Mattel had the big Eagle, but Dinky had the die cast of choice. And, boy, did they make a LOT of them. Five years of production equals a lot of those Eagles. They show up on eBay almost all of the time in almost all conditions and variants. You might pay a premium for a minty one or get one for a song if you’re willing to get it as-is and perhaps restore it yourself. Darn shame about that Dinky Toymaker set that never happened. Speaking of restoration, would you believe that with 3D printing technology, you can pretty much outfit your Eagles with several accessories that we only dreamed of growing up. Yep, strap-on additional boosters, a lab pod, and much more. By the way, no! there were never any special edition total white transporters. Sorry, Dinky never released them that way. Whatever you have seen or heard, it never happened. What was your favorite Dinky Eagle?