Dinky Toys, made in Hong Kong by Hong Kong Industrial (HKI)

Hugh Farmer:  I grew up with Dinky Toys as did many British boys in the 1950s and 60s and had a good collection of battered, tyre less cars. I had always assumed they were made in England and indeed the main factory was at Binns Road, Liverpool.

It is perhaps difficult to believe now that when I was a child, “in the 50s and 60s, the UK effectively led the world’s toy industry… the nation’s major die-cast vehicle brands – Matchbox, Corgi and Dinky Toys – were household names in many countries. Also popular were Hornby model railways, Pedigree Dolls & Toys Sindy fashion doll and Palitoy’s Tressy, Britain’s version of the popular American Character doll of the same name. At one time, the UK’s Lines Bros Ltd was the world’s largest toy company, owning most of the top brands and companies”. (1)

However given the importance of the toy industry in Hong Kong between the 1960′s and 1980s it is not surprising that Dinkys were also made here. And indeed between 1965 and 1967 six model cars were produced for Dinky Toys in Hong Kong for the lucrative U.S. market. Originally intended to be produced by Spot-On, but re-branded as Dinky Toys when the Spot-On parent company (Tri-ang) bought Meccano Ltd, they were built to the usual Spot-On scale of 1:42. All six cars were American vehicles (2):

57-001 Buick Riviera
57-002 Chevrolet Corvair Monza
57-003 Chevrolet Impala
57-004 Oldsmobile 88 *
57-005 Ford Thunderbird
57-006 Rambler Classic

* Steve posted this comment: Regarding the six original Hong Kong Dinky Toys, Dinky advertising literature listed 57-004 as a Dodge Polara Convertible. This model was apparently never released although it was illustrated in the catalog. At some point the 57-004 product number debuted as the Oldsmobile 88 instead.

Buick Riviera Dinky Toy

Buick Riviera Dinky Toy

Time to introduce the leading Hong Kong toymaker Hong Kong Industrial (HKI).

HKI demands its own article but a few notes here will suffice for the moment. The company was started in 1955 by Loh Te Sing. “Lo took over an existing factory owned by an  Indonesian Chinese. It was located in Smithfield the western end of Hong Kong island…The first plastic toys to come out of HKI were simple but fun.” One of the first being a water gun.  Loh was financially backed  by the Song brothers, one of whom, Song Vung Kwe, was the partner of  British entrepreneur George Marsden in Shanghai.

From the outset Loh was keen to expand. “Buoyed by strong sales of the gun, HKI grew rapidly. Perhaps too rapidly because… around 1959 the Songs invited the Marsdens into HKI as investors and partners. By this stage HKI had six plants scattered across different locations in Queen’s Road West, West Point and Aberdeen. In 1962… all these…were consolidated and moved to Smithfield. The company employed around 2,000 people at this time” 

With [the] fresh capital, Loh began to upgrade HKI’s machinery and capabilities…and this investment in new technology enabled [the company] to move beyond its early focus on making unbranded generic toys for the open market into the more profitable business of making more sophisticated toys under contract to overseas toy companies. A key client was British company Lines Bros…Meccano Ltd, with its Dinky Toys die-cast miniature model cars and trucks, was another British client.” (4)

Dinky Toys logo 1970s

Dinky Toys logo 1970s

I don’t know why manufacturing stopped in Hong Kong. However, during 1978 and 1979, production of Dinky Toys in Hong Kong was again resumed. These were poor quality models, however, compared to earlier Dinkys, and an attempt to cut production costs and possibly shift production should the Binns Road Factory close, which it eventually did in November 1979. So, the last new Dinky Toys made by Meccano were Hong Kong products. Ironically, these are now some of the most sought after of all Dinky Toys. A few, such as the Mk2 Ford Granada, and Steed’s Jaguar from the New Avengers TV series exist as pre-production examples only. (5)

We now have dates from Wikipedia for production of Dinky Toys in HK from1965-1967 and 1978-1979. And a link to Meccano Ltd, maker of Dinky Toys, products being made in HK by HKI in Sarah Monks’ book which is undated but appears to be in the mid 1960s.

Can you take us further with the story of Dinky Toys, Made in Hong Kong?

To indicate the scale of toy manufacturing  here, in 1970 HK had about 1,100 toy factories employing about 40,000 people.
In 1972 HK replaced Japan as the world’s largest exporter of toys.

Sources:
(1) Sarah Monks, Toy Town: How a Hong Kong Industry Played a Global Game. The HK Toys Manufacturers Association, 2011, p55
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinky_Toys#Hong_Kong

(3) Monks, p76
(4) Monks, pp 75-76
(5) drawing on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinky_Toys#Hong_Kong

Sarah Monks kindly enabled permission to be given by the Toy Town copyright holder (the Toys Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong) for some extracts from the book to be used on this site.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Toy Museum in Hong Kong and World’s largest exporter of toys
  2. Lam Leung-tim – Forward Winsome Industries Ltd
  3. Forward Winsome – a brief history of a major HK toy company

General Information

  1. http://www.talkmodeltoys.com/discus/messages/27668/1536.html?1233186484 Detailed information about the Binns Road factory and Dinky Toys in Liverpool, UK
  2. http://www.dinkysite.com/#/history/4515774701 A website devoted to Dinky Toys
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinky_Toys Tons of information

7 Comments

  • Mary Anne Le Bas

    On the subject of toys, when I first arrived in Hong Kong, in 1983, people on Lamma island were assembling dolls – there was a pile of arms and legs etc in the middle of a table, and women sitting around the table putting them together. These were restaurant tables during a quiet time of the day. After a few months, I didn’t see this any more. Does anyone else remember seeing this style of work?

    • Hugh Farmer

      Interesting Mary Anne. I’ve seen photos of such doll assembly in areas of Kowloon, Both in small manufacturing units and individual women doing so at home. .I didn’t know this happened on Lamma. I’ll add your information to the article on Lamma Island Industry.

      Were they also put together on other islands around or before this time?

      And I wonder where the doll components were themselves made, probably in HK. Does anyone know more about this?

  • Steve

    Regarding the six original Hong Kong Dinky Toys, Dinky advertising literature listed 57-004 as a Dodge Polara Convertible. This model was apparently never released although it was illustrated in the catalog. At some point the 57-004 product number debuted as the Oldsmobile 88 instead.

    • Thanks for the update Steve.

      I’ve noted your comment in the main article.

      I think Dinky Toys, when owned by Meccano Ltd, UK, were made in HK by Hong Kong Industrial (HKI). Can anyone confirm this and tell us more about HKI and the Dinky connection?

  • FRANCESCO

    I HAVE A FEW SMALL SCALE DINKY TOYS MADE IN HONG KONG IN THE 70’S ,MOST OF THEM I KNOW THE CAR BRAND, BUT A FEW ,I DON’T .IS THERE A LIST OF MODELS MADE IN THOSE DAYS AVAILABLE ? ANY PICTURES ?

    • Hello Francesco

      The only information we have regarding the Dinky Toys made in Hong Kong is in the article. You may well find further information and photos elsewhere online. If you do it would be good to hear from you.

      Hugh Farmer

  • Richard k

    Just bought nine carded Hong Kong Dinky Toys which look very similar to Yatming. They were build under license of Airfix.
    On the back of the card are 12 models, but the of those only a few are found and the models I currently have are not cataloged anywhere.
    I have been asked to add them to the HobbyDB site.
    These carded models are approximately scale 1/76 very poor and cheap quality, some have opening features, so some effort in good design has been afforded.
    There are still collectors who refuse to believe these are worth collecting. Yay for us.

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