Hong Kong Industrial (HKI) and its manufacturing of Dinky Toys
Dean Foyle is very interested in how long and where Dinky Toys were manufactured in Hong Kong, when they stopped being made there and the switch to Hot Wheels die-cast car production introduced by American toy maker Mattel in 1968.
For initial information regarding Dean’s queries please see our article, Dinky Toys, made in Hong Kong by Hong Kong Industrial (HKI), linked below.
This includes the following information sent by Dean in an email on 6th June 2019:
I believe I can shed some light on the demise of Dinky Toys diecast range. HKI were purchased by Mattel, Inc, in 1966 and the Dinky range was shut down under their direction as Mattel tooled up for their inaugural Hot Wheels production.
I have compared the early HW production models to the Dinky 57 series and they do show significant similarities.
Dean sent the following information, also in June 2019, extracted from the Hot Wheels book written by Randy Leffington for the 35th anniversary, 16 years ago, about the initial production of Hot Wheels:
(Harry Benton) Bradley was assigned to work with wood patterns and model-maker Jack Hargreaves. Hargreaves was known to have “golden hands.” He came out of Detroit as a pattern maker for engine cylinders and cylinder heads for Ford Motor Company and body panel molds for General Motors. What made this relationship a challenge was that Hargreaves was in Hong Kong. He’d been there for a month or two already, trying to get another die-cast car operation going.
More than a year earlier, Mattel had purchased Hong Kong Industries (HKI) and its large seven-story factory complex in Kennedy Town [at the western end of Hong Kong island]. The building was filled with several thousand women who sewed clothing for Barbie dolls. On a more thorough inspection of their purchase several months after the deal closed, Mattel staff found that the factory had a small die-cast operation working in a corner of one of the upper floors, complete with a small tool room. It produced die-cast cars for an outside client. Mattel shut the operation down immediately.
“Management was wondering what to do about this die-cast thing going on in Jong Kong” Hargreaves recalled. “There were about half a dozen old mechanically operated Battenfeld die=cast machines that opened and closed with a toggle-action clamp device. Either use them, or get rid of them, they thought. Newer machines are hydraulically operated, delivering much higher clamping pressures, necessary to handle high molten-metal injection pressures.” Frank Sesto, director of manufacturing, visited HKI to evaluate if it ever could produce die-cast cars at the level of quality Mattel required. He concluded it was possible, but it would take changes in everything from the attitudes of the employees to machinery and manufacturing operations.
There is some further detailing relating to the prototyping of the early Hot Wheels models, but it ends with the tooling being shipped to the US for rework and the HK prototype line being shut down. Apparently there were “a few thousand” prototypes made, but as of today only two are known to exist (1 CAMARO and 2 CAMARO) (http://www.hwprotos.com/menu-
grp-cars/1967/hw-67.shtml – I don’t count the two Mustang’s as they were Matchbox bodies stuck on a (likely) HKI-produced baseplate. (Please note the link webpages are a bit hit-and-miss, the owner (Mike Otte) is famous in equal parts for his knowledge and his inability to finish things, so most pages are copies of other pages and have incorrect information (eg. the page for 1 CAMARO has information from the Mustang page!).
If you can add further information about the Hong Kong Industrial toy company, the demise of Dinky Car production in Hong Kong or the switch by Mattel to Hot Cars please contact the Group.
Dean has kindly recently sent a 1966 Mattel company annual report which includes the following:
“We have also entered into an agreement to acquire, in the near future, a 70 per cent interest in a large toy manufacturing firm in Hong Kong, which should assure a consistent flow of high quality products from the Far East.”
And the image below.
The following information about Dinky Toys has been extracted from the book, Toy Town, by Sarah Monks, published by the Hong Kong Toys Manufacturers Association. Both Sarah and TMHK have kindly given permission for these to be used here.
In the 50s and 60s, the UK effectively led the world’s toy industry, according to Jerry Reynolds, chief executive officer of Pedigree Group Ltd. 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.
This investment in new technology enabled HKI 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 HKI client was British company Lines Bros, whose Pedigree subsidiary launched Sindy in 1963. Meccano Ltd, with its Dinky Toys die-cast miniature model cars and trucks, was another British client.
Matchbox had battled a liquidity crunch for almost two years and had racked up close to
£50 million of debt. Its main competitor, Meccano’s Dinky Toys, had already gone under and Mettoy’s Corgi Toys was was not far behind.
Unversal Matchbox forged ahead on multiple fronts. It bought rights to manufacture Rubik’s Magic puzzle, successor to the infuriating three dimensional mechanical puzzle Robik’s Cube. In four months it shipped 8 million Magics around the world. Matchbox cars continued to do well in Europe. Matchbox’s UK company even purchased the Dinky Toys mark at a relatively low price after it had changed hands several times, This meant [David] Yeh [Chung-woo] now owned two of Britain’s three classic die-cast car brands, though intentions to revive Dinky Toys ultimately were not realised. (2)
The book also contains many references to Hong Kong Industrial which may be posted in a separate article about the company at a later date.
- Hot Wheels, 35 years of speed, power, performance and attitude” by Randy Leffington, MBI Publishing Company, 2003)
- Sarah Monks, Toy Town: How a Hong Kong Industry Played a Global Game. The HK Toys Manufacturers Association, 2011
This article was first posted on 19th October 2019.
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