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JAPANESE TIN TOY RETAILER CATALOGUES

Part II

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Talk about variations on a theme! In AOSHIN'S 1969 catalogue, no fewer than 3 styles of Batmobile are offered for the discerning crime-fighting consumer. The most familiar of these is perhaps the standard B/O M/A BATMOBILE CAR at top (What the heck does 'M/A ' amount to, anyway? "Machine Action"? "Mighty Aggressive"? "Mama's Apron-stings"? If anyone has a better guess, please email in!). This Gotham City motorist's dream is a dead ringer for the TV show car, which inspired it. It comes in three Bat-shades: blue; red; and black, this latter tone being the most difficult to find. For the more sporty minded, either model of AOSHIN'S FRIC. BATMOBILE CAR would be a definite highway plus. Decked out in bold TV Show logos and with an ultra-streamlined sweep about them, they are just right for that weekend drive into the Gotham countryside, the perfect thing to impress the Bat-chicks with. However, it's gonna be a lonely ride for one of our capped crusaders... stock no. 1-124 seems to only have room for one! These two flashier Batmobiles are a tough find in this country. Unusual really, as it seems their wholesale price was almost half that of their battery-operated cousin!

Japanese Tin Toy BATMAN, SPEED RACER, JAMES BOND, BLACK BEAUTY, THE MONKEES.

Like many Japanese toy manufacturers of the time, media related themes were common in AOSHIN'S range. And sometimes, they just kind of forgot to get approval from the copyright owners. A classic example is stock no. 1-194, B/O M/A SECRET SERVICE CAR (there's that "M/A" again!). With the masked detective on the roof, the large green insect on the bonnet, and especially "with blinking machine gun popped out", there can be no chance of parole from the copyright judge for AOSHIN'S toy design team. Its 'Black Beauty' likeness is unmistakable and certainly far from coincidental. In spite of its unlicensed nature, the toy today is a rare and desirable piece. Also in their 1969 catalogue, AOSHIN'S commercial tribute to the "prefab" four, the B/O MONKEE-MOBILE CAR. This wonderful toy is just like the supped up GTO from TV... except AOSHIN decided to make it a convertible, in order to showcase the talent of the four simian singers within... and sing they do! The B/O in this case refers not to the car's drive mechanism (this baby runs on friction) but to the mini phonograph that is housed in its innards. Upon the mere press of a button, a rousing chorus begins. Not of the familiar TV show theme, but of some bizarre strained composition featuring Japanese signers sprouting English vocals! The happy musicians have identical expressionless faces with differing hairstyles. They even remembered Mike Nesmith's beanie!

Japanese Tin Toy BATMAN, SPEED RACER, JAMES BOND, BLACK BEAUTY, THE MONKEES.

"He's a demon on wheels!" AOSHIN'S designers must have had this line from the TV jingle for Speed Racer in their frantic brains when cooking up these three beauties. A close look at the driver of each Mach 5 clone reveals an almost ecstatic devilishness of expression, with gleeful grin and furrowed brow, a vinyl headed maniac better in charge of a straight jacket than a high performance-racing car! Pilot prejudices aside, AOSHIN'S series of MACH ROCKET RACERS are great toys (notice how they didn't go the whole way and call them MACH 5? I think we have another licensing no-no on our hands!) The B/O M/A MACH ROCKET RACER resembles most strongly the famous TV cartoon vehicle, with the two FRIC. MACH ROCKET RACERS being a bit off kilter, but nonetheless appealing... hey, wait a minute! Those two friction racers... and the two friction Batmobiles...! Yes, you spotted it. But for the new vinyl heads, a new paint job and some minor adjustments, these two pairs of tin toy cars are exactly the same. Why bother making new dies and new moulds when the old ones could be used just as effectively? The Japanese were the perfect recyclers. Like all original memorabilia from the Speed Racer cartoon show, these MACH ROCKET RACERS are very hard to find today.

Japanese Tin Toy BATMAN, SPEED RACER, JAMES BOND, BLACK BEAUTY, THE MONKEES.

Be your favorite Bond Sean Connery, Pierce Broson or even George Lazenby, the real identity of AOSHIN'S B/O M/A ASTON MARTIN CAR is as plain as Moneypenny's unrequited lust. Yet again, this naughty toy factory has cashed in on the success of others to enlarge its own coffers and thank goodness. Without all of this petty idea pilfering, a wonderful legacy of Japanese tinplate toys would never have passed the drawing board stage. AOSHIN'S version does everything Ian Fleming's does... bullet shield at the back, ejector seat with unlucky assassin who flies through the roof panel, and of course not to forget "with blinking machine gun popped out"! With its license to kill intact. Just in case our miniature Bond got into too much trouble, stock Nos. 1-185 and 1-189 were at the ready, to mete out a more traditional brand of justice. Extremely faithful depictions of Ford Galaxies, these two SIREN PATROL CARS would have looked in place on any American cop show of the time. Interesting to note that the mere addition of a STEERING HANDLE on the remote box caused an almost double increase in wholesale price. I suppose the steerable ones are a bit more useful in a high-speed chase! With the law on their side, tin cars of this style still turn up fairly frequently at collectors' shows.

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