It has been said that “No man is an island”. By this, it is meant that no matter how good, strong, smart, tough or otherwise above-average a person may be, they cannot expect to achieve their goals and reach their full potential without someone, or many, helping them out along the way. Clearly, we know this is true. However, it’s not just true for star athletes, brain surgeons and other high-end folk. It’s true for the “little guy” as well. No one exists in a vacuum.
Well, that’s just as true, if not even more so, when it comes to technology. Rarely is it the case that a piece of tech exists on its own; there’s always something behind the scenes helping it to achieve its goals. This is particularly true of military technology; by definition, weapons systems are just that – systems. They are made of multiple different subsystems, and both support vehicles and fixed installations are a part of that. It’s no surprise, then, that in the early days of ballistic rocketry every deployed missile, while the “star” of the show, was attended by a literal retinue of support equipment.
A perfect example of this was the US Army’s Corporal missile system. Like the German V-2 before it, the Corporal needed all kinds of support, from transport/erection to fuelling and servicing. None of these vehicles were particularly glamourous, and thus most have forgotten that they even existed at all. This isn’t helped by the fact that the Corporal system itself wasn’t up to all that much, and didn’t stay in service all that long.
However, that wasn’t enough to stop the Dinky company from immortalizing the Corporal’s need for logistical assistance. While it is understandable that Dinky didn’t make one of every vehicle needed, they did issue one, the Dinky No. 667-Missile Servicing Platform Vehicle (MSPV).
A Real “Niche” Product:
The Dinky MSPV was issued from 1960 to 1964. That’s not a particularly long run, but that’s also not surprising, given that this vehicle, more than any other Military Dinky, is such a very niche product. The great thing about transport vehicles is that you can do anything you want with them. As a kid, I always found toys that were the “boxes” to be the most fun. From the G.I. Joe Armoured Personnel Carrier and Tomahawk helicopter to the Protectobot named Blades (who was a UH-1D Huey), military transports always had a million-and-one uses, with another always around the corner.
The same, I’m sure, held true back in the 1960s. When kids of that era were campaigning their Dinky Armies, I’m certain that there was always a need for a truck to tow, move wounded, deploy troops or bring ammo. I can only guess at the number of forests, deserts and even ice fields that these warhorses of the past traversed in the minds of those commanding them. After all, while it may be humble, a truck’s value is that it really can do whatever you need it to.
However, this isn’t the case for the MSPV. Granted, it’s based on the venerable, popular and flexible American M54 6×6, which is THE quintessential “army truck” of the Cold War era. Given this lineage, you’d think it would be more popular. The problem, though, is that this version is so specifically tailored to its particular mission that it ceases to be of almost any other use. As the name suggests, the MSPV exists solely to service missiles. The only Dinky missile that it makes sense to service with this vehicle is the No. 666 Corporal. There aren’t any other missiles that big in the entire Dinky line! It’s certainly not necessary to service the Honest John with this particular rig!
Thus, there’s only a limited number of people who would want to spend their money on the MSPV, and those are the folks who already had, or fully intended to get, the Corporal. Given the size and cost of the Corporal, this market is pretty limited indeed. In a lot of ways, the MSPV is really just an expensive add-on to the Corporal toy, and as a result it’s not a vehicle you see that often in a collection that doesn’t have a Corporal.
This doesn’t mean that Dinky didn’t try to get some mileage out of the mould, though; the same truck was also offered in a civilian guise as the Dinky No. 977 “Commercial Servicing Platform Vehicle”. While a bit more accessible and logical as a civilian “cherry picker”, this cream-coloured truck doesn’t make perfect sense. Since the characteristic indentation on the red-painted arm and basket is designed to fit around the Corporal missile, it seems (and is) odd and, for the civil application, pointless. Also, civilian “bucket trucks” tended to be based on civilian trucks, not soft-topped army vehicles.
As you know, if you’ve read my No. 666 Corporal article, I am a very lucky person indeed. For, like only a comparatively few in the decades before me, I got both the Corporal, AND the MSPV, at the same time. While 50+ years separate my receiving the entire “set” for Christmas from those who would have gotten it originally, the effect of opening a present to see both “pieces of the puzzle” is breathtaking. As if the Corporal wasn’t awesome enough, receiving the MSPV at the same time just cemented how fantastic the event was. Here, in my hands, all at once, was one of Dinky’s biggest and most complex toy weapons systems… it was truly mind-boggling!
The MSPV is, despite its very limited uses, a very nice piece. It is typical of the Dinkys of that generation in that it is a solidly-built, passably detailed and lovingly robust toy. It, like all other British Dinkys, is finished in a deep, but not quite olive, green. If you’ve ever seen a Dinky Army vehicle, then you know exactly what to expect. This paint is hard wearing for sure, and my MSPV is in quite good shape, with only a few chips and some edge-wear. As with the Corporal, the MSPV does indeed have windows, albeit it doesn’t have a driver like the Corporal does.
The detail on all Dinkys isn’t up to the level of a modern replica. However, that’s part of the charm, and when looking at a Dinky it’s imperative to remember you’re looking at a die cast that’s over 50 years old. The fields of moulding technology, die and mould design (now done with computers, but back then, just by hand) and metallurgy, have all progressed a very, very long way in the intervening years. When you consider that, then, Dinkys are actually pretty darned good detail-wise, and the MSPV is no exception.
The soft top on the M35’s cab is nicely, albeit subtly represented with a few creases and some built-in “sag”. While there’s no real texture to show it’s a cloth top, the impression is unmistakeable. There are also some nice, smaller details, like the fender-mounted lights and even the hood hinges.
Perhaps the most detail is in the decking upon which the cherry picker is mounted. It is all picked out in that diamond-imprinted “checker plate” material. This gives the truck an incredibly industrial look. This is reinforced with the strakes on the fenders and the beefy, aggressively treaded (real rubber) tires. Behind there cab there is a holder for a spare tire. Alas, my MSPV didn’t come with one, but that’s a small deficiency on such an otherwise nice model. They make reproduction Dinky tires, too, so if I wanted to, I could get a new one.
The “raison-d’etre” of the MSPV is of course, the servicing platform, and this is suspended at the end of a long arm that folds in the middle and is articulated at both the base and bucket as well. Thus, there are three points of articulation on this arm, and when you include the swivelling base, the MSPV has more points of articulation than many 1970s and early ‘80s action figures (Star Wars and He-Man, I’m talking to you…). The arm is all metal, although the bucket is plastic. The nice thing is that the arm isn’t just some square-channel tube, or even just some plain metal bent into a “U”. Rather, it has a lot of character thanks to the lightening holes drilled along its vertical components on both sides. This also adds a tonne of realism and increases the “industrial” look of the vehicle, working well with the checker plate.
There’s also a lot more to the arm than meets the eye. Along the length of the arm you can see a thin metal rod. This is up one side of the lower arm, and then duplicated along the upper arm. Why? What does this do? It’s not realistic; actually cherry pickers don’t have this feature… so then why the Dinky? The answer is actually darned cool. They act as both stabilizing rods and they force the arm to open and close, and the bucket to pivot, at a specific rate as the arm is extended or retracted. The bucket stays level as a function of the changing arm angles, just like on a real truck!
Unfortunately, the arm itself is riveted at all points, and we all know that rivets wear out with time. The same is true for the MSPV arm, although mine is quite stable and only recently has started to sag a bit. Since I display mine extended, I think that’s pretty good. Granted, there’s a bit of bucket droop too, but it’s not bad at all for the age of the toy. I think that this bucket-levelling system is one of Dinky’s grander efforts to impart realism, and I’m sure it added not-inconsequentially to the cost of production. It’s impressive, to me, that the folks at Dinky went to this level given that the toy was never likely to sell in large amounts. I guess that shows what good old-fashioned craftsmanship was really all about.
In addition to the bucket-arm turret, there are two “feet” that swing down on the sides of the truck. These would, in real life, boost the rear wheels off the ground, and make the truck more stable. These feet are actually long legs on the Dinky MSPV, and are metal, not plastic. They are not large and do look pretty fragile, although I’m sure that they’re a bit tougher than I give them credit for. They are also held in place by rivets. As for other small details, there is a red/blue unit insignia on both the front fender and rear fender/skirt of the truck. Also, the headlights are picked out in silver, which adds a nice slash of colour to an otherwise drab-coloured vehicle.
The Dinky 667 Missile Servicing Platform Vehicle is, like all Dinkys of this era, a wonderful piece of scale militaria. It is definitely an interesting look at a time long-gone, both from an equipment, and a toy, point of view. It has a very pleasing heft and has a wonderfully heavy “roll”. By this I mean that when one pushes the MSPV along (i.e. “drives“ it) there is a great sense of heft and mass, but also a sense of smoothness and damping. It feels like the heavy truck that it is. This is always a great feeling on a toy, especially an old one.
I love the MSPV; its detail is excellent for the era and it truly does its job well. It’s a shame it wasn’t a more popular vehicle, but that’s the price paid for specialization. Like all its brothers, it is a very welcome addition to my collection. In fact, it is actually half of the basis of my collection; it was the second Military Dinky that I ever received, and then only because I’d taken the Corporal from the box my brother gave it to me in first! Thus, being a “supporting player” is something that seems to be in this little time-traveller’s veins. It’s part of my collection’s foundation, as well as being there to help the Corporal along.
I will admit that having both the MSPV and the Corporal on display together enhances the value of each of them. They are cool separately, but together they’re really quite a sight.
If you like Cold War militaria or old toys, or if you just like to combine your love of military history with that of the history of play, all old Dinky Military toys are sound, fine investments. Even if you don’t have a Corporal, if you see an MSPV and have the chance to get one, I would definitely recommend it. It’s a satisfying and interesting piece, and then at least you have an excuse to go out and hunt down a Corporal yourself!