Dinky Six-Wheeled Reconnaissance Car (152b)

It’s a combination of The Great Gatsby’s style and WWII’s brutality. The Dinky #152b has it covered coming and going!

If there’s one thing I love in a car, it’s six wheels. I don’t know what it is, but I really, really love cars that have two wheels up front and four in the back. When I was a kid, my favourite Fast 111’s was Saturn Seeker, a 6-wheeled futuristic car. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve only grown to love this configuration more and more. Of course, six-wheeled cars aren’t really practical in most cases. There are only a few times in history that such things have even been made!

One of the most famous six wheelers, and my absolutely favourite car of all time, is the Mercedes G4/W31. This vehicle is famous as a staff car for the highest echelons of the Nazi party, and its combination of Mercedes’ style and savage brute force make it iconic. However, before the G4 ever hit the road, there was another six-wheeled truck-car thing in service across the channel. While it lacked some of the stylistic refinement of the later Mercedes, it was certainly in the same vein.

That vehicle was a part-truck, part-car off-road staff car produced by the Morris Commercial company. When Morris branched into heavy, commercial vehicles (delivery trucks, busses, etc.) they opened up a completely new potential source of revenue – military contracts. During the inter-war years, it wasn’t just Germany that saw the value of mechanizing both the infantry and artillery; the British were just as keen to “get things moving” on the motorization front. One of the most famous Morris military vehicles is the immortal “Morris Quad”, like that seen in the Dinky 697 25 Pounder Field Gun Set. This vehicle, the C8 was widely used throughout the war.

Before it, though, came the Morris Commercial D. This was a 6×4 truck chassis that was adapted not only to transporting goods, but also to make a very powerful and capable off-road staff car. There was a second version, the CD, which used a slightly newer chassis, but to me the look basically the same. The “D” was a high-riding vehicle which could be built with 6 wheels, or even 10, since the rears could be duallies! There were even tracks that could be fitted over the rear wheels making the vehicle into a half-track to improve off-road capability! Now that’s pretty forward thinking; half-tracks really weren’t a thing much at that time.

What time was “that”, you ask? From what little I can find out about the D/CD, they first entered service in about 1927. Based on the 30cwt (i.e., 3000lb or 1.5 ton) chassis with an engine of about 55 hp., the D/CD could go 30mph on the road, and almost as fast (15-20) off of it. In the mid-late ‘20s, that’s not too bad. With massive ground clearance and lots of seating capacity, the D/CD made an excellent staff car. Visibility for the occupants was improved by the folding fabric top, making the D/CD, like the G4, a convertible.

Based on a truck, the Morris Commercial D/CD staff car had power and room to handle the rigors of command in the field. It wasn’t for recon, though…

The D/CDs that entered service were usually encumbered by a bunch of boxes and gear all along the rear flanks and behind the cabin. They were not seen in widespread use by the time WWII started. However, before the war, they were definitely an interesting symbol of the modernization of the British Army. For that reason, Dinky decided to make a replica of the D/CD, which they called #152b – Six Wheeled Reconnaissance Car.  This name is very misleading, as the vehicle wasn’t ever intended for recon, being a staff car only. Despite this, when the model was re-released in the post-war years, it kept the same name.

The Dinky 152b:

My Recon Car was given to me by my brother as part of the custom-made Dinky Geezer Set 40Y Gift Set that he gave me for my 40th birthday. While it is not the most dainty of all the ones in that set (the old tankette and Dragon artillery tractor with their thin, metal tracks take that prize), it is my favourite. If you’re wondering why, then yes, it is because it has six wheels, of course! However, there’s a lot of other things this little guy has going in his favour.

With a nice “soft top”, awesome stowage and great venting detail, only the lack of a true spare tire really weighs against the Recon Car.

Firstly, like most of the pre-war Dinky moulds, it’s very fine. It is smaller, slighter and gives more of an impression of fragility than later Dinkys. Compared to the Scammel Wrecker or even the Armoured Command Car, the Recon Car is very much less substantial. Everything on it feels small, petite and fine. It’s a lot like the difference between a 1984 Autobot Car (Prowl, say, or Jazz) and the 1987 Targetmasters like Sureshot. If you’re not a Transformers fan, you might not get the reference, so you could also compare it to a Model T vs. a Model A Ford. One’s just beefier; the other is just not as heavy-looking or -feeling.

This fineness works in the Recon Car’s favour, though. It has some impressive detail for a casting this old. The radiator is nicely textured, with a clear cross-hatch inside the radiator shell. There’s even a place for a crank, I believe, down low! The hood vents on both sides of the engine bay are pronounced without being overdone, and even the hood hinge line at the “corner” of the top and sides is reproduced. There’s a small “box” on the side, between the hood and front door, that I can’t quite identify, but it’s there on the real vehicle as well. It might be an open auxiliary cooling vent of some kind.

Stowage, always an important part of any armoured vehicle and its replicas, is really nicely represented. The real D/CD had a lot of boxes and random stuff bolted to it, and the Dinky does its best to recreate this. What’s really cool is that, like the real vehicle, the Dinky’s stowage is asymmetrical from the rear. There’s a rack and box that hangs down behind the left side rear fender, but not on the right. This is replicated really nicely, as is the single tail light and what I believe is a place for a license or registration plate.

Now there’s some “junk on the trunk”! The asymmetry is realistic, and the tail light is a nice touch. Boo on that spare, though, Dinky. Glad you stopped cheapening out on that with later models!

One area that is not strong on this toy is the spare tire. This is found between the roof and the rear racks, but on this Dinky, the spare is moulded in. That’s a big disappointment. If you’ve read my other Dinky reviews, you know that I LOVE real, usable spare tires. I think they’re one of the greatest play features ever (Good work on making it a “thing”, Tonka!), and I always gush over how cool it is to have a separate tire or two hanging around. Sadly, though, this Dinky falls short. The tire is just a bit of a round mass showing behind the “fabric” convertible top. There’s no tread or hub detail on it at all, and that sucks. I feel badly for the kids who got this originally. Six wheels, that’s a 50% increase in the chance you’re going to blow a tire in the field. Or backyard, or garden, bedroom or basement… wherever your battlefield was. Some D/CDs even carried spares up by the front fenders, like G4s, so they could have done this, but alas, it was not to be.

You can see the engine vents, boxes on the running boards, and the rear door on the left side of the vehicle. Love that roof sag, too!

Thankfully, the Dinky fights back disappointment with a very nicely rendered “soft top” into which side Landau bars are stamped at the rear on each side. Not only that, but the top is also moulded with clear “ribs” and pronounced sag between them. Granted, the sag might be a bit too much (like on the Trumpeter Wellington), but it gives a good effect. Since you know you’re dealing with a solid lump of Zinc, the extra sag is needed to help convey the “non-metallic” nature of the real roof. One other cool detail is the doors. There are normal front doors on each side, as you’d expect. However, there’s a side door on the left, but not the right of the vehicle. If you wonder why, it’s because the real thing had a map table in the back, and a seat up against the side wall of the car, where the door would be! That kind of thing proves that Dinky wasn’t just phoning it in; while the car is split down the middle with a noticeable seam, they didn’t just mirror the casting halves.

Look ma, no door! Just like the real thing, there’s no rear door on the right side of the toy. Those landau bars are pimp, too!

Variations on a Theme:

This particular vehicle was issued from 1937-1940, and then again from 1945/46 until sometime around 1953, as far as I can tell from what I can find on the internet. Note: I have no expertise in this stuff, so I can only go by what I read. There are a number of variants, which is not unusual for Dinky Toys. Mine is the most common variant, a green, sometime after the war issue. It’s nearly identical to the pre-war toy, except it’s not likely to randomly disintegrate due to “Zinc Pest”, a property of pre-war Dinkys. There’s a metallurgical issue in those that eventually causes any prewar Dinky to literally crumble, regardless of how well it’s preserved and how carefully it’s handled.

The Pre-WWII versions look like mine, but have smooth hubs and a green chassis. There’s an immediate postwar version that has white tires, and either green or black chassis. There’s the common one, like mine, that has the post-war “ribbed” or “ridged” hubs, black tires and a black chassis. Then, there’s a rarer “brown” version. This is apparently US-only, and is a much more brownish-green than the normal “Dinky Arm Green” of the other variants. It has black tires and a black chassis, but the colour is really different, so you can’t mistake them.

This isn’t the most exciting chassis ever, but it gives you a good look at the typical post-war unit. See the “ribbed” hubs, too? That’s a dead giveaway for a post-war unit. I’d hunt them out specifically; they won’t crumble for no reason!

Playability:

Obviously, no old Dinkys are playthings anymore. This little guy’s days of stealthily creeping through backyard jungles or transporting the imaginary generals of a house-wide conflict are long behind it. However, it would have been a fun toy. I say that, despite the fact that it has literally nothing going for it, on the surface. It has no windows or driver figures, no action features, no removable spares and it doesn’t have a trailer hitch to even tow a field gun1 It’s a one-colour casting with no decals and it’s daintier than its newer brethren.

So why would it be fun? Well, look at it! What’s in all those boxes? Heck, as a kid, EVERYTHING you need could be in those boxes. Gas, binoculars, a mortar, maps, radios… you name it, this thing could be hauling it. Sure, it doesn’t have a removable top like some Dinky trucks, but its’ one of the only Dinkys that implies is a convertible! That means your soldiers could even go for a toot in it on furlough; it’s civilized enough to take to town and rough-and-tumble enough to climb any mountain, couch or garden rock you can find. It’s powerful looking but small enough it might not be seen by an enemy, and there’s no reason to not love that it has six wheels. Maybe that last one is peculiar to me, but I’m willing to bet it isn’t.

As a shelf queen, it looks darned good. It has a unique style and vibe most other Dinkys lack. It looks civilized and brutish in turns, something most 6-wheeler staff cars tend have in common. It’s something that, today, most people (including me) don’t even recognizer or know at all what it is. At first, I didn’t even know if it WAS a real vehicle; I had to do some digging to find out. That’s one of its great features; this toy’s origins are so far in the past that it compels you to learn more. As an adult collectible, that’s a pretty darned cool thing.

Conclusions:

It won’t win any prizes for being the biggest, flashiest or heaviest in my Dinky Army, but this is one of my favourite Army Dinky Toys. With six wheels, the love was bound to be a given, but this little toy has so much more than that going on. It’s a well-detailed replica of a nearly forgotten, and definitely under-represented vehicle that served as a vanguard for the modern “maneuver warfare” we’re all so familiar with now.

As a pre-war design, it’s really an even more important piece, because it gives a window into what army toys looked like in a time BEFORE a World War, before the Dunkirk, the Blitz, D-Day and even the atomic bomb. It’s from a time when the subjects of the toys being played with had never been used in combat. While it’s not up to post-war standards of heft and extra features, this Recon Car would have been an amazing toy at a time when the monoplane was something new and most mounted infantry still rode horses.

With multiple variants to hunt for, it’s also a neat target to set your sights on. I don’t know how common this one is, but if you’re a fan of immediate pre-war mechanization, or even just of weird, multi-wheeled vehicles, then this is definitely one you should put on your list!

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