Posted 10 years ago
In 1951, the Japanese Marusan Company was trying to become a viable tin toys business. With the financial and managerial help from the American Armed Forces under General MacArthur's command, the reborn Japanese toy industry was able to become the country's largest exporter, bringing much-needed currency to the nearly-destroyed country.
Marusan secured the services of Matsuzou Kosuge, a well-known toy maker before the war, to produce what would become one of the all-time classic toys ever made, the 1951 Cadillac. This was produced as a friction-powered toy, as a self-propelled battery-powered version as well as a cable-controlled version with a steering wheel on top of a battery box.
The toy was made of stamped steel with a painted body and chassis base, with a lithographed steel-sheet interior. The tires are real rubber but the whitewalls are stamped and painted steel rings. The wheels are steel as well as the whole friction mechanism. The windows are acetate, stamped from flat sheet. The paint quality is outstanding for a toy, and there are over 150 pieces in each, over 200 in the electric versions. All were assembled by women over long tables, the final product boxed, then packed into large wooden crates for export to American toy stores.
The colors were very precise, the more common friction-powered model painted in gray, with less common versions in black or red, and in 1953 after the success of "A Solid Gold Cadillac" movie featuring Judy Holliday, a... gold version.
The self-propelled electric battery powered models were yellow with a green roof, and that was an actual Cadillac factory color scheme
However, the friction-powered models were never produced in that color scheme. At least that is what all the books and documentation, including that of the still existing Marusan company itself, advanced.
Out of the blue surfaced this brand new, mint in its original box model, that contradicts all previously known information, a yellow and green model, but friction-powered and without the electric headlights and taillights of the "electric" model.
After insuring myself that this was not a restored car, stripped and repainted in the "wrong" color, I had to accept that it is real. Here is the beast, recently discovered in an online estate sale:
It is always nice as a collector, to find something that is supposed to never have existed... but does!
The question now, is why American toy companies appear to have been unwilling or incapable to produce such beautiful toys in the early 1950's, when the market was so ripe for them, and left the market wide open for Japan? The products of toy companies like Tonka or Smith-Miller were never this nice. And Japan produced over the years and until the dreaded advent of plastic, many more tinplate models of Ford, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Buick, some even nicer than this Cadillac.
I have often wondered.