By Doug Breithaupt – September 8, 2020
Before the small-scale toy car revolution of 1967-68 when Mattel introduced Hot Wheels, most 3-inch die-cast vehicles were linked to European companies that were best known for larger 1:43 scale models. Many of these companies had added lines in the 1:64 scale range in response to the success of Matchbox. The British firms of Corgi, Impy and Dinky all did this. In France, Norev, Champion, and Solido offered smaller scales. In Germany, Schuco introduced a line of small vehicles. Italy had Mercury and a company called Politoys, later renamed Polistil, making smaller scale models that often matched their larger lines. Polistil gave their little vehicles their own brand name, Penny Toys.
Around thirty years ago, I discovered my first Penny Toy at a very early toy show. It was the Alfa Romeo Giulia Canguro concept car in a lovely shade of blue. The full die-cast models enchanted me and the selection of cars offered many unique examples of beautiful Italian automobiles. For the past three decades I have continued to search for the vehicles in the Penny Toy line. Until now, one very desirable and rare model had eluded me. The Ferrari 250 GT (Lusso) is considered one of the most desirable In the Penny Toy line. It has now joined my collection.
In February of 2004, I published a feature story on Penny Toys with co-authors Rob Gras and Craig Mueller. This review will provide you with a very complete understanding of the Penny Toy line. http://talesoftoycars.com/totc455.htm
Since 2004, I have continued to add more Penny Toys to my collection and with the addition of the Ferrari 250 GT, it is time to share my progress to date. The 250 GT Lusso is far from mint. It is missing plenty of paint and has a cracked windshield, but just like the real car, any survivor is of considerable value. The hood opens to show the famous Ferrari V12.
Penny Toys are separated into three lines. The first is F1 race cars in their Corsa line. The third includes industrial models. It is the second line of Micromodelli Berlina, numbers 0/21 to 0/53 that I have worked hardest to find and are the subject of this review. While I am still missing several Penny Toy castings from the Berlina line, here is my current collection including several color variations and one duplicate.
Let me review these models by grouping them into several obvious categories.
Alfa Romeo is the marque best represented by Penny Toy models. Some of these are still the only examples that exist in small-scale. The metallic colors used for many of the Penny Toys add to their charm.
Considering the available choices of Ferrari and Dino models from the 1960’s that were available, one might have thought Penny Toys could have included some more popular selections. The 250 GTO or 275 GTB might have been considered, or the Dino 246 GT. All of these Ferrari models were offered by other toy car makers.
While the Maserati Mistral has been done by others, the 3500 GT is still unique. Both have opening doors.
The Fiat 124 is one of just two 4-door sedans offered as a Penny Toy. The 850 is still unique in small-scale.
The Lancia and Osi are very interesting model choices. The Flavia Zagato is unique to small-scale and was received as a gift from a friend in Paris. The Bisiluro was actually produced in extremely low numbers and was a novel choice for Penny Toys.
The choice of the Iso Rivolta instead of the sportier Iso Grifo is also interesting. This came as a twin-pack with a motor boat that can be removed from the trailer. The Rivolta also came as a single model and could be paired with a caravan 0/205, which I do not have.
The choice of the Porsche 912 over the 911 is also curious, yet a great favor to collectors. There are many early 911 models, but until Tomica did the 912, this was the only example. The 230 SL is less common than the 250 or 280 models of the Pagoda Roof Mercedes-Benz.
Additional Penny Toy models were planned and even included in catalogues. Not issued were 0/23, a Jaguar ‘E’ type, and 0/31, a Lancia Fulvia. Other models from Ford, Bianchi, VW and Alfa were listed but not produced. One more model I am missing is the Lamborghini Marzal concept 0/200B. One has to question this choice over the Miura.