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Streamlux die-cast model toy diecast vehicles

Collector & author David Daw searches for answers to little know diecast variations and manufacturers. In this article he focusing on Australia's little know but greatly respected Streamlux brand and its connection with Fun Ho!

One of many Australian manufacturers of die-cast model vehicles about which little is known is Streamlux (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. This producer was one of a number of such companies active in the industry in Melbourne in the 1950's. Despite extensive research I have been unable to find any contemporary advertising of the short range of die-cast models produced by Streamlux before it abandoned their production in face of the combined effect of changing government trade policies and the increasing importation of superior models with such well-known brand-names as Matchbox, Corgi, and Dinky Toys.

Although there were only nine models in the Streamlux miniature series they covered quite a broad range of road vehicles. They were even smaller than most of the original Matchbox 1-75 series, being around 1:80 scale and in some cases smaller. Almost all bore the inscription "Streamlux Aust." on the base. In the case of the tractor this may be found around the rim of the rear wheels, and for the others it appears on the base or underside of the model, with "Australia" embossed in full on the airline coach. Apart from the tractor, only one style of wheel was used, this was black in plastic. The only reference to these Streamlux miniatures originally being marketed in boxes goes on to state that they were later issued in clear plastic packets. The nine models of Streamlux miniatures were:

die-cast model toy diecast vehicles die-cast model toy diecast vehicles

#1 - MASSEY FERGUSON 35 TRACTOR Length 42mm. This was a simple two-part casting split along the centre. It featured a driver and was very similar to the Matchbox Series MB-4a tractor. Unlike its Matchbox cousin, the Streamlux model featured a towing hook, although nothing was ever produced for it to tow.

#2 - HOLDEN FE SPECIAL SEDAN. Length 53mm. This was a reasonably good contemporary representation of the Holden FE model.

#3 - AUSTIN TRUCK. Length 50mm - and hence to a much smaller scale than the first two in the Streamlux series. The cab and chassis components were also used for two other models in this small series - the petrol tanker and the tip truck. The inscription "Streamlux Aust." appears under the cab on all three. For its size, it's an attractive little model, well designed and simply constructed. The cab had no floor, and a single rivet held the tray in place. It had dual rear wheels, and was produced in a number of different colours.

#4 - AUSTIN PETROL TANKER. Length 50mm. With the same cab and chassis as the truck, this model also had rear mudguards sitting over the chassis and held in place under the two-part tank, with the entire rear unit held in place by one rivet.

#5 - VOLKSWAGEN COMBI BUS Length 52mm. This too is an attractive little model though not without its faults. Looking perhaps a little too wide, it incorrectly features double doors on both sides of the passenger section. The identification on the base was "Volks-Bus" and "Streamlux (Aust.)".

#6 - MERCEDES BENZ W196 RACER. Length 50mm. Quite recognisable as a representation of the real racer, its features include the Mercedes star in the centre of the bonnet. The seat was part of the base casting, and unusually for its period it did not carry a driver permanently cast in his place. The identification on the base was "Mercedes-Benz Streamlux (Aust.)".

#7 - COMMER COACH. Length 52mm. Again, this model is a reasonably good representation of the real thing, which will be remembered by older collectors in airline service around Australia, carrying passengers for Australian National Airways from company's city offices to capital city airports. Indeed, these one-and-a-half deckers were closely identified with the airline itself until it was taken over and became Ansett-ANA late in 1957. It is not a difficult model to find in various colours, but with ANA decal intact it is now quite rare. Underneath it shows basic mechanical details, with "Streamlux" cast on one side and "Australia" on the other. There is some detailing of lights on the front or lower portion of the roof, offset in appearance by a fairly obvious casting join along the middle. There is no passenger door detail, but the rear doors for the luggage compartment are neatly cast. I find this a little perplexing, as I can vouch from personal experience that ANA's passengers did not have to scramble through the luggage compartment to find their seats.

#8 - AUSTIN TIP TRUCK. Length 56mm. This model is much harder to find than its two companions are, probably due in part to its less robust construction. The tipping or dumper-style tray features heavily rigid sides and an upturned rear panel. The weakness of construction lay in the two small spigots at the rear of the body, which held the tray in place. The tray was thus easily dislodged and lost.

#9 - VOLKSWAGEN SEDAN. Length 42mm. The oval rear window model of the real thing was favoured for this model. The VW emblem is finely cast on the bonnet, which is a bit too short. Overall, this too is a nice little model, which unfortunately was the last in the Streamlux series of miniature models.


ABOVE: Streamlux VW van, left, with two Fun-Ho vans. The right-hand Fun-Ho has a raised panel on the roof.

By 1962, Streamlux had discontinued production of this short range of miniature models and sold the dies to Underwood Engineering of Inglewood, New Zealand. Underwood had been making toys including large model vehicles since 1939, but Streamlux dies marked the commencement of a range of miniature vehicles, which became quite extensive over the following 20 years of production.

In the early period of production by Underwood, the Streamlux dies were used without alteration, hence the continued appearance of "Streamlux" and "Aust/Australia" on these first Fun HO! miniatures. In due course Underwood's engineers removed the Australian identification, and so it is possible to find these models with no producer or country of origin indicated. Later, as time permitted, Fun HO! inscriptions were engraved onto the dies. But that becomes another story...

It is not widely known that the Australian manufacturer Weico Models of Victoria produced white metal reproductions of two of these Streamlux models. They were the tractor and the airline coach. Neither bore the inscription of either Streamlux or Fun HO!, as production took place well after the original dies had passed from Streamlux to Fun Ho!. They were available in either kit or fully built form, but are not often seen on the collectors market in either form today. Nevertheless, for the serious collector of either range, or of Australian and New Zealand made toys generally, they are of considerable intrinsic interest.

Streamlux Holden

ABOVE: Streamlux Holden, left, with "STREAMLUX (AUST)" cast on base, and the later Fun Ho model, with reference to Streamlux removed from the base.

Streamlux also produced one large model of the Holden FE sedan, released by GMH in July 1956. The Streamlux model, 112mm long, was made in 1957 in about 1:36 scale, but for whatever reason only a small quantity was produced at the time. It represented the real thing tolerably well, although the headlights were too large and prominent. These were re-manufactured in 1977 from the original dies and marketed by Pier van Netten's Model Cars of the World in kit form using original boxes. The kits make up into models, which are reasonably attractive and compare well with other contemporary models. It is likely that more were completed by collectors than were left in kit form.

This particular model had no known subsequent connection with Fun HO!, although the Fun HO! museum in New Zealand today has two examples one of which is fitted with white Fun HO! plastic wheels. I am grateful to Pier van Netten for some of the details in this article.

- David Daw



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