As I found a common but very nice dark blue / (ocre) yellow example of the Leyland Comet Lorry recently, I had a good reason to revise and extend my existing, almost twenty-year-old catalogue text for this model. A translated and edited version of this catalogue essay here, hopefully contributing to some activity on the forum. This text is provisional, so any comments, additions and corrections, be it in text or in pictures, are very welcome!
Surrounded by a series of new garden and agricultural implements a ‘New Style Lorry’ was introduced in the July 1949 issue of Meccano Magazine: the no. 531 Leyland Comet Lorry. ‘It is a representative of an entirely new range of medium weight diesel-engined export models, to be made available in limited numbers at home’, it was explained in the magazine article.
Compared with the regular Dinky Toys the Leyland Comet Lorry was a robust large scale model, a new addition to the existing Fodens and Guys ranges, heavy 1/48 scale trucks, all of them. The application of so much tinplate to the Lorry structure was something unprecedented. Half a year later, the Coles Mobile Crane would also be equipped with a substantial, essential tinplate component part (the jib). The tinplate rear bed with fence is of solid, sturdy quality, as we see it rarely damaged or bent on play-worn examples.
The model was developed in the course of 1948. The 'complete' drawing, job. No. 13120 of August 26 1948, signed by D.L.M., was auctioned at Christie's South Kensington in September 1995. Nevertheless, it is not listed in the Great Book of Dinky Toys. The details shown provide interesting information, all parts, their job numbers and descriptions of changes to the model are included. The other individual designs, for the chassis (13121), the bottom (13122), the loading floor (13124) and the clip for the loading platform (13126) are listed indeed by the Richardsons, on page 196.
With a little imagination, this vehicle can also be counted among the farm and garden attributes. In 1950 it got a small-scale and therefore cheaper counterpart, the Dodge Farm Produce Wagon, No. 30n, and its predecessor was the pre-war no. 25f Market Gardener’s Wagon. The Lorry was the first in a rather small series of three Leyland Comet models. Still, it would take almost another three years before it was joined by the remaining two companions, the no. 532 Leyland Comet with Hinged Tailboard the no. 533 Leyland Cement Wagon. Of this trio only the Lorry was equipped with a - usually unpainted - towing hook.
Red Lorries with a yellow stake body plus wheels are the oldest but certainly not the rarest. They always have ridged Dinky Toys hubs (and the related thinner type of axles), which were common until about 1952. Partly simultaneous with that version was also a scarcer mid-blue version with a light brown body. This one may show up either with ridged (early) or the subsequent grooved hubs. The latter can also have red hubs. Equally harder to find is the later yellow version with a green stake body and wheels, which only appears with the final reference number 417, and was always packed in the later yellow lid box. Merely two colours were advertised in the catalogues. The dark blue/yellow one with red wheels from 1952 to 1956, and the yellow/green version in 1957 and 1958. The dark blue/yellow model bore all three catalogue numbers and is comparably common as the early red/yellow model. Until 1952 the catalogue and MM images were in black and white only, so the first one issued, in red and yellow, or the mid-blue one will never be found in colour print. The later dark blue/yellow model is found with light blue wheels, as no. 417 only.
An overview of variants was compiled over twenty years ago by Stewart Orr & Graham Bridges in Classic Toys (Vol 2, issue 9, page 6), but in the meantime more colours and subtle variations have been distinguished. Besides, we will have to be aware of the possibility to create non-existing combinations based on early models of which the chassis and the loading platform are connected with a screw and nut instead of the later unbreakable rivet.
Rarely noted is the difference in width of the silver-coloured finish of the front bumper. Until about 1954 this silver strip is considerably narrower, thinner than after that. This also applies to no. 532, the Leyland Comet with Hinged Tailboard and no. 533, Leyland Cement Wagon. The towing hook was probably of the small type only before 1952, then large.
Boxes were blue with a red or orange base printed b/w label (Dinky Supertoys, 1949-1952), blue with orange base printed label (Dinky Toys, 1952-1954), blue with blue striped lid (Dinky Toys, 1954-1956) and finally all yellow (Dinky Toys, 1956-1959).
After Leyland Motors had ceased its war production (including the Comet tank), the development of the - partly export-oriented – semi-forward control Comet truck in 1946 was an important new activity. In the United Kingdom they found employment on a large scale, not only as a lorry but also as a bus and as a tractor for trailers.
'Comet' refers to the chassis type and not necessarily to the cabin that was so characteristic at the time, which is somewhat reminiscent of that of the Dodge. Kind regards, Jan