DINKY 359 EAGLE TRANSPORTER (1975-1981):
Two models were released in 1975, the 359 Eagle Transporter and the 360 Eagle Freighter. Both of these models were licensed from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s TV production Space:1999, a UK science fiction television series that originally aired from 1975 to 1977. The Eagles shared the same chassis and differed only in colour and the detachable payloads.
The Eagle Transporter carried a laboratory module pod underneath its chassis which could be released and it also had opening doors.
IN THE TV SERIES:
The Eagle was designed by Brian Johnson who had worked with Gerry Anderson on Thunderbirds in the mid-1960s and had then produced the spacecraft for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Eagles served as the primary spacecraft of Moonbase Alpha and were used to explore alien planets, defend Moonbase Alpha and to transport supplies and other items to and from the Moon.
Various types of module could be attached to the Eagles including
- Transporter: Used to transport supplies and equipment
- Rescue: These Eagles are recognisable by their vertical red stripes
- Freighter: These specialised Eagles are used to transport dangerous nuclear waste to the Nuclear Disposal Areas. The waste canisters are carried in a ‘pallet’ type pod which links to a conveyor belt at the disposal areas. See 360 Eagle Freighter section.
PROP V ACTUAL:
The model of the Eagle used in filming was built in four scales and by the end of the series, there were three 44-inch (110 cm) Eagle models, two 22-inch (56 cm) Eagles, one 11-inch (28 cm) Eagle, and a 5-inch (13 cm) Eagle.
Apart from the typically inaccurate Dinky colour scheme, the model was a pretty good copy of the actual prop.
There were two main variants of the Eagle Transporter.
The first model released had yellow side thrusters and chrome main thrusters with red engines.
Underneath the first version’s chrome paint on the rear and underbelly thrusters the plastic base could be yellow or red. The yellow plastic variant was probably the original. Note also that the 360 Eagle Freighter had chrome engines with red plastic underneath so this could simply be parts that could be used on both models.
The second and more common version had red side thrusters with red unpainted plastic engines and metal thrusters.
Other variations to the core chassis were an additional support strut at the front and back of the white girder chassis top, a blanking type panel on the green chassis underbelly, front and rear, and a reinforcing strut on the leg supports.
The original name for the Eagles in the series’ prospectus and the draft script was MTU, or Modular Transportation Unit. Functional but dull! Eagles were a much better name for the TV progs and the Dinky models. If you look inside the crosspiece joining the two front legs there is the text ‘MTU’, presumably because when Dinky got the designs from the production company, that’s what they were called.
The lab module window plastic was initially red but later there were orange and clear variations. Red stickers were supplied so the Transporter could be converted into a Rescue Eagle which carried a medical lab.
THE WHITE EAGLE TRANSPORTER:
The 359 Eagle Transporter, according to the vast majority of experts, was never issued commercially in an all white livery. The model above is a combination of the white 360 Eagle Freighter and the lab module from the Eagle 359 Transporter. It’s quite possible that shopkeepers would swap around the modules on request as colour-wise its the most accurate representation of he real thing.
ODDITIES AND RARITIES:
A 32 part Eagle Transporter and Freighter kit, similar to other metal Dinky Kits available at the time, was proposed, but not commercially released.
In kit form and unpainted, it would have contained a single Eagle chassis but with both the transporter lab module and the freighter container pod. All that appears to survive today is the artwork for the box labelled under the Dinky Die Cast Toymaker brand. The serial number was to be 1035, but this was allocated to the Striker Anti- Tank Vehicle kit in 1975 so making this was seemingly a very short lived project.
The Eagle Transporters were initially packed in a bubble box, firstly with a blue base and then with a yellow base. The artwork and some fonts also changed with this transition.
After the bubble box there was a hanging window box with a polystyrene lunar interior. On the front it featured two actors from the series, Martin Landau (Commander John Koenig) and Barbara Bain (Dr Helena Russell) and on the back a contrived mission featuring the 353 Shado 2, the 351 Shado Interceptor and the 106 Thunderbird 2.
The final box was similar but with a plain yellow interior replacing the lunar landscape.
The Eagle Transporter made it to the front cover in its 1975 launch year albeit in an all white livery and with the emergency decals applied.
19 thoughts on “359: Eagle Transporter”
An interesting artifact exists inside the “companionway” sections of the toy ( the rectangular sections between the outrigger landing pods ). If you unscrew the toy and look inside, you will see the letters “MTU” embossed in those parts. This refers to the original name for the ship in the show’s “bible”: the “Modular Transport Unit” or “MTU”. Somewhere between the time Dinky had access to the plans for the model and the filming of the first episode, the rather clunky “MTU” moniker was changed to the somewhat sexier “Eagle”. But the “MTU” parts identifier was left inside where presumably nobody would notice.
My Dinky Eagle which I’ve had since I was a kid,5 in 1975!..Says 1974 on the bottom of the laboratory pod!
Any idea why?.And not 1975 as per release year?
Hi Richard, Its a good question. The Great Book of Dinky Toys says 1975 which is my source, having said that its not always right about all things. The first mention of this model (‘a brand new toy’) in Meccano magazine was April 1975. Its possible that these models were being produced in the factory at the end of 1974 but not made commercially available till 1975. Cheers Kevin
I agree with Kevin. Design and production on the toy began well before the series premiere. 1974 could also refer to the date of the licensing agreement.
That was news to me. I’ve just opened up one of my old Transporters and as you said there were the letters MTU. Thanks for sharing!
On the early chromed thruster variants , where some of the chrome has come off, most appear to be red plastic parts for the main thrusters and the vertical thrusters on the pod. I have seen one where under the chrome the parts are yellow for both the main thrusters and the pod thrusters. Is this a sign of a very early release (it does have slot screws on the base)?
Hi Martin, Very interesting! I’ve not seen or even heard about the yellow version . Did it also have yellow side thrusters? Those were the first versions released. Do you have pictures or can you remember where you saw this? Cheers Kevin
Look at ebay uk item number 163655623589 to see what I mean 🙂
Thanks I have now seen the pics. I misspoke (!) when I said I hadn’t seen one before as I have this version. My model is in mint condition but looking at the engines under a magnifying glass it’s clear that it’s yellow plastic underneath the chrome. I now need to investigate this further to find out how common this was.
I have also come across some eagles where the ‘engine support strut’ is present only on one of the front/rear sections (ie the strut is on the front section but not the rear or vice versa). So far all I’ve seen have been the yellow plastic under chrome thruster versions.
I have also come across some eagles where the ‘engine support reinforcing strut’ is present only on one of the front/rear sections (ie the strut is on the front section but not the rear or vice versa). So far all I’ve seen have been the yellow plastic under chrome thruster versions.
Eg ebay uk item number 352659245809 has engine support on front section but absent on rear section…..
Interesting, this was possibly at the crossover of the two types of engine pods, maybe a new mold being used but stocks of the older version still being available but it’s also possible this may be parts being swapped around.
The three first edition Eagle Transporters I own ( 2 near mint, one repainted ) all have yellow plastic under the chrome. I would guess that the red thrusters under the chrome would be rarer as I’ve never seen one IRL. Does anyone know if the ones with the chrome covered red thrusters had red side thrusters too, or if they still had yellow?
I’m trying to display my collection of Gerry Anderson die-cast vehicles. I’m wondering if anyone knows what scale the Eagle would be considered to be?
If I’m looking for the 2nd release 359 Eagle Transporter with clear pod windows ie. the one in the above ad where the boy is playing with the Enterprise. (appears in ad immediately below that one too), can anyone tell me which box I should be looking for? Is there a correct one if I want to stay as authentic as possible?
Hi Dane, The Bubble box was replaced in 1977 by the Hanging boxes. The image you refer to came from the 1977 trade catalogue so there is an overlap here. Looking at the Vectis Auctions site I can see a handful of transporters with clear pod windows with a bubble box with a blue base (there were yellow bases as well for this model) – so this is probably the best one to look for. Cheers Kevin
Thanks very much Kevin! I’m looking to re-acquire 3 of my favourite childhood toys and that Eagle is one of them. Being who I am though, I’m also wanting it to be as authentic as possible ie. as close as possible to the exact same one I had. Unfortunately, there’s simply no way for me to know whether I received the Eagle pre- or post-1977 so I guess it could be either box if the same version was sold in both. I prefer the earlier “blue plinth” one though so will make that my target. Not sure if I’ll have any luck finding one with a clear bubble but you never know. Thanks again! Dane
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