361: GALACTIC/ZYGON/SPACE/MISSILE FIRING WAR CHARIOT (1979-81):
The last Space themed toy to come from Dinky, it was still being manufactured in Italy and some even packaged in Hong Kong after the UK factory closed in late 1979. The original version was the Galactic War Chariot which then morphed into the Zygon, Space and missile firing War Chariots versions.
The next version was the Space War Chariot, which came in a plain brown cardboard box.
The final version was the Missile Firing War Chariot manufactured and exported from Lintoy in Hong Kong.
The four War Chariot versions all shared the same chassis.
(1) 361 GALACTIC WAR CHARIOT:
The origins of the Galactic War Chariot are unclear, though some commentators have suggested that it was a vehicle that was to have been used in a never made third series of Gerry Anderson’s Space 1999. However this is unlikely as the model was mainly created out of existing parts used in other Dinky Toys and look more like a cost saving exercise on the part of the factory.
The Galactic WC version uses a modified 355 Lunar Rover chassis, repainted astronauts, 102’s Joe’s Car turbines reversed as jet engines, wheels from the 226 Ferrari Racing Car and the missile firing mechanism of the 363 Shado Mobile. There was only one known version released commercially, The minor variants to this version were the gun could be held in place by slot or cross head screws and the chrome metal engine was painted on different colour plastic mouldings. Colours seen to date are orange and lime green.
GALACTIC WAR CHARIOT PRE-PRODUCTION and PAINT TRIALS:
There were no commercially released variants although the missile colours could be yellow/black or red/black. A dark blue version appeared in the Dinky 1978 Trade catalogue on its own and as part of the 306 ‘Space’ Gift Set neither of which were released.
A pre-production light green version was issued to Dinky salesmen as they travelled around the country whipping up business by demonstrating new models. In ‘The Great Book of Dinky Toys’ there is a reference to late production items originally held by a salesman, one of them being a 361 Zygon War chariot in metallic green, was this the one?
This variant came in a plain box which was not unusual for salesmen’s’ samples. Also note the use of the 355 Lunar Rover astronauts rather than those used in the production run and also the screws used to hold the astronauts in place as they inevitably got bounced around in the display case.
Model Collector Magazine featured a variant which had a Galactic War Chariot production chassis but again Lunar Rover astronauts, and strangely the box displayed is the later Zygon War Chariot box.
GALACTIC WAR CHARIOT ODDITIES AND RARITIES:
An all mid-blue version, similar in colour to the Lunar Rover was seen on an auction site. Is it genuine or a code 3? The colour was also used later for the the bottom half of the chassis on later versions of the War Chariots.
There are rare variants with a red/black missile. The header card suggests this is the last version of the model. The red/black missile has not been seen on the 353 Shado which was in production at this time.
There were two box header versions, the later one featuring the 362 Trident Star Fighter.
(2) 361 ZYGON WAR CHARIOT:
The first Zygon War Chariot version used the same spacemen as the Galactic version but had plastic wheels and a different missile firing mechanism and missile.
Later variants had red spacemen. The missile mechanism, missile and spacemen were also used by Meccano, the parent company and the red version of the missile launcher was also used on the 368 Zygon Marauder.
The green and silver body was the most common version, utilising some of the Galactic War Chariot chassis. The all silver body version was the rarest and the last version to be produced at the Binns Road factory.
There are seven known variants of the Zygon War Chariot, these are models that have been seen more than once on one or more auction or sales sites.
But as the guns, pilots, engines and bases are all interchangeable there may be more.
There were three base versions, the first utilised the Galactic War Chariot green base. The later non-green versions had the word Galactic blanked out.
The white bases always say ‘Made in Italy’. This War Chariot version was made by Polistil (initially called Politoys) which was a toy company headquartered in Milan, Italy who also made the 122 Volvo SW and 243 Police Volvo for Dinky.
There was only one box version, which included a simple space station graphic and a target.
(3) 361 SPACE WAR CHARIOT:
This version is a bit of an anomaly. A couple of online stores referred to it as a Space War Chariot but in reality its a Zygon War Chariot blue & white chassis version with either two white or a red and white spacemen. Its defining characteristic however is the plain cardboard box.
The other variant has two white spacemen.
(4) 361 MISSILE FIRING WAR CHARIOT:
The fourth and last version of the War Chariot family. The Missile Firing version was made in Italy but possibly assembled and packaged in Hong Kong. The blister card packaging is similar to that used on the Dinky 219 Big Cat Jaguar and has a Dinky Toy heading (rather than Dinky Toys).
This Missile chariot had the same blue/white colour chassis as the one of the Zygon War Chariots and Space chariots. All had ‘Made In Italy’ on their bases. But all used smaller astronauts, two from other Dinky models and one from Tente, a Spanish company who produced building bricks and toys similar to Lego and hence the small lugs on the spacemen’s boot.
There were four variants. All had the same chassis but with different spacemen and a version with none.
The red spacemen were smaller than the Zygon War Chariot version and these were the same as used in the 367 Space Battle Cruiser. The white spacemen with black helmets were from the 226 Ferrari Racing Car, the wheels of which were used on the Galactic War Chariot. The all white spacemen were from Tente, a Spanish toy maker.
The model came in a blister card pack with an alien landscape drawing on the front and plain brown cardboard on the rear. The pack was similar to that used for the 219 Jaguar and was Hong Kong originated.
WAR CHARIOT PILOTS, MISSILES AND HOLES:
Five different spacemen were used for the four different war chariot versions and their variants.
The Red pilots came with two different sized lugs to fix them to the seat. The larger version fitted the UK produced chariots whilst the smaller lugs fitted the Italian produced ‘Missile Firing War Chariots’ which suggests that the larger red spacemen with small lugs were possibly shipped over to Italy, with some of the original boxes and were later replaced by the smaller red and white pilots.
The seat holes had two sizes depending on the lugs at the bottom of the spacemen they were using on that production run.
The only appearance of the Zygon War Chariot was in an 1980 trade fair leaflet.
Rare footage shot during the Meccano factory strike of 1979, probably the sit in by the employees just after the factory was closed.