Dinky 371/801/803 Mini U.S.S. Enterprise and Dinky 372/802/804 Klingon Cruiser (1980-1980):
This is one of the more convoluted stories and timelines for a Dinky product designed and released as the factory headed towards closure in late 1979.
The story starts in the late 1970’s after the production of the ‘large’ 357 Klingon Battle Cruiser and the 358 U.S.S. Enterprise for which Dinky had the licences from Paramount TV which owned the rights to the TV Series. Note the 803 Enterprise model was based on the ‘new’ U.S.S. Enterprise which was used in the movie and the 804 Klingon Cruiser was also upgraded from the D7-class to the K’t’inga-class.
The large Enterprise was approx 9.5 inches (24 cm) long whilst the mini version was 4.2 inches (11 cm)
The 804 mini Klingon Cruiser was also released at the same time as the 803 Enterprise and its history is very similar. The 804 was based on the updated prop used in the movie.
The large Klingon Cruiser was approx 9.5 inches (24 cm) long whilst the mini version was 4.2 inches (11 cm)
The first prototypes for the mini Enterprise and Klingon ships were produced in 1979 and were initially numbered 371 and 372 respectively, which was numerically close to their bigger brothers (358 and 357). The models were branded ‘Paramount TV‘, on the bases, both were die-cast metal and had a crude firing mechanism for a single missile launching from the front. The Klingon Battle Cruiser became just a Klingon Cruiser.
The October 1979 edition of Meccano Magazine advertised the original models and indicated they ‘will have firing plastic missiles’.
During this production phase it came to the attention of Dinky management that the first Star Trek Movie – ‘Star Trek – The Motion Picture’, was due to be released in December 1979 and it decided to tie in the release of these mini models to the film. At the same time it appears Dinky were thinking of augmenting this mini spaceship range with additional models under the series names of Star Chasers (see Space Prototypes and Pre-production 1979-80 link). The models were renumbered to 801 for the Enterprise and 802 for the Klingon Cruiser. Artwork and cards were created featuring the Star Trek – The Motion Picture branding and the models were re-badged with ‘Paramount Pictures Corp’. Samples were then produced for the sales teams.
Unfortunately, just at this time, a child in America was injured in his eye by another toy company’s model firing a missile (Mattel’s Battlestar Galactica Viper fighter) and the inevitable lawsuit followed. The missile firing version went back to the drawing board and new non-firing versions, now numbered 803 for the Enterprise and 804 for the Klingon Cruiser were hurriedly created. The ‘Firing Missile!’ star banner was replaced with the slightly less exciting ‘Die-cast Metal’.
However as it seems a significant number of the missile firing version had already been made, these were now modified for sale as well as the bespoke non-firing versions
Because of the business situation in the U.K. at that time it was decided to commercially release the 803 and 804 models in the U.S. only. Although the 1980 UK Trade catalogue advertised both the missile (801/802) and the non missile firing versions (803/804).
A Dinky Ad from the period also mentions pocket sized Star Trek ships that fire missiles.
There are two slightly different 803 mini Enterprise models, one seems to retain the top button firing mechanism and is capped with a paper disc over the hole at the front and of course no missile. This version has a plastic base, marked ‘Dinky Toys’. The second later version has no Dinky reference, a filled in firing button and also has the firing hole capped.
The ‘Bridge’ – the top-most section – had slightly differing castings including a depression, rounded top and rounded top with a cross.
The Klingon Cruiser was always an all metal model.
The 804 Klingon Cruiser was also marked with the Movie branding ‘Paramount Pictures Corp’
There were two card types produced for both 803 and 804 , one with the model angled at 45 degrees and the other horizontal on the same front facing artwork. However the rear artwork had two versions for the horizontal version. Apart from the images being at the top rather than the bottom, the card stated that it was manufactured in England with the card being printed in the U.S.. The other version stated that it was manufactured in the U.S. Note that all the models castings stated ‘Made In England. It appears that raw castings of some of these pocket models were shipped from Liverpool to Texas, and painted and packaged there.
The 803 Enterprise had the same card formats.
And the U.S connection is reflected in the text on the rear artwork where there is an advert for THE DINKY CLUB OF AMERICA based in Hewitt, Texas. Membership cost $1
And the final chapter in this strange story was that soon after Dinky went bankrupt Corgi Toys, their arch competitor, released similar models several times from 1982 to 1984 under the Corgi brand.