HISTORY OF MERCURY ITALY
The car in this entry is the Ferrari 512P designed by Pininfarina. This model is made in 1:43 scale, all in metal with plastic interior, windshield and wheels.
Maybe the wheels are the worst thing in the model since they are plastic and hollow in the interior. The hubcaps however look great and give the wrong impression of two-parts rim + tyre. This makes me think, that the car could actually be a reedition of the original 1971 model.
The car has opening cockpit plus opening bonnet, with nice details on the inside: like the steering wheel, highly detailed cockpit or the simulated motor. It’s only decal is the Ferrari emblem on the front of the car.
Mercury is the third “classical” die-cast manufacturer after Polistil/Politoys and Mebetoys. Maybe a step less famous than the other two, but also with a nice production over many years. The company was founded in 1932 in Torino by Attilio Clemente and Antonio Cravero to produce metallic components for the automobile industry (for “real” cars).
In 1945, the company decides to specialize in the production of die-cast toys, mostly cars. This turn was quite surprising at the time, since they were the first toy producers in Italy (together with Rivorossi, that started also in 1945), right after WWII. They foresaw a quick recovery of Italy after the disaster of war and an expanding market for quality toys. Other Italian manufacturers would follow, but much later (for example, Polistil, 1960).
The concurrence to Mercury came from outside Italy. Most precisely from England, were Dinky already produced the same type of toy since 1934. The production of those first years were not only die-cast models, but also traditional toys like toy kitchens or rifles that could fire grains of rice.
The first toy car (1946) was a 1/40 fictitious model named “Aero” (looks like a Lancia Aprilia Coupé). This model was not intended to be sold initially, but as a giveaway to promote SAFAR an italian radio manufacturer. After those giveaways, it was mass produced from 1946 to 1952 with many colour variations and even with a motor made of a rubber band. Other models in scales ranging between 1/40 and 1/50 followed. The “standard” scale of the time was 1:43, the scale that had adopted Dinky and also Solido, and that would be also adopted by Mercury in 1962. The first models produced were the ones in the picture below
|Catalogue picture taken from collectors-club-of-great-britain.co.uk|
The cars were sold in cardboard boxes with a colour illustration on it. The artwork was made by Mario Davazza.
A short series of 1:86 scale cars was also released around 1949. The name given to this series was Micromercury. These models could be used in railway modelling (H0 scale), but could also be sold as cheap toys. Very rare are the models of trains and wagons for railway modelling made by Mercury.
In 1954, 9 years after the re-foundation of the company, Mercury produced a 1:48 model of the Fiat 1100 103, which was the “middle class” car of the time in Italy. This was a great success. Fiat had a great relation with Mercury as it had with Rivarossi, up to the point of showing drawings and confidential designs of cars that were not yet in production. For example, Mercury built a 1:43 Fiat 850 before the car was produced intended to be a giveaway in the presentation of the car (May 1964). By this time, Polistil and many other competitors had already started their businesses and the models are not so detailed anymore. If until now it was common to find cars with practicable doors, bonnet and trunk, that Fiat from 1964 only had opening bonnet. The price had to remain under 600 lire.
By the end of the 60s, Mercury still had those price restrictions and launched the “Special” collection with even fewer details that were sold for around 500 lire.
|Mercury's Ferrari 512S cockpit detail|
|Mercury's Ferrari 512S motor detail|
The 70s were a period of decadence. The founders died in this decade, the catalogue had each year fewer and fewer models (most re-releases of older models), with almost no new models, whose cast costs couldn’t be afforded. Even the packages couldn’t be updated and the toys were still being sold with the obsolote cardboard box with no windows.
Many think that the “ coup de grace” for Mercury was the start of the Bburago series in 1:43. The company sadly closed in 1978. The last model produced was a Fiat Ritmo.
The company is not to be confound with the American company Mercury, which also did some toy cars and trucks, and even with similar or shared casts.
Information for this article was taken from http://www.rivarossi-memory.it/Altre_Marche/Mercury/RR_Mercury.htm (italian).
This is the second model by Mercury that appears in this blog. The other one was a race motorbike published very early (#2). I also used the tag Mercury for some other Guiloy motorbikes, since the casts are shared between the Spanish and the Italian companies. This Ferrari itself was also made (same or very similar cast) by Pilen and Joal, and before by Mebetoys/HotWheels! (same or very similar cast) and also by Politoys (different cast).
Some other time, we will talk about Speedy, the 1:64 collection by Mercury. I own just one model of these.
FACTS AND FIGURES:
- Name: FERRARI 512S (Nr. 66)
- Scale: 1:43 (approx.)
- Year: 1971 (model shown is a re-edition, maybe 1975?)
- Company: Mercury (Italy)
- Size: approx. 10 cm