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Friday, May 3, 2013

#277 SCHUCO – WIND-UP SEDAN -MIRAKO SERIES- (Ref. 1001) (Around 1951)


Schuco is an over 100 years old German toymaker. The company was founded in 1912 in Nürnberg by Heinrich Schreyer und Heinrich Müller. The second person was a tool and die maker and had previously worked for Bing. The first name of the company was “Schreyer und Co.”. Soon, the production had to stop because both men were recruited for the German army to fight in the First World War. When the war was over in 1918, Schreyer left the company because he thought there would be no future for toy companies. This observation was based on a heavily impoverisched and partly devastated Germany. When he left, Adolf Kahn replaced him, but until 1924 the company kept its original name. Then it was shortened to Schuco (Sch u Co).

During the first years, only unique tin toys were made. The skills of Mr. Müller fit these toys with surprising clockwork mechanisms. During the 20s decade, toys were already produced in a (small) assembly line. Some of these toys started gaining popularity and were produced massively, for example the Pick-Pick-Bird, that sold around 20 million times from the 20s to the 60s.

In 1936, Schuco produced its first toy car. Mr. Müller casting surprised everybody, from concurrent companies to children, for its precision. He invented many mechanisms for toy cars, like a gearbox, cable-controlled steering, hand brake or even a mechanism to control the car with your voice.

In 1939, the previously weeks before World War II, Mr. Kahn had to emigrate to the United States because he was a jew. This didn’t mean that he left the company; he was still part of the company and cooperated in its business success, as he became importer of Schuco toys for the American and Canadian markets.

After the war, the company restarted its activities, and slowly introduced new toys in their catalogue, that was going out of style after 5 years without production.

Among the novelties in 1951, the Varianto System, which consisted of cars driving over cable-rails. Until now, cars did not represent any real car, were simply casted after the imagination of Mr. Müller and other workers. Mirako models also date from these years and consisted in older models (for example model 1001 from 1936) with a transversal motor that gave the impression that the car could steer itself quite intelliegently, since it would not fall off from a table.

In 1958 Heinrich Müller died and his sohn Werner replaced him in the company, and introduced and promoted new toy lines including ships, planes (Radiant), construction kits (Ingenico), and even “Alweg” trains.

That same year, the “Piccolo” collection was introduced. It was a new concept of very small cars made of solid metal. Despite its small size (scale 1:90), they were quite heavy. The casting job was quite accurate for that scale, but not perfect. There were more than 100 models of these made. Piccolo models (as well as later replicas of these 50s and 60s cars) are highly valuable toys today.

1:43 scale die-cast models were first introduced in 1960 as the “1000 series”, and so were the first cars in 1:66 scale in 1969, grouped in the new “300 series”. In Germany, these 1:66 models were “nicknamed” “Super Schnell” (Super Fast), just like their competitors from Matchbox. 

In 1971/72, a new 1:43 scale line was introduced, the “600 series”. Those models were much detailed and precisely casted, with many features like opening doors, bonnet and trunk (in the same model), more refined paintwork. Most reproduced models were German-made. These 1:43 series should be mistaken by other similar lines like the “Micro Racers” in 1:45 scale with wind-up mechanisms.

Schuco was producing by the early 70s the best models in Europe together with Solido and Politoys M, but financial problems would arrive by the mid of the 70s.

Since the early 60s, new plastic toys had been deplacing tin toys. During these years many toy German companies disappeared, or went bankruptcy and had to be sold. This was the case of Schuco that, in 1976, was sold to the DCM group from England (Dunbee-Combex-Marx).

In the early 70s, larger scale cars were introduced. There were models made in 1:12 and 1:16 scales with great quality features like a functional steering wheel, or light on head, tail and hazard lamps as well as the cockpit panels, a functional horn, or exchangeable tyres (including a functional “jack”). Some included an electric motor with forward and reverse.

In 1980, this group was declared insolvent and the Schuco brand returned to Germany. The new owner was the Gama-Mangold group, from Fürth, Germany. During these years, Schuco produced many replicas of their tin toys for collectors.

For several years, Schuco toys were sold in Gama boxes without any changes in the cast or the information on chassis. Some Schuco casts were sold to other companies, for example Norev (France) or MIR (Bulgaria).

Text on chassis plate: "Schuco Patent - Licenc Fabricacion Española - 1001"

In 1993, the Gama-Schuco company combined with Trix, a maker of scale trains (previously associated with Märklin), and in 1996, Schuco would became independent again, producing new models from new castings and also replicas or their earlier lines.
In 1999, the Mangold family abandoned the toy bussiness and Schuco was sold to the Simba-Dickie-Group from Fürth, Germany. This concern also has other toy brands like Majorette, Solido, Tamiya (scale model kits), Big (outdoor plastic toys), Smoby (outdoor plastic toys), Noris (boardgames), Zoch (boardgames) and many more. Schuco keeps some independence within this group and in 2009, Schabak was acquired by Schuco.

Today, Schuco is specialized in high quality replicas of cars (also other types of vehicles) in several scales, being 1:18, 1:43, 1:87 the most usual. Since the quality is very high, prices are higher than those from the concurrence, but differentiation is a key issue when Majorette or Solido are also parts of your corporation.

The cast is similar to other toys from these years. Check for example this Chrysler Airflow made by Payá, or compare it with the "Pulga" made by Rico in the following picture.

Schuco 1001 compared with a Spanish "Pulga" made by Rico.
As said in the article Mirako series were launched in 1951, so I date this toy that year. However, it can be that the toy is newer than that, since it was produced during many consecutive years. Apart from that, this is not an Original German Schuco, but a Spanish made, Schuco licensed toy. German units of this same toy are marked "Made in the US Zone Germany".

Additionally, I'd like to remark, that I do not own the original key, although the toy can be operated with keys from other toys or brands. The car is missing two headlights. Maybe I can reproduce them somehow to make the car look complete.

  • Name: MIRAKO 1001
  • Scale: Not a real car, but should be around 1:50
  • Year: Around 1952
  • Company: Schuco (Germany)
  • Size: approx. 10 cm

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