Rebuilding and hopefully improving the 1970s Dinky Eagle toy
from Gerry Anderson's Space:1999

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As a child in the 1960s, and early 1970s, I had often enjoyed playing with my various Dinky toys especially those representing the fantastic vehicles from the various Gerry Anderson television series (as well as the good old Spitfire and Stuka from the film 'The Battle of Britain'). I had loved the SPV from 'Captain Scarlet' and especially the Shado Mobile from 'UFO', but when the Eagle turned up I was less than impressed and so I never owned one. This was due to my real love for the Eagle and that as a maturing 13-year-old I was no longer impressed by tiny metallic green toys!!
METALLIC GREEN, for goodness sake what were they thinking!
However 45 years later I finally decided to buy one.

This was basically due to a model display I did in Papplewick in 2019 where the event organiser, Roy Palmer, thought that it would be a laugh to place his little Dinky toy next to my original studio Eagle miniature. I was surprised to discover that it got almost as much attention as my model, but I suppose that I should not have been too shocked as the average person will relate far more easily to something that they also had as a child than something that they have never seen before. This reminded me of the Gerry Anderson displays that I had done in the past with my friends Martin Gainsford, Bob Bailey, and Chris King, where we had all created a more varied display of models, puppets, and toys. Because of that I had recently started adding a few puppets, photos, and magazines to my displays but now I decided that it was time to start adding Dinky toys, so I went looking on ebay.

The first question was how much should I spend? As I planned to remodel the toy I discounted all the expensive great condition toys and just looked at the cheaper end of the market, which was usually priced due to missing parts and play-damage, so well under 100. Then there was the question of which version to buy as there are so many different types due to the variety of coloured plastic and metal parts. Chrome engine bells seemed like a good idea initially, but I decided very early on that I should remould all the soft plastic parts in resin to get a better quality of paint finish, so I then ignored that idea.
In the end I decided that I simply needed a toy with very little real damage (paint chips were fine) and a really nice plastic spine, one that was as straight as possible, not distorted, melted, broken, or discoloured. One bonus was that I could buy a toy with missing plastic parts as long as there was a good example of each piece that I could remould later.

When the toy eagle turned up in the post I immediately realised again why I never wanted one, they are just so small! The distinctive framework doesn't actually go around to the bottom of the craft, theres very little detail on the main body, the pod doors keep falling open, and that terrible paint...... did I mention the metallic green paint?
Above Left: Filing the rough metal edges was one of the first jobs.

My first plan had simply been to strip the paint off and then do a straightforward clean up and paint the model in the correct colours, however I then had a second plan to super-detail the toy with many custom parts, but that then seemed pointless because you can't really do that without throwing parts away and starting again!
In the end I decided that the best idea was to restore and 'tweek' the parts to get an improved look, basically only doing what the Dinky company could, and should, have done themselves if they could have been bothered.

Above right: I drilled holes in the engine support ring, which turned the crude thick metal into two apparent pipe rings.

I began by dismantling the toy and then coating the metal parts in paint stripper, a rather long stinky process which took far longer than the description on the tin claimed! One of the biggest horrors of this toy was the front beak being in two pieces , which resulted in the Alpha decal not being able to go in it's correct position, the two side sensor dishs being missing, and a great big ugly rivit through the bottom!
All this was changed by drilling out the rivit, filing out the sensor holes, then gluing together the beak and filling it up with resin and car filler. The big hole in the bottom was filled and the bottom and side sensor dishs carefully drilled out.

More simple improvements, the rear engine crossmember is a solid casting with the framwork filled in, an easy fix to drill out. The passenger pod window frames were carefully painted with my smallest brush but even so I still got bits of paint on the windows. Luckily as they are raised I simply waited for the paint to dry and used a scalpel to gently scrape the paint off. The result was quite neat although the quality of the plastic moulding makes it impossible to be perfect. My original plan was to paint the back of the clear plastic windows black, as per the original model, however a quick test proved that it didn't look very good. So I just painted the inside of the passenger pod black and it looks far nicer.

The solid top shiney metal spine of the toy needed some changes too. I was going to paint it all but realised that the reflective side surfaces hid the metal more effectively than just painting it black, so I left them. However the centre could be painted to match the top of the pod and cage walkways. My first thought here was to add many small kit part details to fill the blank surfaces but it just looked plain wrong, so I resorted to a more simple pattern of basic shaped parts that I mirrored at both ends, matching the design of the toy parts that are identical at both ends.
Above left: I drilled small holes in the metal spine so that the glue had a better chance of holding the small plastic parts in position.
Above right: the same kit part was used on all sides, like it was a standard pattern in the moulding.

The toy was painted in grey zinc primer, then white primer. The centre hull walkways were masked off and then the beak, shoulder pods, and tail engine support were sprayed with Halfords brand gloss Appliance White car paint.

Primer didn't work on the footpads, so I applied two Humbrol grey paints, then used pencil to draw on the toes and weather them. The leg supports were also painted grey, then the surrounding black areas were cut from self adhesive paper labels sprayed with matt black primer. On the top of the spine I also drew in lines to represent where the passenger pod edges sholud be.

The best plastic parts were used to make a silicone rubber mould, the engine bell was slightly modified to include the inset baffle, which also made it easier to get out of the mould. When I cast the passenger pod doors I placed steel rods in the mould to create the lugs, and placed a steel washer in the door so that a magnet in the roof of the pod would hold the doors shut.
Two small wedge-shaped plastic blocks simulate the top and bottom Beak clamps, which helps to stop the Beak looking like it's hanging off.

When people repaint their Eagle toys the inset black window surrounds often look very poorly painted due to the small size. To avoid this problem I again used plastic templates to cleanly cut out black adhesive paper pieces.
The last detail was the biggest 'improvement', or change, the addition of some of the missing bottom frames. I had hoped to replace it all but the thick shoulder pod supports scuppered that idea and I instead settled on fabricating the bottom frame in plastic rod, which I attached directly to the bottom vertical booster engine bells. Dinky could have done this very easily and I am surprised that they didin't think about doing it.

Another simple paint improvement was the rear engine support, grey paint was applied to the area while masking tapes protected the edges, creating the simple appearance of pipework.
Above, the final assembly takes place thanks to the use of magnifying head glasses which made this whole project possible, they really were needed on such a small toy which was a complete pain to work on because everything was so tiny. Thankfully I am now back to my studio sized replica builds.

Dinky Eagle Gallery

Most of the paint is from Halfords car spray cans, while the chrome comes from a Molotow Liquid Chrome pen, but applied by brush. The legs on the passenger pod were painted with Humbrol grey paint as they are still the original soft plastic originals, as I thought resin castings might break.
Some weathering was applied to the top of the spine, footpads, and the walkways, but the gloss white was left clean and toy-like.
Alpha decals supplied by Chris Trice.

 

Text and photographs copyright David Sisson 2020

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