Knockoffs and Copies are Surprisingly Common (And Collectible)

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

A while back we took a look at how certain model cars featured unusual discrepancies that were also found on earlier models of that car by different companies.  In these cases, even if the maker of the newer model was authorized to create a model of that particular vehicle, they incorrectly based some of their decisions on another model instead of the real car. It’s a fun phenomenon to track once you see it.

Here we’re taking a look at a different kind of copy, the kind that can only be called blatant theft. Knockoffs and copies are surprisingly common and sometimes collectible depending on type of vehicle and of course, quality and rarity.

Ford Cortina Estates by Matchbox (left) and Fleetwood Toys

Ford Cortina Estates by Corgi and Fleetwood Toys

See these models of a Ford Cortina Estate? They look a lot alike, yet the one on the right is a little… off.. The details are a bit muddier than on the Corgi Toys car, because Fleetwood Toys most likely used the original toy as the basis for a mold, which would blur some finer details. But there’s a really obvious clue if you have one in your hand instead of just looking at a photo: The entire car is made of plastic instead of having diecast metal parts. The question is, did they figure Corgi would be unaware of the theft, or just not care enough to do anything about it?

Bedford trucks by Corgi (left) and unknown Hong Kong company

Bedford trucks by Corgi and Empire Toys

These Bedford trucks present another interesting case. Again, the base model is from Corgi Toys, in the form of a semi-tractor, and Empire Toys from Hong Kong copied the mold in plastic. But added the new models featured their own twist… their truck could be had as a milk truck, garbage hauler or other versions. It’s not clear whether they borrowed these features from other vehicles or created them from scratch. In this case, the second company is unknown, as they probably sold these toys as commodity items.

Pumper Trucks by Matchbox (left) and Gordy Mite

Pumper Trucks by Matchbox and Gordy Mite

Matchbox has offered many fire engines over the years, and one of the most iconic is the Model 29 Fire Pumper. The details are a bit crude by Matchbox standards, and the white plastic hose reels on the top usually warped over time. But that didn’t stop the folks at Gordy Mite from making their own version. In this case, some of the details that had been molded into the base of the original were transferred to the body casting, possibly to simplify production, possibly to avoid being guilty of a direct copy. Who knows?

Coomer Delivery vans by (from left) Matchbox, Blue Box and Blue Bow.

Coomer Delivery vans by Matchbox, Blue Box and Blue Bow.

Finally, the Matchbox Commer Van is the victim of a really interesting case of theft… A company calling themselves “Blue Box” stole the mold and made a slightly inferior plastic version, complete with similar sized box. But then another company not only knocked Blue Box’ model, but their box design and even the name. The result was called “Blue Bow” models. Yep, it’s a copy of a copy, right down to the typeface in the logo, with the expected degradation of detail along the way.

If you know of any others, let us know in the comments below!

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William Boyden
William Boyden
7 years ago

And then there’s the knock-offs made by the original company of their own models with the original logos blocked off on the chassis. Examples are the dark green Chevy Vega funny car from the Hot Wheels “Vega Bomb” that has “Hot Wheels” blocked but still shows 1969 (&) Mattel and “Hong Kong, U. S. $ Foreign Pat. Pend.” Blocked off and “Malaysia” stamped. And there’s the Johnny Lightning transformed to “Speed Rebels” with the same chassis treatment and opening parts perminatly shut.

7 years ago

I think of a knock-off as a cheap imitation or copy of a nicer item. So William’s examples above might be called a variation, or “genericized”. Perhaps the trademark or manufacturer is blanked out so that an older item could be sold at a discount and not tarnish the original name. I look forward to a post or two about these, whatever they are called!

Darby C
Darby C
7 years ago
Reply to  Karl

Definitely a lot of gray area in this topic. Thanks for the comment!

7 years ago

There are also later copies, Metal Playmobil is a Hungarian brand that copied Superfast models, here their version of the Bedford Car Transporter:

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