In 1912 Frank Hornby set up an office in Paris on Rue Ambroise Thomas to import Meccano toys into France. By 1921, the French market had proved so successful that production of Meccano began in Paris at the newly opened factory on Rue Rebeval, with another plant opening in 1929 at Bobigny where production of the Dinky Toys range would be based. In the early days production consisted mainly of model ships and aeroplanes, with vehicles gradually increasing in number. During the Second World War the Meccano factories were commandeered by the invading Germans and used in the Nazi war effort. French Dinky factories were also used for production of vehicles in the German Märklin train and toy range. In the early post-war years the model vehicles were forcibly shod with metal wheels due to Nazi war activity that virtually cut off supplies of rubber to France. Rubber tyres were not fitted on models until 1950. In 1951, the old factory at Rue Rebeval closed and Dinky Toys production was now solely based at Bobigny.
In 1951, French Dinky seems to have been the first post-war European manufacturer to introduce 1:43 scale. Initially, the scales of French Dinky Toys were similar to those of English Dinkys. The Citroën Traction Avant (24N), released in 1949, was 1:48, while the Ford Vedette 1949 (24Q), released in 1950, was 1:45, the same scales as used in the British 40 series. But then, in 1951 Meccano France released their first car in 1:43 scale: the Peugeot 203 (24R) (Schellekens 2009).
By the 1950s the French Dinky Toys range had begun to diversify from that of the British parent company, concentrating on the products of the French motor manufacturers; Citroën, Renault, Peugeot and Simca, along with choices of American cars perhaps thought to be exotic to mainland Europe. Some models such as the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia were produced both in France as 24m and in Great Britain at the Binns Road plant in Liverpool as number 187. By the 1960s there was virtually no crossover of product between the two countries resulting in a fascinating range that complemented the better known UK models. The vast majority of the French Dinky range was only available in the home market although a few models did make it across the English Channel. Similarly, some examples of the British range of Dinky Toys were exported to France at the same time. The factory at Bobigny closed in 1970 and production moved to Calais where the range continued to be manufactured until closure in 1971. French Dinky dies, however, were sold and produced in other countries, particularly Spain.
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