Tuesday, March 12, 2013

World of Button Wheels

One distinctive trademark of Tomica is its button wheels. Although there are more than a hundred wheel type used for Tomica, my favourite is the 5 spoke button wheels. I have grow up with button wheel toy cars and I always thought that they resemble the steel wheels which were commonly used on cars during the 70s and 80s. There is a 4 spoke button wheel type but I still prefer the 5 spoke design. I don't know if you are aware that Tomicas wearing the 5 spoke button wheels has better suspension than those which has 4 spokes on them. The 5 spoke wheel is smaller in size than the 4 spoke hence giving it more allowance to bounce. It is sad to see the current Tomica which has suspension that are too stiff unlike the ones which were once made in Japan. There are actually plenty of toy cars which has button wheels on them out there in the market. They always remind me of Tomica and I will show case some of them in my collection.

When I first saw the Polistil RJ series, I almost mistook it for a Tomica. I do know that Tomica did not produce any Alfa Romeo road cars with exception of F1 cars. The button wheels could almost pass off as a Tomica and the cars has similar dimensions of a Tomica. Polistil has a few wheel designs but most common wheel type is the one as shown above. They made only European cars and could well compliment models which Tomica Foreign Series did not produce. The built quality is one notch below Tomica but they are pretty rare today which made them collectible among collectors. I call it Tomica of Italia.

Matchbox did have some button wheels in its line of history too. Most of these button wheels were used during the transition period of Lesney to Superfast series in the late 60s to early 70s. Lesney was using the "regular wheels" which does not roll fast. They were facing strong competition from Hot Wheels so they have to release a new series known as superfast. These button wheels are also known as superfast wheels. They look great on Lesney casting and the suspension work better than most Tomica models. MB still remain a favourite among vintage toy car collectors today.

Some earlier Guisval has button wheels on them. In fact, Guisval has many wheel designs which make it hard to identify if you are not a Guisval collector. Some later casting of Guisval looked like China made generic cars although they were made in Spain. The 70s Guisval are still the cream of the crops as they are really well made and many have metal base like the Seat featured above. Guisval is still made in Spain today.

Zylmex button wheels are smaller in size as compared to Tomica. They are used mainly on earlier Zylmex models. Quality of Zylmex is below average but some models especially the 70s Japanese cars which comes mint in box can worth as much as a vintage Tomica. The blue car above is a Kenmeri Skyline 4 door saloon but I don't know how Zylmex can mixed up Nissan and Toyota.

Hot Wheels in the 80s are softer on its tempo and uses simpler wheels like the one above. Although I do not collect Hot Wheels but I do appreciate the road cars they produced during the 80s especially those which has button-like wheels.

Small scale Conrad are extremely hard to find and they only made Mercedes. I know that these are 4 spoke button wheels and it looks a little out of place for a S-Class. This Conrad has no suspension on its wheels but the hood, boot and doors do open. Not common to have so many features packed into a small toy like this. Another brand that has this feature is Lone Star but they have no button wheelie although they do bounce like crazy.

I do have a number of Yatming when I was young. Yatming has many models which were Tomica copies. Most of their wheels are 6 spoke. Tomica 6 spoke wheels are the older 1D, 1E, 1F wheel type. Yatming are the budget toys then and the quality is average but better than Zylmex. They didn't garner many fans so they are still inexpensive to buy even today.

That's all, folks! I hope you like Tomica because of its button wheels too.

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