Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Straco Express Layout, Part 46 - Calling All Cars!

Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

A while ago I became aware that Line Mar, the Japanese subsidiary of Louis Marx Co. didn't just put out a random assortment of inexpensive tin friction cars. They actually collected ten of them together and offered them as a set (see: Collecting and Collecting Information, Part 13).

A few items from those sets had made it onto the Straco Express Layout. The Pepco Power Co. truck (see Part 27), the NYC fire engine (see Part 31), the Central Coal and Coke Co. dump truck (see Part 32), and most recently, the GE courier van (see Part 38). Some of the vehicles in the set are quite rare, and quite desirable. There's a Coca-Cola truck, for example, that appeals to not only toy car collectors but Coke memorabilia collectors. And that overlap of interest keeps the prices ridiculously high (for me, that is).

I now have 60% of this Line Mar vehicle set.
In the set there were nine trucks and one sedan, a police cruiser. I had never seen the sedan offered for sale, so I was sure it was even rarer than the Coke truck. But it came up in a Canadian auction for a small amount of money (under $10), and I was lucky enough to win it.

The construction method is the same for these three vehicles. But
there are some differences.
It's an interesting piece, and one that's given me more information about the Line Mar set. The lithography and shape of the sedan suggest it's from the early 1950's. The vehicles in the set are made in a variety of ways, and the police car shares the same design as the dump truck and the fire engine.

The police cruiser (center) has some interesting difference from the
flanking dump truck and fire engine. Note the groove frame and the
additional tabs (circled in red).

The frame is crimped around the body shell to hold it in place, a decidedly labor-intensive practice. Later Line Mar would move to tab fasteners, which makes assembly quicker and easier.

Some details suggest to me that the police car may have been the first of the series. Comparing the chassis, I noticed that the sedan had stamped grooves for reinforcement. The fire truck and dump truck have smooth frames. That stamping is an extra step that was probably phased out to simplify manufacture (every step eliminated means more money to the bottom line).

And note the extra set of tabs on the police car frame. I removed the shell, and discovered that this was a band that helped hold the friction motor assembly in place. The other two have a different friction motor frame, which eliminated the need for the extra band.

The colors also suggest this was an early piece. My two Nomura police cars, which were made in the late 1950's/early 1960's sport a black and white livery. With the popularity of the TV show "Highway Patrol" (1955-1959), black and white cruisers became the norm -- and toy makers followed the trend.

The Nomura police cars (L, R) look to be from the late 1950's/early 1960's,
while the Line Mar sedan appears to be from the late 1940's/early 1950's.

The car fits well on the display layout, as you can see from the pictures.

I'm still keeping my eye out for the remaining four vehicles, but only at the right price. The roads are now completely filled, and going forward I'll need to remove something from the display before I can add something. I'm not in a hurry to acquire anything else -- unless it's really interesting, of course...

Total cost for the project:

Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: left over from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49

  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Police Car $9.00
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Namura vehicles $16.99
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
Total Project Cost: $218.37

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