One of the things I find fascinating about vintage toys is how manufacturers created a seemingly wide variety of items by just changing a few basic things (I'm sure current toy makers do this as well, but that's not my area of interest).
A good example of this (among many) are the inexpensive fleet of trucks produced by Mansei Toy Co. Ltd. Mansei used the brand name Haji. All of their products have the word "Haji" in an oval on them somewhere. Mansei was a small company, and produced toys from about 1951 through 1960, when they disappeared from the market. Documentation about the company and the products they carried are virtually non-existent, so all I know about these toys comes through observation.
Their series of 3-inch friction-powered trucks seem to be all produced around the same time. It's not clear if they were ever offered in sets. It's more likely they were imported just for individual sale.
As you can see, Mansei used the same frame and cab for the entire line. What they put on the truck bed changed, as did the colors of the trucks. What I find most interesting, though, is that they also changed the design of the lithography. If you look carefully, you'll see that the windshields and side doors vary on the cabs. Some have running lights on the roof, some don't.
Placed side by side, it's easy to see the variations. I'm not sure if it's significant, bot so far, I've only found two variations of each truck body type.
Delivery truckNote how different the cab designs are. (click on images to enlarge)
Again, Mansei didn't just change the color of the trucks -- the lithography is completely different for both. Even the font of the word "Dump" is different.
It was difficult funding good examples of the cement mixer. These were very fragile toys, and because they were so inexpensive were often considered disposable. Although the cement tumbler is missing on the blue truck, enough of the frame remains to show how different these two mixers were in decoration.
Winch TruckI wonder if these two were made slightly later. Note that, with the exception of the body color, the lithography is identical. Did Mansei decide it was cheaper just to change a single color plate rather than do a complete redesign?
Fire TruckAlthough this shares the same chassis as the rest of the series, the fire truck has some major differences. The closed cab has been replaced by an open cab and a driver. This is a relatively expensive change. The closed cab was created with the same stamper used for the other models in the line. The windshield and fireman were created with new dies. And that means two pieces to be hand-attached rather than one. Of course, that expense is relative -- perhaps adding t2o cents to a nickel more to the retail price?
There are two questions I'd like to find the answers to. Did Mansei produce other types of trucks using these Haji chassis? Are there more than two versions of the examples I've discovered so far? If I find out more, I'll update this page accordingly.