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Welcome to a site mainly focused on U.S.-released and blisterpacked
Tomy Pocket Cars

Site last updated July 4, 2008
see "NOTE SECTION" below

1974 - 1986

Pocket Cars was a line of scale-sized diecasts manufactured in Japan by the Tomy Kogyo Company, Inc. [TKCI -- my own abbreviation that I will use from this point on], for release outside of Asia and the Orient. In the United States, Pocket Cars was released 'through' a "Tomy Corp." headquarters (a division of TKCI) located in Long Beach, California. That, plus the use of the Tomy logo [see above graphic] on the packaging, are the two main reasons why the line is usually referred to as "Tomy Pocket Cars." Sometimes, the line is called "Tomica Pocket Cars" because many models from the Tomica lines (another division of TKCI that came into existence four years before the Pocket Cars line) were packaged on the Pocket Cars blisterpacks. These models typically have "TOMICA" or "tomica" instead of, or in addition to, "TOMY" on the diecasts' chassis.

TKCI's first diecasts were released in the Tomica line in 1970. I think that TKCI produced scaled-sized version of only Japanese vehicles in an attempt to fill a perceived 'hole' in the diecast market. When the Tomica lines appeared, there were several brands of 'small' diecast -- like Lesney Matchbox, Mattel Hot Wheels, Mettoy Corgi Toys, Tootsie Toys, and Topper Johnny Lightning -- that could easily be found in most U.S. stores. In addition, there were many manufacturers, mostly European, who focused on scale-sized vehicles of all types for the numerous gauges/scales of model railroading. Even with all those manufacturers and brands, it was basically impossible to find diecast models of Japanese vehicles -- the "perceived 'hole'" that TKCI probably thought it could successfully and profitably fill; especially considering Tomica's initial success in the Orient and Asian marketplaces.

I don't know if TKCI did any marketing research outside of the Orient and Asia or just entered the worldwide diecast market based on its success, but several sources state that TKCI had difficulties expanding its share of the worldwide marketplace. To increase its popularity, TKCI not only repackaged Tomica models under different labels, the company also 'made' variations that were unique to its non-Orient and non-Asian markets.

Based on the catalogs I've seen, it seems that the Tomy Corp. division was responsible for the non-diecast toy aspect of TKCI. Apparently focused on the pre-teen market (especially the pre-8 ages), Tomy toys could be found in many areas of a store's toy section; but not in diecast (and it was extremely rare for any Tomica to be found there). This is where the Pocket Cars line came in and was expected to grab a good share of the market.

Introduced in 1974, Pocket Cars, like any new item on the market, faced an uphill struggle to establish itself.

In the marketplace, Pocket Cars was not unique in having scale-sized diecasts of real vehicles. Two previously mentioned manufacturers -- Matchbox since 1953 and Corgi since 1956 -- had not only been doing the same, they, in essence, had that part of the diecast market wrapped up. Why do you think Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning went with, and were so successful with, their diecasts of concept, futuristic, unusual, and outlandish models? Also, the diecast market suffered a disastrous sales year in 1973, and 1974 wasn't expected to be a whole lot better. This is another reason why I don't think TKCI/Tomy did that much market research; Pocket Cars entered the market at a time that the other diecast manufacturers were hoping would be the beginning of a recovery.

Ironically, the competition and recession weren't the major stumbling blocks that Pocket Cars faced. What hurt the line was a combination of where the diecast were made and the type of models in the line.
The key word being "Japan."

Let me give you a quick view of the U.S. in 1974. Some of you "baby boomers" may remember these things.

In 1974, the U.S. was trying to work its way out of a recession. In order for people to keep their jobs and not get laid off, a campaign of "Buy American" (meaning buy American-made items instead of imported products) was in full swing. Additionally, Americans had a negative mind-set towards almost anything made in Japan (except for cameras and cars) since inexpensively Japan-made items -- mostly electronics -- were flooding the U.S. markets. Unfortunately, most of those items broke rather easily and gave rise to the derogatory phrase of "cheap Japanese shit." Automobile-wise, the only Japanese vehicles most Americans had ever heard of or seen were made by Toyota, Datsun, or Mazda.

Into this came Pocket Cars with its superior quality and detail. Along with diecast versions of vehicles from Japan's 'Big 3,' Pocket Cars 'deluged' the market with models having seemingly unpronounceable names like Komatsu, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, and Furukawa. As you can guess, a Japan company trying to sell a Japan-made product featuring diecast of only Japan-made vehicles would face a difficult time establishing itself in the U.S. And it probably didn't help that Pocket Cars had a higher selling price than the more popular lines of Hot Wheels and Matchbox.

Probably owing to typical Japanese stoicism (and maybe a little "saving face"), TKCI stayed its course with its diecast versions of Toyotas, Datsuns, Mazdas, Hinos, Hondas, Komatsus, Hitachis, Furukawas, and Mitsubishis until 1975. Though this time period included the first two years that Pocket Cars were available in the U.S., TKCI was resolute enough that it increased the number of diecast models in the Pocket Cars line from 36 in 1974 to 48 in 1975. However, TKCI could no longer afford to ignore the "writing on the wall" and finally acknowledged that it would have to include diecasts of non-Japanese vehicles in its Tomica and Tomy lines.

For Pocket Cars, which had increased its 1976 line to 72 models, this meant an initial inclusion of 3 diecast models of non-Japanese vehicles. The following year, 1977, saw a good increase to 13; 1978 rose drastically to 31; 1979 slowed just a bit to 45; 1980 had a minor increase to 48; 1981 almost stalled with 49; 1982 was another minor increase to 51; and, 1983 was almost another stall with 52 diecast models of non-Japanese vehicles. Since most of the information about the number of non-Japanese models in the Pocket Cars line comes from the blisterpack packaging and nine Tomica/Tomy publications, it's currently impossible for me to give counts for the years 1984 to 1986 because the blisterpacks for those years do not list the models available and I have no Tomica/Tomy sources covering that time period. {For pictures and details on the blisterpacks, see the Packaging page. For a list of Pocket Cars, click here.} However, if you consider that from 1976 to 1986 Pocket Cars maintained a yearly line of 72 models (similar to Matchbox's "75"), you can see that the percentage of non-Japanese diecast models increased from 4% to 72% [1976 - 1983].

Another thing TKCI did in its bid to make the Tomy Pocket Cars line become more accepted was to drop most of the Japanese names from the model names on the blisterpacks. For Pocket Cars' 1979 line (and continuing until the line's demise), only the automobile diecasts (and one construction vehicle I'm aware of) retained the Japanese names of Toyota, Datsun, Nissan, and Mazda on the blisterpacks. The other non-car models still had the other Japanese names on their chassis.

But even that was not enough to keep the Pocket Cars line going.

During the thirteen years that Pocket Cars were available in the U.S., other companies (Ertl, Nylint, Maisto, Burago, etc.) got into the diecast market. Though they made larger scale models (1:48 or bigger), many of them, after establishing good reputations and large consumer bases, began making the smaller sized diecast models. And their customers followed. Also, the early 1980s saw several established/regular toy manufacturers make forays into the diecast marketplace; like Kenner which had a rather decent run with its line of "Fast 111's" in 1981 and 1982.

The U.S. economy's repeated rollercoaster ride from recovery to recession and back again, combined with inflation and an ever rising cost of living, had its effects as well. Here in Arizona, many stores either reduced the size of their toy sections or -- like Sears and J.C. Pennys -- only carried toys during the Christmas season. This meant that only the main lines of major U.S. toy manufacturers (and a few major European ones) were carried as regular stock. In addition, many parent corporations went through mergers or buy-outs {Toyworld became KayBee Toys; Skaggs drugstore became Longs drugstore, then was bought by Osco} in which the 'new' parent company had little or no dealings with TKCI. And finally, there were those companies that went out of business (again, here in Arizona) -- like FedMart (except for one), Woolco, Woolworth's, Lionel's Playworld, along with most of the J.J. Newberry's, McCrory's, and Kresge's.

At its peak, Pocket Cars could be found almost anywhere, even in hardware and grocery stores. But as the economy played havoc with companies and corporations, the types and variety of stores where Pocket Cars could be found was greatly reduced.

I don't know how much of the above three paragraphs really effected Tomy Corp. and TKCI, but sources state that in 1982 TKCI consolidated its lines. And, usually, when a company 'consolidates,' it means that only a few offices other than the main office are left operating. Typically for any company with overseas offices, most, if not all, are closed and only the main office remains. With TKCI, I think this happened sometime after the release of the 1983 Pocket Cars line since the 1983 U.S. catalog still lists a U.S. office address. But I do know that Tomy Corp. 'left' the U.S. before the release of the 1986 line since that card has a Japan office address.

Ironically, Pocket Cars' current collector interest now reflects a growing desirability for some of the reasons its market collapsed here in the U.S. -- Japan-made diecasts of Japanese vehicles. {For a "value reference," see the bottom of the Packaging page.}

Though models, both 'old' and new, are still being made {under the 'HED' label} and packaged (usually in a box), they are generally available only in the Orient, Asia, and parts of Europe where TKCI still has a good market share.


As for the diecast themselves, Pocket Cars were, on the average, a little heavier since more metal than plastic was used. The paint used on the bodies was a glossy enamel; though some semi-gloss paint (usually silver or grey) was also used. Most of the enamel finishes were opaque, but metallic finishes were not unheard of. Though a majority of the chassis were either metal or plastic, there were a few models with metal chassis that had plastic 'centers.' But regardless of the type of chassis, the vehicle's name, number, and scale-size could always be found there. The wheels, made of hard black plastic, came in a wide variety of sizes and styles {see bottom of Checklist page for pictures and details} with some having additional 'hubcap' inserts of metal or colored plastic. Some models had no wheels; they had working rubber treads. Most models had plastic window/windshield inserts with about half being of a tinted color. To my knowledge, there was never an opaque insert used, even when a model had no interior (usually a construction or semi-type truck model). Interiors were colored plastic and, though usually 'standard' in arrangement, there were a few models with the steering wheel on the right-side. Additional designs on the bodies were done with paper stickers, clear plastic stickers, tampos, or a combination of stickers and tampos.

Like Corgi and Matchbox, Pocket Cars models had moving parts. Be it opening doors, hoods, trunks, or tilt-forward cabs, or extending cranes, ladders, booms, forklifts, hoses, or sliding parts (usually doors), or 'working' hydraulics, dump truck beds & gates, earth diggers/movers, towing packages, treads, or removable 'accessories' (usually ladders) -- Pocket Cars covered the gamut. However, I think that, proportionally, Pocket Cars had more moving parts than any other manufacturer's line at the time. In addition, there were many extras -- like the embossed [part of the body mold] semi-cursive "Seville" on the sides of the front fender panels of the 1981 Cadillac Seville or the license plate areas that actually had something readable 'in' them.

For its time, I think that Pocket Cars were the best small-sized scale diecasts of real-world vehicles.


For those of you who are new to diecast collecting or just want to brush up on
your diecast lingo, there is an excellent glossary of terminology at the
Wheels Of Fire -- A Hot Wheels Club of Arizona website.
To get to the glossary page, click here.



NOTE SECTION
No active links in this section.

Where Updating Occurred
For The Current Month

7-4-08

3 items

1.  All email contact info for the owner of this site removed due to ongoing medical problems (see "Contact" page).

2.  Noticed that some "weird" symbols have snuck in (especially where ">>" notes are concerned). Will try going through entire site to take care of those weird symbols and other 'typos'.

3.  Am still planning on getting pictures of my vehicles online (and due to memory size limits, the pics will be at another -- but linked to -- site).

All of this will take some time and I have not set a deadline to finish it.  I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and I thank you for your patience and understanding.



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This site is in no way affiliated with Tomy Kogyo Company, Inc., or any of its subsidiaries or other businesses.
"Pocket Cars," the two logos -- children with joined raised hands above "TOMY" in a box and the rounded "TOMY" -- and the Pocket Cars blistercard/pack are registered trademarks and designs of:
Tomy Kogyo Company, Inc.; Tomy Corporation; and, Tomica.
Vehicle and chassis names are registered trademarks of their respective manufacturers.
The use of any copyrighted material, registered trademarks, and/or registered designs at this site is in no way meant as any type of infringement. The use of such material, trademarks, and/or designs at this site is solely meant for informative and illustrative purposes only.

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