A Rare Marusan Tinplate Cadillac


In 1951, the Marusan Company (later the maker of the Atlas slot cars), was trying to become a viable tin toys business. With the financial and managerial help from the American Armed Forces under General MacArthur's command, the Japanese toy industry was able to become the country's largest exporter, bringing much-needed currency to the nearly-destroyed country.



Marusan secured the services of Matsuzou Kosuge, a well-known toy maker, to produce what would become one of the all-time classic toys ever made, the 1951 Cadillac. This was produced as a friction-powered toy, as a self-propelled battery-powered version as well as a cable-controlled version with a steering wheel on top of a battery box.

The toy was made of stamped steel with a painted body and chassis base, with a lithographed interior. The tires are real rubber but the whitewalls are stamped and painted steel rings. The wheels are steel as well as the whole friction mechanism. The windows are acetate, stamped from flat sheet. The paint quality is outstanding for a toy, and there are over 150 pieces in each, over 200 in the electric versions. All were assembled by women over long tables, the final product boxed, then packed into large wooden crates for export to American toy stores.

Here is a picture of the friction-powered toy that is 13" long, painted in gray over its steel body and its chrome-plated brightwork.


The colors were very precise, the more common friction-powered model painted in gray, with less common versions in black or red, and in 1953 after the success of "A Solid Gold Cadillac" movie featuring Judy Holiday, a... gold version.

The self-propelled electric powered models were yellow with a green roof, and that was an actual Cadillac factory color scheme.

Here is a picture of the electric powered model, that was much more expensive and so is much rarer today.



However, the friction-powered models were never produced in that color scheme. At least that is what all the books and documentation, including that of Marusan themselves, advanced.

Out of the blue surfaced this brand new, mint in its original box model that contradicts all previously known information, a yellow and green model, but friction-powered and without the electric headlights and taillights of the "standard" model.

After insuring myself that this was not a restored car, stripped and repainted in the "wrong" color, I had to accept that it is real. Here is the beast, recently discovered in an online estate sale:










The box top inner face shows that this toy was indeed, a friction powered model.
The box is unfortunately not as good of condition as the toy itself...


It is always nice as a collector, to find something that is supposed to never have existed... but does!


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