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You mentioned earlier that the Zee molds eventually passed to another company when they closed in 1995. The Diecast Encyclopedia makes that same unnamed company reference but they also mention that the Zylmex line had already been purchased by Red Box which later evolved into Motormax.

Did Zee and Zylmex share casting tools over time in their diecast lines?

Is it probable that Red Box was the same company who picked up the Zee tooling in 1995? Or was it a definitly a completely different company for sure?
 

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I'm going to divide this into multiple posts. Here's the first one.

Part 1 What to make

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First, management looks at the past year or two to see what categories sold well and uses that information to anticipate what would be likely to sell in the future. As you can see, Zee Toys made more than just die-cast toys. This information is from a Feb. 5, 1991 report showing data from 1989 and 1990. The 1991 figures are predicted results for the future. The date is important because it was a week or so before the big annual sales meeting at Toy Fair in New York City.

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Second, management would look at specific item sales and recent market test results to see how well things was selling. This is just one page from a 1991 product document. The T-bird stock car, custom VW convertible and the Mustang GT convertible were my "babies."

Based on this information as well as input from the largest retail stores, the Zee sales manager (with management concurrence) would tell the product development manager what new items (and re-decos of existing items) should be made. These requests needed to be carefully reviewed because the retailers often would request what would sell “right now” — but by the time we designed and produced them to be on the shelf a year later they might not be such good sellers.

The product development department would propose our own recommendations and the manager would reconcile those with the sales department and company management. I wasn’t in management but I generated a lot of suggestions — of which only a tiny fraction ever made it into production.

Some were "safe bets" such as every new version of Corvette, Mustang, Camaro and so on. Others required a lot of thought. Licensing agents would often provide confidential advance information on upcoming vehicles. For the really hot ones, like Corvette Z06, they would offer an exclusive license (only we could make certain scales of die-casts, for example) at a higher license royalty of course. Other times, to get a hot new license we had to also agree to make a less-desirable model, too, that probably wouldn't sell very well but some higher-up at the vehicle manufacturer insisted on.
Wow! Another gem of information sharing. Although they are not exact production numbers, we can extrapolate the volumn of each available castings that were produced in each Zee product line! Which at first glance is much lower than I would have expected by individual casting on a yearly basis!
 

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It's a model! In his early pro days, Mark Jones built models for Zee photography. This is a 1/8 scale Monogram IROC-Z Camaro. Here is one of his award-winning models: Tamiya 1:12 Super Seven Build - Mark Jones .

You can see a video he did on model car detailing here:
"Model Car Mechanical Detailing" by Mark Jones : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive . It's all lecture (no pix) but he's one of the experts in the field.
Thanks for the links! I havent taken the time to watch the video but is this the same person who designs (designed) diecast for Mattel?
 

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Going back to the production lists by series - many examples of those can be found on ebay both in their current and their sold listings. One casting series I did notice on ebay and have seen only one example of before - that I can recall - is of bicycles! Where you ever involved in their development or marketing?
 

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Another item that caught my eye from the marketing report was item # 29581 Drag Race Set. Was this the double launcher device only or did it include a track component?
 

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Nice to know that! I will incorporate it into our diecast history summary for the Pacesetters later this afternoon! 🤙

I should have inserted this brand history summary for Zyll products instead of Maisto here. But I have gone back and revised both historys based on your input so far. Thanks for the information!

 

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Awesome information! And a lot more detailed work than I would have imagined. I too, was expecting just a blue print type drawing as the starting point! Nice work on the development of your self made reference tool! Thanks!

The inclusion of a model kit and a diecast car in your researched materials to model builders is also very interesting. In the Encyclopedia of Small-Scale Diecast Motor Vehicle Manufacturers - Sahakangas, Foster & Weber (2006) they include several references to manufacturers using built up model kits and notations that they copied 'measurements' from other diecasts but actual confirmation is phenomenal to have! It also makes more sense that the reference models would have been of a larger scale model kit or diecast than the end product! We used a lot of model kits as the basis for die-casts. Still, we usually followed the "trust, but verify" philosophy to avoid perpetuating someone else's errors. It worked the other way, too. At Maisto, we made a variety of licensed HUMMER die-casts. At least one other company copied our 1:18 H2 so carelessly that they included the Maisto name on the baseplate on theirs!
 

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You mentioned earlier that the Zee molds eventually passed to another company when they closed in 1995. The Diecast Encyclopedia makes that same unnamed company reference but they also mention that the Zylmex line had already been purchased by Red Box which later evolved into Motormax. As far as I know, all of the Zyll (Zylmex, Zee Toys) owned tooling went to Red Box. Tooling from suppliers, such as May Cheong (most pull-back items) and Boville (all-plastic LeMans) did not.

Did Zee and Zylmex share casting tools over time in their diecast lines? Zee Toys was a brand name, primarily used by Intex Recreation Corp. up to the early 1990s. Zyll Enterprise was the overall company name that made the toys. Zylmex was a brand name used for Zyll toys made for non-Intex customers. So, Zee Toys and Zylmex were the same products in different packaging. After Intex stopped selling toys in the early 1990s Zyll used the Zee Toys name for sales worldwide.

Is it probable that Red Box was the same company who picked up the Zee tooling in 1995? Or was it a definitly a completely different company for sure? Red Box.
 

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Wow! Another gem of information sharing. Although they are not exact production numbers, we can extrapolate the volumn of each available castings that were produced in each Zee product line! Which at first glance is much lower than I would have expected by individual casting on a yearly basis! Those were only for Intex. In addition, the same castings were sold as Zylmex and private labels worldwide.
 

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One of the other debate points we have often in our diecast history process regards how old tooling is integrated into new ownership. When Maisto picked up Bburago, Muscle Machines and Tonka for example what was the process like to choose which castings were continued, modified or discarded? Obviously base plate information would need to be updated if a casting was continued.
 

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Part 2 Gather reference material and send it off for model making (continued from post #39)

Here is something I did for every vehicle that I prepared tooling material for. This one is a Honda V45 Interceptor from 1983 for a Zee Toys Ridge Riders.

Wheel Tire Motor vehicle Vehicle Automotive tire

The purpose was to create a perspectiveless photo, like a mechanical drawing would be. If only one photo was taken, say number 4 above, then the extreme front and rear of the bike wouldn't be seen straight on. For a bike it wouldn't be a big deal but I shot everything this way and did the right side, left side, front, rear, top and (for four-wheeled vehicles) the underside. The camera with a 300mm lens was very carefully set up on a tripod with it centered on the height of the vehicle and placed about 100' away. I'd shoot photo 1, move the camera 1' to the right. Shoot photo 2, move the camera 1' to the right...and so on. Then I'd develop the film and make an enlargement of each. I'd manually paste together a strip of photo 1 aligned with a strip of photo 2 aligned with a strip of photo 3...and so on to make a composite that was sent off to the tooling model builders. Shooting the top view was accomplished by climbing onto the roof of a garage with an open door and hanging out to shoot straight down. Somebody would then hold the bike perfectly vertical and slowly walk it through the doorway, stopping every 1' for me to shoot a pic.

In the early years of computer aided drafting (CAD) the car companies wouldn't let us have the files* so I had to continue shooting photos. In the early 2000s Maisto made a series of 1/64 General Motors concept cars. Maisto flew me back to Detroit and GM gave me a couple of hours to shoot several cars one day before they were to be shown for the first time. The cars were arranged in a spherical dome display building at the styling center. There wasn't time or space for me to use a tripod and I couldn't touch the cars or place my dimension card on or near them. So, I freehanded all of the photos. GM did give me one big perk: a bucket lift with an expert operator. That guy was amazing! For the straight-down shots he aligned it parallel with each vehicle and swung me over the centerline of each car about 30' above then advanced about 2' at a time for me to shoot. I was petrified at dropping the camera -- if I had it would have damaged a one-off car a day before it had to be shown in perfect condition.

*they wouldn't say why but I'll speculate that they were afraid of them getting into the hands of counterfeiters in China where much of our model building, tooling and manufacturing was done.
 

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One of the other debate points we have often in our diecast history process regards how old tooling is integrated into new ownership. When Maisto picked up Bburago, Muscle Machines and Tonka for example what was the process like to choose which castings were continued, modified or discarded? Obviously base plate information would need to be updated if a casting was continued.
I wasn't involved in this directly. Once the tooling was sent to our people in China they would advise which ones were able to be run as is, give time/cost estimates for repairing the ones that needed some work and which ones weren't cost-effective to fix. Of course, all had to have the baseplate lettering revised. The new products manager and the sales manager would advise management on which ones they wanted. Tonka wasn't a factor, though, since it was a licensing deal only. Maisto would create new tooling for Tonka-only items and the rest was just applying new decos and, sometimes, new colors to our existing items.
 

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Hi @chepp, not to completely shift away from the topics being discussed but I was wondering if you could go through your process of designing a diecast car. I think you've done both 1/64 scale and larger scale as well, right? I'd be interested in hearing some of the differences in approach to small scale vs. large scale. If you have any drawings you can share I'd love to see those, too :)
Part 3 Tooling model

There isn't much difference between scales in most of the process of making new items, it's just a matter of size and how many parts there are. This one was about 1-1/2 times the size that the production 1:18 die-cast would be. For smaller scales, the tooling model would usually be 2 or 3 times the size of the production item.

Font Engineering Automotive lighting Auto part Automotive wheel system

Continuing on with the Maisto 1:18 1939 Ford Deluxe Coupe, here are some photos of the tooling model. It was sent to me for review as a result of the photos and notes shown in Part 2 (message #39). I don't recall if anything needed to be changed on this one. If it was major, I'd return it for revisions. If it was minor, I'd get the tooling people to agree to it then I'd have the tooling model submitted to the license agent with a note about how it would be revised. The license agent would then present it to the manufacturer (typically the styling department) for review and, hopefully, approval. My experience was that models of older vehicles would get approved on the first or second submission. Tooling models of as-yet-unreleased vehicles could require a half-dozen submissions. The manufacturers were really picky about them and expected them to be perfect. Sometimes the styling would change between when we were given the info and when we submitted the model. The shapes of fake hood scoops were probably the most common thing that changed on new cars without them telling us.

After reviews, the tooling model would be returned to the tooling people. It wouldn't be the actual master that they would follow because that would be too valuable to risk shipping. The model sent for review was a resin copy.
 

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The photography involved in your work is fascinating to me! You had mentioned Zee photography earlier. Did you also do photographs of the completed castings for them or for Maisto? If so, what type of set up did you use for the small scale items?
 

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I only have the one Maisto motorcycle in my collection but it is one I have kept since 2014. To me the detail everywhere on it is incredible. It seems that the fringe on the saddle seat and bags would wave in the wind if I took it out of its package! Did you do any back ground on this model?


1999 Maisto Series #6 Harley Davidson 1:18
by Milton Fox, on Flickr
 

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The photography involved in your work is fascinating to me! You had mentioned Zee photography earlier. Did you also do photographs of the completed castings for them or for Maisto? If so, what type of set up did you use for the small scale items?
I shot lots of toy photos for Zee Toys. Before joining them in 1982 I had a dozen years of experience building models and shooting how-to photos for freelanced model car and model train magazines. Early on it was as simple as a piece of 8-1/2" x 11" white copier paper taped to a box to create a curved background. Lights were a couple of photo lamps on stands with multi-hundred watt bulbs. When needed, I'd use pieces of white cardboard as reflectors and tracing paper as diffusers...and hoped that I wouldn't start a fire from the heat of those bulbs. The sales department often wanted photos of the latest hand-decorated samples of new products. I shot photos of tooling models and the custom things that we built as a record in case the actual models got lost or damaged. A professional photographer shot the catalog photos but sometimes when we were were close to the printer's deadline with new items I would take those photos.

After the Intex years we had a proper photo area with a seamless paper holder, softbox and electronic flash units at the Zyll Hong Kong office. I was still using film cameras until 2003 at Maisto. The first digital camera was a Sony but within a few years we moved on to Canon SLRs. Boy, those really saved time and trouble...along with Photoshop to fix boo-boos!
 

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I only have the one Maisto motorcycle in my collection but it is one I have kept since 2014. To me the detail everywhere on it is incredible. It seems that the fringe on the saddle seat and bags would wave in the wind if I took it out of its package! Did you do any back ground on this model?


1999 Maisto Series #6 Harley Davidson 1:18
by Milton Fox, on Flickr
Another designer was responsible for the Harley-Davidson items until 2008 when I took it over. This bike is a 1999 FLSTS Heritage Springer. It was a modern Harley with retro details such as the front fender light, springer front fork, wide whitewalls, old-style tank emblem, tombstone taillight and those special fringed saddlebags and seat.
 

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Here's a bonus Corvette post for @Milton Fox Racing .
This is how the deco info was sent to the factory in 1983.
It's for the P375 1984 Corvette in the Grippers Gold Medal line (3" pull-back) die-cast. It was done by another designer at Intex.


Tire Wheel Hood Car Vehicle

Here is how the car appeared in the 1984 Intex Recreation Corp. catalog.


Motor vehicle Vehicle Font Rectangle Line

This is a photocopy of the cover flap on the artwork. Two SX-70 color Polaroid photos are taped in place with notes.

Rectangle Handwriting Font Parallel Slope

This is a photocopy of the artboard with the stripe art in black and the colors called out with Pantone color swatches taped in place.
 
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