Thursday, March 01, 2007

Holy Welsh Batmobiles Batman!

Ah Swansea, that lovely ugly town, renowned the world over for its greatest cultural export - the Corgi miniature Batmobile (1966) .
When the Mettoy company opened its Swansea factory in 1954 they decided to call their new range of toy cars 'Corgi'. Having moved to Wales and specializing in miniatures they thought it appropriate to use a breed of small Welsh dog as a brand name. Bizarre but true.

Corgi cars were manufactured in Swansea right up until 1991. In that time they produced classic collectibles like the Monte Carlo Mini Cooper (1965); The Man From UNCLE "Thrushbuster" Oldsmobile (1966); and the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).

However their most successful export and biggest ever seller was the aforementioned Batmobile (1966). Just 5 inches long, the dye-cast model featured rocket launchers and tiny versions of Batman and Robin in the front seats. It sold (in Britain) for 12 shillings and 11 pence.

Normally the process of getting a model from the drawing board to the shops took 12 months but they got the Batmobile out in just 5. At that time 'Batmania' was sweeping across the world and Mettoy knew if they could get their new product in toy stores by Christmas they'd make an absolute killing. They were right - it sold over 5 million units.

I doubt if Under Milk Wood has sold that many copies. Maybe Swansea council should get the words Bam! Zap! Pow! prominently displayed in the city centre or rename their metropolis Dinas Gotham in its honour? Anyway, to the Batmobile!