Photos: All photos copyright of Miguel Stefanelli, who kindly authorized us to use them in this article.
The history of Roly Toys began in 1964, when “Roly Toys Indústria e Comércio de Brinquedos LTDA” was founded in Rio de Janeiro. The main objective of its founder, Maurício Nhuch, was the production of diecast miniatures of vehicles manufactured or assembled in Brazil.
The miniatures released were: Willys Interlagos, DKW Vemaguet, VW Kombi, Scania Vabis Dump Truck, VW Beetle, Willys Jeep, Mercedes-Benz Tanker Truck, Centurion Tank and VW Karmann-Ghia.
They were produced between 1964 and 1970 in 1/64 scale and the models were numbered from Number 1 to Number 11, with the corresponding model number stamped on its chassis. Interlagos and Scania Vabis were re-released with improvements in the finish. Therefore, despite being 9 reproduced vehicles, the numbering goes up to 11. A prototype for Number 12 was also assembled, but it was never produced.
The first catalog released by Roly Toys had only the first 7 models and their versions:
In 1969, Roly Toys released the “Bólidos” series. This series was produced with different chassis, axles and wheels. This modification simulated a suspension effect on the miniature, in addition to making them faster. This series was probably a response by Roly Toys to the releases of Hot Wheels in 1968 and Matchbox’s Superfast line, which, using low-friction axles and wheels, made the miniatures faster on the tracks.
Only two models were released in the “Bólidos” series: the Willys Interlagos and the VW Karmann-Ghia. See the differences in the chassis between the regular series and the “Bólidos” series:
Unfortunately the Roly Toys had paint problems. Apparently the factory could not obtain a paint with good adhesion to the ZAMAC alloy, which was used in the manufacture of the miniatures. This caused the paint to easily peel off the metal.
Another problem was in production. The factory was not able to meet the market’s need because the production of new molds was very expensive. To supply the market, Roly Toys got a distribution agreement with Lesney, starting to import Matchbox in 1967. This ended up causing a big problem for the company because the quality of Matchbox was much superior to that of Roly Toys. Eventually, Roly Toys ended up discontinuing the production of their miniatures.
With the high import taxes of the early 70’s, Roly Toys moved to Manaus to take advantage of the import tax benefits offered to companies that established themselves in the “Zona Franca de Manaus” (A free trade zone created in Manaus by the Brazilian Government). It was also when the company changed its corporate name to “Inbrima Indústria de Brinquedos do Amazonas SA”.
Inbrima then started to assemble the models imported from Matchbox in Manaus, painting them and putting on the chassis the labels “Made in ‘Zona Franca de Manaus’ “.
This assembly of Matchbox miniatures lasted until 1981, when Lesney lost much of the market due to competition and the UK economic crisis, and ended up going bankrupt in 1982.
In 2012, Atuomodelli acquired the production rights for the Roly Toys models. The project was named “The Phoenix Project” and some Roly Toys models were reproduced, such as the Willys Interlagos, the VW Kombi and the DKW Vemaguet.
The pictures show miniatures from the 60s and reproductions made by Automodelli in 2012 and later.
Number 1: Berlineta Interlagos
The Willys Interlagos, in its Berlineta version, was the first model in the Roly Toys catalogue. It was manufactured in several colors, including a reproduction of the race car in which Emerson Fittipaldi started his career.
Number 2: Vemaguet DKW
In addition to the color variations, they also reproduced a fire department and a DNER (Brazilian Highway Administration Department) car.
Number 3: Kombi Volkswagen (VW Bus)
In addition to the color variations, they also reproduced a fire department van and an ambulance.
Number 4: Scania Vabis Basculante (Dump Truck)
The dump trucks were produced with some color variations, always with a black chassis, but with different colors for the cabin and bed. They were later re-released with some modifications as the Number 11 model.
Number 5: Sedan Volkswagen
The famous VW Beetle also got a place in the initial catalog of Roly Toys. Reproducing the Volkswagen 1200, they were released in different colors and in two versions: one with opening doors, the other with fixed doors.
Number 6: Jeep Willys
The classic Jeep Willys Overland was the Number 6 model in the Roly Toys line.
Number 7: Caminhão Tanque Mercedes-Benz (Tanker Truck)
Based on the LP-321 model, the Mercedes-Benz Tanker Truck was produced in three versions in the colors of different fuel distributors in Brazil: Esso, Shell and Texaco.
Number 8: Tanque Centurion (Centurion Tank)
Although Roly Toys focuses on the reproduction of vehicles manufactured or assembled in Brazil, they also produced this miniature of the Centurion Tank. It was probably a response to miniature tanks on the market like the ones from Dinky and Matchbox. Released initially in two colors, they were also produced with different types of tracks.
Number 9: Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
The Karmann Ghia miniature was released in the convertible version. Several improvements have been included in it, compared to previous miniatures. The level of detail was much higher. Some examples are the windshield wipers and rear view mirrors built into the windshield and various interior details such as pedals, gearshift lever and handbrake. In addition, they were released in the two series, Regular and “Bólidos”. Both received the Number 9 on the chassis.
Number 10: Interlagos
The new version of Willys Interlagos came with some modifications. The “Berlineta” was removed from the name and the same finishing details, included in the Karmann Ghia, were also included in this version of the Interlagos. And it was also released in the two series, Regular and “Bólidos”, both with Number 10.
Number 11: Scania Vabis Basculante (Dump Truck)
A new version of the Scania Vabis was the last model released by Roly Toys. Despite being very similar to Number 4, improvements were made to the chassis, mainly in the mechanism that allowed the bed to be raised and lowered. In this new version, the bed sits closer to the chassis making it more stable. In addition, details were included in the chassis finish, such as the engine, drive shaft and gearbox.
Differences between Number 11 (left) and Number 4 (right)
Number 11: Camaro
This would be the second Roly Toys miniature reproduced of a vehicle that was not assembled or manufactured in Brazil. The Chevrolet Camaro was designed to be released in the “Bólidos” series. As far as we know, there are 2 prototypes of this Camaro: one painted, the other not painted. The prototypes were kept for several years by a former employee of the company.
The greatest innovation of this miniature is the opening hood, showing the engine details, which would be a first in Roly Toys miniatures.
It’s sad that Roly Toys story was so short. They were Brazilian pioneers in the production of miniatures of vehicles manufactured or assembled in Brazil. Over the years, other collections of Brazilian cars have appeared, but never in the 1/64 scale. In addition to the Kombi and Beetle, which practically all brands produce, few Brazilian models have appeared on the market at this scale and, when they do, they are always highly sought after by collectors.
In 2021, BRClassics entered the market with its line of Chevrolet Opalas and Caravans. The quality of the miniatures is very good and I hope they expand their line to other brands and models of Brazilian cars.
Photos: All photos copyright of Miguel Stefanelli