Brief History - The Real Car

The first Beetle car, known as the Type 1 and Beetle Bug, was launched in 1938 and production ran until 2003. Adolf Hitler was a major influence to the car as he wanted to mass produce a small functional car for Germany’s major road networks. He instructed Ferdinand Porsche to come up with the designs and production and the first Beetle car, with a split rear window, came off the production line in 1938, just before the start of the second world war. Being one of the earliest rear-engined cars, over 21 million were made.

Dinky Toy 181 Volkswagen Beetle

Issued 1956-70

Similar to the real car, Dinky had a very successful long production running for a remarkable 14 years. There were several colours issued with later models having changed base plates, colours and wheels.

Around 1961-62 this model was also selected for export by Arthur E Harris distributors to be assembled in South Africa and several new colours were used to produce what is now some of the rarest dinky toys available to the discerning collector.

Boxes also shared much adaption and change and I have tried to identify these changes for this article.

The following is the full listing of all known colours and changes. All early models had the standard base plate numbered ‘181’, smooth black tyres and no indicator lights. Issues with Type 1 yellow picture box shows a grey model one side and a lime green model on the other.

The Early Models....

Early Models

  • Light grey body with blue ridged wheels  —————————– £110-£160
  • Light grey body with maroon ridged wheels——(very rare)—— £600-£800
  • Light grey body with green ridged wheels———(very rare)—— £600-£800
  • Lime green body with green ridged wheels ————————– £120-£180
  • RAF Blue body with blue ridged wheels ——————————-£140-£180
  • Petrol Blue body with blue ridged wheels——–(very scarce)—–£600-£700

Type 2 boxes were similar to Type 1 but now showed the grey model one side and an RAF blue model the other side. Some of the earlier model colours listed above can be found with the later un-numbered standard base plate.

The models listed below can be found with the following component changes:

spun wheels, M tyres and base plate.

Second Stage Early VW Beetles

Later models with spun wheels, including the rare model in white which could have been a prototype:

  • Light grey body with gloss un-numbered base and no indicators —- £140-£180
  • Greyish blue body with gloss un-numbered base and no indicators — £140-£180
  • Light blue body with silver un-numbered base and Indicators —— £140-£200
  • White body with silver un-numbered base, no indicators.  Unrecorded colour.
  • May have been a colour trial. Potentially (very rare) ———————- £NPGA
  • Light blue body with matt black un-numbered base and indicators — £150-£225

Last issue with plastic wheels

Light blue body with matt black un-numbered base with blue plastic wheels,

  • indicators and M tyres. (Scarce) —————————————— £450-£600

The above list would have been supplied in three further box types.

  • Type 3 was a light yellow box with clear spots at each end.
  • Type 4 was similar but with no colour spot indicators.
  • Type 5 was the red and yellow panelled non picture box with a colour spot applied indicating the colour within.


I have provided a valuation indicator but this is my own opinion. There is no price guide for the un-recorded model which is always dependent on what any buyer is prepared to pay.

Values are for mint and similar box conditions.

South African Issued 1961-62 approx

All models were issued with spun wheels and certainly some models, had matt black un- numbered bases. It is possible they were also supplied with a gloss black un-numbered base. The significant difference to the UK models, apart from obvious South African colours and Africaans on the box, were the rivets.

SA model colours as follows:

  • Bright green
  • Caramel
  • Light sage green
  • Pale lemon
  • Off white
  • Dark grey
  • Light Blue (Similar to UK)

Estimated Value
For a boxed example of this ultra rare South African dinky I would suggest £1500-£2500

Rare South African issue in green (The light blue may be South African)


Model picture 5. Sorting out by Rivets

The later UK models were issued with domed rivets which are quite different from the SA rivets.  However the early UK rivets, with an inverted centre where the rod of the rivet was snapped off, has similarities to the SA rivet.

The green SA example I have is unboxed, has a matt black base and around the inverted centre of the rivets are clear circles of finish, slightly different to the early UK rivets.


Clive Unsworth recently produced an excellent article on SA Dinky in Model Collector and I note the boxes pictured in the article are an early yellow picture box but with NO colour spot printed either end. Each picture only shows one box side, a dark blue model with blue wheels.

Vectis Auctions have only had one boxed example in light sage green and the box was as described above.


Therefore I believe the SA box was a variation of the UK box Type 2 (as above), however without proof of the alternative side of the box and the model colour I am unable to conclude this point.

....the rare ones