Lilliput World Vehicle Series
Britains is thought to be Europe's oldest toymaker. It was started by William Britain, a brass tap and clock-maker, in the 1860's when he started making clockwork toys including a mechanical dog and a working windmill. By 1880 he had an impressive catalogue but his great contribution to toymaking was the invention of hollow lead casting which enabled strong, light-weight toys to be produced with considerably less metal than had previously been used.
In around 1883 the first of his now legendary range of toy soldiers, farm animals and civilian figures appeared. In 1907 the firm was incorporated as Britains Ltd. but it was not until the 1920's that a wider range of vehicle models started being made, often as a part of Sets.
Almost all these toys were made to 1:32 scale but possibly as early as 1934 Britains began making figures on 1:76 scale. Certainly by 1937 a new range in 'OO' scale models was introduced for Trix Ltd. for their Trix-Twin model railways, these being made under licence by W.Horton (Toys & Games) Ltd, in Middlesborough. Sold in Sets, the boxes carried the names and trademarks of both Trix-Twin Railways and W Britain.
The first vehicles on 'OO' scale were produced in 1939. These were military models, No.1855 Balloon Barrage Unit and the accompanying No.1879 Gas Cylinder Lorry & Trailer. Whether any cars were produced at this time has been a topic of dispute but one can surmise from the design of the Open Sports Car (LV/601) and the Saloon Car (LV/602) that they were at least planned before World War 2.
Manufacture of toys was disrupted during the War but in 1950 the 'OO/HO' vehicles and figures were re-launched as 'Lilliput World Vehicle Series' with a range of civilian models either in Sets or individually boxed. The cars at last reached full production and the range included an Articulated Lorry (LV/603), which made use of the cab & chassis from the early Gas Cylinder model, a Fordson tractor (LV/604), and two horse-drawn models (LV/605 & LV/606).
In 1956 Britains upgraded and expanded the Lilliput Vehicle Series with the introduction of several new models including military vehicles. New open fronted display boxes were brought in for all models and the 'OO' connection was emphasised by 'TrOOscale' being printed on the box. The models were secured to a pictorial diorama insert.
The early Lilliput car and truck models had been fitted with one of three types of wheel, solid metal, solid silver plastic, or solid grey plastic. In 1956 new-style wheels were introduced for all models. These had red plastic hubs and black tyres, and the tyres usually had 'Britains Ltd' and 'England' embossed of both sides.
By 1960 the use of lead in toy-making was no longer possible and although by then Britains was using zinc alloy for its larger models and plastic parts on Lilliput ones, it was decided to discontinue the 1:76 Lilliput Series and production ended.