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MARUSAN Oval Window VW Article

One interesting characteristic of tin Volkswagen toys from the vintage era is that most of them do not represent the true silhouette of the famous Beetle shape. This is due to the fact that the Volkswagen body design and shape has negative contours that is hard to stamp out of a single sheet of metal. Typically, when a piece of tin plate is placed in a die and stamped, when the die is opened, the body stamping must fall out of the die with minimal force such as gravity only.  The manufactures of the early tin Volkswagen toys had problems with the top section and fender design of the body and those problems were resolved by making the dies with more of a shallow relief causing the Volkswagen toy to be elongated, streamlined and distorted. This is very evident in the popular DISTLER and HUKI VW tin toys when viewing from the side. Another problem visible on most of the tin VW toys was the metal stretching and fatigue in the rear quarter panels and rear fender sections of the metal stamping.

It was not until the middle 1950s that the Japanese toys manufacturers caught on to the rising popularity of the Volkswagen Beetle. Perhaps this was inspired by the Volkswagen assemble plant built in Japan in the middle 1950s that produced right hand drive oval window Beetles for the automobile market there. Our feature VW toy this issue was produced in Japan and has perhaps the best VW body silhouette of any of the tin plate stampings. Marusan Shoten Ltd. from Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan produced this small 1/43rd scale (110mm in length) Volkswagen toy in the late 1950s and the body representation is perfect to say the least.  The tin plate body has cut out windows that have been finished off and has vent window on the doors.  The body stamp indentation includes the front hood, hood emblem, roofline and the bumble bee wing rear deck lid. There is 16-air louver under the cutout rear oval window. The taillights are raised indentations in the rear fenders and the headlights are contoured in the front fenders. The headlights are nickel-plated metal buttons and there are also nickel plated metal trim pieces for the front hood and side body molding. The front windshield and rear oval window are detailed with a metal trim piece as well which finishes off the perfect tin body stamping. The body was painted in either a bright yellow, red, blue or dark green color and the paint is real thick and has that “wet” look.

The chassis was also tin plate and was usually painted black. The chassis was equipped with a key wound clockwerk motor (key hole located in the middle of the passenger door) or the deluxe version featured an electric motor (both air cooled of course). There was also an economy version with a friction motor. Since this MARUSAN VW toy was a small scale, the question is asked of where does the electric motor and battery go. The electric motor is actually quite beefy and is mounted on the chassis with metal pins so that it can pivot. This is required so that the rubber bushings on each side of the electric motor shaft can adjust and make contact with both of the rear rubber tires. This of course is not the best of designs in engine to drive train power techniques but it works OK for a toy but is not recommended in the Swiss Alps.  The AA battery required for operation is about half of the length of the VW toy itself and there is a battery compartment with a door built into the chassis. MARUSAN Oval Window VWs were equipped with steering and because of the location of the battery, special engineering was incorporated into the steering mechanism. A metal piece that connects to the front wheels is curved to go over the battery compartment and works quite well. The on and off switch for the electric motor is a slide switch and is mounted to the chassis. The chassis is stamped with the MARUSAN insignia that is a circle with the letters “SAN” inside. The original oldest Marusan logo was based on the name itself- “Maru” means circle, and “San” means three, which refers to the three original founders in 1947. Haruyasu and Minoru Ishida, with their business partner Yasuo Arai, founded Marusan in 1947. The early success of the company lead to the formal incorporation as Marusan Shoten Ltd in 1950. There is also “KOSUGE” stamped into the chassis. One of the top toy craftsmen of the time was Mr. Matsuzou Kosuge. Mr. Kosuge’s Toys Industrial Company, LTD., Japan, factory did work as a sub-contractor for several of the other Japanese toy manufacturers of the time. Because of the KOSUGE stamping on the chassis, MARUSAN probably was sub-contracted to produce this Oval Window VW for MARUSAN. The chassis is secured to the body with four bent over metal tabs from the body. Real rubber tires with a tread design are used and have nickel-plated metal buttons for the hubcaps. Authentic looking nickel-plated front and rear bumpers with small over riders finish off the details of the chassis.

The MARUSAN Toy Company had been producing toys for the toy industry for many years and featured tin toy production in the 1950s and 1960s. In the middle 1960s plastic model kits and toys became very popular and plastic was becoming the future trend in Japan. As time went by, the number of toy manufacturers producing plastic model kits and toys increased and so did the competition as well. MARUSAN went bankrupt in the early 1970s because they could not shift to the plastic toy production market successfully. Fortunately for the VW toy collectors, MARUSAN has created a fine example of the Oval Window era of the Volkswagen Beetle in a tin plate toy.

Additional Info

  • Manufacturer: MARUSAN
  • Scale: 1/37
  • Length: 110mm
  • Production Era: Late 1950s
  • Country: Japan
  • Materials: Tin Plate
  • Color: Red, Yellow, Blue, Green
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