The River Series has for a long time thought to be a product of the DCMT "River Works" at Palmers Green in the UK. This, however, is wrong and the actual manufacturer of the series has been confirmed as Jordan and Lewden Ltd. by Andrew Ralston who contacted the firm for confirmation of his suspicions.
The problem of their origin was compounded as the series did not appear in any of the trade catalogues, lists or advertisements of the period and the name did not appear on the earlier boxes for the cars in the series. The problem was further compounded by versions of the models having been made in Israel and New Zealand.
Robert Newson tells of finding a key with the words RIVER SERIES cast on each side, above and below the entwined letters "J L" that was with a clockwork truck of the River Series style. After searching for possible die-cast toy manufacturers with those initials, he identified Jordan & Lewden Ltd. as a likely candidate. Jordan and Lewden Limited was incorporated about 1950 and their listed address was 52A Brooksby's Walk, Homerton, London, E.9.
The River Series
There are six cars, all based on actual vehicles dating from 1953 or 1954. They are a little larger than Dinky Toys at about 1:40 scale, and initially had friction drive motors fitted. The range consisted of a Standard Vanguard Estate, a Standard Vanguard Saloon, a Buick Coupe, a Daimler Conquest, an Austin A40, and a Ford Prefect.
The River Series trucks were based around two models: a forward control lorry to which various different truck bodies were attached, and a normal control articulated cab with various trailers attached. The forward control lorries are often found without the rear body as these were easily removed. There was also a series of Army vehicles and a set of locomotives.
The New Zealand Models
During the late 1950s the New Zealand Government tightened up its import restrictions and foreign exchange (money) controls, and from 1958 there was a total ban on importing certain types of toys. The import ban meant that domestic production became essential. At the time several ranges of toys were produced by local companies who either leased or bought dies from overseas companies and produced the toys in their New Zealand factories.
Lincoln Industries was a manufacturing company based on Great South Road, Penrose, Auckland during the 1950s. Lincoln Industries was established around 1946 when Mr Lincoln Laidlaw took over a business originally founded by Higgins and Clotworthy. Lincoln Industries New Zealand (later Lincoln International of Hong Kong) should not be confused with the North American companies, Lincoln Specialties who also produced a range known as “Lincoln Toys” and Lincoln White Metal Works who produced a range of slush metal cast toys. The NZ company went on to produce a range of products, including toys, that were distributed throughout New Zealand. The property at Great South Road was purchased around 1954-55 and the factory was extended during the period 1958-59. The first Lincoln Toy was produced in 1948 to use the production facilities during off-peak production periods. Lincoln, in the early 50s, was producing a variety of toys to use up this off-peak production capability, among which the brands Micro Models and Major Models are recognisable. However, Lincoln also produced various other toys, in both plastic and metal, that were generally unmarked as to their origin or maker. Among these metal diecast toys were a 1948 Studebaker Champion, a sports car, a Mustang aeroplane, a tractor, a bulldozer and a crane.
At least three of the cars from the River Series were also made by Lincoln in New Zealand, and it seems very probable that Jordan & Lewden leased the dies to Lincoln. Another possibility suggested is that they may have supplied castings and other components to Lincoln for assembly in New Zealand but given the restrictions in place at the time I personally doubt this.
Lincoln produced versions of the Austin A40, Ford Prefect, and Buick. They all had friction motors, die-cast wheels, and smooth black tyres, and apart from having mask sprayed silver trim to the front and rear and painted base plates, they are identical to the UK models. The best way to identify a New Zealand issue is that "MADE IN ENGLAND" does not appear on the baseplate.
The Israeli Models
Gamda was a toy brand name belonging to the company Habonim which was situated at Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi located in Northern Israel. The name "Koor" was added later when the company partnered with another firm owned by the Israeli trade union Histradrut. The last name "Sabra" was added to the mid-1960s diecast line (mostly American cars). These latter models were sold as "Sabra Super Cars" and were, in the main, castings of vehicles not made by other European model makers (the target market). Most Sabras were manufactured between 1969 and 1972.
In 1962, the company started by re-casting old British dies of tractors, trucks and military vehicles. It has been suggested they used dies from both DCMT and Jordan & Lewden. Gamda vehicles were produced in two distinct series:
1. transport related (Jeeps, Daimlers, an American Buick, a Ford Prefect, a Standard Vanguard delivery truck, buses, milk trucks, petrol tankers), or
2. military related (Jeeps, tanks, trucks, and trailers). One of the more popular issues was a wheeled tank or armoured car.
The Jordan & Lewden cars lost the friction motors but gained plastic windows. The Daimler and Buick were given two-tone colour schemes and the Vanguard Estate was issued as an ambulance. The Ford Prefect was also reissued, but apparently the Austin A40 and Vanguard Saloon were not.
The forward control truck was issued with a tin tilt or with the open wagon body, both models in military or civilian versions. The articulated tanker appeared in several different liveries, and the articulated flat truck, articulated timber transporter, jeep, armoured car and field gun were also made. Robert Newson reports that Gamda also acquired dies from Kemlows and Charbens at the same time.
Robert Newson has an excellent review of all the River Series models and the company's history HERE.