Streamlux, Australia

One of the many Australian manufacturers of diecast model vehicles is Streamlux (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. I know very little about this company, there being little information on the web or in the references about the Stramlux brand. Streamlux is known to have been active in Melbourne in the 1950's. Despite my research, I have been unable to find any advertising of the diecast models produced by them before the company ceased production, probably due to changing Government trade policies and the increase in the importation of well known brand names such as Matchbox, Corgi, and Dinky. The dies were sold to Underwood Engineering in New Zealand, who expanded the range under their own brand "Fun Ho! Toys" (always with the exclamation mark).

Although there appears to have been only nine models in the Streamlux Miniature series, they covered a range of vehicles. They were smaller than most of the Matchbox 1-75 series of the day, being around 1:80 to 1:85 scale. They are often identified by "Streamlux Aust." on the base although the tractor has it around the rim of the rear wheels. Only one style of black plastic wheel was used.

The nine Streamlux Miniatures models I know of are:

  • #01 - MASSEY FERGUSON TRACTOR. Length 42mm. A simple two-part casting split along the centre, it featured a driver and was very similar to the Matchbox Series MB-4a tractor. The Streamlux model also had a towing hook, although it appears nothing was ever produced for it to tow.
  • #02 - HOLDEN FE SPECIAL SEDAN. Length 53mm. This was a good representation of the Holden FE model.
  • #03 - AUSTIN TRUCK. Length 50mm. The cab and chassis were also used for two other models - the petrol tanker and the tip truck. "Streamlux Aust." appears under the cab on all three. The cab had no base, it had dual rear wheels, and a single rivet held the rear tray in place.
  • #04 - AUSTIN PETROL TANKER. Length 50mm. Using the same cab and chassis as the truck, this model had rear wheel guards sitting over the chassis, held in place under the two-part tank, with the entire rear assembly held in place by one rivet.
  • #05 - VOLKSWAGEN COMBI BUS. Length 52mm. Looking reasonably accurate to the eye, it was incorrectly cast with double doors on both sides of the rear section. The identification cast on the base was "Volks-Bus" and "Streamlux (Aust.)".
  • #06 - MERCEDES BENZ W196 RACER. Length 50mm. A good representation of the real racer, it had the Mercedes Star cast in the centre of the bonnet. The driver's seat was part of the base casting, and it did not have a driver permanently cast in place. The identification cast on the base was "Mercedes-Benz Streamlux (Aust.)".
  • #07 - COMMER COACH. Length 52mm. Again, this model is a good, small scale representation of the real vehicle, thought to be based on the Commer Avenger Coach. This one and a half deck coach was commonly used in Australia to carry passengers for Australian National Airways from the airline's city offices to the airport. It is not a difficult model to find in its various colours, but with the original ANA decal intact it is quite rare. On the base it shows a basic representation of the mechanics, with "Streamlux" cast on one side and "Australia" on the other. There is some cast detail on the front, lower portion of the roof, and a fairly obvious casting join along the middle of the whole body. There is no passenger side door detail, but the rear doors for the luggage compartment are represented.
  • #08 - AUSTIN TIP TRUCK. Length 56mm. This model is often harder to find than the other two, probably due to its less robust construction. The dumper-style tipping tray has heavily ridged sides and an upturned rear panel. The weakness lies in the two small spigots at the rear of the body, which hold the tray in place. The tray was easily dislodged and lost, meaning complete models are hard to find.
  • #09 - VOLKSWAGEN SEDAN. Length 42mm. The oval rear window model of the real vehicle was used for this model (probably because a split rear screen was difficult to cast). The VW emblem is cast on the bonnet below the front windscreen. It is a good model, with detail including the front head lights, the "bonnet" (luggage compartment), the "boot" (engine compartment), the rear number plate, the rear lights, and the rear louvered air vents. My example has a red painted base with cast "Streamlux" and "Aust.". This model was the last in the Streamlux series of miniature models.

Larger scale.
Streamlux also produced one large model of the Holden FE sedan, a sedan released by General Motors Ltd in July 1956. The Streamlux model, 112mm long, was made in 1957 at about 1:36 scale, with the permission of General Motors, but only a small quantity was produced at the time in card boxes marked "Produced By Authority General Motors Limited". It was a good representation of the real vehicle. These larger scale models were re-manufactured in 1977 from the original dies by Pier van Netten of Melbourne and marketed via his "Model Cars of the World" business in kit form. Pier also supplied original card boxes, obtained with the Streamlux components, with the kits. The kits are now difficult to obtain and it is probably that more were completed by collectors than were left in kit form. This model had no known subsequent connection with Fun Ho!, although the Fun Ho! Museum in New Zealand has two examples, one of which is fitted with white Fun Ho! plastic wheels.

Link to Underwood's Fun Ho! series.
By 1962, Streamlux had discontinued production of this range of miniature models and sold the dies to Underwood Engineering of Inglewood, New Zealand. Underwood had been making toys, originally in lead, since 1935. The Fun Ho! range included small vehicles and larger model vehicles, often used outside in sand pits. The Streamlux dies allowed them to produce a range of miniature vehicles which, over the next 20 years of production, became quite extensive, with over 60 models being released.

In the early period of production by Underwood Engineering, the Streamlux dies were used without any alteration to the base, meaning the continued appearance of "Streamlux" and "Aust/Australia" on the first Fun Ho! miniatures. Eventually Underwood removed the Australian markings, and later still, Fun Ho! markings were engraved into the dies, so it is possible to find Fun Ho! models with the Australian markings, no markings (no manufacturer or country of origin details), and with Fun Ho! markings.

Link to Weico Models.
The Australian manufacturer Weico Models of Victoria produced white metal reproductions of two of the Streamlux models, the tractor and the airline coach, a fact that is not widely known. Neither model bore the markings of either Streamlux or Fun Ho!, as production took place well after the original dies had passed from Streamlux to Fun Ho! (Underwood). They were available in either kit or fully built form, but are not often seen in the Collector's Market in either form. They are considered to be of special interest to the serious collector of either range, or of Australian and New Zealand made toys generally.

[Thanks to the Fun Ho! Museum, Barry Young, and Pier Van Netten (with whom I've enjoyed many a talk fest over the years).]