Dinky Toys 161/40J; Austin Somerset
This car was a very familiar sight of my childhood, so I was very surprised when researching this article to find that it was only in production for two years, 1952 through to 1954. Its ubiquity is perhaps explained by the Austin Devons & Dorsets which were similar and probably indistinguishable from each other by me at five years old. In those days cars were given names but not badges. You got a flying A on the bonnet and 'Austin of England' in a (to me at the time) unreadable script on a chrome plate somewhere discreet, but no clue as to which model you were looking at. Although the same shape as the A30 it could not be confused with it as it was so much larger. Their reputation as a big slow beast must have been well deserved as it was a big car traditionally built on a separate chassis and powered along by a 1200cc motor developing about 50hp. My old Land Rover could have seen this off in a drag race.
The toy falls into the lovable but crude category with the VW Beetle. The modelling is not exactly pin-sharp, but the toy remains very attractive and tactile non the less. I like this one a lot.
Production began in 1953 under number 40J, these earlier cars were not individually boxed but sold from trays of 6 pieces. In 1954 the number was changed to 161 and the car was boxed. Production continued until 1959. Values tend to be higher for the later models, colours other than light blue getting a premium. You will see 40J cars in light blue, dark blue and red; the 161 cars were light blue with blue or cream hubs, red or black over cream.