Friday, 15 May 2009

TOPPER ROCKET BASE BY WOTAN






WOTAN Base Instinct 1: First of an occasional look at another of my favourite childhood toys - the Rocket Base! Every Gerry Anderson show worth its salt had a scene with a major missile installation or rocket base in it. The Cuban Missile Crisis had brought ICBMs to the front of public attention and the space race to put a man on the moon meant rockets were everywhere in all shapes and forms. There were (and still are) few things more exciting than seeing a rocket blast off on a trail of flame and every boy wanted to be a part of this. Toy companies quickly churned out loads of different toys to try and catch the zeitgeist of the period and put the drama of the countdown and blastoff into the living rooms of kids everywhere.
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I remember distinctly getting up one bleary xmas morning around '69 to find a massive (to me anyway) cardboard box sat beneath the tree, the Cape Canveral Missile Base! Made by Topper toys of Johnny Seven OMA fame (something which Santa somehow forgot to deliver - and I'm still waiting fat boy!) this was a fabulous toy, with everything you needed to stage a rocket launch. Three main sections comprised of a Rocket Transporter lorry with three ICBMs, a Nike Hercules Missile Bank with three cruise missiles and the huge 'Silo' Base Launcher. On top of all this came a small army of figures - each about 6cm high, well detailed in every pose from high altitude flight suits to heat resistant rescue suits to commanders and mechanics. Water slide decals with eagles, stars and fine grecian mythic names for the rockets like 'Thor', 'Atlas' and 'Jupiter' were ready to be applied to complete the authentic look.
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My original set gradually perished over the following years, but due to the generosity of our host, Woodster and a canny win on ebay last year, I have managed to almost complete a set of this fantastic set. One of my fondest memories of that xmas morning was blasting off a Thor rocket from the silo in front of the xmas tree and it crashing into the branches - fusing all the lights! I recreated this memorable moment last night during the photo shoot and due to the massive power still present in the spring loaded launcher, almost smashed a rocket through the glass roof of the conservatory! Given the caution inherent in every modern toy and the health and safety freaks instilling a 'nanny culture' on every child (and adults too!) in case of accidents - it was great to remember the reckless abandon that was present in sixties toys when atomic rockets, huge cannons and One Man Army guns were the order of the day!
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Happy to help WOTAN, my pleasure. The set looks stunning! Topper the Morning to ya!

6 comments:

  1. Astonishingly, the rocket set may have appeared as early as 1962, but by a company called De Luxe Toys. They also did a Fire Chief set, which I had, although not in 1962 methinks. That also came in what to a child would seem a massive box. Boy, did we have cool toys back then or what!

    I have an advertisement showing both which I'll scan and email later.

    But I wonder: did De Luxe become Topper, or were the moulds bought up by the latter?

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  2. Many thanks for posting the photos. I have very happy memories of the hours spent playing with this rocket base. I also received it as a suprise main present one christmas morning.
    Richard
    richardboote@fastmail.fm

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  3. You've made my day. Someone mentioned toy rockets, I remembered this set, I had and google - it brought me here. I feel very nostalgic now, seeing this childhood favourite from the mid-60s.

    I recall firing the rockets up the stairwell at my Great Aunt's place that birthday (or was it Christmas, I wonder?). I took it to school once and fired it in the playground to the amazement fo my friends, until the teacher confiscated it 'til home time. So vicious was the massive spiring, my Dad cut it down a bit with some pliers so it wouldn't do any damage at home...! A wonderful toy, a precious memory. Thank you so much for sharing.

    KJ Davies, London.

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  4. it was a brutal launching mechanism! Youd never see anything like that nowdays!

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  5. My dad actually has one of these up stairs but the truck carries a warhead and the one piece shown above molded to the rocket was chrome plated. It would have had to have been made before 1969 as that's when he graduated so I'm guessing the early 60s. Sadly not much of it is up there and i'm sure i might have broken some of it in the 80s playing with it lol

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  6. Thanks for posting. I had this set Christmas 1964 when I was five. I still remember coming into my parents room and seeing it partly set up (in the afternoon my dad put the transfers on the rockets and elsewhere). I recall touching the triple missile launcher by accident and the missile going at my mam's head. It was hard for a young boy to fix a rocket into the launched as it required downward pressure and a twisting action. Once released the rocket would go straight up and thud into the ceiling of our corporation owned house. What hours of fun I had.

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