We love mysteries at Moonbase. One of the most persistent has been the origin of JR21 Toys' Thunderbird 5.
The mystery of its clunky composition is well documented, a hybrid of a strange flying saucer and other plastic bits.
Well-known collectors have often described the flying saucer part as 'another toy' used by JR21. Modmart comments on this problem with Thunderbird 5 on You Tube. Steve, proprietor of the excellent Thunderbird Vintage Toys website, talks about how the saucer was clearly a toy 'that already existed' and 'marked differently to other Thunderbird toys' [point 2 here] i.e. number 507 and this H in a globe icon.
It was our very own Scoop who first made reference on the blog to a possible source for the flying saucer, the Clifford series Moon Ranger, back in March 2014. He was definitely onto something.
and this was further pinpointed when just this week our very own SWORDcast producer Bill Everatt suggested the source to be this T in a Circle UFO.
I personally think Bill has hit the nail on the head here! All the main elements are there on this T UFO: the sloped edge, the inclusion of coloured lights but more crucially the recessed band running around the middle, which is exactly as it is on the Thunderbird 5.
But not all the elements of the JR21 Thunderbird 5 are found on the T UFO. For those we have to look elsewhere i.e. the base, the wheels and the clear dome, which are different on the T UFO.
The base of the Thunderbird 5 looks like this:
Comparing various toy bases is helpful, particularly more T in a Circle toys, which would have made sense in the toy factory:
T UFO T MOON PROSPECTOR T NEW FLYING SAUCER JR21 TB5
So you can see that the most similar undercarraige to that of the JR21 TB5 is the T in a Circle New Flying Saucer. The edge is bevelled, the wheels protrude and the battery case is long, thin and in the right sort of place as you can see below.
This toy also provided a clear dome too!
Obviously JR21 had the undercarraige changed and re-sized to fit the specific needs of the TB5, as they did with the top section. where the main engine rig was stuck on, extra lights added and John Tracy and his circular dash placed in the dome.
But basically I think between us we've cracked it and solved the mystery folks! The JR21 TB5 was put together using T in a Circle toy designs made to fit, specifically the T UFO for the top part and the T New Flying Saucer for the base.
This connection between the two toy companies also gave us the Moon Bus and the Moon Prospector, so it would make sense that as many designs as possible were cross-fertilized. Don't forget that the two silver pilots in the T New Flying Saucer are the same ones found in the Century 21 Project SWORD Moon Bus!
All that remains now is to make some sense of the TB5 toy number '507' and the strange 'H in a globe' logo. I will leave these for another day [ideas welcomed though], suffice to say that you might wish to ponder the numbering of T in a Circle toys yourself by looking at Arto's comprehensive T Checklist done for the blog a few years ago.
It's worth also saying that mention has been made by collectors of variations in JR21 TB5 toys such as screw-on domes and glued-on domes. If you know of any specific differences like these I would be pleased to hear from you.
Finally, the story doesn't end here. The JR21 TB5 design itself was upcycled for another toy and unbelievably so was that! More of this cloning around to follow.
Any thoughts so far readers?