Eighteen months ago I blogged my ideas about the origins of Project SWORD toys in a post entitled The New Origins of Project SWORD Toys.
It was a work in progress and I said at the time that I was unhappy with what I wrote about the Probe Force 1, pictured. Like my recent posts on the Scramble Bug and Moon Ranger origins this post updates that article.
Despite its sleek SST-type looks reminiscent of of the later Concorde, I am moving away from these designs and leaning more towards a more aggressive arena for the PF1's inspiration: Missiles.
In particular I am now taken with the Nike Hercules as a possible source, which looked like this [pic: nikemissile.org]
The Nike Hercules first saw active duty as a surface-to-air missile for the US Army on June 30, 1958, at batteries located near New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago in the US. Essentially it had three main tapered fins, was arrowhead shaped with four small side fins near the warhead and was white in colour. It sat on top of a stick-like rocket propellant base with a further four fins [pic. themilitarystandard].
Here's one at White Sands Proving Ground with a red tip.
The new shape was quickly captured by model kit manufacturers at the time such as Revell, released in 1958 and, as stated on the box, "scaled from official blueprints".
The Hercules also inspired many rack toys and in particular small missile sets and toy gun combos such as the three pictured. The warhead has been replaced with a red rubber tip reminiscent of the Probe Force 1.
Cape Kennedy Rocket Set made in Hong Kong
Flash Gordon Rocket Range made by Ja-Ru
Rocket carbine made in Japan
Many science magazines of the late Fifties carries advertisements for the US and British firms involved in the Nike Hercules' manufacture:
and popular culture embraced the Hercules too. Here's Miss Miami posing in 1963.
So what of Probe Force 1? It first appears in SOLO comic on June 24th 1967:
My basic thesis is that its design may have been formed by shortening the Nike Hercules' stand. I have done this in the comparison below:
But this doesn't explain the distinctive tail assembly and the long tubular nacelles. For possible source material for these I am going to turn to the pages of Gerry Anderson's own TV21 comic, namely Mike Noble's Fireball XL5 strip from the 21st April 1965, with Bob McCall-inspired art first spotted by Scoop over 5 years ago posted in The Noble Art.
Here we find the streamlined tail fin but more importantly the tail's distinctive fore-spike.
Other possible sources for the tail assembly and tubed nacelles can be found in the designs of the Boeing 2707 Supersonic Transport plane in Science magazines popular in the US and UK during the Fifties and Sixties [read about their development on the excellent Dark Roasted Blend]:
The earlier SCAT 15F program developed by NASA and Boeing in 1965 is another contender for likely source elements for Probe Force 1, in particular the deltoid shape and the tubular nacelles and this was put forward first by Paul Vreede way back in 2010 in his Probe Force One - Origin.
So, somewhere between the spiked body of the Nike Hercules, the tail assembly of Boeing SST and the tubed engines of the NASA Scat we might find the design for Century 21 Toys Probe Force 1 toy. Alas, we are likely never to know for certain but this is my own best guess at the moment.
Comments and views welcomed.