A fortnight ago today we had the revelation of a new Project SWORD toy, the boxed Tarheel Project SWORD Spectrum Patrol Car shown in the centre of the above picture.
The toy, in its classic Tarheel SWORD photo-box, was found in the Captain Scarlet toy display of the Hamilton Toy Museum in Callander, Scotland. It is still there in the cabinet.
Since its discovery I have been pondering one question; why did Tarheel do this?
Tarheel was an American toy company. It did have links to Japan and Hong Kong but ostensibly it released toys in its home patch of North America. This included its Project SWORD range borrowed from Century 21 Toys.
Its SWORD offer comprised of 10 vehicles: Task Force 1,2 and 3, Probe Force 1,2 and 3, Moon Bus, Moon Ranger, Moon Prospector and the Space Glider. Unlike the UK, there was no TV21 comic to back it up in North America so the toys were sold without any back story.
None of Tarheel's American SWORD toys had any connection to Captain Scarlet either as far as I know. In fact the only Century 21 Project SWORD toy vehicle with any connection was the Zero X, although no mention of this was made on the toy's UK box.
According to Wikipedia Captain Scarlet was broadcast in both Canada and the US in 1968. So North American kids will have had some idea about the show and its fleet of vehicles. How popular or widespread it was I've no idea but maybe an American reader may do.
So, theoretically at least, the Spectrum Patrol Car [SPC] itself will have been known to some North American kids.
According to Deniis Nicholson's Anderson Memorabilia Guide the Century 21 Toys version of the SPC was sold world wide. It's likely that the Tarheel version is simply a repackaged SPC from Century 21 Toys [it certainly looks like one] but this has yet to be confirmed by the Museum, which they will hopefully do in November [did it come with the C21 accessories I wonder?]
Canadian fans will have been able to pick up plastic model kits of the SPC through Canada-based company Paramount and Imai stock in general may have been sold world-wide.
I don't think the Dinky version was available in the US [correct me if I'm wrong readers] but may well have been in Canada.
Dinky's SPC in particular was a common site during the Sixties in UK kids' toy collections so any presence it had in North America will have raised its profile as a cool vehicle with some kids there too.
All in all it must have been a brave move by Tarheel to release an SPC even if it was only repackaging a C21 Toys model.
Project SWORD can't have been well known to North American kids and eventually Tarheel dropped the branding altogether from its other 'SWORD' toys.
My guess is that Tarheel were relying on some North American kids knowing about the SPC from the TV and jumped onto the Spectrum bandwagon however small it may have been.
As far as I know it didn't release any other Captain Scarlet toys or any Anderson toys beyond its SWORD range, so their photo-boxed SPC remains a unique and quite wonderful crossover toy.
What do you think readers?