In 1998 I acquired what I thought to be an unusual Meccano Set. It was not listed in any ‘official’ Meccano Ltd. literature that I had seen at the time. Indeed, I still have not found any reference to the two sets discussed in this article. If any readers can find references to these sets I would love to hear about it and, if possible, see the literature.
Here follows an extract, slightly revised, from my collecting article in the March 1999 CQ (No. 43) where the Senior Set was first discussed. Quote :-
"Being a keen collector it's always exciting when you chance upon some unusual or rare items. Here is an example:- I answered a small ad. in a local paper and much confusion ensued on the phone trying to establish exactly what was for sale. The ad. said 'No.4 Senior Meccano Set for sale'. I'd never heard of anything being called Senior Meccano. I’d established that the Set was (I thought) early 1970’s with the deep blue box of the blue/yellow zinc era. The parts were however, of the black/yellow/zinc variety. After a visit to view the Set, more points were clarified. The box lid was 'silver' overprinted dark blue and with Tri-ang logos on the sides. The parts and manuals (red with black Meccano title, plus Junior Power Drive), were correct for this set, it having been purchased by the seller’s mum when he was a boy and everything kept in excellent original condition.
The set was obviously ‘A genuine transitional set’ lying between the black and blue part era's. I have to date been unable to find any reference to the set in any Meccano literature. The nearest I can get is that it is basically the earlier [blk/y/z] era Junior Power Drive Set repackaged in the later [blue/y/z] era very early silver/dark blue box, upgraded to a No.4 Set and called ‘Senior Metal Construction Set’. Maybe it was intended for export? "
Now, since publication of the CQ article I have acquired a similarly unlisted set. This set is called No.5 ‘Advanced Metal Construction Set’. It is immediately obvious that both sets are from the same series. The No.5 set has identical style parts and packaging. Namely the box lid is 'silver' overprinted dark blue and with Tri-ang logos and the manuals are from the same series but this time have the Power Drive manual and not the Junior Power Drive. The parts are black, yellow and zinc, and the manuals with these sets are as follows:-
Set No.4 1(13/169/75); 2/3(13/169/50); 4/5/6(13/368/100); JPD(16/11/68)
Set No.5 1(13/969/65); 2/3(13/969/35); 4/5/6(13/669/40); PD(16/7/69)
Several things about these sets are, I hope, of interest. On the No.1 Manual cover of both sets is an export market sticker that advises of a downward revision of the set numbering. This is, note, in 1969 a year before the set renumbering revision was introduced in the UK.
The boxes as already mentioned were 'silver' overprinted dark blue. Now in the UK this style of box was not introduced until 1970 when the Meccano livery was changed to blue/yellow/zinc.
The No.5 set is in effect a Senior Power Drive set of the 1970’s but with earlier livery parts and manuals.
In the original article I was not sure if the No.4 set was for export and if so to what country. Well, both sets have the export label and the plastic small parts boxes have on them small circular U4 & U5 labels. These labels plus the following found printed on the box lid sides ‘Made in England. Meccano Ltd., Liverpool, England. Lines Bros., Inc., 1107 Broadway, New York, New York.’ can lead only to the conclusion that the sets were for the American market.
When Meccano Ltd was wholly owned by the Hornby family it had been more-or-less standard practice to ‘offload’ parts in obsolete liveries to the export sales. However, here under Tri-ang Ltd. we seem to have the reverse situation where the export market is used to ‘try out’ the latest UK ideas on packaging. The new packaging must have been deemed OK as it was made universal in 1970. Another little indication of the forthcoming change to 1970’s sets and new manuals is the production quantities of the set manuals between 1968 and 1969 …. Note how the 4/5/6 run is down from 100,000 in 1968 to 40,000 in 1969. Unfortunately due to Tri-ang changing the manual print codes in 1970 we can’t prove that the print runs rose again with the 1970’s era Black/Yellow manuals, but I suspect with the launch of the new livery and all new manuals/models, they did.
A small amount of extra information has come to light, courtesy of Geoff Wright of MW Models ……
Geoff said the sets were offered via Richard Lines, one of the Meccano/Tri-ang Ltd. Directors at that time.
Acknowledgement: This article was first published in the WLMS Newsletter.