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Changes in 1963

The 1962 'M' outfits continued until 1964, but in 1963 the manuals were converted to multi-lingual form.  The Meccanoman's Guide states that no manuals were printed in 1963 but that the 1962 manuals were reprinted in multi-lingual form!  This doesn't make much sense, as multi-lingual conversions couldn't really be classed as mere reprints.  From this I assume that the new manuals were printed in 1963, but the printing reference was not changed from 1962 to 1963.

The Elektrikit was introduced in May 1963.  This was based on a similar electrical outfit already being sold by Meccano (France).  This was one of the most significant introductions ever to the Meccano range, and enabled a wide variety of electro-mechanical devices to be made; and complex automation of models to be achieved.  The Elektrikit parts took the possibilities of the Meccano system to an entirely new and exciting level.  With no official computer control, these parts still form the basis of Meccano automation today, over 50 years later.

One problem with the Elektrikit was the complete lack of any interference suppression.  Many of the models, particularly the motors, had electrical contacts which operated very rapidly to interrrupt the supply of electricity.  Some models generated so many sparks that they wouldn't have been out of place in Frankenstein's laboratory!!  This caused a large amount of electrical interference to nearby television and radio sets, even in neighbouring properties as I discovered to my considerable embarassment!  Aside from this one weakness, the Elektrikit models were very well designed and gave a good insight into the new possibilities of the Meccano system.  Advanced modellers soon embraced these new possibilites, and were making everything from synchronous motor clocks to large automated display models with programmed sequencing.

Surprising as it may seem today, the Elektrikit was not well received by the public at the time, because it was an accessory outfit, and had to be used in conjunction with an outfit No.3 or larger.  This lead to complaints from customers who had bought the set, under the impression that it was self-contained, despite there being a prominent warning on the box lid!  This could have been a failing of Meccano's advertising department. See below.  Interestingly, Meccano (France) did market a self-contained outfit, the Meccano-Elec outfit 1, but Binns Road did not produce this version of the Elektrikit, which seems a pity as it would have been a nice outfit.  Also, the design on the box lid and manual gave no idea of the many fascinating models which were possible, just showing a ridiculous picture of a large porcelain insulator!  Not very inspiring for such a revolutionary outfit, to say the least.

In 1970, the Elektrikit was marketed as a stand-alone outfit, the 4EL, which was an Elektrikit combined with a No.4 outfit (equivalent to a 1963 No.3 outfit).  The logic behind this outfit is rather strange, as it was neither one thing nor the other.  None of the Elektrikit parts were needed for the Outfit 4 models, and many of the Outfit 4 parts weren't needed for the Elektrikit models!  It would have made more sense to market a version of the French Meccano-Elec outfit 1, which would also have been cheaper.

Around 50 new parts were introduced into the system with the arrival of the Elektrikit.  Strictly speaking, these parts date from 1962, as they were contained in the French-Elec Outfits, but they were not introduced to the UK by Binns Road until 1963.  Most of these parts consisted of electrical components like coils, contact screws, insulating plates, wiper arms, lamps, etc.  There was also a selection of useful non-electrical parts included, such as low-friction pivot rods, a small bush wheel, brass flexible strip, thin washers, and a bell.  List of the new 1963 parts.  These Elektrikit parts were not advertised for separate sale by Meccano, and I am not aware that they were ever sold through the normal dealer network.  They did become available in the early seventies through specialist dealers like MW Models (who could get just about anything from the factory in any quantity).

   

Some of the new Elektrikit parts

Some of the new 1963 non-electrical parts.

Elektrikit parts

Elektrikit parts

The red Boiler End is included to show the differences between it and the new Bell.  The Bell on the left is nickel plated, and has the same holes and slots as the Boiler End.  The later Bell on the right is zinc plated and has no slots.  Nickel plated versions without slots are also known.

The 4-Hole Collar was also 'introduced' into the system in 1963.  Although these Collars had been an integral component of Universal Couplings and Swivel Bearings, they were now given their own separate identity, as part No.140y.  The 4-Hole Collar actually has five holes!

4-hole collar

 

1963 Sales Leaflet   

Leaflet 5/63

Two pages from the May 1963 sales leaflet.  The Elektrikit arrived too late to be included in this leaflet, but was the subject of its own leaflet issued in July.  In the photograph of the Gears Outfit, the 2" Sprocket Wheel appears to have been replaced by a small version of the 3" Pulley!  The Mechanisms Outfit is still shown in the original 1959 box, and was never packed in the M-style packaging.

The 1963 Elektrikit

The Elektrikit was the last outfit to be introduced during Meccano's red & green period.  It was a revolutionary outfit (see my comments above).  The set contained some ordinary parts, such as the 3" Pulley because it was intended to be used with an outfit No.3; and some additional parts were required for some models.  Even then, the two largest models required a No.5 outfit.

Above: Mint Elektrikit from1963.  The guarantee slips reads E 5 63, so you can't get any earlier than this one!  Note the blue cellophane small parts box. See my comments about the ridiculous artwork on the box lid!  (Photos courtesy J. Thorpe)

 

Elektrikit
(Photo courtesy R. Jaggard)

As can be seen here, outfits either had red or green mushroom pins.  The red parts box shown on the right is the later version. See Parts boxes

For a full contents list of the Elektrikit, see the Contents of Outfits page.  Details of the Elektrikit manual.  See the impressive dealers' display.


Click for printable version

Dial Card - part No.560

The Elektrikit contained a number of dials, scales, and pointers, etc. for use in the various models.  These were printed on a large piece of card 330mm wide x 305mm high, and pressed out of the card before use.  The individual parts were numbered 560a to 560m.

Click on the card to see an enlarged version, which can be printed out (although you'll need a large printer to print it out full size).

Note that the small black dots are where the cardboard has fallen out of the bolt holes.

(Dial card courtesy R. Jaggard)

Elektrikit advert

This advertisement for the revolutionary Elektrikit first appeared in the May 1963 Meccano Magazine.

Elektrikit dealers' showcard

Pieces Electriques Meccano A
Meccano-Elec outfit 1

Meccano-Elec 1
Meccano-Elec outfit 2

The two 1962 French 'Meccano-Elec' outfits.  Both outfits shared the same manual and built the same models.  The smaller outfit was called 'Box Of Meccano Electrical Pieces A'.  This contained all the new parts and also a small number of standard parts.  The Elektrikit contents were the same as this smaller outfit, and both these outfits had to be used with an outfit 3 to build the models in the manual.  The larger outfit was called 'Meccano-Elec Outfit 1' and was entirely self-contained.    The French outfits were not sold in the UK, and judging by their rarity they don't seem to have sold many in France either!  It could be that these sets were withdrawn when the Elektrikit was launched in the UK.  French Meccano-Elec advert.    French Meccano-Elec outfit A.  French Meccano-Elec outfit 1.    Contents of Meccano-Elec 1.  Note that the layout of the Elec 1 Outfit (above) is different from those in the other photos.

 

   1963 Elektrikit Leaflet

Elektrikit leaflet

Elektrikit leaflet

Elektrikit leaflet

Elektrikit leaflet

This 4-page leaflet for the Elektrikit is from July 1963.  Nowhere in this leaflet does it mention that the Elektrikit can only be used in conjunction with a Meccano outfit No.3 or larger.  It is said that this was the Elektrikit's downfall.  (Photos courtesy G. Rahn)

Elektrikit advert

Elektrikit dynamo

A 1964 Meccano Magazine advert. for the Elektrikit

Instructions for building a working dynamo (strictly an alternator) from Elektrikit parts, given in the April 1964 Meccano Magazine.

Outfit 4EL

Outfit 4EL

The Elektrikit was discontinued in 1970 and replaced by the 4EL Outfit.  This consisted of the entire contents of the Elektrkit, plus a standard No.4 Outfit (equivalent to a 1963 No 3 Outfit).  Although similar in concept, this was not the same as the earlier French Meccano-Elec 1 outfit, which had also been self-contained.  The French outfit only contained sufficient extra parts to build the electrical models, rather than including a complete outfit 3.  For instance, the French outifit didn't contain a 2" Pulley, or any of the Plastic Plates, as these were not used in any of the electrical models.  Most of these 4EL sets had brown insulating parts, as opposed to the black parts of the original Elektrikit.  The introduction of this outfit coincided with the start of Meccano's zinc/yellow/blue period.

   

1964  Sales Leaflet

1964 sales leaflet

1964 sales leaflet

These pages are from a catalogue (courtesy G.Rahn), believed to date from around April 1964, and likely to be the last red and green sales leaflet.  The large picture of the traction engine is most interesting, as it shows a number of parts that have been retouched in unusual colours.  Whether it was intended to change the colour of these parts we will probably never know, as a totally new colour scheme was introduced a few months later.
The most obvious change is the 6" Pulley from red to blue.  This would have made sense, as the 2" and 3" Pulleys were already painted blue, in fact it's more of a mystery why the 6" Pulley wasn't changed to blue at the same time.  The 4" and 6" Circular Plates have also been retouched in blue, although the 6" Circular plate on the rear wheel is still shown in red!  Either the artist made a mistake, or 6" Circular Plates were to be produced in a choice of colours!  Two more interesting changes are the Hub Discs, which are all shown in green (but Circular Girders are still shown in red) and Sleeve Pieces which are now changed to red, presumably to match the red Boiler.  The green Hub Discs not only appear on the front wheels, but also on the front of the boiler, so this doesn't look like a mistake.  If Sleeve Pieces were to be painted red to match the Boiler, did this colour change also apply to Cylinders?  Unfortunately, no Cylinders are shown in the model of the showman's engine, so we can only speculate.  No green Hub Discs or red Sleeve Pieces or Cylinders have been found from this period.

August 1964,  and a new Era Begins

On 14th February 1964, Meccano Ltd. was taken over by Tri-ang, which was owned by Lines Bros.  Desperate to bring a fresh realistic image to Meccano, a totally new and distinctive colour scheme was introduced in August 1964.  After nearly 20 years of red and green Meccano, new colours of silver (not zinc), yellow, and black were introduced.  The contents of the outfits remained the same, but the packaging was redesigned, and the outfits were given names such as 'Airport Service Set' and 'Mountain Engineers Set'.  These names were purely marketing, as there was no change to the outfit models or manuals!  The main outfits were now housed in white polystrene trays, but the accessory outifts were still sold in the existing boxes until 1965, when they changed to long boxes with plastic wallets to hold the parts.  The No.10 set remained unchanged, and it is quite likely that the majority (and probably all) of the No.10 sets sold up until 1966 were still in red and green.  It is very rare to come across a No.10 set in the silver/yellow/black colours. The new colour chart can be seen here.

Meccano continued to produce red and green parts and outfits after the introduction of the new colours, and both colour schemes were available side-by-side in the shops until 1966.  The parts in the new colours were given an N suffix (eg Part 52aN was yellow).  Many of the early silver parts have been found which were sprayed over light green stock.  Special mention was made in the Meccano Magazine that red and green outfits would continue to be available for 'some considerable time' after the introduction of the new colours.  

New 1964 Meccano

The dawn of the Silver/Yellow/Black era,
but not quite the end for red and green, which would continue for at least another two years.

Advert for 1964 Meccano

Advert for 1964 Meccano

The first adverts for the new colours in the August 1964 issue of Meccano Magazine.  After 20 years of
red and green, one can easily imagine the sensation caused by this striking new colour scheme.

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