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M48 Patton Tank


M48 Patton tank
The #729 "TimMee tank" was officially introduced in their 1964 catalog. This 1/48 scale vehicle was modeled after the M48A2 Patton tank that was named after WWII's General George S. Patton. The A2 variant can be identified by the three return rollers on either side. It was sold individually in display boxes, as part of the Armor and Tank division bag sets and the majority of the box sets. The 729 has remained one of the most popular and widely recognizable toy soldier tanks, overshadowing its stiff competition in terms of durability and playability. It is not unreasonable to assume that they are the most produced plastic toy tank of all time as they were cranked out for over 40 years. It found its way into the hearts and imaginations of millions of kids and their army playsets; and now into the hands of collectors...and their kids, too.

The tank's overall appearance has changed little since its creation in 1959, which, according to David C. Bergman (former VP Engineering at Processed Plastic Co.) was when the mold was created. The changes that did take place over the years are a way to to give you an idea of when the tank was produced, although narrowing it down to a specific year is impossible. One change was the color of the tank, which would take on various hues over the years. Other changes included the variation of wheels and axles, as well as the pliability of the plastics used.

The original tank was molded in a true olive drab hue. It had a small antenna located behind the turret hatch. A white star was placed on the front hull while a green and white 31072545 serial number sticker was placed on the left side of the turret (later replaced with the 55239326 sticker in the early 70s).

Axles/Wheels

The original suspension had clip-on metal axles with small black rubber wheels. This 3-piece design allowed the tank to roll effortlessly over most surfaces.

Rubber wheel

 The second type of wheel used was a solid black plastic wheel with a metal axle. 

Solid black plastic wheel

The third type of wheel was slightly larger and had the appearance of an airfoil in cross-section...like a Frisbee. 

semi-hollow wheel

Around 1970, a one piece black plastic clip-on wheel/axle combo was introduced. The wheels were the smallest in circumference and thinnest thus far.

Small one piece plastic wheels

The axle clips were lengthened to accommodate the smaller sized wheel and keep the tank's height approximately the same. Still, the tracks are the lowest to the ground which gives this version of the Patton tank the most realistic stance. 

Note the extended clips of the tank on the right

Larger black wheels replaced the smaller ones and the axles were shortened. The antenna was deleted at this point. 

Large black plastic wheels

Finally, the axle/wheel combo matched the color of the tank and sprouted a round hub on the outside of the each wheel. 

Color plastic wheels

Other Changes

During this time the tips of each fender were given a small tubular extension and stiffer plastics were used. The reason for the extensions is unknown.

Fender extension

Four new colors were introduced over the next several years: aqua green, light green with traces of tan plastic mixed in (think guacamole), desert tan as part of the new Desert Command Series introduced in the 1991 catalog, and black (found in the Shadow Mountain Assault Playset and the rarest of them all).

Rare Desert tan version w/ clip-on wheels & stickers

Light green (camo) tank

Aqua Green Tank

#1971 TimMee header card (c. late 70s)

#1784 header card (early 80s)

At some point in the same year the tank would loose it's clip-on wheels and axles and replaced with "half wheels" molded directly into the tracks to retain the tank's height. The tank's ability to roll across a surface was therefore eliminated. According to Processed Plastic, there were two reasons for this decision: "First, they were a potential small part and every year younger and younger children buy this type of product. Secondly, the wheels made our USA made tank more expensive compared to the China made competition. We felt that is important to make as many products as possible in the USA." It was also at this stage that the star and serial number stickers were no longer applied to the tanks Thankfully, the initial run of Desert Command Patton tanks took place prior to the retooling and came complete with stickers, stars and wheels. The first test shots were cast in soft plastic and actually made it into circulation.

Sans axles & wheels

During its final years, the 729 (according to a company spokesman) was produced in China and imported back to the company for distribution. Casting problems ensued. Deformed flat sections and clumps of protruding plastic where commonplace. The company claims that the wrong type of plastic was used during the molding process, which had no pliability whatsoever. Incorrect casting procedures were also to blame. The white star and serial number stickers were also phased out during this period.


Protruding plastic from the casting process

In June of 2005, the Processed Plastic Company ceased operations and the 40 year old TimMee Patton Tank rolled off into the sunset. However, in the fall of 2012, the few tanks that were left over from the last production run (just prior to Processed Plastic's assets being purchased by J. Lloyd International Inc.) were inspected, bagged and sold on amazon.com by VictoryBuy.


Quick Facts 
Manufacturer: Processed Plastic Co.
Item number: 729
Production: 1964 - 2005
Dimensions: 6¼" L x 4½" W x 2½" H (w/antenna)

Scale: 1/48
Colors: olive drab, army green, light green, desert tan, aqua green
, black 
Stickers: white star, serial #31072545 or 55239326

Reissues: Click here for information.


Now, about those clones....

The TimMee tank's main identifiable feature
Chinese toy companies like Fishel, Imperial and Toysmith have been spewing out TimMee tank knock-offs for years. To the trained eye they're quite easy to spot. But to new collectors they can be somewhat difficult to identify. The easiest way to spot one is to simply look at the side of the tank. If you don't see the raised horizontal line running from the front wheel to the back wheel (see pic) then it's not a TimMee. Often the top of the track is missing as well. Clones are also slightly smaller and the rear deck of the tank (behind the turret) has less detail and is a bit rounded. However, unlike the last version of the TimMee tank, the clones do sport clip-on wheels and are still produced in large numbers. So they are an acceptable alternative for backyard warriors who don't want to the spend extra cash on the real thing.

4 comments:

VictoryBuy said...

Hi TMA,

I haven't read about the China production before. Where did you hear about it? Is there anything in particular that identifies the China made Tim Mee tanks?

Thanks for the great write up on the Patton Tank,
Jeff (VictoryBuy)

TimMee Army said...

Hey Jeff! I've spoken to you several times via Amazon.

Chinese TimMees can be identified by unusually hard plastic, deformed areas and excess lumbs of plastic. I post a pic when I get the chance.

I received an email years ago from someone at Processed Plastic years ago who explained why the tanks being sold at such discount chains as Marc's had quality issues.

Ron Sullivan said...

TMA,

You didn't mention the black version of the Patton. I have one that came in the Shadow Assault play set. The set also came with a black C-130.

Lorrie Causey said...

..another color variation that might look good would be a "German Gray". I've seen a few Timmee clones in that color that looked pretty good. They would make good stand ins for German tanks in a diorama..