Warning: This post is LOOOOOOONG, and features nothing but cheap castings of stepside Chevy trucks. Turn back now if that doesn’t interest you. For the rest of you: we’re goin’ deep!
Last week I posted a mystery Chinese-made Squarebody Chevy wondering what it was. Navyeagleeye86 knew right away that it was a Yatming (isn’t this place the best!?!). This led to a couple conversations about Yatming and Welly versions of stepside Squarebody Chevys, and linked to a conversation he and Fintail and had about how the Chinese diecast companies may have “borrowed” heavily from Tomica.
This sent me down a bunny-hole of comparing the different castings, and trying to find some history on the castings and companies in question. Here are the Tomica, the Yatming, and the Welly side by side. They are all (obviously) stepside trucks, and they are all of early Squarebodies, ‘73-’79. We can actually narrow it further, because ‘73 Squarebodies didn’t have rain gutters above the doors. By ‘74 GM realized that their quality wasn’t good enough to really pull that off, so they put gutters on them. All three of these castings have rain gutters, so they are ‘74-’79 Chevy trucks.
The Tomica has been covered before, and it’s a great casting. Because nobody here doesn’t want to see pictures of a Tomica, here are a few. My favorite part is how nice and crisp the details are on the front bumper/grill. You’ve also gotta love a good roll bar on a classic truck.
Now onto the Yatmings. One of the questions we were wondering, was did Yatming copy the Tomica casting? This I can answer with a definitive no. The Yatming is bigger, and the details are quite different. Honestly, for my money, the Yatming is superior. It’s a really nicely detailed casting. Look how nicely sculpted the A-pillars are, how big the glass area is, and they even cast in the divider between the main side windows and the vent windows. It has a back window, which is missing in the Tomica, the bed is much deeper than the ridiculously shallow one in the Tomica, and the working tailgate … a metal one nonetheless … is magnificent. The Tomica has a bit better suspension, but the Yatming does have some good sproingyness to it as well. I had a couple of the Yatmings when I was a kid (long gone). I can say that they were beat to crap much like the ones I have now, because they were so much fun to play with. I’ve always loved the silly but cool exhaust detail on the metal base leading to the side pipes. It also has accurate lower control arms, because 2wd Squarebodies had an independent front suspension.
Here’s an even rougher version that was somebody’s failed custom. The front suspension is collapsed, the window piece is missing, but it still has a working tailgate! The base is plastic on this one, but it still says Yatming and is made in Hong Kong like the ones with a metal base.
Here’s another one with a collapsed front suspension, I just received this in a HWEP with Pixel. I forgot to take a picture of the base, but it’s metal and it’s identical to the white one.
With this black one we’re starting to see some changes. The tailgate is cast in a way that it looks like it may operate, but it doesn’t. The base is metal and largely the same, but it no longer says Yatming and there is now a sticker that tells us it was made in China. I found the exact one in the package on eBay, it’s a Road Champs. The wheels look like Welly wheels, but they have six spokes instead of the eight spokes on Welly wheels. I also found a couple others packaged as a Road Champs, that still had the slotted Yatming wheels and working tailgate.
Now we move onto the Welly Squarebodies. What surprised me most, was that they were made by Welly. I had always assumed these were also made by Yatming, as a lower cost version of a casting they already had. Nothing on the truck or on the packaging says Welly anywhere. I wasn’t able to find any real documentation that Welly made these, nor much history about either Yatming or Welly. Several sellers of these out there on the ultranets also call these Wellys … but then again some are calling them Yatmings … or are they Road Champs? It seems like these castings were sold under numerous brands. Two other brands I found with these same castings, and these were examples still on the card, are “Road Machines” and “Road Tough Street Machines”. The dearth of information on the bases make it hard to figure it all out. This blog lists several other brands that the Yatming castings were sold under. Perhaps they left the bases largely blank because they were sold under so many different brands.
This red one is from my childhood collection. A year or so ago I found the exact same one in basically the exact condition, and gave it to my daughter. A girl needs a good truck with a sproingy suspension. The most obvious change is there is no vent window divider in the casting now. The windows are opaque, because there is no interior piece in the truck at all. When you move to the back side, you can see that the sculpting of the tailgate details has changed. The area where the tailgate would hinge, is now just a boxy lump (much like the Tomica). On a 1:1, this is where the taillights are. The wheels are what I now know to be Welly 8-spokes.
The base has some major changes. The grill is integrated into the base, as opposed to a separate piece like the Yatmings. The base itself is plastic, uses one rivet and a hook (as opposed to two rivets on the Yatming), and the suspension is by means of slots cut into the plastic that the axles fit into. The front suspension details now show leaf springs and a solid front axle, something that only 4wd Squarebodies had. Sadly, the sidepipes are gone as well. This version is made in China.
This yellow one is also from my childhood collection. It shows all the same changes as the red one, but the wheels are different. These slotted wheels are very similar to the ones on the Yatmings, but they have four slots instead of the Yatmings’ six slots. Also, this one is made in Hong Kong.
I found this carded one in an antique shop a couple years ago. This one has a black plastic base instead of chrome, and Welly 8-spoke wheels. This one is also made in China.
I was hoping the card would give me some clues as to the manufacturer, but no dice. We know it was distributed by East West Distributing company, in Deerfield, IL. There are some weird coincidences here. Deerfield is my home town. It’s also my Dad’s home town. My Dad’s high school band was named East-West (after the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s album of the same name). When I looked up the East West Distributing Company, it appears that they are still in business, still in Deerfield, and that the company was founded in 1981 ... which is the year I was born. The world is a weird wild place.
Anyways, we see some other examples of “Speed Wheels” castings. That van is definitely the same, if not closely related to a Yatming casting. I bet some of you recognize other castings in there as well. Interestingly, the Speed Wheels brand is still used today. They’re sold at Walgreens and made by Maisto.
Here are some side-by-side shots of a Yatming and a Welly. While there are definitely enough differences to show that they are different castings. They are so similar that I believe the Welly is a modified cheapened version of the Yatming. I messed up the positioning in this overhead view shot, but I assure you they are the EXACT. SAME. SIZE. If they hadn’t changed the attachment methods, I think you could even swap the bases.
A final piece to compare is this Yatming Chevy LUV. It has the same 6-spoke wheels as the Road Champs Squarebody, but this one was made in Thailand.
So what does this all mean? What was relationship between the Yatming and Welly? They both made strikingly similar vehicles at the same time. They both started in Hong King and moved to China. Yatming started in 1970 and Welly in 1980. There is very little history on either company out there. What there is basically reads, “Started making toy grade diecasts, and later moved into higher end products”. Did Yatming own Welly? Were they partners? Did Welly so blatantly steal from another company in the same town at the same time? Honestly, I have no freaking idea. My gut tells me that either they were owned by the same company, or they were working together in some way.
Here’s what I do know. As much as I like playworn vehicles ... I really need to get some Yatming Chevys that aren’t beaten within an inch of their life. And some Road Champs too, and .... well, just send me your unwanted Squarebodies! :)
Congratulations on making it through all that. I hope you enjoyed today’s lesson.