Tuesday, 10 July 2018


Back in 1963 I received a super QUERCETTI FIREBALL XL5 parachute toy for Christmas.  A few weeks later, while standing on the street outside my house with it, a neighbour (ALISTAIR McNAUGHT) ran into me on his bike, sending XL5 crashing onto the pavement and breaking it beyond repair.  His mother sent him to the front door with one of his spare spinning flying saucers to replace it, but my mother politely declined on my behalf - much to my annoyance.

Around 1969 or '70 (and two houses later), I saw another one for sale in a Rutherglen shop called JOHNNY's and bought it immediately.  When the toy had first appeared in '63, it was priced at 10/6, but my second one cost only 2/6, no doubt on the grounds that it was old shop-stock and had lain unsold for years.  It met its fate weeks afterwards when it overshot onto a road after me launching it into the sky, and the impact cracked the back wings.

Cut forward to sometime in the '90s and me spying one for sale in a magazine for collectors.  Boxed, and at a mere £90, I sent off the dosh and waited with great anticipation for the replacement for my childhood toy to arrive.  I was surprised when it did, because it wasn't exactly as I remembered it, colour-wise.  The ones I had as a kid were the same as the one in the first photo, but this was an all-silver colour with an orange nosecone.  (See photo below.)

I assume that the all-silver version was a later release, because it doesn't have an alternate 'Fireball Junior' - nor is it even mentioned in the instructions.  Those of you who ever owned this toy will know what I'm talking about.  The silver and grey plastic model came with two yellow nosecones, one with fins, and one without (seen in the 2nd and 3rd photos) to attain a higher altitude, whereas the all-silver model was supplied with only an orange one with fins.  But how do I know which one was which, sequence-wise?

It's a guess of course, but first edition toys usually have all the 'bells and whistles', while subsequent versions are often simplified on cost-cutting grounds, so it seems likely that the all-silver toy was a later release, not the other way around.  Anyway, a couple or so years later, I was able to acquire a replacement for the two-tone XL5 for around £250 or thereabouts, the only difference to my original being that the catapult wasn't the colour than I seem to remember from my youth.  (I'll live.)  The one disappointment common to just about everybody who ever owed this toy was that STEVE ZODIAC was just a generic astronaut, rather than the man himself as depicted on the box.  Other than that, it was a great toy and is now a highly collectable item.

Not many collectors (any in fact) I've spoken to know about the all-silver model, so it gives me great pleasure to show both of them together on this 'ere blog of mine.  Did you own either of these versions as a kid?  Feel free to share your reminiscences of them in the comments section.  Incidentally, one of the three boxes seen in the photos ia a replica (the middle one), but doesn't it look great? 

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