A collecting guide to the Vintage Kenner and Palitoy Star Wars Diecast Vehicles

This post looks at the vintage Star Wars diecast vehicles produced by Kenner in the USA in 1978 and 1979.

The vintage diecast series of vehicles produced for the original Star Wars film and then Empire Strikes Back is a somewhat overlooked area for collectors. I think there is also some confusion around what was released when, which I hopefully will make clear.

This post only covers the seven vehicles produced for the first Star Wars film. In a future post I will cover the re-issues and the four exclusive vehicles produced for Empire Strikes Back vehicles released in 1980.

Five of the seven vehicles from the initial Star Wars release were re-issued on Empire Strikes Back retail packaging. None of the vehicles were released for Return Of The Jedi.

The post doesn’t cover the international versions released apart from Palitoy in the UK. Most of the information in the post is still relevant to collecting international versions.

Despite the rather niche area the Star Wars diecast vehicles represent, they seem to have captivated the interest of a wide group of licensees all over the world. Takara, Toltoys, Kenner Canada, Palitoy, Meccano, General Mills, Harbert and Clipper all produced versions of them.

Below I list the seven vehicles produced. In brackets I specify whether the vehicle was produced for Star Wars A New Hope only or both films.

Series I

  • Tie fighter (ANH and ESB)
  • X-Wing fighter (ANH and ESB)
  • Land Speeder (ANH only)
  • Darth Vader Tie Fighter (ANH only)

Series II

  • Millennium Falcon (ANH & ESB)
  • Imperial Cruiser (ANH & ESB)
  • Y-Wing Fighter (ANH & ESB)

The Land Speeder was advertised in the trade only 1980 main Toy Fair catalog with ESB packaging, but no actual examples have been found.

KENNER STAR WARS 1980 TOY FAIR CATALOG DIECAST TIE BOMBER PAGE
KENNER STAR WARS 1980 TOY FAIR CATALOG DIECAST TIE BOMBER PAGE

In an early Kenner 1979 trade products supplement catalog, the series I vehicles were advertised. Only three vehicles were displayed since the Darth Vader Tie Fighter was still in prototype development.

KENNER 1979 STAR WARS SUPPLEMENT DIECAST PAGE
KENNER 1979 STAR WARS SUPPLEMENT DIECAST PAGE

The third in-package catalogue (X-Wing cover) Kenner produced in 1978  was the first to advertise the Series I models.

KENNER STAR WARS X-WING IN-PACKAGE CATALOG 1978 FRONT COVER
KENNER STAR WARS X-WING IN-PACKAGE CATALOG 1978 FRONT COVER

The Darth Vader Tie Fighter was released a short time after the other three models in Series 1. Hence it was not ready for this catalog.

KENNER STAR WARS X-WING IN-PACKAGE CATALOG 1978 DIECAST PAGE
KENNER STAR WARS X-WING IN-PACKAGE CATALOG 1978 DIECAST PAGE

The fourth in-package catalogue (X-Wing cover with pink insert pages) Kenner produced in 1978  was the first to advertise the Series II models.

STAR WARS KENNER X-WING PINK 1978 IN-PACKAGE CATALOG FRONT COVER
STAR WARS KENNER X-WING PINK 1978 IN-PACKAGE CATALOG FRONT COVER

The diecast vehicles displayed in this catalog were prototypes and not the production models.

STAR WARS KENNER X-WING PINK 1978 IN-PACKAGE CATALOG PAGES 10 & 11
STAR WARS KENNER X-WING PINK 1978 IN-PACKAGE CATALOG PAGES 10 & 11

The 1979 ‘Death Star’ in-package catalog was the first to advertise Series I and II together.

STAR WARS KENNER 1979 DEATH STAR IN-PACKAGE CATALOG FRONT COVER
STAR WARS KENNER 1979 DEATH STAR IN-PACKAGE CATALOG FRONT COVER

Now all seven vehicles were advertised on one page, the Darth Vader Tie Fighter now ready for inclusion.

KENNER DEATH STAR IN-PACKAGE CATALOG 1979 DIECAST PAGE
KENNER DEATH STAR IN-PACKAGE CATALOG 1979 DIECAST PAGE

A Kenner magazine advert from 1979 also displayed all seven vehicles.

STAR WARS KENNER MAGAZINE TOY ADVERT 1978 DIECAST VEHICLES PAGE
STAR WARS KENNER MAGAZINE TOY ADVERT 1978 DIECAST VEHICLES PAGE

The Sears Christmas Wish Book for 1979 advertised the diecast vehicles for sale.

1979 SEARS CHRISTMAS WISH BOOK KENNER STAR WARS FRONT COVER
1979 SEARS CHRISTMAS WISH BOOK KENNER STAR WARS FRONT COVER
1979 SEARS CHRISTMAS WISH BOOK KENNER STAR WARS PAGES DIESCAST
1979 SEARS CHRISTMAS WISH BOOK KENNER STAR WARS PAGES DIESCAST

Interestingly, as you can see below, only six of the seven vehicles are adveritsed. The white Tie Fighter is missing. The grey Darth Vader Tie Fighter is pictured as catalog entry No. 14, but described in the text as ‘Tie Fighter’. Perhaps there was some confusion about Sears needing to sell to two Tie Fighters, or the wrong picture was used?

1979 SEARS CHRISTMAS WISH BOOK KENNER STAR WARS PAGES DIESCAST CLOSE UP
1979 SEARS CHRISTMAS WISH BOOK KENNER STAR WARS PAGES DIESCAST CLOSE UP

The Kenner trade 1979 main Toy Fair catalogue advertised all seven diecast vehicles from Series I and II for the first time in a Toy Fair catalog.

KENNER 1979 TOY FAIR CATALOG FRONT COVER
KENNER 1979 TOY FAIR CATALOG FRONT COVER

As you can see below, the way the vehicles are displayed is highly attractive, especially with the stars in the background. Apologies for the small size of the picture!

The diecast bin header full up with cards is displayed in the corner of one page, the Millennium Falcon in packaging displayed in the corner of the other page.

KENNER 1979 TOY FAIR CATALOG PAGE 2 DIECASTS
KENNER 1979 TOY FAIR CATALOG PAGE 2 DIECASTS

Palitoy in the UK also released all seven vehicles of series I and series II. The vehicles themselves and the retail packaging was identical to Kenner’s apart from the large ‘Palitoy’ logo replacing the ‘Kenner’ logo and different assortment numbers in the top left corner of the card fronts.

So the information I provide in this post is also relevant as a guide for collecting the Palitoy versions.

Below is the seven diecast vehicles as advertised in the Palitoy 1979 RETAIL SALES DIVISION catalogue. This is a trade catalog for retailers.

STAR WARS PALITOY 1979 RETAIL SALES CATALOG FRONT COVER
STAR WARS PALITOY 1979 RETAIL SALES CATALOG FRONT COVER
STAR WARS PALITOY 1979 RETAIL SALES CATALOG DIECAST PAGES
STAR WARS PALITOY 1979 RETAIL SALES CATALOG DIECAST PAGES

The vehicles from Series I were released in a completely different type of packaging to those in Series II.

All the series I vehicles were sealed in a blister on a large card. The fronts of the cards had unique artwork and photographs for each vehicle. The features of the toy and the figures included were highlighted.

The blister plastic was quite thick and the seal margins were large to prevent the toy breaking out of the blister. The card material was also quite thick. The vehicles were quite heavy so needed this extra support. Most of the surviving unopened vehicles on these cards have not yellowed, indicating a good quality plastic used.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC FRONT

A prominent yellow starburst with a white outline was printed on the front all the Kenner diecast cards and boxes.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST STARBURST
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST STARBURST

The backs of all the Series I cards were generic, although there were two versions produced. First issues were all on a ’12 back card’ known as SW12. This back was not dissimilar from the first issue ’12 back’ action figures.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC BACK
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LAND SPEEDER MOC BACK

The three vehicles advertised are not the diecast versions but the large plastic vehicles. This is because the card was designed before the production diecast vehicles were finalised.

Unlike the 12 back cards for the 3 3/4″ action figures which displayed a drawing of the figures, this back was a later update with the actual action figures displayed. Of particular interest is the inclusion of the rare vinyl cape Jawa!

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LAND SPEEDER MOC BACK TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LAND SPEEDER MOC BACK TOP

The Series I Land Speeder, Tie Fighter and X-Wing Fighter were re-released on a revised 21 back card, known as SW21. The Darth Vader Tie Fighter was first issued on this 21 back, and is the only version of the Vader Tie Fighter produced.

All seven diecast vehicles from Series I and II were displayed on the SW21. The series II vehicles shown were all prototypes. The Millennium Falcon was misspelt  ‘MILLENIUM FALCON’.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER MOC BACK
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER MOC BACK

The top of the card back showed the 21 action figures available at the time, very similar to the action figure 21 back cards.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC BACK TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC BACK TOP

The series II diecast vehicles were too large for the blister card packaging, so were released in deep recessed rectangular boxes, sometimes known as ‘shadow boxes’.

The box was well constructed and sturdy. The blister plastic was again thick to hold the vehicle safely sealed. The artwork for the front and sides was unique for each vehicle. A space scene was printed inside each box below the vehicle, again unique for each vehicle.

The backs of the boxes were generic, although three versions of the back exist.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON FRONT

The yellow starburst was again on the box. The starburst was also repeated on the top and bottom sides of the box, making it even more prominent. The design was altered with a light blue outline replacing the white.

DIECAST STARBURST ON BOXES
DIECAST STARBURST ON BOXES

Three variations of the backs were released, known as SW7A, SPECIAL OFFER and SW7B.

For all three box back variations, all seven diecast vehicles were displayed. Despite the fact the series II production vehicles were now available, the card backs still displayed the prototype models!

The first issue back, SW7A, is displayed below.

On this back, for all three series II models text stated “STAR WARS excitement with this finely detailed replica of the Empire’s largest Space Craft.”

This was correct for the Imperial Cruiser vehicle, but not for the Millennium Falcon and Y-Wing Fighter. Presumably Kenner were just keen to use a generic back and didn’t make the effort to change the text.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON BACK
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON BACK

The second back variation SPECIAL OFFER had the now famous red and yellow Kenner Special Offer (printed or as a sticker), and included a battle scene poster unique to each vehicle. The incorrect text on the Millennium Falcon and Y-Wing fighter was still present.

The third variation back SW7B was identical to the SW7A except the incorrect text was now corrected. This last variation back was produced only briefly, and is hard to find nowadays.

The Millennium Falcon text now read “STAR WARS excitement with this finely detailed replica of Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon Spaceship.”. The Y-Wing Fighter now read STAR WARS excitement with this finely detailed replica of the Rebel Space Craft used to attack Death Star.”

Strangely, the series II prototype models were displayed on all three ‘back’ variations, never corrected to the actual production models.

Below are displayed detailed pictures of the series I and II diecast models in my collection.

LAND SPEEDER ON 12 BACK CARD

The Land Speeder was probably the least appealing vehicle of the series. It was dropped from the Empire Strikes Back line up of diecasts.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the Land Speeder in ESB packaging was displayed in the 1980 trade catalog, but no examples have ever been found of it existing as a production model.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC FRONT TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC FRONT TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC CLOSE UP 3
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC CLOSE UP 3
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC CLOSE UP 2
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC CLOSE UP 2
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC CLOSE UP 1
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC CLOSE UP 1
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LANDSPEEDER MOC BACK
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LAND SPEEDER MOC BACK
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LAND SPEEDER MOC BACK TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST LAND SPEEDER MOC BACK TOP

X-WING FIGHTER ON 12 BACK CARD

The X-Wing was probably the most appealing of the diecasts. The wings open and close. The canopy opens to reveal Luke Skywalker pilot, although it’s a pretty rubbish rendition of him!

It was reissued in Empire Strikes Back packaging.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC FRONT TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC FRONT TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC CLOSE UP 3
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC CLOSE UP 3
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC CLOSE UP 2
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC CLOSE UP 2
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC CLOSE UP 1
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC CLOSE UP 1
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC BACK
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC BACK
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC BACK TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST X-WING MOC BACK TOP

IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER ON 21 BACK CARD

This is also one of the most appealing of the diecasts. The Tie Fighter was so accurate that apparently it was actually used for scenes in the Return Of The Jedi film.

For the first released version with the 12 back card, it was titled ‘Tie Fighter’. For this second 21 back version, it was more correctly renamed ‘Imperial Tie Fighter’. Because ‘Darth Vader Tie Fighter’ was only released on the 21 back card, Kenner probably wanted to distinguish the white Tie Fighter.

The solar panel wings are removable. The pilot is also removable who was Darth Vader!

It was reissued in Empire Strikes Back packaging.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC FRONT TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC FRONT TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC CLOSE UP 3
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC CLOSE UP 3
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC CLOSE UP 2
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC CLOSE UP 2
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC CLOSE UP 1
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC CLOSE UP 1
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC BACK
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC BACK
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC BACK TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST IMPERIAL TIE FIGHTER MOC BACK TOP

DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER ON 21 BACK CARD

This is my favourite diecast vehicle. Only issued once by Kenner on this 21 back card. It was not reissued in Empire Strikes Back packaging.

Like the Imperial Tie fighter, the wings are removable and so is the Darth Vader pilot.

The wings of the Fighter were originally designed by Kenner to be smaller, but changed to larger wings for the production models. There are prototype models of the small wing model that do exist, though it was never sold to the public.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER MOC FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER MOC FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER MOC FRONT TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER MOC FRONT TOP
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER MOC CLOSE UP 2
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER MOC CLOSE UP 2
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER MOC CLOSE UP 1
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER MOC CLOSE UP 1
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER MOC BACK
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST DARTH VADER TIE FIGHTER MOC BACK

MILLENNIUM FALCON WITH FIRST ISSUE BACK

This vehicle is always popular. The vehicle has a diecast top with a plastic base. Inside clear non-opening cockpits on either side are a Chewbacca and Han Solo figure. The base has retractable front and rear landing gear and the top has turning radar dish and laser cannon.

The Millennium Falcon was only released by Kenner in the USA and Palitoy in the UK.

It was reissued in Empire Strikes Back packaging.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON CLOSE UP 2
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON CLOSE UP 2
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON CLOSE UP 1
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON CLOSE UP 1
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON CLOSE UP 3
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON CLOSE UP 3
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON SIDE
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON SIDE
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON BACK
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST MILLENNIUM FALCON BACK

Y-WING FIGHTER WITH FIRST ISSUE BACK

This is a great vehicle with some very cool features. The body is diecast and the engine pods are plastic. A separate laser bomb is included which is nearly always missing on loose examples.

The bomb can be attached to the underside of the Y-Wing. When a button is pushed behind the cockpit, the bomb is released. The engine pods are removable, the laser canon rotates and the front has retractable landing gear.

It was reissued in Empire Strikes Back packaging.

STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST Y-WING FIGHTER FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST Y-WING FIGHTER FRONT
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST Y-WING FIGHTER CLOSE UP 2
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST Y-WING FIGHTER CLOSE UP 2
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST Y-WING FIGHTER CLOSE UP 1
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST Y-WING FIGHTER CLOSE UP 1
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST Y-WING FIGHTER SIDE
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST Y-WING FIGHTER SIDE
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST Y-WING FIGHTER BACK
STAR WARS KENNER DIECAST Y-WING FIGHTER BACK

I will cover the Empire Strikes Back diecast vehicles in a future post!

 

 

 

 

 

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