Periphere & Trylon's toy engine display at Toy Fair
Dodd Harris had quite the eye-catching vertical display piece in his Perisphere & Trylon exhibit space at last month’s Toy Fair.
The retro toy supplier’s unit held four engine models, from the bottom, an Internal Combustion Engine Model, a Build Your Own V8 Engine, Build Your Own Jet Engine, and P&T’s piece de resistance, a Porsche 911 Flat-Six Boxer engine.
The fully functional 1:4 scale model of the classic motor has over 280 components found in the actual engine, with a transparent casing allowing viewing of the moving parts when switched on.
“Porsche stopped making the iconic air-cooled Boxer engine in 1999,” said Harris, “so it’s a most sought-after model, which every collector aspires to own. It has a lot of pieces and is complicated: It lights up according to the spark plug firing order, and has the engine’s distinctive sound of a Volkswagen on steroids. And even at $200 retail, we’ve seen very little pushback.”
Indeed, the item is “a real investment,” said Harris. Then again, he adds the real thing would cost $3,000 just for a tune-up.
The engine model has found favor in “man caves,” noted Harris, and as Father’s Day and Graduation Day gifts. And much to his surprise, it’s also popular among girls.
“I have a number of letters from girls who are building them,” said Harris, “who don’t accept the stereotype that they’re not technically adept. Men are buying them for their daughters and not thinking it’s such a big thing.”
Indeed, Harris bought one for his own 20-year-old daughter, though under a somewhat different circumstance.
“She blew up the engine of her scratch-and-dent-passed-around car on her way to Coachella, and as penitence I made her build a model to see why it blew up,” he said, adding that it didn’t have enough water. “So I just said, ‘Here’s the kit and instruction booklet.’”
But Harris has observed a proliferation of engineering toys in today’s STEM/STEAM toy era.
“They don’t have auto shop class in school anymore, so kids don’t know the difference between a gas and hybrid engine,” he said. “They don’t have exposure to engineering in the real world.”
Perisphere & Trylon’s engine toy models, then, “teach the nuts and bolts—literally” of engine technology, performance, and relevance, concluded Harris.