1949, Arnold "Catherine" Auto Wheel in Original Box

1949, Arnold

Unusual clockwork tin litho toy by Arnold, U.S. Zone, Germany. It's the first and only example I've seen. Comes complete with beautifully illustrated original box, plus its original nickel plated triangular key. 

The toy runs on a perfectly circular 10" diameter tin litho vertical track which is mounted on a wide base. An 4" long bright yellow and red 4" clockwork racer uses large nickel plated wheels to fit precisely into deep grooves in the track.

To start the mechanism:

  • Move the brake lever on the racer to the stop position.
  • Wind it up, remove the key, and place it on the track.
  • Pull the spring loaded plunger underneath the base until it clicks into place.
  • Set the racer on the track so its rear bumper makes contact with an exposed pin (see below) which is connected to the plunger.
  • Release the racer's brake.
  • Push down on a metal tab in the base which unlocks the spring and fires the racer.

The tremendous force generated by release of the spring provides enough power for the racer to run upside-down around the loop. It uses its own internal clockwork motor to add additional power to keep it revolving through several loops. At the same time a shower of sparks fly out from the rear of the car!

As the motor unwinds the racer slowly releases a clip attached to the underside of the car. When fully extended the clip catches on the track and it stops the car. 

The key is nickel plated cast iron. Arnold produced many oval shaped keys embossed with Arnold Spielwaren. The triangular variation with the Arnold name on a banner in front of a large "die cut" letter "A" is in itself a rare find. It's one of the few double sided keys, which is die cut, and reads the same on both sides.

It's important to note that everything on the toy works; however to actually fire it could potentially scratch or scuff the car and/or track. 

The box for this toy is really beautiful with eye-catching graphics. It was illustrated with a large full color graphic which covers the entire lid. It shows the auto rocket at rest. A mechanic checks out the front left wheel. Gathering on-lookers crown around a pitch-man while the driver (dressed to the "9's") looks on. Each box apron also has a different illustration. Two of them show the Auto jetting around the wheel from different views. The third includes a jet black rocket firing into the sky. The fourth was printed with a 4-step instruction schematic. The only text on the entire box is the Arnold trademark, catalog number and Made in U.Z. Zone, Germany. 

The actual name of the toy, Catherine Wheel, was not printed on the box. I found it in a German toy reference. A "Catherine Wheel" is a type of firework mounted with a nail through its center which rotates quickly like a pinwheel while emitting a shower of sparks. However, it's original definition is more gruesome. Historically the Catherine Wheel was an early 4th century torture device which rotated the victim vertically while being beaten with iron clubs and other nasty objects.

Size: Track 10" diameter x 1¾" wide, Base 9" x 2½". Auto 4". 

Sold: Dec. 2011

Price Sold: $ 660


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Subject: 1949, Arnold "Catherine" Auto Wheel in Original Box

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