Friday, 1 March 2019

Corgi Toys @ 60 : Ford Thunderbird and Racing Cars

March 1959 brought the second American car into the range and also the second 'Thunderbird'. This Thunderbird has four wheels, however, and is the big Ford with classic styling. The model seems to be a really very good reproduction. I am not sure about 1959 being included on the rear panel but otherwise it is a fabulous model.

It was available as 214 in pale green with a cream roof and 214M, the penultimate Mechanical model issued, in a delightful pink with a black roof. I am not aware of any colour variations, despite the 214 selling very well. The 214M, in contrast, was not popular and good examples now are very hard to find and expensive.

Even harder to find, although not necessarily more expensive, are the shaped wheel edition of 214, which would have been produced just as the model was reaching the end of production to make way for 214S in June 1962. The 214M will always have smooth wheels.

The other issue this month was Gift Set 5, containing the three racing cars now available 150 Vanwall in red, 151 Lotus in pale blue and 152 BRM in green. 

This set is even more difficult to find than the mechanical Ford Thunderbird.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Mercedes-Benz 300SL in gold with wire wheels

In a photo of big, blue plastic container full of old toys at an auction house somewhere in Brighton I spotted a Mercedes 300SL. On its side. It was the only one on its side and had it not been there and in that position I would not have realised that here was an example of the very rare 303S with wire wheels. The next problem was bidding enough to win it. There were ten or so decent-looking Corgis in the box and maybe twenty other models that I didn't recognise and a bag of catalogues or leaflets.

I was lucky. No-one else seems to have noticed it or considered it of much value. It was, fortunately too, one of those quite general auctions and these were the only vintage model cars appearing so it doesn't appear to have attracted the interest of dealers or wealthy Corgi collectors.

This is, indeed, quite a find. You may remember that some years ago I had wondered aloud whether these actually existed. The entry in the Corgi Catalogue of 1965 I had thought, at one point, referred to the model they brought out with cast spoke-effect wheels. Then I spotted a 304S at a dealer and began to search in earnest. I failed to find anything and finished up making my own!

This particular model is not just a rare one with those wheels, though, but also produced in the gold mirror finish which is quite different to the silver edition. This makes it even scarcer and I really do not expect to see another any time soon. The silver 304S sold for around £400. This one, I feel, should be worth a lot more. It is not in perfect condition but the windscreen is sound and there are only tiny marks to the bodywork. The slightly messy stripe tends to spoil its appearance but I am not going to attempt to clean that. Reflections and shadows really do not do justice to the appearance of this model. The driver is original and the old suspension system works.

I still have my doubts about the 309 Aston Martin Competition ever being issued with wire wheels. There was a nice normal edition in the box and I am tempted to change its wheels but, as an early type with an open vent on the bonnet, it wouldn't be right. I'll just have to keep looking.

I shall also get a box for the Mercedes if I can find one at a modest price. 

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Corgi Toys @ 60: Two tone and Bloodhound missiles

It would be the case that early 1959 issues were destined to have short lives. All those issued in January and these, issued in February, were withdrawn in less than two years. 

Firstly, the Powers That Be decided that interest in their original launch models could be revived and sales extended a little further if they were given a new 'two-tone' look. Whereas the original issues can be found in a range of colours, these six appeared in just these colours. 

You'll see that some of the paint schemes are more accurate than others!

February 1959 also saw changes to the Bedford CA model, the later single screen casting being used now with its revised front end and minor changes elsewhere, as well as a ribbed roof. The first issued model to get this mark II treatment was the 404 Dormobile. It can be found with a 50-50 scheme as well as a blue body and yellow roof. Each of those variations is scarce and good examples usually cost a fortune.

The Riley is conspicuous by its absence and would have been a lovely model in two-tone. I guess that the red 205, which lasted longer than most of these original issues, was selling well enough. The Standard Vanguard III had, of course, already got the two-tone treatment.

The other issue this month is a reappearance of the splendidly detailed and quite impressive Bloodhound missile, mounted on a khaki trolley. Some nice engineering clasps the missile nose and can be used to raise it whilst maintaining its horizontal aspect. Both items were included in Gift Set 4 and will be in Gift Set 6 later in the year, as well as being issued individually some time later.

It is an odd combination when towed by the RAF Land Rover, with which it is coupled in each Gift Set. The missile seems always to be white and the detachable side elements yellow. I have seen the rocket ends in red or just silver and the vanes or wings can be white but seems usually to be yellow.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Odd wheels and a chassis

January is not the most exciting month of the year but it has brought on to my desk some interesting items. I'll start with this lovely chassis, which is part of the export edition of the 464 Commer Police Van. Now, where will I ever find a Type II rear section in this colour? (It's the one with POLICE in the casting).

Next is this metallic turquoise-green Land Rover. This is the issue which, in this colour, already comes in all sorts of flavours, including shaped wheels, the normal type of cast spoke-effect wheels and Whizzwheels, hooks in tin and plastic, the plastic ones being grey or black and, if that's not enough variations for you, there are two types of interior as well! Now add this shiny, quite different design of cast wheel to the catalogue!

Below is the type of cast wheel that can be difficult to clean when it goes grey and is the type found across the range on many models.

I have seen the shinier, fatter rim type on the later blue and white horseboxes too, and may well have posted something about them a while ago.

Lastly, this 400 VW 1300 Driving School car has come in and has silver wheels. I am pretty sure that all the others I've seen have had distinctly gold wheels so this is a little unusual too.

This one is missing its stickers, which come in three flavours: British, French and German. They all have an L plate, though, so no translation issues there! I may have to acquire some stickers for the doors and it would be quite nice to have something different. I may even make some myself, now I think about it. There is no obvious steering wheel inside on these models so it is, I suppose, suitable for LHD or RHD.

One other odd thing about this one is that the tyres, now hard and seemingly original, are too big for the wheels, with quite a bit of play in the same plane as the wheel's diameter. I am wondering whether these silver wheels are smaller than the gold ones. Unfortunately I have sold the previous model I had so will have to get another to compare. One cannot tell from the photos, but here is the last one I had.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Black and grey bases

An interesting item came in yesterday, this Jaguar 2.4 with a friction motor. It has plenty of signs of wear but the windows are clear and the motor, whilst weak, does work. What immediately caught my eye was that it has a grey base. Every other one that I've encountered, and all those shown on several other sites like QDT have black bases. 

The text seems to be identical. I am aware of only one other model that can be found with either a black or grey base and that's the Standard Vanguard as an RAF Staff Car.

The 208M model first appeared in 1957 and production will have ceased in 1959, none of the M models being that popular. The last three M models were the 211M Studebaker Golden Hawk, 214M Ford Thunderbird and 216M Austin A40 and these were issued in late 1958 or 1959. All of these that I have seen have had grey bases and all the M models prior to the 208M Jaguar seem to have had only black. From this I am inclined to conclude that the change from black to grey bases would have been made sometime in late 1958 and, therefore, few Jaguars will have this.

The 352 RAF Staff Car was not issued until 1958 so I thought that a black base on this model could be quite scarce too. However, a quick look through Ebay and QDT pages shows that all but one for sale at the moment do have the black base. So that idea doesn't seem right! Maybe the 207 model didn't sell well and there were lots left from earlier years' production which Corgi painted RAF blue and turned into 352 models.

There are at least two variations of the bases for all the early models. That includes the tin base models as well as the solid base versions, whether M models or not, and the early racing cars and Bedford CA vans. The typeface for 'Corgi Toys' and the text itself and the layout you will find are clearly different and I shall have to make a study of these sometime.

For now, though, I would be interested to learn of any other models with both grey and black bases like these. There could clearly be an implication for values.

The 1959 Plymouth Suburban Estate car can be found with either a cream or grey base and the 210 Citroen comes either with or without a rear axle 'bulge' so it seems that the years around 1958-9 were a time of some change at the factory in this particular respect.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Corgi Toys @ 60: Karrier Airfield Radar Van and a Fire Chief's Car

January 1959 sees an interesting addition to the military items. A Karrier cab is put into use with various contraptions on the back to make an Airfield Radar Scanner Van. I suspect this might not have been a common sight on our roads then but it would have made a nice display item on some green baize or just plonked in a corner of the carpet.

The rear aerial is a plastic affair which can be re-positioned but the main attraction would be the scanner unit - a quite heavy chunk of mazak which can be turned pretty rapidly using a wheel on the side which connects to some gears to speed up the action.

Illustrated here is a 4-stripe version. It is also found with 5 orange bands. I don't know which are less common. Lasting until 1961, this can be found with both smooth and shaped fixed wheels.

The other release at the start of 1959 was the Jaguar 2.4, now painted red and bearing the roof silverware previously seen on the Riley Pathfinder Police Car. Instead of 'POLICE' the sticker now reads 'FIRE' as this is a 'Fire Chief's' Car. This is another vehicle that I have to say I am not familiar with in that I did not spot any on the Hertfordshire streets where I grew up.

It seems to have existed, however, as this example of an item sold at an auction shows. It seems terribly American to me and I don't even recognise the logo on the door but I really have little clue about what the Fire Service was like in those days.

Both the Radar Van and the Jaguar have fairly short lives, disappearing in 1961. The Radar Van would never be seen again but the Jaguar gets suspension and an interior and lasts a little longer.

I believe all the 213 models will have smooth fixed wheels although the timing may well mean that some late editions got shaped wheels. They will be much scarcer, though.

Monday, 24 December 2018