Saturday, 2 January 2021

Corgi Toys @ 60: Another Mini, an Ambulance and a Cage on wheels


January 1961 sees the arrival of the second Mini, the Austin Seven, or Se7en as the box displays. Identical to the Morris from the previous year but with the Austin style of grille and an Austin badge on the bonnet, this came in red or primrose yellow and will have had smooth, fixed wheels at the outset.

Later there will be several changes to the casting, the the body and the base changing quite substantially. The interiors, as for the Morris will be red or yellow plastic. I have encountered several primrose editions that appear to have been issued without any suspension wires being fitted but the suspension seems to be sound on all the red ones.

Also issued this month was the last of the Bedford CA vans, here in khaki as the Military Ambulance edition which will have first has smooth fixed wheels and quite shortly after issue getting the shaped wheels as above. This is, of course, the Mk II single screen edition, although there is also a MkII version of the 412 St John's Ambulance too. That doesn't appear to be feaured in issue lists to dealers, it just sort of comes out at some time in 1960.

Finally, the start of 1961 sees the issue of individually boxed Animal Cages, the second Chipperfields Circus model, following the Circus Crane Truck issued a few months earlier. You really did need to have that truck, though, as nothing else was particularly well-suited to pull these trucks along and so soon you'll see a Gift set with the two sold together.

With the cage were two animals to fit inside. The first editions had two lions and two polar bears included with transfers for each. Early editions had fixed smooth wheels and metal sliding doors at each end and a divider in the middle. Later these became plastic and fixed shaped wheels would be fitted quite soon after issue too.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Mercedes 220SE Coupé

 The 230 model is one of my favourites. I just loved the steering. OK, so you had to press down on the 'wrong' side to turn, compared to how cars actually would lurch, but this ability to go around bends in your layout or on the carpet, coupled with free spinning wheels, made driving it a pleasure.

What I hadn't realised until a few minutes ago was that the 230 model comes with different window units. Some have lines for pillars at the side, others don't. It also seems that every black model has the lines but you'll find cream and cerise editions with either.

My first thought was that the unit with the lines would have been the first. I say that because I remember getting a black model and thought that must have been pretty early in its production because a couple of years later it had collected quite a few chips and I went back to the shop in St. Albans and bought another one, this time in red. The 253 was still not issued and, indeed, it was only when I started creating this catalogue 50 years later that I appreciated why there wasn't a blue 230!

When it does appear, all the 253s seem to have the uits with lines (although the piece of plastic is a different design, incorporating an extension at the back to control the boot opening). One would be tempted to infer, therefore that the first 230s would have had a clear unit and later ones the one with lines. That still leaves the problem of all the black ones appearing to have lines, though.

I am inclined to conclude, therefore, that, because the units were actually different, the usual thing about transition models does not apply and, in fact, the first 230s had a lined unit and the later ones a clear unit. This ties in with the black model having the lines as it was available at the outset for not for long afterwards, the cream and red being the predominant colours sold. All the 253 models have the different lined unit which just happens, when fitted to look the same as the early 230 one.

Clearly, further research is required into this. A preliminary look through the models offered by QDT over the years shows that almost all of them are clear and a correspondent, who brought this to my attention initially, states that all his 230 models were clear. These findings contradict my initial conclusion so I hope someone can assist in this matter!

In the meantime I shall revise the text on my catalogue page which made no mention of this at all.

I have often wondered why the 253 model was issued. Maybe Mercedes-Benz were unhappy about the straight edge of the boot panel and insisted upon the casting being revised and, to save a few pounds, Corgi dropped the steering in the rebuild.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Austin red, Morris blue.


My fellow collector, Andi from Kneitlingen in Germany, will shortly have an interesting pair of Corgi Minis. I was successful in acquiring for him a blue Austin Seven to sit next to his red Morris Mini-Minor.

These are quite delightful production errors, where it would appear that an Austin body gets included with the Morrises and gets sprayed blue and then attached to a Morris base and escapes the attention of the Quality Control chap. He also misses the occasional Morris body that gets a red coat of paint and then attached to an Austin base, an example of which my colleague discovered a while ago.

Bids for this particular model were sitting happily at £2.20 for most of its period on sale and I did wonder whether I might finish up getting the Bargain of The Year but in a frenzy of digits on screen at the very last few seconds it rose to £120. One other individual had spotted the Austin badge on the blue bonnet in the seller's photos but his efforts were in vain as my colleague's top price was just slightly above the other player's.

The Morris has a type 1c base - clearly narrower front section below the bumper - which is normally used with those models fitted with free spinning wheels but this one has fixed, shaped wheels. The Austin is an earlier edition with a type 1b base with the wider lower front bumper section, more normal with fixed wheels too.

I am sure these variations will be found amongst earlier and later models too, although I doubt we'll see a maroon Austin Seven.

I would love to find these for myself some day. In my own collection I have a primrose Austin on a Morris Mini-Minor base and two Morris Mini-Minors on Mini-Cooper bases but these don't look particularly different on display as the bodies are essentially the correct colour for the badge. That's what sets these two models apart and a quite valuable pair.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Monte Carlo Sunbeam Imp and NSU Sport Prinz, small variations.


Here I look at a couple of small cars that have variations you may not be aware of. Firstly this Sunbeam Imp arrived last week and it is remarkable in having suspension all round! Normally it is broken and I have to find some way to restore some stance to the car without spoiling it by taking off the base. That's not the interesting thing about this one, though. It's the wheel, they're the shaped type. These second issue Monte Carlo Rally Imps usually have cast wheels.

The other small car that arrived recently is the NSU Sport Prinz. This was not a car I knew anything about in 1963 when it was issued. In fact, it still isn't as they were not exactly something you would see on British roads. I had one, nevertheless, in my collection in those times but it seldom got played with and was one of the best looked-after models of all when I came to open up the old boxes a few years ago. 

It was a quite strange bright cerise colour, not dissimilar to the lovely Chevrolet Stingray which had come out a little earlier. Now I have one again in fairly reasonable condition. What i hadn't appreciated at teh time was that there was another colour available.

The other one was a dark metallic brick red, quite distinct and unlike any other model I know. It is definitely a less common colour and may have been missed by many collectors as it doesn't appear in many listings as a separate item to look out for.

Sunday, 8 November 2020



A collector in France wrote to me today to enquire whether I had considered including better-looking characters with my Avengers Gift Sets!

I had to reply to say that I could not do a great deal about the originals. And the copies are almost always a lot worse. For Steed, of course, I am not aware of any copies at all. As I have written on several occasions, the suppliers seem to use the Jeeves character from the World of Wooster set and paint that grey instead of white. The face and clothes are nothing like Steed's. Some are really quite laughable. There is one seller who uses the most dreadful copies and Mrs Peel looks really quite scary and deformed!

The original above is one of the better ones of Mrs Peel but her face is still quite masculine and rather less than attractive.

Here is a copy, next to an original that I now wish I had made some effort to clean! The blank face and heavy brushwork on the hair don't do her any favours but, as you can see in the image below, she almost looks acceptable when turned to one side. I think this was more by luck than judgement, however, and I struck lucky with the lighting!

Looking at some more Steeds, I have found one that is not too bad at all. However, these are few and far between and you can see that a third example sitting next to hm has some very enthusiastic painting of what are neither sideburns nor hair that I recognise!

The correspondence does tie in with my having spotted some quite interesting characters for sale recently.

These come from Russia and the detailing is considerably better but some are still unattractive and, of course, nothing like Mrs Peel. I wonder, however, whether someone might be able to make a better job?

If anyone knows anyone who might be good at this, get in touch.

Ford Thunderbird Mechanical and a question of boxes


This is not something you'll see every day. A really well-preserved Ford Thunderbird in Mechanical form - and the friction motor works smoothly too. It came from an auction in the outskirts of Leicester, another surprise win from a casual bid and I suspect that it may have come from the same collector who provided the Riley Pathfinder and Studebaker that were featured in a recent article here.

It isn't perfect so was probably disregarded by those who seek only mint models in mint boxes but I am delighted to have this and think that the odd small chip isn't such a bad thing and does mean the model has seen the light of day in its 60 years of existence.

The box is a bit of a mess, with flaps at both ends missing but it is the correct box and that's not at all easy to find these days in any condition.

It was the box that first caught my eye, albeit for the wrong reason. I had initially thought that the 'normal' box would have been the old blue style and that this new type would be something of a rarity, especially as the model was really not around for long, barely a year before being discontinued. This model first appeared in March 1959 and I believe that this 214M and its sister the 214 model were two of the first to have only the new style yellow and blue boxes.

From what I can gather the new style of box must have been introduced in December 1958 or January 1959 because the Jaguar 2.4 Fire Chief's car, model 213, only seems to have a new style box and that was issued at the start of the year, making it the first model to have only the later box.

The previous model issued was the 152 BRM F1 Racing Car and that may have a blue box (or a yellow and blue one for later sales).

So I was not right about the box being particularly special but it is still good to have even part of one. Perhaps I should look out for the BRM in the old box, though, as that, and a few other later 1958 issues, may be a little scarce.

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Big Daktari (and a small elephant)


It has taken a while but I finally have all the components for the second Daktari Gift Set. This is Gift Set 14, issued in May 1969 and including some unique items.

By 1969, the normal Land Rover and Dodge Kew Fargo trucks would have been fitted with cast wheels but it seems that these sets often had both with shaped wheels, as I have here. I don't know the distribution but I would expect these sets to have had predominantly cast wheel editions of these two. You could imagine that Corgi had several boxes full of the Land Rover left over from its outing in Gift Set 7 but that set too was available not only with cast wheels on the Land Rover but with Whizzwheels too! So, if you read the books, you'll be told that Gift Set 7 ceased production in 1969 which was when Gift Set 14 started to be issued. Logically, there really should not be any Daktari Land Rovers with Whizzwheels but, clearly, there are, and many of them too, judging by the low prices most sell at. I think, therefore, we can take it that Gift Set 7 remained in production well into the early 1970s and that, in turn, is much more likely to justify the sales of nearly 1 million, according to the same books.

In this set, however, it appears that Whizzwheels were not fitted to any of the models, despite the books telling us that it ran through to 1973. Sales of a mere 100,000 or so, however, may have been just the first few production runs of the models and there was never a need to replace them. It simply did not sell as well and is now extremely hard to find, especially if you seek a box. I have seen two boxes so far in my several years of looking and there are no reproductions being made either, presumably because they cannot get hold of an original to copy.

The Kew Fargo Truck never got Whizzwheels anyway, this being its final appearance in new colours and the Daktari decals being added as paper stickers. Most models suffer from the usual suspension problem, resulting from a bent prop shaft. If you search this blog for Kew Fargo Truck you will find my instructions on how this can be repaired without taking the base off or spoiling anything.

The Land Rover, as I have said, is identical to that issued with Gift Set 7.

The third model is the Bedford Giraffe Transport vehicle, being the same thing as the June 1964 Chipperfields edition getting a fresh lease of life here. It now has nice pale brown paintwork and the carrier section has a two-tone brown giraffe pattern, bearing the Wameru Sub-District decal in red. As with later editions of the Chipperfields version, this truck has the attractive and quite realistic cast wheels as fitted to some later commercial vehicles.

All the Gift Set 7 characters moved to Gift Set 14 with the Land Rover; that's Paula on the lion and the lion has a pair of spectacles, together with the doctor wearing a stethoscope and with a chimpanzee on his lap. These are all present and original here - the glasses and stethoscope are tiny, easily lost and quite hard to find as originals now. Replacements are good, though, and that's what you'll find most people have and it isn't easy to tell without a magnifying glass, although the reproduction spectacles rarely stay in place on the lion.

In the back of the Giraffe Transporter you'll find the same mother and baby as were in the Chipperfields box. 

The Kew Fargo truck carries two elephants. The big one is the same as you find in Gift Set 19, the Chipperfields set with a ready-made elephant in a ready-made cage on the back of a trailer towed by a Land Rover. (In the 607 kit both the cage and elephant are in separate parts and, when made, may appear slightly different). The baby elephant is the part you may well find the most difficult to track down. It is noticeably smaller than the other one and has a quite chunky appearance, with trunk hanging down and turning back at the end slightly. It is a dark grey colour. It is often missing and, I suppose, gets mixed up with whatever other animals the owner may have had at the time and, when it comes time to sell his collection the baby elephant will, more often than not, finish up in a bag with several other animals of no Corgi origin. Once the connection is lost it will not be regained and, as a consequence, I spent many months searching for one.

Strangely, both that came to light were found by my German friend and collector, Andi. I have yet to see one for sale in the UK. (Of course, having said that, there may now be a whole herd of them tramping through Great Britain if not the Channel Is!) Many people, unable to find the correct one, have substituted another, and I have even seen imposters in place of the comparatively easy to find mother elephant. The trunk and how it is shaped is the best thing to look out for in both cases.

As they stand, the group is probably worth around £200, which at a mere £60 or so for each of the principal elements + their content, is not very much when one considers just how difficult is is to get everything. Add a box, however, and the price sails up to £600, (a lot more at one of the auctions I've seen!) So I shall not be selling any of these just yet. Indeed, I fear it may be some years before a box comes along but they'll still represent an excellent return on investment, I'm sure.