Friday, 1 July 2022

Corgi toys @ 60: Volvo P1800 and Thunderbirds Go Tropical


July 1962 saw the first Corgi Volvo arrive in the local toy shop. Model 228 was the Volvo P1800, a nice, simple model with just jewelled headlamps as a special feature. This was issued in two unusual colours, beige and salmon, as well as several shades of red, varying from an orange-red shade through to a quite rich, deeper red. The salmon also varied from dark to pink.

Most of the beige models had a red interior but they can be found with a lemon interior. Similarly, the salmon model had a lemon interior but is known with red. I expect there will be red models which have a red interior although I have only seen lemon to date. All the 'alternatives' are scarce but not every seller knows that so you can find these scarcities at reasonable prices.

The 228 Volvo P1800 will always have free-spinning shaped wheels and good suspension with wires. They should have a silver line running along the raised 'chrome strip' and the top of the rear fins. Ofte this gets worn or not well-applied at the factory.

The car will be familiar to fans of The Saint TV series in which Roger Moore as Simon Templar raced around Hertfordshire lanes near where I lived in the early 1960s. In due course Corgi would release their version but you'll have to wait until 2025 for that!

The other new issue in July 1962 was the rather strange-looking 'Bermuda Taxi'. Clearly, someone on the Corgi Production Team must have been on holiday in the winter of 1961 and seen the old American cars in use as taxis on Bermuda. It was another way to get a little more life out of the ancient casting but not a model I had ever particularly desired.

They painted the body a creamy white and added some stickers. Unlike transfers, these would easily come off and so now many models will be either lacking them or display reproductions. They planted a suitably brown driver behind the wheel and gave him a stupid-looking plastic canopy, supported by a single pole at the back. A truly dreadful affair. The canopy came in green, blue and yellow, each having a red edging.

As with the 215S, this always has free-spinning shaped wheels. It may be the colour producing this effect but it appears lower and more natural than the red 215S edition. I doubt that it is any different, just appears a little more realistic.

Marcel Van Cleemput quotes a scale of 1:46 for this, as opposed to 1:48 for the 215S model issued in June. I think that has to be an error. They're the same but i don't know which is correct.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

The Corgi Model Club: 231 Triumph Herald Coupé


Arriving this week was the Corgi Model Club re-issue of the 231 Triumph Herald Coupé. Another marvellous model and a delight to have. The colours are spot-on, as is almost everything about this model. I say 'almost' as the large chunks of red paint on the rear lights spoil it. The originals had quite small splashes and whilst I accept that the Chinese robot will always produce a very much neater job, this time the program has been written to create far too large an area painted. That is a minor moan, however, and this another super piece of work by the Club.

The box is good and I have now learned how to open it without tearing the small end tab. Inside is just the car and a square piece of polystyrene which looks remarkably like the piece I had with the last Oldsmobile issue but this time I am not sure what it is intended to protect. Possibly the box from the sharp rear fins or maybe to keep closed the opening bonnet.

The opening bonnet shows the engine and they have included a black plastic oil air filter too. This would rotate or could be removed on my original models but I found this one very firmly attached and decided not to risk breaking it. It did feel like plastic so it probably will move.

Closing the bonnet does not produce any satisfying click as the original seemed to, although the holding mechanism seems similar. I found that I had to press quite firmly to keep the bonnet closed in line with the body.

Here you can see the very heavily-painted rear light section. It may not be that inaccurate in real life but looks wrong on the model.

This issue is in light blue and white. The original also appeared in gold and white and I understand that there may be a second issue of this model in those colours at some point in the future. I have often thought that it would make sense to re-use the expensive work in casting, interior production, boxes etc. with variations of finish and I am sure that we will see this happen with many models. When I first heard of the project I suggested that they look at making the scarcer varieties which many collectors cannot now find very easily and may well have to pay a fortune for an original. Much as we all like to get fresh copies of the common versions of what we once had in our collections there would be an ever greater demand for the less common.

The Corgi Model Club: 237 Oldsmobile Sherriff's Car


Here is the re-issue by the Corgi Model Club of the 237 Oldsmobile "Sheriff" Car. I cannot find any fault in this at all - it is a really super piece of work. As usual, the silver paintwork is just a little too perfect, some robot in China producing an immaculately positioned coat rather better than a Welsh lady's hand managed in 1962. Once again the Club manage to have this arrive at my door on the 60th anniversary of the original. I am just a bit late in sharing this article. (My excuse is that I thought I had done so but clearly hadn't!) 

The box is excellent and someone seems to have found a better font for the text and, particularly, the numbers which match much better the original. Again, as usual, the finish is too smooth and shiny but they'll need a different printing process to change this.

It comes with the familiar Certificate of Authenticity. Note that this is not a limited edition certificate. As noted in a recent article on the James Bond re-issue, the company producing these order them in batches of 5000. So if there is little further demand then, yes, the issue may well prove to be limited to 5000 (or a multiple of 5000) but we won't know until sometime in the future when perhaps they might share the figures with us.

Inside the box is just the car with a square of polystyrene to protect the box from damage from the beacon.

The base declares its Chinese origin but in a pleasantly muted way, the text and layout being otherwise as the 1962 model appeared. I am sure that we would all prefer that this was not a product which involved us supporting some factory in China which, in turn, supports a government of questionable acceptability but so much of our annual expenditure on material goods is now going to China that it would be unreasonable to expect these models to be any different. However, I would urge that consideration might be given to finding a facility somewhere else. Talented as they may be in this field, I am sure some people in a country with attitudes to freedom closer to ours would be capable of similar quality and at a competitive price.

Friday, 3 June 2022

The trouble with 218s

 The Aston Martin DB4 was a popular model. I had originally thought that there were just a few variations - yellow and shades of red and some different wheel types. Then I saw the vent that could be open or closed but reckoned that only the very late editions with free spinning wheels would have the closed type. Next I discovered different hinge types for the bonnet, different bases and finally I see two quite distinct types of open vent!

I calculated that, should all combinations of colour, wheel, hinge, vent and base be possible then there would be 216 different models to search for! Fortunately, the numbers shouldn't be quite so huge but I suspect we're still going to have to hunt for quite a few.

I have added some photos here to help you identify the differences. You'll know about the wheel types already, so let's start with the vent.

The earliest type is noticeably bigger than the second and is most easily identified from above. The sides of the vent are angled towards the front of the car and it is much uglier too in my opinion. That may be why they changed it! The third type shown above is the closed type of vent - just a solid lump in the casting. It actually makes the bonnet quite difficult to open but that's another story.

Next let's look under the bonnet.

The first type of hinge is made from two pieces attached centrally. The second has hinges attached at the corners (or sides) of the bonnet and the third has them also atteched at the corners but with a more obvious small central block showing. These bonnets are invariably painted silver on the underside too.

The engine mounting is quite different in the early models too but that is not really visible unless you take them apart.

Above are illustrated the three different types of base that I've found. The first is the early type with holes and the model number included. The second has no holes but retains the model number. Finally the third has neither.

As it happens, I was able to use the same three models for each of these photos but that doesn't mean that all the models with a large open vent will have a central hinge and the base with holes. Far from it. My task now is to attempt to figure out just how many of those 218 variations actually exist. I was prompted to do this when I saw a model advertised by QDT with smooth wheels and the closed vent at over £500. My initial thought was that someone must have changed the wheels. How could a model produced with the very earliest type of wheel also have the very latest type of bonnet? I still can't figure out the logic of this but, not only have several experts assured me that it is possible but, to my distinct embarrassment and annoyance, I see that one of my very first purchases many years ago when I started to build my collection was, indeed, a smooth wheel model with a closed bonnet!

Even more annoying is the fact that I sold this at a pretty modest price, also many years ago!

So, yes, it does exist. And I need to find another, damn it.

I have since surveyed a considerable number of these 218 models either in my collection, archives or available today to buy in various places online and I am going to summarise my findings in a table which I will update as and when I find anything new.

So, at the moment, I have seen 7 variations and, assuming that they exist in each colour, that makes 14 to find. I have a feeling that a few more will appear in time. For example, will all the cast wheel editions have the same earliest vent, hinge and base types? Will there be a smooth fixed wheel model with a type 2 base or will that base prove to be exclusive to the fixed shape wheel models?

I would be very nice if some consistency did appear and, for example, we can settle in the knowledge that all the models with free-spinning wheels will have the closed vent, late type hinge and the type 3 base. However, we know that the 309 Competition model has the same range of vents and all those models have free-spinning wheels so I am expecting a few additions to this list!

Lastly for now, I would mention that it seems that the edition in red of the smooth wheel / closed vent type has been in a distinctly deeper shade of red in those I have encountered. So I am hoping all of them have this shade and it does not need a third colour to be added at this stage.

If the software works as it should the list will be automatically updated as and when I find something new. What will be common and what will be scarce remains to be seen but we do know already that the fixed shaped wheel editions are the most scarce wheel type and so, even if they're evenly divided, variations of these will be even more difficult to find. But it's too early to come to any conclusions now. Let's see what comes along and do, please, provide me with some more data!

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Corgi Toys @ 60 : Thunderbirds get suspension and the first Oldsmobile

June 1962 brought three new American cars to your local Corgi toy shop. The two Ford Thunderbirds' bodies had been around since March 1959 and now finally get the S treatment. New paint, suspension and an interior for the hard top and a driver for the convertible.

The dark metallic grey is a super colour that never is to be seen again. It suits this car well and, whilst the red roof seems a little odd at first, it is an improvement on the Mechanical Ford's pink and plack scheme. This is a good-looking model, one of my favourites. It is always with free spinning wheels and a lemon plastic interior.

Putting suspension on the convertible model, however, didn't work as well, the car now seemingly floating some several inches higher than it ought to be. Wherever you see a Thunderbird from this era it is pretty much on the ground and you wonder how on Earth it would cope with sleeping policemen and those high kerbs in car parks.

The Corgi Model Club have produced a fine reproduction of the 215S model. The other problem for me with this model is the driver. The character is simply too tall, his head well above the windscreen and he just looks silly, not a good look in a car like this in the real world!

The other June arrival coincides with the latest Corgi Model Club issue too - the lovely 237 Oldsmobile Super 80, appearing first in County Police Patrol livery. It's a simple model with no opening features, just suspension and free-spinning wheels, an amber beacon on the roof and stickers on the sides.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Land Rovers with short bars on the roof


My collector friend in Germany has been looking at his Land Rovers again. What he's found this time is a distinctly different roof on the cab of some models. Some of those with a sort of 'plate' on the roof have quite different bars - the middle one being shorter - or it may be an optical illusion and all three bars are shorter than on the other plates. Whichever is the case, they're different.

I have found the 'short bars' on the 357 Weapons Carrier, 438 deep green boxed issue, GS2 fawn issue and red issues from either GS17 or GS19 (or maybe both, I can't tell).

So far, I have not seen them on the 406S or Farm green models, the very earliest Series II issues, nor have I seen them on a 351S or 416S. As there are so few of the former, I am inclined to conclude that they did not appear on that one either and that they will be found not on the very early Series II Land Rovers but maybe later ones from 1964 for a year or so. The 416S may well have them - I just haven't seen any yet.

Every 'short' bar edition has had the same 'h' shape window lever, not triangle shape. Whilst I don't think we will find these 'short bars' editions to be at all uncommon they do represent a distinct variation which I shall include in my catalogue for the models referred to above.

If anyone finds them on any of the others do let me know.

Incidentally, I have just noticed how different the deep green models are in the last photo! One is a sort of dark blue-green and I guess I shall have to look at listing this as a difference too! With a bit of luck, though, we'll find that all deep/dark green 438s with short bars have the same shade and I won't need yet another section for these!

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Corgi Model Club: the mystery of the Bond Certificates


I have written recently about the second issue of the Corgi Model Club's 261 model. Now lots of people are writing about this in various social media posts. It's all about the certificates that are being sent out with the models.

Just to recap, we were told that the Club were not very happy with the finish on the first issue, which many of us would have received in January this year. It was silky rather than shiny. I doubt I would have thought twice about it if they had not only brought it to my attention but also offered to exchange it for a later revised issue when that became available.

This first issue was to be a limited run of 5000 as also stated in the letter we received and on a leaflet accompanying it. My certificates are numbered 116, 376 and 1513. I was particularly keen to have these as 5000 isn't a big production run and, despite the supposedly less satisfactory finish, I could see these being quite sought after.

Now the second issue is out and, yes, I can see a bit more shine when viewed at some angles in the sunshine. It is nothing like as vast a difference as I had expected and, indeed, I genuinely reckoned the Club must have sent me a first issue! This was reinforced as I had the leaflet referring to a limited issue of 5000 and certificates numbered 3769, 4372 and 4782. As the numbers were below 5000 I wondered whether they were first issues after all and my eyes were deceiving me paint finish-wise!

It is quite amusing to read all the posts along similar lines on Facebook this week and I suspect this will go on for a while as new people get theirs and all and sundry wonder out loud what has happened. One chap even has received cars from the 2nd issue with certificates numbered 5498, 5499 and 5500 as well as a 'limited edition' leaflet!

Now, it is, of course quite possible that the Corgi Model Club have not had a limited production run at all for the first issue - they just pretended they had and hoped no-one would notice. I don't buy that as they are highly unlikely to be stupid enough then to print certificates with numbers greater than 5000! My guess is that they did have a limited run for the first issue but didn't sell them all. I don't know what the biggest number has been on a certificate received with the first issue but let's say it was around 3000.

The surplus first issue models get put in a back room somewhere as the second issue arrive. Staff carry on as they did before, sticking certificates in with the boxes and the same leaflet as before too but not the letter apologising for the finish. It's a mistake - but that's life. 

What I don't know is whether there might be a plan to limit this second issue to 5000 as well. That would tie in with the inclusion of the leaflet and make the certificate not such a big mistake after all. But if you get a certificate with a number over 8000 then it would begin to look more like that not being the case.

As it stands, the first issue is the limited edition and the second isn't. They're both lovely models and I would expect there to be a strong demand amongst those who cannot buy them abroad as well as dealers stocking up here in the UK. Members who joined recently will automatically get one of the second issue at £23.98. The rest of us in the UK can order them from the online store at £33.98. (So if you are abroad or looking on Ebay to buy one do bear that in mind!) 

Perhaps the Corgi Model Club themselves should now tell us about the mystery of the certificates or we will have to read yet more posts about this!

Incidentally,  I notice the Ford Mustang Competition model is shown as 'sold out' in that store. I am sure the Aston Martin will be more popular so it will be interesting to see what happens with that.