Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Wilford Collection Pt 2: Gold Jaguars


The second and third items from the Wilford Collection are Jaguars. At first glance you might think that this is just another 312 but it isn't. This is a brass 307 E Type Jaguar. It has all the same features as the standard red or grey model, brown plastic interior and clear plastic headlamp elements and seems to have been made with the same cast.

This one is heavy, and very bright, gleaming like gold.




The Jaguar Mk X is similar, based on an original cast with opening bonnet and boot, twin jewelled headlamps too. It has a lemon yellow interior.

I believe that a small number of these would have been manufactured as gifts for special visitors. Someone like the boss of Jaguar, I would imagine. The would not have been cheap to produce and, being in such small numbers, the costs of individual polishing and final, careful finishing would have been substantial. This originated from Mr Percy Wilford's model-making office and I would imagine he would have been the person responsible for overseeing the production of these.

I can find no reference to Jaguar models like either of these anywhere so would appreciate any knowledge that you may have. These are available to buy. Offers invited - but they will not be cheap!

In many ways these must be the ultimate E Type or Mk X model to have for fans of the cars and Corgi Toy specialists. 

More photos are available at these links:







Mini Coopers

It was a long time ago that I first tried to list the different Mini Coopers. My first article was mainly written to help my own searches but I gather that quite a few people found it useful. It was, though, pretty basic now I look again and some of the photos that should have appeared have moved location and the links to them no longer work. Now I have my own for most of them and I have discovered lots of new variations so I think it is time to have another go at this. I should also express gratitude to Mr Lee Harris for his expert corrections and explanations of my first draft.

May 1962
227 Morris Mini Cooper






There were three main colours: blue and two shades of primrose. All had white roofs but all colours appear with and without white bonnets. 

The blue cars could have a red or lemon interior. For the primrose cars it was always red.

Wheels were always shaped but could be fixed or free-spinning.

Racing numbers 1, 3, and 7 and each can be found in thick or  a noticeably thinner typeface.

February 1964
317 BMC Mini Cooper S
1964 Monte Carlo Edition

The first red and white Cooper, easily identifiable by the spotlight on the roof. Like 227 in many respects, with just the two headlamp jewels.


Listed in the catalogues and boxed as a BMC Mini Cooper S but looking pretty much the same as a 227 to me and with Morris Mini Cooper on the base!

Mercifully simple, there are no known variations of this one. The wheels are shaped, rarely fixed or, more usually, free-spinning and it is RN 37.

February 1965
321 BMC Mini Cooper S
1965 Monte Carlo Edition

A new cast for this one, with two fog lamps built in above the radiator grille.


This does have BMC Mini Cooper S on the base. Three fog lamp jewels and this is the first with a sump guard fitted below the front bumper. No variations for this one either - they all had shaped, free-spinning wheels and RN 52.

November 1965
249 Mini Cooper Deluxe
With the same base as the 321s but reading Morris Mini-Cooper comes one of only a few black cars from Corgi.




You'll find this with a red roof and plastic panels on the sides and boot to resemble the 'Wickerwork' that was used to decorate a few real Minis (for the price of a small house at the time). It has no fog lamps, just the two jewelled headlamps.

There are two variations - one with normal, shaped wheels and one with cast, spoke effect wheels. All have yellow interiors


January 1966
321 BMC Mini Cooper S
1966 Monte Carlo Edition

Back to the earlier cast for the second 321 model which came out less than a year later. Another very easy to identify as it has ridiculously big signatures on the roof. No fog lamps in the cast.


Two fog lamp jewels and shaped, free-spinning wheels. This also has the sump guard and all models have RN 2. BMC Mini Cooper S on the base.

February 1967
333 BMC Mini Cooper S
International Sun Rally Edition

Similar to the 317 and second 321 models but this one has four fog lamp jewels in the grille. There are three main variations!

Austin badge and grille, shaped wheels

The Austin is the earlier of the two and has the comparatively small headlamp jewels. Re-tooling produced a 'chubbier' cast for the Mini which was used for later editions. That had a Morris badge and grille and slightly bigger headlamps. The Morris only has cast wheels.
Austin and Morris versions each issued with cast wheels
RN 21 on the doors, sump guard and four jewel fog lamps in the grille on all models. The Austin grille and normal shaped wheels are the most common type (although these are still pretty scarce).

The base has BMC Mini Cooper S.

March 1967
339 BMC Mini Cooper S
1967 Monte Carlo Edition

Very shortly after the 333 comes another Monte Carlo edition. This is nicely obvious with its oversized roof rack. Again, this comes in several flavours.

Austin badge and grille

Morris badge and grille


Each of the 'Austin' and 'Morris' cars can be found with cast spoke effect wheels. The 'Austin' can be found with normal shaped wheels too.

All these have RN 177, four fog lamps and sump guard as for 333. I have seen both yellow and white jewels used for the headlamps and the fog lamps although I am fairly certain that all the earliest ones were yellow. With the re-tooling mentioned above going on at the time, the Austin, with smaller headlamps will be seen as for the 333 model. However, with the availability and comparative ease of fitting replacements this is not always easy to distinguish now.

Each model can also be found with either paper Monte Carlo stickers or with these as transfers.

Summer 1967
349 Morris Mini Minor 
'Pop Art' Edition

Only available to order by post from a members' bulletin, this is not a Mini Cooper but, being vaguely red and with the two headlamp jewels you might just come across one that has lost its stickers and initially gets mixed up with the Coopers. OK, you would have to be really lucky to find one like that! But here it is anyway.


No variations or racing numbers.

December 1968
334 BMC Mini Cooper S 'Manifique'



This comes in two colours: metallic green and metallic blue. Everything opens and it has a sliding inner roof lining. No other variations.

March 1971
282 BMC Mini Cooper S

The first Whizzwheels Mini Cooper was really the preceding 334 re-issued with fewer opening bits and some different colours.


Just the one edition, I believe, with the 339 RN 177 added. they must have had some spare supplies of those.

January 1972
308 BMC Mini Cooper S
Monte Carlo Edition

The second Whizzwheels edition, just a 339 now with yellow paint.


Clearly, there were still RN 177 stickers lying around. This has the same four fog lamp jewels as 339 and also the roof rack and sump guard. This example has the Morris badge and grille. It did occur to me that there may be Austin variations out there but I am assured by Mr Harris that there will not be, this being the later, re-tooled edition which bore the Morris badge.

That's the end of line for Corgi's Mini Coopers in 1:43 scale as we know them.


Saturday, 9 September 2017

A few models that look common but have taken a while to find

In all the excitement of dealing with items rare and very strange life has continued as normal too in the field of the slightly different - and I have been able to tick off several items on my Wanted List. These are models released in the normal run of things but which have been difficult to find at reasonable prices.


I'll start with the 222 Renault Floride. It sounds like it ought to be toothpaste but is a beautiful car, both as a model and in the real world. Corgi issued this in Autumn 1959. It was the first with suspension. Not the first with an interior - the 219 Plymouth Suburban had that title (not counting the open cars).

The most frequently found colour is a metallic olive-green and then there are shades of maroon, burgundy (and all stations in between) and this nice metallic blue. The interior can be red or yellow on the blue model, yellow or cream on the red and it is always red (to the best of my knowledge) on the green. I think that the blue colour is a later addition to the range as all the models I have seen in blue have had free-spinning wheels whereas the other colours are, more often than not, fixed but can be either.


The next evasive model has been the 239 Volkswagen Karman Ghia in gold. The cream and red-orange models have come and gone at modest prices but the gold ones have been crazily expensive. This came out in early 1963 and was the second car, after the Jaguar Mk X, to have an opening front and back. In a way the VW trumped the Jaguar as this also had a spare wheel, cases in both places and an opening clear engine cover. But it doesn't have jewels so maybe they're even.

Have you noticed the extraordinary amount of luggage Corgi expected people with these cars to carry? Not only did they supply two little brown plastic cases but also inside you see, through the rear window, a mass of cases and boxes which leave precious little room for anyone who might have though about travelling on the back seat. I'll add a photo of this in a while.

Like the Renault above, this isn't perfect but it's complete, the windows are clear and the suspension works. The gold is also available with a red interior so I'm not done yet with the 239s.


Possibly one of my favourite models is the Ford Mustang - as it started in April 1965; with attractive normal wheels, jewelled headlights, chrome bumpers and this marvellous shade of metallic blue (similar to, but quite distinct from, the Renault). With a clean, pale cream interior and a Corgi dog on the parcel shelf, this just looked lovely. It was only the second model to have opening doors too. It had been a long wait since November 1963 and the Ghia. They still seldom closed in line, although this particular example is good.

Finding these with normal wheels is not easy. Most had wire wheels and very late versions had the cast spoke effect wheels.


The same story applies to the 246 Chrysler Imperial - except for the part about it being a favourite, that is. I really did not like this much at the time and I still don't care much for the editions with cast spoke effect wheels. They always seem to go very grey and dour-looking. Maybe if they had remained shiny and new then I would be more persuaded about that version. As it is, though, I have warmed considerably to the Chrysler with these normal wheels. Again, not many of these to be found and it has been on the Wanted List for a long time. 

At one point I wondered whether it did, indeed, exist but I eventually saw one in Germany and resumed the search. This one, in fact, arrived minus a screen, side window and door panels. It does have its golf clubs and trolley in the boot, though, but not the big American people whom I do not intend to try and find either. I much prefer this model unoccupied.

There are two colours for the interior, this chalky blue and a chalky green. I do not propose to search for the green variation with normal wheels, though. I have had a green one with the cast wheels and reckon that's enough for this one.




The other recent addition and Wanted List deletion is the pair of 465 Commer Pick-up Trucks. I was surprised to find that Corgi had actually issued these as different models rather than simply issuing the models that were included in the Commer Construction Gift Set 24. 

For instance, you could buy the Police Van separately and that had the device to remove the rear section just as the set one had. I know that it was necessary to get at the battery that way but I still think they could have just issued the milk float, van and these trucks in the same way. Now, of course, we get the 'made-up' models being sold as the issued items and finding the real things can be difficult. Eventually, however, I tracked down these very nice examples in each colour combination. To my knowledge, there was only the red cab in the Gift Set.

Still on my Wanted List are the individually issued Ambulance and Milk Float. these are not too expensive but I keep hoping to find one that someone prices as if it were the cheap Gift Set item! I have ticked off the Hammonds Van via a lucky purchase for my German collector friend who routed his purchase through me.


The Mettoy Company's New Miniature Numbers

Following my figuring out what the model cast, featured in my first Wilford Collection post, was for I found what looked like a dilapidated example of the 502 Standard Vanguard model itself.

Now, this is about 66 or 67 years old so I was prepared for a bit of a wreck but, apart from losing virtually all its paint, this is still working very well indeed. I had been intrigued by the catalogue listing that said it had steering and a brake. That's more than you'd get, even from a Mechanical model from Corgi, for many more years.


Although not obvious from this photo, or even at first glance on the desk, the inside of the car is chock full of mechanisms. 


I haven't got an original key but the clockwork motor can be wound up and off the model goes. At the front, the 'fog light' can be moved towards the left or right which, in turn, changes the angles of the wheels. This is remarkably accurate - not the axle rotating about a central point like Dinky did for years and which never looked right, but a form of parallel steering which worked wonderfully well and looked right too. Amazing.

At the back is a lever which can stop the motor operation. Again, a very precise bit of engineering indeed, controlling a simple ratchet device.


There is no brand or text of any description on the base so this may well be something that we could easily have missed when rummaging through boxes of other people's toys.

The dark grey colour is actually quite suitable for this early 1950s model but the remaining bits of beige paint spoil its appearance a bit. I may give it a coat of something close to its original colour, if I can find out what that was, that is. I am guessing a sort of sandy beige colour like the small bits remaining but I'll have to find some more and see whether there were other colours. Here is one that I found while drafting this so light grey is one option.


There is also a Rolls Royce currently for sale in a similar colour.







Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Wilford Collection Pt1

I am delighted to report that I now have many of the interesting items from the desk or drawers of Mr Percy Wilford, Senior Model Maker in the 1950s and 1960s at Corgi in Northampton and his son Robert, Senior Development Engineer in the 1970s.



The items cover a vast range, from the fascinating and probably unique to some probably common late items. Rather than attempt to catalogue everything in one go I have decided to release details over the next few weeks, one group at a time.

I shall start with the oldest item which really has to have a group of its own.


This is a master model, in what I think is brass, of one of the forerunners of Corgis. A range of New Miniature Numbers was introduced by The Mettoy Company in 1950 with a Standard Vanguard and Rolls Royce, each in two sizes. This appears to be the model for 502, the smaller Standard Vanguard.

It is 70mm long, heavy and attached to the simply varnished wood block by a bolt.










 The New Miniature Numbers disappeared from the Mettoy Catalogue in 1954. This must be a unique and quite special item in Mettoy / Corgi history.



I have just acquired one of the original 502 Standard Vanguard models. It is in very poor condition but I hope to be able to clean it a little and will include photos here as soon as it is available.


Although this chunk of metal has polished to a lovely bright silver (with a golden radiator grill) and is not as golden brown as those shown in this illustration from The Great Book of Corgi, the style is very similar - see how the wheel areas are represented.

The album, containing higher resolution images, for this item can be viewed at this link.

Corgi Toys @ 60: Karrier Mobile Shop


September 1957 brought the second Karrier model and the first of several 'shops'. This first is the quaintly labelled Hygienic Mobile Shop. I do not remember seeing any of these where I lived. We did have a butcher, a baker and probably a candlestick maker but no mobile general stores that I recall. Corgi certainly got their money's worth out of this casting with more Karriers appearing annually for the next few years.

This shop has a very pale green colour, often now appearing almost white. It had fixed wheels and tinplate bearing the lithographed content appearing in the windows. At the back there is even a shop man on some tinplate set some distance in.

[I am grateful to Mr Harris for pointing out that the interior display is, indeed, tinplate with images lithographed - a process The Mettoy Company were already very familiar with - and not card as I had thought. Mr Harris supplied the images below and likes to take Corgis apart and see how they work or are constructed and is a first class source on thee matters. Occasionally he manages to put them back together again too.]




This stayed available until 1962 when it must have started to look rather bland next to models like the Jaguar Mk X. Prices are very wide-ranging for these shops. You'll still find some at very reasonable prices. Look for those with good windows as the display makes all the difference.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Pale blue Bedfords

I often wonder what the idea of the friction motor was. I guess it was intended to add some realism with the creation of some noise, vibration and, on a level surface, a model could be seen to move momentarily on its own without a giant hand descending from above being required to direct its progress.

It would only last a second or two, though, and then grind to a halt, rather the reverse of what cars and vans tended to do in real life when given a good shove for a bump start, for instance!

My colleague, Herr Richter from Eilum in Germany, sends me this story of two Bedfords.

He found two pale blue Bedford Dormobiles parked nearby. At first glance they looked pretty much the same. 


Looking at the front, however, there were clearly different radiator grills. One was distinctly rounder along the top edge than the other.



At the back, too, more differences, with one having two extra bits - either the rubber protectors that some had fitted, perhaps, or two extra lights of some sort.

Had he been able to lift them up and turn them over he would have discovered two things: that one was much, much heavier than the other and that one had a totally different base.




Herr Richter appears to have found quite a rarity - a pale blue 404 Bedford that is not a 404M! We have seen the metallic cerise and cream 404s but I was not aware of a pale blue variation.

Incidentally, there are also two versions of the pale blue 404M - the front axle can be open or closed, the former missing the lowest suspension section that covers the axle in the latter.



This story also gives me another idea for the friction motor's use. Place these two on a matt to take some photos and you have to be very careful not to find one of them heading off on its own down the merest of slopes. The good old 404M just sits there, obediently going nowhere!