Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Corgi wheels

A collector in The Netherlands wrote to me with a question about the different types of wheels this week. He made the point that terms like 'spun wheels' or 'flat hubs' don't translate easily in Dutch. To be honest, I am not so sure they translate well in English anyway and I get quite annoyed at one trader who insists on adding  WITH SPUN HUBS!! after almost every title on Ebay.

So I thought there might be quite a few people out there who would like a guide as to the different types of wheel and it has been interesting to research this.

So let's start at the beginning. The very first type of wheel looked like this.


It was nearly flat and the same on both sides. I call these 'flat hubs'. This is the normal size on cars.


Some cars, like the Mini, would have had a smaller version.

Both these were fixed to the axle which made racing around corners a bit difficult and they didn't roll as well or as smoothly because the axle would have to revolve too.

Next came what I call a 'shaped' hub or wheel.


These had this slightly more realistic, perhaps, style with a more distinct rim for the tyre.


Again, there would be two sizes on cars and they were still fixed to the axle. Only one side would be 'shaped' like this so, occasionally, you will find vehicles that have some wheels showing the flat side and others the shaped side!


Still fixed to the axle, some Aston Martin DB4 models were released with a 'spoke effect' wheel. This was a bit rough, in my view, and didn't really look very good.


Finally, someone realised that the wheels needed to be able to spin freely on the axles, both for turning and for better running and, with the demise of the Mechanical editions, there was no need for a fixed axle anyway.


One of the first examples was this Mercedes 300SL which still had the 'flat' hubs but now they could spin freely with the axle having a turned end that was slightly broader to prevent the wheel falling off.


This is not a common style, though, and you won't find many vehicles with it. There would be the same two sizes for most cars and vans - the Triumph Herald, shown here with the smaller type. This one also features a polished end to the turned axle. I call these 'flat, free spinning' wheels.


By far the most common wheel is, of course, this one, which I call simply 'free spinning wheels' (or even 'normal wheels'! These wheels have a 'flat' side and a 'shaped' side. Unless there was an error at the factory, the shaped side will be the one showing. The illustration is a Bentley Continental which also had steering, requiring quite complicated engineering compared to the early days.


This 'shaped' and 'free spinning' wheel will appear in two sizes amongst cars and vans, an example of the smaller size here on a Ford Consul Cortina Estate. 



Next came the delightful type I call 'spoked wheels'. These are the best and just look excellent on every model they were fitted to. Corgi catalogues had the Aston Martin DB4 Competition edition and Mercedes 300SL coup├ęs illustrated with spoked wheels and they would have been great but I have never seen any. They lasted for quite a while and were free spinning on the usual axles.

They were only made in the 'normal' size. So no Minis would have had them.


Competition cars needed something a little special and got these 8 spoke cast wheels. This example is on a Porsche 6. Some Mustangs had these too, as did the Customised Chevrolet Sting Ray.


A smaller version with slightly better defined spokes as used on several racing cars like this Lotus Climax.


A slightly fatter version appears on the Monkeemobile. Tyres for that must be difficult to find. I call all these just '8 spoke cast wheels'

The 8 spoke cast wheel and wire wheel types wouldn't suit every car, though, so Corgi came along with a new design which was to become the new 'normal' wheel. I call it simply 'cast wheel' but as it has a spoke design some refer to it as a spoked wheel too.


Here it is on a late Land Rover. It is a smart design and suited almost every vehicle well. Even a Land Rover but quite wrong when you think about it! Late edition Buick Rivieras had these wheels as did Ford Mustangs (the normal version as well as the Competition model) as well as many others.


You will find a smaller 'cast wheel' with the same spoke design on most Minis too. Some are quite scarce but all the BMC Mini Cooper S 'Manifique' had them. You'll see them on many others too, like the later Sunbeam Imps, late Bubble cars and, oddly, the Lancia Fulvia.

Looking for another new 'feature', Corgi now come up with what they called 'Golden Jacks'. Some models are produced with a very clever system that allowed us to put the car on a stand like a real car jack and remove wheels. Brilliant. Although the novelty did wear off after a while. the only real fun was fitting wheels from one model to another. There were just a few produced, as illustrated here:


Mini Marcos GT850


Rover 2000TC


Hillman Hunter


Rolls Royce Silver Shadow


Oldsmobile Toronado and Chevrolet Camaro SS350


Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

Golden Jacks were all well and good but the device that allowed them to be removed didn't really let them run that quickly so, at a time when everyone wanted to go faster and competitors were making models that whizzed along better, Corgi came out with 'Whizzwheels'.


The first type was what is now called 'Red Dot' Whizzwheels. These were only fitted to cars made in late 1969 to early 1970 and looked quite smart. they certainly spun quickly, with much less resistance from the tiny circumference axle.

A few models that had been featured in the 1969 catalogue as 'Available Later' with Golden Jacks actually came out with Whizzwheels. The underside of the Pontiac Firebird, Lamborghini and Ferrari still have the outline of where the devices may have been. Some that had been released with Golden Jacks like the Corvette and Camaro reappeared with Whizzwheels. The Oldsmobile and Hillman didn't, though.

Eventually, however, troubled times led to further significant reduction in engineering requirements and a new version of the Whizzwheel started to appear on almost every model.


This strange and unrealistic plastic affair was the start of some pretty poor times. It may have gone fast but the models were mostly a sad reduction from what had gone before. I think there was just the one size but the tyre part may be enlarged on some models. I am not sure about that, I need to check again. Another version, however, also came out and was probably the more common:


This may have been intended as something a bit more realistic with its four 'spokes' and 'wheel nuts' but it really didn't work. I can recall an MGB with a similar design in the real world but that's all! It did have different sizes, though, the normal one like the Ford Capri 3 Litre above and a smaller size.


Here's the smaller one on a DAF City Car. The 'wheel nuts' became rather poorly defined.

These wheels, possibly again with a slightly fatter tyre on models like the Bentley, remained across the range on almost everything for a while.

Someone must have realised that they were simply not good enough, however cheap they may have been and however short of cash the company might have been.


Welcome the new 'standard' Whizzwheel, a quite decent looking (from a distance at any rate!) 8 spoke affair that's you'll find on a very wide range of vehicles including the Datsun 240Z here.


A variation with five spokes can be found on the awful Ford Mustang 'Organ Grinder'.

Further improvements came after this as I guess they sourced some better moulding techniques and much more individually tailored wheels started to appear.


A Ford Mustang Mach 1 with a quite nicely detailed design that could have made Whizzwheels quite nice had they done this rather earlier.


A very attractive and accurate Citroen SM wheel can be found on late editions of this model. Earlier ones had the same as the Datsun above.


Late editions of the GP Beach Buggy also had quite attractively finished wheels, quite sought after in comparison to the dreadfully dull first type that most will have had.


Possibly the very last 1:43 Corgi model car made in Britain was this VW 1300 Driving School car. It has gold wheels of the older 8 spoke cast wheel which looks almost identical to a type of much earlier, occasionally appearing on a Ford Mustang and some racing cars. This isn't a Whizzwheel but a nice ' gold 8 spoke cast' wheel to finish this listing.

No doubt there will be some variations I have missed. I will revise this article as and when I discover more. In the meantime, I hope it proves helpful to someone out there.

Here is a link to the album of these images.


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