Thursday, 30 June 2016

Down on the farm.

It's taken a while and there are still some items missing but it seems a good time to share something about the Corgi Farming tractors and equipment produced in the 1:43 era. It all started in May 1959 with a Massey Ferguson 65 tractor and a Massey Ferguson 30cwt tipping trailer. 

My example has the attached skip with a milk churn and good ol' Farmer George at the wheel. These are much later additions, the first releases just being the basic tractor and trailer. Both started with metal wheels, replaced later with plastic ones and you'll find a range of seats from red and silver painted to bare metal. the steering wheel also varies from grey and black plastic to a grey metal one.

I lived on a farm in Hertfordshire which was also an agricultural machinery depot where my dad worked. So I got to see and occasionally play with the real things. I learned to drive on a 'Fergie' 20 and so it was pretty natural that the first Gift Set I had was Gift Set 7 with the original tractor and trailer. That came out in July 1959 with a lovely Combine Harvester joining the pair in Gift Set 8 in October that year. The Combine Harvester was an amazing pice of engineering with all sorts of working parts but it cost way too much for my family at the time and I still haven't got one all these years later!

In 1960 a shovel was added to the Massey Ferguson 65 and you could also now buy the skip and milk churns Most will have a cream painted lift device, black metal controls and a bucket that is silver inside. The mechanism tends to get a bit loose over the years but it is a super bit of design and really did pick dirt up and dump it in the trailer if you wanted it too.

Negotiating corners was not easy, though, with the fixed front axle and it was rather nice to use the Fordson Power Major tractor instead if you had one. It came out in May 1961 But at 7/6d, a mere tuppence cheaper than the 7/8d charged for the Massey Ferguson and the trailer in Gift Set 7, it was expensive! The steering was from the front axle rotating around a central point. Not at all realistic but it worked and made it much more fun to play with. People do get confused about these Fordsons because several models look similar at first glance. This first one #55 has lights placed on the sides of the front radiator section.

A plough was issued at the same time in May 1961. This first one had yellow plastic shares and a quite tricky to use attachment device. You could also buy both as Gift Set 18 that Summer. There are references to the shares being replaced by silver plated ones but with the same attachment later that year but I have not seen anything like this anywhere. If anyone has any information about what would be quite a scarce item, do let me know. (There is a replacement - #61 but that doesn't appear for another three years and will have a different attachment).

March 1962 sees an odd version of the Fordson Power Major - one with half tracks on a double rear wheel affair. These are very expensive now and I haven't managed to get one yet so have had to use a stock image. In many ways this would have better suited the Massey Ferguson because the tracks were very difficult to steer. No matter what you did with the front wheels it tended to prefer carrying on forwards! This still uses the first Fordson, the one with the side headlamps.

A big Farming Models Gift Set 22 is said to have been released in September 1962.

It has some interesting contents. There is the Fordson Power Major #55 and the #56 plough, together with the #1111 Combine Harvester. The #51 trailer, however, is drawn by #57 Massey Ferguson with a fork lift. That would be a more appropriate piece of equipment to have in the scene shown on the box too but it would not be until May the following year that the tractor with a fork lift would be available individually. Some reference works on Corgis say the set had #53 which would have been available but they also go on to describe it as with a fork lift so I am pretty sure the set did have the first editions of #57 and not #53.

There is another fascinating item in this box. That is the Land Rover. An actual example of a genuine original set I have seen has a mid green Land Rover that appears to be a #406 but has what looks like a lemon interior! I can't tell whether it has suspension but it looks like it might have. Anyway, it is either a very early #438 in mid green or a #406 with an interior! I think I'll go for it being a #438 or, possibly, another colour #406S. I have an all yellow one so maybe they did have a mid green one too.

This set would also be where you'd get three figures doing various farm tasks and the skip and milk churns.

The Land Rover towed a #101 Flatbed Trailer in all yellow which, I think, is unique to this set too. There was a moulded pack of milk churns (oddly in a different scale to those supplied individually!) that sits on the trailer.

The set did not last long and underwent several changes with the mid green Land Rover disappearing almost as soon as it arrived (so good luck trying to find one!!) and featuring not only the next Fordson #60, its revised plough #61 and a different tipping trailer #62.

I would get one of these in order to see just what the Land Rover was but they change hands at several thousand pounds now! One of the very valuable Corgi items.

May 1963 sees the individual release of the Massey Ferguson 65 with Fork Lift #57 and later that year there is another Gift Set. This has the same Massey Ferguson tractor and trailer as before but now the tractor gets old Farmer George and the set has a new number, Gift Set 29. Just to confuse us all!

Not to be outdone, the Ferguson also gets Farmer George on #55 Fordson Power Major in Gift Set 13 with the original type of plough. This set is very short-lived, though, as later that year there is a new Fordson Power Major tractor #60 which has a very nice and more accurate type of steering. The lights are moved inside the radiator grill and Farmer George gets in the box for this one too!

With the new tractor comes the new plough - a much simpler affair and with silver shares as #61.

February 1965 brings the new tipping trailer. This is a much squarer model and probably a bit more useful, especially with the smart raves which come in the box and slide nicely into position and yet do not obstruct the tilt or opening rear flap. See how researching farming models can bring a whole new vocabulary to your life! I bet many readers will have thought a 'rave' was something their children did in the 1990s!

The next month you could buy the new Fordson #60 tractor towing a Beast Carrier as Gift Set 33. The Beast Carrier itself comes out as #58 in its own box in November 1965. In both the Gift Set 33 and #58 box there would also be four different calves.

A slightly strange addition to the farming stock appears in June 1965 in the shape of a Jeep F-150 now remodelled as #64 and given a conveyor belt, chute as well as a happy workman and five little sacks in the box. The device itself works amazingly well, although you will be lucky to find one with a complete belt now, and I am not sure it is a simple job to replace a broken one. The odd thing about this is that it really would have been quite unusual on a British farm, especially with Left Hand Drive! The Jeep F-150 models have always been a bit intriguing for me as they seem to have a quite different approach to casting, with door outlines proud of the surface not engraved in it and the base is quite unlike any other Corgi models that I am familiar with. It may be that there are some other commercials that were made in a similar fashion that I haven't had a chance to examine yet but, again, it is a topic I could do with some advice on one day.

1965 ends with another Gift Set for the Christmas market. Gift Set 32 has the almost forgotten #53 Massey Ferguson with Bucket towing the new #62 trailer. I expect Farmer George gets in this box too.

July 1966 sees a new Massey Ferguson tractor. #66 is the Massey Ferguson 165 and this is often confused with #50 as they look similar at first glance. Corgi used a distinct grey colour for the engine and base, though, and the front is somewhat fatter.

There is also a new version of the Fordson, now a Ford Super Major 5000 and numbered #67. It is not individually available until early 1967 but appears as Gift Set 47 with a Conveyor Belt device which has been removed from the Jeep and now placed on a trailer similar to that used for a Bloodhound missile but without the four wheel steering.

With #58 Beast Carrier and calves, the new Ford Tractor #67 also makes Gift Set 1, replacing Gift Set 33. I do hope you are paying attention. No I have no idea why Corgi did such strange things with their Gift set numbering. This was The Sixties remember. The staff in the Gift Set Numbering department were probably on drugs.

March 1969 sees the new Massey Ferguson 165 get the bucket device attached and in a different colour scheme now too. This is now #59.

April 1967 has brings us the huge Dodge Kew Fargo Livestock Transporter #484. I haven't got one of these yet but it uses the same livestock box and mesh cover as was on the Beast Carrier. You get a card of 'straw' and five little piglets in the box with this one.

A couple of months later #71 is this lovely Tandem Disc Harrow implement. Then in October 1967 there is a new version of the Farming Models Gift Set. Now called Agricultural Gift Set 5 it has the Dodge Kew Fargo lorry mentioned above, the new #69 Massey 165 with Bucket, a #71 Disc Harrow, #62 Trailer with raves and a #438 Land Rover with no canopy. The Land Rover can be either the dark green one or the later metallic green shade. As well as the models there are lots of animals, five piglets, four calves and several hay bales as well as the piece of card that is supposed to be straw. There is also a farmer and his dog which I think can only be found in this set and, as if you hadn't guessed, yes, good ol' Farmer George is driving the tractor! He doesn't look a day older than when he first appeared.

In 1968, October saw some revisions to the #1111 Combine Harvester and in November two more Gift Sets. Gift Set 15 was the Land Rover and new Horse Box replacement for the Gift Set 2. This had a blue Land Rover with a white canopy bearing the label Corgi Pony Club. It towed a #112 Rice Beaufort Horse Box which contained a black horse and white foal or pony. The first editions had normal wheels on the Land Rover but I believe #112 started life with the cast spoke effect wheels.

Later the Land Rover gets the matching type and then, even later, the Land Rover gets Whizzwheels with the Horse Box getting an interesting cast eight-spoke racing car wheel for a short period before it too submits to Whizzwheels. I have written about all these variations in a previous article.

I think this is the only place that you could have got the blue Land Rover, though, the issued one being the dark green one.

The other was Gift Set 9 with the new #69 Massey 165 tractor with shovel and the #62 Trailer with raves. Farmer George gets in the box too.

The Rice Beaufort Horse Box comes out on its own in early 1969. Then, later that year we get the Ford 5000 Super Major with a hydraulic scoop at the side.

This #74 is a most impressive bit of engineering again with plenty of details and flexible hydraulic hoses in correct locations. I am pretty sure that had the economy given Corgi's engineers a few more years of free planning rather than panic reaction we might have even seen some working hydraulics!

Spring 1970 and the Massey 165 gets an interesting attachment to prolong its sales life. This is a scary looking saw attachment. I haven't yet found one at a reasonable price so have not been able to take a close look but I believe the saw spins round via an interesting flexible linkage. This is #73

I think most of us kids at the time would have preferred versions of these tractors that either actually could be steered or did so reasonably realistically. The Ford still had the dreadful fixed axle rotating around the centre and the lovely #60 Fordson with its great parallel style steering is now just a fond memory of days gone by. The Massey Ferguson just went forwards. Period.

Yet another attachment - a rear mounted trenching bucket - is added to the Ford 5000 at the beginning of 1971 as model #72, the numbers now going backwards for some reason I have never understood.

Sometime in 1967 the metallic green version of the Land Rover takes over as #438 from the dark green. Almost as soon as it appears it gets the cast, spoke effect wheels added and now in 1969 the dreaded Whizzwheels arrive too.

The blue Land Rover gets all three too as previously mentioned in its life as a Corgi Pony Club vehicle. At some point, I am not sure when, this apple green metallic shade comes out with Whizzwheels. I have only seen this in a black, blue and yellow rainbow style box which would indicate that it is a late edition from about 1973. It certainly seems scarce.

Corgi's farming story ends there as far as I am concerned. There was a last gasp effort in June 1973 with this awful 'Massey Ferguson 50B', cheekily numbered #50. 

This ugly model is approximately the right scale still but is just so poorly produced you simply do not want to place it on a table next to any of your other models. There is almost no detailing and it looks like a lump of cheap plastic, like a small version of the big plastic tractors that you could buy for little children to sit in. There was also a version with a shovel attachment and even Gift Sets 4 and 5.

Gift Set 4 gave you the tractor, #62 Trailer with some fences, a pile of hay, a sheepdog, two sheep and a girl and boy looking very strange. Surprisingly, there are really not many of these to be found and those that are demand high prices. I am not sure of its release date but would guess it was in late 1973.

Gift Set 5 appears to have been issued in April 1976  It is a cut-down version of Gift set 4, now missing the hay, girl and boy. This is possibly even scarcer now, being replaced by a 1:36 scale David Brown and Trailer set a few months later in 1976.

I hope this helps collectors understand what came out when, the small differences between some models and what now they need to look for or, possibly, avoid!

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