First of the four arrivals last week was this 9004 Jeeves & Wooster edition. All totally original and spotless. It came with Jeeves and I have had Bertie standing around for quite a while as the person who bought the last one didn't want the characters.
You can spot this one quite easily with its distinctive dark crimson upholstery and dark grey rails. The steering wheel is also black. Steed's and the 9001 type were silver.
Next is something that I have put together myself with various bits and pieces I found lying around. Everything is actually original apart from the horn. You can tell a replacement horn as it has a flat end. The original ones are indented. The body on this was simply too good to throw away but it had a broken radiator emblem. It now looks as good as new and, with just one rivet well-hidden underneath that had to be extracted, few would notice it had been made from several different models.
Number three is totally original but there are a couple of chips on the bonnet and the rails have a few on the edges too. I even have an original box for this too as the item below came with one but it was the box for a 9002! Either of these 9002s would made good alternatives for Steed and so I'll be offering them without the drivers and with a replacement folded hood for the Avengers fans too.
The fourth model is a really nice 9001 with Racing Numbers. Totally original and, as far as I can see, unmarked. Even the rails are spotless. I already have one without Racing Numbers if someone wants a green one for Steed so this may well remain as a 9001 for now. The wheels are very clean too. So often they get a bit discoloured.
So, here are the things you should look out for with these models:
The radiator emblem is pretty tough but they do break. To replace them you have to take the car apart so be careful about that. The cast metal unit at the front can be susceptible to metal fatigue too so if you find a light is a bit bent be very careful about straightening it. It might well break instead so maybe leave it bent!
The screens are obvious if they're broken or missing. You can get replacements which are good but they can be fiddly to replace and often you'll break either the new screen or the dashboard so keep a few spares just in case.
Check that the handbrake is there and not wildly out of position. It can flap around a bit but avoid bending it or it will break.I haven't seen replacement handbrakes for sale so you'll need another model to take it off. It is very occasionally possible, if the base is a bit loose, to fit a new handbrake without breaking the model apart. Try prising up the small folded pieces of green (or red) metal holding the rear section in place and you may get enough movement to insert the handbrake. It can be difficult, though, getting a nice solid model that doesn't wobble afterwards so try to avoid buying one with a duff handbrake in the first place!
The horn invariably goes missing. You can get replacements for boxes on either side, with or without the horn. The boxes are held in place by two small protrusions of the body and would have been put in place before the body was attached to the chassis when it was made. However, you won't want to break it apart just to fit a new horn and box so you can cut out the old one, remove all the bits and make two small indents in the replacement part. It should then slide on but may need some glue to hold it in place.
As many of the 9001 or 9002 models are used as replacements for The Avengers Gift Set Bentley, you need to be able to recognise the difference between original and replacement folded hoods. Most replacements do not have little holes drilled to fit on the two small lugs near the back on the sides. If they are drilled then you should still be able to tell the difference. The originals had a sort of circle moulded in the plastic around the hole.
You also need to look out for signs of the Racing Numbers being removed from the rear box and radiator grill. It is possible to take them off nicely but more often than not some signs remain. The Union Jack on the passenger door, however, is not so easily scraped off. It may be better not to try if you're making a Steed alternative.
Finally, let's look at the wheels. 9001 really only came with silver steel wheels. 9002 can be found with silver steel wheels or red wheels and I have seen a few with gold wheels too although they're pretty scarce. In the original sets, Steed's Bentley is either red with silver steel wheels or green with red wheels. I am not aware of any others but, of course, over the years who knows what has been changed? So green with silver wheels is quite possible and sort of accepted generally although frowned on by purists. That's it, though. No more options. 9004 may make a lovely substitute but I am pretty sure it would not have been issued that way.
Do remember that wheels are quite easy to change. So if you see an unusual combination, that may be how it arose.
Because prices for the sets are now so high, you really must be careful when buying one described as original. These tips may help. On the other hand, you can have fun making up alternatives yourself and, with the marvellous reproduction boxes available now, brollies and characters too, it needn't cost a fortune to make a super set of your own choosing. The models that have just come in may well all finish up in display sets. My problem these days is finding decent Lotus Elans for Mrs Peel!