Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Bedford CA Van. More than just split or single screens.

Corgi's Bedford CA Vans were an odd group indeed. The first were released with the very first models in 1956 with more following the next year and an update to single screen versions of some models in 1960 and 1961.

By the time I started my collection only one or two later editions were still around and they never had a great deal of appeal, looking terribly old-fashioned and even on the streets around Hertfordshire they weren't a regular sight any more. It has only been since starting this project that I have come to quite like these old vans and realised that there is a lot more to them than first meets the eye.

Never very great sellers anyway, the variations mean that we are talking of some seriously scarce items in amongst this group and, perhaps, once people start to realise that, prices will increase quite a bit.

The first, split screen models had two distinct radiator grill styles: one with a curved edge at the top and the other being quite straight. My guess is that the curved one was their first issue, later corrected to the more accurate straight edge. 

Both types can be found on the same model for some issues. Whether that applies to all the first types I don't know. That is something I am currently researching and, fortunately, don't need to buy models to see. So far it has been on the 404M Dormobile and 405 Fire Tender that I have seen both types. 403M I have only seen with the straight edge and all the others are curved. However, it is early days and I am sure there will be more to report on that aspect.

At the rear of these models you will also find some differences. Those with the earlier curved grill have lights below what looks like a bumper on each side. This area is smooth on the straight edge types.

Here is another variation. The left had model is a straight edge grill but it has a semblance of lights at the rear rather than a completely smooth finish and this has a sort of step in the casting. It looks like someone has twisted the edge but, no, it is an intentional bit of casting. This is the only example I've seen so far with the step.

Underneath you will find differences too. The non-mechanical models have the familiar tin base with the text embossed in it. As the illustration shows, late editions have a much crisper, sharper type of embossing, presumably achieved with some new equipment. The font is also quite different. This example is from a 423, probably near the end of its production life in 1962.

Still underneath, there were just three mechanical models with friction motors: 403M, 404M and 405M. These were very poor sellers, the 405M Fire Tender apparently being the best but that only sold 116000. This is not much more than half of the Mobilgas Tanker's sales at the time - a much more expensive item too - just to put it in perspective. 

Amongst these you will also see variations. The two on the left have 'British Made' on the base and the other two 'Patent Pending'. The way that the front axle is retained is different too with either open or closed 'leaf springs'.

As you may have noticed, these variations can be found within a model range, with both 404M models showing different bases here.

All in all, these variations mean that already small production figures become really significantly low in some instances. I have done my best to estimate the likely production numbers of each type based on the totals that are available and the length of time each type was likely to have been around. They are not definitive but should be a good indication of how many might have been produced.

No.ModelColourGrill or model typeEstimated prodn
405Bedford Utilecon AFS Tenderredcurved17000
412Bedford Utilecon Ambulance Mk2off-whiteII24400
404MBedford Personnel Carrier pale bluecurved33000
404MBedford Personnel Carrier pale bluestraight66000
422Bedford Van "Corgi Toys"yellow / blueII67000
404Bedford Personnel Carrier Mk2blue / yellowII67375
421Bedford 'Evening Standard' Vanblack / silverII74000
405Bedford Utilecon AFS Tendergreenstraight76500
405Bedford Utilecon AFS Tendergreencurved76500
423Bedford Fire Tender Mk 2redII84200
412Bedford Utilecon Ambulance off-whitecurved97600
403MBedford "KLG Plugs" Vanredstraight99000
408Bedford "AA Road Service" Van Mk2yellow and blackII100000
405MBedford "Fire Dept"redcurved116000
414Bedford "Military Ambulance"khakiII132000
408Bedford "AA Road Service" Vanyellow and blackcurved156000
404Bedford Personnel Carrierdark metallic cerisecurved165625
403Bedford Daily Express Vandk bluecurved167000

For comparison purposes, the much sought after 500 Land Rover is stated as having sold 17000 and a 242 yellow Fiat Ghia 600 Jolly 49000.

I haven't even mentioned the different colour schemes used for the two-colour models like the (already quite scarce) 422 'Corgi Toys' Van. Some of these are now fetching vast sums. There are also examples of many models with shaped wheels, all later editions, and these are beginning to get recognised as worth looking out for. If you were to break down the numbers above even further for the different types of wheels then you can see how comparatively scarce some really are. 

Generally, though, these unattractive little lumps are not making much money unless they are perfect in boxes so it is a good time to catch a few while you can. There really are not many around, you know.

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