Saturday, 25 February 2017

On The Buses


One of the iconic models in the Corgi collection is the Routemaster London Bus. You'll see thousands of these littered across auction listings, in boxes at fairs and even on some people's shelves at home. Like the real thing, it lasted a very long time. Indeed, as far as I can tell, it is still being produced to this day. For the period I am concerned with, however, there are just a few editions to look for.

The first is the original released in Summer 1964 and bearing the totally appropriate 'Corgi' banners. With jewelled headlamps, suspension and nicely detailed interior, including the louvred window tops and driver and ticket collector, this was Corgi doing what it did best.


A couple of years later, someone had the bright idea of using the banners as real promotion and it seems that Outspan oranges got the first deal and their banners are by far the most commonly encountered and lasted the life of the model in that form. There was a green and cream edition produced for the Australian market but that is very hard to find and sells for huge amounts if any ever do appear.


I think that the very earliest editions didn't have the additional stickers to the left and right of the destination board and that, itself, looks very simple on my example. Maybe they did look like that in those days but my recollection is more aligned with the board that shows a number and more information. I used to think my stickers had fallen off but now I think that's how it was sold. The early Corgi catalogues illustrate a model without the additional stickers and with the simple front board and no side destination board.

After Outspan Oranges came more special promotions for shops and products. These included a Candian issue advertising Red Rose Tea and Coffee, the London Gamages store, Church Shoes, Madame Tusauds, The Design Centre and Cokechu 2d. Some of these were only available late in the model's life so may be hard to find. However, not all owners realise that and you may still see them for a few pounds if you're lucky.


The wheels changed to the cast type at about the same time as Outspan Oranges appeared but I believe you'll find both Corgi Classics with cast wheels and Outspan with normal wheels (although each will be a little scarcer).

Then in around 1971 the dreaded Whizzwheels were fitted to the bus too. That seems just plain silly to me as no child was going to race his London bus along those Whizzwheel tracks and there really was no need to try and compete with other 'Go Faster' competitors when it came to double decker buses! Cost must have been the real reason and, at the same time, a few other changes were made. The Whizzwheels one has a clear plastic staircase in place of the cream and gone are the jewelled headlamps.

The ticket collector lady looks slightly different, as does the driver, but it's not a great difference in either case. I have seen the lady standing in different places on these editions too.


I don't know how long the Whizzwheels version was around and they seem less common than the cast wheel version.


Examples of both the cast wheels and Whizzwheels versions are still available at very modest prices, though.


The one problem I have always had with the double decker bus is its size. It is simply the wrong scale and looks a bit strange next to most of the other models. It appears tiny in sets with a 418 taxi and a comparatively giant-like policeman! 

That got sorted rather late in the day when in April 1975, #469 appears in a slightly larger scale. 


There are literally hundreds of variations of this one! Corgi really did press the promotion money button now and a pound will buy many of them too. The first, however, is worth getting and that had the Welcome to Britain banner. It is further dumbed down with a plastic base and less detail inside but, in many respects, is not a bad model and you need to put it side by side with its predecessor to see the difference.


Somewhere along the line both the driver and ticket collector get sacked and the later issues are bland affairs with nothing much going for them other than the vast array of different banners and now colours too. As well as a Silver Jubilee edition in 1977, there are all sorts of colours and banners. There are even open top buses with the 469 number! So good luck with that lot if you do decide to keep going with them! This, however, is where I get off!


I much prefer the lovely old 1120 Midland Motorway Express.