Saturday, 9 June 2018

Corgi wheel changes Pt 2: wire wheels and cast wheels

From early 1962 just about every model car had what I call normal wheels - shaped wheels that spin freely on their axles (and so were a lot easier to drive around corners than the fixed types). A recent article dealt with what had gone before; now I shall look at what follows these 'normal' wheels and how some models with a particular type may be quite scarce and so worth looking out for.

The first new type would be wire wheels, also referred to as spoked wheels. These did look very smart and first appeared in June 1964 on the Buick Riviera. In September that year the Competition version of the Jaguar E Type has them and then The Great Book of Corgi refers to them being fitted to the 303S and 304S in December 1964. 

It also said they were fitted to the 309 Aston Martin Competition model but I have to say that that remains the most elusive of all Corgis for me! I used to have doubts about the two Mercedes too and wondered whether this and the catalogue were actually referring to the cast spoke-effect wheels which both models did get. However, last year I did see a couple for sale which appeared to be genuine 303S and 304S models with wire wheels. Because they were still far too expensive for my budget, though, I made my own with the help of a colleague, as described in an article nearer the time.

Before seeing them I had assumed that the reference to the 'spoked' wheel referred to a cast wheel type that, whilst still not common, is rather easier to find than the wire wheel type. The cast wheel variety can, however, only have been around for a short time as the Mercedes' production is said to have ceased in 1965.

Wire wheels were then fitted to three existing models. These were:

310 Chevrolet Stingray November 1963

320 Ford Mustang March 1965
Ford Mustang Competition December 1965

The Chevrolet is quite easy to find with normal wheels, in its cerise shade at least, but the Mustangs are certainly scarce with normal wheels and this leads me to estimate that the wire wheel type would have been introduced around early 1966 on these.

Several other models were fitted with wire wheels but kept them throughout their production period and so don't get included in this investigation.

The next change was the introduction of a cast wheel with a louvre design which looked a little like spokes. Very few models had these cast wheels from the start. The Sun Rally Rover 2000 in February 1967, the 319 lotus Elan in June 1967 and a Renault 16 in February 1969 were, I think, the only ones with normal size wheels. The Lancia Fulvia Zagato Coupe, some Imps and Minis had some during this period with the smaller size.

Many models changed from normal wheels to cast wheels during production and these seem to have had cast wheels at a very early point, making the normal wheel versions quite scarce:

Chrysler Imperial August 1965

263 Rambler Marlin June 1966
Oldsmobile Toronado January 1967
You can see that the timing of fitting cast wheels in place of normal wheels is pretty random - the Chrysler Imperial stopped being made in 1967 but by far the majority available have cast wheels so they must have been fitted from early 1966. The Oldsmobile, however, didn't appear until 1967 and so the switch cannot have been before mid-1967 and, of course, the Golden Jacks version comes out in June 1968!

Those three, however, are certainly not easy to find these days and command quite a premium.

Not many models seem scarce with cast wheels. It seems that those that did get switched had a reasonably long period with them. Amongst the normal size wheels, the Mercedes 303S and 304S and the two Mustangs can only have had the cast wheels for a short period and are quite scarce. Another is the pale blue edition of the Buick Riviera. Most 245s that I have seen with cast wheels have been in the metallic blue shade, some gold but, to date, only one in pale blue. I did try to buy it but it was in an original Gift Set 31 and that sent the price sky high regardless of the Riviera wheels, unfortunately.

Amongst the smaller wheel size cars, the 333 Sun Rally Mini Cooper had quite a short lifespan and is hard to find with cast wheels which seem to have been fitted only very late in its production. Whilst all the metallic maroon 226 Minis had cast wheels, some blue models got them too. I suspect that all Type 2 blue Morris Mini-Minors should have cast wheels but we may find one with normal wheels. Similarly there can't be many Type 1 blue Morris Mini-Minors with cast wheels, although these were produced in pretty big quantities and so the date of switch in relation to the timing of the body type change is what will govern things - and on that matter I have no clue. 

Another model that one would have thought was bound to get them is the 508 Commer Holiday Camp Bus. Issued in July 1968 it was, admittedly, not around for long but the similar Samuelsons Film Service Van that came out a few months earlier gets both types, as does the revised 470 Jeep FC-150 that comes out a few months after. From what I can tell, though, the 508 stays in normal wheels throughout. I may be wrong. That's another I shall be looking out for. Just in case!

So, there are a few interesting models that could have had nice, short production periods with one or other type of wheel. Because of the lack of information about when changes may have occurred there may be others. You may know some - if so, do let me know.

Here is a chart of what I have found. As with the other one, it may be easier to view and move around in full size at this link.

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