In a photo of big, blue plastic container full of old toys at an auction house somewhere in Brighton I spotted a Mercedes 300SL. On its side. It was the only one on its side and had it not been there and in that position I would not have realised that here was an example of the very rare 303S with wire wheels. The next problem was bidding enough to win it. There were ten or so decent-looking Corgis in the box and maybe twenty other models that I didn't recognise and a bag of catalogues or leaflets.
I was lucky. No-one else seems to have noticed it or considered it of much value. It was, fortunately too, one of those quite general auctions and these were the only vintage model cars appearing so it doesn't appear to have attracted the interest of dealers or wealthy Corgi collectors.
This is, indeed, quite a find. You may remember that some years ago I had wondered aloud whether these actually existed. The entry in the Corgi Catalogue of 1965 I had thought, at one point, referred to the model they brought out with cast spoke-effect wheels. Then I spotted a 304S at a dealer and began to search in earnest. I failed to find anything and finished up making my own!
This particular model is not just a rare one with those wheels, though, but also produced in the gold mirror finish which is quite different to the silver edition. This makes it even scarcer and I really do not expect to see another any time soon. The silver 304S sold for around £400. This one, I feel, should be worth a lot more. It is not in perfect condition but the windscreen is sound and there are only tiny marks to the bodywork. The slightly messy stripe tends to spoil its appearance but I am not going to attempt to clean that. Reflections and shadows really do not do justice to the appearance of this model. The driver is original and the old suspension system works.
I still have my doubts about the 309 Aston Martin Competition ever being issued with wire wheels. There was a nice normal edition in the box and I am tempted to change its wheels but, as an early type with an open vent on the bonnet, it wouldn't be right. I'll just have to keep looking.
I shall also get a box for the Mercedes if I can find one at a modest price.