Thursday, 19 May 2022

Corvette changes


In April 1970 the fabulous-looking Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Coupé, model number 300, appeared in the shops. It was the first model to get an expensive liquid metallic finish, in either bright deep red or emerald green. 10/6d bought you this model with Golden Jacks Take-Off wheels. One of Corgi's most attractive models and still much sought-after today as it simply looks so good on display.

According to the Corgi records, however, production was to end later that year. As with all the Golden Jacks models, however lovely the wheels were and inventive the system allowing their removal and replacement, this was not a fast car on the carpet track and just a small flick on the Lamborghini issued just one month earlier would send it far further than the few inches managed by the Corvette. It was a model to hold and cherish but not play with. People weren't ready for the just holding and cherishing stuff then, and Corgi had already tried this market with their Classics range with no great success but we must now thank whoever was in charge for getting this into production, even if itw as for a very short period.

In June 1972 it is re-issued, now as 387, wit Whizzwheels and a new colour scheme.

As far as I can tell the metallic blue edition was the first colour available. It lost the badge of the front but retained one on the rear panel. That, I have found, tends to be put on in several different orientations, probably because there was no clear guidance to the ladies doing the attachments on the production line. The wheels always seem to be the 'four crowns' type, by far the most common across the range at this time. I have not seen any with the earlier 'pepperpot' wheels nor any with what would have been a far better idea, the chromed variety fitted to cars like the Datsun and Citroën SM.

It lost the jewels in the rear lights too, although there are a few transition models in blue with them still in place. The new issue has just rather sad blobs of mazak where the casting has been changed with little great effort to show the iconic rear lights at all. Dabbed with red paint on the blue model but totally lacking anything on the pink one! Money must have been tight then, indeed!

The pink model appears sometime after the June 1972 release and has the same black interior as the blue. I have not seen a pink 387 with any rear light jewels. Initially it has the same headlamp covers as before but late models have a ribbed cover which is quite distinct. I have only seen the ribbed covers on the pink model.

Under the bonnet there is another surprise. The beautifully detailed engine has a different air filter in one of my earlier pink models. The later one with ribbed light covers has a similar design to the blue one illustrated here, which seems to have been the style from the start.

So there is plenty to collect with this range and all we need now is for someone to make some spare roof panels. These are easily lost or broken and surely shouldn't be difficult to make. I have 7 Corvettes at the moment and need 7 roof panels!

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Corgi Model Club 261 Aston Martin: Re-issue²


I received my second Corgi Model Club re-issue of the 261 James Bond Aston Martin yesterday. I had presumed that this would be the revised reissue which they said would be available around now, the reissue being their decision as they were not satisfied with the paint finish. 

The first re-issue which we received earlier this year was stated to be a limited production run of 5000 and it was accompanied by a letter from the Club. This letter expressed their disappointment with the finish and offered members the chance to exchange the model for a later production once that was available. My understanding was that only the first issue had a limited production run and we all suspected that there would be a huge demand for this re-issue and 5000 would not be sufficient so the revised one one would be likely to be seen in much greater numbers.

I have included in this post photos I have taken of the two models. The latest one is on the left (or the lower in the top illustration). I have to say that it is not easy to see the difference! There is a noticeably shinier surface on the later edition but this is only clear from some angles. Otherwise it is identical. 

I am, therefore, a little unsure as to whether I do have the second issue or just another first issue. As I was not seeking a replacement, I ordered this from the Corgi model Club's online 'shop'. Understandably, there is no distinction or comment associated with this having a new paint finish but, as the model now offered to all and sundry, one would expect it to be the revised issue and I must, perhaps, conclude that this small extra bit of shine is all that has changed.

This certainly arrived with no letter but it did have a Certificate that was numbered and the number is 3769. So you will appreciate that, with little obvious paint difference and a Certificate numbered below 5000, I am wondering whether I have just another copy of the first issue.

I'll have to ask the Club but I'll wait a few days to see what others think. I would expect that those who opted to exchange their models will now be getting theirs and matters should become clear. If you have any obviously different model or know something about this, do get in touch. I will update this article as and when I get more information.

Needless to say, I am still more than pleased with this model and happy to happy either two of what will be quite scarce first re-issues or one of each. I would just like to know what I do have!

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

The Curious 700 range.

The 1974 Corgi Catalogue had a couple of odd additions, a 'Motorway Service Ambulance' and an 'Inter-City Mini-Bus', with catalogue numbers 700 and 701 respectively. Issued in February 1974, these are a curious thing to arrive just as Corgi are going 1:36. (The Breakdown Truck, 702, shown above appears in April 1975.)

These have no make and resemble nothing on our roads at the time or, for that matter, at any time. They're a big ugly with design features I cannot even imagine even the worst of vehicle designers in the 1970s coming up with and the scale is strange. The steering wheel on the Mini-Bus is tiny, half the size of the one in a normal 1:43 Corgi but they're not Junior size either. They have no suspension. The wheels are the ubiquitous 'four crowns' style Whizzwheel of the day but they are not branded as 'Whizzwheels'. Quite where they were intended to fit in the range I have no idea.

The Mini-Bus had two variations - a white or brown interior.

It is clear that these models do not in any way sit comfortably with anything else in the Corgi range, as is amusingly illustrated by this illustration from their 1978 catalogue!

702, a breakdown truck with the same front end as teh Ambulance and 703, a Hi-Speed Fire Engine with a similar front end to the Mini-Bus, would appear in 1975 and, in December 1976 a Security Van comes along with the same front end as the Ambulance but with a number 424. From what I can see these six models are a group of their own. But I have not a clue as to the point of making them.

They are most certainly not Corgi at their best and really would be best forgotten. I have only acquired them because I thought they were 1:43 or thereabouts and had only put off adding them to my catalogue because they looked so awful in the pictures. Now I see that I probably don't need to add them in at all (but I probably will).

The entire range of these oddities can still be purchased for a song today as they are not very popular.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

The Corgi Model Club: 485 Austin Mini Countryman


The Corgi model Club replica of the 485 Austin Mini Countryman has finally made it to our letterboxes. In the package you will find an accurately-sized but somewhat shiny box and the Certificate. I had not appreciated until now that this was entitled not Austin Countryman but Surfing with the B.M.C. MINI-COUNTRYMAN although the model still has Austin Mini Countryman on the base. Just to confuse us, the certificate has BMC Mini Countryman (without the hyphen) so take your pick!

In the shiny box is the car, a square piece of foam to protect one end and the surfer boy in a plastic bag protecting the other end.

This is another fabulous replica. The colour is spot-on, as is the reproduction of the roof rack and the plastic surfboards mounted on top.

The paint is slightly thicker than the original which has resulted in less definition of the Austin badge but that may be just as well now that it's supposed to be a BMC anyway!! The silver paint is good, too, almost too good and covers the side lights, which the original did not have in silver (to the best of my knowledge). There is one quite noticeable difference in the grille. The original has a rectangular shape which I guess is where one would have opened the bonnet on a real one. This has no such design included which is a little surprising. Maybe the edition they copied didn't have this feature.

Another feature that has been included is the rear wing petrol filler / cap which is missing from some editions. The doors are wonderfully well finished and, for a moment, I wondered whether this model did, indeed, have them opening. The Minivan's doors would open as soon as you accelerated forwards or went up an incline. These stay nicely shut, without glazing, again being faithful to the original.

The interior is the same bright yellow colour and I can really see no difference between the two.

I have not had the surfer boy figure for many years and have not bothered to look up an original figure to compare this one with. The overall display works well, as you can see.

The aerial is very straight and seems somewhat thicker than the original. This may be no bad thing as they tend to suffer from being caught when moving the model around or packing it away but it does look a little wrong as this thickness would approximate to a solid bit of tree branch in real life.

The other very small niggle concerns the 'jewelled' headlamps. I would like to see the Club spend a fraction more and get some real glass jewels instead of the less effective plastic. It would make quite a difference.
Otherwise congratulations once again to the team, who must now be basking in the sunlight of compliments and relief that they've got over the delivery problems, whatever they were.

Friday, 13 May 2022

The Professor's 'Prototypes'


Updated 15 May with new information


Professor Cary Nederman from Texas A&M University has sent me these three models. He bought them some years ago at an auction and, for some reason, has been staring at them recently and wondering just what they are. In desperation, he turned to me and wrote at length about them but without images. I suggested that it was unlikely that they would be Corgi factory prototypes but the Professor was determined to find out and, without further ado, dispatched them at great cost via UPS to my address here in a small village in Northamptonshire, where they arrived earlier today.

I decided to publish my comments on these items as they may give some assistance to others who think they have something original which may not be. 

The first item is this white 303S Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster. It looks attractive in white with a red interior with the smooth but free-spinning wheels only to be found on this model.

It's missing a stripe but then early models with suspension didn't have the stripe so it sounded like an interesting item worthy of closer inspection.

Unfortunately, there are three things which make this something someone has created at some later date.

The rivet is usually the first thing to look at. Here you can see it is shiny and quite new-looking, and not really like any of the type of head that you will see on this model. It looks to me like one of a type that you can buy in packs of 100 from a replacement parts seller. I haven't tried but I suspect that a sharp knock horizontally might even dislodge it as these are usually glued in place.

The second is the overpaint of silver on the base. That's a sure-fire sign of something being amiss, although you also need to accept that someone may just have tried to touch up some paint on an otherwise original model.

The third sign, though, is more definite and shows some rather poor preparation of the original seating until before the red was applied. Not good and, coupled with the rivets, I was quite disappointed with the chap's work, whoever it might have been.

Next we have the almost famous Citroën hearse.

It looks fairly reasonable at first glance.

The rear window looked a bit odd to me and I thought it was a replacement. When it arrived there was what I had thought was glue around it too but, after cleaning, it does seem OK after all and this image just catches it at a bad angle. Of more concern, though, was the distinctly unclear windows pretty much all round. This strikes me as either a poor replacement or, more likely, someone has tried to clean an old unit and not used the best of solvents. Not obvious in these photos but the rear side window on one side is not well-fitted either, leaving a gap at the top I have never recalled noticing on any other of these models.

So my suspicions are aroused quite quickly. The finish on the paintwork is reasonable but the red paint has been added in a different design to that on the factory prototype. That has three distinct blobs of paint on the rear light section. This has the whole sections painted red.

Furthermore, the driver is a uniformed character which I believe I have seen in the early editions of the London Transport Gift Set taxi. My understanding is that the factory prototype had another character, not this one. I have not got a good copy of any image, however, so I am not sure about that. Hopefully someone will advise further, please.

There is also no coffin, although I can accept that it may have slid out and away into some box never to be seen again. This, however, is another fairly amateur production and I suspect that the creation of a suitable copy of the coffin was beyond the skills of this model builder, judging by his standards of window fitting and cleaning.

and, of course, we only have to turn it over and see the silly rivet heads anyway!

Nice grey paintwork on the base, though. Credit where credit is due. Below may be a picture of the actual prototype. I am not totally sure of its provenance, though.

Now for the star of the show. Page 77 of The Great Book Of Corgi has an illustration of the prototype that the factory made in 1959 of a 'Playcraft Promotion' van.

This looks great, from all angles.

The paintwork is very well-done and it has a much more professional air about it than the previous two. My suspicions have already been aroused, though, by them so, if they all came from the same source then it is highly likely that this, too, will be a Code 3 production by someone sometime. I need to gather some evidence, however.

I'll start with the tyres.

They are new replacements from a parts supplier that I have used before myself. Annoyingly, they come with those tiny bits of rubber attached to the tread. No factory production would have had these. However, we must allow for the fact that someone may have simply replaced them on an original model. So what else can I find?

Let's look at the base.

This time there are no rivets, just the twisted spurs which were used on a few models - notably the Ecurie Ecosse Transporter. One would have expected to see some damaged to the grey or blue paint had these been twisted to seal the base after fitting. I can only detect the feintest of marks. The grey paint is excellent but then it was excellent on the Citroën too.

So I need more evidence about this one. 

After a lot of searching I found some that had been sold by QDT and Vectis.

The QDT one made £100 and was described as a good copy of the prototype but with a different illustration in the window. Unfortunately for the Professor, his has the same illustration! His also has some display in the rear window, however, missing from the QDT illustration. There are also differences in the rear light painting, his having none, probably more accurate than the red and orange of this one, which would have been unlikely in 1959 when the prototype was said to have been made.

Above we have two of the Vectis offerings. These both have text along the red stripe at the side and each has a different display in the windows with nothing at the rear. You really would have expected people who go to the trouble of getting the paint right and lettering, transfers positioned well and all that to get the displays right! Painting three, sorry, four colours this accurately would not have been easy.

Finally, there is another problem with the Professors' edition. The wheels, not to mention suspension. His is a 426 Chipperfields Booking Office that has been revised. All the other copies of the prototype have been 407 Mobile Shops. If the prototype was supposedly envisaged and made in 1959, as QDT say the book says, then the 1962 Booking Office would not have been available. Nor would shaped wheels. Or suspension. Sadly, therefore, despite looking rather better on display than any of the copies I have found, it's wrong on at least three counts.

Update 15 May:

I contacted the person who bought my copy of the Great Book of Corgi (2nd Edition) and this has been most valuable. Firstly, the illustration.

It is immediately obvious that neither the QDT nor Vectis auction items were really anything more than rather poor efforts and I was wrong about the 407 being used as a base for the prototype. It just goes to show that you simply cannot rely upon the comments by even the auctioneers who specialise in Corgis! To be fair, Vectis did only sell their copy for £15 but QDT appear to have convinced someone to part with £100 plus not insubstantial fees for something which was quite wrong!

So we can see that the prototype illustrated by Marcel Van Cleemput was, indeed, based on a 426 Chipperfields Booking Office and it appears to have free-spinning wheels, unusual for that model and this was certainly made rather later than 1959. It would appear that people have been confused by the reference to 1959 as when the Display Van was first used at places like Silverstone Race Course (where, coincidentally, my contact for the book had been in charge of the place and may well have agreed to the Corgi promotion there too!) The construction of that prototype would have been somewhat later and that means that the Professor's model is much more accurate than I had appreciated.

It doesn't need the lettering on the red strip and the colours are accurate. Yes, the wheels are still not right but they're close enough for the copy to have some value. We can see that the window display is not correct but none of them have been. So, yes, it is wrong on a few counts but not as badly wrong as I had first envisaged.

So I am going to have to report that these are all copies, made by someone with some skill, certainly in the case of the Karrier Van, rather less so in the case of the Hearse. In this instance I believe the Professor agreed that I would be free to do what I wished with each of the models as he would not want them back and the cost of return, even at the rather more modest method I would employ, would be pretty much equal to the value of two of them. So, once I have finally concluded this bit of investigation, I may have these available for sale. The Karrier does look good, albeit with the slightly wrong wheels, and the Mercedes is an interesting item to add to a collection of those models. The Hearse will always attract attention too if someone cares to put it on their shelf one day.

In the meantime, if anyone has some good pictures of what the other actual prototypes looked like, do let me know. It would be helpful when I reply to break the news to my colleague.

Another update: from someone who knows about these things:
The top model was first reproduced by a very well know restoration specialist here in Sussex, Alan Morris. He did less than 10 examples and they are very nicely done. The colours of his examples are very true to the original, but the pictures inside of course aren’t the same as the original prototype. I’ve sold two over the years (not mine, it’s in the Museum on display) and they fetched £75-100 each, so there are collectors willing to pay for unusual examples of unissued models.