Monday 15 April 2024

Farewell to the Classics

The word Classics has been used on several occasions in Corgi history but the 'Classics' I refer to here is the series of early 20th Century jalopies which started with the Model T Ford in January 1964. There were only nine models:

January 1964 9011 Model T Ford in black open with two figures

January 1964 9012 Model T Ford in yellow open with two figures

February 1964 900/9001 Bentley 3 litre 1927 Le mans in green with RN3 decals, hood and driver

February 1964  900/9002 Bentley 3 litre 1927 Le Mans in red with hood and driver

July 1964 9021 1910 Daimler 38HP in red open with four figures

November 1964 9013 Model T Ford in blue with hood and figure

April 1965 9032 1910 Renault 12/16 in primrose

April 1965 9031 1910 Renault 12/16 in lavender

May 1966 9041 1912 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost

A Daimler with a hood was featured as 9022 'Available later' in the 1966 and 1967 Corgi catalogues as well as 9014, a Model T Ford Lyons Tea van but neither reached the store shelves. I had a factory sample of the Daimler and you'll find articles about that in the archives.

The Rolls Royce was adapted in a pretty terrible way for The Hardy Boys, an American band I'd never heard of, and that did make the stores as #805. The Bentley also had a revival in January 1966 in The Avengers Gift Set 40 with a folded hood and Steed at the wheel in red with gold or steel wheels or another shade of green with red wheels and then a further extension with Jeeves at the wheel of another shade of green Bentley with folded roof, reddish interior and Bertie Wooster standing beside it in #9004. There was a dreadful version of the Renault for Basil Brush too as #808 which I have just been reminded about although I would have preferred to forget that one!

I have never been a fan of these models. I do respect the excellent production quality and detail but they didn't interest me at the time and still don't move me. I have to see quite a few Bentleys as I am a big fan of The Avengers TV series and deal with many Gift Sets but that's it. The others I purchased when I started the catalogue so that I could document them and look for variations and I have acquired several since when they have arrived with something else. I seem to have acquired half a dozen Rolls Royces but don't recall paying for any!

I have spotted a few variations, like the radiator and lights on the Model T Ford appear in bright shiny chrome, a dullish brass colour and a very bland grey metal finish. The Daimler appears occasionally with bare metal side lights and horn which should be chromed. There are gold or silver or both colour wheels on the Rolls Royce, and one model I have has a black exhaust whereas the others are grey. There is a primrose, rather than bright yellow, edition of the Model T Ford that I have but I have a feeling that was a factory sample and not an issued model. A Daimler, which I think is a factory sample has rubber tyres, much more pliable than all the others which appear to be plastic (and not just hardened rubber).

That's all I've noticed, though, and now I've decided that they simply have to go. Prices are really quite low so to get rid of them I am going to have to quote very small prices. Those that are in nice condition with the correct figures (but no boxes) will be just £12.50 and the others where the figures are missing just £9 or less for any not in close to mint condition. There are a couple of factory samples - the primrose Ford I mentioned and a Daimler with soft rubber (not hard plastic) tyres, both missing windscreens - which will be a bit more.

Before I put them on sale elsewhere I thought I'd give anyone reading this a chance to have some as they're nearly all in excellent condition and the prices are definitely reasonable. These prices are in my own web store rather than Ebay where they'll be a bit more to cover the fees.

Saturday 13 April 2024

Rover 2000 variations

Well, I seem to learn something every day! I have just noticed, after more years of collecting Corgi Toys than many people have been alive, that there are two types of window in the Rover 2000. So far, I have only seen the two varieties on the steel blue 252 model but I expect we'll discover it on the maroon edition and, perhaps, the Monte Carlo 322 model. I shall now have to check all my models and hope the photos I have taken of others over the years are good enough to show me the difference.

The difference is in the window unit which has a line included to indicate where there would have been separate panes in the real model. The Austin A40 had this to indicate what was then described as a quarter light at the front. I remember that there are two types of 230 Mercedes 220SE Coupé too but this is the first time I've noticed it on the Rover 2000.

Then I looked at the two Rovers more closely and discovered two badge styles and slightly different front grilles too!

The top is the 252 model without window unit lines and has a different shape of badge to the second model as well as slight difference in how the grille lines have been dealt with. I also took a look at a 322 model and find another variation here with a much less well-defined badge. (you can also see a surprisingly poor alignment of the additional jewelled lights! I remember being very annoyed with myself when I made a similar error when drilling holes in a 252 to make a reproduction 322 International Rally model but maybe I should not have worried as this happens on the genuine models after all!)

So, as well as window lines we also now need to look at the badges! I had not expected to need two steel blue 252s in my catalogue. I was prepared for a colour difference as some do seem to be blue-silver and others more silver-blue but so far I have been unable to have two different shades side by side so I may be imagining that.

So far, all my 322 models and the maroon 252s with cast wheels have had the lines in the window units. I have not checked the badges but will update this another day on that topic.

Thursday 11 April 2024

Corgi Model Club: Austin A60 Corgi Motor School


The Corgi Model Club's release for April 2024 is something even us oldies will not be able to resist playing with! It's the Austin A60 De Luxe Saloon as the Corgi Driving School car complete with the enormous red thing on top which is not really like anything I remember seeing on driving school cars in those days but it does serve the purpose of allowing us the steer the car around our layout roads.

It was nearly 60 years ago, in June 1964,  when the original was released and it was very popular. We had had steering on the Bentley and Mercedes-Benz 220SE, far superior to anything that Dinky could offer, but this was one further step forward.

The re-issue is excellent and nothing strikes me as incorrect other than the prefect painting by Chinese children. The pleasantly pale blue colour is spot on and every aspect looks great. It even has the poor suspension at the front and very low ground clearance which, with the small wheels, made use on anything other than a smooth surface hard work.

The L plates are transfers not stickers and are exceedingly cleaner than any I have ever encountered! The letter L also looks slightly taller than it should be, or perhaps it is positioned closer to the edge and Corgi logo than on an original. I do not have an original to hand but it doesn't look quite right to me. These are minor points and do not detract from the overall excellence of this issue.

When I decided to spend a little money rebuilding my own collection in 2012 I knew nothing about Ebay and the only place I thought I might be able to buy models was the NEC, where model toy events were held from time time. I visited one with a friend and this Austin A60 was one of the first two models I bought. An original in very good condition but no box cost me £25. The other model, incidentally, was a Bentley Continental in black over silver, excellent and with a decent box but I paid a crazy £225 for that! But that's another story. I eventually discovered more reasonable prices.

In the box with this model you will find two chunks of plastic foam to protect the bonnet and boot and the car itself is wrapped in a larger piece of thin soft paper. There is a single-sided sheet with instructions how to steer the model and another with red highlighting, entitled the Corgi Junior Highway Code, with some examples of how to do something, just like was illustrated in the real Highway Code in 1964. There is even a guide to indicate the width of a typical road in the same scale as the model so you could make your driving tests more realistic for activities like three-point-turns and reversing around a corner.

I honestly don't remember seeing these documents when I had mine at the age of 11. I did manage to hang on to most of the boxes in those days but seldom the documents included. 

How long, I wonder, will it be before we see a 255 edition in Left Hand Drive and a darker shade of blue? As I recall, the L boards are in the same position so it is merely a different interior and finish that is required. Of course L may not mean a great deal in other countries other than America and the British Commonwealth but it still sold pretty well abroad from the figures I have read. About 1 million were made of both types and a third were LHD. Despite that number, they're quite hard to find now in the UK in decent condition although I suppose if you have a friend in Europe they'll be able to help.

Monday 1 April 2024

Corgi Toys @ 60: Simca 1100 Coupé and a Milk Float


April 1964 sees a Simca 1100 Coupé arrive on the shelves at your local toy shop.

It probably won't have been the blue on in the box, however, unless you were incredibly lucky, as the vast majority of this issue were in a liquid silver type of finish.

It was a very simple model and one of a couple that had been intended to start a 'low price' range - models that would be attractive but much cheaper to produce and so could be sold for lower prices. The other model was the NSU Sport Prinz. I would imagine that the silver finish would have been more expensive though so maybe the blue ones were for that initial cheaper release idea. Suffice it to say that the blue ones are very scarce and sell for several hundred pounds whenever they do appear.

All models had a RN8 stripe decal on the bonnet, extending over the roof and onto the boot. They had an interior and suspension, shaped wheels and that's it!

The other release this month 60 years ago was 466, the Commer Milk Float. You will, of course, recognise this from the Gift Set 24 Commer Construction Set but this has its base attached and cannot be removed, with a different design so the two should not be confused.

No milkman was in the box with this one and the colours were always pale blue and white, with a red interior and suspension. The wheels were aways shaped on this edition. Much later, in 1971, there will be a Co-Op promotion through which you might have been able to send some vouchers and get one of these models with Co-Op stickers on the doors and all those models had cast wheels and were supplied in a blank brown box. It is a different model, albeit just a way of using up old castings, I guess. There was also a Co-Op van and Scammell Truck in the same promotion, but more about that in a few years' time. For now I just wanted to make it clear that the April 1964 edition did not get cast wheels and, whilst it really does look like a Co-Op edition, it isn't.

Saturday 30 March 2024

There may be more Jeep FC-150s than you think!

In April 1959 the strange little Jeep FC-150 appears. FC stands for 'Forward Control' which I can only guess refers to the driver sitting above the front axle and the engine mounted much further back than had been the case for most trucks and cars previously with their long bonnets. It helped the truck's manoeuvrability and had good traction for climbing. It was a 4-wheel drive vehicle but not something that was common on UK roads so an odd model to issue.

Corgi didn't supply a hood with early models, much as they didn't with the first Land Rovers and they were all light blue. Although there was not much in the catalogue to attach, it did have the usual tin hook so there was some good play value in filling the back with stuff and towing a trailer.

The spare was mounted in such a way that you couldn't actually get at it!

To me the casting is a little different to most other Corgis, The door outline, for example is raised rather than inset and the base design is unusual. I wondered whether they had to use a different method for this one for some reason but it may just have been one of those things.

The model did stay in the dealers' order lists until 1965 and is one of the few models which can be found with smooth wheels, fixed shaped wheels and free-spinning wheels. The last, shown above on a model I have just acquired, are quite scarce and would have required a different piece of equipment for the wheels to be fitted. Instead of having a sort of press which pushed the wheels on to the axle the ladies would now be operating some device which produced the enlarged radius dome to keep the wheel in place.

I cannot quickly think of another model car or truck that had no interior or suspension but which had all three wheel types. There is the flatbed trailer which had all three and the Gift Set 14 edition of the Jeep can be found with the three variants but that's all. The red Jeep with the Hydraulic Tower, lamp and Electrician is also scarce with the late wheel type and worth looking out for as sellers who don't read my articles will almost certainly have no idea of this!

The Gift Set 14 edition appeared in February 1961 so only the early editions will have smooth fixed wheels. They are, though, much more common than the free-spinning ones merely because the vast majority of models would have been produced at the outset with just a trickle coming from the factory thereafter. This model did cease in 1964 too so will be harder to find with the free-spinning wheels, in theory, than the 409.

In March 1965 the truck is revised as model number 470 and gets suspension, an interior, a plastic rear canopy, a plastic hook and a fresh coat of mustard or blue paint. The mustard one will nearly always have a red interior and I have yet to see a lemon interior in that colour. The blue edition, much more blue than the pale blue of the 409, can have either lemon or red and they seem pretty evenly distributed. There is also Gift Set 64 edition with a working conveyor unit installed in the back in June 1965. Confusingly for collectors, this is in the same red as the old Gift Set 14 model and, where the conveyor mechanism has fallen off, the remaining model can look initially like either a red 470 or a 409 with interior and suspension!

In December 1965 the Gift Set 14 edition now appears as simply number 478 without the lamp standard but it does, for a while have the electrician. At some point, and I don't know when, the electrician chap is removed too. The Jeep does get a nice metallic green paint job, suspension and an interior and the interior can be either lemon or a quite hard to find red.

The Gift Set 14 box included the red, no suspension, no interior Jeep with a lamp standard and an electrician figure.

The first 478 boxes show that the electrician is included.

As can be seen below, however, later 478s do not include the figure (although the person selling the one illustrated has included it!) Perhaps he did continue to be slipped in to some? I can hardly imagine an order from the bosses going out to the factory floor that from a particular date no more electrician figures were to be added to the boxes. Corgi didn't sell the figure separately so if there were any lying around when the boxes were being put together then I am sure some will have still made it to the outside world. 

Finally the 470 gets another revision with the addition of cast wheels in 1968 and a different shade of blue becomes available too. I have seen darker blue 470s with both shaped and cast wheels so it appears that the colour change did not coincide with the wheel change. Again, with both interior colours.

The 478 in metallic green may have a grey-painted boom or (initially shiny) bare mazak. This model ceased being supplied in 1968 but had cast wheels fitted at the very end of its production. I have not seen many and need to add this to my own collection but the cast wheel was a common enough type in the late 1960s so there will be some around.

So, there's quite a few Jeeps to collect, including some satisfyingly scarce editions so the 'set' won't be that easy to complete!

Updated 31/3/24. Thanks to John Bowyer for some corrections and interesting advice about the electrician figure!

Thursday 7 March 2024

Corgi Model Club: Volkswagen Breakdown Truck


This month the Corgi Model Club issue the latest model to be 'revived'. This is #490 the Volkswagen Breakdown Truck. 

This is a very detailed model with many features and it must have been much more of a challenge than last month's MGA. As a result it does have some noticeable differences. The first is simply how shiny the device installation is at the rear. Mine was a rather tired-looking grey even when new and I am not aware of any shiny silver variations.

The ratchet which should prevent the hook from becoming free is very weak on the re-issue and it was quite difficult to keep it back in place. The grey plastic hook is made of stronger stuff than the original but looks pretty much identical.

The greenish olive colour is good, maybe a little on the brown side but acceptably so. As always, the silver paintwork is very precise and bright when compared to the original. I see that the bottom of the V shape design in the front panel appears much less sharply defined than the original. I expect to see the bright silver and some shinier materials here and there but this front end is one that I would have thought the inspectors would have rejected.

The side view and dimensions are excellent and accurate. You will find the rear tool box and compartments constructed from much harder and shinier material than the softer plastic of the original and they have a darker colour too. The tool box does open and close satisfactorily - something that the original didn't always do as well!

It contains the usual bright chrome tools and a couple of small-size tyres.

One thing I have noticed with this and several previous models is how the shaped wheels aren't right, the inner convex element being too small and giving the appearance of something more like a Dinky wheel than a Corgi. Perhaps the Chinese factory is using wheels produced for Atlas Dinky reproductions or something like that. These need to be revised and not just accepted as 'nearly' right. they're not, as the images below show.

In many early articles on the Corgi Club Models I have been critical of their lack of attention to the font style used on the boxes. They're still in need of attention but they do seem, at last, to have got the numbers at the end right. One step at a time, I guess. It would be so simple to get the small text right, though, and this would make a big difference

This will arrive in the usual flat box with minimal outer packing but inside the box there's a big piece of tissue paper wrapped around the whole model, protecting the box against all the pointy bits and a small square piece of foam which, I think, is added protection for and against the rear end.

Overall, I was not disappointed by this model and I recognise the good work done in getting the majority of it right. It has plenty of  'play appeal' in that one actually do something with it although I suspect that all these new editions will seldom leave their boxes.

Friday 1 March 2024

Corgi Toys @ 60: A VW Pick-up truck and a new tractor and plough

 It's February 1964 and we're down on the farm with a new Fordson Power Major tractor and a new plough but only if you buy Gift Set 13 at 8/6d (which would have been about a month's pocket money for me at the time!)

The tractor may look identical to the #55 model from 1961 but there are many differences. Firstly, the steering is now more realistic, although it is sad to say that a later revision with the Ford 5000 Super Major reverts to the ugly swivelling axle. Next there are now headlamps inset in the radiator grille - much simpler for casting I imagine and one has to wonder how many of the 55 models never made the box with their little headlamps protruding on either side very vulnerably. In the seat is a driver now too, the light-haired Farmer George.

At the back is a far simpler device for attaching implements, including the now very basic plough. Looking more realistic with its shiny shears replacing the yellow plastic this just slots over the attachment at the rear and there is now no need to fiddle around with several linkages. The previous tractor and plough were delightfully well-engineered and very much like how the real devices would have been put together but really hard work for us to play with. Having said that, there was nothing else for us to attach the plough too and not a great deal else for the tractor to pull along either but never mind.

Most models of the new Fordson have orange plastic wheels but you may find a few with the red plastic wheels which were intended to be fitted to the Massey-Ferguson tractors but easily mixed up in the factory. I think the orange metal wheels will have only been fitted to the earlier #55 model so should not appear on the #60 models.

You need to wait a few months until later in 1964 when the tractor and plough would be available individually.

The other addition to the local shop stock would be the Volkswagen Pick-up truck #431.

This was always a bright yellow but could have either a red or dark green canopy. The canopy was made of thick plastic and most seem to have disappeared now, with few models being available to buy with one. It is interesting to note that Model Supplies only offer a tin replacement and I am not aware of anyone who does make what ought to be a relatively easy part. There are many very good copies for the Land Rover but it seems no-one is too concerned with the lowly old VW. So if you have a canopy, take good care of it!

There are two interiors - lemon and red - and both are right-hand drive. The lemon flavour seems to be the more common of the two and most trucks that I have encountered have had the red canopy.

The wheels are always the normal shaped a and free-spinning variety on this edition. In years to come this will be revised with a tool box in the back, a winch added and issued as a Breakdown Truck in olive or white and in a number of Gift Sets. This will continue in that form until well into the 1970s but, sadly, the Pick-up had a short life, disappearing from order lists a little more than a year later.

A gold edition is known but is almost certainly a colour trial rather than an issued variation.