Thursday, 1 June 2023

Corgi Toys @ 60: Plymouth and the Police


The lovely Plymouth Suburban Sports gets a final run as #443 a US Mail edition. It looks very glamorous in bright blue and white with a red stripe and some impressive silver paint, especially at the front end.

You may remember that the Plymouth was the first model to get an interior way back in 1959. A little earlier this year it finally got some suspension and this is essentially the same car in a different finish.

June 1963's other new arrival on your local toy shop shelves was a Commer Police Van. This is the first sight of this Commer 3/4 ton model, which would later appear in many guises. It is also the second model to have flashing lights - something which made it a little special and great to play with, especially on dark evenings.

The flashing light was provided by a normal bulb and a device on the front axle which, when set in the 'ON' position, made contact with a cam on the axle. So the faster the van went, teh faster the flashes. The connection could be a bit temperamental as the suspension altered how the cam and plate interacted and contact could be so brief as to cause barely a glow on occasion. The battery was stored in the rear section of the van which could be removed by unlocking from the chassis.

This locking device would be put to great use in the Commer Construction Set we will see in a few months' time.

The chassis could also be combined with different rear units in that set so it was very worthwhile having this model as well as the set!

The device to make the contact, however, was not that good and an updated version of this model, still numbered 464, will appear in future. Just as for the Ambulance, which had the same system in its first version, it will be changed so that the current is always on but a flashing bulb will be required.

The Police Van has some variations as export editions were made with RiJKS POLITIE for the Dutch market - still in deep blue. I have also seen one with a CITY POLICE transfer but I am not sure how genuine this may have been. Perhaps US export editions might have had CITY POLICE but then they would be unlikely to have used Commer vans like this over there so I really can't be sure of that one. Excellent reproduction transfers are available so it is very easy to create the alternative too.

there will also be a dark green export edition but not in this style - it will be the later type so I shall not feature it here now.

Monday, 22 May 2023

Wheel change


"So what's this?" you may well ask! I had a 301 Iso Grifo in pretty clean condition but with collapsed suspension. It was too nice to discard so I had the idea of changing the dreadful Whizzwheels for some nice shaped wheels.

"That'll be easy," I said to myself. "No it won't." could have been a useful reply but, no-one else being around, I just pressed on hopefully.

Taking it apart was simple enough. There were more bits and pieces than I'd expected but nothing too complicated. I can't remember now what had provided the suspension before but, whatever it had been, it wasn't working and I removed what was left. The problem came when I tried to fit normal wheels on a normal old-style axle. Firstly, there was now nothing to provide suspension, of course. I toyed with some ideas of rubber chunks in the right places and even carved out some shapes to sandwich between the axles and the interior at the back and engine at the front. That ought to have worked but it didn't and I gave up. In any event the wheels were not sitting correctly, being way too high in the wheel arches. Eventually I realised that the slots into which the previous axles had sat were not wide enough. They looked wide enough and casual inspection seemed to show the new axles sat nicely in them. More careful inspection, however, showed this not to be the case. The Whizzwheel axles are very thin but the normal old axles are a lot thicker and they just sat at the top of the slot.

With a combination of a small metal saw blade and a very ancient file with a triangular profile I wore away a bigger gap. This took far, far longer than I could ever had imagined but, eventually, the axle dropped in far enough so that the car would look sensible when upright and back together.

Now, at this point I should, perhaps, have revisited my rubber chunks idea but I had had enough. "I'm sorry, Iso", I said, but "no more suspension." As if to answer a plea to reconsider, I continued with "Look, no-one's going to be playing with you. You'll sit on my desk for a few weeks, then maybe on a shelf in a cabinet and then you'll be wrapped in tissue and left in a box for years. I can't see anyone wanting to buy you and I'm not going to spend another 12p a month advertising you on Ebay but I may put you in my own store so that doesn't cost anything. And even if someone does buy you, you'll be sat on their shelf or tucked away again for years. So let's not get too sentimental about suspension, OK?"

And so it was so that I saved another week of carving old rubbers or risking damaging the interior by simply gluing the axle to the base. I do fear someone thumping hard on the roof or bonnet in an attempt to test the non-existent suspension and the glue not standing up to that but no other solution came to mind.

Putting it back together does require a little good fortune in getting the door hinges to align nicely with the base, and there is a correct order to window unit, doors, dashboard, steering wheel, rest of interior which escapes me now, but it worked and here is what, in my view, is a remarkably more attractive model of a splendid car.

This business of replacing wheels is very rewarding. Whizzwheels just scream to be replaced, don't they? Well, the earlier ones do. And that gives me the next idea which is a variation on the theme. Instead of doing battle with axles I could simply try just removing the pepperpots or four crowns (or the really awful six point stars) and refitting a later, more attractive style. Later Corgis did get a more reasonable wheel and that might work. The nice thing is that, with a good tug and a bit of luck, I can swap them over without having to take the model apart!

This, as you may have guessed, brings me to the topic of 'red spot' Whizzwheels. These were the very first and were actually quite a pleasant design that didn't look too bad on some models. There is an Iso Grifo on Ebay at the time of writing with them. 

Only £779. Or why not buy the same seller's Toyota for a mere £939?

Both have been created by someone - the old wheels pull off and the red spots push on. It is that  simple. Yes, they look interesting and they look a lot nicer than the original wheels but, no, they're only worth, at most, the price of a similar model with the ugly ones. When these models were issued, Corgi were fitting the pepperpot style to their Whizzwheels production, the red spot style being abandoned as it was expensive. There will have been been spare red spot wheels lying around and no doubt some factory people had some fun fitting them too but do not believe that these were issued by Corgi for dealers to order.

I have listed before the models you will find with red spots: 

344 Ferrari Dino
347 Chevrolet Astro
343 Pontiac Firebird
303 Roger Clark's Ford Capri
311 Ford Capri
342 Lamborghini P400 Miura

That's it. Treat any others as 'adaptations'.

Friday, 12 May 2023

The Corgi Model Club: Marcos 100GT


The latest issue from the Corgi Model Club is the #324 Marcos 1800 GT. Once again, they have excelled in obtaining a very accurate reproduction of the original model. Indeed, in many respects this could be regarded as an improvement as all the originals I have had have had very loose doors or a bonnet which never closed in line. This is great and I have no criticisms at all.

I could say the colour is different as mine have been more cream than white but that could well be due to the accumulation of tobacco in most rooms where Corgis were kept or played with in the 1960s!

The wire wheels are very nice and the Club made the decision to affix the RN decals rather than including them in a transfer after consulting collectors. This is much better, although the original had a set of numbers on a backing sheet which they could peel off and affix themselves. I recommended that the Club do this too in future where that was done for an original release.

I understand that RN from 1 - 8 have been used, spread evenly across models - so they ought to be equal in value but I am still expecting to find that some might have been withheld or not as frequently seen.

The Club also chose to use blue stripes on the bonnet. The normal release had green lines (in either fat or thin style) and blue lines were only used on an export model for Canada in 1966.

One amusing feature of my model is how the driver seems to be sitting far too forward! His back is at the right angle but miles away from the seat back. I may find that he can be moved back into a less weird position but haven't tried very hard yet. The driver usually gets lost with originals anyway.

Update: a second Marcos has arrived (another RN5 incidentally) and in this one I managed to move the little fellow back. Although he's not touching the wheel now, this is an improvement!

Comparison with one of my original 1966 models shows just how good this reproduction is. The RN decals are a little too glossy and I do think there is a colour difference but that really is all I can find.

Corgi seemed to have a particularly close relationship with the Marcos company. It was a very small British company producing sports models which were not something you'd see very often on the roads, if at all, so not something we expected to see as a model in the 1960s. We didn't think too much about it, though, as no-one saw the American models or many of the European ones either. None were very attractive in the metal. The Mini Marcos 850GT model looked very much better than the odd real motor and this is also quite flattering, as is the Marcos Mantis, completing the Marcos stable in 1971.

Monday, 1 May 2023

Corgi Toys @ 60: Fork and Shovel


May 1963 sees the arrival of two models to take out into the garden and play with - a Massey Ferguson 65 tractor with a fork attachment and a Priestman Cub Shovel.

Three years have passed since the same tractor was fitted with a shovel and this fork device works in a very similar fashion and will extend the model's life with both editions available until 1966. 

The wheels are usually red but a scarcer edition with orange wheels can be found, probably intended for the Fordsons but fitted to Massey Fergusons by the ladies in Wales without whose occasional mistakes we would have a much less interesting time now!

The fork attachment itself is always unpainted silver metal, unlike the shovel which had several changes throughout its longer life in the catalogue.

The other new arrival was the Priestman Cub Shovel which was another example of Corgi's excellent engineering, creating an attractive and realistic model that could collect sand and stuff and deposit it elsewhere with a few careful twists and turns of the knob and model.

One of Corgi's longest running models, this will last until a remarkable 1976 when all of its associated models in the catalogue will have disappeared. As far as I can tell, the colours and casting remain unchanged throughout production.

Sunday, 30 April 2023

Hornby variations on the Corgi Model Club theme

Look what we can now add to our collections! No, these are not from the Corgi Model Club. It would appear that, after Blue DTC have underwritten most of the costs of getting the castings right, Corgi, as in Hornby Corgi, have seen a chance to re-use them and here are the first four models which are available to pre-order at

They are listed under the heading 'Vintage Corgi Toys' and the first one shown is the Land Rover Breakdown truck with suspension that was issued last year. I remember reviewing this and it was very good, although confusing for us all as the Model Club was issuing its 417 at the same time! Interestingly, there would not be a great deal of useful pre-production work for the 417 that Corgi could benefit from for the very different 417S whereas all these four new models are very much the Model Club revisited.

I had expected the Model Club to try and make some extra money by producing a metallic blue version of the E Type Jaguar. but Corgi appear to have stolen the march on that. This was a very fine model in red but the blue I always found a particularly attractive finish and I very much look forward to seeing this on my table later this year.

The Porsche Carrera reverts to the more common colour scheme in its Corgi re-appearance. It also has a driver who sometimes went missing with the original.

The Ford Mustang is something else. The Model Club produced the 325 Competition model but Corgi have catalogued this as a 320 and given it a remarkable gold finish with a black bonnet. I believe this might have been one of the sample colour schemes for the Mustang in the 1960s. it is quite impressive, although the illustration seems to show a rather high ground clearance and I am hoping that it has a better stance when it arrives. Retaining the 325 cast wheels with what look like wide tyres is a strange choice as they were never used on the 320 so this is a bit of an oddity but and interesting and possibly great addition none the less.

This requires a new box, of course, so it will be interesting to see how that is produced. The Jaguar and Porsche do not need need boxes so presumably the Model Club ones are used.

Lastly, for now, we have the Volvo P1800. This is, of course, the 258 model without Simon Templar and with a fresh coat of dark orange-red paint and a change of interior to make it pretty much a 228, as the box now indicates.

Unlike the Ford Mustang, this does seem to match an issued model, albeit in one of the scarce colours.

I can see these being very popular models. There is something about 'variations' that appeal to collectors. Most of my stock in my own business comprises variations of models that are a little harder to find and which collectors may not have been aware of. I love looking at the small differences and especially the different colours and shades. very much like the Machin stamps of the British definitive postage stamp issues which remained virtually unchanged in general design from 1967 to last year - with more than 1000 'variations'.

I am a little surprised that it has been Hornby Corgi rather than the Corgi Model Club that has produced these new models and it does beg the question as to whether we will see any such variations from the Club or will they simply create the single model and leave Hornby Corgi to take it further?

As long as Hornby Corgi do stay 'vintage' all should be well and I guess we are all hoping that the strange James Bond Aston Martin they brought out as their R26101 but which was not a reproduction of a 261 at all and which had a different size of box too, remains a one-off and is not associated with this new and quite exciting series.

Now, what else can we hope for? The Bentley in black and silver would be an obvious choice. As and when these start to arrive I will write more about what they're actually like.

Tuesday, 18 April 2023

Corgi illustrations - maybe not what's in the box


I have been looking at the images on Corgi boxes and there are many where the colours shown on the box are quite different to those actually issued. The catalogues sometimes featured the same image and I imagine that this happened as a result of the artists being provided with some factory samples somewhat prior to the models being produced for sale. Naturally, the boxes would need to be ready before the models and catalogues always included a few available later models and it would have been expensive to change the illustrations too.

The MGC GT in blue and white I wrote about a few weeks ago. I have cheated here and used the Corgi Model Club's MGB GT above but, from this angle, it's not too obvious an error!

I add below a list of all the different box illustrations that are distinct from the issued models and may slowly try and recreate some of them. Here are a couple from the 214 Ford Thunderbird box!

There are, of course, also several illustrations where the artist appears to have been working on a quite different model - the Mercedes-Benz 220SE springs to mind - but that's for another day.

Monday, 10 April 2023

The Corgi Model Club: MGB GT


This is good, very good. The devoted Corgi fans at the Corgi Model Club have excelled themselves, or, rather whoever is responsible for the production detail has, with this beautiful reproduction of the March 1967 original.

As should be clear from the photos above, showing the new issue and my somewhat well played-with example (genuinely mine from my own collection!), there is precious little to distinguish one from the other. I can detect only the slightly more defined vent - one of the few differences that was visible on the Buick too - and that is nothing really worth mentioning. Even the headlamps look OK on this, although they do still seem to be plastic rather than glass. I live in hope that they will spend a little more on this feature in forthcoming models.

The box is rather bright and shiny as always but the layout and text is accurate, with the usual necessary changes. In the box there is a piece of thin foam to protect the roof from rubbing.

The certificate refers to the suitcase being either brown or black with the original editions but I am pretty sure it was always only black with this model. The brown one came with the Jaguar Mk 10, Hillman Imp and later non-steering Mercedes 220SE. It also refers to the original having yellow jewelled headlights whereas I believe they were all white.

I am sure that we will see the slightly revised MGC GT version in due course too. I would be particularly keen to see that in the blue and white finish which Corgi showed in their 1969 catalogue!