Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Corgi Toys @ 60: Fordson Tractor and Plough

 May 1961 saw the arrival of the first Fordson tractor, the Power Major model. This was much more interesting than the Massey Ferguson. You could steer it with the steering wheel - a super feature that added a lot of play value - and a very realistic lift mechanism was included at the back.

This mechanism was quite complicated and attaching the other issue in this month, a plough, was not that simple. Once you had figured out how to do it, though, it worked a treat.

This first Fordson Tractor had headlamps mounted on the outside of the radiator grille and the steering was not particularly realistic, being a simple axle that rotated around a central point. Three years later the model would get much better parallel steering on a model with the headlamps mounted inside the grille and a slightly revised rear mechanism.

Early issues had red metal wheels but these were quite quickly replaced by an orange plastic wheel.

The plough was finished in red, more suitable to a Massey Ferguson brand, but the attachment would not work on the earlier tractor so it had to be used with the Fordson. It had four yellow plastic shears. Like the tractor, this would be replaced too, in this case by a blue, much simpler type, with silver shears in 1964.

No Farmer George was included with this edition.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

More new old Corgis

You may remember the issue of a reproduction 474 Ford Thames Ice Cream Van (the one with musical chimes) way back in January 2020. My article is here if you have forgotten.

The COVID-19 virus interrupted production in China and we had been hoping that what appeared to be a well-intentioned project would get going again. Earlier this year promotions started to appear once more in magazines and the original web site offered the Ice Cream Van once more. There would appear to have been very many more of these issued than first time round - tens of thousands rather than a mere 1000 or so, according to some estimates I have read. The firm managing the project do seem to have got things moving again. They have a strict 'one model per household' rule and so I was unable to get hold of another Ice Cream Van but other people are reporting that the model itself appears identical but with a different box and different paperwork coming with it. In particular, the Certificate now specifies a number and has a different design to the first issue.

Bearing in mind that no payment was required for the first model (if one ordered the next issue) and, even if someone did pay for it the price was a mere £1.99, I think we were all surprised to see these selling for £100 or more back in early 2020 but put it down to life in an Ebay world. I have to say now that £100 may have been a bargain if the buyer also received the bits and pieces as well, as there will not be many of those around.

Finally, rather later than some of my colleagues, I have received the second model in the series, the 339 BMC Mini-Cooper S 1967 Monte Carlo Winner. There were two versions, the early one had shaped wheels but this is the later issue with cast wheels.

That's the original. Below is the Chinese reproduction.

It's very good, with a very well-matched paint. I understand that the people doing this consulted Corgi for things like the colour reference to ensure that was right. (I am intrigued that there were records to consult and do wonder what else might be in the archives that Hornby acquired, but that's another story!)

The first thing that strikes me and one or two colleagues is the 'soft', almost plastic look to the jewelled lights. Whilst getting the headlamps white and fog lamps yellow as in the issued model, the inserts used seem a little cheap.

The RN177 decal is pleasantly 'yellowed' and not bright white as all the reproduction transfers seem to be but, unlike most of them, it does have the right font. The spacing and size of the digits isn't quite right but that is a minor criticism.

The most annoying fault for me is the rear number plate which has an odd spacing for the characters and looks significantly less deep than the original. The Rally stickers are also small, as you can see from comparison with the original below.

The roof rack is a splendid copy, as are the spare wheels and pins attaching them.

It's nice to see the base reproduced nicely, with the original style of text and layout retained but, of course, featuring Made in China now.

The box is very similar on four of its six sides. The original had different illustrations on opposite sides but this has the same scene printed twice. Otherwise only minor text differences are made and the obvious difference is the side that displays all the production and legal stuff. Luckily, that can sit at the bottom when the box is displayed in a cabinet.

The card itself is the right weight but the printing process used and/or card coating create a very shiny finish which is not particularly pleasant. I also found the changed design of the flaps on the ends very annoying, making them extremely difficult to open without causing a tear. Perhaps this prevents accidental opening and damage en route but I do think they should have taken a chance and left the flaps as they were. This is a most frustrating design and I now leave one flap permanently open to avoid more trouble.

Overall, this is an excellent reproduction and I admire the effort that seems to have been put in to this project and the prinicpals involved do seem to care about getting things right. I believe they have experience from Atlas and their excellent Dinky reproductions and the whole thing has a very similar feel to it, with the planned future issues, lots of goodies issued at the start and options to stop any time. I shall be continuing with this and wish them well.

Next, I believe, is The Saint's Volvo P1800. I hope they use better jewels this time but cannot imagine there is much else to go wrong there.

The Land Rovers and Rice Pony Trailers in Gift Set 2

I was asked this week to list the various changes in content for Gift Set 2, the long-running Land Rover and Pony Trailer combination that was first issued in February 1958 and continued until December 1968 when Gift set 15 replaced it with the blue and white 'Pony Club' combination.

As this may be of interest to a wider audience I thought it would be a good idea to set out the variations here (where experts can also correct me if necessary!)

DateLand RoverPony Trailer
Feb 1958406 type green with tan coversmooth fixedcream with redwirenosmooth fixed
1958smooth fixedred with blackwirenosmooth fixed
1959smooth fixedcream with redwireyessmooth fixed
1959smooth fixedred with blackwireyessmooth fixed
1960smooth fixedred with blackwireyesshaped fixed
1961shaped fixedred with blackwireyessmooth fixed
1961shaped fixedred with blackwireyesshaped fixed
1962438 type deep green with cream plastic covershaped freered with blackwireyessmooth fixed
1962shaped freered with blackwireyesshaped fixed
1962shaped freered with blacksolidyesshaped fixed
Dec 62438 type fawn with cream plastic covershaped freefawn and cream roof, silver mudguardssolidyesshaped fixed
1963shaped freefawn and cream roof, silver mudguardssolidyesshaped free

I am not sure about the intermediate dates. Whilst the fixed shaped wheels only started to appear in 1960-61 it seems that Land Rovers with smooth were in the box with Pony Trailers with fixed and vice versa! I have seen genuine example of both, in Gift sets I know were not changed after purchase. There is a lack of logic there but that's 'Corgi life', I guess!
The fixed drawbar is quite unusual to find on the red Trailer and, as I have only ever found this on a model with shaped wheels, I have to assume that it would have been introduced in 1962 shortly before the fawn model came to the shops at the end of that year.

Just to confuse us, however, there are examples of the red Trailer with fixed shaped wheels and a wire drawbar!

The red Trailers appear to have stopped being produced pretty much when the fawn colour came in and I have never seen one with free wheels which I am assuming came in 1963 or maybe the following year.

The very first ponies appear to have had a brown blanket but blue must have been available pretty soon after launch if not, indeed, from the outset so I would be inclined to regard either as acceptable content throughout. Any other colour, though, will be found to be one of the very good replacements readily available.

The Land Rovers with seat variations are particularly scarce and, whilst they may have turned up in a Gift Set, it is difficult to be sure as the items can so easily be swapped around now. I am inclined, therefore, to exclude them from the list of GS2 variations.

Much of this article has had to be inspired guesswork in the absence of much by way of documentation! So I welcome corrections from anyone with a better background knowledge but hope that, in the meantime, it is of some assistance to collectors.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Corgi Toys @ 60: The Beautiful Bentley Continental Sports Saloon


The 1961 Corgi Catalogue features the Bentley Continental and amongst the extras this model is described as having special hubs. This would be the first release with free-spinning wheels fitted from launch. Every other model at the time had fixed wheels and, whilst some may get the free-spinning ones later, the next one with them at the start would not be until November, on the Triumph Herald in small size, or nearly a year later when the E Type Jaguar is issued.

This Bentley is a simply superb model in every respect. So many new features - the chrome, the rear jewels and the super steering! We will all remember the rather annoying way Dinky models steered with one wheel moving forward and another back in a most unrealistic way. Corgi got this absolutely right with a lovely mechanism which even included coil springs.

I could play with this model all day long, turning corners on my layout and gazing at the light reflecting from those huge yellow headlamps and chrome fittings. I was never particularly fond of the light grey tyres and, whilst the two tone green version had some class, the black over silver edition was the one you thought you might see one day in town.

There are shades of the top colour and this can vary between pale apple green to a distinct white colour. The latter is quite rare.

I am not aware of any other variations and the black over silver models all look the same to me (so far!)

Later in 1961 a gold-plated edition is issued in Gift Set 20, the Golden Guinea Set. I will write about this when it's time comes.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Corgi Toys @ 60 : More S Models and a little Coach


303S Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster Open Top

The second edition of the open top car, now with suspension and a driver from March 1961.

This is available in five colour combinations:

  • blue with the 303 white interior

  • blue with new yellow interior

  • white with new yellow or brown interior

  • silver-plated with brown interior

  • silver-gold finish with brown interior

These had free-spinning smooth or shaped wheels. Later editions had cast wheels. A very scarce edition was produced with wire wheels.

A driver was added but early models did not have one.

Above is a very scarce early edition with free spinning smooth wheels

Then it gets shaped wheels but still no driver with the old 303 interior cars.

Now a driver, yellow interior and a stripe are added to light blue and, white editions.

There is also a silver issue with shaped wheels and a brown interior, not illustrated here. Later cast wheels appear on the silver editions and very rare editions with wire wheels and a golden-silver shade of plating are also issued. More about those in a few years' time!

304S Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster Hard Top

Available in March 1961 with suspension.

This was available with a silver-plated body and red top or a more scarce white body with red top. Each would have stripes added to the bonnet and boot and can be found with free-spinning smooth and shaped or cast wheels. There was also a very scarce edition with wire wheels.

A distinctly gold-coloured plating is also known.

Jaguar 2.4 Fire Chief's car

This is the previous model with suspension and an interior added. No variations known other than that this can have smooth or shaped wheels, but always fixed. The last outing for this Jaguar, and the last survivor of the 1956 issue castings.

1120 Midlands Express Motorway Coach

A lovely looking model and quite different to anything else Corgi had issued or, indeed, would issue for many years to come. In an unspecified scale, it seems a little too small when parked next to the saloon cars but a most impressive model on its own.

You'll find this with fixed smooth or shaped wheels.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Land Rovers Series II 1962- 1970s Different castings

Following my recent articles on distinguishing some of the rare Land Rovers, I have had a number of further queries and so I decided to try and cover in one go the main differences that you will find in the Series II editions which ran from 1962 to the 1970s.

The rear window

There are two main types:

1: With frame, flush fitting with the rear of cab
2: Indented

The first type has a sort of frame in the perspex. The window unit has been shaped so that the area in the back of the cab is filled by the perspex and seems smooth with the flush fitting of the unit.

The second type has a much simpler window unit which does not have a section that extends into the space for the window. This makes the window to appear indented, with the metal inner frame evident.

The vent lever / hinge

There are three main types of the small protrusion on the window frame sides:

1: long upright, short horizontal
2: a large triangle pointing forward
3: a small triangle

The upright front edge is easy to spot. The door hinge is quite well defined.

An obvious triangle shape and there are just two dots for the door hinge.

A tiny triangle and much more detail in the hinge area.

Registration plate area

There are three distinct sizes of panel on the offside front wing:

1: small rectangle
2: large rectangle
3: square

The top of the radiator grille:

There are two main types:
1: No gap between the top of the grille and the bonnet
2: a clear gap between the top of the grille and the bonnet
3: a very small gap between the top of the grille and the bonnet

This may not always be obvious as the silver painting often does not cover the whole grille area which can give the impression of a gap but look for the position of the top edge of the grille area. The green 438 above has a clear space evident which the 406S above does not. Type 3 only appears on later models and always has the bumps as headlamps, as described in the next section so it is not necessary to spend too long staring at these.

Headlamp rims

There are two main types:

1: the headlamps have a defined rim around the lamp
2: the lamps are just bulges in the metal with no clear edge

Fairly easy to spot on the early Army and 406S models above.

Less obvious on the 438 in deep green above (but note the different grille top edge positions). All later models from the metallic turquoise editions on, have the Type 2 style with slightly different blobs and spacing but this is not easy to distinguish alone so I have left them as type 2.

The roof 'plate'

You will find models that have an obvious plate on the roof and others that display no evidence of a plate at all. In between there are many variations from feint to slightly more raised.

It should be possible, though, to distinguish between the two types:

0: no 'plate'
1: with 'plate'

Plates seem to be spread almost randomly amongst models from 1962 to 1965. Some models like the 406S never seemed to have one. They also don't seem to appear on models with the Type 2 vent and all models get a smoother roof from around 1966, maybe a little earlier, it's difficult to pinpoint a date.

The examples above all have a sort of 'plate' on the roof, obvious in the last image but, at first glance, you could easily miss it on the top one.

Only later models, where the roof bars also have a different shape, is it obvious that there is no 'plate'. On very early models, it is clear again that there is no 'plate' but these do have a casting line running across the top of the window frame. Sometimes it can be difficult to detect the 'plate' so be careful when checking this and look at the shape of the bars too.

I have often wondered why this 'plate' was needed. 

The table below shows how the various Types are distributed amongst models in my possession. As you will see, it appears that those models with Type 2 vents also have the large rectangle registration plate panel, no headlamp rims and a space above the grille (except for an odd GS7 model I have). Those with Type 3 vents all have a square panel, a higher top on the grille and no headlamp rims. So there is likely to be a way to simplify things. The brown GS2 model appears to be another odd one out too so I'll have to wait and see what others can contribute before going any further.

Update: I have added an RAC Land Rover with a plate. The two RAC models have a different shade of blue too - most surprising during such a short period of production.

GS22farm green111110
416SRAC blue111110
416SRAC blue111111
351SRAF blue111111
438dp green111111
438dp green121111
438dp green222220
GS7green shaped222320
438met turquoise323320
438me apple323320
GS7green cast / W323320
GS8white cast / W323320
GS19dk blue323320
438Quake-upmet green323320

This table is pretty much in order of the date models were produced which may help to indicate when changes appeared first. I am expecting some additions and will revise this as they are discovered. It is a start, however, and may be of assistance to the many Land Rover collectors out there.

I am aware that there may be further differences and one colleague has told me about different types of hatching and other features but these can only be seen inside when the model is opened. Clearly, we are not going to see those in models in our collections so they have to remain beyond the scope of this exercise!

Type 3 models will have a range of hook types and interiors. I will write about these separately.