Monday 28 July 2014


The Lancia Fulvia Sports Zagato was one of the later Corgi models with cast wheels. Those wheels, though, were so tiny and the model just didn't look right. There were some fabulous Lancias in the 1960s but this one, despite its name, was not great to look at and the model was no better.

In blue is how you'll usually find this but there is a scarce yellow and black version. That is weird - a bit like the similarly coloured and even shorter-lived MGC GT with its black bonnet and doors. Mine is in pretty poor condition but there simply aren't many around to choose from.

Finally along came Whizzwheels and, remarkably, this is the one occasion when I can say that they're an improvement, visually at any rate, on the cast wheels. they are, at least, a decent size. The colours have all changed too, this appearing only in a typical 1970s orange with black interior as opposed to the blue and fawn before. There's a pretty gold steering wheel to brighten things up in there.

You can still waste a few minutes trying to open the bonnet (it goes sideways!) and it has the same odd yellow lights and chrome as before.

Here's what it actually looked like, and the car Corgi should have made instead!

Lancia Fulvia Sport Zagato 1967

Lancia Flaminia Sport Zagato (1958-64)

Sunday 27 July 2014

VW Beetles

There are some Corgi models that I really didn't want to get. A VW1300 with a very big, very odd-looking and slightly scary gold steering wheel on top is one. But having got the photos and ticked the stock list hopefully someone will buy it and I can wait until someone has a special request before getting another in. It is almost the last 1:43 model from this era, being released in 1974 and only staying for a year as #400 before being replaced by what appears to be an identical car but numbered #401 in 1975 and that only lasted a couple of years more. 

I shall have to research further as to what the difference between #400 and #401 is. They both came with bollards in the box and both are, I believe, inscribed VW1300 unlike previous models which were VW1200s.

The car itself isn't bad if you can ignore that steering wheel. The bright metallic blue suits it and the interior is a cheerful yellow. Despite being from the Whizzwheels era it has bright gold cast wheels similar to one or two earlier models that are attractive and have real tyres. And, despite losing its steering in 1970 as a 'Flower Power' model, this has returned. I guess they must have had some parts to use up. This particular example comes in an original box that is a bit scruffy round the edges but overall it is now quite hard to find these, and I'm still looking for a #401.

The #383 'Flower Power' version was also short-lived, being out just for a year in 1970/1. It is a very basic version with nothing that opens, the ubiquitous wheels of the time and just some paper decals to cheer it a little. The green 'chrome' is very strange. I thought it was the plastic beneath chrome that had been worn away but no, this is how it is supposed to be!

The Police version lasted a lot longer but was just as basic as the 'Flower Power' car.

In contrast, the #256 and #492 seem most luxurious and well-featured models of a different class completely. They had opening bonnets and boots, even if each had exactly the same content in the trunk! I have always liked the mudflaps fitted to both these versions.

There are two mainstream VW Beetles still to arrive: the #401 Driving School one, assuming that it is different. If not, and it is just some odd box numbering change then I shall not bother as we could simply swap them around and no-one would know which they had in the box. The other is the very last 1:43 model, a VW1200 Rally which looks pretty dreadful and is devoid of any features and probably orange. It is number #384 and appeared in 1977 for a year or so only. Another very short lifespan which makes these a little hard to find but they are still inexpensive and, in my view, really quite good investments purely because so few are around and people get confused with so many variations.

A complete set of VW Beetles would be a nice thing to aim for and then you might need to get some variations - #400/1 had a French version with a French sticker on the doors. There may be Dutch, German and others perhaps. Another quite rare variation is the Dutch Police Car version of #492 which was all white. I think there may be different types of the green and white one too but haven't seen any yet.

Lastly, don't forget that you need the left-hand drive as well as right-hand drive versions of #256! If this was supposed to be a real No.18 East African Rally car then surely it was one or the other? One day someone will find a right-hand drive European Police Car!

Plenty to keep us occupied here anyway. Pity about the huge gold steering wheel...

Thursday 24 July 2014

M for Mechanical

I don't think the Rover 90 was the most popular of the 1956 range of first Corgi Toys and this example in utilitarian green with a 'Mechanical' motor was even less so. It was not something I remember anyone having or remarking that they really must get one.

Whilst the side profile looks right the front certainly isn't! That may have had something to do with the poor sales too. I had a very similar Rover 100 in 1972 that was a 1958 model - the side lights are in a different position and mine didn't have the 'Cyclops' lamp in the grill but the model still has something wrong about it.

These very early Corgis look a bit boring with their dull colours and lack of features. A Ford Consul,  Vauxhall Velox, Austin Cambridge and Standard Vanguard weren't the most desirable of motors either but the Riley Pathfinder was super and made up for the common others.

The Vauxhall is a lot brighter in a brave red colour. All these models illustrated are the rare 'Mechanical' versions and the motors still just work if you're careful. At not far off 60 years old now they have survived well and it would be a sin to do anything other than keep them clean from here on. There are one or two nice looking versions available but most are fetching terribly high prices. I am happy to get an original model with a bit of paint and with windows and wheels intact.

According to some lists I have prepared, the Austin Cambridge with a Mechanical motor has one of the lowest sales figures of all Corgi models at a very precise 10202. That may be a misprint as the others are all in the 100000 region and I can't see any reason why that one should be so much less. The prices, while high, are not significantly different either, varying more with condition than model.

The top one is #201M and in pretty poor condition, mostly due to the windows being badly scarred. The bottom one has much better perspex and a bit more paint but is just a #201.

Here's #206M, a Hillman Husky which looks as if it ought to be a hatchback but wasn't. It's a short Hillman Minx and you do have to wonder why on Earth anyone would buy a Husky when they could have a Minx. Maybe there was a big price difference, although there wouldn't be much justification as each had the same engines and most of the insides were shared.

I have featured #208M, the Jaguar 2.4 S Type before. It is a strange-looking model in most colours but works well in blue and this one is in jolly good condition. 

There is a Ford Consul 200M, a Morris Cowley #202M, a #207M Standard Vanguard and a #216M Autin A40 needed to complete the British saloons. They are not easy to track down unless you want to pay several hundred pounds. Oddly, the pristine, shiny and carefully photographed standing on a box examples that I've seen do little for me at all and I certainly am not inclined to fork out a month's rent on any of them. They just look too bright and it's almost as if I have to have a dull, used-looking one for some reason - and not just price. Those MIB affairs are anaemic and devoid of character in a way that I don't feel applies to later models. A mint #210 Citroen DS19, for instance, from 1957 would be great to have. Perhaps it's the colours they produced the others in that look so strange when so clean. I don't know, but I am sure I'll get over it and and if a shiny new pale green and red Standard Vanguard comes along I won't turn it away!

Two American cars joined the M range for a brief period - the Studebaker Golden Hawk #211M and #214M Ford Thunderbird - and I'm searching for examples of these.

Completing the M range were three Bedford vans, a KLG Plugs advertising one, a Personnel Carrier and a Fire Department van. I have the first but the other two are on my search list. They are really not the most attractive of models but their scarcity makes them quite desirable!

Thursday 17 July 2014

Corgi Toy 1969 Catalogue

If you thought the 1967-8 cover was a little strange then here in 1969 you might become seriously troubled. On the back is a gloomy drawing of part of a city in flames which I cannot see inspiring many youngsters to buy the American Lafrance unit which is a massive thing and expensive too. On the front, a Chevrolet Camaro is in a lay-by with some guy changing a wheel has his attention distracted by something in the sky.

Now being waved at by ladies in Victorian dresses may not have seemed such a bad thing once you've got over the fact that they're in an ancient car that appears to have gone a little fast over a nearby hump-back bridge. However, if he'd looked elsewhere in the sky he would have noticed a very strange device approaching and a distant city that has a distinctly odd look to it.

I have no idea what the sky scene is supposed to represent but with models featuring Batman, The Green Hornet, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the Saint, James Bond and The Avengers then virtually any premise would be justifiable.

Inside you will be wondering just what has happened to Corgi Toys with the first six pages solely occupied by media models, first Chitty Chitty Bang bang and then The Beatles' Yellow Submarine and then all the other TV / Film models you'll be familiar with. Next you get introduced to Take Off Wheels and Golden Jacks in the shape of the Rover 2000TC and Oldsmobile Toronado. Finally you'll arrive at a page with two blue British cars - appropriately the new Mini and the better colour of E Type and may think you can relax a little as three more minis and a Cortina appear. But no, more Take Off Wheels, this time it's the cover car Camaro and a Pontiac Firebird. Pontiac Firebird? Look back a few pages and you'll see that the Pontiac is joined by a Ferrari Dino and Lamborghini P400GT and a Mini Marcos in the Golden Jacks group. As you'll know now, the Mini Marcos makes it but the others don't.

This really does have the look and feel of an end of an era about it. Despite the excitement about such a great innovation that did actually work very well, a decision was made not to continue with Take Off Wheels but instead switch to Whizzwheels which would better compete in terms of running speed with competitors. There is no mention here, though, of that. But you kind of know something's happening, even in late 1968 when this was printed.

In fact, March 1969 was when the big fire at the Swansea factory destroyed virtually all the company's stock. I can only assume that this, as much as anything, led to a major reconsideration of the models and their future production and features.

An MGC GT is still illustrated in blue and white and shown as 'available later'. The Marlin Rambler appears with its Kayak trailer and is described as 'available separately without kayak or roof-rack' although whether this was in the nice blue and white I still have to discover. In that colour scheme, though are both the Citroen le Dandy Coupe and a Chrysler Imperial-based 'Bermuda' Taxi and a Lincoln Continental. This is a significantly rarer colour for the Citroen and Lincoln and the Chrysler never made it although I have heard reports of the Imperial normal car in blue and white.

Also in blue is the Renault 16 which actually only made it in red with cast wheels! There's a DAF City car shown with ordinary cast wheels too which never made it in that form. The Ghia L6.4 is still there but now with cast spoke-effect wheels and in the lime-gold colour.

Gift Set 36 is illustrated with a blue Oldsmobile Toronado towing the Glastron speedboat. No mention of Golden Jacks so there will have been a period when both types were on sale. I have #264 Oldsmobile with and without tow bars but all the #276s have tow bars. Oddly, I haven't ever seen a Gift Set 36 with the newer Toronado so I'm not sure quite what the tow bar was for.

There are six pages of Agricultural models, including a full ape for the Combine Harvester but, for the first time and very indicative of the times, no military models at all. Fascinating. All in all these 49 pages tell quite a story that you'd never guess from the cover.

Police Camera Action

461 Range Rover 'Vigilant'

I am always looking out for Police cars. Well, on the road, that is. Not so much in the Corgi stocklist really as they have never particularly inspired me. The best was the Commer van that had a bulb poking through the roof and a battery inside the removable rear section. I liked models with lights but there were very few. That almost turned me to Spot-on. A school friend had a Rover with lights that lit up and looked so cool at night. Just remembered that as I write and now I must see if I can find one. Back in the mid 1960s Spot-on were pretty expensive. I did buy a Hillman Minx as my dad had one and Corgi didn't make that. That was all.

Anyway, back to Police cars. The very last Corgi Police vehicle (in my series) is the Range Rover. It's a nice model. It was around for a long time and is still very cheap to acquire. I like the signs and things that fold out very realistically and everything packs up nicely into the opening rear. You try doing that with the surfer or skier that come with other models.

373 VW 1200 Police Car
There are lots of VW 1200s or, possibly 1300s, as the shape first seen as #256 in East African Safari guise in 1965 is still being used right up to the very end with a Driving School version appearing in 1974. Here is the next longest lived version, a much stripped down model in Police uniform. No steering, no opening boot, no opening bonnet, no jewelled headlamps and not even any mudflaps.

492 VW1200 European Police Car

The 1966 green and white VW may have been a Politzei Auto rather than a Police Car but it was such a better model to play with.

402 Ford Cortina MkIII Police Car
Another late entry to the Corgi 1:43 list, this came in 1972 but also lasted well, surprisingly so as the MkIII was generally regarded as the worst of the Cortinas and there would be a squarer and more modern MkIV out by the time this was nearing its end. This is based on the 'Graham Hill' model - a normal saloon + chin in the box - with a strange siren affair slapped on the front bumper and the box and lamp on the roof. Unlike the VW, strangely, the Ford retained its jewels.

237 Oldsmobile Super 88 Sheriff's Car
From the States came the excellent Oldsmobile model in black and white. Nothing opened but this was very well made and still compares well on display to its modern counterparts.

223 Chevrolet Impala State Patrol Car
Also from the States are the Impalas type 1 and 2 in Police style.

481 Chevrolet Impala Police Car

209 Riley Pathfinder Police Car
The first Corgi Police Car was the lovely Riley Pathfinder. Sheer class and seeing a real one will cause heads to turn still today. That was when Police Cars were black and had bells.

506 Hillman Imp 'Panda' Police Car
No policeman in his right mind looked forward to driving this one - a Panda car as it was called, possibly deriving from the days when a small roundish car was painted black and white. The Hillman Imp wasn't that fast at the best of times. This cast was actually from the Sunbeam made for an earlier rally car but it was a Hillman that the Police used. It's a pretty little car for all that and apparently has 'glow-in'the-dark' side panels. I'd prefer a lamp that lights up.

464 Commer County Police Van
This old-fashioned blob of a vehicle has that saving grace - a working lamp on top!! I must replace the battery and see if mine still works.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

More orange

204 with curved back

The last of the 'normal' Corgi minis was #204 available for just under two years from 1972. That wasn't long and although minis were always popular this is easily the most difficult to find (excluding the Mostest one!)

There seem to be just two colours around, a dark metallic blue which looks quite nice and orange which doesn't. One valuation site lists just prices for models with black roofs. I haven't seen any with black roofs at all and am being to lose faith in that place which also has most of the Whizzwheels range priced at under £20 without a box and in one or two instances with a box! I wish. Minis like this, though, are £140 in a box and £45 without.

The cast used seems to be the same as the most recent purple #226 which has a distinctly rounder rear end. Included in this post are several photos of some other minis I have, showing the two different shades of blue and different wheels. I have yet to find an Austin with free spinning wheels but, strangely, all my Morris minis have them apart from one in dreadful condition that I repainted.

226 with cast wheels and curved back

226 lilac blue with cast wheels

226 pale blue

226 Morris Mini Minor repainted silver

225 Austin Seven

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Made in Japan

394 Datsun 240Z
375 Toyota 2000GT

336 James Bond's Toyota 2000GT

I had to split up my web site pages into smaller sections and decided to follow the Corgi catalogue practice of British, American and European models. It was only when the Whizzwheels ones were running off the page that I realised I had to put a Datsun 240Z somewhere and a Toyota 2000GT would be joining soon too.

As I had a TV / Film type category for the normal ones the one and only Japanese car was taken care of there.

Corgi made a brand new cast for the 240Z and this survived well. As well as the 'East African Safari' red version from 1972 to 1977 there is a nice white Rally model that saw three years on sale in the middle of that period.

The Toyota first appeared in the 1960s as the James Bond car with rockets firing from the boot. This cast gets quite a surprise return in 1970, sprayed in a delighful mirror-effect blue. The boot stays firmly shut but the jewels are still there and it is an attractive model. It is only around for a brief year and a bit from 1970 to 1972, though, and I have seen very few for sale. 

What does reappear, though, are two further uses of the cast for the Bond car in the 1980s, possibly the longest gap other than the DB5 #270 re-use in gold-plated 30th and 35th anniversary models.

Monday 14 July 2014

The weird and the wonderful

384 Adams Probe 16

384 Adams Probe 16

380 Alfa Romeo P33

283 DAF City Car

381 GP Beach Buggy

347 Chevrolet Astro 1

The Whizzwheels era certainly brought out some weird and wonderful cars which we would be pretty unlikely to see on our roads. I guess the Beach Buggy was not so weird - probably far more common a sight than the Fiat Ghia Jolly issued in the normal years. In fact that was issued twice but that's another story I shall about separately. The others, though, are a strange bunch but each in their own way has something that makes you forgive the Corgi design team. Well, you might not shout at them quite as much - save that for the dragsters and some other diabolical dumb-downs.

Working through those illustrated here, start with the Adams Probe 16. I haven't heard of Adams as a motor manufacturer anyway so this was not off to a good start but look at the lines, the lovely colour and attractive perspex cover. That cover slides back, presumably to let what much have been pretty intense heat out of the compartment. The interior is crisp and clean, albeit not very private if you had an itch and were parked next to almost any vehicle taller than this. A strange steering column looks very prone to refusal to turn corners but I don't think many of these were ever available on the straight, never mind corners. Jewelled lights at the back look really nice too and this has many 'normal' features that make it a nice model to display.

The Alfa may have been a bit more generally available but certainly wasn't a sight on British roads other than the Corgi Kit layout ones. Corgi didn't make many white models. This suits the colour well. Obviously, being the 70s, orange has to appear somewhere and the interior seats, dash etc. are suitably bright satsuma. It's a nicely finished model. Nothing opens or closes but, apart from the wheels, it sits well and has a certain charm.

No doubt the DAF City car existed in some cities but, again, it wasn't seen on British roads unless you happened to live in an apartment overlooking the London Design Centre or a street of that ilk. In complete contrast to the Alfa, everything opens on this crazy car. It might have almost been 'normal' had it not had such an incredible array of features. One side had a sliding door that I don't recall seeing on a model before. That looked difficult to engineer. The other side had two opening doors - like an old Rover 100 had, both hinged at outer edges so they fold in on each other. You get this vast opening in the side as a result which would be useful in the country just as much as the city now I think about it. Indeed, I can think of more uses - the occasional hay bale, errant animals, piles of shopping, firewood come to mind - for a DAF Rural Car rather than a DAF City Car.

As if that wasn't enough, the boot and rear also open. There's no excuse for one of these to have a messy interior. And being pale fawn, it will show. Quite a car. I am not sure about the scale though - it seems much too big. Naturally, it will have been one hell of a job to construct this in a way that doesn't collapse on first play and that may have had an influence on its size. Or maybe it was that big.

The fun starts when you open up the box and out rolls a Chevrolet Astro 1. I mistyped that as Astro ! but actually that may be a better name! It looks just like the space-age vehicles we saw illustrated in comics or in TV series in the 1960s. Not so sure about the 1970s but then this did come out in 1969, being one of the very first Whizzwheels. It would have rolled out of the box nicely too as the 'red spot' wheels that quite a few of this model will have had originally had rubber tyres and ran much more pleasantly than the horrid plastic ones. If the shape makes you smile then you'll split your sides laughing when you see what happens when you slide back the roof. The passengers get lifted into the air and if this is supposed to be some device for assisting their exit then it hasn't quite worked unless they take a jump. But it all works very smoothly and there are two plastic people looking strange to match the model.

There is another I am looking for - the Bertone Barchetta Runabout. 

Friday 11 July 2014

Corgi Toy 1967-68 Catalogue

The word mazak appears in The Corgi Story on the first page. I missed that at the time and I had to look it up when I discovered it on the base on some models a few weeks ago. The main focus now is on some big models - in size as well as fame. The cover has the ridiculously big Lincoln Continental which I never actually wanted at the time and only now keep in stock with some reluctance. It is simply too big and looks crazy with the other models as I illustrated in a previous article.

Joining the TV and Film fame set are a couple of new Bond cars, the silver #270 Aston, now with a slightly reshaped rear end to look a little more like the DB5 it should have been and a Toyota 2000GT. Both these are still 'available later' and it is the gold one that remains on sale when the catalogue is issued. Batman's Batmobile has a boat attachment and then there's some Green Hornet affair. I do not remember either the car or the TV series or film it was associated with and still don't have much of a clue, I'm afraid, nor examples of either in stock. They seem to command extremely high prices for such a common model.

Completing the 'fame' models on the first few pages of this catalogue are The Man From U.N.C.L.E's Thrush Buster, The Avengers Gift Set 40 and, looking quite sad now in comparison, The Saint's Volvo P1800. (The Volvo, though, will continue to be available long after some of the others disappear!)

The new 'normal' model is the Jaguar E Type 2+2, oddly illustrated in dark pink in the catalogue but mercifully released initially in the red as in a drawing or in a very nice metallic blue. This was another 'big' model, though, in comparison to most. Not as bad as the Lincoln but you still had to keep the #307 and #335 E types away from each other.

In the 'Available Later' category in 1967 were the Austin Mini Countryman (interestingly, without surfer or roofrack!), the Lancia Fulvia Zagato (illustrated in gold) and the Citroen Le Dandy Coupé and MGC GT in blue and white. I have never seen the MGC GT in those colours and the Citroen is very rare in two-tone.

The Kits have disappeared but there are several Racing Sets and combinations now. 

The Daktari Land Rover is illustrated in white, not the green it actually appears in - the white being issued later as the Lions of Longleat set.

Whilst #9022 Daimler was 'Available Later' in the 1966 catalogue, #9021 Daimler is now 'Available Later' in this one. Odd.

Cast wheels appear on #339 Mini Cooper and #264 Oldsmobile Toronado. Many of the newer illustrations are now very realistic and I am sure most of photographs with some post-processing effects - like the speed lines on the axles of the competition cars.Some old stagers are still clearly drawn, however, and re-used for yet another year!