Monday 25 August 2014

Corgi Toy 1970 Catalogue

A totally different cover in 1970 introduces a very different range. Gone is the young boy and his dad, strange scenes of oddly drawn models and its their place are two smart and fast-looking car illustrations with just graphic rather than accurate presence. It works as a modern cover  of the day but doesn't bear much resemblance to what's on offer.

This is where Whizzwheels came in. Some models had been released in 1969 and no doubt the 1970 catalogue became available in that year too. The first page of cars has an orange Lancia and three experimental-looking cars so that was a pretty good sign of where things might be going! Whilst the Adams Probe did appear in A Clockwork Orange the film got banned so even that fame may not have helped sales after all. I doubt if anyone ever encountered the Alfa Romeo or Chevrolet Astro.

Some more familiar cars appear on the next pages of Whizzwheels including the ones that had been intended to come out with Golden Jacks in the previous year's catalogue. The Mercedes C111 has an 'artist's impression' type of drawing and is 'available later'. When it does appear it looks nothing like the illustration or, in many commentators' views it seems, the real thing! There's the Jaguar E type now devoid of opening doors but still hanging on to its mirrors. There is also a very yellow Bentley version of the Rolls Royce. I have seen pink versions but was there really ever a yellow one? The illustration looks like a photo and, whilst 'available later' makes me wonder if there is a rare variant somewhere to be found.

There is also 'Project X'. That sounds exciting. Unfortunately, the number associated with the intriguing image is #313 which would be the very unexciting Ford Cortina Mk III! It was a great model, to be fair, but hardly deserving the 'Project X' mystery.

There then follow a few more pages of cars that had been revived with Whizzwheels for better or worse. No, just for worse. You'll see the red Chevrolet Stingray there which actually only made it in blue or pink to my knowledge. However, this is a fascinating period because in the changeover I am sure there must have been several models in the original colours that got fitted with Whizzwheels bases and I would love to try and find some of them.

At the end of the Whizzwheels pages there is a promotion for something I never actually saw but which sort of justifies the Whizzwheels thing - the plastic tracking. You could certainly have some fun running some of the models around a good length of that yellow plastic lifted at one end or down a decent slope in the garden. That may account for why so many Whizzwheels models are in terrible condition - being slammed into each other or turfed off track at speed.

The appearance on page 12 of four old-style Corgis does look a little sad. Still going are the #334 Mini, the #226 Mini and, remarkably, #233 Bubble car! The fourth is the Oldsmobile Toronado and speedboat Gift Set. It's the blue one that's illustrated (without Golden Jacks) whereas on the next page you'll see the red one with them! there's also the original Rolls so how they can have expected the Bentley to sell in comparison I do not know, unless it would be a lot cheaper. There were still lots of Golden Jacks models that presumably were all done and so couldn't be reworked as Whizzwheels at that time so there are some more pages of these, including a decidedly pink Chevrolet Stingray which was only actually red and green!

A few old style sports cars make the catalogue as does the Grand Prix Racing Gift Set. TV and Screen favourites aren't quite as high profile as before but there are still plenty of them and The Hardy Boys version of an old Rolls Royce Silver Ghost is featured. This is one of the models that sold least of any and must be a future real rarity. I have never seen one but hope to have one coming in before long if the bids don't go crazy.

Farm equipment occupies another few pages and then there's the latest Transporter page, now with six cars, all Whizzwheels. There always seems to be a car on the Transporter that is totally wrong. before it would be a Sunbeam or Mini rally car and this time it's the ruddy Saint's Volvo! That just doesn't work at all for me! It is also ranks as one of the worst of the conversions too.

The surviving Citroen Safari in #513 mode is still there along with a weird selection of old style Commercial and Utility vehicles. There's a Concorde plane too! Finally, we get the very big and flashy fire engine things and a bus and the camera vans are still there, with the cut-out Citroen coupé making a very late appearance on the Tour de France model list (another items that is really quite difficult to find at a reasonable price these days).

At the very end is a promotion for Rockets. If you hadn't already realised that the good days were over then you should now, with things like 'Golden Keys' and more track for some pretty dodgy looking matchbox size versions. Things are in quite a mess now and the brand will never really recover.

This is the last catalogue post I can do. I have the cover and a few pages from the 1971-72 book but after than the 1:36 scale will strat to dominate, presumably and so there may not be much point my writing about any more. I shall try and get hold of a full 1971-72 catalogue as that could be quite interesting and who knows what I'll unearth in a 1973 one (if there is one).

The 1971-72 cover with my addition of model numbers

Saturday 23 August 2014

Standard deviations

While the Americans were naming their cars Thunderbird and Golden Hawk we came up with Vanguard III. I don't remember Vanguard I or II for that matter and, indeed, this was not a common sight on our roads, Standard being better known for their little 8s and 10s before disappearing from view completely as a brand.

Corgi followed their initial launch with the Standard Vanguard III appearing in February 1957. Like the other initial models, they also had a Mechanical version with a friction motor and that is the yellow one illustrated above. these are very scarce because this type of drive was not as popular. Children preferred to push and let them go and see them spinning off towards the skirting board or other parked toys at a rather more than the slow crawl that these managed. It may have seemed a good idea at the time (and there were many friction motors around in other toys) but the free-wheeling versions were simply better. and 3d or 4d cheaper.

The Standard Vanguard III #207M went off the supply line in 1959 so really wasn't around very long at all. Its base was probably reused for the RAF Staff Car version that came out in October 1958 as these feature that heavier cast base with the 'differential' unit on the back axle. No RAF Staff Cars, however, had the Mechanical element and that's how I reckon Corgi used up the left over bases.

The yellow paint does show the chips far more than some other colours might have done and isn't in any event a particularly inspiring colour but the car has an endearing quality about it and, for all its chips and scratches, I am pleased to have found this one.

Good for Mr Samuelson.

Corgi did produce some very finely detailed items from time to time. One example is the lovely camera unit on a tripod and base that first appeared with Samuelson Film Service Commer microbus in December 1967. In this version there was a very clever device that fixed it in place at the rear of the bus which could be unlocked and I often see pictures of the camera on the roof too where it also sort of fits but not in a permanent way. It also fits in the front. Marvellous engineering.

The same camera also appears in the Tour De France Gift Set 13 but here it is attached to an extended base coming out of the back of the Renault 16 and the hatchback has disappeared completely! Maybe it didn't rain much in France then. That base didn't move either. This appeared in July 1968 and both were around for a few years.

It is very nicely made, though, and has a jewel as the lens which always strikes me as a nice touch even if it is a little odd when you think about it.

The Commer is in one of its final appearances, the very last being as a Holiday Camp bus, more or less identical to the blue camera one but in deep red brown and white with a white interior. That was only around for less than a year and is quite hard to find.

I am not sure who Samuelson was but they will have been happy to be associated with such a well-made model.

Thursday 14 August 2014

Corgi should have supplied replacement aerials in the box

Two rare Corgi models. The Ghia Mangusta 5000 De Tomaso first appeared in 1969 as #271 and was the second example of a detachable chassis. The Lotus Elan #319 had been the first. It was an attractive car but, apart from being able to take off the body for some reason best known to the production team, that was it. Nothing opened, it was a bit anaemic and the aerial broke on almost every model except this one. (You just try finding one with an original aerial intact!). 

I suppose there might have been a plan to release different coloured versions, maybe even different wheel types so that swapping chassis would be a bit more interesting. Unfortunately, as you all know now, this was Whizzwheels time and so this model didn't even see out 1969 (making good values now for these). 

In its place was #203 - the same body but with its chassis firmly sealed up now, ubiquitous little plastic wheels and a highly vulnerable to chips green metallic paint. If you can find one (and that's easier said than done) then you'll see that the paint falls off if you breathe too hard or there's thunder outside. I am amazed that I managed to find this one which is almost perfect.

I have yet to find a green one with an aerial, though. Corgi really should have put some spares in the box.

#203 didn't last long either and sales appear to have been pretty low. It came off most shelves in 1972, not much more than a year after coming out. It is these changeovers and very short runs, though, that make this period quite interesting. Models in good condition are scarce but, whilst prices for #271 are really high, #203 is all over the scale, from extremely expensive down to a few pounds. No-one seems to have much of a clue but I can only see these increasing. Despite the general unpopularity of these late models their scarcity will eventually be clear and I can even see some of them exceeding the traditional collector's favourite predecessors.

Thunderbirds are go!

Here I can show you three versions of the classic American Ford Thunderbird. The pink and black one is the #214M with a friction motor and was available for a very short time in 1959. The white convertible, #215, appeared in December 1959 and was replaced by #215S with suspension and a tall driver in 1962. I think the lower profile of the early model looks better although the white and blue combination is a bit odd, not helped by silver inserts for the seating!

There are also #214 and #214S available - the hard top versions without the friction motor and a suspension version but I am not in a hurry to stock these. There were very few American cars in the early years, the Studebaker came first and then the Thunderbird and a little later the Chevrolet Impala but that was about it for many years.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

More Beetles

As Corgi rolled out the Whizzwheel VW1200s with all the features dismissed and just various shades of orange being offered to attract buyers in the early 1970s they didn't even bother to change the number from one to the other.

It is quite a clean and, if you can get over the colour and forget about the East African Safari edition being charged by a plastic rhinocerous and the green and white European police car with steering and all sorts of goodies, then this would be quite a pretty little model. It doesn't do anything but it sits prettily on the shelf.

383 'Flower Power'
I found this yellow one, though, recently and can't quite figure out where it has come from. The casting is identical to #383 but it has much more realistic wheels, fine detailing in the paintwork and the later Corgi logo with a doggy on the base.

It may well be a Corgi Classics model #67903 and the lack of Made in Great Britain on the base is a bit of a give-away to an Eastern origin. There was a model made specially for a drinks company called Yoohoo and this would be exchanged for several vouchers and some dollars. Usually, in those promotions, the dollars were all the thing cost in the first place but I reckon kids would have got a reasonable deal with this.

My example does look just like this and the base is the same too. I just don't have the stickers and wonder whether Corgi Classics produced models without the promotional guff. That would seem pretty likely but a first search doesn't show anything. I'll just have to keep looking but I guess this isn't what we'd call a 'real' Corgi being dated from the late 1990s I presume. Where the cast is clearly identical, though, I do like to add them in. I have a feeling I may well find a lot more. That could be a whole new ball game and collection! Hopefully, they'll all be really cheap.

Thanks to Nigel's World for this information and image.






I now have the full set of MGB / MGC GTs. They started with the red MGB GT in 1967 and that was a very popular model. It sold well but still wasn't around for long because MG decided to introduce the MGC which had a 3 litre engine and needed a bulge in the bonnet. So two years later, in 1969, Corgi change it by fitting a new bonnet and rear hatch transfer and it becomes #345 an MGC GT and falls in the 'competition' section of the catalogue too.

The catalogue does, in fact, have a lovely looking blue and white version but that must have been the artist's hope as the model finished up in yellow with a black bonnet. If the MGB had been short-lived then the MGC was positively just here today and gone tomorrow and didn't even make 1970, with less than a year in production. It is quite a scarce item now.

Even scarcer is the orange version, still with wire wheels, but with no black bonnet. Some say this only appeared in a set but I'm not so sure it didn't also find its way into #345 boxes. My copy hasn't any numbers (and I prefer it that way) so it doesn't really need to be in the competition section at all. Anyway it wasn't around long enough for that to have troubled anyone as next came Whizzwheels and 1970 brought the red and black MGC GT along. Now BMC had deleted the MGC in 1969 and were making the MGB V8 but never mind.

The final version is really the same as all the others - mercifully no dumbing down like happened with so many other models that were carried forward. Like the Renault 16, that also survived with its features intact, my #378 has a missing rear window in the hatch! Easy enough to replace, thank goodness. Looking at this from the side you see lots of interesting chrome above the front wheels and, with the bonnet in a contrasting colour, you tend to think that it really ought to open to reveal an engine! The hatch should have an opening suitacse, though. This was, I think, the only model that had a black, opening suit case.

All nice models and I am lucky to find the MGCs in as good condition and the yellow one is as new with a superb box as well. Finding an original MGB in as good condition hasn't proved so easy and prices across the range are remarkably high.

Chips with everything

It didn't really matter which Renault 16TS you had, the paint was almost certain to chip if it even saw a skirting board or you dropped a soft toy nearby. #260 was a very late model of the French car in the pre-Whizzwheels era and, whilst not the most desirable car in the world at that time, Corgi made a good job of the model with some excellent labelling and chrome work. Inside the front seats could be put up and down by twiddling a knob underneath. That usually works loose on these 45+ year old models and photos may often show cars that appear to have lost one or other of the front seats!

This was also available in white - so you could have the Tricoleur (I must do that when I get the third). That was a Tour De France cycle racing edition and came with a ridiculous construction on top, totally spoiling the car and some weird extending ramp with a camera and cameraman. In the box too were cyclists and goodness knows what else. I'll be happy just to find a decent version of the car. That edition, incidentally, preceded the red one here.

Then along come les Whizzwheels and this is one of the few examples where nothing else changed except the colour. the blue is lovely but, as I said, so prone to damage.

I am very lucky to have found examples that can't have been played with much. the boxes have long gone but the cars look fabulous and are virtually unmarked. They're not worth a fortune - no Whizzwheels are yet - I am convinced that as there are so few around in good condition and these were available only for quite a short period the prices will move pretty rapidly up soon.

The blue Renault got allocated #202 for some reason best known to the Corgi Number Allocation Department. The Saint got #201.

I need a rear screen for the Whizzwheels Renault before I can sell it but that is a simple task to do, just takes a while for the bits to arrive. Strangely, the other car that arrived at the same time also needs a rear screen - the MGC GT. I shall be closing my daughter's rear hatch very carefully for a while. 

Sunday 3 August 2014

Summer holidays in an Austin A40

#216M Austin A40

Walcott, Summer 1960

Being 8 had its advantages. I was too small to reach the roof of my dad's Austin A40 so never got asked to wash it. This is me on holiday, probably around 1960, in Walcott on the Norfolk coast.

At the time there were almost no red A40 models to be found as Corgi had wthdrawn its #216M model with the unpopular friction mechanism that added a massive 3d to the price. So I had a blue one which I had attempted to paint red at the time but now have, at last, a lovely example of the red Corgi car. The last to have that motor and really quite scarce.

Walcotte, Summer 1965

It looks like we went to Walcott again in 1965 with dad's new Hillman Minx. This was a great car, smooth and much more powerful. I learned to drive and even passed my test in this car! Five years later. My dad's car was dark green but there was no Corgi Hillman Minx so the best I could do was a Spot On model in a dull shade of pea. Actually, the Spot On models were very nice and more detailed than Corgis. I don't really know wht I didn't collect them and get as attached to them as I did Corgis. I have a feeling they were a lot more expensive. Still, I guess it's never too late.

Spot-On #187 Hillman Minx