Friday 28 August 2015

An interesting new shopping site design

I am very impressed with Tictail's new shopping site creation software. All on-line and very well-designed, it is easy to use and has a good range of design options and you can even get at the code and, I think, tweak things if necessary.

So far, I have managed to do a lot using just free tools but I have spotted several 'apps' which would extend some of the features but each has what looks like quite a high cost and a monthly one at that. However, I may be able to stay within the free boundaries and full marks to the people behind it. Swedish, I think. I like the way text and images, particularly, displayed.

With more and more people now looking at sites using mobiles and tablets, I am conscious that the photo displays don't show on these devices and so I am losing interest in quite a significant section of the market place. Google also drop your ranking if your site doesn't react and switch when viewed on mobile devices so I have to do something. The Tictail offering may well be just what I need. More on that in a while. It will be quite some time before I have put every model on the new area!

You can see how it's going either via the Renault link above or here. I am also adding a permanent link to the side on the main blog pages.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

The Aston Martin Competition Model: a closer look.

The #309 Aston Martin in Competition model guise has always been one of my favourites. I never had one as a child, or even an 'ordinary' Aston Martin DB4 #218. The early Aston was just a year or two before my days as a collector but I ought to have had one of the later ones. It came out in Aoril 1962 and, a year after the Bentley Continental, being just the third car to get jewelled headlamps, a similar update to the Mini Cooper #227 that came along a month or so later and using the simple addition to revive a casting like they had for the Fiat 1800.

I have now had three examples, being keen to get this when I restarted a year or so ago! One was immaculate and had its original box and was my first ever sale, interestingly to someone who had a real DB4 and had initially just wanted one of my silver resprays. I have two left and a query from someone on Ebay just made me look a little closer at them. The casting is pretty poor! Flaws everywhere that are nothing like as bad on the 218 models.

The rear end has all sorts of issues, with a more pronounced horizontal line on the lower edge of the boot, where the blue meets white. The rear lights are quite different in dimensions, one having a larger blob than the other. Difficult to see in pictures, there are also curious marks beneath the paint that must be flaws in the cast but could be mistaken for a poor repaint in places. They really are not the latter but the close-ups can be worrying as I am looking for a price of three figures! In contrast the #218 is much smoother and generally tidier at the back.

A side view shows more issues, most obviously the gap between the wing and door frame and some ugly blobs around the door frame itself. Below is the other example I have which has poor decals and a few marks on the paintwork but has a better casting.

The door frame is much nicer and the gap between the door and wing is less obvious but there are still flaws.

The rear of this one still shows the different size tail light sections but seems to have a slightly better and less uneven finish.

For all that, I still love these cars. The switch to free spinning wheels was perhaps the big advantage: you could actually steer these around bends! The 218s all had fixed wheels. There are hints in the catalogues of these cars getting the same spoked wheels as the James Bond version or the Buick but I have never seen one and really have my doubts as to whether any, other than the odd factory sample, ever made it to the shops. They were clearly shown in the 1965 catalogue but these were drawings, of course!

In the Mercedes illustration they even highlight them and they're not 'Available soon' but simply displayed there for all to see, priced and, seemingly, in the shops. I wonder.

I am very tempted to make one, using an old Bond car for the donor wheels.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Two Bedford CA Dormobiles

I have mentioned being a little intrigued by variations in the early Corgi CA vans before. Now I have some more to report, as this nice 404M Personnel Carrier arrived today from France. Look at the radiator grills: they are quite different with a much more curved top edge and flowing sides on the one on the right, which is the more recent arrival.

I am also pretty sure that the windows are larger with a less rounded front edge to the roof above.

To the side I didn't detect much, other than more pronounced edge lines for features like the rear wheel cover, door etc.

Not much to choose between them at the back either, the one on the left having rather more rough casting at the bottom edges perhaps.

Clear differences here: the text is different and, interestingly, the front axle fittings are open on one and closed on the other. I have looked the open ones under a magnifying glass and can't detect any sign of simple damage or a 'layer' of the metal spring being removed.

I can see no commentary on these models that has much detail so would welcome any information if anyone has any. I am still trying to locate one item to complete the CA collection - the 412 Mk2 ambulance with the single screen. That is proving to be so elusive. If I hadn't seen an example on the Little Wheels site then I would not have ever dreamt it existed! I did try and buy that one, in fact, but it had long gone.

In due course I shall have to make a detailed study of this series. I have not yet advertised them very much so the set should remain complete for a while and I can compare them more carefully than I have to date. It's nice to have a definitive list to work to but I am increasingly finding that I am having to make my own!

Friday 14 August 2015

Someone else's collection

A collector has asked me to find good homes for his small and varied collection. As he had some very nice Corgis in amongst them I couldn't really refuse but there are also one or two items that I may have to pay someone to take away!

The priciest item will probably be the 339 BMC Mini Cooper S Monte Carlo. I don't know why as it is an odd looking thing with that enormous roof rack but it is in exceedingly good condition and people do seem to like minis.

My personal tip would be to get the Austin A60 Driving School car. This is really clean and tidy with almost no flaws and the only dot I can see is probably a factory thing anyway. It may not have a catalogue value as high as some others but you try finding a good one of these that still has some semblance of suspension!

The other Corgis are a beautifully clean and probably A+ rated Mini Marcos GT850 (rare as the paint usually chips when you look at it) but with a D rated box, a pretty nice Saint's Volvo with a nasty side scratch making it a bargain for someone skilled with white paint, a splendid Ghia L6.4 with the scarcer all cream interior and bonnet and boot fittings that would be the star of the show had it not got cracked front and rear windows and, of course, a gold 261 Aston Martin. That's in pretty good condition with a few scratches and a slightly grubby look to the actually clean paint and with all working features.

You can see them all in more detail here and they'll be on Ebay in a while.

One interesting 'other' model is a bright metallic orange Jaguar E Type roadster by a Spanish company called Joal. Apparently they used Tekno moulds and that makes them a bit more sought after. the company has just gone bust, I believe, and had kept going with a respectable range of commercial stuff. The Jaguar is quite an early one with opening everything and, apart from rather thick paint, it is quite appealing. I have no idea what it will sell for. there are one of two available but prices fluctuate widely.

Joal 100 Jaguar E Type + box  £40

339 BMC Mini Coopr S £80

341 Mini Marcos GT850 + box £50

236 Austin A60 £55

241 Ghia L6.4 £15

261 Aston Martin £30

258 The Saint's Volvo P1800 £40

[Prices exclude postage]

Thursday 6 August 2015

The Purple Gang

A couple of nice Rover 2000s in the scarcer maroon colour have come in this week. These were mostly just found on a car transporter in one of the Gift Sets where they would also so often pick up chips from collisions with others on the top or bottom section or just falling off on corners.

This did get me thinking though about how fragile this brilliant colour has been in Corgi's paint history. Almost every one you'll encounter will be inclined to lose some paint if you do as much as wave a piece of paper at it.

I will start, though, with an impressive exception. The 322 Monte Carlo edition seems to have a much better coat than all the others. I have had a few of these and they may have had a chip or two but generally none seemed any worse or more prone to chips than other models in my collection.

The prize for worst culprit has to go to the last of the Rover 2000s, the quite rare Whizzwheels version, available for a very short time and now really quite valuable.  The purple metallic paint on this just seems to drop off if you're not very careful. It took me a long time and not a small amount of money to get this reasonable model.

One of the nicest applications of this colour was the amazingly deep and rich shade used for the strange Citroen DS Coupé. It really was, for collectors in those days, a most fabulous colour and a great finish. It was however, pretty vulnerable and just one chip would grow to a large slab of grey if you weren't careful.

In a slightly redder shade was the Mini Marcos with its Golden Jacks and wheels that could be removed. What we didn't realised, though, at the time was that the paint could also be easily removed. You may spot the large chunk missing near the headlamp on this one from my own original childhood collection.

The Chevrolet Sting Ray was a wonderful model and the pink shade of purple, usually called the more refined-sounding cerise, was the most common colour. It chipped very badly and very easily, though. Couple that with chrome that did the same and most of these are now covered in chips and showing yellow or cream bumpers and air intakes on the bonnet. Such a shame. Luckily, I have a few versions that have been well preserved and it is definitely not as bad a coat as some of the others here.

Its younger sister, the Corvette Stingray, came out some time later, right at the end of normal Corgi production, with Golden Jacks and this is a truly magnificent model. The paint on this is an extraordinarily beautiful mirror finish. It seems quite well-affixed too and doesn't chip anything like as much as the others, many of these models surviving still and looking marvellous.

Back to low production quality for the odd Whizzwheels Adams Probe. Mine is really good but I don't breath on it or let it sit near draughts.

Possibly a contender for the worst paintwork (in this colour, that is, the Mercedes CIII easily winning the overall prize) could be the Marcos Mantis. A Whizzwheels model again (and one where the scale inspectors had clearly lost their micrometers) not only did I have trouble finding one with decent paintwork but corrosion underneath is common too! It is a lovely colour but...

I think I have already awarded the worst prize to the Rover but this Renault ran it very close indeed. It is the pre-Whizzwheel version, not around for long and appeared in one of those big window-style boxes which offered next to no protection in the first place. This one has just about survived and that took a long time to find as every one I looked at closely was a mini disaster area paint-wise. the blue Whizzwheel one that follows is no better but that's another arti8cle.

There were a couple that did fare quite well for reasons I can't explain. I mean why didn't Corgi use the same paint for the others? First to come close to matching the 322 Rover finish was the purple mini, the last before Whizzwheels took over. There are lots and lots of these around and, naturally, there's a complete range of paint conditions but it is a pretty normal range that you'd expect with other colours.

The other model that also survive well was the massive Mercedes Pullman 600. Mine has been bashed a bit and, whilst the chips do show and seem bad I don't think the finish on this model was at all bad. It was one of the earliest to be released so maybe Corgi spent more time baking it or something. 

Have I missed one out? If I think of another then I will add it. I have also just noticed how many of the purple gang have yellow interiors! Bright yellow at that! It was the Sixties, I suppose.

Ecurie Ecosse Racing Car Transporter

Every year from 1961 to 1967 this would be on my birthday and Christmas lists but it has taken me until 2015 actually to have an Ecurie Ecosse Racing Car Transporter of my own.

It was an expensive item in those days. Quite frankly, it's not cheap now, either! I saw this going as a complete set - the Gift Set 16 with the later edition racing cars - and didn't expect my modest bid to win but at 2am not many others were around or hadn't set their maximum bids very high.

The transporter appealed to me at the time because it had steering and I loved how that system worked, something Dinky never matched, their steering being a most unrealistic whole axle rotation that just wasn't right! I also liked the idea of putting a car inside and carrying it around.

What didn't appeal to me at all, though, were the racing cars themselves. The BRM and Vanwall aren't too bad but seem very old-fashioned, even for those days.

Those two are in excellent condition, being the S versions with suspension added and slight changes to the paintwork, adding a silver nose cone and decals.

The Lotus is a weird looking affair that may have been what was racing around Le Mans in the Sixties but, in my view, it didn't make a very appealing model. This one is 151A, the A being the second edition which included a driver and a slightly different windscreen fitting. I think there were similar blue 151 models but most of those were silver. The paintwork isn't too bad on this one but those big wings fore and aft are very vulnerable and chunks are missing there. There was no space for suspension without major reworking so this never got an S suffix.

The steering wheel was broken on this one and the driver didn't look right. I have replaced the steering wheel and used another driver but I'm still unsure. I feel he needs to be leaning back further so maybe both are wrong. I think I'll leave that to a new owner to sort out. The steering wheel is simple to fit and a driver can easily be installed on this model too.

As I said, the thing I really wanted, though, was the truck and it has some delightful features, including the little vice in the workshop area. The windows are remarkably clear and the interior all good but the paintwork has quite a few chips. The top deck folds down very nicely with a clever mechanism and locks in place again when the tailgate is returned to vertical. Corgi were good at this sort of thing, although many examples have had to have replacement tailgates from what I can gather looking at others on sale. This one is all original.

The steering works but the turning circle is about as big as the real thing would have been!

I'm glad to have got this and seen it up close but I won't be sorry to see it or the racing cars go to a new owner. It will be quite a decent bargain: about £45 for the truck, £29 for the Lotus and around £40 for each of the BRM and Vanwall. I think the whole set could go for about £130 and I expect it to sell pretty quickly.

I guess I will still have to get the original racing cars, without the S or A suffixes, one day but I can't get too enthusiastic about them and, despite longing for the truck 50 odd years ago, now that I've seen it and checked it off my list I won't be that sorry to see this one go either. My dad was probably right not to buy it. 

Simca 1000 Coupé in blue

A blue Simca 1000 arrived yesterday. I wasn't expecting ever to have one of these. OK, so it has quite a few chips on the paintwork and the windows are a bit scruffy but it is all original and not actually damaged, just worn in places. The wheels, tyres and base are good.

It's the first I have seen for sale in a year or so of looking and the owner wasn't a Corgi collector and probably just regarded it as one of many bits of junk in a box of old toys.

So now I've crossed this off the list it will be available for someone to purchase. One catalogue-type site lists this at about £40 but that has to be way off the mark as there simply aren't any anywhere and it's easier to find a Pop Art Mini! QDT show recent examples, (admittedly looking near new with boxes), that have sold at prices between £800 and £1010 so putting a price on it is really difficult as there is nothing reliable to go by. I'll start around £130 and see what happens.