Thursday 30 June 2016

Down on the farm.

It's taken a while and there are still some items missing but it seems a good time to share something about the Corgi Farming tractors and equipment produced in the 1:43 era. It all started in May 1959 with a Massey Ferguson 65 tractor and a Massey Ferguson 30cwt tipping trailer. 

My example has the attached skip with a milk churn and good ol' Farmer George at the wheel. These are much later additions, the first releases just being the basic tractor and trailer. Both started with metal wheels, replaced later with plastic ones and you'll find a range of seats from red and silver painted to bare metal. the steering wheel also varies from grey and black plastic to a grey metal one.

I lived on a farm in Hertfordshire which was also an agricultural machinery depot where my dad worked. So I got to see and occasionally play with the real things. I learned to drive on a 'Fergie' 20 and so it was pretty natural that the first Gift Set I had was Gift Set 7 with the original tractor and trailer. That came out in July 1959 with a lovely Combine Harvester joining the pair in Gift Set 8 in October that year. The Combine Harvester was an amazing pice of engineering with all sorts of working parts but it cost way too much for my family at the time and I still haven't got one all these years later!

In 1960 a shovel was added to the Massey Ferguson 65 and you could also now buy the skip and milk churns Most will have a cream painted lift device, black metal controls and a bucket that is silver inside. The mechanism tends to get a bit loose over the years but it is a super bit of design and really did pick dirt up and dump it in the trailer if you wanted it too.

Negotiating corners was not easy, though, with the fixed front axle and it was rather nice to use the Fordson Power Major tractor instead if you had one. It came out in May 1961 But at 7/6d, a mere tuppence cheaper than the 7/8d charged for the Massey Ferguson and the trailer in Gift Set 7, it was expensive! The steering was from the front axle rotating around a central point. Not at all realistic but it worked and made it much more fun to play with. People do get confused about these Fordsons because several models look similar at first glance. This first one #55 has lights placed on the sides of the front radiator section.

A plough was issued at the same time in May 1961. This first one had yellow plastic shares and a quite tricky to use attachment device. You could also buy both as Gift Set 18 that Summer. There are references to the shares being replaced by silver plated ones but with the same attachment later that year but I have not seen anything like this anywhere. If anyone has any information about what would be quite a scarce item, do let me know. (There is a replacement - #61 but that doesn't appear for another three years and will have a different attachment).

March 1962 sees an odd version of the Fordson Power Major - one with half tracks on a double rear wheel affair. These are very expensive now and I haven't managed to get one yet so have had to use a stock image. In many ways this would have better suited the Massey Ferguson because the tracks were very difficult to steer. No matter what you did with the front wheels it tended to prefer carrying on forwards! This still uses the first Fordson, the one with the side headlamps.

A big Farming Models Gift Set 22 is said to have been released in September 1962.

It has some interesting contents. There is the Fordson Power Major #55 and the #56 plough, together with the #1111 Combine Harvester. The #51 trailer, however, is drawn by #57 Massey Ferguson with a fork lift. That would be a more appropriate piece of equipment to have in the scene shown on the box too but it would not be until May the following year that the tractor with a fork lift would be available individually. Some reference works on Corgis say the set had #53 which would have been available but they also go on to describe it as with a fork lift so I am pretty sure the set did have the first editions of #57 and not #53.

There is another fascinating item in this box. That is the Land Rover. An actual example of a genuine original set I have seen has a mid green Land Rover that appears to be a #406 but has what looks like a lemon interior! I can't tell whether it has suspension but it looks like it might have. Anyway, it is either a very early #438 in mid green or a #406 with an interior! I think I'll go for it being a #438 or, possibly, another colour #406S. I have an all yellow one so maybe they did have a mid green one too.

This set would also be where you'd get three figures doing various farm tasks and the skip and milk churns.

The Land Rover towed a #101 Flatbed Trailer in all yellow which, I think, is unique to this set too. There was a moulded pack of milk churns (oddly in a different scale to those supplied individually!) that sits on the trailer.

The set did not last long and underwent several changes with the mid green Land Rover disappearing almost as soon as it arrived (so good luck trying to find one!!) and featuring not only the next Fordson #60, its revised plough #61 and a different tipping trailer #62.

I would get one of these in order to see just what the Land Rover was but they change hands at several thousand pounds now! One of the very valuable Corgi items.

May 1963 sees the individual release of the Massey Ferguson 65 with Fork Lift #57 and later that year there is another Gift Set. This has the same Massey Ferguson tractor and trailer as before but now the tractor gets old Farmer George and the set has a new number, Gift Set 29. Just to confuse us all!

Not to be outdone, the Ferguson also gets Farmer George on #55 Fordson Power Major in Gift Set 13 with the original type of plough. This set is very short-lived, though, as later that year there is a new Fordson Power Major tractor #60 which has a very nice and more accurate type of steering. The lights are moved inside the radiator grill and Farmer George gets in the box for this one too!

With the new tractor comes the new plough - a much simpler affair and with silver shares as #61.

February 1965 brings the new tipping trailer. This is a much squarer model and probably a bit more useful, especially with the smart raves which come in the box and slide nicely into position and yet do not obstruct the tilt or opening rear flap. See how researching farming models can bring a whole new vocabulary to your life! I bet many readers will have thought a 'rave' was something their children did in the 1990s!

The next month you could buy the new Fordson #60 tractor towing a Beast Carrier as Gift Set 33. The Beast Carrier itself comes out as #58 in its own box in November 1965. In both the Gift Set 33 and #58 box there would also be four different calves.

A slightly strange addition to the farming stock appears in June 1965 in the shape of a Jeep F-150 now remodelled as #64 and given a conveyor belt, chute as well as a happy workman and five little sacks in the box. The device itself works amazingly well, although you will be lucky to find one with a complete belt now, and I am not sure it is a simple job to replace a broken one. The odd thing about this is that it really would have been quite unusual on a British farm, especially with Left Hand Drive! The Jeep F-150 models have always been a bit intriguing for me as they seem to have a quite different approach to casting, with door outlines proud of the surface not engraved in it and the base is quite unlike any other Corgi models that I am familiar with. It may be that there are some other commercials that were made in a similar fashion that I haven't had a chance to examine yet but, again, it is a topic I could do with some advice on one day.

1965 ends with another Gift Set for the Christmas market. Gift Set 32 has the almost forgotten #53 Massey Ferguson with Bucket towing the new #62 trailer. I expect Farmer George gets in this box too.

July 1966 sees a new Massey Ferguson tractor. #66 is the Massey Ferguson 165 and this is often confused with #50 as they look similar at first glance. Corgi used a distinct grey colour for the engine and base, though, and the front is somewhat fatter.

There is also a new version of the Fordson, now a Ford Super Major 5000 and numbered #67. It is not individually available until early 1967 but appears as Gift Set 47 with a Conveyor Belt device which has been removed from the Jeep and now placed on a trailer similar to that used for a Bloodhound missile but without the four wheel steering.

With #58 Beast Carrier and calves, the new Ford Tractor #67 also makes Gift Set 1, replacing Gift Set 33. I do hope you are paying attention. No I have no idea why Corgi did such strange things with their Gift set numbering. This was The Sixties remember. The staff in the Gift Set Numbering department were probably on drugs.

March 1969 sees the new Massey Ferguson 165 get the bucket device attached and in a different colour scheme now too. This is now #59.

April 1967 has brings us the huge Dodge Kew Fargo Livestock Transporter #484. I haven't got one of these yet but it uses the same livestock box and mesh cover as was on the Beast Carrier. You get a card of 'straw' and five little piglets in the box with this one.

A couple of months later #71 is this lovely Tandem Disc Harrow implement. Then in October 1967 there is a new version of the Farming Models Gift Set. Now called Agricultural Gift Set 5 it has the Dodge Kew Fargo lorry mentioned above, the new #69 Massey 165 with Bucket, a #71 Disc Harrow, #62 Trailer with raves and a #438 Land Rover with no canopy. The Land Rover can be either the dark green one or the later metallic green shade. As well as the models there are lots of animals, five piglets, four calves and several hay bales as well as the piece of card that is supposed to be straw. There is also a farmer and his dog which I think can only be found in this set and, as if you hadn't guessed, yes, good ol' Farmer George is driving the tractor! He doesn't look a day older than when he first appeared.

In 1968, October saw some revisions to the #1111 Combine Harvester and in November two more Gift Sets. Gift Set 15 was the Land Rover and new Horse Box replacement for the Gift Set 2. This had a blue Land Rover with a white canopy bearing the label Corgi Pony Club. It towed a #112 Rice Beaufort Horse Box which contained a black horse and white foal or pony. The first editions had normal wheels on the Land Rover but I believe #112 started life with the cast spoke effect wheels.

Later the Land Rover gets the matching type and then, even later, the Land Rover gets Whizzwheels with the Horse Box getting an interesting cast eight-spoke racing car wheel for a short period before it too submits to Whizzwheels. I have written about all these variations in a previous article.

I think this is the only place that you could have got the blue Land Rover, though, the issued one being the dark green one.

The other was Gift Set 9 with the new #69 Massey 165 tractor with shovel and the #62 Trailer with raves. Farmer George gets in the box too.

The Rice Beaufort Horse Box comes out on its own in early 1969. Then, later that year we get the Ford 5000 Super Major with a hydraulic scoop at the side.

This #74 is a most impressive bit of engineering again with plenty of details and flexible hydraulic hoses in correct locations. I am pretty sure that had the economy given Corgi's engineers a few more years of free planning rather than panic reaction we might have even seen some working hydraulics!

Spring 1970 and the Massey 165 gets an interesting attachment to prolong its sales life. This is a scary looking saw attachment. I haven't yet found one at a reasonable price so have not been able to take a close look but I believe the saw spins round via an interesting flexible linkage. This is #73

I think most of us kids at the time would have preferred versions of these tractors that either actually could be steered or did so reasonably realistically. The Ford still had the dreadful fixed axle rotating around the centre and the lovely #60 Fordson with its great parallel style steering is now just a fond memory of days gone by. The Massey Ferguson just went forwards. Period.

Yet another attachment - a rear mounted trenching bucket - is added to the Ford 5000 at the beginning of 1971 as model #72, the numbers now going backwards for some reason I have never understood.

Sometime in 1967 the metallic green version of the Land Rover takes over as #438 from the dark green. Almost as soon as it appears it gets the cast, spoke effect wheels added and now in 1969 the dreaded Whizzwheels arrive too.

The blue Land Rover gets all three too as previously mentioned in its life as a Corgi Pony Club vehicle. At some point, I am not sure when, this apple green metallic shade comes out with Whizzwheels. I have only seen this in a black, blue and yellow rainbow style box which would indicate that it is a late edition from about 1973. It certainly seems scarce.

Corgi's farming story ends there as far as I am concerned. There was a last gasp effort in June 1973 with this awful 'Massey Ferguson 50B', cheekily numbered #50. 

This ugly model is approximately the right scale still but is just so poorly produced you simply do not want to place it on a table next to any of your other models. There is almost no detailing and it looks like a lump of cheap plastic, like a small version of the big plastic tractors that you could buy for little children to sit in. There was also a version with a shovel attachment and even Gift Sets 4 and 5.

Gift Set 4 gave you the tractor, #62 Trailer with some fences, a pile of hay, a sheepdog, two sheep and a girl and boy looking very strange. Surprisingly, there are really not many of these to be found and those that are demand high prices. I am not sure of its release date but would guess it was in late 1973.

Gift Set 5 appears to have been issued in April 1976  It is a cut-down version of Gift set 4, now missing the hay, girl and boy. This is possibly even scarcer now, being replaced by a 1:36 scale David Brown and Trailer set a few months later in 1976.

I hope this helps collectors understand what came out when, the small differences between some models and what now they need to look for or, possibly, avoid!

Monday 27 June 2016

Something else about that horsebox...

I had to consult Bertie Wooster on the matter of the Rice Beaufort Horse Box door. It was during correspondence with Andreas, the eagle-eyed collector in Germany, on the subject of these that I actually spotted something myself - how small the door seemed to be on this #112 model! It is not often that Corgi make mistakes but this is clearly wrong.

I include below a photo of a real trailer and you'll see the difference. I think I can see how it arose: there are several variations of this trailer and I have seen some which appear significantly bigger and certainly taller, like the second one shown below.

This door more or less matches the #112 model but the whole trailer is much taller and has a different design at the font. So I reckon the designers have started with one and finished with another!

Surfing in Cornwall, a Circus in Surrey and a Marina in Wales.

Luxulyan sounds like it ought to be in some exotic place like Burma or Paraguay but it is actually a Cornish village. The delightful little Austin Mini Countryman has arrived, complete with surf boards but not the slightly scary-looking surfer. Cornwall has some smart surfing spots so it is sort of the right place to go and, although Luxulyan is inland, nowhere in Cornwall is far from the sea.

Tadworth welcomes Chipperfields Circus with Gift Set 19 and the Horse Transporter having plenty of room in the leafy Surrey outskirts of town. These were boxed items from a Derbyshire collector - the models being in super condition but the boxes had suffered a bit over the years. Either that or the elephant and six horses had been tucking into the flaps!

Now, much of Wales is beautiful but this little Wrexham street doesn't show the nation's scenery at its best. The bright lime green metallic paint on the old Marina does, however, brighten up the place a bit! Yes, Corgi did make a Morris Marina. They probably regretted it later, especially with those awful Whizzwheels! I am trying imagine a child in 1971, walking into a toy shop clutching 50p and choosing to walk out with this in a bag rather than a Porsche 911 Targa which was the same price and new on the shelves that year too.

An extra 6p would have got him a Beach Buggy and Sailing Boat Gift Set 26 (which, incidentally, I am still trying to find for myself forty five years later!)

To be honest, there wasn't a great deal of choice in one of the bad years for Corgi. 1971 was the year of ridiculous dragsters, the dreadful Ford Mustang 'Organ Grinder', the appalling Mercedes C111 and thickly orange painted Bond Bug as well as strangely sized models of a Marcos Mantis and the DAF City Car, which might have been management's way of preparing kids for the 1:36 stuff that would appear the following summer. 1971 did see the lovely Citroen SM emerge to rescue the Corgi image a little but it had to compete with Basil Brush's horrid adaptation of the #9031 Renault 12/16.

Writing this I think I might take a look at each Corgi year. That would be a nice way to mark their 60th Anniversary, especially if I stick to the best of each year's releases!

Pony trailers and horse boxes

Life was fairly simple at the beginning when in early 1958 you could have bought just two types of the Rice's Pony Trailer - cream with red mudguards or red with black.

They will also have had fixed wheels and a piece of wire acting as the drawbar. These early models were drawn by a green Land Rover #406 with a tan tin rear cover. (That was also the only #406 with a rear cover).

In December 1962 the #438 Land Rover with suspension appears and early Gift Sets had a dark green one with a cream plastic cover pulling red pony trailers. These were replaced by a fawn brown pair, the pony trailer having silver mudguards and a solid silver drawbar. The trailer still did not have suspension but the wheels were now free spinning.

A new Gift Set comes out in time for Christmas 1968, a mere ten years after (no, not the band, they didn't hit the charts until 1970). This is Gift Set 15, designated Corgi Pony Club and has a new trailer, now described as Rice's Beaufort Double Horse Box. It's a splendid affair with two ramps, each with cork matting and the wider trailer has a clever partition that can be moved to ensure just one horse exits or enters at each side. This version also gets suspension.

The horse box is #112 and becomes available to buy in its own box in early 1969. These all seem to have had the attractive cast, spoke-effect wheels familiar to collectors at that time. The early Land Rovers, however, still had the normal wheels. I don't know when they got the cast type but the normal wheel are not that easy to find now so I suspect they were not around for long. All the blue Land Rovers with normal or cast wheels had grey plastic tow bars.

I have not yet seen or heard of the trailer with normal wheels and suspect that it does not exist with them

What did surprise me, though, when looking around, was the use of the eight-spoke wheels on some of these trailers! These also differed in having a black coupling. I have only ever seen red couplings on the others. Again, I have no idea when these were introduced. It is, I suppose, even feasible that they preceded the spoke effect ones as these eight spoke wheels look the same as those used on the 1967 Maserati #156 and also its replacement #159 which was also issued at the same time as the trailer.

Then, sometime from 1970 onwards, I cannot be sure when, Corgi fit Whizzwheels to both the Land Rover and the horse box, each retaining its catalogue number. The horse box loses suspension and the base has been slightly adjusted to ensure the thin axles stay in place. These last versions of the set are not very popular but are also not very common and have started to command quite high prices. I say 'last' versions as I am assuming that those other eight spoke wheels did, indeed, precede Whizzwheels

Although it is not clear from this photo, the trailer remains the same shade of blue as before but the Land Rover now comes in a distinctly darker shade with Whizzwheels and has a black plastic tow hook.

The two brown horses in the illustration above are probably not correct. I am pretty sure from looking at catalogues that it will have been the black horse and smaller white pony that occupied the Pony Club trailers. The #102 trailers always had a brown horse with a blue blanket on its back.

The blue 'Pony Club' Land Rover with normal wheels. I wonder if I'll ever find a trailer to match?

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Renault to Berkeley and Esprit in Kinghorn

A Renault 16 Tour De France model with camera and cameraman now parked in Berkeley, California, outside its new owner's office.

James Bond may well have been happy to try out the Lotus Esprit's diving skills in the bay nearby to its new owner's place in Kinghorn, near Kirkcaldy in Fife, Scotland.

Three Shades of Grey...

None of these Land Rovers were made in these colours but I had a few that were in need of repair and this is how they finished up. Just for a change, really.

Monday 13 June 2016

Pale blue and white

Two items in blue and white arrived this week. The first is quite a remarkable find that I couldn't resist - the 271 Ghia Mangusta De Tomaso with an original aerial. I say original but I haven't actually seen any replacements that look the correct size anyway. And I am not sure they would be that easy to fit. if they were then surely there would be far more for sale with an aerial. As it is, I'd be surprised if there were any - even the nice, new-looking boxed models have more often than not lost it.

It doesn't have a box but it looks very clean and only has tiny marks along its front edge. Otherwise it's great. I would get a reproduction box but the window type required, with its inner display bit, isn't cheap.

The second is a common little car but one that has eluded me for a couple of years.

I've had a few bronze and white Triumph Heralds, one as a boy. I liked the heavy feel and the opening bonnet was fun. I didn't really see the point of the black plastic bit. Was it an oil filler cap or the air filter? Someone actually decided to do that - it makes me smile to imagine what some of those planning meetings must have been like! Finding a blue and white one in decent condition and at a reasonable price has taken a while. There have been plenty to buy but they've all been really quite expensive. Neither colour seems to have been particularly scarce and the cars don't get broken suspension or tired like several others do so many more ought to have survived.

The only problem seems to be the tendency for paint to chip off the many sharp areas - like the headlamp surrounds and rear fins. That does often spoil the appearance of the car.

This one seems to have a bent front bumper. The whole of the lower front area provides the hinge for the bonnet and I remember one breaking when I was trying to put pieces together some time ago. So I am not going to risk trying to straighten that on this one. There are two quite different types of the Triumph Herald, obvious in how the base is fixed and how the bonnet hinges and interacts with the radiator section.

This is, though, a nice condition and original model. Quite a few I've seen have been touched up, especially in the white areas. 

Both are now for sale again and hopefully they'll find someone to give them good homes and I'll be able to afford some of the outstanding variants I still need.

I can't think of many other pale blue and white models. The 273 Rolls Royce is the closest that comes to mind but that is really not white but cream. The Morris Cowley has a much brighter blue. The Citroen DS19 'Le Dandy' Coupe is a metallic blue, as is the Oldsmobile. In fact there is only one other - and that is the Citroen Monte Carlo DS19.

Now that's interesting - another car that suffers from aerial loss!!

Friday 10 June 2016

The Magnificent Mini

One of June's arrivals is a nice green #334 Mini. These seem to go as fast as they come in and do represent what might have been the peak of the Corgi era. This was December 1968 and the engineering is tremendous. There is a lot going on in this model: doors, tilting seat backs, a sliding roof blind, opening boot and a detailed engine under an opening bonnet. Chrome running all around, just like the strip that real minis had. That is also cleverly moulded into an attractive radiator grill and even has the double bars at the corners.

Add a couple of jewelled headlamps and a consistently excellent paint finish and it looks pretty good for 7/6d, especially as The Monkeemobile, released at the same time and which didn't do anything, cost a shilling more.

The window box they came in tended to get broken easily and thrown away so they're hard to find now and most I see are unboxed. They're probably worth specialising in and getting some decent reproduction boxes for as I can see these being one of the models that will always be in demand.

The base bills it as a BMC Mini Cooper S and the box calls it a Mini 'Manifique'. I don't don't about the 'Manifique' bit but it certainly looks right for the Cooper S.

Even the badge shape is right! Amazing. There weren't that many around in those days.