Saturday 30 July 2016

Corgi Toys remembered by New Romantic

Nice to hear Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet fame reminiscing about his collection of Corgi Toys on Radio 2 this morning with Ferne Cotton.

He was remembering how a friend's father worked at the Corgi Toys factory in Wales and regularly would come round laden with examples of new products. Martin claims to still have the famous TV Series models like The Avengers and Batmobile but would love to get back some of the normal ones that he used to race around the carpet.

I have, of course, sent his Twitter account a link to my web site!

This old Corgi romantic would be delighted to have the New Romantic as a customer one day!

Thursday 28 July 2016

Nice Corgi Toys for less than a fiver

I don't like to see wrecked models go to waste and, as mentioned, in an earlier post, this Mini arrived in a sorry state with some other items I had bought.

I am not a professional restorer and do not claim to be particularly good at painting but I am delighted with how this #339 has turned out. Yes, it has the wrong number and there probably wasn't a white Morris Mini Cooper in the Rally that the transfers refer to but I think it looks great.

I left the base in its original red colour because I didn't want to remove the axles and suspension wires. It looks interesting like that.

The roof rack I had lying around. I had ordered this for an Austin Countryman but it didn't fit. It does fit this, however, perfectly. I just need a couple of small cast wheels and the stub axles or pins but for now the spare tyres look fine.

Another car rescued at virtually no cost!

While I was at it I completed the rebuild of that Ghia I had taken to bits and repaired the suspension on. It was also in a very sad state and, as I had always wondered what a silver one would look like, I decided to make one myself! This works really well. The interior might be better in red but this is a fine looking model in silver.

Another almost free rescue. I do not know what I'll do with these but they look good on the shelf for now.

It does occur to me, as I gaze at the crazy prices some Corgi models now go for, that a new collector could do very well by purchasing cheap examples in poor condition and making a collection of rescued cars and things. I am not a fan of 'restored' models but I do like ones that are slightly different. I cannot explain why. My original intention was, indeed, to do just that; restore models, but I soon changed my mind. I so much prefer to have a slightly played-with example to an immaculate restoration. But if someone has changed the colour or changed it slightly then that's all good. Odd. I don't pretend to know why I feel that way but there you go. The only exception I can think of is Mrs Peel's Lotus where I do make some white versions for the popular Gift Set 40. They do need to look right and I feel a chipped old model doesn't look right next to the usually pristine Bentley in a nice crisp box.

So, as I said, a new collector who isn't rolling in money could build a fascinating collection that way which would be challenging still, provide something to do (find spare parts, understand how to repair some bits and which ones to avoid!) and I am sure they would make an attractive display.

I spend very little on my rescued models. Some paint and occasionally a window unit. I have a stock of tyres, jewels and aerials which gets replenished from time to time. Those that need chrome elements like the Sting Ray or Mustang can be expensive but the others seldom cost more than £5 at the most. The cars themselves are usually pretty much free if they come with something you want or job lots can be brilliant value. Or just try bidding up to just a few pounds for something that looks a bit sad but is generally sound.

Your collection will, I think, prove a lot more interesting and desirable in future years than a bundle of cheap, recent productions. I am experiencing this myself at present with Vanguards. More about them next time.

Mercedes-Benz 220SE

It's funny how things work out. When I started rebuilding my collection, one of the very first models I bought was the metallic blue Mercedes 220SE. I hadn't even appreciated before that there had, in fact, been a second version of #230 that didn't have steering and was slightly different here and there. Now, some considerable time later, I am nearing the end of my wants list and it has been the metallic cerise version that has been a long time coming.

There have been quite a few available but all were either as new and priced at well over £100 or looked a bit messy, often missing the radiator emblem.

The one I have bought is not perfect and I have to say it looks a bit dull. I would like to get a brighter one so I am still looking but this will fill the gap in the list for now.

I've also recently acquired the Great Book Of Corgi Pocket Book, an 80 page list of all that was Corgi until 1983, but if anyone has been relying on that for their lists then it is strangely rather lacking, I'm afraid. For example, it only lists 'red' as the colours available for this #253 model but includes a 'dark blue' for #230. My goodness, what I would give to find a dark blue #230! At the same time it proclaims there was also the release of a metallic red E Type! More on that in another article.

I do wonder why Corgi stopped making the steering version after a couple of years or so. The Bentley was the only other car with steering of that type and was very popular. It is one of the models you can almost guarantee a child had in those days. I had the green and cream one but always wanted the black and grey one. Then there was the Ecurie Ecosse Racing Transporter. I desperately wanted one of these - really only because it had that steering. That, too, was a popular and much-loved model, albeit rather expensive at the time. I can only imagine that there was a need to add the window pillar or amend the boot line which would require a new casting and expense and so they ditched the intricate steering to cover that cost.

Things were going very well for the business in 1963 when the decision would have been taken so I cannot imagine it was purely on the grounds of the expensive steering. They could simply have dropped the model and made something else - they had the Pullman 600 coming along and could have revived the SL -perhaps a Competition version with some extras, which would also have been well-received.

If anyone does know about a dark blue #230 do let me know.

Thursday 21 July 2016

Cream of The Man From U.N.C.L.E crop

Thanks to my friend Andi in Kneitlingen, Germany, I have finally managed to acquire a cream Oldsmobile Man From U.N.C.L.E car. He is particularly expert at spotting interesting items in groups of several models. This was in with a curious selection of pretty dreadful-looking things - a Fiat 1800, Ferrari Berlinetta really badly repainted and two Minis that were almost unrecognisable Corgis, a Maserati missing several parts and a couple of reasonably good blue Mercedes-Benz 350SLs.

At just 40 Euros, though, this lot was cheap and the other items were much of a bonus, really. So he kept the two Mercedes and another item and sent me the Oldsmobile and three or four wrecks.

Now, I knew these cream versions were hard to come by. Almost every one I have encountered during the last year or two has been a repainted blue one! they are quite cheap and easy to find and, of course, cream is easy to do. A glance at Toymart's price guide shows just how expensive these are.

QDT also list a few they have sold recently and they're all between £900 and £1400. OK, that's with an original box and everything is more or less immaculate but the prices seem to hold up even without the box or the Waverley ring. This one is probably in good C grade condition so could be worth well into three figures! That's quite a pleasant surprise.

Now I have to decide whether to get a reproduction box and a ring. It might be worthwhile.

Now, just for fun, let's take a look at the other items.

Here's the Fiat 1800. It doesn't look too bad in the photo but the paintwork really is rough and like orange peel all over. It's turning white now.

The Ferrari is a mess but, again, somehow looks OK in this picture. I like the white colour but it could be a lot better finished and that's now under way.

Even the Mini looks vaguely OK here. But it really isn't. At first it was a bit of a mystery with four fog lamps, cast wheels and the front bumper extension.

Once the paint had been removed it was clear. It was a 339 model with the roof rack holes filled! Luckily, I have a spare roof rack that someone supplied me in error when I had ordered one for the Austin Countryman (which has a slightly different holes and profile) so now I can put that to good use. I don't have any cast spare wheels though so I may have to find something else to go in the rack!

I don't do 'restorations' and always try to pick a new colour for a model I have to respray. I had some white left so that should do nicely. I have some transfers too which may not be strictly accurate but it should come out looking a lot smarter and, hopefully, not drooping at the rear either!

I have also been spraying a Ghia but I did promise not to write about them for a while so you'll have to wait. No it isn't white! Although it would look good in white.

Andi has now found another group that includes another item on my wanted list! This looks a much trickier operation to ensure we don't spend too much and finish up with a pile of stuff we don't really want. If it comes off then you'll read about that here and there may be some bargain originals for sale in a few days - at least the extra items are not from the repainters' shop this time!

Saturday 16 July 2016

How big is that doggy in the window...?

Now I did say I wouldn't write any more about Ghias. I've just noticed something, though, which I ought to share with you: there are different sizes of dogs!

I expect there will be some of you who are now shouting at the screen words to the effect that you have known that since 1963, interspersed with extracts from the medical dictionary, but there may be some who had not appreciated this difference.

The blue model on the left has a significantly larger dog than the others.

The larger dog also appears to be looking slightly downwards and at a more oblique angle to the ninety degrees of the smaller one.

It would seem that the larger dog comes with the red interior and the cream interior has the smaller dog. My examples of the lemon gold edition have been sold so I do not have them to hand to refer to but the photos I have seem to show the smaller dog.

At first I also thought I could see a difference between the two on the gold models' back shelves but now I think it is just how they've become positioned.

These two, however, clearly show the different types.

So now there may be something else to look out for. Could there be red interior with small dogs or cream interiors with big dogs?

We now also have to ask the question whether there are different dogs in the Ford Mustang or Fiat Ghia Jolly. I think they all have the smaller dog. This would seem to indicate that a change was made at some time between 1963 and 1965 when the Fiat and Mustang were released.

Oh dear I have just found a red interior with the same size (small) dog as is affixed to a cream interior I have. So my theory about red interiors all having big dogs is not correct. Photos will follow tomorrow.

Friday 15 July 2016

Mercedes 350SL in three colours, and counting.

The Mercedes 350Sl, #393, may be a Whizzwheels model and even has a Mazak stamp on the base but it is one of the nicer models from the late years. This was a long-lived model presumably because it was popular.

The first colour available was a bright mid blue metallic with a pale blue interior. It had the type of wheel that, whilst fitted to quite a few other models, was not as ubiquitously dreadful as the first type of black plastic rubbish. These wheels actually looked quite smart.

A white version was also available in the early days but this is noticeably more difficult to find and I can only assume that it was not produced in great numbers. Both the white and blue look great and really quite accurate models of the real thing. Perhaps the real 350SL was a bit wider and flatter but this certainly looked the part. The white version also had the pale blue interior and that worked well.

Corgi added some chrome surround to the windows too. It was a bit thick but not too disastrous although I would have probably said forget that addition if I'd been in any position to be listened to!

There is, however, a third shade that is not often seen. It is a fairly tedious pale metallic green and is coupled with an awful brown interior. Now the brown interior may well be an accurate depiction of the leather but it simply looks a bit dirty when viewed next to that particular shade of green.

This example came from someone in Canada and the only other I have seen for sale was in the States so perhaps most of these green ones were shipped abroad. It is a later version too as you can see from the more detailed and generally much better produced wheels.

My white Mercedes went almost as soon as I got it and I am not sure how long this green one will stay in stock either. The blues are more common but there appear to be quite a few variations to look out for. As well as later wheel types there are also distinctly different shades of blue, one in particular being a lot darker and which I think is a late edition which I am looking out for.

At the moment these seem very reasonably priced. Whizzwheel models, of course, are either liked or hated but seldom loved. So the apparently run-of-the-mill models like these in blue are still going for very modest prices. Some, especially those where people have realised how short a life span they had, are now beginning to command prices similar to the rest of the range. The white and green versions of this model are worth collecting and, so too, I think, could some of the shades of blue.

More shades of Ghia blue.

I promise to stop writing about these Ghias soon! It's just that I found a nice silver-blue one rather more quickly than I had expected. Apart from some flaking chrome on the bumpers it is in excellent condition and was not at all expensive.

The photograph here shows clearly that this is a distinctly different colour, the darker blue being the shade that I seem to encounter most on my travels.

A colleague did send me a link to an even more 'silver' shade so I shall keep on the look out for a lighter shade too but I am pretty certain that reports of just silver are based on either repaints or maybe a factory sample.

Now I just need to find that very deep shade that I have seen here and there. In fact I may need both the deep turquoise and also a rich deep blue that I think I have seen but I couldn't tell whether it was a repaint in that case.

Monday 11 July 2016

The Problem With Ghias

One of my Ghia L6.4 models was in pretty poor shape so I took it to bits. Now it becomes clear how the bonnet push-up and boot spring work - a cleverly shaped and fitted piece of plastic does the job and also provides suspension. Or, at least, it ought to provide suspension but the plastic cracks at the sharp bend - seen in the illustration facing towards us - and then provides precious little, if any, resistance to the axle moving upwards.

So now it is clear why so many Ghia L6.4s sit hunched on display with their wheels almost buried in the wings. It is a very clever design - also providing door closure - but I do wish that Corgi had used metal. I guess no-one expected either the plastic to suffer like that or, perhaps, that anyone would care after over 50 years!

Those plastic suspemsion elements are not easy to replace on this model. On some, like the Ford Mustang or Austin Cambridge, there is unit that sits on the chassis and can simply be lifted out but these have metal fixings which would have to be drilled out. It's not impossible but I have no idea where you'd get replacements! 

I have a simple solution which seems to work and ought to last for a good length of time; pieces of rubber inserted to keep the top and bottom parts separated and also to provide some suspension. If the plastic has actually broken at the bend then this would still work but I think one side of the insert would have to be glued in place.

You can also see how the variations of bonnet / boot inserts and interior colours can easily arise. It doesn't excuse the use of red door inserts with a cream interior though!

Not being able to remove the jewelled headlamps is a bit of a nuisance and makes preparation and respraying more awkward but at least the new model will look good. Now, what colour should it be?

Saturday 9 July 2016

Corgi Toys at Sixty: the first issues remembered.

Sixty years ago, on 9 July 1956, seven cars, three vans and two lorries appeared on the shelves of toys shops in Britain. These were the first Corgi Toys, 'the ones with windows' as they were promoted and the collections of thousands of young children began.

To mark this anniversary I shall feature each release, in order, so we can relive the range's development over the first year or two. The photographs will be of models in my own collection wherever possible. I won't feature every variation or I would never finish in some months! I am pretty sure these were the colours first available for the cars - the two-tone finishes came a few years later.

200M Ford Consul

200 Ford Consul

200M Ford Consul

201M Austin Cambridge

201 austin Cambridge

202M Morris Cowley

202 Morris Cowley

203 Vauxhall Velox

203M Vauxhall Velox

205M Rover 90

205 Rover 90

206 Riley Pathfinder

206M Riley Pathfinder

207 Hillman Husky

207M Hillman Huxky

207M Hillman Husky

300 Austin Healey

300 Austin Healey

301 Triumph TR2

301 Triumph TR2

403 Bedford CA Van

403M Bedford CA Van

404M Bedford CA Dormobile

404 Bedford Dormobile

405 Bedford CA Fire Tender

405M Bedford Fire Tender

452 Commer 5T Dropside Lorry

Commer 5T Refrigerated Van