Tuesday 30 August 2016

A closer look at the Morris Marina

Take a look at the back of the Corgi Catalogue for 1971-2 and you'll see on the right a Bentley, Ford Capris, Ferraris and Lamborghini, Porsche and, er... two Morris Marinas.

In May 1971 Corgi released the Morris Marina 1.8 Coupé in lime yellow-green and reddish-bronze. It was, at the time, not something you'd see on British roads as the real car was only launched at virtually the same time, 27 April that year. So it had that much in common with the gorgeous sports cars and luxury editions that surrounded it. You might have thought that the Ford Cortina Mk III GXL would have been a common sight but no, although also launched at about the same time as the Corgi model in late October 1970, a strike at the Ford factory meant that precious few cars actually got to the dealers until it ended in the summer of 1971!

The Ford also had the glamour of not only being launched in early promotion as 'Project X' but also had Graham Hill (no relation), the racing driver and commentator in the box. Well, a model of him, that is. The Marina was just the Marina.

Later to be described as one of the worst cars ever produced by one of the Top Gear team (and possibly all of them at some point), the Morris Marina did actually sell really well and was the second highest selling car in 1972. 

If you look at the range at the time, though, it was still a curious edition to come out with. Whilst it does have the dreaded ubiquitous Whizzwheels and the Mazak stamp on the base, it is quite an attractive little car and seems well-made, with opening doors, jewelled headlamps and nice chrome bumpers. I have only at this moment discovered that the front seats tilt. I doubt that Morris Marinas had adjustable backs but the whole seat could be tipped forward to let people get in the back. Being in the back of a Morris Marina Coupé would not have been a pleasant experience as the windows were fixed. There was no ventilation (except from rust in older models) and the suspension was extremely simple which meant you bounced a lot and not always in harmony with the seat or car. The back seat was a place for children really and wise parents, if they had to have a Marina, would have bought the four door saloon anyway.

The front of the Corgi model seems to show a chrome grill but actually the early editions had a solid body-coloured piece of shaped metal running the whole width on 1.8 models. The 1.3 had metal grills but they were in two distinct sections. Interestingly, a couple of years after the Corgi model was launched, Morris did, in fact, produce a model with a front end looking very similar to the model, with most having fog lamps inserted in the new grill.

The Corgi model was not particularly popular. As you can imagine, or may even recall, the more impressive names tended to have more appeal to most children but there was a thing about having a model of your dad's car and I am sure that helped the sales considerably. The Corgi model was taken off sale in 1973 after less than two years in the shops and now can be quite hard to find in nice condition. The paint is fairly tough but the rear screen is vulnerable to cracks.

Prices seem similar for each colour - and they still seem inexpensive. Maybe not for much longer.

Monday 29 August 2016

An open top Lotus Elan with cream interior

Running out of Lotus Elans now, I was looking amongst some parts that I had lying around and made this lovely looking example. It might do nicely as the alternative that I put in various Avengers sets for collectors. Having said that, Mrs Peel's car in the colour TV series had a black interior so I may just keep this for myself.

I haven't got any complete black interiors but hope to find some more models at reasonable prices before long which I can adapt. Many seem to lose seats and the steering wheel. Almost everything else is easy to replace or fix but the steering wheel isn't so I avoid any old models that don't have that in place.

The one problem with the cream interior is that it seems slightly wider than the black one. That surprised me as I thought they would all have been made at the same time from the same moulds but I guess that can't be the case. There are slots for the windows to fit in, which is a little surprising as only the hard top 319s had the cream interior. But it is just a tiny bit wider. As a consequence, the side windows are a very tight fit and they're pretty much fixed in position. So that's another reason why I'll stick to the black interiors!

Some very nice Bentleys in green and red have come in recently so I should soon be able to offer a good range of options for people who want to make their own set.

And yes, I know the registration plate needs to be cut a little closer. I have only just noticed as I write this!

Friday 26 August 2016

My First Car!

My first car was a 1960 Ford Popular in bright tomato red. It cost me £30 in 1969. I have been looking for a while for a model and finally found this Vanguard 1:43 edition which is pretty accurate, apart from being much tidier and not having any rust!

The model actually had black seats so I have swapped them for the grey interior from the dark blue model Vanguards made a little earlier.

Recently I have had a few requests to find examples of people's early cars which has been quite fun and not always very easy! I am thinking of offering this more widely as a service so if that if you think this might be of interest to anyone do please pass the word around. It may well be that the model isn't a Corgi, of course, but I will do my best to use a decent 1:43 scale model.

Now, where can I find my next car, a Wolseley 1500 in black?! 

If you want to full list of what I've had over the years it can be seen here.

LLwyngwrill, where the streets are just about wide enough for Mrs Peel's Lotus.

It would seem at first glance that Mrs Peel escaped from the concrete at Brake Unterweser and preferred the narrow streets of Llwyngwrill in Wales. However, I can now reveal that the pair in Germany are actually very good restored versions of the originals. This, however, is an original from a Gift Set 40, with plates that I added. Emma's Lotus is a little discoloured now and has evidence of one or two arguments with Hertfordshire fences during filming but this one did still have  some suspension.

Many of the streets here are so tiny that I doubt that there would have been any room for Steed's Bentley had he been invited.

Waiting for Odo in Eilum, Germany.

My friend Andi is currently exploring beaches in some wild, very wild part of Denmark, rather different to his home town of Eilum in Germany where I have had to park his lovely MGC GT.

This is a fine model but don't you wish they had just added a little black paint to the inside of the doors? I was going to suggest some plastic door inserts but decided against that as most of the cars I have from that era with those plastic inserts don't actually have them anymore!

Bond passes by unnoticed in Cannock

Somewhat less romantic a destination for James Bond and his associate in their Toyota 2000GT. Cannock in Staffordshire where, clearly, some chap in a suit firing in the street does not disturb one of the locals! That may have been because this is a late edition from China and not the original #336.

The Avengers add a little colour to Brake Unterweser

Steed and Mrs Peel float across to the extraordinarily huge dock at Brake Unterweser in Germany. So that's where all the concrete went.

Friday 19 August 2016

Keeping your end up with a Rambler Marlin

The Rambler Marlin was an impressive model, that long flowing roof to back line being quite different in those days to anything else I had in my collection. Just arrived is this very nice example with normal wheels. Nearly all these had the cast, spoke-effect wheels and this one is quite scarce.

It looks lovely but I have to admit to having to find a temporary fix for the back suspension. An elastic band did the job perfectly in terms of keeping it even for the photographs but I am not sure what to do now!

So many of these models with the plastic suspension units are failing that prices for the survivors are surely going to start rising. I am hoping that there will be a way to feed something inside to provide some support at the rear that is not as ugly as my elastic band. Suggestions welcome if you have encountered this and found a solution.

The car itself is in excellent condition. I should soon have a couple of original door inserts for it  as they have gone missing on this one and it seems far too nice to break.

A Building Contractor Set and evidence of Farmer George's retirement?

I really did not expect to find the late Massey Ferguson 50B Tractor interesting! However, as #54 it comes with a shovel attachment and I recently acquired a decent one in yellow and red with good ol' Farmer George still on the seat.

This is the fairly short-lived edition that came out in 1974 and lasted until around 1977. I have since seen another yellow and red one but it seems to have no Farmer George and the Great Book Of Corgi seems to indicate a re-issue in 1980 which that might be. I haven't got the book but maybe someone could have a look at the pictures - plates 614 and 799 - for me. There's no way he can get out so it must be a different production if it does exist.

Whatever the case, I now have a further two different versions! Neither, incidentally, have Farmer George so he definitely does seem to have retired in the late 1970s.

First is this orange tractor with a shiny silver shovel attachment and white wheels. It has a black roof, fully covered.

In every production detail this is identical to #54 from Corgi and yet it does not have the Corgi logo on the base. It has exactly the same other information, though, the 'Made in Great Britain' text and model name in the same places and style as #54. So that is a bit of a mystery as I can find no documentation for this one anywhere.

For another, however, I have found the answer. The other that has just come in is the same orange colour but with a dull metal shovel attachment. It has cream wheels, a white base that stretches up inside the cabin and the roof is entirely orange, bearing a transfer with the Block company logo.

I had thought that this might have been a special edition made for the Block company to distribute but I did have some success researching this one and discovered another Gift Set! This is actually called a Building Contractor Set 2. The tractor comes with a #440 Mazda Pick-up which also has the Block logo on its door and a concrete mixer.

This may well also be the source for the example which is slightly different. It is pretty likely but I await some confirmation if anyone knows.

I have also seen pictures of an all white version, described as a 'Marks & Spencer' edition but I have no further information. With the larger scale David Brown already issued at the time, I am surprised they bothered with these variations in 1:43 scale.

These late models may not in themselves be that interesting but the sets some of them appear in were not made in huge numbers and still seem quite reasonably priced - if you can find them, that is! It seems that the last years of Corgi as we knew it may have a few 1:43 surprises yet! The Mazda, however, is the larger 1:36 scale. At first glance they seem to go together well but then you compare the wheel sizes and, of course, the tractor's should be considerably bigger than the Mazda's!

I suppose I shall have to add the Contractor Set to my lists. I shall guess at a 1980 release date, along with the driver-less 50B but, again, I have nothing to support this. I still find the missing Corgi logo quite odd.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Let's Go To San Frans...Tilsburg

At the risk of starting a stampede towards thrift shops in Holland, I have to share the delight of a correspondent in that country. Yes, in a box of assorted toys in one of those shops where the proceeds go to good causes, charities etc. and nothing tends to cost more than a few pounds, Frans found this!

He paid the princely sum of 2 euros 50 and simply cannot believe his luck. From his quick snaps this looks to have survived extremely well. 

Although I have not seen the base, he is smart enough to be able to recognise something that has been taken apart and put together again so it is highly unlikely to be a repainted 227 or 226 with added jewels and 'aged' decals! No, to me, this looks like the real thing and a good one at that.

With these fetching £1000 without a box and several thousand with one, it is, indeed, one lucky find. 

We were wondering just what the chances were but I really don't know how many of these were, in fact, produced. I know that they were not featured in the yearly catalogue and were offered to members of the Collectors' Club by mail order only, not being sold across the counter in shops.

How scarce those orders were, however, in comparison to the known low production figures for various other items, remains a mystery. Sometimes I feel that the prices that this model fetches may be just a little too inflated with its rarity a little exaggerated which, in turn, has made it all the more desirable for some!

This will, I suspect, remain a missing item in my collection and stock for some considerable time! I have been using some images of immaculate models from QDT but I may ask Frans to take some for me to feature on the web site. I often think used examples can look more interesting than those oh so perfect models perched on immaculate boxes, striking the industry standard pose.

Late addition: I have just seen that Ebay has one for sale in rather poorer condition at around £520. Where is it? Holland!! Interesting.

Friday 12 August 2016

Things that tip and could go dump in the night

My first Unimog arrived this week and what an impressive model it turns out to be. It may look like a plastic toy in these colours but it is solid die-cast metal, weighty and very well constructed.

The suspension comprises four coil springs, pretty much like the real thing and it can be quite good fun driving it up and over assorted objects on the desk to see it in action. I have been fortunate to find a model in extremely good condition (it came in a near unmarked window box) for just a few pounds, probably because the seller thought it was the later, not so nice, model. Having said that, this one was around for a good while whereas the replacement lasted only a year or two and so that might actually be quite scarce now. 

The spring-loaded dumper flies up when the handle is turned - probably not very realistic but it does the job! I am now chasing down the other few Unimogs. There are plenty of snow ploughs around by the seems of things but I really cannot build up much enthusiasm. I'll probably get the trucks next or the later version of this.

Next in was the other Massey Ferguson 50B tractor, this time wearing a shovel attachment. Just as bland as the tractor really. The attachment doesn't stay up for wheeling around the room. I don't think t has been made to - there is a silver grab handle thing that operates the lift quite effectively and my guess is that we're expected, or should I say, we were expected, to hold that while pushing it about. Farmer George, with scarf, is still stuck in the cab there for life and not doing a great deal.

This gets the number 54 which was previously assigned to the twin track affair that I still haven't managed to acquire.

Lastly for now, here is a smart Dodge Kew Fargo truck, the second in this group that I needed. It is very similar to the #483 that came in recently. The only difference is really the tipping device instead of the beast carrier unit. I have a suspicion that the tipping part is the same part from #62, the Farm Trailer in red which came with extra depth inserts.

I have yet to examine these side by side but the photos look interestingly similar. There are, however two hydraulic pistons operating the trailer on the Dodge truck and just one of the trailer.

My Dodge truck is, like the Beast Carrier, an early version with the normal wheels. Later editions had cast, spoke effect wheels.

Like #483, #484 also suffered from poor suspension (despite the seller's assurance that it was good in the advertisement!) but I used the simple technique of straightening the transmission shaft to sort that out and it is now nice and solid. These trucks do, however, have a massive wheelbase! I can imagine that a truck left lying around could easily succumb to a parent's foot and that wouldn't help the suspension either.

Thursday 4 August 2016

Farmer George must be about 75 now

Things were really not looking good in 1973 and the release of the last of the Massey Fergusons in the 1:43 range didn't help appearances. This and its Shovel sister, that appeared the following year, are really very poor. Little detail, simply bland and not something you would have wanted to play with much as a kid either. But who's that in the cab with his scarf blowing inside the cab (presumably from the draught from the open wheel arches!)...?

Well, if it isn't good ol' Farmer George, still going strong after his first appearance way back in 1961.

And not looking a day older.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Kew Fargo Repairs

There are three Dodge Kew Fargo trucks to find: the beige and green beast carrier like this one, a blue and beige version that has Wameru stickers and zebras on the doors from the big Daktari Gift Set 14 and the tipper truck, always in white and dark blue.

The only variations seem to be the introduction of cast wheels later in their lives. I was going to remark that this is an odd addition to the range as we would never have seen one on our farms here in Britain or, for that matter, on the roads but then I remembered that we wouldn't have seen all those lovely American sports cars either! So, although this a bit of a lumbering beast, I have to welcome it.

This and the Unimogs escaped my attention earlier but now I am trying to track some decent examples down at modest prices. These Dodge trucks seem very cheap.They were not great sellers. The tipping version was more popular and yet, strangely, now is the more expensive although that might just be drawing inaccurate conclusions from the few currently available.

This one only cost a couple of pounds. It is in very good condition with just some marks on the green section and tiny paint loss on the raised bonnet edges. Its main problem seemed to be very loose axles that wobbled around and suspension that simply didn't exist! In fact, I had to look up a picture of the box to reassure myself that it should have suspension!

On examination I could see that the transmission shaft was quite bowed and that seems to have quite a lot to do with the way the axles get retained. I couldn't actually see what happened at the front but took a guess that a straighter shaft would help a lot. Now, could I remove part of it sufficiently to straighten it?

Yes! The rear axle can be released quite easily by opening slightly the two clip parts. Then it can be lifted and the shaft, with a little turning, comes out of the front section. That was nice. I had thought it might be connected under there but it isn't. Once straight it can be slotted back into place, making sure that it is positioned over, not under the front axle. Tighten the clips and all's well. The suspension now works perfectly. Another clever bit of engineering by Corgi. (OK so it went wrong but at least this was easier to fix than their later experiments with plastic!)

So if you find a cheap one and it is priced low just because the axles are rattling around and the suspension is no good then you might just get yourself a bargain!