Friday 23 September 2016

A tale of two colours

I thought I had a pretty good knowledge of Land Rover colours and had managed to acquire examples of each so I was delighted but slightly astonished to find another shade of metallic green. There were two items for sale from different vendors - one with Whizzwheels and one with cast wheels. As the Whizzwheels one was only a few pounds and available to buy rather than bid for I paid there and then.

It looked like a distinctly more golden, rich shade of green to the blue-green that I already had. I unwrapped the parcel that came today and it looked a bit worn with some scratches on the roof and had a broken screen that I hadn't noticed but, "Never mind," I told myself, "it was not expensive and it's a nice new shade."

I was about to take some photos of this new addition to the catalogue when I paused and wondered. Was it really different? "Yes, of course it is," I said to myself. To settle the matter and, indeed, to demonstrate the new shade in an article I would be writing soon to tell you all about this, I went and retrieved the other metallic green Whizzwheels Land Rover that I had.

As I took it out of the cabinet and headed back to my desk I remember thinking how much more of a turquoise-blue-green the one I carried was compared to the golden green of the other that was sitting on the desk. I set them down next to each other. Oh. 

They were exactly the same colour!

I mean exactly. Not a shade more blue nor a shade more golden. These were both the familiar blue-green metallic shade. I had bought a second and rather tatty example of something I already had. And it hadn't been until actually placing them side by side that I had realised.

So there's a warning for us all! The photos above are of my stock item and, from Ebay, the 'richer, brighter green' shade I thought I was buying. I guess the cream-yellow paper that the vendor's model was sitting on had affected the image. I can just hit remove colour cast in my software but most people these days just take some snaps and upload them without paying too much attention to what they look like.

The new one does have a black plastic tow-bar as opposed to the grey of my other one so I suppose it'll have to stay but you won't, I am afraid to say, be getting an imminent article of new Land Rover shades after all.

I am still convinced that there is a fairly 'normal' green 438 with normal wheels as well as the dark green shades I have so maybe that will turn out to be real after all and I can write about them instead. I read that a version for the Agricultural Set was what QDT described as a 'correct' lighter shade but it might have merely meant that the set had the green 406 rather than the dark green 438. I have one possible candidate to buy so, as I said, there may be an article after all.

On the subject of colours of Land Rovers, my friend Anders in Germany spotted this a couple of days ago. It looks like a nice 416S in Tours Secours mode, the Belgian equivalent of our RAC. 

This is my old 416 version. You would have expected the revised version to use the same colours now wouldn't you? It did strike me as remarkably like someone had taken a fawn 438 from the later Gift Set 2, detached the pony trailer, added some transfers and an aerial and a grey canopy. In fact, I was so sure that this had been the case that I had a go at making one myself.

I sat back to admire the excellent job I thought I had made and then realised that there, on the bonnet, was a pretty damn obvious difference! So, after all, it would seem that the advertised model is real. Incidentally, it is currently only £82 but by the time you read this it will probably have sold for many times that figure.

Returning to the metallic blue-green colour now, where we started this article, I feel I must share with you my frustration at the prices people ask for the 'LEPRA' version of the Land Rover. Now this is, surely, something I could put together in a matter of minutes? The transfers are easy to find and only need to go on the canopy. Unless I am missing something again, the vehicle is identical in every other respect to the 438 that I now have several of.

This is one currently advertised at several hundred pounds. It may be real but how on Earth will anyone know? I accept that the 'LEPRA' may well be super rare but I would want some definitive proof that it was genuine before buying one. Did it not have a special box?

Thursday 22 September 2016

The Bedford CA Van. More than just split or single screens.

Corgi's Bedford CA Vans were an odd group indeed. The first were released with the very first models in 1956 with more following the next year and an update to single screen versions of some models in 1960 and 1961.

By the time I started my collection only one or two later editions were still around and they never had a great deal of appeal, looking terribly old-fashioned and even on the streets around Hertfordshire they weren't a regular sight any more. It has only been since starting this project that I have come to quite like these old vans and realised that there is a lot more to them than first meets the eye.

Never very great sellers anyway, the variations mean that we are talking of some seriously scarce items in amongst this group and, perhaps, once people start to realise that, prices will increase quite a bit.

The first, split screen models had two distinct radiator grill styles: one with a curved edge at the top and the other being quite straight. My guess is that the curved one was their first issue, later corrected to the more accurate straight edge. 

Both types can be found on the same model for some issues. Whether that applies to all the first types I don't know. That is something I am currently researching and, fortunately, don't need to buy models to see. So far it has been on the 404M Dormobile and 405 Fire Tender that I have seen both types. 403M I have only seen with the straight edge and all the others are curved. However, it is early days and I am sure there will be more to report on that aspect.

At the rear of these models you will also find some differences. Those with the earlier curved grill have lights below what looks like a bumper on each side. This area is smooth on the straight edge types.

Here is another variation. The left had model is a straight edge grill but it has a semblance of lights at the rear rather than a completely smooth finish and this has a sort of step in the casting. It looks like someone has twisted the edge but, no, it is an intentional bit of casting. This is the only example I've seen so far with the step.

Underneath you will find differences too. The non-mechanical models have the familiar tin base with the text embossed in it. As the illustration shows, late editions have a much crisper, sharper type of embossing, presumably achieved with some new equipment. The font is also quite different. This example is from a 423, probably near the end of its production life in 1962.

Still underneath, there were just three mechanical models with friction motors: 403M, 404M and 405M. These were very poor sellers, the 405M Fire Tender apparently being the best but that only sold 116000. This is not much more than half of the Mobilgas Tanker's sales at the time - a much more expensive item too - just to put it in perspective. 

Amongst these you will also see variations. The two on the left have 'British Made' on the base and the other two 'Patent Pending'. The way that the front axle is retained is different too with either open or closed 'leaf springs'.

As you may have noticed, these variations can be found within a model range, with both 404M models showing different bases here.

All in all, these variations mean that already small production figures become really significantly low in some instances. I have done my best to estimate the likely production numbers of each type based on the totals that are available and the length of time each type was likely to have been around. They are not definitive but should be a good indication of how many might have been produced.

No.ModelColourGrill or model typeEstimated prodn
405Bedford Utilecon AFS Tenderredcurved17000
412Bedford Utilecon Ambulance Mk2off-whiteII24400
404MBedford Personnel Carrier pale bluecurved33000
404MBedford Personnel Carrier pale bluestraight66000
422Bedford Van "Corgi Toys"yellow / blueII67000
404Bedford Personnel Carrier Mk2blue / yellowII67375
421Bedford 'Evening Standard' Vanblack / silverII74000
405Bedford Utilecon AFS Tendergreenstraight76500
405Bedford Utilecon AFS Tendergreencurved76500
423Bedford Fire Tender Mk 2redII84200
412Bedford Utilecon Ambulance off-whitecurved97600
403MBedford "KLG Plugs" Vanredstraight99000
408Bedford "AA Road Service" Van Mk2yellow and blackII100000
405MBedford "Fire Dept"redcurved116000
414Bedford "Military Ambulance"khakiII132000
408Bedford "AA Road Service" Vanyellow and blackcurved156000
404Bedford Personnel Carrierdark metallic cerisecurved165625
403Bedford Daily Express Vandk bluecurved167000

For comparison purposes, the much sought after 500 Land Rover is stated as having sold 17000 and a 242 yellow Fiat Ghia 600 Jolly 49000.

I haven't even mentioned the different colour schemes used for the two-colour models like the (already quite scarce) 422 'Corgi Toys' Van. Some of these are now fetching vast sums. There are also examples of many models with shaped wheels, all later editions, and these are beginning to get recognised as worth looking out for. If you were to break down the numbers above even further for the different types of wheels then you can see how comparatively scarce some really are. 

Generally, though, these unattractive little lumps are not making much money unless they are perfect in boxes so it is a good time to catch a few while you can. There really are not many around, you know.

Saturday 17 September 2016

'Det er lidt dyrt' as they would say in Denmark.

You could have bought the Jaguar 2.4 Litre shown above today on Ebay at £1450. Or you could buy mine, below, for £60.

Now, I will admit that my old box isn't up to much but the car is original and looks pretty good. The advertiser claims that his one comes from Marcel Van Cleemput's collection, which is entirely possible but I don't see how that makes it worth one thousand three hundred and ninety pounds more than mine.

An immaculate model in a nice crisp box might be worth £150. Toymart only quote £101 for A+/A+ although that seems rather low. I would happily buy several at that price! But not £1450. Even if Mr Van Cleemput did have it on his shelf once.

Friday 16 September 2016

You wait ages for a bus, then two come along together!

I really have no idea why Corgi felt it necessary to put Whizzwheels on a double decker London bus! Of the the vehicles in the range, apart possibly from tractors and some farm equipment, at the time a London bus is the least likely that any child would have chosen to zoom down the track.

Cost was probably the reason and sometime in 1971 the sturdy old 468 loses its jewelled lights and plastic stairway and gets chrome lights, a perspex stairway and Whizzwheels. The conductor also gets moved slightly but that's about all the changes.

With this one a slightly earlier 468 arrived with cast wheels but otherwise very similar indeed.

I already have one of these with cast wheels but bought it for a friend in Germany.

I am still looking for a nice example of the first 468 issued - the one with normal wheels and the Corgi Naturally / Corgi Classics banners.They seem to hold their prices and few have survived without chips or lost stickers.

In April 1975 468 gets replaced by 469 which is actually slightly smaller (when by rights it ought to have been bigger) and loses the driver, conductor and the louvre windows. It is altogether a far cheaper, more plastic model by then but sells in hundreds of thousands, probably millions as it is used as an effective marketing product for a whole host of brands. My guess is that they funded best part of Corgi's production costs and, for all I know, the same cast is still being used today!
I haven't yet got a 469 but will look for the first type that had Welcome to Britain or maybe Evening Standard banners.They really shouldn't be expensive.

Wednesday 14 September 2016

On The Border. Chevrolet to Roetgen.

On its way to Roetgen is the only recently acquired Chevrolet Impala with red interior. Cruising around the roads there can be confusing as one minute you're in Germany and the next it could be Belgium. As far as I can tell there are almost no indications of any border. Maybe a small EU sign or the road narrows slightly but not much else.

You can understand why some people resident in Europe's mainland seem less bothered about their national identity and may be content with some grand federal state one day. Here in Britain you get some massive display signs just for leaving a county, never mind entering Scotland, Wales or even Cornwall! Roetgen does, though, look like a nice place to live. I might have to drive the Impala after all.

Thursday 8 September 2016

The blob on the side of a Chevrolet Impala

That took longer than I had expected. Finally, decent examples of the blue Chevrolet Impala #220 with lemon and red interiors. I thought they would be quite common. Whilst there were several around they were either immaculate in boxes and cost a fortune or rather tatty.

The roof can often either get bent or twist on the thin pillars and many had that problem. The perspex seems strong for the windows but is very vulnerable at the front to getting scratched or cracked with so much exposed. Then you have to look out for those amazing fins!

These two have survived extremely well with the smallest of chips in a bumper here and there but that seems to be all. The one with red interior also has lovely shiny shaped hubs. I wish I could find a compound that would clean up old hubs like that. Maybe someone has some suggestions?

One thing you shouldn't have to worry about is the suspension which is nice and strong on just about every Impala I have encountered (except the dog grooming / poodle one which has very lively suspension for some reason I have yet to investigate).

I am still looking for a blue model with free spinning wheels. I have one in pink so they do exist but are definitely much scarcer than either of these variations.

I had often wondered what the blob was and why the side stripe seemed to change and now I can see just how well Corgi's casting people did in replicating the details.

The cast got plenty of use in Police, Taxi and Fire vehicles and the saloon gets one more release in 1965, by which time the real thing had been somewhat revised. Corgi slice it in half and insert a chrome section to provide the front grill and bumper and the whole rear section. This is only available in the toffee and cream colours and is not that common. Some sites say there was a blue one but I really don't think that exists. It may have been a trial but as far as I can tell, only this one gets to the shops.

Tuesday 6 September 2016

St. Vincents gets a Thunderbird

If you live near a church called St. Vincents in St. Leonards on Sea then what else would you drive but a Ford Thunderbird. Naturally. This is one of my rescued models, looking very smart in silver-blue with a black interior.

Saturday 3 September 2016

Four Fine Bentleys

First of the four arrivals last week was this 9004 Jeeves & Wooster edition. All totally original and spotless. It came with Jeeves and I have had Bertie standing around for quite a while as the person who bought the last one didn't want the characters.

You can spot this one quite easily with its distinctive dark crimson upholstery and dark grey rails. The steering wheel is also black. Steed's and the 9001 type were silver.

Next is something that I have put together myself with various bits and pieces I found lying around. Everything is actually original apart from the horn. You can tell a replacement horn as it has a flat end. The original ones are indented. The body on this was simply too good to throw away but it had a broken radiator emblem. It now looks as good as new and, with just one rivet well-hidden underneath that had to be extracted, few would notice it had been made from several different models.

Number three is totally original but there are a couple of chips on the bonnet and the rails have a few on the edges too. I even have an original box for this too as the item below came with one but it was the box for a 9002! Either of these 9002s would made good alternatives for Steed and so I'll be offering them without the drivers and with a replacement folded hood for the Avengers fans too.

The fourth model is a really nice 9001 with Racing Numbers. Totally original and, as far as I can see, unmarked. Even the rails are spotless. I already have one without Racing Numbers if someone wants a green one for Steed so this may well remain as a 9001 for now. The wheels are very clean too. So often they get a bit discoloured.

So, here are the things you should look out for with these models:

The radiator emblem is pretty tough but they do break. To replace them you have to take the car apart so be careful about that. The cast metal unit at the front can be susceptible to metal fatigue too so if you find a light is a bit bent be very careful about straightening it. It might well break instead so maybe leave it bent!

The screens are obvious if they're broken or missing. You can get replacements which are good but they can be fiddly to replace and often you'll break either the new screen or the dashboard so keep a few spares just in case.

Check that the handbrake is there and not wildly out of position. It can flap around a bit but avoid bending it or it will break.I haven't seen replacement handbrakes for sale so you'll need another model to take it off. It is very occasionally possible, if the base is a bit loose, to fit a new handbrake without breaking the model apart. Try prising up the small folded pieces of green (or red) metal holding the rear section in place and you may get enough movement to insert the handbrake. It can be difficult, though, getting a nice solid model that doesn't wobble afterwards so try to avoid buying one with a duff handbrake in the first place!

The horn invariably goes missing. You can get replacements for boxes on either side, with or without the horn. The boxes are held in place by two small protrusions of the body and would have been put in place before the body was attached to the chassis when it was made. However, you won't want to break it apart just to fit a new horn and box so you can cut out the old one, remove all the bits and make two small indents in the replacement part. It should then slide on but may need some glue to hold it in place.

As many of the 9001 or 9002 models are used as replacements for The Avengers Gift Set Bentley, you need to be able to recognise the difference between original and replacement folded hoods. Most replacements do not have little holes drilled to fit on the two small lugs near the back on the sides. If they are drilled then you should still be able to tell the difference. The originals had a sort of circle moulded in the plastic around the hole.

You also need to look out for signs of the Racing Numbers being removed from the rear box and radiator grill. It is possible to take them off nicely but more often than not some signs remain. The Union Jack on the passenger door, however, is not so easily scraped off. It may be better not to try if you're making a Steed alternative.

Finally, let's look at the wheels. 9001 really only came with silver steel wheels. 9002 can be found with silver steel wheels or red wheels and I have seen a few with gold wheels too although they're pretty scarce. In the original sets, Steed's Bentley is either red with silver steel wheels or green with red wheels. I am not aware of any others but, of course, over the years who knows what has been changed? So green with silver wheels is quite possible and sort of accepted generally although frowned on by purists. That's it, though. No more options. 9004 may make a lovely substitute but I am pretty sure it would not have been issued that way.

Do remember that wheels are quite easy to change. So if you see an unusual combination, that may be how it arose. 

Because prices for the sets are now so high, you really must be careful when buying one described as original. These tips may help. On the other hand, you can have fun making up alternatives yourself and, with the marvellous reproduction boxes available now, brollies and characters too, it needn't cost a fortune to make a super set of your own choosing. The models that have just come in may well all finish up in display sets. My problem these days is finding decent Lotus Elans for Mrs Peel!

Friday 2 September 2016

Three lovely models for Italy

There is a collector I would love to meet one day in Italy. Not just because he has been buying many of my best items but it really does look the most wonderful of places and I would be keen to see what else he has acquired over the years.

Today, a Bentley Continental, Jaguar E Type and Ford Mustang are heading for the streets of Manocalzati in Avellino Province. The Bentley is the gold-plated version from Gift set 20. These sets were only produced in low numbers and the individual components are some of the scarcest models, something not yet reflected in their prices. I think this can only be due to their appearance often being a little shabby as the gold plate did not usually fare well and the Ford Classic and Chevrolet Corvair, neither particularly attractive cars at the best of times, suffer most. This Bentley, however, carries its gold well and looks very smart. I now have to locate another decent example in case someone wants a Gift Set.

The E Type is the nice dark grey version with a black hard top. I don't think there ever was an official black hard top; all that I have ever seen were a sort of plum red colour. However, it does look good and I have used this combination in many places as a sort of icon for Corgi Tots of this era.

Lastly, there's a lovely Ford Mustang in Flower Power mode. This is a splendid example of #348, only the second really nice one I have had. I had been hanging on to it in the hope of finding a box but I'm happy to see it going to this good home. And maybe I'll see them again one day!

I would also like to send my sympathies and best wishes to all those affected by the dreadful earthquakes and after shocks that have taken place in the last week or so in that country.

That could be me on a Jersey stamp :)

I made a suggestion recently to Royal Mail that they should have some stamps to celebrate the hobby of collecting model cars or, at least, to include one in a set that might show hobbies like stamp collecting and other popular pastimes. I did say it would have been nice to have marked Corgi's 60th Anniversary but I suppose it was not appropriate to been seen to advertise a brand name that is still in use.

Whilst that all fell on deaf ears in the United Kingdom but it is good to see that in the British Islands (there is a difference!) someone has made an effort. The stamp illustrated is one of a July issue. The cartoon-like design isn't much to my taste but I don't know of any other stamps featuring our hobby so it does represent a start.

And here's my idea of what it ought to have looked like!

Thursday 1 September 2016

The Festival Of The Unexceptional

While writing about the Morris Marina I stumbled upon this site today. CarCountUK tells you just how many of a particular model are currently registered for use of British roads.

It is fascinating and I had great fun entering the details of all my old cars. None are quite extinct but there are only 3 of an Aufi 100GL5E that I used to own in 1981. The image shows that there are 64 Riley 4/72 cars still around. I wonder if my old one survived? Whilst there will be more that are wrapped up in museums or maybe under restoration in garages somewhere, this is a pretty good guide to what has and what hasn't survived.

I was quite surprised to see that only a handful of Morris Marinas still exist, despite it selling really well in the early 1970s, outselling even the veritable Ford Escort at one point.

There is a Festival Of The Unexceptional held each year and sponsored by an insurance company. I had not been aware of this before but, as it is held just a few miles from I live, in Whittlebury, Northamptonshire, I shall certainly make a point of going next year!

It is quite a thought that the scarcest sights on the roads here now may well be cars like a Riley Kestrel or Renault 30!