Saturday 28 January 2017

The problem with a Thunderbird.

This is something you may not often see; a full set of Ford Thunderbird Hard Tops. Whilst the pale green and cream 214 and later dark grey and maroon 214S were very popular and fairly easy to find still, the pink and black 214M is quite scarce.

It appeared in March 1959 and by all accounts production ceased later that year or very early in 1960. Only the Austin A40 216M had a shorter life amongst these models. The Mechanical editions were more expensive - a shilling was a lot in those days and represented not far off an extra 30% on the 3/6d price of the normal model.

You couldn't get the same turn of speed from the M editions either, and with a name like Thunderbird you needed a car that really could be whizzed around the carpet at speed.

There is a minor insurmountable problem, however, with these Thunderbird models. How on earth do you change a tyre on a rear wheel? Until yesterday I had not been troubled by this other than briefly in my mind; all the examples I had were sufficiently well-shod for me not to worry. This is only the second 214M that I have had. the first had a motor that was very stiff so the wheels didn't turn much anyway. This one, however, has a near-perfect motor and runs well. So having nice tyres all round was important and it arrived with some very ugly ones on the back which simply had to go.

They were exceptionally like balloons with very squashable profiles - probably why the previous owner had used them as they just about slipped through the extremely narrow gap between the wheel hub and body. As the axle is fixed it cannot slide horizontally to create a little more room. I tried very hard to fit some correct size and style tyres, using all kind of tools and a great deal of bad language at times but to no avail. I couldn't fit them - not even the quite narrow ones.

So there I am, staring at the underside of a pink and black Ford Thunderbird and wondering whether I should perhaps have left the ugly old ones on. But they really did not look right and this is such a nice car with minimal flaws that I really doubt that I'll come across a better example - and that it would be one that I would be able to afford if I did. So it has to look right. Those rear tyres have to get on.

The solution I have had to adopt is to cut the tyres, wrap them around the hub and then glue them together again. Yes, mad, I know. But what would you do?

And I am quite pleased with my work. You can hardly see the join!

Next job is to try and clean the inside of the windows! That won't be easy either.

On the subject of Morris Mini-Coopers, here's a pale blue one with yellow interior.

Regular readers will remember that I found a pale blue Morris Mini-Cooper some time ago. Now I have a second - this one has the lemon interior. (The previous one had red).

This is not the clearest of photos, I'm afraid, but trust me, it reads MORRIS MINI-COOPER.

What I think has happened here is that the production of both 226 and 227 would be running at the same time and at some point before the painting, some Mini-Cooper bases got added to the rack heading for the pale blue paint room. There would then be someone who was putting the windows in, adding the seats and then riveting the base to the body. You would have thought that it would have been noticed at the riveting stage as the 227 would normally have been bright blue or primrose underneath. Maybe if there were a batch of n tops and n bases then, rather than discard the mismatched pairs they just carried on and reckoned that no-one would mind. I am glad they did!

Of course, and you may have got there before me, this implies that there could well be nice blue and white or primrose and white Morris Mini-Minors with jewelled headlamps! That would be nice. Something else to look for!

I didn't want to sell the first one but now I have two I may let that one go if anyone would like to make an offer. I have no idea what it is worth.

Thursday 26 January 2017

BMC Mini Cooper: Austin or Morris?

I have been looking a bit more closely at some Mini Coopers recently and I have been getting a bit confused. It seems that there are both Morris and Austin versions of the 333 Sun Rally BMC Mini Cooper and 339 Monte Carlo Mini Cooper.

Here is the real Sun Rally Mini with the Cooper badge on the bonnet. It also has extended front bumper devices.

Corgi dropped the bumper extensions and have both Austin and Morris variations but no Mini Cooper badges. I guess it's understandable that they didn't have a Cooper badge ready but for such a short production run I am surprised that there are both Austin and Morris. If you look at QDT pages you'll find only Austin-badged items! That made me think that Morris might be quite scarce but I have found one or two fairly easily amongst current sales.

Despite its short run, both normal and cast wheels can be seen. I have certainly seen both types of the Austin-badged car but I think the Morris-badged cars have only been with cast wheels. So I cannot be sure but suspect that the Morris-badged 333 with normal wheels is the scarce one.

Now, for the 339. Now this is clearly a Morris Mini Cooper! It seems that the same car was driven with and without both the front bumper extensions and the roof rack with two spare wheels.

Corgi's model is pretty good, although they went a bit over the top with the roof rack. It looks like they used the roof rack from the 485 Austin Countryman issued a couple of years earlier. Unfortunately, this was far too big - the real one being just long enough to hold the two wheels and sat in the centre of the roof with clear space in front and behind. That huge chrome affair on the roof of 339 has always looked odd to me and it is sort of satisfying to discover it was wrong anyway.

Again, this model comes with Austin and Morris badges. Austin-badged models seem mostly to have normal wheels but I have seen them with cast wheels too. However, like the 333 model, the Morris badge seems only to have the later cast wheels. Again, perhaps the Morris badge with normal wheels is the scarce one, if, indeed, it exists at all.

This all started as I was looking for the different types of Mini Van - some have an Austin Countryman type of wavy grill but they are few and far between. Just to show that it can always be worthwhile doing a little research, I think I have found another Morris Mini-Minor in blue with the Morris Mini-Cooper base! That'll be the second in under a year so I'll be able to sell one of them soon. 

Now I have to set about find the missing BMC models and I had better extend the search to other 'BMC' Minis too just in case there are more examples of Austin and Morris badging on the same model.

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Bits and pieces: an Austin A60

I think I have finally found a decent 255 Austin A60 in Left Hand Drive form and this should appear here in a while. As it happens, a very poor 236 A60 arrived this morning along with some others I had bought. Often the best buys are when you have a bundle of models - one jewel among the wrecks. Well, this A60 was one of the wrecks and so it needs to be re-built and will eventually re-appear in my Black List.

While the body is sizzling in some caustic soda I thought I would have a look at the components and, remarkably, this one has survived well. The screen cleaned up really well and the suspension arms on the red plastic unit are still pliable and not bent up like so many become. When that happens the car, which already has a very low ground clearance due to its tiny wheels, loses almost all its suspension and scrapes along the ground and cannot handle anything other than the smoothest of surfaces.

So I should be able to make something nice out of this one after all. The mechanism for the steering has the same two posts as the Bentley and Mercedes-Benz where the front wheels are mounted but without the coil springs. The control is quite a sensible and strong post that slides a metal plate from side to side, providing realistic steering.

It is a pity that the external control is such an ugly ashtray affair on the roof. 

Apart from the small wheels, the Corgi model was a great representation of the real car.

Monday 16 January 2017

Traffic. No Name No Number.

I always like to see my cars going to good new homes and this one certainly seems to have done well. The little orange Mini has found favour in a huge mansion where merely the name of its new owner and the name of the road seems to be sufficient by way of address in Trouville, Normandy.

No Name No Number was a 1968 track by a group called Traffic. There isn't much traffic in Trouville.

Citroën DS19 with fog lamps

I can only guess that this was produced towards the end of the 210S run, maybe early 1965, as an update to the old front bumper that was beginning to look dated. It had been unchanged since 1957! It would evolve into #323 in Spring 1965 as the Monte Carlo Rally edition with jewels.

This example is in excellent condition but has signs of being whizzed around the floor and bumped into one or two things in its life. It must be one of very, very few that made it into the wild and is available for a modest £375.

Saturday 14 January 2017

Who's that I saw you with?

Laughing with Andi from Eilum in Germany at the way the driver in Corgi's 303S Mercedes-Benz looks a bit too tall and has to peer over the screen, I wondered how many other characters had featured in the range. We do have to start with good ol' Farmer George, of course, who lasted from almost the start to the finish and never aged a day! There will be some other familiar characters too but, just for fun, here are all that I can think of and can you identify the models?

Yes, I know, most are pretty easy and you can always cheat by downloading the file and the filename will give you the answer. To help you, these are more or less in catalogue number order as well, with Gift Sets at the end.

I think I have still missed one or two - like a Bulldozer driver or workman but this is the best I can do today. And it all took a great deal longer than I had anticipated!