Thursday 20 April 2017

The Pony Trailer you probably don't have

The old Corgi Pony trailers never cease to surprise me. This is a very nice example of the scarcer cream and red edition of 102 that arrived today. It's nice but didn't strike me as anything exceptional. Then I tried to open and drop down the ramp. It seemed a lot more difficult than the others I have had.

It was like there was a sort of handle missing. That, indeed, is what it was. All the other 102s that I have ever encountered have had a lump of metal at the top of the ramp that acts as a sort of handle.

This one also came with most of its box. If you look at the image carefully you'll see that the artist has drawn a ramp without a handle. So that makes me think that perhaps this is the very earliest edition which was later amended. Having said that, on the other side he has drawn a cream trailer with a black chassis so you can never really come to much of a conclusion from these.

This is another cream and red one that I have at the moment and you can see the difference. Because the one that has just arrived is in good condition it is clear that there never has been a 'handle' and it is not a simple case of something having been chipped off at some point.

So there's another 102 that you may need to add to your collection! Indeed, as the red and black one was, I think, also issued at the outset, perhaps there will be some of those without the 'handle' too.

I have read on one site that there are editions of the red and black model with a fixed drawbar instead of the wire affair. I am not at all sure that is the case and believe that there were several changes made at that time and they only applied to the brown and cream version. However, maybe you can look out in case there really is a third red and black type! 

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Seeing things in black and white.

A few years ago I read about some Bentley Continentals being green and white as opposed to green and pale apple green. Ever since then I have been trying to find one but that hasn't been easy. Firstly, people's photographs seldom show the real colours, their whites can look green and their greens white sometimes. Secondly, examples in good condition are expensive! My latest acquisitions were bought several months apart. The 'white' one certainly did look white but I needed to compare it to a nice clean alternative. Finally, last week I found a nice apple green one again and now have the two to stand next to each other.

I was delighted, and a little relieved, to see there really is a clear difference!

Much as I like the shades of apple green, and that was the model I had when I was 12, It was really always the black and silver model that I had wanted. Corgi made very few models in black. The Mercedes 220SE Coupé and Morris Mini Cooper 'Wickerwork' are the only two saloons (other than Police or Taxi vehicles) that I can think of.

The dark grey Thunderbird and Jaguar E Type are also a couple of my favourites but I think black didn't get used again. OK, Batman and the Green Hornet were black. But, like the taxis and police cars, they had to be.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray

It's not perfect but it is a copper Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray. This has taken some finding, with the few that have appeared being sold for hundreds of pounds. The missing paint will have put off the collectors who only want old shop stock and a poor description made it less obvious too.

It looks like there is a bronze as well as this copper. The bronze is a bit darker but definitely a different shade. I still have to find that one.

This model is a lovely design with a spectacular shape and the real thing is really quite impressive. Corgi's main colour was a metallic pink-cerise but the second most common colour was silver. Now, you might think that this was silver but actually it is the scarce champagne colour, noticeably lighter and with a hint of amber.

Now you'll see the difference. Below is a silver Sting Ray.

So far, you'll have seen that they all had the lovely wire wheels but the very earliest editions came with the normal shaped wheels. In a way, because they're quite unusual on this model, I quite like them and they still don't detract froma  wonderful shape.

One problem was the chrome. You'll find quite a few with yellow bumpers and bonnet inserts where the chrome finish has simply worn away. It can almost fall off some if you blow on it too hard. It does spoil the appearance and there's not a lot you can do about it.

You may also have noticed that there are no photos from the front of this model. there is a reason for that. Corgi had a cool idea of having swivelling double headlamps that could pop up just like the real thing. They look fine closed but quite odd open! Corgi didn't really get the lines right at the front, or maybe it sits too high.

Better to gaze at a real one.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

218 Aston Martin DB4 Zagato?

Here is a bit of a mystery. An Aston Martin enthusiast in Australia has been in touch to ask for help in identifying this strange model. 

Here are some photos he has sent. I'll give my first thoughts after the images but I'd welcome any comments or helpful observations.

The first thing to do is try to ignore that horrible yellow paintwork which seems very amateur and the splash marks on the base seem to indicate that the person responsible wasn't too bothered or maybe just a child. 

The base does look as if it is original and, whilst rivets can be replaced, I get the impression that it hasn't been removed. So this seems to have started life as a normal 218 Aston Martin DB4. I also believe it was a red one as there are signs of red paint underneath and that model would have had the lemon interior which also looks normal, as does the window unit.

I reckon that someone has tried to make this into an Aston Martin DB4 Zagato.

There aren't many around but here's a photo [credit] of a real car which the model does seem to resemble very closely. 

So if we were to take a red 218, file off the bumpers and shave down the wings into a smoother shape and make the rear side window look more cut-off then we would be well on the way.

I can't quite see what has been done with the rear side windows but I'm pretty sure that it is either something stuck over part of the window or just a thick bit of paint. The filing and smoothing would have taken a while and a bit of skill but with the model held in a vice and a decent file it wouldn't have been impossible. I can imagine having a go at something like that myself and quite a few kids had dads with sheds and lots of tools like that in the late 1950s and early 1960s too.

The bonnet looks as if it doesn't open but I think that may well just be the heavy paint or even glue. Underneath there are signs of the original engine element still being in place. The vent has been 'divided', presumably by someone creasing it with a hammer and chisel. That would have been a bit tricky to avoid simply flattening the vent.

Corgi did make some prototypes in the factory, messing about sometimes with existing models, and that is another possibility but I think anyone working there would have made a better job of that rear side window.

The re-shaped model would have been in a bit of a mess paintwork-wise so someone might then have used some paint remover to get rid of the rest, although I wonder if I see a red chip on the roof? It might have been mostly removed by sandpaper and the tiny red bit is nothing original at all. I can imagine the car looking quite reasonable in its bare metal state but at some point someone has decided that it should be yellow and proceeded to bash it around a fair bit as most kids did in those days. Whether that was the original owner, a child or someone completely different is unlikely ever to be known. 

So that's my theory. Can you think of a better one to help Steve from Down Under?

Update 12 April 2017

The owner has been in touch again and tells me that there are no signs of obvious 'rough filing' and the corners do seem to have been shaped symmetrically. This, together with the vent re-shaping being done rather better than I had assumed from how it appears in the photos, tends to rule out the comparatively amateur 'shed job', unless the tools were very good and the person was pretty skilled. He thinks the Corgi factory guy doing something in his spare time or, perhaps, as part of a project there, is more likely. 

Saturday 8 April 2017

Corgi Toys @ 60: Commer 5 ton Platform Lorry

This good old lorry came along in April 1957 and lasted all the way through to 1963. It was quite similar to an ERF lorry that would have been around British lanes at the same time. I wonder how many children now would be interested in having both? Then, however, I can remember lorries being really popular and one friend used to watch all the lorries going in and out of some gravel pits nearby and he could identify each and every one in great detail.

There were two colours of cab but I think the load area was always silver. My blue and silver one has the reversed shaped wheels and is a later model. The windows are nice and clear and the silver paint is excellent. There are a few chips on the blue but generally this looks brilliant.

I am still waiting to get the primrose and silver edition.

These lorries are, of course, a little small in comparison to the cars and vans, being made to a scale of 1:56. They look fine on their own or amongst like models, though. Next month will come something you can actually attach to that tow hook! 

Friday 7 April 2017

The Bedford CA Top 40!

Doing the Timeline for the RAC Land Rover made me think again about the Bedford CA range. I had been looking at which models might be the really scarce ones but I had completely ignored the variations of wheels. Sometime in late 1960 or early 1961 the shaped wheels began to appear. This was around the time that the MkII single screen Bedford CA vans were also produced so it occurred to me that there might well be a significant difference in numbers produced for some of these.

For example, the last Bedford CA was the Military Ambulance 414. This is listed as appearing first in January 1961 and, although over 130,000 were produced, you won't see many with smooth wheels as shortly after it started being made the shaped ones would have taken over.

Now, I don't know any exact dates but I've been able to make some pretty sensible guesses for significant changes. The assumptions I've made are listed below the table. This is still work in progress and this table is a 'live' table which will change if I make amendments so it should stay as current as I can make it by incorporating any readers' corrections or worthy observations.

A glance at the numbers will show us that 422s with a yellow roof and smooth wheels could be the star of the show, along with its sister with shaped wheels. The difference between the two variations of 414 are also remarkable; one being 5th scarcest and the other the most common by a long way!

I hope this is getting closer to a definitive listing of these charming little vans. We are at 40 now in the list. I know there are some others, like the half yellow, half blue 422 and possible different shades of light blue and turquoise for the 404M which I might have to include one day. The former, though, is seriously valuable and may be in the hundreds only. As for the shades, including these may have the effect of making each appear quite rare by further dividing the numbers. I can only divide them evenly without any evidence to the contrary and so may be making one appear more or less scarce than it really deserves to be! So, for now, I have resisted listing shades.


  • Shaped wheels were fitted from December 1960
  • Smooth wheels ceased being fitted after December 1961
  • Between December 1960 and December 1961 either type might have been available in equal numbers
  • Production ceased in June of the year specified in publications or, for a Mk I model that continued with the same number as a Mk II, in the month preceding the MkII version first appearance
  • The numbers produced each month remained constant through a period of production (see below)
  • Where several variations of a model exist with a similar period of production, these were distributed evenly except in the case of variations known to be very scarce.
  • Model 405 in red and 422 with a yellow roof are assumed each to represent 10% of the total production of 405 or 422 models respectively.

Update 12 April 2017:

It was clear that some initial research was producing rather different degrees of scarcity with, for instance, a lot more smooth wheels being apparent in comparison to shaped on the same edition. So I took a long, hard look at the production run possibilities again and made some changes. The main change has been to say that production started at a high level and decreased thereafter. In other words, most models of each type or variation would have been made at the start of the production period. 
I have taken what I think has to be a much more accurate guess now as to the numbers made in each of three stages: before shaped wheels, during the period when both were being fitted and the period when only shaped wheels were fitted. For some models there might just be two stages as some either ceased before shaped wheels came along or started when both might have been available.
The effect of the revised calculations can be seen in the 'live' table above and I have added a column to indicate probable scarcity. You'll see that now the stars of the show are mostly the shaped wheel types.
I still feel there is a bit of an anomaly as we see rather more smooth wheels on 414s than shaped in initial searches as to what's available at present. I would expect it to be the other way round. The latest ratio is not as extreme as my previous estimate, though, so perhaps a larger sample size will support my assumptions better.
I do believe that this is about as close as I shall ever get, in the absence of more accurate actual figures from somewhere. So I shall leave this with you and hope it inspires thought and helps those with the genuinely scarce little vans appreciate them even more.

Monday 3 April 2017

More about the RAC Land Rover

I had always thought that the fitting of shaped or smooth wheels to models in the times was pretty much a random thing. One lady on the production line might put them one way round and another the other.

In the now lengthy and fascinating RAC Land Rover debate I have been having with my German collector friend in Eilum, however, the advent of the fixed shaped wheel may prove to be the deciding element.

He points out that the first appearance of the shaped wheel in a Corgi catalogue was in the drawing of the Ford Consul Classic.

This was, indeed, the first model to have these fixed shaped wheels. In fact, I don't think I have seen a 234 model with smooth wheels. Investigating further, it looks like the old wheel, smooth on both sides, was not fitted to anything after the Chevrolet Corvair. So June 1961, when these two models were released looks like quite a critical time when everything changed in the Wheels Department. Just a little earlier the Bentley Continental had introduced us to the free spinning wheel. (I had wondered, in a previous article, what special hubs had meant in the 1961 catalogue description of the Bentley. The free-spinning wheel may have been what they meant!)

Returning to RAC Land Rover matters now, this information is important. We know that both versions of the model exist with each type of wheel - the old style smooth and new style shaped wheel. 

The first models were issued in Summer 1959 and will have had the old style smooth wheels. Whichever type that came first must have lasted until at least Summer 1961. The second type will have had to have been around from before Summer 1961 to Winter 1962 when the 416S replaces it.

Experience shows us that there are far more With Headboard models around than No Headboard which would indicate quite strongly that the first version was the With Headboard type. Editions With Headboard and shaped wheels would therefore be quite scarce.

The corollary is that editions with No Headboard came second and those with smooth wheels should also be scarce.

Because both exist with both types of wheel the changeover must have taken place at around the same time in 1961. There cannot have been many months, therefore, when those two editions were produced! This illustration may make things clearer:

I cannot imagine that both types would have been produced at the same time for very long so those periods for Type 1 with shaped wheels or Type 2 with smooth wheels are very short!

My feeling is now that I had been wrong before and my view is now that Type 1 is the With Headboard version and Type 2 is the No Headboard version.

Or perhaps you know different?!

Saturday 1 April 2017

RAC Land Rovers. Which came first?

I am having trouble determining which came first - the 416 with a headboard or the one without. I am beginning to think it might have been simpler had I considered chickens and eggs!

Usually people like QDT can be relied on for some assistance. This time, however, they contradict themselves or even have a member of staff who seemed to think one might have been a 416S missing some elements! 

The first one they say is an early variation. The second is a late version. That was a great help, folks.

I tried another Andrew, the Little Wheels chap who is also a real Land Rover enthusiast but he merely says we can find both versions. 

Looking for images of the real thing, I didn't see as many as I'd expected. What is clear, though, is that almost all the earliest Land Rovers (judging by the registrations) don't have a headboard which only begin to appear with the early 1960s Land Rovers.

So that leads me to think that Corgi would have been looking at the 1950s Land Rovers without a headboard when they were putting the plans for the model together. This would also have been a much simpler and cheaper addition to the catalogue requiring only some different paint and a few transfers. 

At this point I was heavily leaning towards the 'No headboard' version being the first issue which would have appeared in August 1959.

Then I looked at the 1959 catalogue. This is the image that the artist drew.

Yes, it's got the headboard. Now this would have been drawn way back in 1958 sometime as catalogues invariably were drafted a long time ahead of printing so he or she would have probably been looking at a pre-production model. This is, though, pretty strong evidence for the headboard version being the first issued. If the pre-production model had it then one would assume it would have been included in the process.

The 1960 catalogue still has the headboard too and, as I don't think this is a copy of an earlier image, the new drawing would now be likely to be based on the actual model.

Wheels can be confusing, especially when people talk of 'spun' hubs. The word spun is the past participle of spin so it is reasonable to interpret that as a wheel that might spin freely on its axle. Unfortunately it relates in this instance to the production process that creates the dished and slightly more realistic-looking surface and all 416 models have fixed wheels. I call them smooth and shaped. I am pretty sure that the smooth type is the earliest but at some stage the shaped type starts to be used but I have seen examples of both variations of the RAC Land Rover with both types of fixed wheel too so that doesn't help us decide either.

The two above are mine with flat, smooth wheels. Below are a couple from QDT which each have the later shaped wheels.

Had you consulted Vectis, by the way, then you could have been completely led astray with one recent item they had up for auction, showing a 416 with headboard and a 416S box which clearly illustrates the 416!!

Maybe some other model makers can help. Here is the Budgie model that was released in 1963. So just as Corgi issue their 416S without a headboard (and, thank Heavens, it never does get one!) Budgie are issuing their version with a headboard.

I was about to give up and go back to wondering who you'd call if you broke down in Kazakhstan on a Saturday morning when I looked again at the boxes.

Scroll up again and look at the two 416 boxes. The No headboard editions all seem to have been supplied in temporary boxes with no picture and with a separately printed number and title on the end. The with headboard edition have the normal illustrated box. Looking around, all the examples of no headboard Land Rovers appear with the temporary boxes.

In my mind, this confirms my original opinion that the very first 1959 editions were those without a headboard and sometime later that year the illustrated boxes come out with the headboard edition inside.

The transition to 416S came in December 1962 and this is a simple, normal 438 type Land Rover with just a hole for an aerial and some different paintwork and blue plastic canopy. This would have been relatively easy to produce along with all the other revised Land Rovers that came out at around this time. The 1963 Catalogue shows the revised image. It isn't quite right as it shows the old style of bumper but, again. this would have been drawn sometime before the actual model was issued so was probably the artist's best guess or even just an update of his or her old image from a few years ago!

My collector friend in Eilum, Germany, has just acquired a really nice 416 without a headboard for a crazily cheap price and asked the question. I have to admit that I really don't know the answer for sure. Maybe some other reader will?

There are good cases to be made for both.