Wednesday 28 June 2017

That's ridiculous, Steed.

I saw this Avengers Set advertised recently and, coupled with a conversation with a correspondent who is far more expert than I am in matters of the TV series, decided that I needed to write something on the subject of reproduction models of John Steed and Mrs Emma Peel.

Just look at the stupid expression on Mrs Peel's face and there is something decidedly strange about Steed which could even get him a part in a Dr Who episode requiring Cybermen. These are dreadful, really quite bad and we need to stop buying them. Now, let's take a closer look at Steed.

In the image above the same reproduction character is in the driving seat of Bertie Wooster's Bentley, sitting next to Jeeves. Look carefully and you'll see that these are both from the same cast. Jeeves is an original, by the way, so looks better anyway but the jacket style, bowler inclination and arm positions are the same. It seems that these idiot suppliers of spare parts couldn't be bothered to find a real Steed to copy and just reckoned we would all be happy with Jeeves in a brown suit. Well, we shouldn't be.

Here is Steed as he should be, albeit in need of a wash and brush-up perhaps. This and the one below are originals and you'll see the distinctly different clothes - there's a waistcoat, no flower in the lapel, an angled bowler and a quite different expression on his face. Not visible here are his hands which are closed and not well detailed, whereas Jeeves' are more slender.

Steed can be found in both the sage-brown and grey shades. I suspect that the sage-brown is the older of the two but I have no evidence for this. Below are some more pictures that emphasis the differences and which may help you to avoid the reproductions for years to come. They also show something else that I am not sure about - the screens on Bentleys have pips at each top corner, presumably to help keep the hood in position on the 9001 and 9002 models. On the Gift Set 40 Bentleys and the 9004 Jeeves & Wooster Bentley they seem to be missing in many cases - but not all. The reproduction screens are quite easy to spot. They're not bad but are less well-finished and have more rounded corners and no pips. An example can be seen on the red Bentley below.

And here is Steed in a 9001 Bentley that didn't have racing numbers or a flag on the passenger door. This made it a good candidate for a set but the tell-tale pip remains on one corner! Of course, the sets would only have had a green Bentley with red wheels but I do feel the green one with normal steel wheels is an acceptable alternative for display.

Generally, reproductions of Mrs Peel that I have had myself have been pretty good. In fact, I am not sure I can tell which of these three is a reproduction. I used to think that it was only those with the triple line on the flared trousers that were original but now I am pretty sure that those with a single line could also be original. Sometimes she can seem to be just a little too white and that makes me suspicious but most are not at all obvious.

However, the dreadful attempt at painting illustrated at the beginning of this piece is, indeed, obvious and we need to avoid those like the plague. Another problem is that of size. Below you'll see a range of five Emmas: the two at each end being reproductions made the incorrect size. At least they were reasonably well-painted, though.

Whilst on the topic of characters, my correspondent also told  me that several characters were, indeed, recycled by Corgi and that was something I had not realised before. He tells me that the 215S Ford Thunderbird convertible driver was later chopped and fitted without legs in The Saint's Volvo P1800. I doubt that Sir Roger Moore would have been happy with that.

I also looked the 303S Mercedes-Benz300 Open Tourer and reckon that has the same chap driving too. There may well be several others where Corgi have used the same mould for more than one character. One thing is certain, however, and I hope suppliers will now take note - Steed and Jeeves are most definitely not the same character!

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Just when you thought you had the Commer buses, two more come along.

I have to thank my friend Herr Richter in Germany for telling me about second versions of the Commer Film Services Van and Holiday Bus which had actually been there in my catalogue but may have otherwise remained unnoticed. What I presume will be later versions had a centre support bar in the device below the rear bumper.

This was first spotted when he saw the different cut-out section in the camera platform on the Samuelsons Film Service Van. Often these days, the platform and camera have disappeared so you need to buy them separately. Now you know that you need to be careful to get the right platform! 

This is not relevant for the Holiday Bus, of course, but that also has the two different versions.

There are, also, different interiors on the 479 model which is known in cream. The 508 appears to vary between cream and white but that may be an effect of age on the plastic.

The cream 479 is pretty rare so you needn't make a space for that but you may certainly now need an extra model of both 479 and 508.

Whilst the Camera Van was available from late 1967 through to 1971, the Holiday Bus had a short life from just Summer 1968 to sometime in 1969. It is all the more surprising, therefore to find the two types of Holiday Bus and it would seem reasonable to deduce that the centre support was introduced during late 1968 / early 1969.

Cast wheels had been around for a while when each of these came out so I am surprised that they are not the normal type found but, as far as I can tell, they're not at all common on 479 and so far I haven't seen any at all on a 508.

Monday 12 June 2017

Racing cars

I am nearly complete with Corgi's early racing cars now, having found an exceptionally nice green Vanwall, 150, and a pretty good red one. I knew nothing about these before but am learning fast.

These were not that easy to find, at least not in good condition, but I was very fortunate with the green Vanwall which also came with a spotless BRM 152.

It seems that the first issues were in British Racing Green for both 150 and 152. Perhaps the similarity between the two was a bit confusing but, whatever the reason, they changed to red a little while later for the Vanwall. The BRM, however, is always in green.

The red Vanwall seems quite scarce. This one was the best I could find anywhere at the time and has reasonable paintwork, a complete screen but the Racing Number transfer is mostly worn away. It looks very much like the RN1 used on later models so I may get away with a replacement.

Almost all the red Vanwalls I found were actually being sold as 150S models, which made searching more difficult until I caught on to the fact and just looked for Vanwall. The S model has a silver band on the bodywork around the front end and there should also be a driver sticking out of the cockpit. It also has suspension but, of course, you can't tell that from most photos. There were plenty of 150S models floating around but very few of its predecessor.

This leaves just a couple of items remaining in this section: a first type Lotus Mk II (151) and the first type of Bluebird (152). I have a silver 151 but need the red and blue variations. I doubt that I'll be able to get a red one as they're very rare and, so far, what I thought would be cheap and cheerful in blue has not proved to be the former at all. It's a very dull looking model that really doesn't excite me a great deal but even the blue ones have been way too expensive.

As for the Bluebirds, well, they're another story. I'll write about them once I find a reasonable earlier model which, hopefully, shouldn't be so difficult.

Looking back at the Vanwall and BRM for a moment, there are two seat colours for each model. The green BRM can have either a cream or silver seat. So far, I have a red Vanwall with a silver seat and a green one with a cream seat. I suspect there will be models with these reversed so I guess I'm not done yet! I don't list the blue-tinted glass separately. If I did that I would have to find further examples of just about every one of the early years' issues! So I shall regard that as one of those random variations that isn't hugely important and hope I can get away with that for now. 

Wednesday 7 June 2017

A 304S Mercdes-Benz Roadster with spoked wheels

Earlier this year I wrote about The Mystery of the Wheels, having just discovered that there really could be a version of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster with wire ('spoked') wheels. I couldn't see me ever finding one or, if I did, at a price I could afford and so I made one.

I had a very nice base model that happened to come along and that gave me the initial idea. In theory it seems pretty simple: swap the wheels and it's done. In practice, it wasn't that simple at all. Firstly, to remove the wheels you have to file down one end of each axle. I have done something similar with the Rover 2000 re-builds but, in those cases, the axles and wheels have been taken off whatever they came on and it's easy to get a clean run with the file with nothing nearby to get damaged. In this case, I wanted to keep the car as original as possible and certainly didn't want to remove the base so it was much, much harder. The axles are quite narrow so there is neither much sticking out to get the file onto nor is there much space to move the file because the bodywork is so close. Initially I tried to avoid damaging the very nice clean smooth wheels that the model came with but I did have to give up on preserving a couple of them and, as it was, it took several hours of gently filing away to get the wheels free.

Secondly, try as hard as I might, I could not see how the suspension worked and my first attempts at pushing an axle back through so that the car still had suspension on that axle were hopeless. Maybe - sometimes - one wheel seemed firm but the other side was very weak and so it went on for ages. Eventually, purely by luck, I got the rear axle in place and both sides were nice and firm like they should be on this model. It was another hour before I could get the front axle in a similar position! When it did, finally, seem to be in the right place I have no idea what I did to achieve that. I am guessing that there is some thin metal that the axles needs to go beneath but it is my no means obvious or simple to do!

Anyway, it's nearly complete now. I just need to add a small blob to end of the axles that were filed down to prevent the wheel coming off. It looks pretty good, though, and, with the real thing being either almost impossible to find or way too expensive if you do find one, here is a quite smart alternative that does not involve ruining any other model. The wire wheels came off a truly wrecked Ferrari Berlinetta so no loss there.

Now, I should try doing this with a soft top version - but I may be more careful about how I remove the axle next time!

Saturday 3 June 2017

Police in shades

No, not Beverley Hills cops in Raybans but an interesting different shade for a 506 Sunbeam Imp Panda car.

In my last post I had included a photo of the little Imp that had arrived more or less free with an NSU I'd wanted. Now I have put it next to the one I had in stock and it really is a completely different colour.

I have also pushed some rubber above the axles which seems to have fixed the lack of suspension. These models are so frustrating in that respect.

Looking various models advertised and on places like QDT, every other example I see is the bright, pure white like the one on the right in the photos above. The latest addition has a much creamier shade and the paint is a little thicker than what seems a very thin coat on the white. There is no doubt that the cream paint is original and I will be interested to see whether there are many more like this.

I have added this as another variation in my main lists.

Friday 2 June 2017

Surprisingly nice little cars and vans that came in May

Discoveries last month included the NSU Sport Prinz in a sort of metallic brick red colour. Shown here against the more common bright cerise, the car I've bought has a few chips but it's not at all bad. These are odd little motors. My collector friend from Eilum sent me a marketing brochure for this and it has a tiny two-cylinder 500cc engine of little more than 500cc. The cerise is, indeed, one of the colours offered too!

Sort of thrown in with the 316 NSU was this Police Sunbeam Imp which I wasn't too bothered about really. However, having had a good look at it now, it is in remarkably clean and untouched condition. It is the version with just black bonnet and door panels. There is another with a black roof and, of course, the blue and white one too. This particular example is lovely but, as is so often the case with these Imps, there is no suspension. I shall try and revive it by inserting some rubber but that doesn't always work. More on that if I succeed. Otherwise it is available for someone else to have a go and then have the most delightful example of the quite sought-after model which even has clean little cast wheels.

I was never particularly fond of the Corgi racing cars and this is the first of the very early editions that I've had. This is 152, the BRM without suspension and, correctly, without a driver. It is pleasantly charming in the metal and I am even quite looking forward to finding the 150 Vanwall now! This was ridiculously cheap but is in amazingly good condition, especially bearing in mind that children would be inclined to race these around the room and bash into chair legs and skirting boards at speed. I like the silver paint on the air intake and what I assume is a lamp of some sort. The RN3 is also only slightly damaged after all so many years.

Yet another oddity arrived in May! This is the penultimate Karrier Bantam, used here as another shop, this time a Mobile Butchers' Shop. I cannot imagine children getting very excited about having one of these and, issued in late 1960, it was competing with the Jaguar 2.4 with suspension and things like a Land Rover Breakdown Truck. So it only sold about 100,000 which is fairly low by Corgi model standards. 

This one looks great and has only paint loss on the leading and risen edges here and there. The good thing is that it has all its original dark blue stickers and the windows are clean and show the really old-fashioned card illustrations very well. Its scale is a silly 1:55 so don't park this too close to your cars or it won't look right!

I am nearing the end of my Wants List now and things like this are what I need to get hold of. It's nicer than I expected, I have to say, like the BRM.

Let me introduce you to the very, very first Corgi model. Number 200, the Ford Consul. And this is the most commonly found colour. Also available in cream.

I can just imagine the conversation:
We've got a new car, children!
Ooh jolly good daddy! What colour is it?
Er. Mushroom, a sort of mud brown . . .
I can take you to school in it in the morning!
It's OK dad. We'll get the bus.

Corgi had a more cheerful pot of paint for their Standard Vanguard III. This is the fairly scarce 207M version with a Mechanical motor. Even fewer of these were sold than the ruddy Butchers Shop! Every example I have had had has quite a few chips which really do show up against that colour but, at least it is nice and original - and the motor works very well sixty years later.

You may remember that I had a 448 Police Van missing a door. Well, finally, after several months, I found a decent condition 448 which was going very cheaply because it needed the door that I did have! So I have made a complete and quite good-looking model here and may actually be able to get some income from the two now. There remains in my shelf a van with slightly cracked windows and no rear doors at all which I may have to use for spares. I now need the left hand door for a green 450 Mini Van. Then perhaps my shelf will have a bit more room.

These will all soon be on my web site so if you want to take a closer look please visit any time.

Corgi Toys @ 60: Bedford AA Van and Dropside Trailer

It's June 1957 and Corgi mark the arrival of warmer weather with a bright yellow Bedford CA van. This is their fourth release with the Bedford casting (five or six if you count the different M models too). It is the AA Road Service van. It will be more than two years before the Royal Automobile Club gets some publicity from the Corgi firm. You do wonder whether maybe one of the directors broke down and either the RAC fellow failed to assist satisfactorily or perhaps the AA chap spotted the fault but refused to fix unless the AA got on the side of the next issue.

The AA van has curious paintwork - a blob of black across the front that I always used to think was hand-painted by some child until I realised they all had it. Often there are no visible headlamps and it looks terribly amateur but I guess that was the way it had to be. It is the split screen type in 1957 - you'll have to wait for the single screen type which was much later. You will, however, see this with either a curved top edge to the grill or a straight edge. As far as I am aware, all these split screen Mk I models will have smooth wheels.

Anyway, in a rather less than exciting month for those boys anxiously watching their local toy shop window for the latest release, June sees 408, a van and 100, a trailer, and that's something you can actually do something with, assuming, that is, you got one of the lorries issued earlier.

None of the other vehicles so far have a tow bar and there's a little while to wait yet before the Land Rover comes to the rescue. If you're looking at your trailer and wondering if it is the June 1957 issue then it will need to have the simple wire tow bar. The metal fixed draw bar (a broken example shown below) is a much later addition.

I think all these Drop-side trailers were cream on a red chassis and will have had smooth wheels.