Wednesday 16 August 2017

Pale blue Bedfords

I often wonder what the idea of the friction motor was. I guess it was intended to add some realism with the creation of some noise, vibration and, on a level surface, a model could be seen to move momentarily on its own without a giant hand descending from above being required to direct its progress.

It would only last a second or two, though, and then grind to a halt, rather the reverse of what cars and vans tended to do in real life when given a good shove for a bump start, for instance!

My colleague, Herr Richter from Eilum in Germany, sends me this story of two Bedfords.

He found two pale blue Bedford Dormobiles parked nearby. At first glance they looked pretty much the same. 

Looking at the front, however, there were clearly different radiator grills. One was distinctly rounder along the top edge than the other.

At the back, too, more differences, with one having two extra bits - either the rubber protectors that some had fitted, perhaps, or two extra lights of some sort.

Had he been able to lift them up and turn them over he would have discovered two things: that one was much, much heavier than the other and that one had a totally different base.

Herr Richter appears to have found quite a rarity - a pale blue 404 Bedford that is not a 404M! We have seen the metallic cerise and cream 404s but I was not aware of a pale blue variation.

Incidentally, there are also two versions of the pale blue 404M - the front axle can be open or closed, the former missing the lowest suspension section that covers the axle in the latter.

This story also gives me another idea for the friction motor's use. Place these two on a matt to take some photos and you have to be very careful not to find one of them heading off on its own down the merest of slopes. The good old 404M just sits there, obediently going nowhere!

Friday 4 August 2017

Samples from the Corgi Factory!

It's funny what can happen when you're in a hotel car park in Towcester. I had arranged to meet a young Mr Wilford, recently flown in from New Zealand to help his mother with some things, whose father had been a Designer at Corgi and whose grandfather had been Percy Wilford, one of Corgi's Chief Designers. He said he had a few odd items lying around at his mother's house and wondered if I could advise him. 

First of all he gets out a box of pretty tedious-looking Corgi Classics and they're all familiar apart from one that catches my eye. Yes, it's the 9022 Daimler 1910 38 'Available Later' in the Corgi Catalogue. It's missing a steering wheel and dashboard but looked otherwise finished and ready to put on the market.

I took another look also at a Bentley 1927 3½ litre. Initially the silver horn had caught my eye but then I noticed the very detailed dashboard and steering wheel! Marvellous work by someone there.

There are also some motorcycles that I do not recognise but which seem to be Corgi proptotypes. Perhaps there might have been a series of bikes in someone's plans at the time?

In another box were some Whizzwheel models and amongst them some strangely coloured Alfa Romeo P33s. 

I knew this car in white rather than metallic light pink, blue or rhododendron!

The Porsche 911 Targa also looked different. The wheels. Now they suited the car so much better than the ubiquitous Whizzwheels it came out with. I also know the car with a black interior for this shade, not the bright orange.

Turning the cars over, revealed an explanation.

These were all samples, with bases screwed on rather than riveted. How much easier our lives would be now had Corgi used screws throughout!

Now, imagine the scene. You'll see that we were using a table outside the hotel and had Corgi Toys spread here and there. An older chap walks by with his wife and remarks something to the effect of 'That's a nice display. I recognise some of those.'

We tell him who we are and what we're doing and he tells us that he also worked at Corgi Toys in Northampton. Mr Hancock was another Designer there. Quite an extraordinary coincidence. he proceeds to tell the young Mr Wilford that he is very much like his father, who Mr Hancock had known well and worked with in the later 1960s and he tells us that his picture is in The Great Book Of Corgi. and the young Mr. Wilford just happens to have that in the boot of his car! After some shuffling through the pages, Mr Hancock finds himself in one of the pictures again.

Mr Hancock did say that his specialist area was 'wheels'. Apparently he had the best set of compasses there at the time. I did briefly wonder whether we had met the man responsible for Whizzwheels but I decided not to pursue that subject. Another day, perhaps.

We move on to look at another box. This one contains gold-plated models. The Batmobile and Jaguar show signs of tarnishing that I presume would imply that it's not real gold plating but some other compound that looks nice and shiny and gold but reacts more to the air.

Looking much brighter are a Ferrari Berlinetta, a Rover 2000 (252 type) and Jaguar Mk X.

These show no signs of tarnishing and are all pretty much immaculate, just in need of a careful clean. there is also a lovely Land Rover (438 type) with some nice black paint detailing on top of the plating.

I believe that these gold-plated items would have been examples of maybe a dozen or so made as gifts for important visitors or people Corgi executives visited. These are just some that were not used or, perhaps, were samples as many of the items gave me the impression that they came from a Samples Department which was referred to in some paperwork.

The young Mr Wilford also had piles of books and catalogues. The two Great Books Of Corgi had been signed by Marcel Van Cleemput.

A nice collection of original catalogues were there too, most pretty much as new, with Canada or New Zealand and dates written on them. again, I am assuming these were samples from a print run.

Although featured here at the end, the first thing I actually had spotted was this metallic lime green Chevrolet Camaro, the 304 edition with Whizzwheels. 

The solid blue edition is scarce as it is, so to find another colour was a great surprise and, for me, one of the most exciting items there.

For others it may be the gold-plated Batmobile or the never- issued Daimler but I think my personal favourite out of all is the gold-plated Rover 2000. It's just the standard 252 car, plated. Wonderful.

All in all, a pleasant and fascinating afternoon with the remarkable coincidence of a chap wandering in to a hotel in Towcester meeting someone from New Zealand who had his photo in a book in his boot! But I find my life is full of surprises anyway. 

Now, I need help from you people out there as to what that plating may or may not be. I need to suggest to the young Mr Wilford how we should go about disposing or these items, or not, as the case may be. Whilst I cannot say that all or any of these will be available to purchase in the near future or, indeed, that I will get the task of arranging identification and sale, if you do wish to express an interest in any of them or are aware of similar items that had been sold in the past, then do please get in touch.

I am confident that, with a bit of help, I will be able to make as good a job of finding good new homes at worthwhile prices as the big auction houses.

Thursday 3 August 2017

Bubble-wrap and Sellotape!

I have just spent about ten minutes struggling to unwrap a Ford Thames Airborne Caravan. It was a nice shade of lilac and mauve but it was a long time before I could see that.

The problem was not that I had the wrong glasses on, nor was there any alcohol involved nor was it midnight and I'd forgotten to turn on the light. No, the seller had wrapped the damn thing in many layers of bubble-wrap and taped each layer with several inches of clear Sellotape. Not only did this produce an extremely tightly packed item, reminiscent of the inside of some golf balls, but also something that proved well nigh impossible to unwrap!

I receive several packages each week and, more often than not, the senders have to add Sellotape to bubble-wrap. I don't get terribly annoyed with most as they just add a small piece and I can, with care, remove that. I still find it totally pointless and some modest swearing is usually involved but this latest package turned most of the air in the village blue. Indeed, neighbours would have needed to consult a medical dictionary on more than one occasion.

This was truly annoying, frustrating and downright stupid. Totally unnecessary and it actually nearly resulted in damage to the little model as I fought to remove the Sellotaped bubble-wrap. I needed a sharp knife to cut through the bubble-wrap as efforts to find where the tape might start proved entirely fruitless on every occasion as I slowly whittled down the layers. As I gouged my way through the bubble-wrap I did have to take great care not to slice through the mauve paintwork or scratch a window. The final layer was wrapped so tightly that the suspension was under some pressure and you could almost feel the axles returning to their correct resting point as it came away. Had this been a Mustang or Imp then I dread to think of how the brittle plastic suspension would have held up.

So this is a plea from the heart, and also on behalf of my neighbours, especially at this time of year when the delicate ears of young children may be offended.

Please stop adding Sellotape (or any other brand of ruddy clear tape for that matter) to bubble-wrap. It is not necessary. 

Just roll up the model in the stuff and pop it in amongst some newspaper or whatever packing you might use, seal the box and all will be well. The bubble-wrap will not, if you've packed it reasonably tightly, unwind itself on the way, even if it has to come from Kneitlingen in Germany where the roads are not always smooth. The model will survive, quite happily in un-taped bubble-wrap. I will then be able to do my bit for the plant by re-using it. Add Sellotape and large areas of the stuff become instantly unusable and finish up causing me even more problems as I have no idea which of the many recycling bins it should go in.

I trust I have made myself crystal clear.

I shall now lie down and try and calm myself before the post arrives in the morning.

Models off to pastures green, grey or just unpronounceable

Quite a few models made their way to various parts of the world over the last couple of weeks. I think the Bulldozer in Portknockie is my favourite, though!

Edge Hill, Queensland, Australia gets some fine vehicles in several convoys

another batch off to Edge Hill, Queensland.

The less common cream Bedford Dormobile in sunny Forfar, Scotland

VW Breakdown Truck and a Maserati on trailer in Langenbach, Germany

Maghull in Liverpool. Somewhere to escape from in the lovely VW Kombi

Somewhere in the streets of Milan is this wonderfully cheerful Marcos

My own old Citroen seems to brighten up a gloomy day in Bexley Heath

The Police Mini Van visiting Oggiono in Italy

A great Euclid Bulldozer in Portknockie, Scotland

The Man From UNCLE looks very out of place in Stoke St Michael, Somerset

Some very expensive arrivals in River, near Petworth, as The Avengers and an original Riviera Set arrive

Roetgen on the Germany:Belgium border and a very rare Bedford van

Sheffield gets a blue Austin Cambridge from 1956. Nothing has changed.

Llwyngwril in Wales and a rare Mini Marcos for Neil

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Corgi Toys @ 60: Land Rover

August 1957 brought us the Land Rover in Mk I form but as the 109" longer wheelbase. You'll have to wait for the green one, and also to see a canopy, because these first ones were just either bright yellow with a black roof or blue with a white roof.

There surely has to be some AA / RAC thing going on here? Neither get the branding and we know RAC gets involved in a big way later with the Land Rover and AA get the Bedford CA van but these colours seem quite surprising all the same!

Illustrated are two fine examples of the very first that would have been available. The shaped, but still fixed, wheels would have come a few years later.

They normally had a larger tyre but you may find some with the normal car size tyres. Those look a bit small, to my mind, but I have read somewhere that they may have been initially issued with either.

The 406 will always have a spare pinned to the bonnet and a metal hook at the rear and no aerial.

This was the start of an extremely long run for the wonderful Land Rover. This is model number 406 and lasts through to 1962 when, revised as a Mk II model, it gets suspension and an interior as a bright yellow 406S, shortly after to become 438 in deep dark green. The Mk I will also make an appearance as an RAC Radio Rescue Land Rover and an RAF Land Rover and with the addition of a jib, as a Breakdown Truck too.