Thursday 31 May 2018

270 James Bond Aston Martin DB5: the first and last

These two James Bond Aston Martins came into stock today. By chance they happened to be the very first and very last of the 270 editions. It has been a while since I wrote about these and I have learned a bit more since then too, mostly from an excellent resource created by someone in France whose name I presume is Laurent Clausse and this is the link to his site in acknowledgement of his efforts.

I had previously listed three types of 270 in my catalogue. Now I think there should be five, each of which is clearly identifiable and worth looking out for. The first two remain the same but I have noticed that the tyre slasher version with gold bumpers can have a circular or oval section on the base to produce one extra type. The other is to note the base differences on the Whizzwheels version which can be grey or silver.

So here are the main differences, and the dates when they were produced. You'll see that some had a noticeably shorter lifespan than others. Luckily, most sellers are unaware of the differences and so you may well manage to pick up a quite rare edition at a reasonable price. 

Type 1: Early 1968 - mid 1969
Tyre slashers, silver bumpers, base has a circular section at the rear, grey base.

Type 2: mid 1969 - end 1975
as before but with gold bumpers.

Type 3: 1976
as before but with an oval shape on the base

Type 4: early 1977 only
Whizzwheels, grey base

Type 5: early 1977 - early 1978
Whizzwheels, silver base.

Here are the bases for those illustrated above. You'll see the obvious different shapes at the rear and the two different base colours.

There are also wheel differences. A few very early models had a wire wheel that was less 'see-through' with a quite 'filled-in' inner side. Most models you'll encounter, however, will have the more 'see-through' type. I haven't yet had one of the 270s with type A wheels but will illustrate the difference when I can. The model below has a Type B wheel.

There is also a Type C wheel, with distinctly different pattern of wire wheels which appear to come off the centre at an angle. These, again, I don't have, but I can illustrate below.

I don't know how these three types are distributed across the three 270s with wire wheels. The Frenchman suggests that type A was fitted to type 1 (silver bumpers) but clearly my example above shows that this was not necessarily the case for all! My guess is that you'll find all three types across the range, type A mostly on the silver bumper types, type B on all of them and type C mainly on the later ones.

After May 1978 the dreadful 1:36 scale stuff came out which I do not propose to deal with at all. Corgi did, however, even from the Far East, continue to produce some excellent 1:43 scale models which are very similar to the familiar models we know. Indeed, you may still be able to find a new silver or gold one today! I shall write about the post-1978 editions another day.

As you'll see, these Bond Aston Martins can be complicated. Be careful to check what you're buying. Many are now being restored too with some very expert work not always easy to detect (although the best people do tell you!)

Monday 28 May 2018

A Mini Marcos GT850 in blue?

This has been quite a month and it is ending on a potentially very high note. This little car appeared in a German seller's listing on Ebay. He had incorrectly titled the listing and referred to a 341 model which, of course, is the maroon one with Golden Jacks. That was encouraging and gave me some hope that the wealthy Walloon and dastardly Dortmund people who usually bid several times more than I can afford for interesting models may not have spotted it.

Naturally, I asked him whether he might sell straightaway. He was too busy, apparently, and preferred just to let the auction proceed and he would simply send it to whoever won and paid. I did ask a friend in Germany to enquire whether this might be original. There was no photo of the base and you have to be suspicious, indeed assume the worst, when there is no picture of the base. Having said that, there is a counter argument which says that there is no picture of the base because the seller has no clue as to why that might be important which, in a sense, is a little encouraging!

Anyway, my friend comes up with a base photo. I hope like mad that this doesn't also get added to the others displayed for others to see. The photos were all pretty good and, try as I might, I couldn't see a great deal to say this was not the real thing. But I was fairly sure that it must be a repaint - items as rare as this should not just pop up looking pristine and new like this one and certainly not remain within a price range I can cope with. The rivet was not perfect. There was a slightly rough edge and it was on a slight slant. Was that glue residue? It looked like a real old rivet head for sure. I suppose they can be refitted. I had also seen plenty of real ones looking just like that so I was not swayed either way.

My other bit of scrutiny had been what I thought was some white paint on the inner side of a window pillar. That rather sealed the thing for me at the time. It was a white 305 with the decals removed, taken apart and sprayed the right colour.

Well, I won it. For a very modest amount as only one or two other persons were involved and they didn't have my software and/or cannot have set much by way of a maximum. It arrived yesterday and I have to say I am none the wiser really. I thought something would be obvious and I would be quite happy to have a lovely copy to fill the space and take photographs of for the catalogue. If anything, I am inclined more to believe it is the genuine article now. The window thing must have been a trick of the light as the pillars are all blue as they should be.

The rivet looks OK but, yes, I guess someone could, very, very smartly have removed a rivet head and reattached it but, if so, their work is immaculate. The only thing that I am concerned about really now is the paint. It is all totally unmarked and the right colour everywhere that it should be, including in those places only a proper spray could reach. The texture just seems a little plasticky and not as glossy as normal Corgi paint. Having said that, I am comparing it with earlier models that I have cleaned and polished and which may simply have an older sort of paint that looks different. Perhaps this would polish up just the same and look brilliant and reflective too. I just don't dare try!

So here I am with something that could be extremely valuable. I would guess around £500 is reasonable for this. I haven't seen one in all the time I have been doing this catalogue research, other than an extremely damaged one that had few wheels, badly broken widows, was missing a door, had little paint on most panels, a bent bonnet and still made £50. Alternatively, it is a very, very smart copy that someone has made and I can only acknowledge their abilities if that is the case.

It is missing the sill transfer which is shown in the photos of most (but not all) examples I have seen in books and on auction sites. That is another indication that it may be a copy but then these things were often missed, especially in the 1970s when this would have been made, at the factory in Swansea! So that doesn't weigh heavily on the side of the debate for me.

Anyway, here are some photos of one or the other!

Saturday 26 May 2018

An Elevating Service Ramp

I am delighted to report that I am now the proud own of an Elevating Service Ramp. Just two months after writing about the April 1958 issue, I came across this beautiful example, in a box and with its original packing.

I suspect that it may seldom have been out of its box, but enough times to rub off a small inner flap or two.

The lever at the side operates a ratchet which certainly elevates the ramp effectively. Coming down was less simple. I think I may have missed something but fiddled around and eventually it returned to a flat state.

All I shall do is share these splendid photos and let you bask in the blue and greyness. I should, perhaps, have added a 211 Studebaker on top, outlined in ghostly fashion in the box illustration. That had been the last car issued, a couple of months earlier in February, and so, presumably, fresh in the artist's mind.

I don't want to sell this. It feels pleasantly heavy, is beautifully made and, even if I can't operate it as well as I might, It is a very satisfying item to have on one's desk.

Combex: challenging grey matter

I have for a long time been confused about a model that occasionally appears at a huge price. It is said to be one of those 'promotional' models that Corgi made, most of which were produced in comparatively minute quantities and now are, understandably, very scarce and much sought-after.

The listed 462 Commer Van advertised Hammonds and, I believe, you might have bought it in the local shop (although it didn't feature in catalogues). Although fairly expensive, the blue green and off-white vans can be found relatively easily and mostly for under £100 in reasonable condition. Corgi never actually issued a 'normal' Commer van. You could make one up for yourself using the red rear section in Gift Set 24 but that was all.

462 also gets allocated to a Co-op van, the one that I wrote about recently that you could get if your mum sent off some coupons. That is Co-op blue and white and has cast wheels, Co-op stickers and came in a piece of folded card with 462 stamped on it.

And then there's the Combex Commer van. It is all a dreary, quite dark grey with no stickers at all. So quite how this is associated with a firm called Combex Ind. Ltd., as noted on a small folded piece of paper that often accompanies the model, is open to imagination. 

Perhaps the company colours at Combex were that shade of grey. You may recall seeing some vans in and around Birmingham, perhaps, or visiting Swansea or Northampton, and being struck by the distinctly Civil Service shade. In the 1970s, when this is said to have been produced, orange was all the rage but Birmingham always was a bit behind the times. 

Try as hard as I might, however, I cannot find any Combex Industries Limited in Birmingham. There are references to Aston, Birmingham and Combex on adjacent lines in Who Owns Whom, a 1977 book about corporations but the Aston is the address of another company that has nothing to do with the one that has the Combex reference.

When one encounters things like this, it is very tempting to wonder whether someone, trying to invent an interesting and rare model for collectors, might have put Combex and Aston together. I am, though, told that Combex was a company that had been going for many years, originally Combex Ltd. had made combs and assorted hair care equipment and may have developed some electro-plating skills along the way which subsequently proved useful to the motor industry. Perhaps that Combex was responsible for some of Corgi's electro-plating? That was, though, Combex Ltd. and not Combex Industries Limited.

Looking up official records of Combex Ltd., I see that the name was registered again in December 1980 and that company later became Wembley Playcraft Sports and Toys Ltd., with addresses in Exeter, Devon. Wembley Playcraft Ltd. was also a company based in Exeter, Devon in the mid 1980s, and appeared to have similar directors. Wembley Playcraft Ltd. registered again in 2013 was based in Swansea! That company was dissolved in 2015 but in 2017 Playcraft Ltd. was registered by the same directors and also in Swansea. Another trading name of Combex Ltd had been Tamwade (Northampton) Ltd. which rather squares the circle!

There is also a Combex in the group called Dunbee-Combex-Marx Ltd., which had considerable interests and brand names in the model toy industry. Whilst I cannot pin down Combex Industries Ltd. itself, it does seem reasonable to assume that there may well have been a Combex company that had a close involvement with Corgi and that a few promotional vans may have been made.

Unfortunately, in 1970 pretty much everything that could go wrong with the finances of one or other of these firms does go wrong. Loans are outstanding, new finance doesn't appear and the workers are revolting. So my guess is that whoever Corgi did make these things for went out of business. What hadn't been delivered, or even the whole stock perhaps, seems, according to some reports, to have been bought by a Masonic Lodge. Now that's a bit of a diversion but I can understand one of the senior staff at one or other of the firms involved having some connections and deciding to do some trade with the nice deep grey, unbranded vans. The colour certainly suits the Lodge.

Now they are gradually falling out of people's attics or boxes in garages and they are fetching very large sums, some even four figures.

I had a spare Commer of the correct construction lying about and had wondered what to do with it. A Hammonds job was far too complicated paint-wise (although the stickers are easily obtained or even made). It was nothing special, though, and so I thought I'd have a go at the Combex instead. I had some grey paint to hand - not the right shade but it will do for the time being and I can use it as an undercoat for one day when I do get the right shade.

There was one big complication, though, that I didn't notice at first. The wheels. They are a dished 8-spoke type, very shiny. A colleague helped me out by noting that they were the same as fitted to some GP Beach Buggies so I bought the first wreck of a Buggy I could find on Ebay. What my colleague didn't tell me was that the GP Buggy has two different sizes of wheel!! So I need another Buggy one day but, impatient to (sort of) complete the job, I used the two small and two big as a temporary measure.

That wasn't as easy as it sounds, though. Firstly the wheels are far too wide to fit between the wheel arch and the baseplate. Secondly, the thin Whizzwheel axles would flap around in the normal baseplate guides where the suspension wires retain them. The second issue was quite easy to solve. I cut a cotton-wool bud stick in half and used that under the suspension wires. The thin axle fits through that nicely. The first issue was much more awkward to deal with. Even the small wheels were too wide so, unless the real models don't roll very smoothly, Corgi must have adjusted the Buggy wheels or used another thinner variety.

I filed mine down, taking a good few millimetres off the big ones and a couple off the small ones. That was a messy job with black plastic powder all over the desk now and sticking to everything. The wheels do now turn and the big and small wheels are not that obviously different. The rather wide axles are, though, so that's another matter to attend to some day.

For the time being, however, I have an approximation to a Combex Commer van.

It seems that some of the 'genuine' models have rivets and some have screws. I am not so sure I would want to pay much for one with screws. That sounds very much like either something someone like me has put together (but better!) or a pre-production sample. With no way of knowing which was which that is not something to pay £1200 for. On the other hand, with some evidence, confirmation of source then it may be. We would then have some answers for the Combex mystery too. Maybe I should ask whoever did pay £1200.

Wednesday 9 May 2018

New arrivals in April

In an attempt to raise some money to buy some of the more expensive items on my Wanted List I make only a small apology for using the News blog to display some of the models still available that have arrived on my desk during the month.
466 B £45
205 A £80
238 D £35

9001 + box A / B £60

9002 + box A / B £54
214M B £95
490 C £40
1148 B £100
GS36 A / B+ £220
1161 B £42

900 + box A / B £60

1109 £75

1160 B+ £30

418 B- £20

322 B+ £80

359 B £45

210S B- £160

417S D £30

438Quake-Up! C+ £30

322 (near copy) R £49

318 A £50

383 B+ £25

308 B £50

277 B+£80

241 C+ £50

348  B £75

348  B £80

200 B £55

GS22 (part) B / C+ £110
For full details of any item in stock can be found in my store or just get in touch. The condition estimate letters range from A (near mint) to E (suitable for parts or repair only). R means it is not original.

Prices include UK postage. Items can be posted abroad - just ask for the rates. Payment can be made by PayPal, bank transfer or cash in an envelope. Ask for details. 

Subject to availability as these are also listed at various stores on-line.