Tuesday 28 January 2020

Several shades of Toronado

The Oldsmobile Toronado is a wonderfully attractive model which was issued in January 1967. It was model number 264. The last model I bought to play with was 263, the Rambler Marlin Fastback. That looked pretty good too but doesn't quite match the Oldsmobile which I didn't see until nearly 50 years later.

As you can see in the photo above, there is a range of quite distinct shades of turquoise - from green through to blue.

From my own collection is this beautiful mid-to-dark blue edition with shaped wheels, a rare item as almost all the others I see have cast wheels.

This example is more to the green end of the spectrum.

And this is a very deep shade of blue-turquoise.

Finally, here are two that I have with tow bars - one in a quite bright blue shade and the other a most definite greenish shade!

The Gift Set 36 was issued in December 1967 and is an acknowledgement of the success of the Riviera Gift Set 31 from three years earlier. For a brief period in early 1968 you may have found both in the toy shop. An interesting comparison between the detailed card box and tray and a scene with the girl surfing in one and a rather cheaper-looking window box with models attached to a large chunk of colourless polystyrene by several elastic bands. The later set is a lot easier to display, though, assuming you do have all three of the characters. I could never get the Riviera girl to stay upright and the ropes were a nightmare.

The set and a range of the 264 models are in stock and available at the time of writing. I am looking for a box for the Gift Set - a reproduction will suffice but no-one seems to make one. I have the same problem with the Big Daktari Set 14. I've managed to gather all the parts in each case but they do need boxes.

Apart from the shades of turquoise I don't know of any significant variations of the Oldsmobile. The headlamp covers appear to have two types: a plain silver finish and a bright chromed finish (similar to what you'll find with the later and similarly spectacular Corvette Stingray issues).

I have seen models advertised with tow bars and a normal 264 box. One might think that stocks of the cars with tow-bars may have been left when production of the sets ceased and these were sent off to shops in normal boxes. The problem with this idea is that the Gift Set is said to have remained in production until 1970 whereas the 264 turned into the 276 with Gold Jacks in June 1968! So I reckon these are just cars from sets and the sellers happen to have a box to put them in and don't know any different.

Something I do find strange is how the Gift Set 36 continues to contain the blue 264 model - apparently through to 1970 if the Great Book of Corgi is to be believed - when the Golden Jacks model was available with a tow-bar from June 1968. Perhaps the sets were made up before 1968 and just happened to stay in the lists dealers could buy but weren't actually produced after that. 

The 276 edition has the same body and chromework, with the same near-white interior. A common fault with all models is the little toothed mechanism stops working or breaks and the chrome edges are quite brittle. Remarkably, all the models I've encountered have had good suspension.

Another common problem is how people miss a letter from either the brand name or model type (or both!) For a long time I thought Toronado was a misprint myself!

On the real thing you don't (usually) have to fiddle with a cog wheel under the bumper to raise the lights!

Tuesday 7 January 2020

The new old Corgi Collection

I don't know how many times I have said to fellow collectors how much I wished someone would try making the original Corgi Toys again. Not with Vanguards style wipers, realistic wheels and troublesome mirrors but plain perspex windows, shaped wheels like they used to be and suspension. And rubber tyres. Models that really do look and feel right and which may even need a second look to check that they are not actually originals from the 1960s.

At last, it seems, someone has taken a chance and is making a start. Hornby Hobbies plc have licensed the oddly-named Blue 14 DTC Brands trading as Corgi Toy Collection to sell and distribute reproduced models in the UK. Interestingly, text in one of their leaflets states that Blue 14 DTC Brands have an exclusive license to sell and distribute Corgi Toys in the UK. That would imply that they're handling the new stuff too as well as these reproductions - indeed it makes me wonder whether I'm going to be in trouble for selling a few of the old ones! I suspect that statement may be a mistake but never mind that now; back to the models.

This does look like great news. The first model has arrived and it's the 474 Thames Ice Cream Van with music chimes. Although I never wanted one of these as a child or even now as I found the hugely out-of-proportion handle affair at the back ugly - and it never seems to work for long either, the delicate tines on the element producing the notes breaking easily - I do respect the fact that lots of people do like it and originals sell for a fortune.

The van is an excellent and very faithful re-make of the 1965 edition. I am particularly pleased with the shaped wheels and windows. The colours are exact and texture of the plastic and weighting of suspension seems right too. Even the chrome, whilst maybe a little too bright, is OK. I suppose, if anything, the whole thing is a little too 'perfect', with precise silver and red painting whereas the originals would have missed bits!

It has all the right original stuff in the box (except, of course, a membership form). There is a sheet of stickers, instruction sheet, plain reinforcement card and a further packing card featuring the 60s kids in full colour. A small chunk of polystyrene replaces the cardboard to prevent the rear handle piercing the box.

The box itself is pretty good in terms of design and colours. A good effort but marks lost for someone using the wrong font for the list of features and product name. It is also just too shiny, as if printed on photographic paper where a dull surface would have been preferable in my view. The designers have cleverly retained almost all the original text and illustrations, changing 'Made In Great Britain' to 'Designed in Great Britain' on one panel and putting all the necessary 'new' stuff on a bottom panel where it will be least obvious if on display.

With this first issue I received a really good reproduction of the original Corgi badge (without the hole element and with a tie-pin and clip fastening rather than safety-pin type of operation). Additionally there is a pile of leaflets promoting the Collection and a certificate of provenance for this model.

This is simply great value at £1.99 which is the most you would pay for this at this time. Indeed, as I have signed up for the next release I actually get the van free of charge! You might bear this in mind if you were thinking of bidding for one on Ebay where, of course, annoying people are trying to make a quick few quid, some not even declaring this as a replica. It is good enough to fool a good few, especially if they ditch the box and most accompaniments.

The next issue planned is the 339 BMC Mini Cooper. A leaflet also displays a 155 Lotus F1 Racing Car, 258 'Saint's" Volvo P1800, 267 Batmobile, 325 Ford Mustang Competition Edition, 330 Porsche Carrera 6 and 417 Land Rover Breakdown Truck.

With the Mini there will be a 1505 Garage Attendant Figures Set, 1966 Corgi Catalogue and a tin to hold our certificates. The tin looks deep enough for more than eight sheets so I'm hopeful this will develop . . .

Oh, I can now add too that the reproduction of the Ice Cream Van is so good that the chimes are already beginning to miss a note from time to time!

The illustrations show some remarkably nice models, the only downside being the text on the base which tells us that these are made by 9 year old re-educated children working 18 hours a day in a 5 acre factory on the outskirts of Tianjin. I shall have to subscribe, though, and will report on all these as and when they arrive.

I am struggling with an image of an Ice Cream Van on the streets of Tianjin.

Monday 6 January 2020

Corgi Toys @ 60: Chevrolet Impala

The first issue in 1960 was the impressive Chevrolet Impala in sedan form in January as catalogue number 220. The State Patrol edition had been issued at the end of 1959 so this was not the first time people would have seen the Impala although I suspect that in most shops this and the 223 State Patrol may have arrived at the same time.

The first models would appear to have been the salmon colour and the blue model with a lemon interior and they would have had smooth fixed wheels. They would also have had the base type as shown in the centre of the illustration below. Later, models with shaped wheels and, towards the end of production and somewhat scarcer, with free spinning wheels will come along and, at some point in the fixed wheel period, with the different base.

I have also noticed a slight variation in the plastic interior piece. It appears to fill the space available better in the middle one shown here. At the rear edge there also appears to be a gap at the corners on the later models.

This will prove to be a very popular and long-running model, to be revived in 1965 when someone slices the casting in two and inserts a chrome section which makes four new and still impressive models.

The chart above shows how I have found the various Impala editions spread with regard to wheel types over the years.