Wednesday, 3 February 2021

351S RAF Land Rover discoveries


The 351S RAF Land Rover with suspension and interior is a rare model. Of all the Corgi Toy issues from this era, I have found this one the most difficult to find anywhere and at any price. It just doesn't appear. You'll see 'Pop Art' Minis and the yellow 406S Land Rover and other scarce items quite regularly but this one just never seems to be in anyone's box of toys to be sold. The books tell us that 25000 of these were sold. That's not a lot by Corgi standards. The not particularly common RAC Land Rover issued at the same time is said to have sold 207000. It is still a lot more than the Rocket Age Gift Set 6 (10,000) and even the Golden Guinea Gift Set 20 (23000), each of which are definitely easier to find, the latter particularly so.

The books tell us that this was issued in December 1962 but also withdrawn in 1962 so I can only assume that either a huge crate of these went somewhere never to return at the start of production or that the data we've been given is wrong. Suffice it to say that a original example of a 351S in almost any condition is a valuable item now.

I have accumulated four examples and finally believe that I have at least one, possibly two originals. I shall look at each one in turn but I'll start with comparing the colours of those I have.

Often you will find that a seller's camera produces quite different shades to what you will see yourself in daylight. I have even had trouble distinguishing the deep green 438, also issued in December 1962, from a possible dark blue colour and have even bought a few hoping they might be RAF blue only to discover they were a rather non-RAF deep green!

As you'll see above, my first acquisition, the model on the left was a blue colour closer to the RAC blue than RAF blue. The two centre ones look the right colour but then so does the one on the right. So colour, especially if you only have one to look at, doesn't help as much as you might hope.

I will now look at each in turn.

First, here is the one of the right in the photo above and I can say straightaway that it is a repainted model. It has been done very well, though, with quite a reasonable job of some aged-looking rivets that are possibly correct front and back.

Although I was unaware of this at the time, however, the rear window is a different casting, with quite a distinct angle to the vertical parts of the frame and the window itself is inset, the window unit being flat perspex only.

It is a nice-looking reproduction, however, although not adding silver to the radiator or bumper is a surprising omission by what would seem to be an accomplished person. The previous 351 model only had a roundel on the front so I think adding one to the rear may also have been a mistake here. The roundels on all of the others that I have, by the way, are mine and not great but I thought they should be there.

The second is, I think, the genuine article.

The rivets look original and real and the paint colour is good and consistent under the wheel arches. In particular, the rear window sits flush with the outside of the cab and the frame lacks the angle of the previous example. This would seem to imply that, for the 351S, a window unit that had a raised profile to fit the rear window space was used. I have just checked some other Land Rovers and found that I have a 416S with the same flush fitting as well as one 438 model. That is a new discovery for me and I will have to return to this subject in a future article!

I think it is fair to conclude, though, that a genuine 351S will have to have this flush window and that might help you in your deliberations. This particular example lacks a piece of the hook and has obvious playwear but it is sound and I am pleased to have it.

Here is another that I think is original (apart from my roundel!). It has pretty solid rivets which I don't think anyone could have replaced like that and, if they had, I am pretty sure they would have added the hook that is missing!

The colour under the wheel arches and beneath the front bumper is consistent too. The rear window is also flush. I was a little put off by the silver splashes under the font bumper but I am content that this one is good.

Like the other original, this one has had a hard life and lost a lot of paint but it's real and worth a fortune.

The last one to illustrate here is, in fact, the first one I acquired some years ago.

I had nothing to compare it with the and, although the colour did seem a bit 'blue' I was hopeful that it would be an original. Underneath, the rivets looked very original and secure and certainly did not seem to have been tampered with in any away. The colour was consistent too under the wheel arches and near the front bumper.

I was concerned, however, by the splash of paint on the base itself which was a worrying sign that some owner might have been in the habit of adding paint and more so by the extra silver paint that seems to have been marked near the bumper.

The tyres, of course, I knew were incorrect but they do suit the model and I was not too bothered about someone having changed them and so I have left them in place. The rear window on this one was completely missing, though! That was odd. I suppose it is possible to break and then remove the bits but not that easy to make a clean job of it. This means I cannot test whether it meets the new 'flush' requirements but the frame is in keeping with an original 351S style.

So I don't know what to make of this one. the colour is quite different but it really does not appear to have been taken apart and repainted. It will, I guess, remain a mystery! The most likely explanation is that it is a production sample. I had had a few of these for other models and they often do have splashes of paint here or there.

I shall probably put the two originals on sale but the price will be high, I'm afraid. Maybe if I find a few more I be more generous but if you want one now I feel they have to be at least £400 and I will have to hang on to the mystery one as I can't sell it with confidence as one or the the other. The reproduction is worth about £50, consistent with what I have found collectors have been happy to pay for the 322 International Rally Rover 2000 models that I've made with the correct wheels (but the normal 322 body).

I shall write more about the 'flush window' later. Maybe that will finally provide a way to distinguish 500 from 357?!

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