Thursday 29 April 2021

More new old Corgis

You may remember the issue of a reproduction 474 Ford Thames Ice Cream Van (the one with musical chimes) way back in January 2020. My article is here if you have forgotten.

The COVID-19 virus interrupted production in China and we had been hoping that what appeared to be a well-intentioned project would get going again. Earlier this year promotions started to appear once more in magazines and the original web site offered the Ice Cream Van once more. There would appear to have been very many more of these issued than first time round - tens of thousands rather than a mere 1000 or so, according to some estimates I have read. The firm managing the project do seem to have got things moving again. They have a strict 'one model per household' rule and so I was unable to get hold of another Ice Cream Van but other people are reporting that the model itself appears identical but with a different box and different paperwork coming with it. In particular, the Certificate now specifies a number and has a different design to the first issue.

Bearing in mind that no payment was required for the first model (if one ordered the next issue) and, even if someone did pay for it the price was a mere £1.99, I think we were all surprised to see these selling for £100 or more back in early 2020 but put it down to life in an Ebay world. I have to say now that £100 may have been a bargain if the buyer also received the bits and pieces as well, as there will not be many of those around.

Finally, rather later than some of my colleagues, I have received the second model in the series, the 339 BMC Mini-Cooper S 1967 Monte Carlo Winner. There were two versions, the early one had shaped wheels but this is the later issue with cast wheels.

That's the original. Below is the Chinese reproduction.

It's very good, with a very well-matched paint. I understand that the people doing this consulted Corgi for things like the colour reference to ensure that was right. (I am intrigued that there were records to consult and do wonder what else might be in the archives that Hornby acquired, but that's another story!)

The first thing that strikes me and one or two colleagues is the 'soft', almost plastic look to the jewelled lights. Whilst getting the headlamps white and fog lamps yellow as in the issued model, the inserts used seem a little cheap.

The RN177 decal is pleasantly 'yellowed' and not bright white as all the reproduction transfers seem to be but, unlike most of them, it does have the right font. The spacing and size of the digits isn't quite right but that is a minor criticism.

The most annoying fault for me is the rear number plate which has an odd spacing for the characters and looks significantly less deep than the original. The Rally stickers are also small, as you can see from comparison with the original below.

The roof rack is a splendid copy, as are the spare wheels and pins attaching them.

It's nice to see the base reproduced nicely, with the original style of text and layout retained but, of course, featuring Made in China now.

The box is very similar on four of its six sides. The original had different illustrations on opposite sides but this has the same scene printed twice. Otherwise only minor text differences are made and the obvious difference is the side that displays all the production and legal stuff. Luckily, that can sit at the bottom when the box is displayed in a cabinet.

The card itself is the right weight but the printing process used and/or card coating create a very shiny finish which is not particularly pleasant. I also found the changed design of the flaps on the ends very annoying, making them extremely difficult to open without causing a tear. Perhaps this prevents accidental opening and damage en route but I do think they should have taken a chance and left the flaps as they were. This is a most frustrating design and I now leave one flap permanently open to avoid more trouble.

Overall, this is an excellent reproduction and I admire the effort that seems to have been put in to this project and the prinicpals involved do seem to care about getting things right. I believe they have experience from Atlas and their excellent Dinky reproductions and the whole thing has a very similar feel to it, with the planned future issues, lots of goodies issued at the start and options to stop any time. I shall be continuing with this and wish them well.

Next, I believe, is The Saint's Volvo P1800. I hope they use better jewels this time but cannot imagine there is much else to go wrong there.

The Land Rovers and Rice Pony Trailers in Gift Set 2

I was asked this week to list the various changes in content for Gift Set 2, the long-running Land Rover and Pony Trailer combination that was first issued in February 1958 and continued until December 1968 when Gift set 15 replaced it with the blue and white 'Pony Club' combination.

As this may be of interest to a wider audience I thought it would be a good idea to set out the variations here (where experts can also correct me if necessary!)

DateLand RoverPony Trailer
Feb 1958406 type green with tan coversmooth fixedcream with redwirenosmooth fixed
1958smooth fixedred with blackwirenosmooth fixed
1959smooth fixedcream with redwireyessmooth fixed
1959smooth fixedred with blackwireyessmooth fixed
1960smooth fixedred with blackwireyesshaped fixed
1961shaped fixedred with blackwireyessmooth fixed
1961shaped fixedred with blackwireyesshaped fixed
1962438 type deep green with cream plastic covershaped freered with blackwireyessmooth fixed
1962shaped freered with blackwireyesshaped fixed
1962shaped freered with blacksolidyesshaped fixed
Dec 62438 type fawn with cream plastic covershaped freefawn and cream roof, silver mudguardssolidyesshaped fixed
1963shaped freefawn and cream roof, silver mudguardssolidyesshaped free

I am not sure about the intermediate dates. Whilst the fixed shaped wheels only started to appear in 1960-61 it seems that Land Rovers with smooth were in the box with Pony Trailers with fixed and vice versa! I have seen genuine example of both, in Gift sets I know were not changed after purchase. There is a lack of logic there but that's 'Corgi life', I guess!
The fixed drawbar is quite unusual to find on the red Trailer and, as I have only ever found this on a model with shaped wheels, I have to assume that it would have been introduced in 1962 shortly before the fawn model came to the shops at the end of that year.

Just to confuse us, however, there are examples of the red Trailer with fixed shaped wheels and a wire drawbar!

The red Trailers appear to have stopped being produced pretty much when the fawn colour came in and I have never seen one with free wheels which I am assuming came in 1963 or maybe the following year.

The very first ponies appear to have had a brown blanket but blue must have been available pretty soon after launch if not, indeed, from the outset so I would be inclined to regard either as acceptable content throughout. Any other colour, though, will be found to be one of the very good replacements readily available.

The Land Rovers with seat variations are particularly scarce and, whilst they may have turned up in a Gift Set, it is difficult to be sure as the items can so easily be swapped around now. I am inclined, therefore, to exclude them from the list of GS2 variations.

Much of this article has had to be inspired guesswork in the absence of much by way of documentation! So I welcome corrections from anyone with a better background knowledge but hope that, in the meantime, it is of some assistance to collectors.

Thursday 1 April 2021

Corgi Toys @ 60: The Beautiful Bentley Continental Sports Saloon


The 1961 Corgi Catalogue features the Bentley Continental and amongst the extras this model is described as having special hubs. This would be the first release with free-spinning wheels fitted from launch. Every other model at the time had fixed wheels and, whilst some may get the free-spinning ones later, the next one with them at the start would not be until November, on the Triumph Herald in small size, or nearly a year later when the E Type Jaguar is issued.

This Bentley is a simply superb model in every respect. So many new features - the chrome, the rear jewels and the super steering! We will all remember the rather annoying way Dinky models steered with one wheel moving forward and another back in a most unrealistic way. Corgi got this absolutely right with a lovely mechanism which even included coil springs.

I could play with this model all day long, turning corners on my layout and gazing at the light reflecting from those huge yellow headlamps and chrome fittings. I was never particularly fond of the light grey tyres and, whilst the two tone green version had some class, the black over silver edition was the one you thought you might see one day in town.

There are shades of the top colour and this can vary between pale apple green to a distinct white colour. The latter is quite rare.

I am not aware of any other variations and the black over silver models all look the same to me (so far!)

Later in 1961 a gold-plated edition is issued in Gift Set 20, the Golden Guinea Set. I will write about this when it's time comes.