Monday 31 January 2022

Corgi model Club: James Bond's Aston Martin!


Many of us members of the Corgi Model Club have been waiting for this one! It is the most iconic of all the Corgi issues from this era and I have to say that it was very brave of the people behind this re-issue project to include this! It is a model many experts know intimately, inside and out and there are pages and pages of commentary on the original, as well as the many subsequent issues we have seen over the years. 

While there have been many Corgi 'James Bond Aston Martin' issues, however, none have been intended as a copy of the original 261 model. Hornby, themselves, just a few months ago issued their 'reproduction' R26101 model but, with rotating number plates and tyre slashers, that was just a gold-coloured copy of the later 270 issue and, in fact, not a great deal different to a 4201 model which came with an Oddjob character in 1997. So this one is a bit special and the production team have made a first class effort.

The whole package is just right in many respects. As with all of their issues, you will find the silver detailing just a little too precise. We're used to the silver being missed in some places, especially on the headlamps, and wearing thin on the bumpers but here it is exactly where it should be and nowhere else!

We have wire wheels for the first time too. They are really good and you have to wonder why Hornby have not used these on their issues instead of the much less attractive filled chrome wheels. I very much hope that we will see these on some future issues. The axle ends are very shiny and always strike me as being a little large but that may be simply because I am so used to seeing them grey now and maybe with rust as well! The suspension is fairly solid, not as light as before. I fear pressing too much might breal something so I have not really tested it that much. It reminds me of several Whizzwheels issues where suspension was neither here not there.

The model arrives sitting on its tray and not attached by awkward wires. That was a great relief! All the gadgets work although I shall not be tempting providence by trying them out very often. One marvellous 'feature' is the perfectly smooth roof-line when the hatch is closed! You will not find many originals like that! The Club say that they have had to start with a clean sheet when preparing to make this model, no old tooling being available. So everything, from the cast body parts to the technical wizardry inside, has been modelled and manufactured as a new project.

The Club have sent out a nice letter with each of these models to say that this is to be a limited edition of just 5000. They do intend, however, to issue a second model in a few months' time, around May or June 2022, and give us members the option to swap this model for the new one at that time. They say that this is because they are not content with the paint that has had to be used this time. It has a satin finish and it seems that the type of more metallic-looking paint that was on the original cannot be used nowadays for some health reason or another.

I suspect that it will not be beyond the powers of today's paint technicians, though, to create a more 'metallic' finish and that will be what we see next time. As for swapping the model, however; forget that idea! I have already ordered the second edition as an additional item! I am sure both will prove to be highly collectible. There will also be a huge demand from overseas. So if you have one of the first 5000, I recommend that you hang on to it.

Comparing the new with my reasonable example of the old reveals that, contrary to the Model Club's suggestion, the finish really is very much a similar colour in some lights such as that I have used.

It is really quite hard to find any meaningful differences between the two. A cleaner casting, better paint distribution and application, for sure. There is a raised edge around the sides of the rear window on the original but smooth on the new version. The vent in the front wings is smaller and better defined on the new version and there are none of the ugly casting lines running across the front where I guess the old DB4 model was slightly 'adjusted' for the Bond DB5. The grille shape is not quite right in my view, the curve being too smooth and without any horizontal section - or on the front of the body.

The new one is the 'no sidelamps' version and, yes, I know the old one really should not have either a tax disc or that incorrect registration plate! A previous owner attached these and I haven't had the heart to remove them.

The box is a 'second edition' type without any shading around the main text. Below is an example of the original first type of box.

Here too is probably my main criticism: the font used for the 261 number is quite wrong and stands out badly on the end flap in particular. It really should not be that difficult, after all the good work done with model and elsewhere in the box design, to select, or even have someone draft for this purpose, the right style of digits.

A nice tray is quite sufficient to hold the model in place - without the need for wires! Getting at the Top Secret documents, however, is a little tricky if you are to avoid damage to the end flaps or base.

Once inside you'll find very nice reproductions of the paper instructions, envelope and there's even a lapel badge which has been well-reproduced. I seem to recall that my envelope was originally of a much thinner, crisper paper and the instruction sheet was less glossy or thick as this new one. There's also a second baddie loose in the compartment.

The box itself has the usual rather bright finish and shiny card structure. That is what boxes seem to have to be, though, so I'll not moan about that any more. What I do find annoying, however, are the slits in the end flaps which can make the box very difficult to open without causing a tear in that flap. I can appreciate how people don't want the box to flop open in transit but this is not a good solution for us collectors who do want to open the box quickly when we get it.

I feel those slits are quite unnecessary and it was only by very careful fiddling with a narrow blade that I could get them open with virtually no damage. As a result, I shall not close one end again but leave it open as people will doubtless want to see this model from time to time.

You may have been lucky and made a brave 'press with the thumb and pull' manoeuvre and didn't notice any issue here, or don't worry too much if a tear extends the slits a bit.

So, all in all, this is a very, very good item which any James Bond memorabilia fan will want as will a great many Corgi fans too. I don't know how many members are in the Corgi Model Club at this time but I assume it is less than 5000 so there may be a few models remaining for those who join now. (If I'm wrong, though, don't blame me if you can't get one!) I should imagine that there will be many more in a while, however, as this issue and all the articles people like me are writing about it will be a super bit of promotion for them.

There's also an online store on the web site which (and I haven't checked this either) may mean that people overseas can get models direct now, rather than having to buy them from dealers or arranging for friends in the UK to order them. That will disappoint a great many dealers who have made a lot of money selling previous issues for as much as £100+ and already I've seen examples of this Aston Martin at £145! I have supplied one customer in the States and a friend in Germany with a few models but not at those crazy prices. From what I can see, it is also possible to order more than one model in the 'pre-order' section. That must mean that there is likely to be major increase in the production quantities and, coupled with easier access for those abroad, that will weaken prices for future models. That is not to say that the days of these issues being 'highly collectible' are going to be over later this year but it may mean they're best not looked upon as investments.

If it's not too late, though, folks, as well as making the paint closer to the 'first issue', can we have the 'first issue' box too with the May/June edition? And, while you're at it, fix the typeface. Having said that, if these are all coming in some huge ship from China, they'll probably be well on their way by now. Oh well.

Monday 17 January 2022

An unusual Buick Riviera - with gold grille and bumpers


Here is an interesting addition to my collection for 2022. The 245 Buick Riviera in a splendid shade of dark metallic blue with gold 'chrome' at the front and back

It appears to be an early edition with the 'grab' type of hook. It arrived with the later type of tyre - the post-1967 type with Corgi branding and in line tread - but they clearly cannot have been right so I replaced them with original 'normal' tyres of the right era.

The paint is quite thin but not greatly different to the metallic blue and gold that were the norm (the pale solid blue shade being rather thicker). It is not a coat that someone has added on top of another colour as the photo below shows, so this is either original or the base has been very cleverly refitted with no sign of damage to the rivets or where they might have been removed. The paint does, however, blur the definition of the Riviera motifs on the wings.

So this is a bit of a mystery and the first  I have ever seen with gold front and back. It is conceivable that someone has gold plated the original chrome pieces - or maybe gold pieces were available to buy as new parts - and somehow taken it all to bits and rebuilt it but this has been played with and people who make such smart rebuilds tend to look after them, as does whoever subsequently buys them. I am more inclined to the view that this is a production sample when colour schemes and, indeed, gold-plating may have been options on the table for the 245. Gold plating was not to be and the paint on this sample not suitable so it gets rejected.

It then gets taken home by someone at some point and a Corgi chap's child gets to play with it, eventually coming up for sale with a bundle of other Corgis. The seller had no knowledge of its past, just a random collection bought. 

I am happy to have this and expect it to stay in my display cabinet for many years before I learn any more about it!

Corgi Model Club: Ford Thunderbird

The most recent release in their excellent series of Corgi reproductions is the 215S Ford Thunderbird, the Open Top edition with suspension and a driver.

In the same size box as the original a piece of polystyrene protects the screen and driver's head. This is particularly useful as I have always found the driver to be a bit ridiculous, being way too tall, as well as looking very much like the character who would be chopped down to Roger Moore in The Saint's car three years later. I may be wrong there. Maybe he re-appears in the Mercedes 300SL. But that's all another story. So here, nearly 60 years later, is a fine and remarkably accurate reproduction of the car.

The original 215S I had always thought sat a little too high. The 215 was as it should be. I presume the requirements for suspension movement meant the height had to be increased. Here's a fairly similar vintage sitting in the village just around the corner from me.

The model itself has a lovely coat or two of the right colour red and the silver paint has been very well copied, being a strong feature on the original. Perhaps the detailing is a little too precise on the headlamps and at the back end but that's hardly a criticism.

The interior is just as ghastly as the original, and you still have to wonder where passengers put their legs. The colour is perhaps a little darker, more brown than the 1962 issue. The screen is very accurate.

The only thing that struck me as a little odd when I first took it out of the box was the wheel design. As these were supposed to be just the normal shaped wheels they'd produced very nicely on several preceding issues, I was surprised that these seemed slightly different. From some angles they're pretty near perfect but from others they look wrong.

The base is nicely very similar to the original with just the reference to China instead of Gt. Britain. The box has been well done. I think the font for the model title is slightly wrong and the box has that bright finish which is unnatural but really this is a very good effort.

All in all, this may not be my favourite Corgi but I am still delighted to have this in my collection and I have to congratulate the good people at Blue DTC Brands, whoever they are, for their efforts once more. This series is proving a huge success and all just as collectible and exciting to look forward to as the originals.


Saturday 1 January 2022

A Booking Van for the Circus and a Bubble Car for 2022


Corgi dug out the old Karrier cast and tweaked it to produce some more income from fans of Chipperfields Circus models. This came with smooth fixed wheels on the early models but soon afterwards the shaped fixed variety were put on and these are by far the more common.

The other item to appear early in 1962 was the Heinkel Trojan 'Economy Car', better known to most of us as a Bubble Car!

This came in all sorts of colours from, as far as I can tell, the very start, including orange, deep red, bright red, pale pink, deeper lilac-pink, metallic blue and a scarcer metallic peacock blue. Early issues had very small fixed smooth wheels and these remained the norm until much later in the day when small cast wheels were used. Apart, possibly, from some trailers this is the only model featuring these very small wheels in either form.

Neither of the January 1962 models had any special features other than suspension. The Karrier still lacked an interior! The Heinkel had either a lemon or red plastic interior and I am not aware of any variations. The pink had the red interior and the others had lemon.

There appear to be two shades of red for the Karrier - a brick red and a deeper red. The deeper shade is more like the usual Chipperfields colour and the brick red is a little less common but not particularly scarce.

It is quite extraordinary to see what is essentially the very ancient Mobile Shop model with the painted metal display inside still going in 1962 with only suspension added. This would be on the shelves as this month's 'new' model with items like the Bentley Continental and other far better featured models now older issues. I suspect that, if there hadn't been people wanting to collect all the Circus models, this would not have sold at all well. I don't believe it made it through to get free-spinning shaped wheels, being withdrawn in 1964.

You really would not want to change the tyre on the single wheel of the Heinkel so do watch out when buying this model!