Thursday 31 March 2022

The Corgi Model Club: Jaguar E Type 2+2


This review is late because, of all people, I had my subscription cancelled by the Corgi Model Club!! The lady dealing with my query had no idea why it had happened and I was glad that I had called to query it. Until a week or so ago I had assumed that the delay was just one of those things and I had read stories of problems that they had been having in boxes not being big enough and orders not getting out quickly. So I hadn't panicked but that was a close thing. The lady promised to get me back on the system straightaway but said I may have to wait a week to ten days for it to arrive. That was 10 days ago so I may be calling again tomorrow!

In the meantime my colleague has sent me his which he doesn't want to keep (and which may be available to buy when mine does arrive). I am pretty sure that most collectors will be well pleased with this model. It looks, to me, an extremely accurate reproduction of the original 335 model. I usually spot something a little odd at first glance with these models but this one is excellent.

I have photographed it side by side with my original and I will have to be very petty to note the differences! The shade is a bit more orange than mine. the bulge on the bonnet is slightly wider and the rear lights are far better defined than in the Corgi casting.
My original has a gold steering wheel. Theirs is black.
And that's all. It is a tremendous piece of work by all involved. Well done.

The base gives the game away, of course, with 'Made in China' and some different rivet styles.

It can be a little tricky to get it back in the 'box'. The model is also protected by a piece of perspex wrapped around lengthways. I managed to replaced that without it breaking.

The box is something very well produced. I am sure I broke the bubble on mine in order to extract the model. Sure, I should have read the instructions but it didn't seem to me the sort of box I would keep. It didn't sit evenly with the rectangles I had for all the others and so I guess it just got put to one side and lost. I really do not remember removing it via the 'correct' route at the time.

This will be a popular item and great value for those of us (hopefully) on a subscription.

Thursday 17 March 2022

Ultra-safe packing for the Citroen 'Le Dandy' Coupé

This very nice Citroen 'Le Dandy' Coupé arrived this week. It is the scarce edition in metallic blue and white with a chalky-green interior. These are not only hard to find but hard to find with suspension and both fog lamps in place. This had been played with and there are some minor marks on the bonnet but it one of the best I've seen and even has an original box.

It is missing a door panel and I can see that being something I will not find in a hurry! The metallic maroon models had a quite different bright yellow interior.

What was particularly remarkable about this arrival was the container it came in. Its previous owner must be some woodwork fanatic or carpenter of some description. Here's the box:

Every side has either 6 or 8 screws holding it in place. As if that wasn't enough it had silver-grey 'Duck' tape wrapped all around and a paper wrapping around that! Now, I am not going to complain as this certainly ensured that the contents were not damaged by anything colliding with the outside world! Indeed, it was quite nice to see someone taking so much trouble, although it was a bit OTT and I am sure the vast number of screws were not necessary. I thought I could release one side by just undoing 6 screws but then realised that the side had a further six holding it in through its edges. My usual screwdrivers were not up the job either as these were hard to turn and I had to go out in the pouring rain, getting soaked just to get a decent set of tools to undo them!

I suppose that if you have the timber lying around, a saw and plenty of screws going spare then this is an efficient way to pack things and not have to worry about the rigours of the journey. It would be expensive to post broad, however, as the whole thing weighed 700g or 1½lb.

Tuesday 8 March 2022

The 1959 Corgi Catalogue revisited

It was nearly 8 years ago when I last looked at this catalogue. As a very nice example has just arrived I thought I would review it again. 

The first thing that strikes me is the style of wheel on the BRM or Vanwall. The criss-cross cast wheel is only seen on a few of the 150 or 152 models and I think these will have come from Gift Set 5. Note the transporter, too. A blue cab pulling the yellow carrier section. More about that later.

Inside you'll see that the two-tone versions of the first range of saloons have arrived but the Mechanical versions are also featured! 
There is a whole half-page of American cars with some interesting colours for the 220 Chevrolet and 219 Plymouth. The colours on the rest of these first pages are pretty accurate so one is tempted to assume that the artist was drawing actual models and somewhere we may one day find the production samples in the colours shown. Maybe this is a nice project for one of you expert restorers!
Models with suspension make their first appearance too. This catalogue is dated September 1959 so they are each shown as available slightly later.

Sports and racing cars on page 4 and the Hillman Husky, now in two-tone, plus some utility vehicles. Note the RAC Land Rover with headboard. It took me a while to conclude that this had been the first version but its appearance here tends to confirm matters.

Page 6 still has the cream 102 Pony Trailer and the Massey Ferguson Tractor, Trailer and the magnificent Combine Harvester are the first farm machinery to appear.

Page 9 has the 1100 Carrimore Low-loader No.1, showing a yellow can and blue loader section. This yellow cab often gets attached to the yellow Transporter rear section and some try to convince me that it was issued as all yellow but all that I have encountered have been a different shade of yellow. I'm pretty sure that kids will have swapped cabs around and, indeed, that they will have been swapped again over the years between then and now! You won't see many yellow or blue cabs pulling the Mobilgas tanker, however! That's wouldn't have looked right.

The 404 Bedford Dormobile is interesting, shown here in the two-tone colours that the Mark II editions would have been issued in (although the half-and-half colouring is now very scarce, most being just pale yellow with a pale blue roof!) and which, according to the Great Book of Corgi, had been available since February 1959! My guess is that the artist was provided with a repainted Mark I Bedford and that the issue of the Mark II was a little later than Marcel's book recalled!

More Bedford cabs here - and we have 1104 described as Low-loader No.2 with a pale grey or possibly cream cab which I haven't seen on the real model anywhere. The Transporter section has silver tracks - does anyone know about models without the silver tracks - as has been found on several examples being pulled by a metallic crimson cab but not on the normal red or blue cab editions?

Four whole pages of military models and equipment! Although it took up over 25% of this catalogue, sales were not great and Corgi's efforts were largely unprofitable in this area. Nevertheless, they are much admired and sought after now! Superbly detailed models which must have required considerable engineering skill and attention and which now command very high prices if you are lucky enough to find the items in good condition.

Note that there are no models yet available, at the time this catalogue was printed, with small-size wheels, the tyres shown on page 15 being for normal use, a chunkier size that suited Land Rovers and some other commercial vehicles and the larger diameter for the Major models.

There is also the advertisement of the first accessory pack - containing number plates, tax discs and other bits and pieces which are often still to be found firmly affixed today on models we find!

The back page promotes the imminent issue of Gift Set 8. At 27/6d this was just one penny (1/240th of a pound in those days) cheaper than buying the items individually. 

The first attempt at reviewing this catalogue in May 2014 is here.

Friday 4 March 2022

Pleasant and slightly bonkers

Just over 8 years ago I had this idea of building a catalogue of all the Corgi Toys from the 1956-70s era. You can still read my first 'News' article from the index to this site and, indeed, I see that there are links to the very first website that I created all those years ago. There is something quite charming about it all, the huge illustrations and the often amusing text in some of the descriptions. The photos are of the very first models I acquired and practically all have now moved on to other homes, replaced by others in slightly better condition in many cases. Many links are now broken in that site and I do apologise if you have found yourself lost there but I haven't the heart to remove it entirely.

Those images, though, were big and the whole site was a nightmare to edit. I would wait for several minutes as Serif WebPlus loaded and then for up to twenty minutes further to be able to access the pages as it insisted on loading them all before permitting me to edit just one. Publishing the changes took even longer and, of course, the increased use of mobile phones and tablets to view sites meant that my ancient code was not 'responsive' and was getting the thumbs-down from Google and likely never to be found by anyone seeking help with Corgis. It had to be replaced and so now I have just the one page that I edit with Adobe Dreamweaver as and when necessary, leading to the much simpler Google Site for the Catalogue section. Now I have also acquired the domain and will gradually build that site to become the main home for collectors and other interested people.

The Catalogue section is really what I had intended to build at the very outset but development has slowed somewhat as it is quite a vast operation, not only to build pages with photos of every model but also to write about them. So far I have managed to illustrate most, although I am not up-to-date with variations (as I keep discovering more!) and my 'descriptions' are often a rather bland title and some dates. I have decided that it is time to do something about that so I shall be getting to work on getting that section into order soon. I am encouraged to do so as I want to publish this as a 'proper' catalogue one day, including a printed version which I hope a few people might buy. I have seen a few other efforts in this respect and, whilst, good in parts, I believe I can do better.

Keeping me occupied mostly over the years has been the business which more or less developed out of nowhere. I need to see models and document, photograph them and so I bought lots and then sold them and used most of the income to buy more. Along the way I found that some models were very much in demand and would tend to be sold almost as soon as I listed them and that encouraged me to buy more of these as and when they appeared at reasonable prices. In addition, I found a supplier of superb reproduction boxes for some gift sets and they have also been popular and seldom stay in my cupboards for long. As the models I needed for the catalogue diminished to not more than a handful which I either didn't particularly want to spend money acquiring or which were very seldom seen for sale at all, I have increasingly become a sort of variation specialist store. Nearly all my purchases over the last year or so have been the less common variations of models and some have turned out to be surprisingly rare and little documented elsewhere.

Quite a few of these I have bought at very modest prices, simply because few sellers know about them or just want to get rid of a box of old toys. So the business has been profitable and now occupies a big part of my day. It's strange to think that the initial stock was purchased with some of the proceeds from my late parents' house for let's say £x. For 8 years I have had some income and great enjoyment and the total stock value is now around £3x. That can't be bad and I can't think of many other businesses which could have been as beneficial and certainly not as enjoyable.

The models that I have still never bought are the Batboat or any other than the first edition of the Batmobile, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the very odd Drag Racing models 161-170 and the 428 Ice Cream Van. I would have avoided all the Chipperfields models, other than the Land Rover, but, luckily a colleague wanted to dispose of his collection of the circus models! For some reason I have a particular dislike of the 459 Raygo Roller and the following catalogue number, 460, the Neville Cement Tipper and variations in those models await research. I may well cheat and copy what I can find elsewhere for them. Strangely the next number, 461, the Police Range Rover, is an unattractive model for me and, with 482 in ambulance form I can see many variations in decals but I shall have to steel myself to spend the money buying them! I also have no interest in paying any money for any 800 series models other than Noddy's Car and the Lunar Bug. There are also several 1970s Major issues which leave me somewhat cold but I did grit my teeth and get them documented pretty well a while ago and only a few remain to be dealt with. They'll probably turn up in collections one day and, for now, are the least of my worries.

When I started I had intended not to include Whizzwheels, drawing a line sometime in 1970. As many were, though, such clear continuations of the earlier models and, indeed, there were some particularly scarce ones too, like the 304 Chevrolet Camaro and 281 Rover 2000TC, that I had to give in. Many still leave me cold but there are several models that, even with those dreadful wheels, retained that charm and which I still buy today as and when I see them.

Along the way I have met some lovely people and had many long conversations about Corgis. I have also been a little bored on occasion by some who look with disdain upon any model that is not immaculate in its shop-fresh box which must also have a correct membership leaflet inside. The money these people must spend to acquire such items is way beyond what I suspect I will ever be able to afford and their existing collection is likely to be worth more than a detached house in a nice part of Northamptonshire. Yes, I suppose I am envious too! Of the money, sure, but not the pristine models and boxes so much. I am quite happy with something that has had the odd knock but do tend to avoid items with cracked windows.

I have also encountered some outright villains who peddle wares which they have either created to make a normal model look more valuable or which they simply misrepresent knowingly. I have no particular problem with the folk who price their items at unbelievably high figures - I do so myself when I really do not want to sell something! It is the annoying people who sell restored or repainted items as original or who change the ubiquitous black plastic Whizzwheels for the red spot variety on models which never should have had them and then claim them to be super rare. They took ten minutes to make in their bedroom and it's just not right. 

I had a long run-in with some people concerning Jensen's Minis quite recently. Some auction houses had been selling these for seriously high amounts and almost created the demand for them, albeit unintentionally. People see an organisation that appears to be reasonably knowledgeable about Corgis selling an item and, quite understandably, take their assumption that the item is real as evidence that it is. None of the auction people even had a clue as to where the company being promoted was based or what they did. I can appreciate why, as it did take me a considerable amount of time and effort to find out for myself the actual original 'Jensen's, but I do feel that someone should have also made some effort rather than just believing whatever the seller told them. There are many little red and blue Minis now out there with blue stickers on the doors which people have displayed proudly in cabinets and which they will tell you are worth at least £1000. They're more likely to be around £20 or a little more if the sticker can be removed without damaging the finish.

Such annoyances are, however, few and far between and, for the most part, Corgi collectors form a pleasant, if slightly bonkers community. I expect they find me pleasant and a little bonkers too.

This long-winded recollection has been written largely to take my mind off the events in Ukraine. My wife's home town is getting bombed and slowly destroyed and, whilst she is now living with me here in the safety of my little village, she has 50 years of memories and an apartment full of her belongings in Zhytomyr and we have no idea when, or if, she will see them or her son or relatives resident there again.

Corgi's colours are nicely appropriate and bring a little patriotic cheer.

Tuesday 1 March 2022

Corgi Toys @ 60: Jaguar E Type and a strange Tractor


March 1962 sees the arrival of a model we all wanted as children - the lovely E Type Jaguar. It was produced as an open top car and came with a detachable hard top. This was only the second model to be issued from the outset with free spinning wheels.

There were two main colours: a plum shade of red and a very dark metallic grey. There is very little variation in the red colour but you'll find some quite intensely dark shades of the grey as well as something resembling gunmetal in shade. In 1962 I seldom saw the dark grey model. All my friends had the red one as I did. More recently, however, I had quite a job finding a nice red one to buy for my own collection whilst there were plenty of the grey ones around.

The model has nice suspension which will have survived to this day and will continue to keep the car looking great for years to come. The plastic hard top, though, is pretty vulnerable to cracks and getting broken. Luckily, or confusingly, depending upon your stance, Model Supplies have excellent copy plastic hard tops and it takes a very well-trained eye to detect any difference in the red type.

The company also produce a black variety. This was not available with the models issued by Corgi but does look really nice and a lot more appropriate when fitted on the grey models.

I am also aware of two varieties of base on the 307 model - one has one rivet and the other has two. From what I can tell, the vast majority of models have two and I haven't, in fact, yet been able to buy any with just one to examine whether the text or anything else changes.

The catalogue number is interesting in that 301-5 were used for the very early 1956 issues and the TR3A replacement of 302 in 1960. 306 was missed for some reason (although used  a decade later for a Morris Marina) and I wonder what might have been. All the 300 numbers were sports cars.

Also on the shelves in March would be the Fordson Power Major Tractor (as model 55 issued in May 1961) with four rear wheels, a track running around one normal size and one slightly smaller wheel behind it. Original tracks were grey rubber but you may find black too as they may have degraded over the years and been replaced.

Black tracks were, however, fitted at the outset to a later edition which was based on the revised Fordson Power Major in 1965. This has a different steering mechanism as well as the headlamps being placed inside the grille. You'll have to wait a while for more about that one.