Monday 25 April 2022

The Mechanicals

*2/9d in 1956 would have bought you one of several of the first issue of Corgi Toys. Or you could have spent *4/- and had one with a Mechanical motor which had a flywheel providing a continuation of the car's journey under its own steam. The trouble was that the continuation would be just a matter of inches and invariably resulted in the model crashing into the skirting board, a table leg or another model. The model was heavy and just a bit cumbersome. Whilst you could speed in the others, these versions just wouldn't do that, even if you did add oil to the little hole provided to help the gears do their work. The extra 25% or more just wasn't really worth it to many collectors and Corgi abandoned the idea sometime in 1959 with the models ceasing to appear on dealers' order lists in 1960.

Now the comparative scarcity of these models has made them eminently more collectible than the 'normal' issues and they're getting hard to find in reasonable condition and with a motor that still functions.

I have just added a section to my Catalogue to enable people to find them all quickly and see what colours they were sold in at your local toy shop.

These models were listed before but only under the make of vehicle so, if you didn't know which had M variations, they would be difficult to find!

The decision to end M model production had another interesting effect. There would have been a batch of models that had been painted already in the M issue colours and to which a simple tin baseplate would be fitted and the model popped in a normal issue box and sent off to the dealers and to be discovered by a lucky child in due course.

The table below summarises what I know about which may or may not be available. 
(Updated 14/9/23 to add 200M colour)

On the left are the known issue colours for M models. On the right are colours I have seen for the non-mechanical issues as well as the normal issue colours for the non-mechanical models.

You'll see that the Standard Vanguard, Jaguar, Studebaker and Ford Thunderbird are particularly notable by their absence, as well as the Bedford CA Van in KLG Plugs form. The Studebaker is, curiously, known without a motor but with a 211S base in white. Maybe there were no batches of these latter models in the production line with paint when the decision was implemented.

The corollary to all this you may think would be some of the normal issues getting Mechanical bases from time to time. This appear not to have happened accidentally (or at least not made it out of the factory other than in an occasional worker's pocket) or may well have been picked up as presumably the M models didn't have the slope to encounter en route to the box to check that they ran straight and well! Another sort of scrutiny may have applied which would have immediately caught any such oddities, unfortunately, for us now!

Only the Riley Pathfinder appears in both guises in both colours and I assume that the 205M in red was a deliberate choice for some reason.

* our currency prior to decimalisation in 1971 had pounds, shillings and pence. There were 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. Prices like 4 shillings would be written 4/- and 2 shillings and 6 pence as 2/6d. The d stood for the Latin denarius, vaguely meaning penny. It may also be omitted so that 2/6 would also be commonly used. 1/2 would be 1 shilling and 2 pence, not a half.

Looking back at Land Rovers again.

For a long time I have been wondering about the different castings used for the 406 Land Rover. If you look closely there are many very small differences but the one that stands out for me as a specific variation which I should include in the Catalogue is the inclusion of 'handles' or 'steps' at the left and right rear lower corners.

After looking at all the models I could find in my Corgi collection, and a few more besides, I have been surprised to find that, without exception in this lot, models with smooth wheels had handles, models with shaped wheels did not.

Now I find it hard to believe that the decision to change the casting, or wear or change for another model, came at exactly the same time as the decision to start fitting shaped wheels instead of smooth wheels. So it must be the case that we may find smooth wheel models without handles and shaped wheel models with handles. I just hope that I find them before you as they'll be scarce and worth a premium depending upon just how rare they turn out to be.

Update a little later: after writing this I had rushed off and bought a nice-looking example of the smooth wheel model with no handles. Careful examination of these photos (well even not particularly careful examination) will show that I already had a couple of these in my collection! Shaped wheels with handles, however, do appear to be the ones that are still missing.
















Tuesday 5 April 2022

Red Land Rovers

"Are the Chipperfields Land Rovers a different colour to the Ferrari Set ones?"

My good friend and collector in Germany asked me the question. I knew that I had seen two distinct shades but whether they could be specifically allocated to one or other I couldn't say. So I've been thinking about it and would welcome any actual knowledge about this either to support or counter my conclusions.

He sent me the photos above which do show quite clear differences. Whilst there are shades in between, there remain two that stand out for us - the dark shade and the brighter red shade. My inclination was first to see the the darker shade as Chipperfields and the brighter one as Ferrari. I am not entirely sure why, especially as I am not a big fan of the Circus models and tend to have avoided them over the last few years, but some impressions of colour seem to have remained in such brain as I have left and the darker one really did say 'Chipperfields'.

Then I looked at a pile of other models, mostly pretty new and in boxes for GS19 or GS17. Now I know that just because a model is in a box now does not mean that it was in the same box at the start of its life at the factory but bear with me on this for now.

These are two 'Chipperfields' models. 

Here are two Ferrari Gift set models.

Another two Chipperfields models.

Two unallocated models I had lying around.

Yes, there were both bright and dark in each case! So that didn't help at all.

Thinking about it some more it occurred to me that it is unlikely that Corgi would have been spraying the same Land Rover casts in slightly different shades at the same time for the various Gift Sets. While they were packing both the Chipperfields and Ferrari Gift set boxes I would have expected the production people to be providing just the one batch of painted Land Rovers.

The first appearance of a red Land Rover was in April 1962 for the Gift Set 19 with a trailer and Elephant Cage. So I can imagine that a colour was decided and all Land Rovers for this set and the following Gift Set 23 in September 1962 would have been in that colour. Generally, Corgi were good at being consistent with colours over a short period and let's say that the dark shade was thus utilised for all the Chipperfields items through to early 1963.

Then the Ferrari Gift Set is devised and, again, the same darker shade is included in this Gift Set 17 too for a while. Then, some time later, and I have no idea when, there is a change of supplier of paint or even a deliberate decision to have something brighter and along come batches of new, brighter red Land Rovers and these are available for use in whichever Gift Set, Chipperfields or Ferrari, as the ladies in the factory need them for.

That then is how, in my view, the different colours have been distributed at the start. Early Chipperfields models have the first shade (to which I have allocated the darker one) and all later models are brighter red, whether Ferrari or not.

We did, of course, wonder whether Ferrari had had a hand in determining the shade but decided this was unlikely or, even if they had, it was not exactly followed!

It would be a fair criticism of this brief research to say that the images provided here could all be of the same red shade but varying light and processing have resulted in their now appearing quite different. I don't think that will be the case but I'm happy to read any alternative suggestions, or knowledge even, that someone may be able to contribute.

Saturday 2 April 2022

Corgi Toys @ 60 : Aston Martin DB4 Competition and a Land Rover with suspension


April 1962 sees the arrival of the lovely Aston Martin DB4 Competition model at the local toy shop. Jewelled headlamps are added to the 218 model as well as a tone-tone paint finish, flags on the bonnet and RN 1, 3 or 7 on the doors.

Although the illustrator must have had a production sample with a red interior on the desk to work with, the issued model has only the standard lemon flimsy plastic interior.

The first editions had an open vent on the bonnet. The model shown looks like the second, less deeply cut back, type of vent which would have been produced slightly later. Further on in production the vent is closed and less defined. These changes usually tie in with a variation in the hinge for the bonnet and whether the underside is left green or painted silver.

This is one of my favourite models and I am always trying to find the elusive model featured in the 1965 Corgi Catalogue.

This month, 60 years ago, also saw the first appearance of the Land Rover in Series II form and with suspension.

There is no documented release date for the 406S Land Rover that I have been able to trace. It must have been around this time, however, because this is the month when Gift Set 19 is released and that contains a red Land Rover Series II with suspension.

The 406S was issued individually in a box numbered as such but whether it came with a canopy is doubtful. I have seen them sold with a grey canopy but I am not yet convinced, especially as the 438 box specifically refers to a detachable canopy but the 406S box does not.

Interestingly the 1963 catalogue, printed in early 1962 makes no mention of this model, nor of the 438, but it does illustrate the Chipperfields model in GS23 and it appears to be available to buy, as well as GS19. The RAF 351S, RAC 416S and GS2 edition in fawn are all shown as 'Available Later'.

It is my understanding that the red and farm green editions (the latter appearing in the Farm Gift Set 22 in September) are 406S models but, as they only ever appeared in gift sets it has never been necessary to give them their own catalogue number.

So the first 'official' Land Rover Series II with suspension has to be the Chipperfields Circus edition, appearing now in Gift Set 19 with a trailer carrying a plastic 'wood-effect' cage with metal bars and a loading hook on top. Inside is a grey elephant.

The first editions of this set would have had the Land Rover with a tin canopy like the Gift Set 2 model had but this one is painted light blue and has a Chipperfields Circus sticker attached to each side. Later a blue plastic canopy would replace the tin.