Thursday 29 September 2022

Seeing blue when my screen says green.


"Oh dear," I said in a note to my friend Andreas. We share many stories of success and failure in looking for Corgis and comfort and congratulate each other as appropriate. "I've bought yet another deep green Land Rover and a broken trailer. . . but at least the tin Chipperfield's canopy will be useful." I had seen the Ebay listing above and rapidly made an offer without looking very closely, thinking it might be the elusive and valuable 351S model. The seller had responded quickly to accept my modest offer which tended to endorse my view that I must have made a mistake - seeing blue when I am shown green. I did look again and, indeed, convinced myself that I had definitely made a mistake and that was when I wrote to Andreas.

When the parcel arrived a few days later I was in no particular rush to open it and left it on my desk for some time while I unpacked some others. Finally I thought I might as well take the items out and see whether the trailer could be repaired and think of something to do with what may well have been my 104th deep green Land Rover.

Imagine my delight when the bubble-wrap fell away and a genuine, 351S RAF Land Rover rolls on to my desk! I did actually cry out something like 'Yay!' quite loudly and rushed to tell my wife all about it. Yes, neither my eyes nor computer screen had deceived me on this occasion and I have a really very nice example of this extremely scarce model. Yes, it has been played with, it has lost its hook, RAF roundel and plastic canopy but it is real and I'm happy.

Even in this picture it still looks very much like a normal 438 in deep green, doesn't it? It is only when you put the two together that the difference becomes clear.

The framed rear window is an important identifying feature which can often distinguish between a real model and something someone has made to look like one.

The base is just like any other 438 or 406S with normal wheels.

I do wonder whether there are many other Series II RAF Land Rovers which avoid attention and arrive almost unannounced to surprise collectors.

Sunday 25 September 2022

Ford Mustang - one of my favourites, even in pea green.


This Ford Mustang arrived last week. These 320 models are one of my favourite Corgis and I have to admit to adoring the real thing - I could easily be tempted to get one of the latest Mustangs too which still retain something of the style of the 1960s classic. For now, though, I have to satisfy myself with the models, even if some appear in this strange shade of pea green!

This shade and the evocative metallic lilac I have only found so far with spoked wheels. I am sure they exist with the scarcer shaped wheels and, possibly, although I am not so sure, with cast wheels. Each alternative has eluded me to date.

The two other colours issued were a gorgeous shade of metallic blue and silver.

The blue car has to be one of the most attractive to display with that lovely cream interior. I have this with all three wheel variations.

The silver model always seems to have a dark red interior. Again I have found it with each of the three types of wheel. I do wonder if, one day, I might stumble across a silver edition with the cream interior. There must have been a few produced by mistake and it would not look at all bad.

It is a pity that Corgi did not use the wires for suspension on these models but, instead, relied upon a piece of chromed plastic which has become brittle over the years. If you ever take a model to bits and see why the suspension doesn't work you'll be amazed that it lasted as long as it did!

Many of my models have suffered from this but they're too nice to discard.

The windows usually stay strong on these models with the rear window seldom getting cracked, unlike the Ghia. The front grille is, strangely, a piece of paper with a chrome and black printed design. I am sure that could have been better produced and now you'll find the sticker hanging off or missing. Luckily, replacements are very accurate and easy to get.

The corgi dog on the rear seat is delightful if a bit weird as I didn't think that corgi dogs were that popular in the States nor entirely appropriate for a sports car like this. But what do I know? At least they did remove the dog in the Rally edition 325!

Now, back to searching for the missing models . . .

An odd little Imp with jewels

This odd little model arrived last week. I have had a couple of bronze Imps before with jewelled fog lamps but this one is different. This has the later 'Sunbeam' type of window unit but the earlier 'Hillman' base.

Quite a strange one, this, and difficult to figure out how it came about.

It is a factory bronze 251 issue and no-one has messed around with the base or repainted a blue 328.

To all intents and purposes, it is a 328 but in bronze and with a cream interior. I wonder if, perhaps, at the end of the production of the 328, when plans would be made to switch to the 340 to mark the later year's rally success, there were some castings with the two holes still to be painted and, rather than make 328s which may have been unwanted, someone decided to send them off for the bronze treatment with normal 251s. Maybe they would have headed off to Transporter Gift Sets or some lucky collector might have found one in a box at his toy shop.

It would have to have been made in the few months in early 1967 when the Sunbeam window units would have started to be available and production of the 251 was ending.

This particular example had been 'modified' by its last owner, unfortunately, and my efforts to ring it back to how it once would have been haven't been successful. I had removed some water transfers very easily but under them I found three white panels - one on each door and a circular one on the bonnet. I'd thought they were transfers but they were painted and bore hand-painted numerals - the bonnet number being different to the sides! The paint nearly came off but I damaged the base bronze colour beneath in a couple of places so, for now, I have covered the damage with some unwanted Citroën Monte Carlo transfers. (They use the wrong font). In due course I may change these for some more accurate Hillman Monte Carlo numbers if I can find something appropriate. 

These oddities are fascinating to find. It's a pity this one has had to have the decals but I don't imagine I am going to find another in a hurry! This one actually came from France. The other two that I had without decals were in quite bad condition with broken windows and suspension so this is, at least, intact and, yes, the suspension has survived!

Red spot wheels - an update


Back in December 2019 I wrote about red spot wheels, the first 'Whizzwheels', and how vast sums were being paid by people for some Corgi models featuring them. I had doubts and, after several collectors and one auction site director had written or called me to talk about these, I wrote that I might be persuaded that a very few issues in April and May 1970, including The Saint's Volvo P1800, might have been genuine factory issues.

Since then I have had a lot more discussions and learned that the decision to change to the cheaper plastic wheel was made in February and implemented more or less immediately. Whilst there would have been some stocks to use up, these would have been depleted by the time of the Volvo's re-appearance.

So, particularly as the wheels are so easy to change, I can only urge that you do not pay any more for a red-spot edition of the Volvo (or, for that matter, Renault 16TS, Alfa Romeo P33, Porsche Carrera 6 which were produced at the same time) than you would for one with the ubiquitous black wheels. I have amended my article with the addition shown here and apologise to anyone who saw this as a green light to invest heavily. I was wrong.
Despite the logic here, in many discussions I have had with people who seem to know what they're talking about and have a good knowledge of many other issues, it does appear that Corgi did not proceed with fitting red spot wheels to models after announcing the switch to a cheaper variety. Maybe stock lasted a few weeks but that's all, and not long enough to impact these three or the following two. In the absence of any definitive evidence or anything by way of better provenance no-one can say categorically that none of these emerged with red-spot wheels but, if they did, they're not official and are more likely to have been the product of someone who just reckoned the cars looked better with them and had access to a few spares.

It makes valuing any models that do appear with these wheels something that has to be done with great caution, not only because of the doubts of their origin but also, and probably principally nowadays, because it is so easy to swap them.

I should add that it is so often the TV and Film-related models which seem to get this treatment - these are the models which far more people seek to collect and so often want to believe that they have something special, a more generally gullible audience, I suspect. And that brings us neatly to the worst offender of all - the 270 James Bond Aston Martin that you'll find fitted with red-spot wheels.

For this one, I can state, without any doubt whatsoever, that they're fakes. You'll see that, by virtue of earlier editions having tyre slashers on the rear wheels, only the later editions with wider wheel arches are marketed with the red spots. That edition did not appear until 1976, some 6 years after red spot wheels had disappeared from production lines at the Corgi factory! The only place those wheels would have been in 1976 was on some earlier models and, over the years, people have simply taken them off a legitimate bearer, such as a Capri, Ferrari Dino, Chevrolet Astro, Lamborghini or Pontiac, and pushed them on to the Aston axles. The chrome wheels fitted would be easy to pull off. And yet, and yet, people still pay vast sums for the Aston when they see them . . .

Diecast Investor laughably describe their model as a 'transition' edition! Some transition, lasting 6 years or more!

OK, I'll stop now. Caveat emptor as the Romans might have said.

Saturday 10 September 2022

Corgi Model Club on East African Safari!

 The good folks at the Corgi Model Club have done it again. Their latest issue is a superb version of the 256 Volkswagen 1200 in East African Safari trim. Box, tray, rhino, packing pieces, steering card - it's all there and looks fabulous.

The car's great but the box is a little disappointing as the colours, other than blue, seem rather dull. The original was quite a lot brighter and more red than orange-brown. I am a little surprised this passed the quality control at the Club and the scene on the tray background is similarly washed-out. Looking at others offered on Ebay, they all look the same so it seems not to be just my bad luck. 

Putting the shade to one side, though, the model itself and the presentation is otherwise superb. The car is a very bright red, brighter than I remember my original being but that may just be my fading memory! I don't have one to hand to compare.

The '18' and bonnet decals are accurate. If anything the bonnet one sits better as it seems slightly thinner than the original sticker which tended to lift where it wasn't well stuck down. The 'NAIROBI' sticker in the rear window is a decent copy.

The car is the left-hand drive edition and has a bonnet and engine compartment cover which lift and stay up, unlike most originals I have had in the past! the engine and bits and pieces in the front are well reproduced too. I particularly like the use of silver for the base and extension to form the front and rear bumpers. This was a great idea and helped the model to stay looking fresh even after a few collisions.

The rhino is excellent and, like the tray, without any specific sign of its Chinese origin, I can see annoying dealers treating them as originals for unsuspecting collectors seeking replacements. (Tip: this tray does not have the semi-circular tabs of the original). Not sure about the rhino.

I would like the club to find a source of better jewels. All the models so far that have had jewels have had the quite dull plastic type when I am sure a glass or better quality plastic could be used at precious little extra cost.

Overall, though, this is a great model and the original was one of my favourites, appearing in December 1965. To be able to steer it round my layout was so good. Yes, we had had the Austin A60 18 months earlier but its small wheels and almost non-existent ground clearance made that difficult to steer on anything other than a very flat hard surface. This VW you could use much more widely and the wheels looked right. And, of course, it had a wheel on the roof, not some huge round red thing which I never liked.

Corgi went on to change the colour and decals, pop a lamp on top and call it a European Police Car after another 18 months in May 1966. Perhaps that will be another we can see in due course and, who knows, maybe even the ridiculous-looking 400/1 Driving School edition one day!

I should add that the packing pieces are not the same as the original (which had just one piece of folded corrugated cardboard as they used universally for this purpose). This also does not have the model-specific leaflet. Whilst it would be nice to have the leaflet, the original included the Corgi Membership Club Form and related information which, understandably, can't be reproduced or some office in Wales will be getting a whole pile of unwanted mail. What the Model Club might consider, however, is producing a sheet on the same size and type of paper and reproducing the model information, instructions and the like but substituting their own details for the form section. Now that's an idea.

Friday 2 September 2022

It's an ugly little car . . .

It's an ugly little car, in a fairly boring solid blue with Whizzwheels. But this is worth several hundred pounds. It's the scarcest Corgi from the era I collect which one could have bought in a local toy store. 

This one is nearly complete and all original. I say 'nearly', because the passenger seat is missing. That, however, is a simple fix and the interior is identical to the white issue so I just need to find a cheap one of those and swap the seat to this one.

This blue edition of the 305 Mini Marco GT850 was only issued with the Gift Set 20 Transporter Set and that had a very limited production run in 1972 with several changes in the components. I have no clue as to the number produced but after seven or eight years of fairly constant observation of what has appeared on Ebay this is only the second that I have seen that is definitely the real thing. The other I also own and wrote about in June last year - a bit of a wreck but a real one at least!

I had a pristine-looking example some years ago which looked very good but the shade wasn't quite right, there was no transfer on the sill and the rivet, while very well-made indeed, was a slightly different style to those shown on the few illustrations I was able to use to compare. It was a superb copy and someone in Japan liked it enough to pay £515 for, aware of my full description too. So I shudder to think what I might have to pay for anything like one in excellent condition and original.

This model would have been sold with the 1146 Scammel Tri-deck Transporter in late 1972. I have seen just one set sold and that was this one in less than perfect condition, costing over £1500 in 2014. Now I think the set would make over £2000 and the car on its own £1000 if not more.

Over the period since, only the 351S RAF Land Rover has been anything like as rare to see. Yes, there are models with even lower production numbers, like the special editions made for a particular firm's promotion and there will always be the minute numbers of models with errors and, of course, production samples. I suspect that models like the two-tone re-issues of the original range with shaped wheels (and some later models where just a few were issued with cast wheels, like the Rover 2000 and Hillman Imp) may prove to be at the very top of the Scarce Tree but this one is definitely up there and not far from the top. The other special issues, variations and errors are great and may be super scarce and much sought-after but I am referring here to models that you or I could have bought for simple pocket money at the time.

I shall list these models in my store but I would very much prefer to keep them in my own collection so the cost of persuading me to part company with either will not be cheap!

And yes, these really were most unattractive in 1:1 scale too!