Thursday 26 January 2023

Mini vans and Mini-vans

[Updated 27 January 2023]

A nice Mini van arrived today and I also noticed someone asking questions about this model in a Facebook Group.

You may well think that there really was just one 450 model in (a very accurate) utilitarian green but it turns out that there are quite a few to collect!

First, there are three grille types: plain, in body colour finish, painted silver and an Austin Countryman style as used for the 485 Surfing model.

Although I do like the look of the Countryman grille and you might think that a silver-painted one makes sense, neither are right. The real vans had no decoration at all, just holes in the front bodywork to let the air through!

Next there is that matter of spelling. It seems that Corgi were quite confused and you will find both AUSTIN MINI VAN and AUSTIN MINI-VAN on the base. Both seem pretty easy to find so I can't say which is the less or more common.

A factory error has also produced a 450 Mini van with a 485 Mini Countryman base but I haven't seen one myself yet.

As for the Austin Mini Countryman, Corgi did, at least settle on dropping the hyphen and every one that I have seen has had AUSTIN MINI COUNTRYMAN. Well, apart from one, that is, which has AUSTIN MINI VAN!!

I have to admit that I have only now noticed that one! I need to change the price for that one quickly before I publish this or someone will get a bargain as I imagine this is quite a scarce one!

Elsewhere with the Countryman you'll find most models have shaped wheels but some less common later issues had cast wheels.

Then there is the last oddity - the Countryman without a fuel filler cap! All but one of the 485 models I have heard about have the correct Austin countryman grille which is painted silver. The one oddity, just advised to me today, is one with shaped wheels, no fuel filler cap and a body-coloured grille! Table updated below.

The Police Mini Van, 448, also has both MINI VAN and MINI-VAN bases and, I believe, there are a few factory error MINI COUNTRYMAN bases out there too. However the grilles are all the same, painted variety and not even silver  painted grilles seem to have appeared - in my experience, at any rate.

You'll find shaped wheels and cast wheels, as for the Austin Mini Countryman.

So if you thought your collection was complete, here's what should be out there . . .

MINI VAN base normal grille
MINI VAN base silver grille
MINI VAN base Countryman grille
MINI-VAN base normal grille
MINI-VAN base silver grille
MINI-VAN base Countryman grille

MINI VAN base shaped wheels
MINI VAN base cast wheels
MINI-VAN base shaped wheels
MINI-VAN base cast wheels
COUNTRYMAN base shaped wheels
COUNTRYMAN base cast wheels

COUNTRYMAN base shaped wheels
COUNTRYMAN base shaped wheels no fuel filler
COUNTRYMAN base shaped wheels no fuel filler, unpainted grille
COUNTRYMAN base cast wheels
COUNTRYMAN base cast wheels no fuel filler?
MINI VAN base shaped wheels
MINI VAN base cast wheels?

The ? indicates that I am not aware of these so someone send me some photos if they have one.

I also think that there may well be 450 models with the Police 448 window unit. Plenty to look out for!

Thursday 12 January 2023

Mechanical models: two base types


Following my last article on the Rover 90 I took another look at the undersides of my other Mechanical models. Here's what I found: each of the M models up to the Jaguar had both the Type A British Made and Type B Patent Pending text to the side of Corgi Toys and the changed axle text. The Jaguar also has a grey base variant which features the Type B text as you would expect.

I know there are grey base 207 Standards but I cannot say whether there are grey base 207M models. That is something to look out for, perhaps. It does seem highly unlikely, though, that any of the earlier models could have a grey base.

The 209 and 210 didn't have an M edition but the 210 has a variety of base styles I'll write about another day. The 211M, 214M and 216M all appear to have grey bases with Type B text.

I shall return to this topic as I can see that there are also different types of tin base for the non Mechanical models and variations are to be found on later models too. that will take a while to document, however, so don't hold your breath for that. Of course, if anyone has already done this research then I would be grateful for the data!

For now, here are the bases for the 200M,201M,202M,203M,204M,205M,206M,207M,208M,403M,404M and 405M

Wednesday 11 January 2023

Rover 90. Surprisingly interesting.


My eleventh Rover 90 arrived today. I cannot resist these old models. They seem to be the least loved of the first 1956 launch group and the casting often seems flawed and was regarded as the worst of the group by Marcel Van Cleemput himself by all accounts. Nevertheless, I like this old thing. It may be because I had a Rover 100 myself many years ago when I was at St. Andrews University and regularly drove to Edinburgh and back, stopping to get out and knock the fuel pump with a screwdriver whenever it ceased working!

The 204 model seemed very uninteresting at first when I started this catalogue project and I really didn't pay much attention to it. I thought there was a lightish colour normal model, a green M edition and the two-tone one and that was it.

The story is, however, rather more fun. First the 204 comes in two main flavours: light grey and ivory. 

The two-tone is a quite stunning pale pink over metallic crimson.
The 204M models appear at first to have two finishes: a metallic bluish green and a solid dark green.

Then along comes a distinctly different solid bright green!

These two shades of green remind me of the two shades that seem to exist for the 301 Triumph TR2 and 405 Bedford CA Fire Tender. I am beginning to wonder, too, whether I need to take another look at my 406 Land Rovers from Gift Set 2 now!

Actually, now I look again at this photo from above that I took this morning, I can see three shades of the solid green. I had placed the one with worn paint next to what I'd thought was a dark one, thinking it was the same shade but it is neither the same as the 'dark green' nor the 'bright green'! I guess I shall have to call it 'rich bright green' and add this to the catalogue. From what I can tell (apart from the new discovery) the colours are fairly evenly distributed with, in my experience, none seeming significantly scarcer than the other.

What is decidedly scarce is this one shown below. It is a non-mechanical 204 but finished in the 204M metallic bluish green. These - and you'll find similar delights across the early range - resulted from one of two things: either by simple mistake, attaching a 204 base to a 204M body or as a way to use up 204M bodies that had been painted shortly prior to the production of friction motor models being abandoned.

Finally, for now, there is yet another variation to look out for and that is on the base. There are two types. One, which I call Type A as I think it is the earliest, has British and Made placed either side of Corgi Toys. The other, Type B, has Patent and Pending in those positions and a revised text on the front axle. As what I call Type B has blanking plates it would appear that that is the one that has been revised and hence would be the later but I am only taking a guess.

Other early issues have a similar set of Type A/B bases, complicated by some with a grey base too! I will take a look at these as my next job but I don't have that many examples to work with so any help would be appreciated if you could have a look at yours.

Monday 9 January 2023

Rolls Royce silver and gold


I was really glad to have had a 280 Rolls Royce in silver in my collection so that I could be absolutely sure that the latest arrival here in the village was, indeed, not the same silver but gold!

Sure enough, the difference is very clear and this is a beautiful and scarce edition of the 280 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow (corrected!) finished in metallic gold. You do have to place models side by side, however, as photos simply don't do the colour justice when taken on its own.

As you'll be able to tell from the style of box shown below, this was a late issue, probably from 1976/7. Great Britain's Rolls Royce should, of course, always be represented by an impressive model and Corgi had tried hard, albeit at a time when production methods were not producing the same sort of quality as we had become used to in the 1960s. The first Rolls Royce was the 273 model, usually finished in creamy silver and chalky blue-grey, first issued in March 1970.

Only a few months later though, in October 1970, the Golden Jacks base is replaced by a Whizzwheels one and a fine, if a bit clunky, model is ruined. The dreadful wheels were the same terrible design used across the board at the time. (If you see one with red spot wheels that will be something someone has made afterwards as the wheels were very simple to change.)

The colours selected for the 280 Whizzwheels Rolls Royce were so much better, however, being a rich metallic blue and silver. If you're very lucky, you might find the 273 model in the same finish but these are almost as scarce as the gold 280!

Later in production it changes to an all metallic blue finish.

At some point the quarterlight disappears but the colour and wheels remain unchanged.

Finally, much later in its life, someone at Corgi decides that the model really should get better wheels. After all, they had been making reasonable alternatives to the awful black plastic things for other models for some time. Maybe someone from Derby made a call to the boss. Whatever the case, a metallic silver finish and much better wheels are on the last issue. For some reason best known to someone at Corgi the chrome was finished in gold rather than silver, with distinctly gold wheels too, on many silver issues so you'll find silver with silver or gold chromework.

I have also seen some metallic blue 280 models with the six-point star type of Whizzwheels. It looks awful but that's not the reason I mention it. The curious thing is that all the models I have seen with those wheels had a quarterlight. One would have thought that, having abandoned the quarterlight at some stage in the 'four crowns' style of wheel production it would not have returned. 

Whatever the order of things was in those strange days at Corgi, when shelves would have had the big 1:36 scale models sitting next to the last 1:43 scale ones, these Rolls Royce models prove themselves to be much more interesting than you might have thought. There are lots of 280s around and most only fetch a few pounds even in good condition.

It would appear that only the silver and gold finish models have the more realistic style of wheels and all the previous 280s have silver chromework.

I have always been a big fan of the 273 in the rare blue and silver, but this 280 in metallic gold, which was what started off this article, is quite a grand item to have on one's desk with a lot more presence than the silver one. Interestingly, mine has silver wheels rather than gold. Perhaps there are some all gold models out there too?