Monday 22 May 2023

Wheel change


"So what's this?" you may well ask! I had a 301 Iso Grifo in pretty clean condition but with collapsed suspension. It was too nice to discard so I had the idea of changing the dreadful Whizzwheels for some nice shaped wheels.

"That'll be easy," I said to myself. "No it won't." could have been a useful reply but, no-one else being around, I just pressed on hopefully.

Taking it apart was simple enough. There were more bits and pieces than I'd expected but nothing too complicated. I can't remember now what had provided the suspension before but, whatever it had been, it wasn't working and I removed what was left. The problem came when I tried to fit normal wheels on a normal old-style axle. Firstly, there was now nothing to provide suspension, of course. I toyed with some ideas of rubber chunks in the right places and even carved out some shapes to sandwich between the axles and the interior at the back and engine at the front. That ought to have worked but it didn't and I gave up. In any event the wheels were not sitting correctly, being way too high in the wheel arches. Eventually I realised that the slots into which the previous axles had sat were not wide enough. They looked wide enough and casual inspection seemed to show the new axles sat nicely in them. More careful inspection, however, showed this not to be the case. The Whizzwheel axles are very thin but the normal old axles are a lot thicker and they just sat at the top of the slot.

With a combination of a small metal saw blade and a very ancient file with a triangular profile I wore away a bigger gap. This took far, far longer than I could ever had imagined but, eventually, the axle dropped in far enough so that the car would look sensible when upright and back together.

Now, at this point I should, perhaps, have revisited my rubber chunks idea but I had had enough. "I'm sorry, Iso", I said, but "no more suspension." As if to answer a plea to reconsider, I continued with "Look, no-one's going to be playing with you. You'll sit on my desk for a few weeks, then maybe on a shelf in a cabinet and then you'll be wrapped in tissue and left in a box for years. I can't see anyone wanting to buy you and I'm not going to spend another 12p a month advertising you on Ebay but I may put you in my own store so that doesn't cost anything. And even if someone does buy you, you'll be sat on their shelf or tucked away again for years. So let's not get too sentimental about suspension, OK?"

And so it was so that I saved another week of carving old rubbers or risking damaging the interior by simply gluing the axle to the base. I do fear someone thumping hard on the roof or bonnet in an attempt to test the non-existent suspension and the glue not standing up to that but no other solution came to mind.

Putting it back together does require a little good fortune in getting the door hinges to align nicely with the base, and there is a correct order to window unit, doors, dashboard, steering wheel, rest of interior which escapes me now, but it worked and here is what, in my view, is a remarkably more attractive model of a splendid car.

This business of replacing wheels is very rewarding. Whizzwheels just scream to be replaced, don't they? Well, the earlier ones do. And that gives me the next idea which is a variation on the theme. Instead of doing battle with axles I could simply try just removing the pepperpots or four crowns (or the really awful six point stars) and refitting a later, more attractive style. Later Corgis did get a more reasonable wheel and that might work. The nice thing is that, with a good tug and a bit of luck, I can swap them over without having to take the model apart!

This, as you may have guessed, brings me to the topic of 'red spot' Whizzwheels. These were the very first and were actually quite a pleasant design that didn't look too bad on some models. There is an Iso Grifo on Ebay at the time of writing with them. 

Only £779. Or why not buy the same seller's Toyota for a mere £939?

Both have been created by someone - the old wheels pull off and the red spots push on. It is that  simple. Yes, they look interesting and they look a lot nicer than the original wheels but, no, they're only worth, at most, the price of a similar model with the ugly ones. When these models were issued, Corgi were fitting the pepperpot style to their Whizzwheels production, the red spot style being abandoned as it was expensive. There will have been been spare red spot wheels lying around and no doubt some factory people had some fun fitting them too but do not believe that these were issued by Corgi for dealers to order.

I have listed before the models you will find with red spots: 

344 Ferrari Dino
347 Chevrolet Astro
343 Pontiac Firebird
303 Roger Clark's Ford Capri
311 Ford Capri
342 Lamborghini P400 Miura

That's it. Treat any others as 'adaptations'.

Friday 12 May 2023

The Corgi Model Club: Marcos 1800GT


The latest issue from the Corgi Model Club is the #324 Marcos 1800 GT. Once again, they have excelled in obtaining a very accurate reproduction of the original model. Indeed, in many respects this could be regarded as an improvement as all the originals I have had have had very loose doors or a bonnet which never closed in line. This is great and I have no criticisms at all.

I could say the colour is different as mine have been more cream than white but that could well be due to the accumulation of tobacco in most rooms where Corgis were kept or played with in the 1960s!

The wire wheels are very nice and the Club made the decision to affix the RN decals rather than including them in a transfer after consulting collectors. This is much better, although the original had a set of numbers on a backing sheet which they could peel off and affix themselves. I recommended that the Club do this too in future where that was done for an original release.

I understand that RN from 1 - 8 have been used, spread evenly across models - so they ought to be equal in value but I am still expecting to find that some might have been withheld or not as frequently seen.

The Club also chose to use blue stripes on the bonnet. The normal release had green lines (in either fat or thin style) and blue lines were only used on an export model for Canada in 1966.

One amusing feature of my model is how the driver seems to be sitting far too forward! His back is at the right angle but miles away from the seat back. I may find that he can be moved back into a less weird position but haven't tried very hard yet. The driver usually gets lost with originals anyway.

Update: a second Marcos has arrived (another RN5 incidentally) and in this one I managed to move the little fellow back. Although he's not touching the wheel now, this is an improvement!

Comparison with one of my original 1966 models shows just how good this reproduction is. The RN decals are a little too glossy and I do think there is a colour difference but that really is all I can find.

Corgi seemed to have a particularly close relationship with the Marcos company. It was a very small British company producing sports models which were not something you'd see very often on the roads, if at all, so not something we expected to see as a model in the 1960s. We didn't think too much about it, though, as no-one saw the American models or many of the European ones either. None were very attractive in the metal. The Mini Marcos 850GT model looked very much better than the odd real motor and this is also quite flattering, as is the Marcos Mantis, completing the Marcos stable in 1971.

Monday 1 May 2023

Corgi Toys @ 60: Fork and Shovel


May 1963 sees the arrival of two models to take out into the garden and play with - a Massey Ferguson 65 tractor with a fork attachment and a Priestman Cub Shovel.

Three years have passed since the same tractor was fitted with a shovel and this fork device works in a very similar fashion and will extend the model's life with both editions available until 1966. 

The wheels are usually red but a scarcer edition with orange wheels can be found, probably intended for the Fordsons but fitted to Massey Fergusons by the ladies in Wales without whose occasional mistakes we would have a much less interesting time now!

The fork attachment itself is always unpainted silver metal, unlike the shovel which had several changes throughout its longer life in the catalogue.

The other new arrival was the Priestman Cub Shovel which was another example of Corgi's excellent engineering, creating an attractive and realistic model that could collect sand and stuff and deposit it elsewhere with a few careful twists and turns of the knob and model.

One of Corgi's longest running models, this will last until a remarkable 1976 when all of its associated models in the catalogue will have disappeared. As far as I can tell, the colours and casting remain unchanged throughout production.