Friday 30 June 2023

Those big Gift Set play mats


Every Corgi collector would love to have these wonderful Gift Sets but if they want one complete in a box then they'll need several thousand pounds. So not many of us do have one. Thinking about it, if I did have one, I have a feeling that it would all almost certainly stay in the big box and, apart from an occasional peep inside to show friends or as a reminder of where all that money had gone, that's where it would stay.

I am quite happy to forego the big box, the paints, brushes, glue and even the packing and boxes inside. Because what I really want is to have the stuff displayed - probably initially as closely as I can manage to how it appears in the catalogues! That would be something, indeed. So what I really want, and which may be somewhat more affordable, are the cars and buildings. The cars will be easy. The buildings, ideally, would be well-made items which someone has taken a bit of care with and which have all the transfers in the right place. Not so easy finding them, though, so it may be necessary to find some kits and make them, or finish myself. Still not easy but feasible with a bit of research and patience and a few hundred readies. A few hundred, though, not a few thousand.

Oh, there's something I've forgotten isn't there? Yes, the mat. The big green and brown and white thing that everything needs to be placed on. Without the mat the display really doesn't work at all well. Until a little while ago, those mats were a non-starter. I mean, no-one has one other than those fortunate people with the whole set. If one did turn up then I have a suspicion that it would have a permanent fold mark or three and would refuse to lay flat. It would probably have a faded appearance apart from one or two rectangles which had never seen the light of day until I opened it. So even one turning up might be a disappointment and I felt as if I would have to forget this idea of making a couple of displays after all.

Then along came someone who had every little piece of a Garage Gift Set 25 and who had made a wooden base which was not a bad interpretation of the play mat. I bought all his bits and the board and it looked pretty good. It wasn't quite right, though. Those incorrect dimensions spoilt the overall impression so I started looking around for a reproduction mat which the chap said he had heard someone in Germany was making.

After a lot of searching I came across Wolfgang and, sure enough, he gets a printer to make these heavy duty plastic-of-some sort mats which are exactly the right size and spot-on with the areas and colours printed on them. Postage from Germany to the UK was a lot and they weren't cheap either but they are good quality and look like they'll survive a good few years without fading or scratching.

I now need to find the buildings for the Silverstone layout and just three individual garages for the Garage layout (and maybe one or two cars). It will still take some time but I do feel this is something achievable and actually something that other people will get to see and appreciate too.

Whilst I am happy to recommend the plastic mats, you may like to print your own on some card as a cheap and cheerful way of making a start on a project like this. I am thinking, therefore, about making a good PDF copy of each mat available by download from my web site. If you're interested in having one or both of the files then let me know. I don't think I can provide them free, though, so tell me how much you'd be prepared to pay. I say this because, with a decent quality file, a professional printer could quickly knock out mats like the ones I have purchased or even create something very much like the material one included with the original sets, a range of items which could appeal to many collectors, even those who don't get round to getting the buildings or all the bits and pieces.

The illustrations below are just low resolution screenprints and would be ill-defined when printed at the correct full-size dimensions but I include them as many of you may never have seen them other than partially covered at an angle in a catalogue and have wondered, as I did, what they actually looked like.

This is the Silverstone track section from Gift Set 15

This is the Garage Forecourt layout from Gift Set 15

The Corgi Model Club: The Saint Returns


The second edition of 'The Saint's" Car has been issued. On the bonnet is a very neat emblem in just black outline, with no discernible background which makes me wonder whether it is a transfer after all. It does look good but, of course, the original did have that shading to the background which they have now removed as part of the deal with The Saint franchise.

No other differences are apparent on the new model which really does seem to be identical apart from that emblem. The box, however, is different, now featuring the Paramount logo and acknowledgement, as well as a different layout of that side. In the illustration below the new one is the bottom image.

As well as the details side being different, the packing is also different., with the first edition having a card insert to protect the model. This is missing for the second edition, which has just a piece of thin foam sheet.

There is also one more difference - the second issue has P1800 instead of P.1800 on the first edition.

As I have said, the model itself has not changed and is a very nice re-issue. The lights lack a little sparkle and the axles seems a little loose. Indeed, when I ordered three more of the first edition two had very poor suspension, leaning to one side and with no resistance from suspension wires on at least one wheel. Interestingly, this second issue model suffers from the same problem and I am wondering whether this is a more widespread fault. It would be unlikely that only I have met this problem - twice!

I should add that the Corgi Model Club have been exemplary in their customer service, replacing the first faulty ones without question and allowing me to retain the faulty models. I have written to them regarding this latest example and hope to receive the same response. Clearly, one cannot expect the Club staff to examine every model but clearly something has gone wrong in China.

Sunday 18 June 2023

A complaint from the Volkswagen board

From Germany this morning comes a complaint for the Corgi Model Club people to take up with the production line managers somewhere in China. "What happened to our VW emblem!?"

British casting people and painters managed to ensure that it looked suitably correct back in 1965 when the Beetle 1200 appeared in East Africa Rally form and again a few years later on the European Police Car in deep green.

The real thing.

The 1960s Corgi model looked pretty good.

The Chinese re-issues seem to have something completely different! Do they know something we don't about the future of the VW business?

I had previously given the Model Club full marks (well, nearly full marks) for their latest issue. Now, I have to withdraw some of that praise as it is never right to destroy something as important as a logo or emblem. Better just not to attempt it at all. Or, at least, spot the error at an early stage and fix it.

I missed this on the East Africa Rally edition too. I can, if I look at this from certain angles and relax my focus, just make out what should have been the correct lines for the V and W but it appears paint has got too thickly applied in the wrong places.

Thursday 15 June 2023

The other new old Corgi Toys


The latest (and most interesting) releases from Hornby arrived this week as they seek to recoup some of the costs of their assisting the Corgi Model Club with their valiant efforts over the last three years. A deal was made whereby Hornby would be able to utilise the casting and design work for the Model Club re-issues, provided that the new models coming on the market are different.

This follows the rather disastrous attempt by Hornby to 're-issue' #261 a little before the Model Club's excellent effort which served mostly only to confuse collectors and annoy people like me who felt that you should only put a model in a box that had the number 261 and a design very similar to the original 261 box if that model was pretty closely modelled on the original #261, which Hornby's clearly wasn't, with its revolving number plates, ghastly wheels and a box that w as bigger than the original. It also follows the much better, but still very confusing, issue by Hornby of the Land Rover Breakdown Truck in 417S form at the same time as the Model Club released their is 417 form! Or maybe the other way round, I can't remember.

I am happy to say that things have much improved! Hornby, like the Model Club, do need to get someone to study fonts and typefaces rather more than they have to date as the boxes all feature some noticeably wrong characters when viewed next to some original issues.

But let's look at the models. First comes the Porsche Carrera 6. The Model Club produced this in the scarcer finish but Hornby have gone for the more familiar issue with a blue engine cover, red highlights and a 60 RN.

They updated the box illustration to match. When I first got this I thought the illustration looked strange and not much like what I had thought the original was like. However, when I found an original box I saw that the style is actually very similar, with someone recolouring the original to all intents and purposes.

As before, without Porsche's agreement, there can be no emblem on the base for this model either so that does look a bit bland, as did the Model Club issue.

Otherwise it is excellent all round.

Next is something new for us all! A Ford Mustang in gold with a matt black bonnet.

This is a nice addition to the Corgi range of Mustangs and stands out from the rest. The same colour interior is present so not a great deal had to be done in creating this one either.

It also has retained the quite chunky 8-spoke cast wheels but these do seem to make it sit much too high. It is reminiscent of the Ford Thunderbird. The first Open Top model, #215 sat nice and low as all the Thunderbirds seem to do in real life. Then came suspension and the 215S, with a much higher ride height and a silly-looking Simon Templar peering over the top of the windscreen. I may well try changing the tyres  on this and see whether 'normal' tyres permit it to sit at a better height.

It's a great addition to the collection, nevertheless, and I am glad this arrangement was made with the Club.

Next is a model which was issued - the Volvo P1800 in red.

My pictures show it looking a little pinkish but this is definitely a red Volvo and not the salmon one they issued in the old days. The red issue is less common so it's nice to see this from Hornby. 

It has the same shortcoming as The Saint's car, those rather plasticky jewels in the headlamps and I found that there was a lot of play in the axles which makes the car rattle annoyingly. A minor matter, though. Another attractive model I am happy to display.

Last this month is the Jaguar E Type 2+2 Fastback in metallic blue. Just as the red one from the Model Club has delighted us all then this cannot fail to do so again. I had always wanted the blue version as a child and it was one of the first original models I looked for when I rebuilt my collection. This is lovely.

Everything works as it should. The seat backs seem rather more flimsy than I remember the originals being but they do recline as necessary. The rear parcel shelf also moves back and forth. The wire wheels have been well-reproduced and the whole car looks wonderful.

It comes in identical packing to the original #335. Not easy to open so this one may not get played with as much as the others, being so tricky to extract and not something to attempt in a rush as the card will tear.

I see in the photos that the doors are a slightly darker colour, or maybe the metallic paint was sprayed on these in a different direction. I hadn't noticed when it arrived and it's not something I am inclined to complain about but I hope it is not affecting all the production.

So here we have four fine new additions to the Corgi family. My 'second' collection of new models is growing ridiculously quickly. I am just glad that I can afford to keep up, something I couldn't do as a child with very limited pocket money. Getting older does have its advantages!

I am reminded of some time in the early 1980s when I was in my twenties and had plenty of spare money after paying the bills. I would look in toy shops for Corgis, hoping to buy lots of the models I had had but which had become worn or damaged, or just get some new ones I had never been able to get, like the Ecurie Ecosse transporter and the silver Aston Martin. Of course, none were to be had anywhere in the toy shops. Had I known where to look I may have been able to get them at nice prices from whoever did have them for sale then but I never did discover who or where. At least I'm here now for new collectors or other old ones on a rebuilding mission and I hope I can continue to help you all find what you'd like, as well as keep you up-to-date with the new stuff.

Corgi Model Club: the other Volkswagen with steering!


Another very good reproduction from the Corgi Model Club. Here they have recreated the Volkswagen European Police Car which used to be #492 in the catalogue. Following #256, the East Africa Safari edition, this is a case of some different paint and decals, a couple of figures inside and a beacon to replace the tyre on the roof providing a comparatively more profitable model for them this time.

As I recall, the only real complaint I had with the previous Volkswagen was actually the box colour. So there is very little indeed to moan about with this one. It is a great copy and only the lights give the game away from most viewpoints. Whilst these do seem slightly better cut that some jewels on previous models, they still seem more like plastic than glass or whatever the ordinals were made of. As a consequence they just don't produce that satisfactory shine or glint that the originals do.

People need to pay a little more attention to font styles and sizes across the board with their issues. As you'll see in my comments about the Hornby issues that are arriving this month too, this is an area where improvement is needed, especially in the box design. Here you can see the much larger sticker in the rear window, although the door decals are pretty good.

This a model you will want to add and no doubt you will also play with it on a desk for a while when it arrives!

Thursday 1 June 2023

Corgi Toys @ 60: Plymouth and the Police


The lovely Plymouth Suburban Sports gets a final run as #443 a US Mail edition. It looks very glamorous in bright blue and white with a red stripe and some impressive silver paint, especially at the front end.

You may remember that the Plymouth was the first model to get an interior way back in 1959. A little earlier this year it finally got some suspension and this is essentially the same car in a different finish.

June 1963's other new arrival on your local toy shop shelves was a Commer Police Van. This is the first sight of this Commer 3/4 ton model, which would later appear in many guises. It is also the second model to have flashing lights - something which made it a little special and great to play with, especially on dark evenings.

The flashing light was provided by a normal bulb and a device on the front axle which, when set in the 'ON' position, made contact with a cam on the axle. So the faster the van went, teh faster the flashes. The connection could be a bit temperamental as the suspension altered how the cam and plate interacted and contact could be so brief as to cause barely a glow on occasion. The battery was stored in the rear section of the van which could be removed by unlocking from the chassis.

This locking device would be put to great use in the Commer Construction Set we will see in a few months' time.

The chassis could also be combined with different rear units in that set so it was very worthwhile having this model as well as the set!

The device to make the contact, however, was not that good and an updated version of this model, still numbered 464, will appear in future. Just as for the Ambulance, which had the same system in its first version, it will be changed so that the current is always on but a flashing bulb will be required.

The Police Van has some variations as export editions were made with RiJKS POLITIE for the Dutch market - still in deep blue. I have also seen one with a CITY POLICE transfer but I am not sure how genuine this may have been. Perhaps US export editions might have had CITY POLICE but then they would be unlikely to have used Commer vans like this over there so I really can't be sure of that one. Excellent reproduction transfers are available so it is very easy to create the alternative too.

there will also be a dark green export edition but not in this style - it will be the later type so I shall not feature it here now.