Thursday 24 August 2023


I've been looking at tractors. I knew there were some variations but I had not really looked very closely before or made much of an effort to review them. The Corgi agricultural range is small but really nice and well-made - well, at least, the models from the 1950s and 60s are. Things went downhill rapidly in the 1970s but we'll leave that for another day.

First there is the Massey Ferguson 65 tractor, issued in May 1959.

At first it has a black steering wheel and metal wheels. The very first also had gold lettering and a red seat.

Later it gets plastic wheels and a slightly pink shade for the previously cream parts. Most you'll find will have silver or, more rarely, cream painted seats.

The trailer also has similar variations for the wheels.

The early trailer had metal wheels and the pin holding the mechanism in place on the chassis has its head on the right side.

Later trailers had plastic wheels and the pin head is on the left side. It is unlikely that the change of pin direction and wheel type happened at the same time so a third variation is possible although I do not know which change came first.

I also find there to be a distinct colour difference between the metal and plastic wheels on both the tractors and trailers with the metal ones being a brighter red and the plastic slightly deeper red.

Next came a Fordson Power Major Tractor and a plough, in May 1961.

It is always 'Fordson' blue and is first issued with pale orange metal wheels.

The plough has three linkage points and can only be used with this tractor. It can be quite difficult to fit but can then be very nicely lifted and lowered using a lever by the seat, operating very realistically. There is also a tin hook fitted to the first Fordson - the same type and size as can be found on Land Rovers and various other trucks at the time.

Later models have much brighter orange, plastic wheels.

Model #50 Fordson Power Major has headlamps at the side of the radiator. In December 1964 there is the same name on the transfer but now the Fordson tractor has its headlamps inset in a redesigned front end.

The new one, #60, also has a much more realistic traction rod-controlled steering and a redesigned rear linkage section, a much simpler device to which a new plough could be more easily attached. The tin hook also is replaced by a smarter type with the same lever controlling its release.

The #60 Fordson Power Major always has plastic wheels and was issued with a driver.

At the same time #61 Plough was issued which is the same basic design for the chassis and shares as before but now in blue and shiny chrome with no upper linkage. [Note that in this illustration one share is missing - there should be four.]

Normally, Ferguson tractors had the red wheels and Fordson tractors had orange wheels but you will find examples where the reverse is true. These are quite scarce and worth looking out for.

July 1966 sees the arrival of the Massey Ferguson 165 tractor. This is a good-looking model but, like its predecessor, Massey-Ferguson still miss out on the 'extras' as the only feature this one gets is a slightly pointless whirring noise from the front axle when it is pushed along. It does have a new driver, though.

The rear hook is very simple so this would not be suitable for ploughing tasks.

January 1967 brings the new tractor from the 'Ford' stable - the Ford 5000 Super Major.

This is a nicely detailed model and Ford must have been more generous to Corgi as it gets jewelled headlamps and steering as well as silver plated exhaust and other bits. However, they cannot have been that generous as the steering reverts to the dreadfully ugly pivoting axle type. No doubt a lot simpler to manufacture but it made it much more difficult for us to criticise Dinky Toys' sad steering style when Corgi come up with this! Especially as we had such fond memories still at the time of the Bentley Continental, Mercedes 220SE and Ecurie Ecosse Racing Car Transporter!

The Massey Ferguson did get a shovel #53 (April 1960) and a fork #57 (May 1963) attachment on the 65 model and a shovel #69 (March 1967) on the 165 model and it could pull some additional items: a more substantial Tipping Trailer with two extra side inserts as #62 in February 1965, a Beast Carrier #58 in November 1965 and a Disc Harrow #71, quite a surprise issue in July 1967.

There are so many variations of the shovels and fork that they will have to wait for another article! there was only one Disc Harrow, though. Even this had a special feature - the lever would raise or lower the main axle.

In September 1969 we see the first of three very detailed models, the Ford 5000 Super Major with a Hydraulic scoop attachment at the side.

Lots of detail including all the hydraulic hoses and an operation box.

In March 1970 Massey Ferguson finally get something a bit special with the addition of a mechanical saw attachment to the 165 model.

The saw element actually rotates when the tractor goes along, driven by a most inventive spring which acts like a gear against a toothed inner edge to the tyre and translates the wheel rotation to the saw unit. Quite extraordinary. [This should have a driver.]

Finally, in January 1972, a rear-mounted trenching bucket is the 'new' attachment to give extra life to the Ford 5000 Super Major.

You will see, of course, that it is merely the device used in the 1969 model with a couple of stabilisers added and fitted at the back instead of the side. All these last three models had a short life and sold only in modest volumes, farming in the 70s not having the appeal it had had in the early 60s. The last one, in particular, had a very short production period before being withdrawn in 1973 and is something I now need to replace in my own collection.

In June 1973 the last 1:43 scale tractor (with an attachment) is issued and you can see it is a very poor model indeed. It does still have young Farmer George inside but that's about all that can be said for it.

May 1974 sees it get a shovel attachment but, with most of Corgi's output now in the larger 1:36 scale, this is an odd release.

September 1976 sees the introduction of the David Brown tractor in the larger scale. The 1:43 story doesn't end there, though, as, remarkably, in April 1980 the Massey Ferguson reappears six years after its initial release and now in orange! With white wheels it is also part of a 'Block' Construction Set with the 'Block' logo on the roof of the tractor. Farmer George, though, retired and is not seen again.

Seeing these last desperate efforts, one can hardly blame him.

Saturday 12 August 2023

Corgi Model Club: the HQ Staff arrive at last

Delayed for some time en route from China, presumably with several million TEMI and WISH orders, the US Army HQ Staff Oldsmobile has arrived and what a superb reproduction this is.

In the box you'll find the now familiar chunk of foamy plastic and a tiny piece of very thin wafty material, wrapped around the model's body to protect, I think, the star decals. And, of course, the model and its certificate which tells us that it is "one of the most collectible of the Corgi Oldsmobile 88s due to its low sales".

I always found it odd that the box didn't say it was an Oldsmobile, just an "H.Q. Staff Car".

It did only sell around 120,000 in 1965 when it was issued with a range of other US Army models which is about the same as the sales for the Monte Carlo Citroën and it is quite hard to find now in really nice condition. The aerial will often be missing and the decals worn so it is nice o have a decent-looking edition to look at.

The accuracy of the casting is remarkable. I used to be able to spot differences but I've failed to find anything to report on this time. They have done a smashing job and left me with only the finish and decals to comment on. The finish is more what used to be called vinyl than matt as it has a sort of sheen that the original did not have. Of course, many old model will now have something of a shine after being handled so much but my rather tatty edition has escaped that an, so far, remains nicely matt.

I imagine that to produce a matt finish would be difficult and more expensive but I wish they had tried.

The other comment relates to the decals and is something that applies across all the Model Club issues to date. They are not transfers like the originals but sort of printed on the models. They are excellent but lack that original look.

The Chinese have some wonderful silver paint which really does shine and it is especially effective on this model where the four headlamps are the only place that you'll see any. Now I see that the design of the headlamps is slightly different - or perhaps that is just how the light appears to make a difference in this image of my old one and the Model Club issue.

Just about all of Corgi's aerials become brittle on their original issues and we all know how hard it is to find models now with them intact. I understand that the Model Club have used a different type of plastic which is likely to stand up rather better to being bent around, not that many of us will be around for long enough to test this. Some of their aerials have not looked quite right in the past but this one is fine. Oddly, I was convinced that this model had two aerials at the back and it was not until I got out my old one that I could see that my belief was misplaced.

And is this the only Corgi saloon with four people inside?

So, once more, I am full of praise for the Corgi Model Club people and their work on this one. It was no fault of theirs that this was a bit late arriving and it can be a bit annoying to read grumpy comments from customers on Facebook about this. You'll enjoy yours when it does arrive (if you are collecting these) and do remember to hold one to those two pieces of packing material! Remember how much extra we have to pay now if we want a box and also what will probably be a grubby piece of old corrugated cardboard which may have been wrapped around some model in the old days.

Goodness knows whether these re-issues will be particularly valuable in years to come but we should be a lot wiser now than we were when we had the originals and our children or our children's children may well appreciate those small pieces of plastic in years to come.


Saturday 5 August 2023

Corgi Toys @ 60: The Sting Ray and two Gift Sets


It's August and, as a child starting a long school holiday, you can imagine the delight at seeing this in my St. Albans toy shop in French Row! The Chevrolet Sting Ray was a smart model you just had to have, with its twin jewelled headlamps which could be opened up and closed. This was the first to have twin jewels. The Jaguar Mk X had four jewels at the front but two were smaller and not quite the same as twin headlamps like these. This particular model is in a scarce bronze finish and will have been issued a little later, always having wire wheels.

Now this is an imposter, I add quickly before you all write in and tell me that's not a Corgi. Look closely, though, and you'll see that this is an exact copy of the Corgi from Auto-Pilen in 1970. They added opening doors and a better quality interior but otherwise this is the Corgi casting (or a made from one!)

This metallic pink-crimson edition was the first on the scene, with normal wheels when first issued. It would get wire wheels a few months later.

All the silver models appear to have wire wheels. there are two editions in silver. One is a quite thin, metallic silver finish similar to the James Bond Aston Martin. The other has a more pearlescent finish - I call it champagne silver and it can display a slight gold effect in some lights.

These Sting Rays did look rather better with their lights closed. The device that holds the jewels never quite sits as nicely as it should when open but it was nevertheless a super model and very popular.

Also in August 1963 the Commer Construction Gift set 24 was released.

This was my own set and note the coin that I used to release the different sections. This is a super set and provided us with all sorts of possibilities - four different vehicles with a red base and four different vehicles with a white base. If you happened to have the Police Commer Van then you could extend the range even further as that had the same release on the base! 

The red chassis always had Trans-o-lite headlamps, the white chassis did not.

The last addition for August 1963 was the Gift Set 27 with a Priestman Cub Shovel on the Bedford Machinery Carrier.

This was a long-running item, as can be evidenced by the wheels on the Carrier. Initially issued with normal shaped wheels it gets the louvre-type spoke effect wheels in around 1967 and then the larger commercial truck wheels in 1968.

Whilst I am sure there must be some other small variations in these models, all that I have encountered appear the same, with yellow interior to the light blue cab and a black removable rear axle.

The rear Chevrolet Corvette Stingray! Corgi were not wrong with their choice of colour for the first issue!