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Shite in Miniature II

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They got a lot of use out of that Model A casting, seems they started selling it just about when the Model A went into production and they're probably still selling it now.  Here's an effort I made on the one I've got.  I don't hate it, but I'm not thrilled by it either.  Always felt like a slightly clumsy toy to play with.

 

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In more exciting news, I got one of the hot rod jeeps fixed up.  This one donated its silly pipes to the Blue Shark I'd completed recently and honestly, I prefer it without the silly pipes.  Building a new windscreen frame was proving unsatisfactory, so I smoothed off the remains instead.  I also spent ages filing off the spades cast into the body (not that you can see them in the before for all the paint) just so that it would look a bit nicer when painted.  Colour scheme is a simple bright pink and satin black and I think it now looks much better than how it arrived in the collection.  This is one of the toys that felt like Matchbox were just making the transition from beautiful scale model castings to actual toys, so they're fun but don't wow with fine details.

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Stretcha Fetcha and Hairy Hustler are on my shortlist at the moment.  Also anything French.  Not that fussed about farm stuff.  Other than that, anything goes from the Lesney/Superfast/Matchbox stables.  Stoved in stuff is fine, I can always salvage axles, doors, wheels, etc. for custom builds and rescues.  Chuck me a PM with a reminder on where to send the cash and I'll sort that out for you.

 

I think there's at least two, and possibly three, Stretcha Fetchas in the cheapo box... all are complete with tailgates, though at least one has a broken glazing unit. There may be an MB7 Hairy Hustler in there too; otherwise definitely a few others from the fantasy range (Clipper; Big Banger; Siva Spyder; Tyre Fryer; Planet Scout) so I'll see what a fiver delivers tomorrow, sure!

 

The seakings were an absolute failure, really unpopular. However you do see them pop up from time to time but there’s not a big market for them.

 

Yeah, they wouldn't have really held my interest when I was younger... odd they survived as long, really. There was the old Tri-ang Minic waterline range, then Dinky also produced a range of naval craft - dunno whether Matchbox felt they needed to have a rival range, or if there was some odd dictat that there always ought to be a full range of army, navy and air force models available for kids who had dads/brothers/uncles in the military?

 

Either way, they don't seem to fetch much coin, even now - a quick eBay hoke indicates plenty of MIB examples for way less than you'd pay for a car or truck of the same era.

 

i too have been buying more old diecast tat...

 

Very nice haul! Some absolute crackers in there.

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I will have MOAR shite incoming, Altaya Talbot Solara and Talbot Horizon Jubilee, part way through converting an Odeon branded Ixo Horizon to rhd, surprisingly the wipers are photo etched metal!

 

Nice one - is it the brown Solara? I found one of them a few years back, unusual choice of model and a nice discovery. A Horizon is definitely on my list, too.

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Another diecast delivery this morning - and another unusual choice of model from Corgi's early-80s lineup:

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Yes, appearing in a rather fetching shade of beige that must have had the kids simply hopping up and down with excitement, it's the Renault 11 GTL.

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With opening bits.

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As catalogue number C384, this model teasingly appeared as a block silhouette in the 1983 Corgi Catalogue billed only as a 'new saloon car' - since, at the time of going to press in late 1982, the Renault 11 had not been officially launched.

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Clearly there's been an error in translation here, with the German text rather misleadingly advising a "new English car". At a guess, this piece of text was intended for the Maestro prototype, depicted with a similarly vague description just a few pages earlier.

 

Just to digress here for a bit about why the company felt the need for this cloak-and-dagger approach: Corgi had a long history of working closely with full-size car manufacturers throughout the late 1950s and 60s in producing toys to coincide with the launch of a new passenger car. Sometimes these came with specially printed boxes, to be used as showroom promotional items.

 

This concept dates all the way back to the 1930s when US company Tootsietoy produced a range of promotional diecast cars at the request of the premium carmaker Graham-Paige, to be given away to the sons (always sons!) of potential customers visiting their showrooms. Citroen had already used tinplate promo models, but these were beautiful and fragile models for display, and never intended as playthings.

 

Tootsietoy's Graham-Paiges were available in a variety of body styles using a novel construction method, which consisted of a sturdy two-piece casting riveted together and employing crimped axles fitted with wheel hubs and tiny rubber tyres. Having been shown them by his US importer, model railway and Meccano magnate Frank Hornby was 'inspired' to launch his own rather similar range of Meccano Modelled Miniatures, soon renamed 'Dinky Toys'. Tootsietoy had patented their construction method, and Hornby was extremely lucky not to have been on the receiving end of an international infringement lawsuit.

Naturally, this kind of promotional arrangement required a great deal of trust between Corgi and car manufacturers, who recognised the promotional value of the toys while remaining acutely aware that secrecy was paramount.

Since the design, tooling-up and manufacturing process for these toys could take anywhere up to a year, Corgi factory staff were sworn to secrecy - and random searches were carried out on assembly line workers coming off-shift, to ensure no embargoed castings were smuggled out.

All these precautions ensured that whenever a manufacturer threw the covers off their brand-new product at a motor show, they could be confident that not only would it still come as a surprise to the press and general public, but also that thousands of miniature versions would be immediately available to further stoke the interest of potential buyers and their kids.

Generally this symbiotic process was very effective, although Corgi did get slightly burned when Rover canned their 1960s luxury Land Rover/proto-Range Rover project, the 'Road Rover', at a late stage - by which time Corgi had already allocated it a catalogue code number (212) and was just starting to tool up for production. A single prototype Road Rover toy and mock-up box, kept from the scrap bin by Corgi's chief designer and unwitting archivist, survives. The full-size prototype lives on at Gaydon, I believe.

 

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In the late 1970s Corgi revived this practice, working with Austin-Rover's confidential blueprints (not entirely successfully) to have a model of the Metro ready for the real car's launch in 1980, complete with a patriotic Union Jack box and featuring the same slogans and photography developed for the new baby Austin's print and billboard advertising campaign.

 

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Rather more success was had with their Ford Escort Mk3 the same year, and the gorgeously detailed Sierra 2.3 Ghia in 1982, while the slightly blocky Corgitronics MG Maestro in yellow was depicted in the same 1983 catalogue as the R11 - listed tantalisingly only as a 'new saloon car', to avoid spiking the Maestro's forthcoming launch.

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But anyway. Back to this model.

 

Corgi's 1/36 R11 was initially shipped in a non-standard box which carefully echoed Renault's own corporate palette - but, somewhat misleadingly, the 'Electronic' name on the front referenced the fancy-pants electronically voiced trip computer fitted to the real-life Renault 11 TSE Electronic model. The toy inside the box contained nothing in the way of battery-operated jiggery-pokery whatsoever.

 

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With Corgi expanding their actual Corgitronic range of electronic feature vehicles, it's quite likely this caused a degree of confusion amongst young customers who were at a loss to understand where the advertised 'electronic' element was hidden. Just to confuse matters further, the toy was clearly badged as a GTL both on the base and on the bootlid - whose full-size counterpart boasted no such 'Electronic' functionality. This was only an option on the top-spec TSE model.

 

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However, I wonder whether this was done at Renault's insistence - they were, after all, so busting with pride at their top of the line R11's voice synthesized dashboard that they actually moved the real car's launch forward by a few weeks just so they could pip Austin-Rover's Maestro VDP and be the first to market with this reliable* and much-loved* feature/gimmick.


Looking at the actual model - well, it's perhaps not the very best of renderings, portraying the three-door French hatch as a little more dumpy than it appears on the road. But the proportions aren't awful, and it's certainly a nice solid model with a chunky feel to it.

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The front end is also curious, with no Renault 'diamond of doom' badge, and a strange lick of silver paint used to define the grille. It looks to my eye rather more like a reworking of the Fiat 128 3P than an R11. But again, it's possible that Corgi's designers were working from some early or unclear blueprints from Renault, and simply did the best they could to model a car that didn't yet exist.

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The plastic mouldings on the lower flanks have been neatly done too - as with the Matra Rancho, Corgi opted to use an all-in-one moulding for the bumpers and lower plastic panels, with rivets holding the same features onto the opening doors. It certainly gives a much neater and crisper finish than simply spray-masking a section of the body in black - although attaching these additional mouldings undoubtedly added to the cost of the model.

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As well as the beige version with a very red interior, it seems that a metallic blue version with a dark grey interior was also produced in 1983:

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The R11 finally appeared with its own name and a proper picture in the 1984 Corgi Catalogue, wearing a somewhat more appealing bright red finish and with a brown interior.

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But even as these catalogues were being printed, Mettoy was on the verge of bankruptcy - partly due to its heavy investment in the doomed Dragon Personal Computer project - and in October 1983, the official receivers were called in. The Swansea factory stood idle until March 1984 while rescue packages were concocted.


By the time a rescue deal was finalised and the doors reopened following the protracted management buyout process, the re-formed company's primary focus was on converting the warehouses of dead stock into hard cash. Hence Corgi's mid-to-late 1984 output tended to be somewhat chaotic, with mix-and-match boxes and inserts and all manner of haphazard colour and decal combinations produced simply to use up whatever they could find in the stores. I haven't yet seen any red examples of the R11, and since most books on Corgi's history fixate rather on the 'Golden Years' of the 1960s, with the early 1980s output warranting barely a mention, I've yet to uncover an analysis of what appeared (or disappeared) during this turbulent time.

I believe these lucky-dip assortments were sold on via wholesalers at rock-bottom prices, with the model shop I used to work in still carrying NOS from 1984 well into the late 1990s - often with stickers obscuring the 'wrong' code or model name on a box. With that in mind, the R11s which appeared on retailer shelves in generic black and yellow outer boxes, in either the beige or the blue colourway, probably date from this era.

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The 1985 Corgi Toys catalogue marked a fresh start, with all-new packaging and a new 'dynamic' corporate logo which was to last well into the 1990s - even if many of the models themselves were becoming somewhat long in the tooth.

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1985 also marked a noticeable change in Corgi's business priorities, with the company focusing heavily on promotional tie-ins with the likes of BP, Mobil and Fina, rather than relying solely on a dwindling toy shop network to shift their stock. The popularity of Lledo's 'Days Gone' promotional range had not gone unnoticed, with the (wretched) Corgi Cameo Collection soon introduced to paste any old livery onto loose approximations of 1920s commercial vehicles. Despite the questionable authenticity and poor detailing of these self-described 'collectables', they proved roaringly successful as on-pack giveaways and certainly made excellent business sense.

 

As well as the expanding Corgi Juniors line, the 'Turbos' range of smaller 1/43 rally and racing cars was also introduced, their pocket-money prices possible through using plastic bases and simple castings with no opening features. Featuring some quite unusual models (including that well-regarded* rally car, the Saab 9000, plus quite a pretty BMW 635i), unfortunately the Toyota Corolla TE71 Liftback never saw production, eventually appearing on shelves in the later Corolla AE86 'Twincam' form instead.

 

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Alongside old favourites like the James Bond Aston Martin and Rolls Royce Corniche, other new castings appeared with a sporting international flavour - such as the Toyota Supra (fortunately a much better casting than the catalogue prototype suggests) although the 'Magic Top' Mercedes 500SEC appears to have been stillborn, as I can find no reference to it anywhere.

 

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However, there were casualties as part of this restructuring - more niche, less sporty 1/35 scale models like the Peugeot 505, Triumph Acclaim and Honda Prelude, plus the Renault 11, found themselves deleted from the range. The R11 had barely a year of full production. The Corgitronics range was also sacrificed in its entirety, presumably as a cost-cutting measure, killing off the relatively complex MG Maestro with working lights.

 

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While not quite a common model due to its limited production life and a somewhat 'grey porridge' subject matter, perhaps the lack of kiddy-appeal is what kept so many R11s safely in their original packaging by adult collectors. As a result they're not hard to find for sale online, should you desire one, although the blue variants do seem to command a premium. MIB examples appear more common than played-with ones, interestingly; the opposite of models such as the long-running Fiat X/19, which are quite easy to find in a state of total dereliction but seem much harder to pin down in a factory-fresh state.

Incidentally, this model appears to share no components with the blue James Bond 'A View To A Kill' Renault 11 in Parisian Taxi livery, which Corgi produced in the early 2000s in the same approximate scale. I think we had a discussion upthread about toymakers producing totally different castings of the same basic model?

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I had hoped to have another unusual Corgi of the same era to share as well today, but the eBay vendor has since cancelled the sale and refunded me as, apparently, it turned out to not be as mint as he'd described it. So the search for that one continues...

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Nice one - is it the brown Solara? I found one of them a few years back, unusual choice of model and a nice discovery. A Horizon is definitely on my list, too.

 

It is indeed the brown Solara, which will of course be rhd swapped, the Horizon Jubilee I have plans to make it the uber rare Silver Fox, almost completed my red Horizon project, I dropped it whilst working on it, but shockingly it landed on its wheels with no damage. These Talbots all have family connections, plus keeps me busy. 

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Superb write up DC, would read again.

 

Anyone want my brother's childhood ertl postman pat van before I charity it? 

 

Great sounds this van had in the original cartoon.

 

Hey, glad you enjoyed; this is the kinda stuff that normally swirls around my head with no outlet...

 

I LOVED the sounds of Pat's van in the series - so brilliantly true-to-life with the burbling exhaust, clattery starter and gearbox whine when accelerating... if only he'd driven a more obviously realistic Royal Mail van like a Morris Ital; that would have been perfection.

 

Absorbing write up on Renault 11. Incredible they produced two metallic blue 11s.

 

I agree, extremely knowledgeable.

 

Cheers guys! I've recently finished Giles Chapman's 'Britain's Toy Car Wars', hence the brain dump here about the promo tie-ins with real life manufacturers (and Dinky's copyright-flirting with Tootsietoy).

 

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Not a bad book, if you get a chance to read it. My copy came in at under a fiver, delivered, after I got lucky in an eBay auction.

 

Even by your standards DC that was one hell of a write-up! I do recall this particular model in blue but as soon as I saw it I was sure I'd seen a James Bond version, had never realised they were different castings.

 

Heh, slightly bored in work... I've now gone back and added in a few extra pics from my catalogue collection, just to illustrate some of the other models, and tidied up some of the paragraphs. But I've rediscovered a bit of a passion for these late-era Mettoy Corgis, so yeah... there may be more to come. I also need to take a few pics of my Corgi 1/35s as they currently stand.

 

It would be interesting to see both versions of the Renner 11 side by side

 

Yes indeed... maybe I should do something about that!

 

Pedant mode: the Siva Spyder is a real car

 

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I've been out-pedanted, and I know it.

 

(@plamondoncomics expresses it better than I ever could)

 

I know I have a tendency to mentally group Matchbox Superfasts into 'cars I'm likely to ever see' and 'cars I'm not likely to ever see'. I guess I bracketed the Siva in with the fantasy stuff, as well as concept cars and other exotics - they built, like, twelve or so of the S160 Spyder and GT combined?

 

Still, with a Hillman Imp engine and a Beetle floorpan, I guess it's much more of an Autoshite supercar than the Alfa Romeo Carabo or Datsun 128X...

 

I’ve just realised it’s Datsun Cogs market tat Friday?

 

You're right - it is!

 

Not that much today, sadly, though pics to follow shortly.

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So, Friday market tat, hey?

 

Sadly, NOTHING NEW on the diecast front today. In fact, hardly any diecast at all. The two tubs of 50p cars were there (and I scooped a selection of tatty '70s Matchbox oddities for Vulgalour -  it's up to him whether he wishes to keep it all a surprise until the parcel arrives?), and there were the remaining Corgi Classics, Days Gone. and some Britains tanks. I couldn't even see the Reserve Collection boxes today.

 

However, if you like odd plastic and tinplate tat, do read on...

 

 

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The crane truck here is an all-plastic job, apparently complete and stamped 'Tudor Rose - Made in England' on the base. New one on me. The others here are just Lledo Days Gone.

 

 

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A very luridly '70s plastic refrigeration truck by Lucky Toys of Hong Kong; non prototypical, but crisply moulded and also complete.

 

The stylised red Chevrolet Camaro behind is by Tonka. Both the other tinplates, the car and the plane, were unbranded and probably date from '50s/'60s. The police car is missing its back axle, and is pretty playworn.

 

 

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This Mercedes L-series truck (with a very short wheelbase) is also a plastic item from Hong Kong, though with no other maker details visible. It's missing a rear wheel.

 

 

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A large, boxed, battery operated plastic racing car from Hong Kong (didn't get the maker) was also on the stall - sort of F1 based, but with an interesting degree of artistic licence (like the closed-in cockpit).

 

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Also there was this East German Meccano knock-off, Constructo - anyone remember this at all?

 

 

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Finally, these '80s-ish 'collectables' are still on offer at a fiver a pop.

 

The red Ford Expedition did fire my interest up for two or three seconds, but I think I've come to recognise that feeling as 'recognising the least unappealing thing on the stall', and it's not the same as actively desiring something.

 

(This is how I managed to wind up with so many bloody Five Star and Pointer Sisters LPs - compared to Max Bygraves and Mantovani's World of 1000 Strings, they were certainly the best records in that particular charity shop... just not worth listening to when I got them home, though.)

 

 

So! Not much that takes my interest today, but if anything here takes your fancy I'll skip over and have a chat with Market Blokey…

 

Maybe next week will prove more exciting.

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I’ve yet to actually see a Tyre Fryer.

 

And sadly, you won't be seeing one today either - that one had apparently vanished from the box already whenever I swung by, despite a moderately thorough rummage... daaaah.

 

Although these aren't quite my bag, the Ford branding on the engine rocker covers does intrigue me - I don't think any other Superfast fantasy vehicle carried a real manufacturer's logo.

 

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Twin fuel tanks acting as doors... 'elf 'n' safety nightmare, innit m8.

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I had that exact 'Meccano' set!

Brings back memories....

 

Heh, fantastic... in fairness, despite its Eastern European origins it looks like the kind of thing that would have given me hours of fun too. Sadly, I believe no guarantees can be given regarding the completeness of the contents - though the box appears reasonably full.

 

I had a more simplistic Corgi-branded plastic construction kit, if memory serves, that involved configuring a light commercial in a number of different ways. All good stuff... just wish real cars were as straightforward!

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I'll deffo do the super secret surprise unboxing like last time, that was fun (I don't get out much).  Please send me a pm with a reminder of payment details and I'll get that sorted for you.

 

Grand job - PM incoming!

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I have some boxed sea kings. The submarine is the only one that makes decent money. I picked mine up from a shop in Gran Canaria in 1993. Super kings and speedkings were undesirable until recently, some mint boxed ones make good money.

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