Corgi Toys was launched in 1956 as a new range of die cast toy model cars by Mettoy Playcraft LTD, the toy car company founded in 1936. These new toy cars were soon a huge hit because at the time they were the only toy cars on the market that included transparent plastic windows, they soon became known as the ones with the windows!
Although Corgi has had many model car competitors ranging from Dinky Toys to Lledo throughout the years, it has fought hard to stay at the top of the market, its name well known to this day. In its first year of trading Corgi sold an amazing 2.75 million cars, making it a clear leader of the British toy car industry. In 1966 Corgi won the Queen’s Award To Industry and the National Association Of Toy Retailers’ Highest Standards Award, two very prestigious awards. In March 1969 a year's supply was destroyed in the Swansea factory by a fire - a major setback cutting profits tremendously. Despite this, Corgi continued to remain among top collectibles for many years.
Sales rocketed in the late 1960s and early 1970s after the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 and the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car was released, but sales were dramatically cut after the 1969 fire. Because of the fire, substantial ground was lost to its main rival Dinky, but by 1971, the Swansea factory was back to full production again after major repairs costing over £1.3 million. The Queen’s silver jubilee model edition released in 1977 was an instant best seller, along with other nostalgia model: Edward VII’s coronation state coach of 1901. After a rapid decline of sales, in 1983 economic analysts said that decline was inevitable; children and adults had moved on to more sophisticated pleasures, others however did not agree; they believed if it had not been for the fire there would have been no problem.
Corgi reformed as Corgi Toys Ltd. in 1984, it turned its attention to regaining the British toy company’s confidence. But three years later Corgi turned to the export market for profits, soon distributing in Australia, Europe and the USA. Very soon after this point Corgi started the Collectors Club quickly gaining worldwide membership.
In 1989 the company was taken over by Mattel, worldwide toy manufacturing giant (manufacturer of Barbie Dolls and Hot Wheels cars), production was moved to Leicester, the Mattel headquarters. Corgi then bought out its new range: Corgi Classics, selling nostalgia cars, vans and trucks from the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s; a huge success aimed at people who had been children at that time giving them the chance to return to their childhood memories, a brilliant innovation that is still running strong today. At around the same period in the US, Corgi released a new range of trucks, fire tenders and buses based on North American prototypes, but was not as successful as hoped.
In 1995, Corgi regained its independence as a new company Corgi Classics Limited and moved to new premises in Leicester.
Corgi Classics turned to British TV for model ideas, and soon released models such as Mr. Bean’s Mini, Inspector Morse’s Jaguar and later even models based on Enid Blyton’s Noddy tales. A variety of firms ranging from Cadbury's chocolate to Guinness beer to Eddie Stobart haulage have had Corgi scale models made of their road vehicles. In 1995 Corgi introduced a new range of 1/76th scale UK & Hong Kong bus models under the Original Omnibus Company banner, by 2007 the total number of individual model releases in this sub-range had exceeded eight hundred.
In 1999 Corgi Classics Limited was taken over by Zindhart - a US collectors specialists. By 2000, as in the 1960s Corgi was once again the UK’s top model maker. In 2002, Corgi bought the rights to the Lledo name (and many of the molds), taking over the popular Days Gone series. The Lledo Vanguards series was also acquired in the deal. Days Gone and Vanguards models were sold by Corgi under the Lledo moniker until 2004, after which the Lledo name was dropped and the models officially became part of the Corgi Classics line.
In 1999, Corgi debuted the wildly popular Aviation Archive line of diecast military airplanes. Beginning with 1/72 scale, Corgi created one of the most expansive and widely collected lines of highly detailed limited edition collectable die-cast metal aircraft. This line has been expanded in successive years to include new moulds and liveries and even new scales, such as the super-detailed 1/32 scale Aviation Archive line. Corgi followed with a new line of 1/50 scale Armored Vehicles ranging from WWII up to through the Vietnam War. In 2006, Corgi broke new ground offering hand painted, spin-cast metal figures and soldiers in the 'Forward March' series which compliments their 1/32 and 1/50 scale lines of vehicles.
Corgi Classics Limited continues to this day to produce highly detailed, die-cast models of the world’s most popular vehicles, remaining still very popular amongst both children and adults.
In May 2008 international models and collectables group Hornby announced the acquisition of Corgi Classics Limited for 8.3 million pounds.
The Husky line was introduced in 1964, and was designed to compete with Matchbox, which were the market leaders in small-scale vehicles at that time. They were inexpensive and were originally sold only at Woolworth's stores at a price which undercut their rival. The models were approximately the same size as the "1-75 series" Matchbox toys, and featured dark grey one-piece plastic wheels and chromed plastic bases. These cheaper bases made the models lighter and less durable than the equivalent Matchbox cars, but their construction did allow for a simple suspension system to be installed by means of the axle being positioned to be sandwiched between the main base and a section of the plastic base which was cut away on three of sides to form a plastic tongue, which acted as a crude springing mechanism.
The Husky line numbered about 75 vehicles at its peak, the same number as Matchbox, although unlike the Lesney product Huskys were sold in blister packs allowing the model to be clearly seen when on display. The original style of these blister cards featured a simplistic red and white design on the front with the range's logo - the head of a Husky dog featuring prominently, and a list of the models in the range printed as a tick-list on the rear. The design changed with the upgrading of the range in 1969 to a yellow, red and white colour scheme with the name "Husky" now featuring more prominently. Like Matchbox, they also offered accessory items for children, such as carrying/storage cases for the cars, and even catalogues in the late 1960s.
Some car brands, like the Studebaker Lark Wagonaire, were also produced by Matchbox at about the same time. Though different castings, one wonders at the story behind two separate companies coming up with such similar choices; which couldn't have occurred by chance. Both versions had the sliding rear roof panel, though the Husky's was clear plastic while the Matchbox's was metal.
In 1969 Mettoy re-designed and improved the quality of the models. Die cast metal bases, better suspension and two-piece separate hub and tyre wheels were fitted to upgrade existing models along with a variety of new models that were added to the range.
By 1970 the exclusive marketing contract with Woolworth had come to an end and realising that the Husky range could now be sold alongside Matchbox in a variety of outlets the series was re-launched as Corgi Juniors to integrate it into the Corgi Toys family, and the existing Husky models now carried the new name. This was the first time the range had been branded as a Corgi product. Low friction one-piece plastic Whizzwheels were also added to most of the models in 1970 to compete with Mattel's Hot Wheels and Lesney's Matchbox Superfast ranges, and they could be raced on the Corgi Rockets track systems.
Although small scale Corgi models would continue to be produced until the demise of the original company in 1983 the name Corgi Juniors was dropped in the mid 1970s and the models were just branded as Corgi.
The Corgi Rocket range first appeared in October 1969. Mettoy had taken the decision that merely competing against their rivals with high performing low friction models was not enough. To add more "play value" and make their models stand out form the competition Corgi Rockets had die cast metal bases that featured a central channel where a separate black nylon chassis, that also held the wheel and axle assembly, would fit. The chassis could be removed using a "Golden Tune Up Key" - a gold coloured metal tool which was supplied with each model that featured a simple key at one end to unlock the chassis from the base of the model, and a tool at the other end to remove the axles from the chassis. As such, the models could be "tuned up" and the axles lubricated using a separately available "Rocketlube" lightweight oil dispenser in the form of a felt tip pen. The "Golden Tune Up Key" supplied with each model was also labeled with the name of the individual model.
Corgi Rockets had bright chrome-like finishes obtained by chrome electro-plating the body of the model and then coating the body in a clear coloured layer. The effect was similar to Hot Wheels "Spectraflame" finish. Initially seven models were introduced, three of which were adapted from the Husky range:
D901 Aston Martin DB6
D902 Jaguar XJ6
D907 Cadillac Eldorado
The remaining initial models were new designs, later to be added to the Corgi Juniors range:
D903 Mercedes Benz 280SL
D904 Porsche Carrera 6
D905 The Saint's Volvo P1800
D906 Jensen Interceptor
To ensure maximum profits, Mettoy produced both Corgi Junior and Corgi Rockets versions of most of their small scale castings, some of which were scaled down models of existing larger products from the Corgi Toys range. The Corgi Junior range sold at a price to compete with Matchbox models whilst the Corgi Rockets range sold for a higher price comparable (in the UK) with Mattel's Hot Wheels.
Corgi Rockets were sold in conjunction with a series of track sets which featured "autostarts", power boosters, covered mountain-style "hair-pin" bends, "space leaps", "superloops" and even an ingenius cable car. The range expanded rapidly and around 30 models were produced including a highly valuable James Bond 007 set featuring four models from the film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" - a Mercury Cougar, an updated Mercedes Benz 280SL in "S.P.E.C.T.R.E" finish and a Ford Capri and Ford Escort in ice racing colour schemes. Also produced and sold separately were two bob sleds from the same film. However, sales did not meet with expectations and the costly-to-produce range was withdrawn in 1971 after just two years in production.
Following the success of the Dinky Supertoys range of die-cast trucks, Corgi decided to launch a range of heavy commercial vehicles in October 1957 with the release of the Carrimore Car Transporter (1101) featuring a Bedford tractor unit with full glazing in keeping with the rest of the Corgi range, and the company's first gift set including the Carrimore Car Transporter and four cars (GS1); Austin Cambridge (201), Jaguar 2.4 (208), Austin Healey (300) and MGA (302) in time for the Christmas market in December 1957. Early models in the new Corgi Major range were issued in sturdy two piece boxes featuring the blue and yellow colour scheme that had recently been adopted across the entire Corgi range, later models in the 1960s using clear fronted packaging in line with the rest of the Corgi Toys range. The Carrimore Low Loader (1100) was the next release in April 1958 which was a low loader trailer attached to the Bedford cab and was followed by the similar Machinery Carrier low loader (1104) in September 1958. In November 1958 the Euclid TC12 Bulldozer (1102) was issued. A large earth mover which was being widely used in the construction of the M1, the UK's first motorway, the Euclid factory was only two miles from Corgi headquarters which allowed easy access to all the data required to produce a very accurate model. April 1959 saw the release of the Bedford Fuel Tanker in the attractive red livery of 'Mobilgas' (1110) and this model was revamped in pale blue and white as the Bedford Milk Tanker (1129) in May 1962, and both were later re-issued with a more modern Bedford TK cab.
The Midland Red Motor Express Coach (1120), issued in March 1960, was a high speed coach for the new motorway age and a miniature version of the pioneering SRN 1 hovercraft (1119) was released in June 1960. In November 1962 the new Bedford TK cab unit was also fitted to the existing Carrimore Car Transporter (1105) and was also included in a new Car Transporter Gift Set (GS28) in December 1963 along with four cars; Ford Consul Classic (234), Mercedes Benz 220 SE (230), Renault Floride (222) and Fiat 2100 (232). The Ecurie Ecosse Racing Transporter (1126) issued in October 1961 was a racing car transporter custom built for the Scottish motor racing team Ecurie Ecosse, with room for three cars and an on-board workshop. The Corgi model featured operational ramps, a sliding door revealing the workshop complete with a miniature lathe, operational steering, and was finished in authentic dark blue. Racing Transporter Set (GS16) was also released in October 1961 featuring the Ecurie Ecosse transporter along with three racing cars; Vanwall (150), BRM (156) and Lotus XI (151). Another construction site model was released in May 1963. The Priestman Cub Shovel had a complex arrangement of cotton threads to operate the bucket at the end of its interlocking crane booms, and was paired with the earlier Machinery Carrier fitted with the latest Bedford TK tractor as Gift Set 27 in August. The Simon Snorkel Aerial Rescue Truck (1127) was issued in September 1964. This model fire engine was based on a Bedford TK chassis and featured an extendable centre-hinged arm with rescue cradle complete with fire fighter figure holding a die-cast water cannon which could be manoeuvred by means of a rotating base and wheels and gears. The model stayed in the range until being updated with a more modern Dennis cab (1126) in June 1977.
A new cab unit was introduced in September 1965. The Ford H Cab and Detachable Trailer (1137) was an American truck produced by Corgi to appeal to the lucrative US market and featured a forward tilting cab revealing a highly detailed engine, realistic moveable door mirrors and die-cast metal air horns and side ladders. The large box trailer featured sliding side doors, opening rear doors and was finished in the blue and silver 'Express Services' livery. The leap in quality of this model proved that the Major range had entered a new era, and it continued to sell well until 1972. The new Ford cab was used again in April 1966 with a new version of the Carrimore Car Transporter (1138) which had been re-designed to carry up to six Corgi cars, and which also featured in Gift Set 41 along with six cars; Ford Cortina Estate (440), Rover 2000 (252), Hillman Imp (251), Mini Cooper De-Luxe (249), Austin Seven (225) and Mini Cooper Monte Carlo 1966 (321). This gift set was initially only available by mail order but was finally issued in time for Christmas in December 1967.
The Holmes Wrecker Recovery Vehicle (1142) issued in May 1967 was also based on the Ford H Series tractor unit, and featured twin boom die-cast recovery cranes with hooks attached to cotton lines that could be extended by winding a pair of spare wheels attached to the sides of the vehicle, and also included were two model mechanics previously seen with the 'Express Services' truck. The American La France Aerial Rescue Truck (1143) was added to the Major range in October 1968 and was a highly detailed model of a large articulated fire engine from the United States of America. It featured an extendable ladder on a rotating base complete with plastic ladder extensions and model firemen and has recently been re-issued by the modern Corgi company in a number of authentic liveries. The Carrimore Car Transporter Mark IV using the recently introduced Scammell cab was also released in April 1969 and a gift set (GS48) featuring the new transporter and six cars; MGC GT (345), Mini Cooper Monte Carlo 1967 (339), Sunbeam Imp Monte Carlo 1967 (340), Mini Cooper S Magnifique (334), Morris Mini Minor (226) and The Saint's Volvo P1800 (258) soon followed. By October 1970 the Carrimore Car Transporter Mark V (1146) had grown to three decks and Gift Set 20 again featured the transporter complete with six cars now fitted with Whizzwheels; Lancia Fulvia Zagato (372), Marcos 3 Litre (377), MGC GT (378), Ford Capri 3 Litre (311), The Saint's Volvo P1800 (201) and Pontiac Firebird (343) . It is interesting to note that some of the colour schemes applied to cars in the Car Transporter Gift Sets were unique to models included in these sets, and today are particularly collectable. The Scammell Handyman Ferrymasters Truck (1147) issued in December 1969, proved to be the last new application for the Scammell cab and was finished in the authentic yellow and white livery of the Ferrymasters truck fleet.
The Major range continued into the 1970s but along with the Corgi Toys range suffered somewhat from the constraints on development budgets that the company was forced to make. The Mercedes Benz Unimog and snowplough (1150) was released in February 1971 and another American cab unit was introduced in October 1971. The new Mack was coupled with a fuel tanker in the livery of 'Esso' (1152) in October 1971 and a Transcontinental trailer (1100) in November 1971, and fitted with an updated version of the Priestman Cub Shovel now converted to become a crane in October 1972 as the Mack Priestman Crane Truck (1154). A new Berliet cab was introduced in May 1974 as the Crane Fruehauf Discharge Dumper (1102), a large articulated aggregate carrier for use on construction sites, and the new cab was also used as the Berliet Wrecker Truck (1144) in March 1975 updating the aforementioned Holmes Wrecker, which had been in the range since 1967. The Pathfinder Airport Crash Truck (1103) released in September 1974 had won the Design Council Engineering Award for its manufacturer Chubb, and the Corgi miniature included an internal water tank allowing water to be squirted through die-cast water cannons by pumping a rubber bulb. Another new cab was introduced in April 1976. The Ford Transcontinental was designed for long range treks across the European continent and was first issued coupled to the fuel tanker previously seen with the earlier Mack cab, also in 'Esso' livery (1157) or 'Gulf' livery (1160), and later in February 1982 in the livery of 'Guinness' (1169). A new Car Transporter (1159) was issued in November 1976 using the new Ford Transcontinental cab, and two more construction site orientated vehicles were issued, the JCB Crawler Loader (1110) in June 1976 and the Volvo BM Concrete Mixer (1156) in January 1977. The Dolphinarium (1164) was issued in April 1980 and featured the Berliet cab and a flatbed trailer which carried a large plastic water tank. Once the tank was filled a plunger attached to a jet nozzle within in the tank could be pumped forcing two model dolphins attached to a plastic guide to jump out of the water and through the air.
The Chipperfields Circus Crane Truck (1121) was the first of the highly successful and much sought after range of Chipperfield's Circus vehicles produced by Corgi Toys during the 1960s, and was issued in October 1960. It was based on a large International truck fitted with a metal crane, hook and pulley, and painted in the traditional Chipperfields Circus livery of red and blue, as were all the models in the range. It was followed by the Circus Animal Cage Trailer (1123) in January 1961 which featured two two-part opening doors revealing a large cage with metal bars. These two models were later packaged together as the Chipperfields Circus Set (GS12). An updated version of the Karrier Bantam Mobile Butcher Shop was introduced in January 1962 as the Circus Booking Office (426). The window insert of the original depicting joints of meat was replaced with a new one with circus advertising posters. In April 1962 the existing Land Rover 109 model was issued along with a trailer carrying a large cage and a model elephant as Chipperfields Circus Land Rover and Elephant Cage on Trailer (GS19). The Chipperfields Circus Vehicles Set (GS23) was issued in September 1962 featuring all the Chipperfields models released to date, and today this is one of the most desirable gift sets issued by the company. The Chipperfields Circus Horse Transporter (1130) was released in October 1962 featuring the new Bedford TK tractor unit and an articulated trailer with models of circus horses, and in June 1964 the Bedford TK tractor unit was adapted with a large high-sided open top 'wooden' box as the Giraffe Transporter (503) complete with models of a mother and baby giraffe.
The Land Rover 109, which had been adapted as a 'Vote For Corgi' campaigning vehicle as a tie-in with the 1964 UK General Election, was re-issued in September 1965 in the red and blue colours of Chipperfields as the Chipperfields Circus Parade Vehicle (487) with a clown and chimpanzee replacing the political canvassers of the original, and a 'The Circus is Here' banner across the bonnet. The Chipperfields Circus Menagerie Transporter (1139) which was released in October 1968 featured a new Scammell Handyman cab and a flatbed articulated trailer which carried a load of three plastic 'cages' with models of lions, bears and tigers and the Chipperfields Circus Crane and Cage (1144), issued in April 1969, again featured the Scammell tractor unit but modified using the Holmes Wrecker platform with a large crane mounted on a pivoting base to the rear, and included a plastic animal cage with a model rhinoceros inside. The final model in the Chipperfields Circus range was released in January 1970. The Chipperfields Performing Poodles Pick Up (511) was an update of the earlier Kennel Club Wagon (itself an adaptation of the Chevrolet Impala first issued in 1960) and included model poodles and trainer.
There were no further circus related releases until the Jean Richard Circus Set (GS48) which was issued in November 1978. This large set included models of the new 1/36 scale Land Rover Estate and Chevrolet Van which had been updated to become a parade vehicle and mobile booking office respectively. Also included were an animal cage trailer and models of horses and an elephant and figures of a clown and a ringmaster, together with various Big Top accessories. The most interesting model, however, was the Berliet tractor unit which had been adapted to become a human cannonball launcher complete with die-cast cannon attached to the rear and a human cannonball figure that could be fired from the cannon by means of depressing a button.
Throughout the company's history, Corgi Toys have been closely associated with modelling Grand Prix and Formula 1 racing cars. The first issued was the Vanwall Grand Prix car (150) issued in July 1957. Finished in green and carrying racing number 3, it was a scale model of the actual car driven by Stirling Moss. This was followed in December 1958 by a BRM Grand Prix car (106) also with green paintwork, and both cars featured in the Racing Car Set (GS5) from 1958, along with the Lotus X1 Le Mans racing car (151) from July 1958. The Vanwall, however, had been re-coloured red.The Proteus-Campbell Bluebird Record Car (153) was issued in September 1960 and was modelled on the vehicle with which Donald Campbell was to set a new Land Speed Record on July 17th 1964. The Corgi design team were given extensive access to the real car in order to produce their scale model, even receiving paint samples to enable them to create an exact colour match. An example of the model was presented to Donald Campbell by young members of the Corgi Club.
In 1963 the Ferrari (Tipo 156) F1 (154) was released finished in Italian racing red, and was also featured in a Land Rover and Ferrari F1 car set (GS17) that same year. It was followed in December 1964 by the Lotus-Climax F1 car (155) in an authentic British Racing Green as driven by Jim Clark, and in 1967 by the Cooper-Maserati F1 car (156) painted blue. The Lotus-Climax and the Cooper-Maserati were re-engineered in 1969 to include steerable front wheels operated by moving the driver from side to side, and a high level rear wing in the style of real Formula 1 cars of the time. They were re-coloured orange in the case of the Lotus-Climax (158) and yellow in the case of the Cooper-Maserati (159). A Lotus Racing Car set (GS37) was issued in August 1966 containing the Lotus-Climax F1 car, two Lotus Elans and a Volkswagen breakdown tow truck. Another Ferrari was issued in February 1965, Ferrari Berlinetta (Ferrari 250 LM) (314) which had competed at the 1964 Le Mans 24 Hour race, and in May 1967 another successful sports racer, the Porsche Carrera 6 (Porsche 906) (330), was released.
In 1972 Corgi worked with the newly formed Grand Prix Association to produce a series of Formula 1 racing cars. The first was the Yardley McLaren M19A (151) driven by New Zealander Denny Hulme which was followed by the Brooke Bond Oxo Surtees TS9 driven by John Surtees (150), later followed by a TS9B in the livery of Italian sponsors 'Pagnossin' (153). The following year saw the release of the Ferrari 312 (152) and the John Player Special Lotus 72 (154) of World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi, and in 1974 the Shadow F1 car was issued in both UOP livery (155) driven by Jackie Oliver, and as Graham Hill's Embassy Shadow (156). Multiple World Champion Jackie Stewart's Elf Tyrrell F1 car (158) was also released along with the STP Patrick Eagle (159) driven to victory in the 1973 Indianapolis 500 by Gordon Johncock. The final two models in the series were the Hesketh 308 F1 car (190) driven by Englishman James Hunt issued in 1976, and the six wheeled Tyrrell Project 34 driven by South African Jody Scheckter issued in Elf livery (161) and First National City Travellers Checks livery (162) which was released in 1977. Two Formula 1 cars were also issued in 1/18 scale, the John Player Special Lotus 72 (190) in 1974 and the Marlboro McLaren (191) in 1975.
Models following other themes were also released over the years. In January 1964, Corgi updated the existing Citroën DS Safari to become a promotional vehicle for the 1964 Winter Olympics (475), complete with a skier figure, four model skis and two model ski poles. Painted white and with a decal of the Olympic rings logo on the bonnet, this model then reverted to a 'Corgi Ski Club' version the following year. It was revamped again in November 1967 for the 1968 Winter Olympics (499), this time painted white with a blue roof, and with a model toboggan on the roof rack along with a figure of a tobogganist and a pair of skis and poles, and a stylish 'Grenoble Olympiade 1968' decal on the bonnet. The final version introduced in 1970 was an Alpine Rescue vehicle (510), painted white with a red roof and which came complete with figures of a St Bernard dog and rescuer, and today is the rarest of the versions.
The Monte Carlo Rally, held annually in January, provided a rich source of model cars between 1964 and 1967. By following the event closely, Corgi Toys were able to issue a model of the winning car shortly after the end of the rally Often there was not even enough time to produce a unique box for the new model, which had to make do with a hastily produced sticker applied to a standard issue box for a similar model. The 1964 winner Paddy Hopkirk's Mini Cooper S (317) released in February 1964 featured jewelled headlights and a rally lamp on the roof, and was finished in the BMC team colours of red with a white roof with authentic Monte Carlo Rally transfers. Three Monte Carlo Rally cars were issued in 1965, the winning Mini Cooper S of Timo Mäkinen (321) in February, finished in the same red with a white roof, and three jewelled rally lamps, and in April a Rover 2000 (322) in maroon with a white roof with two jewelled rally lamps in the grill and a Citroën DS (323) with four small jewelled rally lamps and finished in pale blue with a white roof complete with roof aerial. All three of these models were available in the Monte Carlo Gift Set (GS38) also issued in April 1965; a highly prized set for today's collector. Another Mini Cooper S in Monte Carlo Rally finish was issued the January of following year complete with two jewelled rally lamps in the grille and the signatures of the driver Timo Mäkinen and his co-driver Paul Easter printed on the roof. The model number 321 was carried over from the 1965 car. A Hillman Imp was also issued as a Monte Carlo Rally car (328), finished in blue with a white flash along the sides and two jewelled rally lamps, and was driven by an all female team of Rosemary Smith and Valerie Domleo in the 1966 event.
1967 was the final year that Corgi issued Monte Carlo Rally cars, and the famous Mini Cooper S (339) appeared yet again in March, this time with four jewelled rally lamps in the grill, a sump guard and two spare wheels on a roof rack borrowed from the 'Surfing' Mini Traveller (485) from 1965. The 1967 Monte Carlo Rally Mini Cooper S stayed in the Corgi range until 1972, spanning two different castings. Another Mini Cooper S (333) was released in February 1967 carrying the same red and white paintwork, but as campaigned in the 1967 RAC/Sun rally by Tony Fall and Mike Wood, along with another Rover 2000 (322) from the same event and finished in white with a matt black bonnet. The final Monte Carlo Rally car was the Sunbeam Imp (340) issued in March 1967, which featured four jewelled rally lamps and was finished in blue with a white flash and front panel. In December 1965 a Volkswagen 1200 Beetle was issued in East African Safari finish (256). This model featured an opening boot and engine cover and steerable front wheels operated by a spare tyre on the roof of the car. The colourful packaging was completed with the inclusion of a model of a charging rhinoceros. Three years later in July 1969 Corgi issued the winning Hillman Hunter from the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon (302), complete with Take Off Wheels, roof mounted tool box and a plastic kangaroo guard across the front of the car. This time the packaging included a model kangaroo and details of the event, and in February 1970 the Ford Capri 3-Litre rally car (303) as driven by the late Roger Clark was released. A model of the successful Datsun 240Z rally car in East African Safari Finish (394) was issued in October 1972 and the Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona as raced at the 1973 Le Mans 24 Hour race, with JCB and Corgi sponsorship (324), was released in June 1973. In July 1973 the Porsche-Audi 917-10 (397) from the Can-Am race series was issued with L&M cigarette sponsorship.
In the early 1970s Corgi Toys issued a range of dragsters in response not only to the increased following of this form of motorsport in the UK, focussed on the Santa Pod Raceway in Northamptonshire, but also the attention brought to these vehicles by Mattel's Hot Wheels. The first to be released was the 'Quartermaster' Dragster (162) in April 1971, closely followed by the 'Commuter' Dragster (161) in June. Both were models of real vehicles, and were of the 'rail' dragster variety. The first 'Funny Car' dragster was the Santa Pod 'Gloworm' Dragster (163) issued in July 1971, and which was based on the existing Ford Capri 3 litre. Modifications allowed the body to be hinged from the rear, and by pressing a button secreted in the front bumper the entire body rose, by means of a spring, to reveal a roll cage and driver within and a detailed V8 engine. The next release, however, was a figment of the Corgi design team's imagination. The 'Organ Grinder' Mustang Funny Car (166), which was issued in October 1971, was purely an update of the Ford Mustang (320) first seen in 1965, complete with huge rear wheels and headers resembling organ pipes fitted to the V8 engine. In December 1971 the Ison Brothers 'Wild Honey' Dragster (164) was released which was a fully customised 'gasser' based on a 1930s Austin Seven saloon. The Adams Brothers 'Drag-Star' (165) released in February 1972 was a four engined machine produced in conjunction with designers the Adams Brothers, and the earlier 'Quartermaster' Dragster was updated in October 1972 as the John Woolfe Radio Luxembourg 208 Dragster (170) which was being driven by British drag racer Dennis Priddle at the time. Swedish drag racer Arnold Sundquist had built a car powered by a jet engine from a Starfighter plane which he brought to both the Corgi offices in Northampton and Swansea to allow the company's design team access to the car. The resulting model Silver Streak Swedish Jet Dragster (169) was released in February 1973.
Corgi Toys introduced the first of many film and television tie-in models in March 1965 with The Saint's Volvo P1800 (258) from the British television series The Saint starring Roger Moore, although this was merely an update of the existing Volvo P1800 model that had been issued in 1962. However, with the second in the range of film and TV related models Corgi unwittingly revolutionised the British toy car industry. The most famous and best selling (to date) toy car of all, James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 (261) from the film Goldfinger, was issued in October 1965 and despite the fact that the casting of the new James Bond car was based heavily on the earlier Aston Martin DB4 model from 1960, it was the special features that marked out this model. There were machine guns in the front wings which popped out at the touch of a button, a bullet proof shield which popped up to protect the rear screen when the exhaust pipes were pressed, and an ejector seat which fired through a roof panel which opened by the touch of another button. The model was released in time for the 1965 Christmas market and the Corgi factory found it was unable to keep up with demand, leading to coverage in the British press of stories of toy shop shelves being cleared of this new must-have toy in minutes. The model remains in production to this day in an updated form and has gone on to sell more than seven million examples.
More big selling film and television tie-in models were released over the next few years, each with special features to entertain children, and in 1966 Mettoy were awarded two of the most prestigious awards; 'The Queen’s Award To Industry' and the 'National Association Of Toy Retailers’ Highest Standards Award'. 1966 also saw the release of another British television tie-in, a two car set from The Avengers (GS40) which featured figures of the stars of the show 'John Steed' and 'Emma Peel' and their respective cars; the 1927 Bentley from the Corgi Classics range and a white Lotus Elan. Later in August 1966 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 'Thrushbuster' car (266) was issued. This was an update of an existing Oldsmobile Super 88 casting dating back to 1961, but now with models of the stars of the television series 'Napoleon Solo' and 'Illya Kuryakin' firing guns out of the windows. The two figures popped in and out of the car windows by pressing down on a model periscope protruding through the roof. The Christmas market was again dominated by a Corgi toy car; this time the 'Batmobile' (267) released in October 1966, a George Barris customised 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car from the American television series Batman, which featured rocket launchers, pulsating red plastic 'flames' from the engine exhaust, a chain cutting device and models of 'Batman' and the boy-wonder 'Robin' sitting in the car. The Batmobile went on to sell over five million examples and stayed in the range until March 1979.
In June 1967 GS3 was issued consisting of 'The Batmobile' towing a 'Batboat' on a trailer, and another James Bond car soon followed – the Toyota 2000 GT (336) issued in October 1967 from the film You Only Live Twice, which fired rockets from the boot. Also issued in November was the 'Daktari' Gift Set (GS7) which featured a Land Rover painted in the camouflage style of the Wamaru Nature Reserve with a model tiger lying across the bonnet, along with figures of 'Dr Marsh Tracy', his daughter 'Paula', 'Clarence' the cross-eyed lion and 'Judy' the chimp; the human and animal stars of the American television series Daktari. The previously issued 1927 Bentley was updated for a second time to tie in with the British television series The World of Wooster (9004) which starred Ian Carmichael, and featured figures of 'Bertie Wooster' and his butler 'Jeeves' at the wheel. The final film and television related model for 1967 was issued in November. The crime fighting car 'Black Beauty' (268) - a George Barris customised 1965 Chrysler Crown Imperial sedan, included an operational satellite launcher inside the boot and a rocket fired from behind the grill, and was featured in the American television series The Green Hornet. Although the series was not screened in the UK until years later, the model proved to be very popular and it went on to sell over two million examples. Later in June 1970 the 1912 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost from the Corgi Classics range was reissued, but updated with psychedelic paintwork and featuring figures of the group from The Hardy Boys, another American television series which was unknown in Britain. This time the model failed to sell, making it extremely rare today.
A new casting of the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 (270) was also released in February 1968, this time featuring the correct silver paintwork. The original had been painted gold after the Corgi design team decided that silver painted pre-production models looked as if the metal bodies were unpainted. The new model now featured tyre slashers and revolving number plates whilst retaining all the features of the original, and early examples packaged in a short lived bubble-pack are even more valuable today than the earlier 1965 release. November 1968 saw the release of the flying car 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' (266) from the successful film that had been in cinemas throughout that summer, and which featured plastic wings that popped out from the car's side skirts when the hand brake was pushed and detailed miniatures of the car's inventor 'Caracticus Potts', 'Truly Scrumptious' and the children 'Jeremy' and 'Gemima'. The 'Monkeemobile' (277) issued in December was a Dean Jeffries customized 1966 Pontiac GTO taken from the American television series The Monkees which featured miniature models of the band sitting in the car.
Film and television related models continued to be issued in February 1969 with the 'Yellow Submarine' (803) from the animated Beatles film of the same name. This model featured two hatches that lifted at the touch of buttons on the side of the craft to allow models of John, Paul, George and Ringo to pop into view. The 'Yellow Submarine' commands very high prices today amongst both die-cast collectors and Beatles related collectors too. Corgi Toys also introduced the 'Corgi Comics' range this year – a range of 'character' toys aimed at younger children. Noddy's car (801) featured figures from the Enid Blyton children's novels of 'Noddy', 'Big-Ears' and 'Golly' sitting in the rumble seat, though the model was later reissued with 'Teddy' sitting in the rumble seat, perhaps in response to the fact that gollywogs had become less acceptable. It was issued again in the 1970s with just 'Noddy' at the wheel. Also released in December 1969 as part of the 'Corgi Comics' range was 'Popeye's Paddlewagon' (802) a half car – half boat featuring 'Popeye', 'Olive Oyl' and 'Swee'pea' from the 'Popeye' cartoon series, and 'Basil Brush's' car (808) featuring a model of the glove puppet fox from the British television series The Basil Brush Show driving a colourful version of the 1911 Renault also from the Corgi Classics range.
Also issued at the same time was a range of toys from Serge Danot's animated television series The Magic Roundabout. These included the 'Magic Roundabout' Carousel (H852), 'Mr Mac Henry's' trike (H859), the 'Magic Roundabout' train (H851) and 'Dougal's' car (807), a modified Citroën DS featuring models of 'Dougal' the dog, 'Dylan' the rabbit and 'Brian' the snail. Individual figures of all the characters were available, as was a 'Magic Roundabout' Playground set (H853) that included all the models in the 'Magic Roundabout' series as well as a large 'magic garden' base that featured trees and train tracks. The models in the series were all able to run on these tracks, and would move around the 'Magic Garden' at the turn of a large plastic handle. This set is now one of the most valuable of all Corgi Toys products.
The releases of film and television related models continued into the seventies, and included more James Bond models. A Ford Mustang Mach 1 (391) and the 'Moon Buggy' (802) from the film Diamonds Are Forever were issued in 1972, and the Lotus Esprit (269) in 'underwater' mode from 'The Spy Who Loved Me' in 1977. The Space Shuttle (649) from the Bond movie Moonraker appeared in 1978 along with a 'DRAX' helicopter (930) from the same film, and a Citroën 2CV which James Bond drove in the film For Your Eyes Only was issued in 1981.
As the decade progressed some of the film and television related models became less authentic and more a product of the imagination of the Corgi design team. In 1973 'Dick Dastardly's' Car (809) was issued featuring models of the characters 'Dick Dastardly' and his sidekick 'Muttley' from the children's television programme Wacky Races. However, this Corgi offering was a toylike racecar from the 'Qualitoys' range, and was a far cry from the famous '00-zero' car that 'Dick Dastardly' drove in the cartoon series. In 1978 the 'U.S. Racing Buggy' (167) was reissued as 'The Penguinmobile' (259). A 'Batbike' was released in 1978 featuring a figure of 'Batman' sitting astride a modified motorbike which fired two rockets, along with a series of vehicles that were issued as the result of obtaining the Marvel comic license. These included a 'Spidervan' (436); a suitably decorated Chevrolet van, which had also been issued the previous year as a tie-in with the American television series 'Charlie's Angels' (434), a 'Daily Planet' helicopter (929), a 'Spiderbuggy' (261); a Jeep CJ5 with a model of 'Spiderman's' arch enemy 'The Green Goblin' trapped in a web styled plastic bag dangling from a crane fitted at the back of the vehicle, a 'Spidercopter' (928) and a 'Spiderbike' (266). A similar treatment was also given to other Marvel characters including a 'Captain America' Jetmobile (263), a 'Captain Marvel' Porsche 917/10 Can-Am racer (262) and an 'Incredible Hulk' Mazda pick-up (264) which featured a caged model of the 'Hulk' on the flatbed of the truck. A 'Superman' gift set (GS21) was also released featuring a 'Supermobile', the 'Daily Planet' helicopter and a Buick Century police car, as well as a 'Spiderman' gift set (GS23) consisting of the 'Spiderbuggy', the 'Spidercopter' and the 'Spidervan'. These later film and television related releases were not models of authentic vehicles as were the earlier issues from the 1960s, but merely existing models updated to take advantage of recently acquired licensing deals.
In May 1978 a new version of the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 (271) was issued in 1/36 scale which featured the operational gimmicks of the 1965 original. This model appears in the Corgi range to the present day. Later in 1980 the 'Buck Rogers' Starfighter (647) from the film 'Buck Rogers in the 25th Century' was released, though the planned 'Dan Dare' Spacecar was never released. A series of models featuring characters from Jim Henson's 'The Muppet Show' were also issued in 1980. These included 'Kermit's' car (2030), 'Fozzie Bear's truck (2031), 'Miss Piggy's' Sports Coupe (2032) and 'Animal's Percussionmobile' (2033).
By the mid 1970s some of the most popular series shown on British television were American police dramas, and Corgi decided to model several of the vehicles featured in these shows. In 1976 the Buick Century (296) from the series Kojak was issued, along with a miniature of 'Detective Kojak', and a year later the Ford Gran Torino from Starsky & Hutch (292) was released also with figures of 'David Starsky' and 'Ken Hutchinson'. In 1980 a silver Ford Capri 3.0 S (342) was issued as a tie-in with the popular British television crime drama 'The Professionals' featuring models of 'Bodie', 'Doyle' and 'Cowley', as well as a 1956 Ford Thunderbird (348) from the American show 'Vegas'.
To complement Corgi Toys film and TV related models they were issued in colourful packaging with period artwork, making examples with the original packaging and complete with all accessories such as rockets, satellites, and umbrellas in the case of The Avengers set, both highly desirable and valuable. Corgi Classics Ltd have reissued many of these film and television related models in recent years, allowing collectors to own examples without the having to pay the high prices that the originals currently attract, although some of the re-issued models are beginning to gain in value.
The first emergency vehicles produced by Corgi Toys were issued as part of the launch range in July 1956, and were based on the Bedford Utilicon. It was issued in red as a 'Fire Dept' vehicle (405M) and in green as an 'Army Fire Service' vehicle (405), both with a tin plate ladder attached to the roof of the vehicle. These were followed in June 1958 by the company's first police vehicle; a Riley Pathfinder patrol car (209), finished in black and with a die cast police sign fitted to the roof complete with siren and bell. In January 1959 a Jaguar 2.4 Fire Chief car (213) was added to the range, finished in red and with a nylon aerial, crest transfers on the front doors and the same cast sign as the Pathfinder but modified to read 'Fire Chief'. The first American emergency vehicle to be produced by Corgi Toys was the Chevrolet Impala State Patrol car (223) introduced in December 1959. It was painted black and featured a nylon aerial and 'State Patrol' stickers on the vehicle's front doors. An updated version finished in black and white was issued in 1965.
By 1959 the M1, the UK's first motorway, had opened to the public and this prompted the introduction of a new breed of powerful police vehicle able to carry a large payload. The Ford Zodiac Motorway Patrol Car (419) was introduced in August 1960 and was finished in white with a plastic aerial fitted to the front wing, a blue light attached to the roof, a 'Police' decal on the bonnet and a vac-formed interior detailing rescue equipment in the luggage compartment and in June 1962 the Oldsmobile Super 88 County Sheriff car (237) was added to the range. Painted black and white it featured a red light fitted to the roof and 'County Sheriff' stickers on the doors. This model became the company's first million seller. The Superior Ambulance on Cadillac Chassis (437) introduced in October 1962 was from the latest generation of models and featured red and white paintwork, a working battery operated flashing light on the roof and four trans-o-lite fibre optic lights in each corner of the roof that flashed in unison with the main bulb. This model was re-issued in blue and white in 1966. In January 1963 the existing Chevrolet Impala was introduced as a Fire Chief car (439), painted red with a light on the roof, crests decals on the doors and a 'Fire Chief' transfer on the bonnet, and was also updated with a red and white finish in 1966. In June 1963 the Commer Police Van (464) was released, painted blue with a battery operated flashing light on the roof, barred side windows and 'County Police' transfers along the sides, and this model was also updated in 1967. An ambulance version (463) painted white was issued in February 1964.
In October 1964 a Police Dog Handler Mini van (450) was introduced painted dark blue with 'Police' in white letters on the sides, a nylon aerial fitted to the front wing and came with models of the police dog handler and police Alsatian dog. The Volkswagen European Police Car (492) issued in May 1966 was finished in the green and white of the German police force, and carried 'Polizei' transfers on the doors. It also featured steerable front wheels operated by the blue metal 'light' on the roof and two policemen sitting inside the vehicle, not to mention opening boot and rear engine cover. Another rear engined police car was introduced in May 1968, the Sunbeam Imp 'Panda' car (506). It was painted black and white initially but this colour scheme was soon changed to authentic 'Panda' car colours of pale blue with a white vertical centre section.
By 1970 Corgi Toys were fitting their models with Whizzwheels in response to the current market trends. In June 1970 a Porsche 911 Targa 'Polizei' car (509) was released, based on a real German police vehicle. It was painted red and white and was fitted with a blue light on an extension next to the door and a die-cast loud hailer on the engine cover. The Fire Bug (395) appeared in December 1971, and was based on a GP Beach Buggy fitted with fire fighting equipment. British police vehicles were well represented with the Police 'Vigilant' Range Rover (461) released in January 1972 and the Ford Cortina Police Car (402) released in August of the same year. Both models were finished in the contemporary white with red/blue side stripes, which would have been familiar to many motorists at the time. The Range Rover came complete with a model policeman and emergency road signs.
The remaining years that the company was in existence saw police cars based on such subjects as a Porsche 924 (430), a Renault 5 (428), a Mercedes 240D 'Polizei' (412) and a Buick Century (416) which had previously seen service as 'Kojak's' car. There was also a Metropolitan Police Land Rover and Horse box (GS44) complete with a model Police horse and rider, which was also available in RCMP finish (GS45). Ambulances were issued based on the Range Rover 'Vigilant' (482), a Mercedes Benz 'Bonna' (406) and a Chevrolet Superior Ambulance (405). There appears, however, to have been a lack of fire fighting machinery released in this time. Two models from this era do warrant attention. Riot Police Truck (422) released in September 1977 was a squat armoured military vehicle painted white and red with twin water cannons fitted to the rear, and perhaps reflected the times in which it was conceived, and the Jaguar XJ12 Coupe which was released in December 1975 finished in the white and pale blue livery of the Coastguard (414), complete with die-cast light and twin foghorns on the roof. The model was updated as a police vehicle (429) in February 1978.
The first light commercial modelled by Corgi Toys was the Bedford CA van in Daily Express livery (403) and in 'KLG Plugs' livery (403M) which was part of the July 1956 range that launched the brand. The CA van was later released in the yellow and black livery of AA Services in May 1957 (408), in the black and silver livery of the Evening Standard (421) in June 1960 and in the yellow and blue livery of Corgi Toys (422) in October 1960. The first large commercial vehicles in the Corgi Toys range were the Commer Dropside lorry (452) and the Commer Refrigerated van finished the livery of Walls Ice Cream (453). The same large van body was used on the ERF 88G chassis to become the Moorhouses Van (459) in March 1958. Painted red and yellow it featured paper stickers on the sides advertising Moorhouses Lemon Cheese and Raspberry jam.
The Karrier Bantam Lucozade Van (411) was introduced in August 1958 and featured a sliding plastic door, yellow paintwork and adverts for Lucozade energy drink on the side. This model was updated in May 1962 to become the Dairy Produce Van (435) now painted pale blue and white and with a 'Drive Safely on Milk' advert on the side. A Volkswagen van (433) was introduced in December 1962 finished in two tone red and white along with the Volkswagen Kombi (434), a mini van version with windows which was finished in green and white paintwork. A rare promotional version of the van was produced for the Dutch department store Vroom & Dreesman. In February 1963 the basic Volkswagen van was updated with Trans-o-lite headlamps as the Volkswagen Toblerone van (441). It was painted pale blue and finished with transfers along the sides advertising Toblerone chocolate bars. In March 1964 a Volkswagen Pick Up (432) was introduced to the range which came complete with a plastic canopy, and in December 1966 the pick up was converted to become the Volkswagen Breakdown Truck (490).
In 1963 Corgi introduced the Commer Constructor Set (GS 24), which consisted of two Commer FC van chassis units and four different rear bodies – an ambulance, milk float, panel van and pick-up. It proved very popular and remained in production until 1968. These models were also available separately as part of the normal Corgi range. A newly-tooled Commer 2500 mini bus body was used for the Samuelson Mobile Camera Van (479) issued in December 1967 which included a detailed model of a Panavision film camera and cameraman on a metal plinth that could be either attached to the vehicle's roofrack or to the front of the van for tracking shots. This model was also issued as the Commer Holiday Camp Special bus (508) in August 1968.
The 'Mister Softee' Ice Cream Van (428) was introduced in March 1962 and was based on a Commer 1 ton van and which featured a plastic knob on the underside that allowed the ice cream salesman inside to be rotated. It also featured a sliding side window. In 1965 a Thames Walls Ice Cream Van (447) was introduced. This was a smaller vehicle based on the Thames 5 cwt van which was a commercial version of the Ford Anglia and the bodywork featured a pointed roof design and a sliding side window. The model also came with a sheet of stickers which could be applied and also included were models of an ice cream vender and small boy. An alternative version (474) with musical chimes operated by a handle protuding from the back of the model was introduced a year later, but without the plastic figures. A Karrier Bantam based Mobile Butchers Shop (413) was released in October 1960 and was later updated to become a Chipperfield Circus Booking Office (426) in January 1962 and with the addition of an opening side hatch, a detailed kitchen interior and revolving chef it was re-issued in March 1965 as Joe's Diner Mobile Canteen (471). An export model to be sold in Belgium featured 'Patates Frites' stickers on the side in place of the usual 'Joe's Diner'.
There were no further additions to the commercial vehicle range until June 1979 with the Chevrolet van, first seen the previous year, issued in the livery of Coca-Cola (437). A Ford Transit Wrecker (1140) in the livery of 'Corgi 24 Hour Service' was issued in March 1981 followed by the Ford Transit Milk float (405) in February 1982 which carried the period slogan 'Milk's Gotta Lotta Bottle'.
A variety of farming vehicles formed part of the Corgi Toys range for the majority of the company's existence under Mettoy's ownership. These models were popular with children from rural backgrounds and today are considered highly collectable. The range was introduced in June 1959 with the Massey Ferguson 65 tractor (50) finished in the manufacturer's familiar red and white colours. An accompanying Massey Ferguson trailer (51) was introduced at the same time, and in April 1960 an operational shovel was added to the tractor as the Massey Ferguson 65 Tractor Shovel (53). The scoop could either be raised or lowered by means of one of two levers and could be tipped by means of the second lever. Both the tractor and trailer were available together as GS 7. The Massey Ferguson combine harvester (1111) was released in August 1959 as part of the Corgi Major range, which featured blades that rotated as the model was pushed along.
A new tractor was introduced in May 1961. The Fordson Power Major Tractor (56) featured steering operated by the steering wheel and was finished in Ford's traditional blue. A plough that could be attached to the tractor (57) was issued at the same time, and the two were available together as GS18. A half track version of the Fordson was available in March 1962 as the Fordson Power Major with Roadless Half Tracks (54). The first Agricultural Gift Set (GS22) was released in September 1962 and included the combine harvester, the Fordson and Massey Ferguson tractors with a fork replacing the shovel on the Massey Ferguson for this gift set only. Also included in the set were two trailers and an example of the existing Land Rover. The Fordson Power Major Tractor was issued with a new Beast Carrier Trailer, carrying a load of four plastic calves, as GS33 in March 1965 and the Working Conveyor on F.C.Jeep (64) was released in June 1965. This was an update of the Forward Control Jeep first issued in 1959 with a new casting of a working conveyor belt assembly fitted to the flat bed and accompanied by plastic model grain sacks and farmer. The first new tractor for five years was issued in July 1966. The Massey Ferguson 165 (66) featured steering and an 'engine sound' as the model was pushed along and was finished in red and white. The conveyor belt first seen with the F.C. Jeep was updated with a trailer chassis and coupled to a second new tractor in GS47 issued in September 1966. The Ford 5000 Super Major was finished in blue and came complete with operational steering and jewelled headlights. The new Ford tractor was coupled to a Beast Carrier trailer for GS1 released in December 1966 which became the first Corgi release in the new style cellophane window box which defined the company's packaging for the future.
The Dodge Kew Fargo Livestock Transporter (484) was issued in April 1967. This was a large animal transporter based on an American Dodge truck which featured an opening bonnet and carried a cargo of plastic pigs. The Tandem Disc Harrow Plough Trailer (71) was relreased in July 1967 and an updated Agricultural Gift Set (GS5) in October 1967, which featured some of the more recent releases such as the Dodge Kew Fargo and the Massey Ferguson 165 tractor with scoop. In March 1970 the Massey Ferguson 165 Tractor With Saw Attachment (73) was issued featuring a clever circular saw attachment which rotated as the model was pushed along by means of a long finely coiled spring. Next followed two versions of the Ford 5000 Super Major tractor with a fully operational side trenching scoop (74) in 1970 followed by a version with a rear trenching scoop (72) in January 1971. The next new tractor model was issued in April 1973. The Massey Ferguson MF50B (50) featured a closed cab and was finished in yellow. A version with an operational shovel (54) was released in April 1974 and was featured with a trailer carrying a load of plactic 'hay' with figures sitting atop the 'hay' as the latest version of the Agricultural Gift Set (GS4) in July 1974. Another new tractor was added to the range in September 1976. The David Brown Tractor and Trailer Set (GS34) included the new tractor finished in white and with a closed cab and a tipping trailer. These models were also featured in another version of the Agricultural Gift Set (GS42) released in March 1978, along with models of a grain elevator and grain silo. At the same time the David Brown tractor was issued with a Danish JF combine harvester attachment (1112).
Corgi Toys produced a sizeable range of military vehicles during the 1950s and early 1960s, and in such uncertain times they proved very popular. The Thunderbird Guided Missile and Trailer (350) was issued in May 1958 followed by the Bloodhound Guided Missile and Launch Pad (1108) in October 1958. In June 1959 the Corporal Guided Missile on Launch Pad was issued, which was later featured coupled to a mobile transporter as Corporal Erector Vehicle and Missile (1113) released in October 1959. RAF vehicles included RAF Land Rover (351) issued in May 1958, which was included in Gift Set 4 along with the Bloodhound Guided Missile, and Standard Vanguard RAF Staff Car (352) which was issued in October 1958. The Decca Mobile Airfield Radar Van (1106) released in January 1959 featured a revolving radar scanner which turned by means of a ridged wheel, and the Bedford Military Ambulance (414) was issued in January 1961.
In January 1965, in response to a request from the company's American agent, a range of vehicles was produced in the matt green with white star livery of the US Army. These included Commer Military Ambulance (354), Commer Military Police Van (355), Volkswagen Military Personnel Carrier (356), Land Rover Weapons Carrier (357), Oldsmobile HQ Staff Car (358), Army Field Kitchen (359), International Troop Transporter (1113), Bedford Army Fuel Tanker (1134) and Heavy Equipment Transporter (1135). All were updates of existing models from both the standard Corgi range and the Corgi Major range, and sold disappointingly leading to their withdrawal in under a year. This line did not feature in Corgi catalogues.
There were no further military vehicles produced until the 1970s. A range of tanks was introduced in November 1973 with Tiger Tank Mk I (900) and Centurion Tank Mk III (901) and was added to in September 1974 with the releases of M60 A1 Tank (902), SU 100 Tank Destroyer (905) and Saladin Armoured Car (906). The Centurian Mk III tank was also included as part of Centurion Tank and Transporter (GS 10) along with a Mack articulated transporter truck. The Bell AH 1G Army Helicopter (920) was issued in March 1975, the German Semi-Track Rocket Launcher (907) in July 1975 and the Sikorsky Skycrane US Army Helicopter (923) in September 1975. Military Gift Set (GS17) included the Bell Helicopter, Tiger Tank and Saladin Armoured Car. Finally, in October 1976 the AMX Recovery Truck (908) and Quad Gun Tractor and Field Gun (909) were issued.
By the late sixties the British toy car market had changed with the arrival from the U.S. of Mattel's Hot Wheels range and their associated track sets. Sales of Corgi Toys began to fall away and matters were not helped by a disastrous fire at the Swansea factory in March 1969 which destroyed a warehouse full of models awaiting delivery. Even one of the company's cleverest innovations the Golden Jacks 'Take-Off-Wheels' system which first appeared in March 1968 did little to halt the slide. The authentically detailed die-cast wheels fitted to these models were unique to each model, with the exception of the Oldsmobile Toronado and the Chevrolet Camaro which shared a wheel design, and were attached to the axle by means of the 'Golden Jacks' – die-cast golden metal stands, which when folded downwards both released the wheel and supported the model. Only seven models were produced with this feature.
The Mini Marcos was a lightweight coupe produced by the specialist British sports car manufacturer Marcos and was based on the Austin/Morris Mini and fitted with a highly tuned Mini engine. The Corgi model Mini Marcos GT850 (341), finished in metallic red, was the first in the series of Take Off Wheels models and was introduced in March 1968. The Rover 2000 TC (275) issued a month later in April 1968 and finished in metallic grey/green was a new casting despite Corgi having previously issued a model of the Rover 2000, and was fitted with a clear roof panel as featured on a Rover 2000 displayed on the Triplex stand at the 1965 Earls Court Motor Show, and a plastic spare wheel holder attached to the boot lid which was a popular period extra. A rare version finished in white with a red interior also exists.
The Oldsmobile Toronado (276) released in June 1968 was an updated version of the earlier 1967 Corgi release of the same model but re-coloured metallic red or metallic yellow, but the metallic gold coloured Chevrolet Camaro SS350 (338) issued in August 1968 was a new model of one of the latest generation 'pony' cars from America. The previously mentioned 1968 London to Sydney Marathon winning Hillman Hunter rally car (302) was issued in July 1969 and was finished in the blue and white of the original. The Rolls Royce Silver Shadow Mulliner Park Ward Coupe (273), finished in pearlescent white over grey, was issued in March 1970. A rare version of this model was released in silver over metallic blue which was used as the colour scheme for the later Whizzwheels version. The Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray (300) with detachable roof panels, released in April 1970, was the last of this short-lived line. This model was available in chromed red or green finish. Spare Take Off Wheels were available separately in packs of twelve.
Low friction wheels known as 'Whizzwheels' were introduced to keep up with the competition in September 1969 with the Ferrari 206 Dino Sports (344) finished in either red and white or yellow and black. The first incarnation (known to collectors as 'Red Spots') featured rubber tyres and brass hubs with low friction red nylon centres, which though attractive and effective, were expensive to produce and were soon replaced by plastic wheels. Although giving more 'play value', later Whizzwheels models are less popular with collectors today as they take away some of the character and realism of the earlier models fitted with rubber tyres.
During the early 1960s Corgi Toys issued a series of clip-together plastic kits of buildings and street furniture to compliment and add further play value to their range of 1/43 scale vehicles. The first release was the Batley Leofric Garage (601) with opening garage door in May 1960 followed by two street lamps (606) and AA (Automobile Association) and RAC (Royal Automobile Club) Telephone Boxes (602) in June 1960. In November 1960 Silverstone Pits (603) and Silverstone Press Box (604) were added to the range with Silverstone Club House and Timekeepers Box (605) released in March 1963 along with Circus Elephant and Cage (607). In April 1963 the Motel Chalet (611) was issued and in December 1963 a Shell/BP Service Station (608) was released, along with Shell/BP Forecourt Accessories (609) and Metropolitan Police and Public Telephone Boxes (610). A series of figures to go with Corgi Kits were released in December 1962; Racing Drivers and Mechanics (1501), Spectators (1502), Race Track Officials (1503), Press Officials (1504) and Garage Attendants (1505). The range culminated with two Gift Sets grouping together most of the releases - Shell/BP Garage Layout (GS25) and Silverstone Racing Layout (GS15) both issued in December 1963.
In the late 1950s Corgi Toys produced sheets of stickers depicting miniature registration plates, road tax licences, wire wheels, GB plates and AA badges that could be affixed to personalise models. Today it is not uncommon to find early Corgi models with such additions still intact.
From 1956 to 1985 a catalogue was issued annually to promote the Corgi range. It was originally a small fold-out single sheet leaflet but by the late 1960s it had evolved into a 48 page colour catalogue. Corgi catalogues are notable for their illustrations and art work that are evocative of the period, and they are now collectable in their own right.
There were many reasons for the decline of Corgi Toys, and indeed the British toy car industry; not least the changes in tastes of youngsters, the spiralling cost of developing new features that would capture the imagination, and the emergence of computer games consoles. After the phenomenal success of the range during the late 1950s and 1960s, sales remained fairly static during the early 1970s, but by the end of the decade the models had become less innovative, and sales slumped continually into the 1980s. The increasing costs of UK based production and decreasing sales revenue meant that there was not the funds available to develop the ingenious toys of the past, and the models now sold in their thousands rather than in the millions that they achieved during their heyday. The end finally came in 1983, when Corgi Toys were forced to call in the Official Receiver after years of staving off the inevitable, just three years after the demise of their greatest rival Dinky Toys. An era of British toy manufacturing had passed into history.
The Corgi story does not end in the mid-1980s, however, as a management buy-out saw the company re-formed as Corgi Toys Limited in March 1984. This company continued to produce toy cars and trucks but in smaller numbers than before. The workforce grew but the high costs of running the factory at the Fforest-fach site had became difficult. Competition was now wholly in the form of products which were being manufactured overseas leading to management moving some of the moulds to China and setting up a joint venture company with a Hong Kong company called Flying Dragon. At the same time it took on contract work producing non-toy items. In 1989 the management sold the Corgi brand to Mattel and the factory was retained under the name of Microlink Industries Ltd. The products of the Mettoy owned company continue to be prized by collectors worldwide. In recent years the internet has allowed a far wider collector-base than in the past when swapmeets and antique markets were the only places they could be found.
Dinky Toys are die-cast miniature model cars and trucks. They appeared in early 1934 when Meccano Ltd of Liverpool, England introduced a line of "Modelled Miniatures" under the trade mark "Meccano Dinky Toys". The announcement was made in the April 1934 issue of Meccano Magazine.
In 1931 Meccano Ltd issued a series of railway and trackside accessories to complement their O scale Hornby Railways model train sets. Six model cars were produced alongside model track workers, passengers, station staff and other trackside accessories. The cars were basic representations rather that identifiable marques and had die-cast metal bodies, tin plate bases and wheels with rubber tyres. By 1934 Frank Hornby, who owned Meccano Ltd, had expanded the range to include die-cast model ships and aeroplanes, and the range was christened 'Meccano Dinky Toys', the first set of 'Dinky Cars' being released in 1934. The set of vehicles was designated No. 22, comprising six 1:43 scale models(i.e. O scale) and retailed at 4 shillings:
Pre-war Dinky Toys were cast from an impure alloy and today suffer from zinc pest, making good condition survivors rare today.The first model car available individually was numbered 23a which was a sports car based on an early MG, and by December 1935 there were around 200 different products in the Dinky range even including dolls house furniture. The first model cars were generic representations of vehicle types and were available individually from trade packs of 6. Models would not be available in individual boxes until 1952. In 1935 a new series was introduced which featured accurate likenesses of specific vehicles.
Series 30 included:
The number of commercial vehicles expanded with the addition of Series 28 which included a series of delivery vans. Liveries of well known companies began to decorate these vehicles. Production was halted during the Second World War and the Binns Road factory in Liverpool was given over to the Allied War effort.
The first significant releases from Dinky Toys after production had resumed in the late 1940s were the 40 series of vehicles, which were all British Saloons. These were the opening chapter of the "golden age" of Dinky Toys and represented far greater accuracy than their pre-war counterparts. They became very popular and today are often considered to be the quintessential Dinky Toys models, heralding a new post-war era. The 40 series cars were manufactured from better quality alloy, meaning that the survival rate is higher and although originally sold from trade packs of six, they were re-coloured in two-tone paintwork and renumbered in 1954 becoming some of the first models sold with their own unique box. The series included:
By the early 1950s Dinky Toys had become popular in the United Kingdom. Most of the models were in a scale of approximately 1:48, which blended in with O scale railway sets, but many buses and lorries were scaled down further so that they were around 4 inches long. In 1954 the Dinky Toys range was reorganized and cars were now sold in individual boxes and there were no series of models differentiated by a letter, each model having its own unique catalogue number. The Dinky Toys range became more sophisticated throughout the 1950s but due to the lack of any real competition development of the models was perhaps slower than it could have been. That was until July 1956 when Mettoy introduced a rival line of models under the Corgi brand name. The most obvious difference was the addition of clear plastic 'glazing', and the new range was sold with the slogan 'The Ones With Windows'. Once Meccano Ltd had direct competition they were able to respond by updating their Dinky Toys range accordingly and the models from both companies rapidly became more and more sophisticated featuring working suspension, 'fingertip steering' and detailed interiors.
A rival third range of model cars also appeared in 1959 called "Spot-on" which were manufactured in Northern Ireland and produced by Tri-ang, a division of Lines Brothers. This range were kept to one scale, 1:42, and were comparatively more expensive, never managing to sell as many units as Corgi and Dinky. In 1964 Tri-ang took over the parent Meccano company (which included Hornby trains as well as Meccano itself) and since Dinky Toys were more popular than Spot-On, the latter were phased out in 1967, although a few cars originally designed for Spot-On were made in Hong Kong and marketed as Dinky Toys. However from this point Dinky used the 1:42 scale for many of the English made cars and trucks, although the French factory stuck to the more common 1:43 scale, which was already popular in Europe.
In the late 1960s a new competitor entered the U.K. model car market. This was Hot Wheels from U.S. toymaker Mattel. Their low-friction axles gave them play value that Dinky and the other major British brands including Corgi and Matchbox could not match. Each manufacturer responded with its own version of this innovation - Dinky's name for its wheel/axle assembly was "Speedwheels". The company continued to make innovative models, with all four doors opening (a first in British toy cars), retractable radio aerials (another first), Speedwheels, high quality metallic paint, and jewelled headlights. However, these models were expensive to manufacture and the price could only be kept down if the quantities were sufficiently high enough. Changing fashions in the toy industry, international competition and the switch to cheap labour in lower wage countries meant that the British made Dinky Toys days were numbered, and after attempts at simplifying the products as a means of saving costs, the famous Binns Road factory in Liverpool finally closed its doors in November 1979. Corgi Toys managed to struggle on until 1983. Thus ended the dominant era of British-made die-cast toy models.
The Dinky trade-name changed hands many times before ending up as part of Matchbox International Ltd in the late '80s. This seemed to be a logical and perhaps synergistic development, uniting two of the most valuable and venerated names in the British and world die-cast model car market under one roof. Matchbox began issuing model cars of the 1950s through the 'Dinky Collection' in the late 1980s, but these were models intentionally designed for adult collectors. The models were attractive and honoured the tradition of the Dinky name in terms of both quality and scale, before production stopped after only a few years. The 'Dinky Collection' then became absorbed into the themed series offered by Matchbox Collectibles Inc, owned by US giants Mattel, who have shown little interest in or understanding of the Dinky brand preferring nowadays to rebadge normal Matchbox models as Dinky for some editions of their models in certain markets, or to reissue 1:43 models from the Matchbox era. No new "dedicated" Dinky castings have been created in the Mattel era since Matchbox Collectibles was shut down in 2000.
In the early days of the Dinky Toys range aeroplanes and ships formed a considerable part of the output of the Binns Road factory alongside models of cars and vans. Both civilian and military aircraft were subjects for the Dinky modellers, and the model of the Spitfire was also sold in a special presentation box between 1939 and 1941 as part of The Spitfire Fund in order to raise money for the production of real Spitfires. Some planes were clearly identified whereas others had generic names such as Heavy Bomber (66a) and Two Seater Fighter (66c). The reason for this is not clear and it may have been that these were not true representations of particular planes, but there were rumours that some models of planes and ships were disguised so that enemy agents would not be able to recognise allied aircraft and shipping from the Dinky models. This was of particular importance in the production of French Dinky models due to the political friction in Europe before the war and the fact that France was occupied by the Nazis during hostilities.
Production of model planes continued after the war with a mixture of civilian airliners and new jet powered planes. Production of Dinky planes tailed off in the 1950s and 1960s but was resurgent in the 1970s with a range of World War II planes to coincide with the release of the film The Battle of Britain, complete with battery powered propellers, modern jet fighters and even a helicopter. These are some examples of the sizeable range:
Although the production of aircraft models continued after the war, the heyday of Dinky ships was between 1934 and 1939. The models were cast from the same unstable alloy that was used across the entire pre-war Dinky range and have therefore also suffered from metal fatigue that makes survivors all the more rare. Small metal wheels were also included in the design and concealed in the underside of the hull so that the models could be moved smoothly across surfaces. Mirroring the aircraft range, both civilian and military ships were issued, and again, some were disguised. It was not until the 1970s that any further models were added to the long line of maritime releases from Dinky Toys. Models included in the pre-war range include:
As part of the post-war development and expansion of the range, in 1947 Meccano Ltd introduced a series of model lorries also modelled to the usual Dinky scale of 1:48, and called the range Dinky Supertoys. Some models produced under the Dinky banner were issued in this line, including:
In 1950 Dinky Supertoys introduced a number of Guy Vans finished in period liveries which have become among the most recognised and desirable the company have produced. Each model was an identical all metal box van with opening rear doors. The Guy cab was replaced by a Bedford S cab in 1955 and a Guy Warrior cab was introduced in 1960.
Dinky Supertoys continued producing beautifully detailed commercials through the fifties and sixties, including such diverse subjects as a Mobile Television Control Room and Camera Van in both BBC Television and ABC Television liveries, a Leyland test chassis with removable miniature 5 ton weights, a series of military vehicles including a Corporal Erector Vehicle and missile (a subject also modelled by Corgi Toys at the same time), a range of Mighty Antar heavy haulage transporters complete with loads and a Horse Transporter in British Railways livery.
Meccano Ltd exported Dinky Toys to all of Britain's old colonies relatively cheaply because of existing Commonwealth trade agreements. South Africa was one of its big importers.
In the mid-1950s, Meccano Ltd shipped to South Africa a limited edition set of military vehicles for the South African Defence Force. They were all painted military green and included a Motor Truck, a Covered Wagon, an Ambulance, a Dispatch Rider and a Van.
When South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth in 1961, it imposed a luxury goods import tax, making Dinky Toys very expensive – a potential loss for Meccano Ltd. To resolve this problem, in 1962 Meccano Ltd began shipping Dinky Toy parts to South Africa where models were assembled and painted locally. The importing of unfinished goods was not subject to import tax. These models were sold in South Africa between 1962 and 1963 and it is believed that only one batch of each model was produced, making South African Dinky Toys very rare. South Africa also imported Dinky Toy parts from the French factory in 1966 and six models were assembled and painted locally.
Some of the distinguishing features of South African Dinky Toys are:
In 1912 Frank Hornby set up an office in Paris on Rue Ambroise Thomas to import Meccano into France. By 1921 the French market had proved so successful that production of Meccano began in Paris at the newly opened factory on Rue Rebeval, with another plant opening in 1929 at Bobigny where production of the Dinky Toys range would be based. In the early days production consisted mainly of model ships and aeroplanes, with vehicles gradually increasing in number. During the Second World War the Meccano factories were commandered by the invading Germans and used in the Nazi war effort, as well as production of model vehicles in the German Märklin range. In the early post-war years the model vehicles were forced to be shod with metal wheels due to Nazi activity during the war which had virtually cut off supplies of rubber to France, rubber tyres not being fitted on models until 1950. In 1951 the old factory at Rue Rebeval closed and Dinky Toys production was now solely based at Bobigny.
By the 1950s the French Dinky Toys range had begun to diversify from that of the British parent company, concentrating on the products of the French motor manufacturers; Citroën, Renault, Peugeot and Simca, along with examples of American cars which were popular at that time on mainland Europe. Some models such as the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia were produced both in France as 24m and in Great Britain at the Binns Road plant in Liverpool as 187. By the 1960s there was virtually no crossover of products between the two countries resulting in a fascinating range that complemented the better known UK models. The vast majority of the French Dinky range were only available in the home market although a few models did make it across the English Channel to be sold in Britain. The factory at Bobigny closed in 1970 and production moved to Calais where the range continued to be manufactured until closure in 1971, although the Spanish company Pilen produced some models which were originally sold as French Dinky Toys until the end of the decade.
Between 1965 and 1967 six model cars were produced for Dinky Toys in Hong Kong for the lucrative US market. Originally intended to be produced by Spot-On, but re-branded as Dinky Toys when the Spot-On parent company (Tri-ang) bought Meccano Ltd, they were built to the usual Spot-On scale of 1:42. These were all American vehicles:
In December 1957 Meccano Ltd introduced the Dublo Dinky range of models in 1:76 scale which were designed to be used with the Hornby Dublo railway system. They were relatively cheap to produce having a one piece die-cast metal body a baseplate and plastic wheels. There was the added bonus of being able to compete in the small scale toy car market which, at the time, was dominated by Lesney's Matchbox range.
A diverse range of vehicles were available despite the small number of models issued. There were a total 14 models in the range although with upgrades and modifications over 30 variations were manufactured and all models came boxed. There were no colour changes throughout their short life.
They met with limited success and the first models were withdrawn in September 1959 with one only having been on sale for 18 months. More were withdrawn in October 1960, April 1962 and April 1964 until in December 1964 those models that remained were taken off the shelf seven years after Dublo Dinky Toys were introduced.
A second series of small scale models was introduced four years later in 1968, this time to a similar scale as the Matchbox range at 1:65. Mini-Dinky Toys, as the range was called, were of a high quality and featured opening bonnets, doors and boots and were produced in Hong Kong and Holland, with some construction models designed in Italy by Mercury to a 1:130 scale. In a bid to make this series stand out in toy shops each model was supplied in a plastic garage, complete with opening door, rather than the usual cardboard box. This novel feature did not help sales, particularly as the range was forced to compete with Mattel's revolutionary Hot Wheels before long.
Although Dinky Toys were not known as widely for producing television related models as Corgi Toys, they still made a number of intriguing vehicles widely known from the small screen. Many of these models were the result of beating Corgi Toys to the signing of a licensing deal with Gerry Anderson's Century 21 Productions, whose programmes are immensely popular in Britain.
All these modes were not enough to keep Dinky Toys solvent. French production ceased in 1972, though the Spanish firm of Pilen manufactures some French Dinky Toys later in the Seventies and Solido made an effort to do the same in 1981. The British branch struggled on until 1980, farming out some production to Polistil in Italy as well as the Universal firm of Hong Kong.
Since then the name of Dinky Toys has changed hands at least two more times, and now and then Hong Kong Products have appeared with the Dinky Toys name on theirs bubblepacks. In 1987 the Kenner-Parker firm, whose branches include Tonka Toys, sold the Dinky Toys name to Universal International of Hong Kong, already the owner of another time-honored and originally British trade name: Matchbox. Soon afterward, Kenner-Parker took over Polistil and acquired some of the last old Dinky Toys dies. Other dies had previously been sold to a firm in India, which markets them as Nicky Toys, and for a time some models were produced in South America as well.
Late in 1987 Universal brought the Dinky Toys name back to some semblance of life by applying it to new color variations of six Matchbox cars. The firm subsequently announced that the name would be used for a new series of cars in the Fifties, with further details to follow.
So this is where the history of Dinky Toys stands as of the summer of 1988. Dinky Toys have had an eventful history since their introduction more than half a century ago and though that history has had is sad times, we can at least hope for some good news in the near futures. Dinky Toys will probably never again be what they were when many of us oldtimers started to collect them, but neither will their name disappear forever.