Historic Vanguards and Bond’s Deadly Autogyro

Historic Vanguards and Bond’s Deadly Autogyro

50th Anniversary of James Bond ‘You Only Live Twice’

We are pleased to welcome readers to this 26th edition of Corgi Die-cast Diaries and your latest updates from the fascinating world of Corgi die-cast model collecting. Without doubt, the most rewarding aspect of producing these regular blogs is the ability to bring our readers news of new model toolings and exclusive first viewings of development images and sample models. Most readers will be fully aware that this can be an expensive business, with model tooling work running into tens of thousands of pounds for each new casting and with other Hornby brands also vying for a finite amount of available development resource, new models cannot always be the main focus of our attention. Thankfully, we have another fascinating weapon in our die-cast armoury – our history. Over the past sixty years, the Corgi brand has produced millions of models that have been played with, collected and loved by a great many people and it is always humbling to hear how much our models have meant to collectors young and old. 

We are grateful for the many comments we have received since we posted the previous edition of our blog, where we began our look at the history behind the Vanguards classic motor vehicle range and some of the significant people behind it, as we celebrate its 21st anniversary year. We are pleased to be bringing you the second instalment in this series of features within this latest edition, where we will focus on the original concept for the range and how the first Vanguards models were produced and marketed. We will move on to look at an iconic airborne star of the British film industry, which is just about to be released in our 007 James Bond range and not only pays homage to Britain’s most famous Secret Service Agent, but also one of the country’s most brilliant engineering minds. Finally, we will end this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries in time honoured fashion by scouring the development desks at Corgi HQ for subject matter for our ever popular ‘What’s on the desk’ feature. With so much to fit in, it’s high time we made a start.

Enfield, Middlesex – The birthplace of Vanguards

As is the case with most businesses, when you start to look into the history of a particular brand and some of the significant personalities behind them, you open up a fascinating world of information that helps give a greater appreciation for the items they produced. In the case of the Vanguards model vehicle range, these magnificent little models seem even more appealing when you discover how and where they first came to market and that there is still come continuity from these very early days.

There can be no discussion about Vanguards models without including the famous man behind the original toolings – Jack Odell. He was an engineer and inventor who was significant in the development of die-cast model cars in Britain, originally working for the Lesney company producing the famous Matchbox range of toy vehicles. Having helped to supply Britain’s youngsters with millions of these fantastic little die-cast toys, Odell retired from the business in 1973, but his passion for designing and producing quality die-cast models never diminished. Following the demise of Lesney Products in 1982, Odell set up his own company, acquiring some of the old Matchbox manufacturing equipment from the official receiver. The name he chose for his company was simple, Lledo – this was his surname spelt backwards and was apparently attributed to his experiences during wartime service.

Office copy of a Lledo Days Gone catalogue with an eclectic selection of models

The new factory was established on Woodhall Road in Enfield and went on to become significant in the production of quality die-cast models. Lledo were famous for manufacturing large numbers of fit the box products, with some of their models being engineered with greater levels of detail than others, but all designed and produced in the UK. Central to their product lines were the ‘Days Gone’ range and a multitude of generic promotional models, which proved to be incredibly popular with both collectors and commissioning companies, who swamped Lledo with requests to have their names and logos associated with these attractive little models. These were very busy times for the Enfield factory and it seemed as if everything they did was turning to die-cast gold.

Continuity is the key to Vanguards success

Even though the Vanguards story cannot be accurately told without mentioning the famous Jack Odell, there is still an enduring link with these original models and the Lledo factory at Enfield to this day – it could even be argued that this person is even more important to the Vanguards model range, although this modest man would not particularly enjoy being the centre of attention. In the previous edition of Die-cast Diaries, we mentioned Mark Pinnigar and how his knowledge and enthusiasm are crucial to the success of the Vanguards range – you will probably recall the feature on his Le Mans green Escort Mk.I which has appeared as one of the models in the Vanguards range. Just as we noted the significance of Jack Odell in the history of this range, it is important to acknowledge how Mark is connected with the brand and how his continued involvement brings invaluable knowledge and credibility to the Vanguards range. 

Some of the information Mark showed us from his time at the Enfield Lledo factory

Mark Pinnigar heralds from the north London area and will be proud to tell anyone interested in football that he is a life-long Tottenham Hotspur fan. His father was a talented engineer and toolmaker working at Lucas and gave Mark a love of cars and vehicle mechanics from an early age – he described how his dad was something of a local celebrity, always working on one of the neighbour’s cars and often seen with his legs protruding from one car or another. Always keen to help, Mark quickly learned his way around a motor engine and became interested in everything to do with cars and motoring. He also had a flair for graphic design and in the days before computers and design software, or as Mark will tell you when everything was done the hard way, he enrolled on a graphic design course at a local college immediately after leaving school. He managed to combine his love of motoring and graphic design whilst there and presented a rather unique project as part of his A level studies – his uncle sold him a Mk.V Ford Cortina 1.6GL at a good price and Mark set about improving and upgrading his pride and joy as part of his study course.

In August 1990, Mark accepted a position as a junior designer at the Lledo model factory, which really was a dream job for him. He could combine his love for cars with his skills as a graphic designer and immediately became an important member of the team – some months later, he even arranged for his father to join him at the company, bringing his dad’s skills on larger engineering projects to the world of scale model production. Mark describes how his time at Lledo was very busy, but really exciting. At that time, the factory was producing models at an astonishing rate and it really did seem as if everything they turned their hand to was a success. In the design office, everything was done using traditional drawing skills and there was not a computer terminal in sight. The graphic detail for prototype models had to be produced by hand, using some rather complex and expensive technology and relying on the skills of the designer for accuracy.

More of the Days Gone models Mark was involved with during his time at the Enfield factory

Producing the details and liveries for the multitude of models being developed at the Enfield factory was quite a complex process. Each model would have its livery built up using layers of colours on metal plates, with the details reproduced at three times the required size for the model, making things a little easier for the graphic designer working on the project - clearly, once his work was complete, the details would have to be reduced to the scale of the model it was intended to decorate. These hand produced graphics would then be used to produce steel printing plates, which would eventually be used as the guides to apply the painted liveries to the thousands of models on the production line, building up the colours to maximise the appearance and authenticity of the livery to be represented. 

The design office also had access to a Letraset bed, which would be used to produce all the details and livery work used on the decoration of prototype models. This is yet another highly specialised process and results in the production of a sheet of scale graphics in the correct colours required for a particular model, which are then positioned on a painted prototype sample and rubbed on – they were basically highly accurate rub-down transfers. Despite computers now taking over this type of work, Mark told us that he still has access to Letraset equipment and will still use it on modelling projects if required, but as the process is now fast disappearing, the consumables are becoming much harder to find and come at a price.

Enfield Factory – From design to delivery

Another example of the appealing catalogue artwork from the old Lledo catalogues

It is interesting to note that in these early days, the production of the models themselves would also take place at the Enfield factory – indeed the Enfield site was a veritable in-house world of die-cast modelling. The design team would research and recommend new model projects, before the tooling engineers would take this information and produce highly detailed blocks that would result in tens of thousands of new models being produced. The Enfield site not only had its graphic design and tooling departments, but it also had its own foundry, plastic moulding department and assembly lines, with warehousing and distribution also taking place from here – as you can see, this was a significant place in the history of die-cast model production and must have been a fascinating place to work and visit.

On the subject of new model toolings, the prototype models would usually be produced off site, with the highly respected George Turner Models providing this essential service. The prototype models would invariably arrive back at the Enfield design offices already painted in the base colour of the livery to be produced and the Lledo graphic designers would use the Letraset rub-on details to complete the specific livery. Once they were happy, these models would be used as the master reference for the production models, as well as being used for promotional purposes in range catalogues and other marketing activities.

One of the first catalogue images to use the Days Gone Vanguards name

The Vanguards name first began to appear in Lledo marketing literature back in 1993 and whilst the models were not exactly as we have come to expect from the range today, they were something different for the collector to consider. First referred to as ‘Days Gone Vanguards’, these new models were a break away from the traditional fit the box products that Lledo had become famous for producing and were intended to be a more accurate sub-collection of the Days Gone range. The models were produced with more detail than had previously been the norm and were aimed at the discerning die-cast model collector, who was looking for a more accurate scale representation of their favourite vehicles. Although not actually the birth of the current Vanguards range as we know it, this is still an important development in the history of the Vanguards model range.

Police vehicles have always been a popular subject for die-cast manufacturers

Basket of delights. Some of the many hand decorated sample models in Mark’s collection

That is where we will leave this latest instalment in our Vanguards 21 series of features. We are again indebted to Mark Pinnigar for his invaluable assistance in helping to produce this article, not least in allowing us access to his collection of original factory copy brochures and for his personal recollections from his time working at the Lledo factory. In our next instalment, we will look at how the Days Gone Vanguards finally broke away and became a range of detailed collectors models in their own right and see some of the earliest models in the collection, along with a spectacular full size racing car that has also benefitted from Mark’s graphic designing talents. 

Don’t mess with Little Nellie

As the world’s most famous fictional British Secret Service agent, it is difficult to think of anyone who could possess more style, sophistication and deadly charm than James Bond, arguably one of the most charismatic creations of the film industry. Despite his overwhelmingly universal appeal, Bond can always rely on the use of several gadgets and vehicles that have become almost as iconic as the character himself and whether this is a pen gun or the latest Aston Martin supercar, they are always one of the major talking points of the films.

CC04603 marks one of Bond’s most iconic vehicles – Little Nellie

Amongst the plethora of iconic vehicles that have starred in James Bond films since the release of Dr. No back in 1962, one of the most famous is undoubtedly the Little Nellie autogyro which appeared in the film ‘You Only Live Twice’ and allowed Bond a bird’s eye view of a remote Japanese island. Bond was dispatched to the Far East following the mysterious disappearance of US and Soviet spacecraft orbiting the earth, incidents which saw him searching for Blofeld’s SPECTRE rocket base. On a reconnaissance mission over the volcanic island, Bond and Little Nellie were attacked by four heavily armed helicopters – they should have known better. Little Nellie is not an aircraft to be messed with and in true Bond style, she dispatched her attackers with a combination of rear firing flame throwers, aerial mines, machine guns, unguided rockets and air-to-air missiles – this little autogyro was more than capable of looking after herself.

Although Little Nellie was delivered to Bond by her on-screen creator ‘Q’, she was actually the invention of real life engineering genius and former wartime bomber pilot Wing Commander Kenneth H Wallis, who was without doubt one of the most interesting characters in British aviation. With engineering and aviation in his blood, Wallis had always been interested in producing a range of conveniently small and practical aircraft, that he felt would be useful in a variety of roles and accessible to many people. He experimented with a light Autogyro aircraft design, which culminated in the production of his WA-116 Agile series 1 gyroplane in 1961. The aircraft were continually developed and included innovations which made the aircraft incredibly stable and easy to fly and in the hands of their inventor, it really did seem as if anybody could fly one of these impressive machines. A further five were built in 1962 with some of the machines evaluated by the Army Air Corps and others used for survey, mapping, crime scene investigation and search & rescue duties.

The original Little Nellie gyrocopter is currently on public display at the Shuttleworth Collection

Two of the Wallis WA-116 autogyros were to receive some significant modification during 1966, as they were prepared to star in the forthcoming James Bond movie ‘You Only Live Twice’. Carrying the civil registration marks G-ARZB and G-AVDH, both aircraft were fitted with a yellow fuselage pod and some unusual extras that set these two aircraft apart from the other Wallis autogyros – although only for movie simulation purposes, both Nellies were bristling with an array of offensive and defensive armament. Although both machines were presented in the same manner, only G-ARZB would be used for flying sequences during filming and is therefore regarded as the most famous of Ken Wallis’ magnificent series of aircraft.

Nellie gets around a bit – here she is on display at the 2016 Farnborough Airshow

Interestingly, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the movie ‘You Only Live Twice’, which has seen renewed interest in Little Nellie and her enigmatic creator Ken Wallis. Wallis flew the aircraft in all the flying sequences for the film and recalls how the experience was not as pleasurable as you might think. As Bond (Sean Connery) was wearing a short-sleeved shirt as he entered the aircraft, Wallis had to wear similar attire for continuity purposes, as he flew all the filmed flying sequences. Many of these were flown at around 6,000 feet above a dormant volcano and it could get extremely cold up there. Although Little Nellie only appeared on screen for around seven and a half minutes, Ken Wallis spent no fewer than 45 hours in the air during filming, on around 85 individual flights, helping the film crew obtain the footage they required.

Another view of G-ARZB ‘Little Nellie’ at Old Warden

Many Airshow regulars of a certain vintage will remember seeing Ken Wallis displaying his autogyros at shows across the country with great fondness. The consummate showman, Wallis would throw these diminutive aircraft around the sky in a seemingly effortless manner, always having time to wave at the crowd, usually with both hands and legs off the controls and dangling in the air. For those lucky enough to have seen Wallis display, you will always remember one thing, his beaming smile – this was a man who loved what he did.

Another catalogue image of the forthcoming Little Nellie release

The original Little Nellie is privately owned, but is currently on display in one of the hangars at Old Warden airfield as part of the Shuttleworth Collection, where we managed to catch up with her at their first Airshow of the 2017 season. The current January to June Corgi range includes a collection of 1/36th scale James Bond vehicle models, including the enigmatic ‘Little Nellie’, as she commemorates the 50th anniversary of the movie ‘You Only Live Twice’.

Vanguards researcher goes the extra mile

Catalogue image for Capri Mk.3 VA10817

The latest round of new Vanguards model releases includes an attractive Ford Capri Mk3 1.6 Calypso in Cardinal Red and Strato Silver, and whilst this is certainly a handsome addition to the range, it also has an unusual story behind it and one which shows how much research has to go into producing these models. In this edition of Die-cast Diaries, we have already seen how Mark Pinnigar is an essential part of the Vanguards research team, but Mark works closely with motoring journalist and TV producer John Lakey and between them, they bring great knowledge and credibility to the range. They will share ideas on what vehicles would fit well into the range and whilst Mark will usually concentrate on the model accuracy and presentation of the project, John will try and find the owner of the vehicle, find out information about that particular car and produce both the catalogue and certificate information. Through his many contacts in the motor industry, these research projects can be time consuming, but relatively easy for a man of his standing to complete, however some can involve much more motoring detective work.

Mark and John were keen to include a Ford Capri Calypso in a future Vanguards range and began looking for a suitable subject vehicle. As with many research projects these days, this would usually begin by scouring the internet for photographs and before long, a beautiful example turned up and John began the process of making contact with the owner. Despite his best efforts, every attempt to find out more information was proving fruitless and the project could not advance further without this vital information. As owners of these vehicles are rightly proud of their cars, many will exhibit them at local car shows and summer events, where enthusiasts will often photograph them and post them on various motoring websites. John noticed that three of the images of this particular car had been taken at events around the Dunfermline area of Scotland, so he accessed his many motoring contacts and sent requests to motoring clubs in the area.

The image that sparked Mark and John’s interest – A beautiful Capri

Although he was clearly on the right track, it seemed that whilst enthusiasts remembered seeing the car at shows around the area, nobody knew of the owner and John continued to be frustrated. Reminiscent of a good detective drama, he next contacted MOT stations in the area, hoping that someone would remember working on this distinctive car, but due to data protection laws, it quickly became apparent that this line of enquiry would also draw a blank. There was only one thing left for any self-respecting Vanguards researcher to do – he went on local BBC radio and described his Capri predicament. He informed listeners to the show why he was looking for the information and what he had already managed to find out and thankfully, someone came forward with a name, but no contact details. Just a few hours later and following yet more detective work, John had a contact telephone number and an unusual phone conversation ensued with a rather surprised owner of an original 1982 Ford Capri Mk.3. Once the owner had got over the initial shock of the call, he was delighted to find out that Corgi were intending to make a model of his car, but as he did not have any internet connection himself, he would have to go to his mother’s house to see the details John had sent him. The owner will be pleased to see that his car has now been immortalised in the Vanguards range and is amongst the latest group of models to be released. John’s catalogue copy for the release reads as follows:

VA10817 – Ford Capri Mk.3 1.6 Calypso, Cardinal Red & Strato Silver

Corgi decoration guide for Capri Mk.3 1.6 Calypso VA10817

The Capri modelled was first owned by Mr S. J. Barratt who bought it from Ford dealers Charles H. Allen Ltd, Romford, on November 17th, 1982, by part-exchanging his Cortina Ghia. He garaged it but rarely drove it and when Essex-based dealers Modern Day Classics purchased it from him in March 2001 it had covered 3346 miles. Enthusiast Lesley Chapman saw it on MDC's stand at Alexandra Palace, bought it, and took it home to Queensferry, Scotland. Current owner Neale Tierney was attracted to its originality at the 2005 Scottish Ford Show in Bridge of Allan, did a deal, and enjoys owning what, at 5222 miles, is probably the lowest mileage UK-based Capri.

Remarkably the car has never had any paint or mechanical repairs and is exactly as new when it cost £5735.01 including number plates at £15.25. The Calypso special edition was based on the 1.6-litre LS but featured a tailgate wash/wipe, tinted-glass and two-tone paint. Ford promoted the Calypso as having over £300 worth of options but costing £87 less than the LS. It was launched in late 1981 and was only available in Cardinal Red and Strato Silver, Graphite Grey and Strato Silver, or Forest Green and Crystal Green. It was promoted in Ford's brochure as 'A Capri to make a song and dance about. Take one for a test drive and you could find yourself singing the praises of the Capri Calypso.'

What’s on the desk

We end this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries with our regular look at what models are currently residing on the design desks at Corgi HQ and will shortly be lining the shelves of your favourite Corgi supplier. As we are fast approaching the end of the current January to June 2017 catalogue range, the two models we are going to be featuring this time are both final production samples and should be available over the next few weeks, so please do keep checking the Corgi website for all the latest release information.

Final production sample of the forthcoming Brighton & Hove Wright Eclipse Gemini 2

Collectors of the Original Omnibus Company series will be delighted to see that this colourful Brighton & Hove Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 (OM465512A/B) is about to be released and if this bus does not get you in the mood for summer, then nothing will. It was in 1884 that the Brighton, Hove & Preston United bus company was formed, a consequence of the amalgamation of a number of smaller horse bus companies and it soon became the main transport operator, the forerunner to today’s Go Ahead Group owned Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company. Bus No. 489, BJ63 UJT, was launched on July 24, 2015 and is a tribute to Brighton’s famous beach and fun-packed seafront, with a livery consisting of a giant ‘99’ ice-cream, massive sunglasses and a huge seagull’s head, on a background of deckchair stripes, beach-hut colours and deco polka dots. The Beach Bus is dedicated to Andy Durr, the former Brighton Mayor known to many as Brighton's Mr Seafront or ‘the Seafront Reviver’.

One of the most fascinating engineering projects currently underway is the bid to break the existing land speed record by the Bloodhound SSC team. Not only do they intend to break the existing record, they intend to go on and set a new mark of a 1,000mph record attempt, which will be a stunning achievement for everyone connected with the programme. Corgi are producing the UK Display Version of the Bloodhound Supersonic Car, which will be touring some of the country’s major events this summer, allowing the public to experience what this exciting project is all about and some of the significant challenges they are facing.

TY81002 marks one of the most exciting vehicles yet produced by man

The BLOODHOUND Project is an international education initiative focused around a 1,000mph World Land Speed Record attempt. The jet and rocket powered BLOODHOUND Supersonic Car will streak down the 12 mile desert racetrack on the Hakskeen Pan, South Africa.

The team will visit the desert twice, on the first occasion to reach 800mph and break the existing record, the second to travel at 1000mph and inspire a generation of young people to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

For further information on this exciting project visit our BLOODHOUND SSC page and www.BLOODHOUND.com 

That’s it for this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries - we hope we have managed to include something Corgi related that was of interest to you. We would be delighted if readers could help support our Vanguards 21 feature, by letting us have any model or vehicle related stories or information you would like to share with fellow Die-cast Diaries readers. Please contact us at diecastdiaries@hornby.com with your pictures and collector stories and you may just find yourself featured in a future edition of Die-cast Diaries.

We are always keen to hear your views on our Die-cast Diaries blog and any ideas you may have for future model related content. There are a number of ways you can get a message to us - as well as our dedicated Diecastdiaries@hornby.com e-mail address, we also have our Die-Cast Diaries Forum and our social media pages on Facebook and Twitter using #CorgiDiecastDiaries. Please do join in with all the discussions, better still why not start your own Corgi related thread?

Until the next edition of Die-cast Diaries, thank you very much for reading our latest blog and for continuing to collect Corgi die-cast models.

The Corgi Team

Return to Die-cast Diaries homepage

© Hornby Hobbies Ltd. All rights reserved.

Share this post

Membership Restricted Product