New Corgi Lightning out of the hangar

New Corgi Lightning out of the hangar

As this year sees our popular Vanguards classic motor vehicle model range celebrate its 21st birthday, we have been producing a regular series of features looking at the fascinating history behind these 1/43rd scale die-cast models. In this 29th edition of Die-cast Diaries we continue with the latest instalment of our Vanguards story, looking specifically at the period immediately following Corgi’s acquisition of the tooling bank and intellectual property rights. We will see how this time impacted on the collector and how the transition led to some interesting model anomalies in the Vanguards range. We will also be featuring updates from a number of future model releases, including one of the most eagerly anticipated models for many a year and marking the welcome return of our ‘What’s on the desk’ section, where we bring you exclusive pictures of the latest pre-production sample models to arrive at Corgi HQ. All this and more awaits you in the latest edition of Corgi Die-cast Diaries, so let’s get started.

 

Supersonic Sensation – A Lightning Update

 

An exclusive first look at a painted sample of the new 1/48th scale English Electric Lightning F.6

 

There is nothing quite like beginning an edition of Die-cast Diaries with exclusive news and pictures from an exciting new model project and that is exactly the treat we have for you now. Arguably one of the most highly anticipated new models the Aviation Archive range has ever seen, our 1/48th scale English Electric Lightning F.6 (AA28401) has certainly proved a popular addition to the range since it was announced earlier this year, with collectors keen to find out as much information as possible about this impressive model. Destined to be the centrepiece of many a die-cast aviation collection, we are pleased to bring you the latest news from the Lightning project, as our Development team have now received a decorated sample of this stunning new model.

As usual, we have to reaffirm that this model is still in the development stage and the images we are sharing with you are not the finished model, just the latest sample on its journey to eventual release. The Corgi team have always been determined to produce a faithful and accurate die-cast representation of this famous British Cold War fighter and these latest pictures really do underline how successful they have been. Helping to build the Lightning excitement still further, we hope you enjoy seeing this latest selection of exclusive Lightning pre-production images.

 

A selection of pre-production images showing the first painted Lightning sample model

 

 

 

As one of the most exciting aircraft ever to serve with the Royal Air Force, it is no wonder that the affection in which the English Electric Lightning is held has not been diluted by the passage of time. Everything about the Lightning was spectacular, from its futuristic design, stunning good looks and stellar performance, Britain’s only indigenously produced Mach 2 capable fighter was at the cutting edge of aviation technology and provided the RAF with a real winner. Every pilot wanted to fly this aviation hot-rod, whilst many young boys wanted to become a pilot simply because of the Lightning – this really was Britain’s jet equivalent of the Supermarine Spitfire.

As an Airshow performer, the Lightning was without equal and could call upon the incredible power generated from its two stacked Rolls-Royce Avon engines to stand on its tail and accelerate towards the stratosphere. It is no wonder that people who witnessed this awesome spectacle still consider the Lightning to be amongst the most potent jet fighters they have ever seen, helping to earn the aircraft an almost mythical status amongst aviation enthusiasts. As a proud achievement of Britain’s aviation industry, the English Electric Lightning was an aircraft that led the world and represented the future of jet fighter development at that time.

 

 

The new Corgi 1/48th scale Lightning pre-production model looks even better now it has received paint and detail markings

 

The Corgi Aviation Archive range is proud to commemorate this icon of British aviation with the release of a new die-cast model of the English Electric Lightning F.6 in 1/48th scale. The first release from this new tooling will be Lightning F.6 XR728, which has been preserved and maintained by the Lightning Preservation Group for the past 29 years. It is housed in a genuine former RAF Quick Reaction Alert shed and is still capable of thrilling spectators and blasting down the runway at Bruntingthorpe, during one of their regular open day events. Scheduled for release in January 2018, and available to pre-order now online or from your local stockist.

 

Vanguards – The Corgi Years

 

 

In the previous instalment of our Vanguards 21 feature, we saw how this popular model range which was designed, manufactured and distributed from the Lledo factory in Enfield, began to suffer from increased low-cost competition from the Far East. This resulted in the Lledo company experiencing severe financial difficulties and Corgi purchasing the rights to the Lledo name and taking much of the Vanguards and Days Gone model tooling bank in 1999. This time, we will be looking at the interesting and rather confusing period following Corgi’s acquisition of this range and what the collector would have noticed during this period. Again, relying heavily on the personal experiences of Vanguards research expert Mark Pinnigar, we will try to navigate a path through this transitional period and herald the Vanguards range coming under Corgi ownership.

 

A selection of Vanguards box designs from over the years

 

As far as the Vanguards collector is concerned, 1999 seemed to be just another year where they would be presented with the latest selection of new models to consider, along with a couple of new vehicle toolings to further increase this already impressive range. The usual bi-annual catalogue launch continued and saw the Jan/June range include the new Vauxhall Victor ‘F’ Series tooling announcement (VA38000), followed by a new Singer Chamois in the July/Dec catalogue (VA40000). Both of these new models were developed by the engineering team at Lledo Enfield, but neither would proceed to manufacture in the UK – catalogue images featured resin prototype samples of the models, but these would be amongst the first models to be manufactured in China by the new owners of the brand.

Mark was still employed at the Lledo factory during this time and remembers seeing some very early samples and pre-production castings of the Vauxhall Victor being worked on in the UK and even two further resin hand decorated samples for releases two and three making their way into the July/December catalogue (he even has examples somewhere in the darkest recesses of his huge collection). VA38000 Vauxhall Victor ‘F’ series Mk.I in Gypsy Red and VA38001 in Primrose Yellow were to re-appear in the first Corgi owned Jan/June 2000 model range and were amongst the first models to be produced by Vanguards in China. Unfortunately, it appears that the black Victor ‘F’ series Mk.I (VA38002) did not make it past the pre-production sample stage and never appeared in the new Corgi era Vanguards catalogue.

 

A selection of models that appeared in the final Lledo Vanguards July/December 1999 catalogue

 

The attractive Singer Chamois Coupe in Polar White (VA40000) was a high profile new tooling announcement contained in the last ever Lledo Vanguards catalogue covering July/December 1999. With a December release date indicated in the catalogue, it is clear that this model, whilst still developed by the original team in Enfield, had no chance of being released before the Corgi acquisition could take place and was again one of the high-profile cross-over models from this fascinating period in the history of the brand. Based on the already existing VA26 Hillman Imp series, this model shared many common parts with the earlier model and was a relatively cost-effective way of growing the Vanguards range. Utilising the base plate, wheels, bumper strip headlights and interior from the original model, only the new die-cast upper body shell and different clear window components were required and whilst most of this development work was also done at the Enfield factory, China was to be the site of the first production run.

As the historically important former Lledo factory at Enfield eventually closed, much of the Vanguards and Days Gone inventory needed to be sent to their new homes, with the substantial steel tooling blocks being sent mainly to the Far East and existing catalogues and marketing material being pelleted and sent to Corgi’s offices in Leicester. Inevitably during this transitional period, some valuable archive information, prototype models, samples and printed material was misplaced or even destroyed as the future of the Vanguards model range was now very much under new ownership.

 

First Corgi Vanguards model range

 

The first Vanguards catalogue under Corgi ownership included a number of models carried over from the last Lledo Enfield brochure

 

Undoubtedly, model collectors who had grown to love the Vanguards range and had managed to build up a reasonable collection would have been a little concerned about the plight of the Lledo company and the models now coming under Corgi ownership, despite the new company’s undeniable die-cast pedigree. Any reservations they may have had would have been dispelled as soon as they saw the very first Corgi owned Vanguards range release and the publication of the Jan/June 2000 product catalogue – this was going to be fantastic. Announcing the completely revitalised Vanguards collection, Corgi entered the new millennium with a veritable feast of new models for the Vanguards collector and confirmation that under their ownership, this range of 1/43rd scale models would be going from strength to strength.

Significantly for the collector, this new catalogue reassured them that the range would continue to strive for accuracy and authenticity, surpassing the expectations of even the most discerning collector – how could anyone fail to be impressed by an announcement like that? There was also an announcement that Corgi wanted to further enhance the collectability of their models and issued a clear Limited Edition policy, with all models other than the first release from any new tooling being limited edition and benefiting from a full colour collector card. There would also be clear collector themes running through the range moving forward, with such sections as Saloon Cars, Race and Rally, Police vehicles and Sporting Classics – each one would have its own section in this and forthcoming catalogues and would be defined by using different colours to the newly designed packaging.

 

This image illustrates the differences between the Vanguards box designs before and after the Corgi brand acquisition

 

Box end design differences

 

All these developments were extremely encouraging for the collector, but there is nothing like the announcement of new Vanguards toolings to really grab their attention and this first range catalogue under Corgi stewardship was something of an embarrassment of riches. The catalogue proudly proclaimed the inclusion of no fewer than six brand new model toolings and a further 4 models that were new to the Vanguards range. These included both the Vauxhall Victor F Series Mk.I and Singer Chamois we have already covered, along with the Austin A60 Cambridge, Ford Zephyr 6 Mk.III, Morris 1300 Estate, Austin Allegro and a new range of classic British sports cars. All these new models would be produced to exacting standards and feature the new tax disc style certificate and model information card. The age of the Corgi Vanguard had arrived in some style.

 

The Singer Chamois was one of the Vanguards toolings developed in Enfield by Lledo, but never produced in the UK

 

As the new Corgi owned Vanguards models began to arrive at model shops all over the world, the sight of the re-vamped packaging and the first model releases will have been a cause for excitement amongst collectors, as well as retailers keen to continue being supplied with these popular models. As many of the model toolings in the range were either manufactured or developed in the old Lledo factory in Enfield, the base plates of the models still carried the familiar Lledo manufacturers mark and continued the legacy of these high-quality collector models. Indeed, rather than divorce themselves from their previous owners, Corgi were keen to build on the already strong reputation these models had built up since they were first launched and provide renewed impetus to the release of exciting model toolings.

 

VA40001 is the second release from the Chamois tooling and features the new Corgi Vanguards presentation

 

Although the box artwork and general presentation were given a slight cosmetic refresh, Corgi showed respect to the lineage of these popular models by not being too radical with the changes, but cleverly using the update both to define the new sub-themes within the range and carrying them across to catalogues and promotional materials. As even the newly developed models carried the Lledo manufacturers mark, it is the boxes themselves that provide collectors with the necessary clues as to where the individual model appears in the history of the brand and reflecting the changing times for the Vanguards range. The original ‘Designed and built in England’ wording which was included on the box artwork of the original Enfield produced models had been replaced with ‘Precision Die-cast Replica’ on the new Corgi inspired, Far Eastern manufactured models. Other changes included on the new box presentation included the addition of a product barcode, the new Company address of Corgi in Leicester on the underside of the box, along with the wording ‘Made in China’. These are all valuable clues for collectors when looking to see where the models were manufactured and under who’s ownership any particular model was produced.

 

The first Corgi developed Vanguards model

When producing this series of features charting the 21 year history of the Vanguards model range, there are certain releases that are significant in the history of the brand. The next one we come across in our voyage of modelling discovery is the first new Vanguards tooling to be developed and released whilst under Corgi ownership, but as we have already seen during this latest instalment of our Vanguards 21 feature, the period covering the transfer of tooling and information from Enfield to the Far East was a confusing one and there could be several pitfalls in making a definitive selection. We can be sure of two things however – one is that Morris 1300 in Trafalgar Blue (VA48000) with its advertised release date of April 2000 is certainly in contention, however if we take the chronological route, a different model must be considered for this significant accolade.

 

Chronologically, the first model designed, developed and produced by Corgi was the Ford Cortina Mk.II GT

 

With both the Victor VA38000 and Singer Chamois VA40000 definitely being developed in the Enfield factory, along with VA39000, which was a Thames Trader flatbed truck, the next model chronologically is VA04100, which is the new Ford Cortina Mk.II tooling and a beautiful addition to the Vanguards range. Adding to the slightly confusing period of the Vanguards ownership change-over, you will notice the sequential numbering system was altered by moving the last zero to the front of the number, making the VA38 of the Vauxhall Victor series a VA038. Corgi quickly realised that the Vanguards range had great growth potential and as the number of new model toolings continued to increase, it was noted that confusion could arise in the future if the existing numbering system was not changed. Despite this, the first Corgi issued catalogue continued with the old model numbering system, but by the Jan/June 2001 range launch, the new numbering system had been introduced, adding the zero in front of all the model release numbers.

 

The new Ford Cortina Mk.II tooling was a classic addition to the Vanguards model range

 

Having attempted to clarify this changing numbering system, the Vanguards model which was chronologically the first new model tooling developed and produced by Corgi was VA04100, a Ford Cortina Mk.II GT in Ermine White & Black, which was a new tooling for 2001 and announced in the Jan/June 2001 catalogue, with an anticipated April release date. As the first release from a new tooling and in line with the new Vanguards policy, this first model from a new tool was released with all the tax disk certificates and information cards now associated with the brand, but was not a limited edition release. The collectors card text described this particular release as: ‘Launched at the 1966 Earls Court Motor Show, the Mk.II version was promoted as being ’more Cortina’. Mechanical improvements included widening the measurements of the front and rear track to improve handling and softening suspension settings. Base, Deluxe, Super and GT versions were available in both two and four door variants with an estate version being introduced to the range in 1967. The Cortina Mk.II was produced between 1966 – 1970.

This handsome new model will have served to both reassure and excite collectors who had already discovered the virtues of the Vanguards range and attract new collectors looking for accurate 1/43rd scale vehicle models. It was certainly a continuation of the Classic British motoring theme and provided a great deal of optimism for the future of this popular range. That is where we will leave the story for this edition, but as we are now very much in Corgi territory, you can look forward to much more from our Vanguards 21 feature in forthcoming editions of Die-cast Diaries.

 

What’s on the desk

We are pleased to welcome back this popular section of our Die-cast Diaries blog, where we scour the design desks at Corgi HQ, looking for the latest pre-production sample models that have arrived from the production facilities in the Far East. Regular readers will be fully aware of the important role these models play in the development of any new release, but we do have to point out that they are still pre-production sample models and not the actual release itself. These working sample models are used as an essential final check before the model is released for production and may require additions or alterations before they are allowed to proceed any further. They are always a fascinating stage of the development process, with these models usually not being seen by anyone outside the company, however our ‘on the desk’ feature allows readers this unique access. This latest crop of models is very much Vanguards focused, so let’s take a look at what has arrived.

 

VA01208 – Volkwagen Beetle Type 1 Export Saloon in Horizon Blue

 

Please note that this image features a pre-production sample model

 

Although Volkswagen's legendary advertising campaign for the US market highlighted the fact that the Beetle did not change year-on-year, making it easier to source parts, it did develop over the years because of both market pressure and legislative changes. The first obvious visual change was in 1953 when the vision-limiting 'split' rear-window was replaced by a one-piece oval design, which lasted until August 1957 before being superseded by an even larger rear-window. The example modelled was one of the last 'oval' window cars, which was registered in London in June 1957. Current owner, Robin Allen from Hampshire, had it professionally refurbished in 1990 and it remains in excellent condition whilst retaining its original engine.

Robin bought the car in 1989 and used it regularly for a year. However, it had been poorly repainted so he had the car stripped to bare-metal and was relieved to find the chassis was remarkably corrosion free, as were all the body panels, although all four wings were replaced before the respray because of dents. Most of the chrome items, including the bumpers, lights and hubcaps, were also renewed because they were badly pitted. Although he enjoyed the car a change in circumstance meant he had to sell it in 1995 but was able to buy it back at a VW event in 2002. It has since been exhibited by The Historic VW Club at the NEC Classic Car Show and other events.

 

VA05809 – Morris Minor 1000, The Lothians and Peebles Constabulary

 

Please note that this image features a pre-production sample model

 

Extensive government research into policing procedures led to 'Unit Beat Policing' (UBP) being rolled out across the UK during the late 1960s. Conceptually this was a big change as police officers, who had previously walked a 'beat' over a given time period, now drove between different areas, walking for a while before driving to the next. This led to the introduction of the 'Panda Car', so named because it featured white panels on a blue car. These were usually small, economical cars such as the Minor. The example modelled was one of The Lothians and Peebles Constabulary's (L&PC) initial batch of twenty UBP cars, all Minors, supplied by Hall Brothers of Musselburgh.

 

VA07007 – Sunbeam Alpine Series 2, Quartz Blue Metallic

 

Please note that this image features a pre-production sample model

 

This Series 2 model was painted in a slightly later Series 3 colour, quartz blue. It was owned from 1972-1975 by Edinburgh-based Kenneth Scott and he remembers that, although areas underneath showed it had originally been green, it had been painted very professionally and comprehensively. This has led Alpine enthusiasts to speculate it was done by the Rootes development department in order to see what an Alpine would look like in their new colour. Alternatively, it could have been sprayed by the Edinburgh dealership it was dispatched to as a special order for a favoured customer. This would explain why the hardtop, usually in a contrasting shade, was the same colour.

Although all three of these models are clearly advancing towards their eventual release, please check the Vanguards section of the Corgi website for the very latest release information and to pre-order your example.

 

That’s it for this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries. In the next edition, we will bring you all the usual news and updates, along with an overview of the entries already received in our search for one lucky blog reader to have their car included in a future Vanguards model range. Thank you to everyone who has sent in details so far, although we are still looking for more – please keep sending your pictures and restoration stories to us at diecastdiaries@corgi.co.uk and stake your claim for Vanguards range immortality. If you would like further details on this exciting opportunity and the vehicle criteria for the successful respondent, please check Edition 27 of Die-cast Diaries.

As usual, we are always keen to hear your views on our Corgi 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@corgi.co.uk 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?

Thank you for your continued support and happy collecting.

The Corgi Team

 

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