Corgi factory visit continued
Welcome to this latest edition of Corgi Die-cast Diaries and your regular look at all the news, updates and stories from the fascinating world of Corgi die-cast model collecting. It seems as if the lead feature in our previous blog proved to be quite popular with our readers and as well as receiving several e-mails from people who wanted to let us know how much they enjoyed it, we were also fortunate enough to receive a number of links to the article on various model collecting sites. We are extremely grateful to everyone who expressed their kind support and we hope to be bringing you many more interesting features in the months to come.
In this latest edition, we continue our 2003 Corgi manufacturing facility visit review, but make a slight deviation from die-cast Lancaster production to show you exclusive images of a model which we were seeing for the very first time during our visit and one which has to be considered one of the most spectacular scale die-cast models ever produced. The content of this latest blog has proved to be somewhat fluid this time and we have changed the content several times to take advantage of some new Die-cast Diaries exclusives, which have been made available to us at the eleventh hour. We knew this information would be of interest to you, so we will be bringing you an exclusive ‘First Look’ at the latest approval sample of our second 1/48th scale Lightning release, as well as revealing the distinctive box artwork which will accompany a pair of Great War Centenary releases. For fans of classic British motor vehicles, we will also be featuring a selection of non-aviation related photographs from a recent Airshow event organised by the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, before ending with a review of the latest pre-production model arrivals in our popular ‘What’s on the desk’ feature. There is a lot to squeeze in to this 43rd edition, so without any further undue delay, lets head back to Guangdong Province and the first test shots from a spectacular new model tooling (at that time anyway).
A Corgi model of size and distinction
The Corgi January to June 2004 catalogue included confirmation that the Aviation Archive range could soon boast one of the most ambitious die-cast model aircraft ever produced
In this second instalment of our Corgi manufacturing facility visit and following an Aviation Archive 1/72nd scale Avro Lancaster model as it progresses down the production lines, we are going to start by taking something of an interesting little detour and bring you a series of never before seen photographs featuring a model tooling which was being inspected by officials for the first time during our 2003 visit. Before we begin, could we please just reaffirm that these details come from a visit to a Chinese manufacturing facility engaged in producing models for Corgi back in 2003 and well before the Corgi brand came under the hobby umbrella of Hornby Hobbies. The manufacturing processes we witnessed back then may have changed significantly since that time and perhaps of even greater significance, the factory we visited back in 2003 is probably no longer used for the production of Corgi models and due to changes in the Far East, may have even gone out of business. The information brought to you throughout this feature pertains solely to this visit and is simply for illustrative purposes only and of course the enjoyment of all Die-cast Diaries readers.
Although we all may share a passion for collecting die-cast models, not many of us will ever have the opportunity to see how they are produced first hand and to see just how many people are involved in the various stages of the manufacturing process. During our factory visit in 2003, the facility was in full production and it was absolutely fascinating to witness people involved in every stage of manufacturing, although obviously not all working on the same model at the same time. Wherever you looked, there was something interesting going on and there were recognisable components from classic Corgi models in product trays everywhere and scattered around every conceivable work surface. As one of the most popular models in the history of the Aviation Archive series, we were obviously hoping that the promised opportunity to see the latest 1/72nd scale Lancaster advancing down the production lines would come to fruition, but almost as soon as we entered the factory, we knew this was going to be a very special day indeed, as we were allowed to see something quite significant in the history of scale die-cast aviation collecting and something we were definitely not expecting to see.
The popularity of the Aviation Archive range had seen this series grow quickly in a relatively short period of time, from the original 1/144th scale Skytrains and Constellations through to the 1/72nd scale Spitfires and Lancasters which really secured these models in the hearts of aircraft collectors everywhere. If they were not already proving difficult for many to resist, the release of the first 1/32nd scale ‘Super Model’ in 2002 really did have everyone pinching themselves and asking, ‘could this really be happening?’ The subject for this first 1/32nd scale release was undoubtedly the most famous fighting aircraft ever to grace the skies, the magnificent Supermarine Spitfire and it proved to be an incredibly popular addition to range – it was joined by a North American P-51D Mustang the following year, along with the announcement of a further model which was already under development. This announcement really did take everyone by surprise and not only introduced the first twin engined aircraft to this largest of Aviation Archive scales, but also promised something unique in the history of die-cast model production, a 1/32nd scale representation of the de Havilland Mosquito - collectors were hardly able to control their excitement.
This exclusive series of ‘First Shot’ images have never been seen before and show the 1/32nd scale De Havilland Mosquito very early in its production development in 2003
Although information regarding Corgi’s intention to develop the new large scale Mosquito had already been released to the hobby press, the project was still in its infancy and as it was such a significant addition to the range, we were certainly not expecting to see anything from this new model during our visit. You can therefore imagine our surprize when we were taken into a small office in the ground floor working section of the factory, where the ‘first shot’ component parts of the model, both die-cast and plastic were laid out for our inspection. These part were the result of the Mosquito tooling block being used for the first time and were being shown in their raw state, presumably to highlight any areas of concern and ones which may require further attention before the tooling was released for production. As you can see from the exclusive collection of pictures included above, all these components are straight from the tooling blocks themselves and have not been cleaned up in any way - some items do look as if they are going to need a little further attention. This will be the first time that anyone outside the factory (and Corgi development at the time) will have seen these images, which allow a fascinating insight into the development of a significant new model, one which would go on to win several industry accolades in the months following its eventual release.
More Corgi classics on show
This 1/50th scale Tiger 1 was one of the models being produced during this 2003 factory visit
As we appear to have deviated somewhat from following the Lancaster down the production line, let’s continue looking around the factory at some other famous Corgi models we spotted during the visit. As we saw in the previous instalment of this feature, the impressive tooling blocks which are used to manufacture the models we all love to collect are nothing much to look at on the outside, however, their impressively milled interiors are a different matter altogether. Once the model tooling is released for production, the molten Mazak is injected into the mold under pressure, to produce die-cast components which include all the scale detail required for the subject to be modelled. These will usually be formed as a collection of parts connected on a supporting die-cast frame, with each component needing to be removed from this frame and prepared for the next stage in the manufacturing process. Waste is kept to an absolute minimum and any unused Mazak or leftover frame pieces are simply re-melted and used in the process once more.
Waste not want not. All spare and unused metal is melted down again and re-used on another die-cast project
One of the most popular early models from the Aviation Archive range was the 1/44th scale Avro Vulcan
By the time the model components reach this stage, they have been checked for accuracy and fit, so the workers are now feverishly engaged in cleaning the pieces in preparation for the next stage in the process, which will be painting. Each worker could potentially be required to prepare hundreds of die-cast components each day, so there is certainly no time to waste and you never see anyone sitting around with nothing to do. This is a labour intensive process and there appears to be hundreds of people all doing exactly the same job, sat at benches working on metal components, with no shortage of pieces requiring their attention. Much of this work is done by hand, relying on the training and experience of each operative to file away any sharp edges or protrusions with fine tools, attempting to make each component as uniform as possible in advance of painting. For more stubborn areas or if a component requires a section to be curved, a smaller number of technicians man grinding and finishing machines, cutting down on the time needed to complete this work.
This series of images features the filing and preparation process, ensuring the components are ready to be passed to the paint section
Once the components have been prepared, they are taken to a separate area in the factory and loaded on to frames suspended from the ceiling, which will support them as they pass through the spray booths. This part of the process is usually only employed for items which will be painted in a single colour, or to apply a base coat to the model – in the case of a model car, this would be the main colour of the body shell and in the pictures below, you can see cars being loaded onto the paint frames and freshly painted components emerging from the spray booth. These painting trees must have the ability to be adapted to carry components of different shapes and sizes, as a die-cast car is very different from something like the 1/32nd scale Mosquito we saw earlier. In the case of our Corgi Lancaster, this would require all the fuselage, wing and engine components to pass through the booth to be painted entirely black, with the upper surface camouflage finish being applied using a different process a little later.
If a model will be finished in a single colour, or if a base colour is required, the die-cast components are loaded onto frames and passed through a spray booth
These ladies are cleaning a model bus body shell and clearly illustrate how much human input is involved in the production of most die-cast collectable models
That is where we will leave this latest instalment of this factory visit review. In the next edition of Die-cast Diaries, we will be taking a look at the fascinating process of painting our subject Corgi Lancaster, including the tampo printing technique (actually tampography or pad printing), which really has to be seen to be believed. You will never look at your Aviation Archive model in the same way again, once you have seen how these markings are applied.
STOP PRESS EXCLUSIVE – Second 1/48th scale Lightning update
English Electric Lightning F.6 AA28402 marks one of the most iconic Cold War interceptors to see Royal Air Force service
Even whilst we were putting the finishing touches to the latest edition of our blog, our intrepid Corgi Development Engineer and Photographer were both working together to bring readers the latest in a long line of scoops and even though it means that Aviation Archive is once more taking centre stage, we know you will be interested to see the fruits of their labours, so here they are. The approval sample of the second release from our 1/48th scale English Electric Lightning F.6 (AA28402) has just arrived at Head Office and after a quick inspection, they arranged an impromptu photoshoot and supplied us with a series of exclusive pictures to share with our readers.
This second release from the already successful new larger scale Lightning F.6 tooling presents this famous interceptor in arguably one of its most iconic schemes, the natural metal of a late 1960s aircraft. It would be extremely difficult to spoil the classic lines of the Lightning by the application of paint, however there is something extra special about a Lightning in natural metal, which just looks fast and capable – it basically cries out ‘you wouldn’t want to be messing with me’, which would clearly be aimed at any Soviet bomber crew daring to stray into British airspace. With large numbers of these models already ordered in advance of its release, the sight of these latest pictures will only serve to encourage more collectors and anyone linked to Lightning operations to ensure they don’t miss out on this beauty – enjoy!
This exclusive selection of Lightning approval sample images is being shown to collectors for the first time
This magnificent outdoor shot shows the second Corgi Lightning F.6 in iconic Cold War interception pose
The ultimate incarnation of the country’s first and only all British supersonic fighter aircraft was the F.6 variant, which addressed many of the issues associated with earlier Lightnings, whilst retaining the stellar performance of this magnificent aircraft. Lightning F.6 XS927 made its maiden flight from the English Electric factory on 15th February 1967, in the hands of celebrated test pilot Roland Beamont, before joining No.74 Squadron at Coltishall in early April the same year – this was the last F.6 to join the Squadron before they moved to RAF Tengah in Singapore. Wearing the iconic colours of this famous squadron, it is no wonder the Lightning served to inspire a great many people to join the Royal Air Force and for many, is still an enduring symbol of when the British aviation industry was at the peak of its manufacturing prowess.
English Electric Lightning F.6 AA28402 is scheduled for an October release and pride of place in many an Aviation Archive display.
British motoring classics at East Kirkby
This latest model in the Vanguards Triumph TR5 tooling range sold out on the Corgi website on the day of release, highlighting the enduring popularity of these classic British sports cars
There is nothing like spending a pleasant summers day admiring beautifully restored classic British sports cars and imagining how proud a moment it must be when all the effort and expense of a restoration project finally comes to fruition. A recent Airshow event at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby airfield included an impressive display of classic vehicles to inspect prior to the days flying activities and judging by the sheer number of people crowding around them for most of the day, they proved to be an extremely popular attraction. Having featured Triumph TR5 VA11509 in a previous edition of Die-cast Diaries and being aware that this model had sold out on the day of release, it was interesting to see a trio of beautifully presented examples of the design which succeeded the TR5 on display at the show, which for many people is one of the best looking British cars ever built, the handsome Triumph TR6. Although the TR6 is yet to make it into the Vanguards range, it is interesting to see how popular these cars now are on the classics market, often commanding high prices amongst collectors and securing admiring glances wherever they are seen. We waited for the crowds to clear a little to bring you some pictures of these British motoring beauties.
This trio of Triumph TR6 sports cars were on display at the recent East Kirkby Airshow
The styling of early Triumph TR sports cars proved difficult to resist, with their high set headlights and distinctive grilles giving these small sports cars a real personality and making their front profile look almost like a face. Continually developed since their original launch in 1953, the cars benefitted from many internal upgrades over the next eight years, however their external appearance remained largely the same, with cosmetic changes retaining the charm of these cars. The launch of the new TR4 in 1961 saw the introduction of a new and even more appealing body design, created by Giovanni Michelotti and making this already attractive vehicle look absolutely irresistible and resulting in one of the classic post war small sports cars. Their popularity ensured that when the car was due for another re-style, the same designers were obviously approached with the task, however, existing project commitments dictated that they were unable to take on the job. Triumph then approached the German coachbuilder Karmann with the task and sent a pristine example of a TR4A to their facility, to act as a development template. The resultant car, the Triumph TR6, retained the basic centre section of the existing car, restyling the front and rear sections, to give the new vehicle a very different, some would say more conservative appearance. The Triumph TR6 may look different to its predecessors, but it is still one of the most attractive small sports cars ever produced and simply oozes style – despite the fact that this styling originated in Germany, it could be argued that they managed to give the sports car a very British look. One thing is certain, these Triumphs have become highly prized amongst classic car collectors and they are a real head turner wherever they appear. Without doubt, the future inclusion of a Triumph TR6 in the Vanguards range would be welcomed by die-cast collectors the world over.
Air war above the trenches
The 1/48th scale range of Great War aircraft are amongst the most popular in the Aviation Archive series
The impending centenary of the end of the Great War will bring to a close four years of events commemorating the sacrifices of the people who were caught up in the first global conflict and the devastation it inflicted on an entire generation. The conflict witnessed the introduction of new weapons designed to give their holder a strategic advantage, but really just became a more effective method of claiming victims of war. Perhaps more than any other weapon, the Great War witnessed the development of the aeroplane from a fragile observation platform into an essential component of any military operation, commanding the battlefield by securing mastery of the air. The current Aviation Archive range includes two examples of the finest aircraft to take part in the First Air War, one British and one German – both were to have a significant impact on the conflict following their service introductions and both represent the advent of the fighter aircraft as an essential weapon of war. The release of these two models is intended to mark the centenary of the Great War Armistice and the box presentation has been specifically designed to commemorate this significant anniversary. We are pleased to give our readers an exclusive first look at the box design which will be accompanying the release of these two commemorative models.
AA38109 is the latest release from our 1/48th scale Sopwith Camel tooling and marks a particularly impressively presented machine, which was unusual for British & Commonwealth aircraft of the Great War. The Camel was a more robust development of the earlier Sopwith Pup and Triplane designs and was a fast and heavily armed fighter, capable of extreme manoeuvrability in the hands of an experienced pilot, which instantly made it one of the most accomplished dogfighters on the Western Front. It went on to become the mount of many successful British and Commonwealth aces, helping them to secure a vital superiority of the aerial battlefield, but as was the case with many aircraft of this period, the Camel was not without a few vices of its own. It needed to be flown all the time and required both flying skill and total concentration from its pilot. The fighter quickly earned a reputation for being a challenging aircraft to fly and one which would ‘sort the men from the boys’ - it was said that the Sopwith Camel would speed its pilot to either a wooden cross or a Victoria Cross, however once mastered, it would prove to be a devastatingly effective aircraft.
An exclusive first look at the distinctive box design which will be used on these special Great War commemorative releases
AA38906 is our latest Fokker D.VII release and as has already been mentioned in a previous edition of our blog, has presented our design team with the most complicated decoration scheme ever applied to an Aviation Archive release. Although enjoying nothing like the popular recognition of the earlier Fokker Triplane, the Fokker D.VII was an exceptionally capable aircraft which began to appear over the battlefields of the Western Front from the late spring of 1918. Thankfully proving to be a case of ‘Too little, too late’, the D.VII was more than a match for any aircraft the Allied Powers had in service at the time and was said by Luftstreitkräfte pilots to have the ability to ‘make a mediocre pilot into a good one and a good pilot into an ace’. In August 1918 alone, Fokker D.VIIs accounted for no fewer than 565 Allied aircraft destroyed, but thankfully by this time, the tide of war had turned inexorably in favour of the Allies and the feared Fokker D.VII would only play a small, yet significant role in the Great Air War.
It is interesting to note that the effectiveness of the Fokker D.VII would have such a dramatic impact on the final months of WWI and become such a feared weapon that it formed a specific requirement of the armistice terms which brought an end to this terrible conflict. All remaining Fokker D.VIIs were ordered to be surrendered to the victorious Allied Powers and of the 3,300 aircraft produced, many aircraft would go on to see service with various European air forces in the immediate post war years. In one final act of defiance, many German pilots complied with the surrender order, but crashed their aircraft on landing at Allied airfields, thus rendering these superb fighters unusable by their new owners.
A final 3d view of the Camel and D.VII box artwork we can look forward to this coming November
Helping to mark the centenary of the end of WWI, these two specially presented 1/48th scale Great War fighters will make a stunning and rather poignant addition to any Aviation Archive collection. Both models are scheduled for an equally poignant November release and are already proving to be popular with collectors.
What’s on the desk?
We are pleased to be bringing this current edition of Die-cast Diaries to a close with yet more exclusive model imagery and the latest instalment in our popular ‘What’s on the desk’ feature. Bringing you a fascinating selection of images taken straight from the design team’s desk at Corgi HQ, these models represent the latest pre-production sample models they have received from some of the most anticipated releases in the current range. Please remember however, that these are still pre-production model samples and whilst we know you love to see these pictures of future releases as soon as they become available, they may include errors and inaccuracies which will have been picked up by the development team and will not appear on the production models themselves. Despite any potential imperfections they may include, they are such an important stage in the development process and a fascinating insight for Corgi collectors. We hope you enjoy this latest selection of images.
The Morris Minor had a remarkably long production life from 1948 until 1971 and was a great step forward in handling and comfort. It was the first complete car designed by the legendary Alec Issigonis (knighted in 1969) to enter production. Over the years it was available in at least 38 different colours, but this car’s ‘Turquoise BU6’ is rare because it was only offered between 1956 and 1959. This car was purchased by Mr Marchbank in 1985.
He started a restoration that included replacing rusty panels and reconditioning the engine but the car remained dismantled in his garage until January 2009 when a new owner took on the project and completed the rebuild in August 2010. The car was sold by South Western Vehicle Auctions in June 2017 to Morris Minor specialist Steve
Loder who’s done further restoration work on it.
This latest Moggie is scheduled for an August release.
Having bucked the car industry’s trend towards monocoque construction with their Herald in 1959, creating a small sports car based on its components was a simple and cost effective way for Standard Triumph to earn American dollars with a cheaper companion to their larger 1961 2-litre TR4. The first prototype was produced by Italian stylist, Giovanni Michelotti, at his workshop in Turin in autumn 1960, and was actually built by cutting down a Triumph Herald although the production versions used a bespoke chassis design.
The Spitfire was announced at the 1962 Earls Court Motor Show and would go on, through four distinct updates, to be produced until 1980. A total of 314 332 were made.
This latest Triumph Spitfire is scheduled for a September release.
The TR7 modelled was built on January 23rd, 1981 at British Leyland’s Solihull factory; the former Rover ‘shadow factory’ was the third facility to assemble TR7s, earlier examples being built at Speke, Liverpool (1975-1978), and Triumph’s Canley plant, Coventry (1978-1979).
It was registered by BL dealers Patrick Motors Ltd, Birmingham, on August 3rd, 1981 and was ordered in this distinctive colour by company Chairman and MD Alexander Patrick who liked unusual coloured cars, especially bright green shades. He also chose the appropriate number plate, LOG 7X. It cost £6,880 and was retained for their private museum, The Patrick Collection; an example of what most then believed would be the last mass-market UK-made sports car.
Triumph TR7 VA10509 is also scheduled for a September release.
From 1903, Burton Corporation’s municipal transport system relied exclusively on the tram system, but in January 1924, with more residents living away from the tram network, the decision was taken to bring in two ‘B’ type motorbuses with Guy B20F bodywork. In 1930, trams were entirely replaced by buses and in 1943, Burton received its first double-deck vehicles, two utility Guy Arabs with Weymann H56R bodywork, built to wartime specifications, which included wooden slatted seating. Eight more were delivered in 1944, including Burton Corporation No. 34, a Guy Arab II 5LW, registration FA 7978, which was fitted with a Park Royal body. The double-deck vehicles proved more popular than the single-deck vehicles, which were becoming heavily overcrowded, but the wartime utility buses had been built using poor quality timber and were prone to premature deterioration. Some were rebuilt by the Corporation themselves, whilst others went to Merthyr Tydfil bodybuilder D. J. Davies, including FA 7978 which was rebuilt in 1951.
This handsome dual destination bus is scheduled for an August release.
That is all we have for you in this latest edition of Corgi Die-cast Diaries – is it possible to fit any more exclusive information in a single blog? As you know, we are always keen to hear from readers who may like to suggest a Corgi feature or topic they would like to see covered in a future edition of Die-cast Diaries, or even just to send us pictures of their own model collection – we are also interested to find out if there are any Corgi models which have a particular meaning to our readers and why. If you would like to tell your model collecting story in a future edition of our blog, please let us have your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org, where we very much look forward to hearing from you. We could be sharing your collector story with thousands of fellow enthusiasts.
If you can’t wait for the next edition of our blog, there is always plenty of Corgi model related news, views and conversation taking place on both our official Facebook and Twitter channels. We look forward to reading all your latest Corgi collecting discussions and seeing pictures of your favourite Corgi models, over the coming weeks.
Finally, we would like to thank each and every one of you for your continued support of our blog and we look forward to bringing you plenty of Corgi related news, features and updates in the months to come. The next edition of Die-cast Diaries will be published on Friday 21st September.
The Corgi Die-cast Diaries Team
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