‘Fist of the Fleet’ Corgi style
Welcome to this latest edition of Corgi Diecast Diaries and your regular look at all the news, updates and stories from the fascinating world of Corgi die-cast model collecting.
As the entire nation is currently enduring challenges of an unprecedented nature, a great many Diecast Diaries readers will either be working from home, or forced to stay at home for what could be an indeterminate period, as we all pull together to beat this medical emergency. From a Corgi perspective, the entire team is now set up with our work stations at home and whilst everything may prove a little more challenging from this point forwards, our intention is to try and carry on as effectively as we can under the circumstances. Whilst certainly not wishing to diminish the seriousness of the current situation, the Diecast Diaries team will be trying our utmost to provide a few moments of Corgi respite over the coming weeks and months and certainly for as long as this unprecedented situation will allow.
So what do we have for you in this latest edition? We begin by looking at the development of a model which has to be described as arguably the most impressive model in the entire Aviation Archive range and one which marks a significant achievement for the Corgi product design team, our 1/48th scale McDonnell Douglas Phantom. We have never previously featured the early development of this model, so we intend to put that right now, obviously with the help of an exclusive selection of fascinating CAD screenshot images.
We go on to look at the early development of a scale version of a motoring classic, mark the first German aircraft to be shot down on British soil during the Second World War and look at a beautifully restored military vehicle in something of a real versus Corgi feature. As a little bit of diecast fun, we will also be asking readers to nominate their favourite Corgi model and to tell us why it means so much to them, with readers who respond potentially having their story included in a future edition of the blog. It seems as if we are set for a bumper edition, so we had better get on and make a start.
Phabulous Phantom development
Since the first 1/144th scale Aviation Archive models arrived in hobby stores during 1998, aircraft collectors have been revelling in the opportunity to secure as many of these beautiful diecast representations of some of the world’s most famous aeroplanes as they can possibly get their hands on. With each model supplied pre-finished and able to be enjoyed straight out of the box, they also came with the appealing weight of diecast construction, something which immediately endeared these new models to an ever increasing army of admirers. In the years which followed, more new model toolings were introduced to the range and the quality of casting, fit and finish improved with greater manufacturing experience and technological advances.
The question of scale has long been a source of fascination and one which will undoubtedly be the cause of heated debate amongst any gathering of diecast collectors. Historically, the original 1/144th scale models in the AA range were joined by the first 1/72nd scale castings in 2000, a scale which has gone on to be the most popular with diecast aircraft collectors and one which easily allows Spitfires to be displayed next to the much larger Wellingtons and Lancasters in the range. Interestingly, the same year also marked the introduction of the first of the slightly larger 1/48th scale models in Aviation Archive, models which offered the prospect of greater detail levels, whilst retaining the appealing weight of diecast construction. The first three models in this scale were all helicopters, a Bell UH-1 Iroquois, a Huey Cobra and a Bell Sioux, with these three models acting as diecast pioneers for what was to follow.
The appearance of the first 1/48th scale Great War aircraft model in 2007 definitely announced the arrival of this scale as a major force in the Aviation Archive range and as the number of subjects increased over the years, so did the popularity of these delightful little models. Always amongst the most successful releases in any Corgi range, this series has recently benefitted from the addition of a Fokker Eindecker and a Bristol F2B Fighter over the past couple of years, model toolings which will ensure these beautiful models remain at the forefront of the hobby. Despite their undoubted popularity, the 1/48th scale range was destined to go truly SUPERSONIC just a couple of years ago.
A thing of diecast beauty, the Corgi team managed to beautifully capture the iconic lines of the British variant of the McDonnell Douglas Phantom, which is fascinatingly illustrated by this CAD development screenshot
Once committed to metal, all the development work definitely paid off, as this is one of the most impressive models in the history of our hobby
Even though this image represents a relatively early CAD screenshot from the project, there is no mistaking the iconic shape of this famous aeroplane
Announced back at the beginning of 2017, our decision to develop a 1/48th scale model of the English Electric Lightning F.6 came as something as a shock for an unsuspecting diecast world, but one which was met with overwhelming collector support. Despite the fact that it would take a further twelve months for the Lightning to finally appear, this model has the distinction of being the fastest selling Aviation Archive model ever on the Corgi website and one which underlined our commitment to excellence in the world of scale diecast aircraft model development.
As impressive as the Lightning is, the model was always going to need a companion tooling project if this was going to grow into a new Aviation Archive sub-range and immediately following its initial announcement, enthusiast websites and forums began to discuss what they thought would make a suitable aircraft subject for this second tooling project. They always say, ‘great minds think alike’ and as these groups proclaimed the British variant of the McDonnell Douglas Phantom as their preferred choice, the Corgi development were already hard at work designing that very model.
The Royal Navy’s most potent Strike Fighter in diecast
A spectacular collection centrepiece, our new 1/48th scale Phantom FG.1 is something the entire Corgi team are rightly proud of
Even though the decision to make a Phantom the follow up release to the Lightning F.6 may have appeared an entirely logical one, it was not as straightforward as collectors might initially think. From the perspective of diecast model tooling design, the Phantom is a completely different proposition to the Lightning in this scale, being significantly larger in most respects and posing more of a challenge for both the product designer and the tooling manufacturers. Having said that, the entire design team knew that this new model would look particularly impressive at the centre of any diecast model collection and they would be helping to create a real statement piece.
Clearly a significant and costly undertaking for Corgi as a brand, the start of the project did have the benefit of being able to access a wealth of information gathered by their colleagues at Airfix in support of their own 1/72nd scale Phantom plastic kit release. Accurate scan data produced by Airfix would prove invaluable for checking shape and dimension data at this early stage, even though the design work to produce a diecast model tooling is completely different to that of an injection moulded plastic kit. Using this information as a guide template, our talented product designers could now scale up these files, before using the CAD information to set about designing the individual component parts of the new model.
This next selection of CAD screenshot images are a real treat for any Aviation Archive collector. Shown exclusively for our blog readers, these images show how the design software allows the product designer to inspect every aspect of the models design, including the ability to ‘explode’ the view, revealing each individual part and they fit in the overall construction
Back together again, the Phantom made the ideal follow up subject to the previously released English Electric Lightning
Once this detailed and intricate work had been completed, the computer files could be sent to a trusted tooling manufacturing company in the Far East for production of a tooling quote and if agreeable, the further production of a complete tooling plan. Only once the development manager was happy with this tooling plan and the tooling quote had been passed by Hornby Hobbies finance could the new model proceed to tooling manufacture and with it, the final realisation that an exciting new model would soon be joining the Aviation Archive range.
Obviously, the new 1/48th scale Corgi Phantom FG.1 is now very much a part of the Corgi range and is without doubt one of the finest diecast model aircraft ever produced, a great credit to the Corgi design team and a much loved addition to many a model collection. In addition to the exclusive showing of the early development images featured earlier in this feature, thanks to our photography and retouching team, we are also able to bring you a further selection of Phantom images which are being published for the first time. In this final selection of images, the team have taken standard Phantom product photography and allowed their creative imaginations to run wild, attempting to visually represent the power and majesty of the Royal Navy’s most potent jet strike fighter – we think they have managed to do that rather effectively, but what do you think?
Now for some cool Phantom stuff. Thanks to our talented photographer and retouchers, they have taken a Phantom product image and let their creative juices flow. The first two pictures are variations of the same image and it would be interesting to see which one readers prefer. The third image is a cracker and illustrates just why modellers and enthusiasts continue to be captivated by the British variant of this American classic.
Occupying a position as one of post war Britain’s most potent and visually striking aircraft, the McDonnell Douglas Phantom may have its aviation roots firmly in the US, however, the aircraft produced specifically for both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force went on to become something of an aviation enigma. There can be few aircraft that continue to captivate aviation enthusiasts like Rolls Royce Spey powered Phantoms, particularly the ones which operated from the relatively small deck of HMS Ark Royal. Reared up in the moments prior to launch and shrouded in steam from the ship’s catapult, Navy Phantoms looked like a giant metal praying mantis ready to strike at its unsuspecting prey at a moment’s notice. Although most of us can only imagine how spectacular a sight this must have been for anyone serving onboard Ark Royal during its Phantom years, photographs and videos have ensured aviation immortality for these magnificent machines.
Although only the second tooling in our 1/48th scale Cold War jets series, the Phantom is something of a classic and we hope that it’s not too long before we are in a position to bring you news of a third and subsequent models joining this incredibly popular series.
The ‘coolest’ way to travel
Although originally produced as a mode of transport for the masses, the Volkswagen Campervan has become an extremely desirable vehicle and one which can change hands for many times more its original sale price. This fascinating development CAD screenshot is being shown outside of the Corgi office for the first time
Collectors of our popular Vanguards model vehicle range will have been interested to note that the 2020 line up included new tooling projects featuring the classic Volkswagen Campervan series, despite the fact that we already have an example of this vehicle in the Corgi range. By way of our latest blog exclusive, we are pleased to be in a position to bring you further details and tooling clarification from this interesting project now.
Although these iconic vehicles are now much sought after by people looking to own or restore one of the most desirable modes of transport to be seen on our road network, these distinctive vehicles were not always viewed with such affection. Originally a development of the famous VW Beetle, this ubiquitous vehicle was produced as a cost effective way to get Europe moving, with the same basic chassis, engine and transmission used as the framework for a series of vehicles which could be produced as a microbus, pickup, transporter, van and general delivery vehicle.
A further section of CAD screenshots from the VW Type 2 (T.1) Camper, which show us all what we have to look forward to with this new tooling project
Allowing any number of businesses to access a cheap, effective and reliable commercial and passenger vehicle, this was no frills motoring for the masses – how its reputation has altered over the years. From a Corgi perspective, the VW Camper tooling has been in the range for many years and as such, was very much in need of updating - with the VW now becoming incredibly popular, something had to be done about that and sooner rather than later.
Our Vanguards researcher was asked to provide a comprehensive tooling brief for this project and by the time he had finished with all the different body configuration options and possible accessories, the file was huge. At the same time, the Corgi team arranged to scan an actual VW Camper, from which all the design and development CAD files could be produced. By the time these files were sent back to our researcher for comments, he was astonished not only at the amount of detail they featured, but also the sheer number of possible vehicle permutations which had been built into the tooling.
What we are pleased to be showing here are the exclusive first viewing of CAD screenshots from the Type 2 (T.1) Split Screen or ‘Splitty’ version of the vehicle, which was in production from 1950 – 1967. We have also tooled up for the T.2 version, but we will bring you details of this in a future edition. These fascinating images show just how much detail has been incorporated into the new model and the sheer variety of options available to the development team – they will, of course, be of huge interest to Vanguards collectors everywhere.
This next selection of images show exploded component CAD screenshots from the new Volkswagen tooling project, as well as a fascinating grouping which highlight the impressive number of release options available with this tooling
The catalogue text supporting the first release from this version of the tooling (VA14500) reads as follows:
The camper modelled was built in Hanover, Germany, in October 1966 to option codes M396 - UK market RHD, and M543 - no seating in load area. It was supplied directly to VW's official UK camper van builder, Devon Conversions, Sidmouth. Although Devon Conversions specialised in VW's, founder Jack White having started by converting his own VW in 1955, they did expand into producing campers using other base vehicles. The company moved to larger premises in 1960, a former gas plant called the Alexandria Works, which had its own rail link to get vehicles in and out efficiently, and by the mid 1960s were converting well over a 1000 vehicles per year.
This example was owned for many years by enthusiastic Split Screen Van Club (SSVC) member Christopher Pratt from Derbyshire, who restored the bodywork in 2010 and made sure, unusually in a VW Type 2, that the vehicle was kept completely original. In 2013 it was purchased by Shropshire-based fellow SSVC member Ted Thomas. He's rebuilt the engine, gearbox and other running gear of the van himself, being an engineer by trade. He has also made sure it is kept original, something that's easier to do on this vehicle as it is one of the first to use a 12 volt electrical system. Ted and his family enjoy using the van regularly and it won 'Best Splitscreen' at Camper Jam in both 2016 and 2017.
We are delighted to be sharing these fantastic development images with you and look forward to charting the progress of these models as they progress towards release.
First bomber down
When it comes to suggesting models for inclusion in forthcoming Aviation Archive ranges, it is important to the Corgi team that each release has a strong reason for being produced, either in commemorating the exploits of a particular pilot or crew, or marking an aircraft which occupies a particularly prominent position in history. The latter is certainly the case with the latest release from our 1/72nd scale Heinkel He 111 tooling, a model which has just arrived in model stores and one which marks the first enemy aircraft to crash land on British soil at the start of WWII.
As the four man crew of KG26 Heinkel 1H+JA boarded their aircraft at Westerland airfield on the Island of Sylt on the morning of 20th October 1939, they knew that a long and dangerous sortie over enemy territory lay ahead of them. Their mission was to perform a long range armed reconnaissance flight over the Glasgow area and on to photograph gun emplacements and naval vessels in the Firth of Forth, one of the most heavily defended areas of Britain. During the sortie, improving weather conditions over Scotland made the Heinkel clearly visible from the ground and as well as coming under fire from anti-aircraft batteries, patrolling Spitfires from Nos 602 and 603 Squadrons were quickly on the scene.
Attacking the aircraft from the rear, the Spitfires quickly silenced the intruder’s own defensive fire, before mounting repeated attacks, peppering the Heinkel’s wings and fuselage with .303 machine gun bullets. With the pilot sustaining injury and both of the aircraft’s engines taking hits, the Heinkel rapidly lost height, making a crash landing the only option available to the two surviving crew members. Striking moorland near the village of Humbie in East Lothian, the aircraft demolished a drystone wall before coming to rest on a slight grassy incline, snapping the Heinkel’s fuselage during the crash. The Heinkel would have the notoriety of being the first German aircraft to crash relatively intact on British soil during WWII.
Once again, the Aviation Archive range has introduced a scale representation of one of the most historic aircraft from the Second World War, the first German aircraft to crash relatively intact on British soil. This magnificent model is available in limited quantities now.
Following Britain’s declaration of war against Germany on 3rd September 1939, the nation braced itself for an aerial onslaught from the most feared air force in the world, certain that bombs would soon be raining down on the country’s towns and cities. Early Luftwaffe sorties over Britain were mounted from Westerland airfield on the Island of Sylt, the closest German airfield to Britain and were generally reconnaissance missions attempting to obtain photographs of Royal Navy ships moored in Scapa Flow. These early actions did result in Luftwaffe aircraft losses, however, all of these aircraft either crashed into the sea, or were destroyed where they came down on land.
For this reason, when the first Luftwaffe aircraft to crash-land relatively intact on British soil on 28th October 1939, it proved to be of huge national interest both to the military and general public alike. Heinkel He III 1H+JA crash landed near the Scottish village of Humbie, with the two surviving crew members surrendering to local police officers who were quickly on the scene. A large and inquisitive crowd soon arrived at the crash site, along with newspaper photographers, who recorded this historic event for the nation’s press and unwittingly preserving the incident for posterity. Images taken on the day clearly show the unusual double Balkenkreuz placement on the top of the Heinkel’s wing, as well as the bullet damage inflicted by the RAF’s Spitfires. The two Daimler Benz DB601 engines which powered the bomber were later removed and sent for detailed evaluation by Rolls Royce at Derby.
A magnificent scale representation of this fascinating and historic incident, Heinkel AA33717 has recently arrived in your local model store and whilst it proved to be one of the most heavily pre-ordered models in the 2020 range, there are still a few examples available. A fine addition to the Aviation Archive range.
Keeping the infantry moving
The welcome return of the Corgi 1/50th scale Military Legends range in the 2019 catalogue saw these much loved and once incredibly popular model toolings rescued from the storage facility warehouse in the Far East for the first time in almost ten years. Whilst their resurrection was not without its challenges, we are pleased to say that all the models announced in 2019 are now available. Whilst castings like the German Tiger and Panther will normally receive the most attention from a collector perspective, this range is more than just about tanks and we are about to take a look at an impressive military vehicle which was only ‘half tracked’.
As US military planners watched Europe descending into conflict at the end of the 1930s, they knew that they had to equip their mobile cavalry units with an effective armoured vehicle which possessed greater off-road performance than a standard wheeled vehicle. In future conflicts, battlefield gains secured by strong armoured divisions would have to be backed up by supporting infantry units, but as the speed of war increased, these infantry units would have to be mechanised and highly mobile.
The solution they came up with was the M3 (and earlier, slightly smaller M2) armoured personnel carrier, which was designed to carry a full platoon of thirteen riflemen and their equipment at speeds approaching 45 mph over all terrain, in support of advancing armour. At first, US infantrymen were less than enthusiastic about the M3, feeling that the armour protection was inadequate against anything other than small arms fire and enemy machine guns, with the open roof leaving them vulnerable to air burst shells and grenades on the battlefield. Initially, the M3 was given the dubious colloquial title of ‘The Purple Heart Box’, however, it would not be long before this excellent halftrack series began to win them over and proved to be one of the most adaptable and useful Allied military vehicles of the Second World War.
This beautiful scale example of an M3 armoured troop carrier has the pulpit mounted .50 cal heavy machine gun to provide cover for the vehicle’s squad of infantry, as they attempt to take their latest objective
Using standardized, mass production techniques from the outset, the US military knew that no one company would have the capacity to produce all the halftracks needed for the coming conflict, so three companies were contracted to produce the vehicles. Production lines run by the White Motor Company, Autocar Company and the Diamond T Motor Company, would eventually produce well over 41,000 vehicles, numbers which were only matched by the famous Jeep and Sherman tank. Key to its success was the fact that it adopted a no frills, tried and trusted technology approach to its design and production, which made it relatively cheap and easy to produce and rugged and reliable on the battlefield – they would go on to see service with most of the Allied nations during WWII and in every theatre of conflict.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the M3 Halftrack was the vehicle’s inherent flexibility, which allowed it to be used in a wide variety of roles during the Second World War. From its originally intended Armoured Personnel Carrier role, the M3 would also be used for armoured resupply, communications, as a mortar carrier, tank destroyer, self-propelled howitzer and as a mobile anti-aircraft vehicle. Although rarely found at the forefront of a heavy armour clash, large numbers of M3 halftracks would be waiting in reserve to provide invaluable support to infantry units charged with securing any territorial gains made. From relatively humble beginnings, the M3 would become one of the most important Allied AFV’s of WWII and one which has become incredibly familiar to modellers, collectors and enthusiasts in the post war years.
Benefitting from attractive new box artwork, the reintroduction of these popular models has been welcomed after a break of almost ten years
If Corgi collectors are pleased to be able to add a new example of the famous M3 Halftrack to their model collections, imagine how excited you would be to have the real thing in your possession. The attributes which made the M3 an effective, mass produced AFV back in the 1940s also make it an attractive, if expensive, contemporary restoration project and as around 40,000 of these vehicles were produced, many beautifully restored examples can regularly be seen at transport and military events up and down the country.
As troops assigned to M3 Halftracks in WWII would virtually treat these vehicles as a temporary home from home, as well as carrying all their fighting equipment, they would also have any number of personal and acquired possessions either in, on, or attached to it. These could range from cooking utensils to requisitioned German stick grenades and all weather tarpaulins – basically anything that might come in useful. This basic human instinct to ‘collect’ means that both modellers and vehicle restorers have huge creative licence when representing these magnificent vehicles, as it was entirely possible that other than their standardised manufacture, no two vehicles would look exactly the same.
The ultimate display of Corgi one-upmanship, no matter how accurate and appealing we manage to make our scale models, we can’t compete with someone who owns an example of the real thing
The magnificently restored example photographed here was spotted at the 2015 Great Dorset Steam Fair and was seen to attract plenty of attention during the show. On speaking to the owner, it appears that some of the details surrounding the history of this vehicle are a little sketchy, but was is known is that it served with the British Army in 1944, before being sold to the Israeli Army after WWII. It would see action during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, before possibly arriving back in the UK during 1975, although again, this date could not be accurately verified.
It came into the possession of the current owner in 2008 and he immediately embarked on a painstaking restoration programme to take the vehicle back to as close to its 1944 configuration as possible. It also appears that its restoration included sourcing and restoring any number of associated items, such as machine guns, mortars, ammunition tins and the general ephemera of war. It has been restored as an M3 Half-track of the British Army during the final year of WWII and looks absolutely magnificent – a fine example of this famous Allied fighting vehicle.
The first eight releases in our re-launched Military Vehicle range are now available on the Corgi website and in all good model stores.
If you could only have ‘One Corgi’
With so many diecast models proudly displaying the Corgi name, it will be interesting to find out which ones are coveted most by Diecast Diaries readers
With the current Government guidance for millions of people to stay at home in an attempt to prevent the spread of this hated virus, we thought it might be a nice idea to try and connect Corgi collectors around the world in a light-hearted little exercise which may bring readers a little bit of blog fame in the process. As we are all isolated at home with our collections at the moment, we would like to ask our readers a question – ‘Which is the most cherished Corgi model in your collection and why?’
Quite simply, the model in question could be your current favourite, the one which has the most sentimental value to you, or maybe even the rarest model in your collection. Whatever the reason may be, please send your nomination to our email@example.com email address, preferably with a picture and a short explanation as to why you chose this model. In every edition of Diecast Diaries for the remainder of 2020, we will feature at least one of your suggestions, giving you the opportunity to tell your Corgi story, or simply make the rest of us sick because you have such a rare model in your collection. If we are inundated with suggestions, we may also feature your submissions on the various Corgi social media channels, giving our readers and collectors the opportunity to literally take over!
This is just a little bit of Corgi collecting fun in these trying times and may help to keep us all sane as we are forced to stay away from work and from other human contact. It is certainly not our intention to trivialise the current situation, but as we all come to terms with lockdown, let’s hope this feature uncovers a few Corgi gems from the depths of our collections that we can all admire.
The image used to illustrate this feature was kindly supplied by our Photographer David, who spotted this interesting model in a charity shop near his home. It is actually one of a special two vehicle set produced in 1990 to commemorate Corgi relocating their offices from Swansea to Leicester and featured a ‘Bedford Double’ of an OB coach and O series Pantechnicon. Featuring box artwork designed by a Collector Club member, the set was entitled ‘We’re on the move!’ and was intended to signify all the office equipment travelling by van, with the staff enjoying the sumptuous comfort of the coach.
This model would certainly not qualify as a rare piece, but does have an interesting story behind it nonetheless – it is also interesting to note that 7000 pieces of this set were produced back in the day, with each set snapped up by Corgi collectors.
Now it's over to you, our loyal readers. Let us know which models you hold dear, or make us green with envy with some of the rare pieces you have in your collection.
We are afraid that’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Diecast Diaries, but you can be sure we will be back as usual with more updates and exclusive Corgi content in four weeks’ time. In the meantime, we are always interested to hear from our readers, especially if you would like to suggest a subject for future inclusion in our blog. Better still, if you would like to send us pictures of your own model collection, or details of a Corgi model release which is special to you, you may even find yourself featuring in a future edition of Diecast Diaries. As always, we would be grateful if you would address all correspondence to our usual firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
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 our official Facebook and Twitter social media pages, which welcome your contributions. We look forward to reading about all the latest Corgi collecting discussions and pictures of your favourite models over the coming few weeks.
Finally, we would like to thank all our readers for their continued support. We look forward to bringing you much more Corgi related news, features and updates in future editions of our blog. The next edition of Diecast Diaries is scheduled to be published on Friday 24th April.
The Corgi Die-cast Diaries Team
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