New Phantom prepares for blast off
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. Last week saw the world commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the beginning of a long struggle to bring about the end of the Second World War. With major events held at the IWM airfield at Duxford and in Normandy itself during the first week of June, the brave men who faced the horrors of the D-Day beaches and leapt into the darkness from the cabins of more than 800 Douglas C-47 Skytrains, were remembered by the generations who were allowed to live in peace because of their selfless actions. We will be including a review from the impressive ‘Daks over Duxford’ event in a forthcoming edition of the blog.
When considering the various Corgi model ranges which have been released over the past few years, the ever increasing popularity of the Aviation Archive range has seen these appealing models take a prominent position in each new catalogue announcement and consequently, a similarly prominent position within our Diecast Diaries blog. We are fully aware that collectors will be passionate about many of the other model ranges Corgi have and still are producing and whilst we will always continue to bring you development updates from the post popular model projects in the current range, we are appealing for your help in producing a series of features focusing on your particular model collection – Your blog needs you! If you have a handsome collection of trucks, or buses are the things that make you happy, please send us your collector story and pictures of your collection, so that we can all enjoy discovering a little more about some of the fantastic Corgi models which may just have fallen out of favour a little at this current time – there is nothing more enjoyable than reading an article produced by a committed collector on the subject they are passionate about. Please send your pictures to our usual email@example.com address, where we will be delighted to hear from you – we will be more than happy to follow this contact up by ringing you to discuss the production of any future article.
What do we have for you within this latest 54th edition of the Corgi Diecast Diaries blog? Once again, we are pleased to be bringing you an impressive selection of exclusive images from some of the most eagerly anticipated model projects in the hobby. We mark the impending release of the magnificent new 1/48th scale Royal Navy Phantom, by showing readers the final sample images from this much anticipated model, along with the box artwork which will be gracing the shelves of good model shops over the next week or so. We are also pleased to be including the very latest painted pre-production sample images from the new Bristol Beaufighter tooling and the latest addition to our 1/72nd scale range of models. We bring you pictures from the recent Cosford Airshow and how this event was used to launch two of our new Vanguards RAF Mini models, which we were honoured to have on show as part of the RAF Mini Club display and we also bring you details of our latest MGB Roadster release, which features impressive levels of interior detail and shows how our Vanguards team are always looking to strive for greater detail and accuracy with each new release. Bringing this latest blog to a close, we look at the subject of product dioramas and use a series of images to illustrate a subject which should stimulate some healthy debate amongst diecast collectors. Without further ado, let’s get started on this latest blog.
Ark Royal’s supersonic bodyguard
With the release of the new 1/48th scale Royal Navy Phantom imminent, this will become a familiar sight in model shops over the next few weeks
Few Cold War era jet aircraft continue to enjoy such an enduring fascination with modellers and diecast collectors as the iconic McDonnell Douglas Phantom, one of the truly great post war aircraft and one which served with distinction in both Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm service. Undoubtedly representing one of the most exciting aircraft to ever see British military service, the Phantoms of the Fleet Air Arm were originally intended as a fleet defence replacement for the ageing De Havilland Sea Vixen and historically, were some of the largest aircraft to have operated from the decks of a British aircraft carrier. In the seconds prior to take-off from the deck of HMS Ark Royal, the sight of a Royal Navy Phantom rearing up on its extending nose oleo leg, with flames belching from the two Rolls Royce Spey engines in full afterburner and steam pouring from the catapult about to hurl this beast into the air must have been simply breath-taking. Iconic photographs and several evocative Royal Navy Phantom artworks have ensured these aircraft enjoy a special place in British aviation history and it therefore will come as no surprise that our new 1/48th scale British Phantom FG.1 model has proved to be such a spectacular addition to the range.
The announcement of our spectacular 1/48th scale English Electric Lightning F.6 at the beginning of 2017, came as something of a pleasant surprise for diecast collectors, particularly as they had been given no prior notification of such an exciting new direction for the Aviation Archive range. The Lightning occupies such a prominent position in the history of British aviation, that this made the ideal subject choice for our first large scale post war jet release and its overwhelmingly positive reception from hardened Aviation Archive collectors could hardly have been more supportive – once available, the models sold like hot cakes. As these beautiful models began to appear in display cabinets all over the world, enthusiast forums began to carry discussion threads speculating on how long it would be before a second release in this new series would be announced and what that subject aircraft might be. They did not have to wait long, because we were already hard at work on developing that second model, one which we believed was the perfect follow-up release, the magnificent McDonnell Douglas Phantom. Although the Phantom is undoubtedly one of the world’s most important post war jet aircraft and one which saw service with a great many air arms across the world, we were determined that our new model would represent one of the 170 ‘British Phantoms’ which exhibited quite a number of differences from the rest of the Phantom fleet. For the first release, we really could not look beyond one of the aircraft which operated from the relatively confined surroundings of the deck of HMS Ark Royal, some of the most exciting aircraft to have ever seen British military service.
In advance of the release of the Phantom, we are please to bring you these latest production images from this spectacular new tooling
Compared to the Lightning tooling, the new Phantom was a completely different proposition for the Corgi design team and posed a number of additional challenges during the development stage, not least of which is the fact that it is a larger aeroplane and one which was capable of carrying a far greater array of external stores. The tall, slender body of the Lightning is replaced by a much wider fuselage on the Phantom, not to mention the much greater wing area of the American designed aircraft. Interestingly, the Phantom would go on to work in tandem with the Lightning in an air defence role in RAF service and prove superior to the British fighter by virtue of the longer standing patrols it could undertake, protecting Britain’s airspace against Soviet bomber incursion. Whilst it could not match the blistering performance of Britain’s only indigenously designed and built Mach 2 capable interceptor, it would go on to be regarded as a true multi-role aircraft and serve for 22 years throughout some of the most volatile post war years of the 20th century.
As the Corgi team head out to display our models at several of Britain’s most popular Airshows this summer, it is an ideal opportunity for us to meet collectors who are passionate about the Aviation Archive range and to hear their views on what subjects they would like to see covered in the years to come. Most people seem to be delighted to see the British Phantom joining the range, particularly as there are a number of strong livery options for future releases, but they now have an appetite for classic British jets in this scale and they are not shy when it comes to promoting future subjects. Aircraft which are regularly mentioned are Buccaneer, Harrier, Tornado, Typhoon, Hunter and Meteor, with the imminent arrival of the new Phantom only serving to increase anticipation for future product development – thankfully, we will not have to wait long now for the Lightning F.6 to have its first 1/48th scale diecast companion in our display cabinets, hopefully with more to come.
AA27901 - McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1 XT864/007R, No.892 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, HMS Ark Royal, November 1978.
Although the history of British aviation can boast many famous aeroplanes amongst its ranks, there can be few that were as visually striking as the mighty Phantom FG.1s of the Royal Navy, which operated from the diminutive deck of HMS Ark Royal. In the seconds prior to launch and whilst connected to the ship’s steam catapult, the aircraft’s nose wheel oleo would be extended to its maximum 40 inch position, giving the Phantom a distinct nose up attitude to increase the efficiency of engine thrust. With steam rising eerily from the ships deck, Navy Phantoms looked like a giant metal praying mantis, ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. With maximum afterburner selected and the engine power almost melting the ship’s deck, the Phantom was finally released from its shackles and roared into the air – such a spectacular experience for anyone lucky enough to see it. Although most of us will have only ever seen the operation of Ark Royal’s Phantoms on video or in reference books, these iconic images left such an indelible impression that Britain’s Rolls Royce Spey powered Phantoms have since become something of an enigma and still command huge enthusiast interest to this day.
As one of the most capable of Britain’s post war jet aircraft, the Anglicised versions of this American classic remain incredibly popular with modellers and enthusiasts
No.892 Naval Air Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm holds a significant place in the history of Britain’s naval air power. They were the first unit to introduce British Phantoms to operational service and the last to fly off the deck of HMS Ark Royal, in the lead up to her withdrawal from service in December 1978. The Squadron reformed on 31st March 1969 in preparation for the arrival of the Navy’s first Phantom FG.1 fighter bombers and has the distinction of being the only NAS Squadron to use the mighty Phantom operationally. Receiving their aircraft at a time of great political uncertainly and continuing defence cuts, members of 892 Squadron felt that they could quite conceivably be the last of the Navy’s fixed winged squadrons and adopted a distinctive Omega symbol on their squadron badge (the last letter of the Greek alphabet). These attractively presented Phantoms were without doubt some of the most distinctive aircraft to ever see British service. Phantom FG.1 XT864 was one of the last aircraft to leave HMS Ark Royal in the lead up to her withdrawal from service in 1978 and after a short period of storage, went on to serve with the Royal Air Force and No.111 Squadron at Leuchars, where it would be called upon to perform QRA duties in defence of Britain’s airspace. With RAF Phantoms giving way to the new Tornado F.3 in 1989, XT864 had the honour of acting as Gate Guardian at Leuchars for many years, the first RAF Phantom to be used in such a manner. As the Leuchars base closed following further defence cuts, this magnificent aircraft was on the move once more and is now a prized possession in the aircraft collection of the Ulster Aviation Society, where she has recently been repainted back into her former Fleet Air Arm colours.
British Phantom FG.1 AA27901 is now due for imminent release and for those collectors who pre-ordered this beautiful new model, it should be with you over the next couple of weeks – it’s nearly Phantom time!
The latest exclusive artwork reveal from the new Corgi Beaufighter tooling project, using the first decorated pre-production sample model against a typical operating environment for Coastal Command Beaufighters
In the 52nd edition of Diecast Diaries, we brought our readers a full development review from one of the three new Aviation Archive tooling announcements included with the launch of the 2019 Corgi model range, the beautiful Bristol Beaufighter. Many collectors of our aircraft models will be quick to tell you that there are certain aircraft types which definitely belong in the Aviation Archive range and the Bristol Beaufighter is undoubtedly one of them. Originally developed as a heavy fighter, the Beaufighter would go on to qualify for the title of ‘multi-role aircraft’, but always with its rugged qualities and heavy firepower at the centre of its aviation credentials. The version of the aircraft we have introduced into the range is the RAF Coastal Command Torpedo-Fighter variant, an aircraft which terrorised Axis shipping during the final eighteen months of WWII and making a significant contribution to the eventual Allied victory. One of the major advantages of the Beaufighter TF.X was that it was capable of attacking targets with either torpedo, or rocket projectiles, whilst also retaining the ability to bring its heavy cannon armament to bear, should the situation dictate. These hard-hitting strike aircraft would be charged with operation over wide expanses of open ocean, but their rugged construction gave crews the reassurance that in most cases, their aircraft would bring them home safely, even when sustaining quite significant combat damage.
Following on from our development review of the new Beaufighter, we are pleased to be in a position to follow this up with the first EXCLUSIVE images featuring the painted pre-production model from the tooling, which represents a major advancement in the project and a further step towards its eventual release. As usual, we have to stress that these images feature a working sample model, which is used by the Corgi development team to check every aspect of the new Beaufighter model and may still be subject to change. We know that you like to see these images, but please remember that historically, these models would not have been seen outside the company, but nevertheless form an essential part of the development process – changes may still need to be made.
This latest selection of exclusive Beaufighter pre-production images give us all a good idea of what we have to look forward to with the release of this magnificent model
This is the Beaufighter image which was placed on the Fjord background picture featured above
AA28601 – Bristol Beaufighter TF.X NE829/PL-J, RAF No.144 Squadron, Banff Strike Wing, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, October 1944.
As one of the most capable twin engined aircraft of WWII, the Bristol Beaufighter was originally developed as a heavy fighter variant of the company’s Beaufort bomber, already in service with the Royal Air Force. The first examples were pressed into service as nightfighters and whilst the aircraft proved to be a significant improvement over existing types, there was more to come from the mighty beau. As the aircraft received successive upgrades to make it more powerful and capable of carrying a greater array of offensive weaponry, the Beaufighter became a successful multi-role aircraft, with a particular flair for mounting hard hitting anti-shipping strikes into the North Sea, preventing Axis shipping from moving supplies back to Germany. It was during one of these missions that Banff based Flying Officer Maurice Exton was awarded a DFC for outstanding flying skill and determination in the face of the enemy. Flying Beaufighter NE829 on 9th October 1944, Exton and his squadron attacked a large convoy of enemy vessels off the coast of Norway, but his aircraft was hit by heavy flak from the ships. Damaging the aircraft’s flight controls, causing it to almost flip onto its back, Exton wrestled with the Beaufighter’s control column, bringing it back straight and level, before immediately pressing home his attack. He then nursed the damaged aircraft back to Banff, where he managed to land safely. Inflicting heavy damage on the enemy convoy they attacked, this incident says as much about the determination of the airmen of Coastal Command as it does about the resilience of the Bristol Beaufighter.
A first look at the decoration guide which was used during the development of the first release from this new Bristol Beaufighter TF.X tooling
Perhaps the definitive variant of the Beaufighter and certainly the most heavily produced was the TF.X, a two seat torpedo fighter, which was known colloquially as the Torbeau. With a combination of rockets, cannon and 18 inch mark XII torpedo, these rugged aircraft would attack shipping at high speed and at low level, often with rocket firing Beaufighters drawing the anti-aircraft fire of the vessels, allowing the torpedo equipped aircraft to make their attack runs more effectively. Often attacking with large numbers of aircraft, these savage attacks began to take a heavy toll of Axis shipping and should Luftwaffe fighters join the action in an attempt to protect the convoy, they would find the heavily armed Beaufighter more than capable of looking after itself. These highly effective coastal strike operations, launched from the exposed northern coast of Aberdeenshire, made a significant contribution to the Allied war effort in the final few months of the Second World War and increased the pressure on Germany’s ability to keep fighting. Knowing that Germany had to transport iron ore and other commodities of war through the North Sea to German held ports, the work of the Banff Strike Wing was of significant strategic importance, effectively starving the German war machine into submission. Operating in extremely harsh conditions and spending many hours flying over open water, pilots must have certainly appreciated the rugged reliability of the Beaufighters and Mosquitos which flew from Banff and the committed ground crews who kept their aircraft serviceable.
The handsome new Bristol Beaufighter TF.X AA28601 is scheduled for an Autumn release and we look forward to bringing you more details from this project as that date approaches.
RAF Mini pair launch at Cosford Airshow
The current 2019 Vanguards range includes a trio of attractive Mini releases with a distinct Royal Air Force connection
You would not usually associate the advanced release of two new Corgi Vanguards vehicle models at the UK’s only remaining official RAF Airshow event, but not every Airshow can boast the attendance of the Royal Air Force Mini Club. Having worked with the club on the release of three new Vanguards Mini models, this was an opportunity which required drastic action by the Corgi marketing team. Two of the three new models were brought in by air, in advance of their proposed release date, so they could take their place in a specially produced Corgi display stand, which we were delighted to have positioned on the 2019 RAF Mini Club display at Cosford. Those who managed to see the models on the stand were actually the first people in the UK to see them, models which are not available for general release until next month and we are pleased to report that they received a lot of attention during the show. The two new Vanguards Mini models displayed at Cosford were VA01318 Austin Mini 850, RAF Police and VA01319 Austin Mini 850, RAF Station Commander’s vehicle – the Red Arrows Mini Van was also displayed, however this was actually a pre-production sample model.
A visit to the RAF Mini Club stand at the recent Cosford Airshow allowed close inspection of the new RAF themed Mini releases in the current 2019 Vanguards range
VA01318 Austin Mini 850, RAF Police.
The RAF Police used Minis for many years to patrol the perimeter of airfields, varying their route and timetable to keep their movements unpredictable while maintaining close radio contact with controllers. The Mini's long service career in this role spanned from shortly after its launch in 1959 until the early 1980s, and they were known as LMVs, or Light Military Vehicles, by the RAF Mechanical Transport Division. Minis were ordered in RAF blue directly from BMC, although from the early 1970s Minis used in this role were painted Olive Drab green with a yellow stripe. The RAF Mini Club, custodians of the Mini's RAF history, was invaluable while researching this model's livery.
The Mini was ideal in this role because of its nippy performance, nimble handling and good traction. Both then and now, the RAF Police have a very important and diverse role protecting bases and aircraft from threats like espionage, sabotage, organised crime and terrorism. They were formed on April 1st, 1918, when the RAF was created by the merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. By the end of World War II there were 500 officers and 20,000 NCOs in the RAFP. In January 1947, the RAF Provost Branch became a Specialist Branch within the RAF and in December 1950 George VI approved the crest and motto 'Fiat Justitia', meaning 'Let justice be done', which is still used today.
VA01319 Austin Mini 850, RAF Station Commander’s vehicle.
RAF stations are often very large plots of land, and to get around the Station Commander used a Mini, which was ideal for the role being nippy, reliable, easy to park and economical to both buy and run. It was distinguishable by the blue and red pennant on the bonnet as other black Minis were used for general transport roles around RAF facilities. Many racetracks, most noticeably Silverstone and Goodwood, originated as airfield perimeter tracks and it wasn't unusual for even quite senior officers to use these Minis to perform a quick 'handling test' on the perimeter track; it was a more carefree era than today's health and safety dominated world.
Minis were bought in large numbers by the RAF and were used for both general Mechanical Transport duties and VIP transport, being cheaper and more suitable for this role than Land-Rovers, which were used for heavy loads, towing or operating off road. Executive officers would often have a Mini as a daily duty vehicle that the MT section would pick up or drop off each weekend. BMC worked closely with government organisations, the military, the police and others, and had liaison engineers who dealt with the problems found in service and fed the information back to improve the car. These Minis were often involved in squadron high-jinks, with one apparently finding its way on to the roof of a hanger after a particularly lively squadron function!
Both of these fantastic new models, along with the third Mini in this RAF trio, the Red Arrows Mini van, are scheduled to be released towards the end of July and will make a particularly appealing ‘military’ addition to the Vanguards range.
Pushing the Vanguards boundaries
Catalogue image featuring the latest Vanguards MGB roadster to join this popular range
Although most diecast collectors will scour each new Corgi range for the models they intend to add to their collections, they rarely give much thought to the work which the development team behind these models do in producing the most accurate models they possibly can. Even though a particular release may be the fifth or sixth model from that tooling, this does not mean that efforts are not being made behind the scenes to ensure all the latest production advances available to the development team are being incorporated in future model releases. To illustrate this fact, the latest release from our Vanguards MGB Roadster tooling (VA13005) has benefited from levels of internal detail which have never been seen on previous release and have challenged the capabilities of the Far Eastern manufacturing facilities. Underlining our commitment to make each successive model release as accurate as it can be, this work will continue with each new model range, accepting that the team will always be limited by the current diecast manufacturing process. VA13005 is supplied with a scale representation of the vehicle’s removable soft top and the removal of this roof will reveal detail advances applied to the rather distinctive seats, which were a feature of this attractive car.
The MGB Roadster series of two door British sports cars were an affordable way for large numbers of people to own a stylish sports tourer, which saw more than half a million vehicles produced during a 17 year production run. Now a popular vehicle for restoration projects across the country, the MGB still manages to turn heads wherever they are seen, underlying the enduring appeal of the original BMC design.
VA13005 – MGB Roadster V8, Don Hayter’s car, Brooklands Green.
This exclusive image shows the impressive interior detail which has been incorporated in the release of this heavily pre-ordered future release
Don Hayter is often described as the father of the MGB and was closely involved with its styling and development after joining the MG design office in February 1956 following a similar role at Aston Martin. He rose to become MG's Chief Engineer, and kept the MGB one step ahead of the ever-changing safety legislation in the seventies, while making a profit for BMC/BL at a time when many other divisions didn't. When MG's Abingdon factory closed in 1980 he sold himself an unused 'development' bodyshell (for £939.55) and 3.5-litre V8 engine, then built himself the only factory-made MGB V8 roadster (factory V8s were all GTs), the last MGB to leave Abingdon. Although the MGB was eighteen years old when MG was unexpectedly closed, Don and his team had been working on an update for the profitable US market using the O-series 2-litre OHC engine (including a very quick O-turbo), larger brakes and other modifications. Twenty or more redundant pilot-build bodyshells were left from this project and it was one of these that Don bought; identifiable because the inner-wing was reshaped for fuel injection. The car also features the first MG-badged rocker covers cast, which had been left unused in the development department. It has appeared in many magazines and TV programmes while still in Don's ownership, including an episode of Clarkson's Car Years, and is now owned by long standing MG enthusiast, Berkshire-based Edward Vandyk.
Vanguards MGB Roadster V8 (VA13005) is scheduled for imminent release and should be in good model stores over the next few weeks.
A Model display
To diorama or not to diorama, that is the modelling question. This Ford Lotus Cortina model looks great placed on this basic diorama backdrop
We end this latest edition of our blog by asking our readers a question, ‘What are your thoughts on the way our models are displayed on the Corgi website, once they have been released’? For a relatively small team, the weeks before the announcement of any new Corgi range are usually extremely busy, especially regarding the production and photographing of model samples, which have usually been hand decorated at this stage. The photographed models are placed on a clear white background for webpage continuity purposes and similarly for the production of the popular printed catalogue. Diecast Diaries readers are now familiar with the way we provide product updates during the development of any new model, which will include pictures of pre-production and signed sample models, which are again set against plain, light coloured backgrounds, for obvious reasons. Once the models have been released, collectors will have usually already secured their example and added to their collections and in a situation which has prevailed over recent years, many of these models tend to sell out extremely quickly. For this reason and the fact that the Corgi team always have much work to do, the world is often left with the web images produced when the models were first announced and are rarely updated with pictures of the production model itself. Although this is not particularly an issue where a model has already sold out, where stocks are still available, could we do things a little differently?
Discussions on this subject between members of the Corgi team led our talented Company Photographer David to allow his creative juices to flow and he produced a number of images featuring a pair of basic dioramas and two recent Vanguards model releases – would these dioramas produce a more appealing backdrop for the models? The results are quite dramatic and actually give collectors a clearer impression of how the models might look if they were part of their own displays. We think this could be an attractive future addition to the Corgi webpages, even though this will clearly be making more work for our photographers and we would be interested to hear your views. Please let us know what you think about model dioramas, using the e-mail address link available below and we will re-visit this subject in a future edition of our blog.
More diorama delights, this time featuring a recent Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth release. Are these product images for you?
That’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Corgi Diecast Diaries, however, 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 could use this firstname.lastname@example.org link for all correspondence.
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 Die-cast Diaries is scheduled to be published on Friday 12th July.
The Corgi Die-cast Diaries Team
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