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  • Die-cast Commercial Vehicles by Paul Brent Adams

    Die-cast toys first appeared a little over a century ago. The first vehicles to be produced were cars, but commercial vehicles soon followed. A fleet of trucks, delivery vans, tankers, service vehicles, and mobile shops. Many of these carried the names and logos of real companies, making them some of the most colourful of all die-cast models. Often a single van or truck casting was produced in several versions, each carrying a different company name or livery.

    The British firm of Lledo produced several horse-drawn vehicles in the 1980s and 1990s. This small horse-drawn delivery van was part of a set devoted to Ringtons Tea – the rest of the models were motor vehicles. (Die-cast Commercial Vehicles, Amberley Publishng)

    Real commercial vehicles seldom receive an annual facelift the way cars do. This means that model trucks and vans do not date as rapidly as model cars, and a successful model can stay in production for long periods, with an occasional change of finish. The large, flat sides of trucks and vans giving plenty of space for colourful liveries. Some were even produced to special order for the companies concerned, as part of various promotions, hence the fact they are called promotionals. Commercial vehicle models soon became a staple of many die-cast ranges.

    While vans and pick-up trucks are often the same size as a normal car, most heavy commercials are much larger. To produce models that are not too large or expensive, manufacturers often make their commercials to a smaller scale than their model cars. Several firms also produced a range of larger and more expensive models, which allowed the heavies to be closer in scale to the cars, although most were still a little smaller. Among the leading British die-cast companies there were the Dinky Supertoys, Corgi Majors, and the Matchbox Major Pack and King Size ranges. At the opposite end of the size range, several lines of small scale models were produced as model railway accessories, such as the Hornby Dublo range, intended to complement Hornby OO model railways; or the Lilliput series, made by Britains, who were best known for their extensive range of toy soldiers. In more recent years, several lines have been devoted exclusively to Big Rigs, comprising a tractor unit and semi-trailer. With these models a limited number of different tractor units can be combined with various types of trailer, to produce a fleet of different models. Open vehicles can also be given an assortment of loads, allowing for even more variety.

    The Models of Yesteryear series by Matchbox was devoted to veteran and vintage vehicles, including this American-built Walker electric van. According to the back of the box, Harrods department store in London had a fleet of 60 for local delivery work in the 1920s. (Die-cast Commercial Vehicles, Amberley Publishng)

    As collecting die-casts became an established adult hobby, models began to be produced aimed directly at collectors. With adults, size and price were less of a factor than they were with toys aimed at children. Many of these ‘adult’ models being highly detailed, delicate, and expensive. I still prefer the various toy ranges by companies such as Matchbox. They may lack a few of the refinements of the adult collectable, but they were designed to be played with, and there is an element of fun about them that is lacking in adult models. This is why most of the models in my collection are toys. Plus, they were the types of models I once played with.

    Modern toys are also much more affordable than adult collectables. Although vintage toys in pristine condition can be extremely expensive, as few have survived without a few paint chips, and other signs of use. If you are prepared to accept the odd imperfection, and the lack of a box, even vintage models become more affordable – which explains why most of my older models do have a few chips and scratches, some were even part of my own childhood collection.

     

     

    A pair of steam powered lorries, or wagons, from the Models of Yesteryear series. Launched in 1956, the models grew larger over the years – as these two demonstrate. The 1922 Foden being far larger than the early Sentinel. (Die-cast Commercial Vehicles, Amberley Publishng)

    After discovering plastic kits in the 1970s, my die-cast toys spent a couple of decades in a box, usually under the bed, until I again began collecting die-casts in the 1990s. My collection comprises a mix of subjects, including a fair number of commercial vehicles. There are horse-drawn vehicles, a few of which survived on British roads into the 1960s; electric vehicles, used mostly for local delivery work, or inside factories and warehouses; steam power, which had been used on roads since the early nineteenth century, and lasted into the 1930s for heavy haulage; and the usual range of motor vehicles. Everything from motorcycles with a sidebox for goods and tools, to the largest lorry or tanker. There have been several ranges devoted to veteran and vintage models, and to vehicles from the early post-war years – the 1950s and 1960s. Buses and racing cars do not usually count as commercial vehicles, but these often carry advertising for various companies, products, and services, so they can be added to a collection, providing even more colour and variety. There are also a few oddballs that do not fit neatly into one of the usual categories, but these can be among the most interesting models of all. Due to the vast range of models available, most collectors specialise to some extent. Some collect only certain types of model – three-wheelers or delivery vans; a specific period, such as a favourite decade; a particular scale; or a favourite brand, such as Matchbox or Dinky. It is even possible to build a collection around a major company or product type – I tend to have a little of everything.

    One of the more modern types in the Lledo range was the Morris LD150 van from the 1950s. This example carrying colourful period-style advertising for Gibbs SR toothpaste. (Die-cast Commercial Vehicles, Amberley Publishng)

    Apart from the real vehicles, it is also possible to see the way models have developed over the years. Early die-casts were almost always all-metal, except perhaps for rubber tyres or wheels. From the 1950s onwards plastic parts have been used – plastic allowed models to be given clear windows. Today, most models are a combination of metal and plastic. During the 1950s and 1960s companies offered models with more detail, and more working features, in their efforts to increase sales. From the 1970s toys had fewer working features as manufacturers sought to cut costs. Many of the older companies either disappeared, or changed hands, but there are always new companies appearing, keeping the fleets of die-cast commercial vehicles rolling.

    Paul Brent Adams's new book Die-cast Commercial Vehicles is available for purchase now.

  • Bond Vehicle Collectibles by Paul Brent Adams

    A pair of Corgi Aston Martin DB5 models, with working ejector seats. Over the years this model has been produced in both gold and silver. (Bond Vehicle Collectibles, Amberley Publishing)

    The Bond films have always been great fun - especially all the super-spy gadgets and exotic cars. Many of these cars are available as diecast models, and you can own as many Aston Martins, Ferraris, and Rolls-Royces as you want, even on a very modest budget. I began collecting film and television related models over twenty years ago, but never set out to specialise in Bond. It is just that there are so many Bond models - literally hundreds - which anyone with an interest in film and TV models is going to end up with at least a few examples. I now have close to two hundred, which is actually rather a modest total, and the collection is still being added to. With each new film there are new releases, and an occasional new model of a vehicle from one of the older films. When I wrote my first book, Film and Television Star Cars - Collecting the Diecast Models, I had intended to include a chapter on Bond models, but the subject was simply too vast. Mr Bond needed a whole book all to himself. Actually there was a previous book on Bond models, The James Bond Diecasts of Corgi, by Dave Worrall, published in 1996. This was the first diecast book I ever bought, as a novice collector. It is very detailed, but only covers Corgi, and appeared just before Corgi and others unleashed a flood of new models.

    In his first film, Dr No (1962), Bond drove a Sunbeam Alpine. The James Bond Car Collection model is set in a detailed diorama, with a printed backdrop. (Bond Vehicle Collectibles, Amberley Publishing)

    Diecast models based on the vehicles used in films and television shows have been produced in large numbers since the 1960s, although the first examples appeared as long ago as the 1930s. They are known as Star Cars, or Character Cars. The most popular single character has been James Bond - there have been diecasts, plastic toys, plastic kits, slot cars, and remote controlled models made. The first James Bond diecast appeared in 1965: the classic, gadget-packed Aston Martin DB5 from the film Goldfinger. This was released by the British firm Corgi, and apart from a brief break in the 1980s, they have been producing Bond models ever since. Corgi would eventually produce several versions of the DB5 in various sizes, most with an array of spy gadgets - including a working ejector seat - which must have been tremendous fun for any small boy or girl (it is still tremendous fun for all ages). Corgi, and others, have produced models for all the twenty-four films made by Eon Productions, and the cartoon series James Bond Jr, but not the two non-Eon films (the 1967 version of Casino Royale with David Niven; and Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery).

    A classic villain car, the Rolls-Royce Phantom III driven by Oddjob in Goldfinger (1964). This is another model from the James Bond Car Collection. (Bond Vehicle Collectibles, Amberley Publishing)

    Most of these models tend to be of the 'glamour cars' such as the various Aston Martins, the Lotus Esprit submarine car, and the BMWs from the Pierce Brosnan era. There have been fewer models of the less exotic types, but you can still find a couple of trucks, several taxis, an electric milk float, and even the double-decker bus Bond drove in Live and Let Die. There are also a few boats and planes. By far the best source for the less common types was the James Bond Car Collection, a fortnightly partwork published by Eaglemoss that ran for over a hundred issues. Each model came in a clear plastic display case, and was set in a small diorama, depicting a scene from the film it appeared in. Most came with figures, which really helped to bring the models alive. The accompanying magazine also provided a great deal of useful information on the more obscure Bond vehicles.

    From the Real Toy Action City series: the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, seen at the beginning of Moonraker (1979). The real SCA uses an early version of the Boeing 747, but the model is based on a later production aircraft. (Bond Vehicle Collectibles, Amberley Publishing)

    Apart from the many vehicles driven by Bond himself, or his allies, there are also a number of 'villain cars' - vehicles used by Spectre and other unfriendly types. Again, these range from the exotic to the mundane. Numerous types were included in the James Bond Car Collection, while Corgi, Hot Wheels, and others have also produced several examples. There have been a number of multi-vehicle sets - some are general Bond sets with a selection of vehicles from various films, others focus on just one film. Corgi were especially fond of these sets; as was the American firm Johnny Lightning, which at one time produced a range of small scale models. Apart from all the regular models there have been a number of special issues: anniversary models in special boxes; Limited Editions of which only a fixed number are produced; and gold-plated models - actually gold chrome - although these are certainly not how the vehicles appeared on screen.

    Corgi Aston Martin V12 Vanquish from Die Another Day (2002), in gold chrome. The black plastic interior has also been detailed with gold paint. This anniversary model is a Limited Edition, only 12,000 of this version were produced. (Bond Vehicle Collectibles, Amberley Publishing)

    In some cases there are no official Bond models available of a particular vehicle, boat or plane. In order to fill these gaps in a collection it may be necessary to use a non-Bond model, which may not be in exactly the right colours or markings to depict the film vehicle. You will either have to live with this, or leave the gap unfilled until someone does produce an official Bond version. Some collectors even modify an existing model so that it matches the screen version. Plastic kits are another way of filling gaps. Some types have been modelled several times, often in different scales, while others have been modelled only once. This makes it impossible to build up a full collection of Bond vehicles to a single scale - the model you want may only have been produced to the 'wrong' scale for your collection. Again, you will either have to live with this or leave some annoying gaps in your collection. I would rather have the model.

    Paul Brent Adams' new book Bond Vehicle Collectibles is available for purchase now.

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