A Totally FAB Edition
Welcome to the latest edition of Die-cast Diaries, which is your regular insight into everything new in the world of Corgi model development. We have a special edition for you this week, as we reveal some exciting news regarding new model tooling announcements, in support of a significant 50th anniversary – this is going to be FAB!
There is nothing like a new tooling announcement to set Corgi collectors’ pulses racing and in this edition of our Die-cast Diaries blog we have news of TWO new model toolings for you. They will definitely be of great interest to collectors of a certain age but let’s set the scene a little before we confirm the identity of the new models.
Thunderbirds are GO!
Many of our readers will have grown up watching the fantastic action adventure series ‘Thunderbirds’, which first appeared on our television screens fifty years ago and managed to totally captivate generations of young people. This science fiction series featured ‘Supermarionation’ puppetry, as a way of bringing the characters to life and, although this may look quite dated in today's CGI world, it was a much loved and distinctive feature of the show back in the 1970s and 80s. Indeed, recent attempts to update the Thunderbirds series with more contemporary animation techniques, met with some rather negative reactions from a number of enthusiasts, who felt that this new technology detracted somewhat from the enjoyment of the original production. It was certainly a brave decision to attempt to update something as iconic as the original Thunderbirds programmes, but the producers were looking to combine the latest production techniques, with the ‘Supermarionation feel’ of the original filming. Clearly, change of this magnitude was always going to invite comment, but there is certainly no disputing that it was great to see Thunderbirds on our screens again.
The first UK episodes of Thunderbirds appeared on ITV in 1965, but the series has been repeated many times over the years, to the delight of viewers young and old. Interestingly, even though many of us will have extremely fond memories of this series and will probably think that it went on for years, there were actually only 32 episodes produced, but each one has very much stood the test of time – they still bring back many happy memories to this day.
The series marked the exploits of an organisation known as International Rescue, a secret group of people, who were dedicated to saving human life all over the planet and in space. They managed to do this by operating a number of technologically advanced land, sea, air and space vehicles, which are called into service when conventional rescue services simply cannot cope. The most important of these craft are known as ‘Thunderbirds’ and they absolutely captivated the youth of Britain for a great many years.
Corgi immortalise the 'Thunderbirds' in die-cast
CAD image data from the Thunderbird 1 project
There is no doubting that the Thunderbirds were an extremely important part of the lives of many British youngsters and the vehicles themselves are instantly recognisable to millions of people. It is therefore with great pride that Corgi announce a range of replica die-cast models to coincide with the 50th anniversary of this iconic television series and present a range of Thunderbird collectibles with an enduring, classic appeal.
With two classic models due to be re-issued and a further two models being tooled for the first time, the Thunderbirds are about to delight a new audience of collectors, as well as ones who will have fond memories of the classic series and the carefree days of their youth. Let’s take a closer look at the Thunderbird models that have been newly tooled and will be taking their place in the Corgi range for the very first time.
Thunderbird 1 - Arguably the most famous Thunderbird
CAD image data showing the geared wing sweep mechanism
Perhaps the most iconic craft in the Thunderbirds fleet was the sleek and colourful Thunderbird 1. A variable geometry, hypersonic rocket aircraft, Thunderbird 1 was used as a fast response, rescue zone reconnaissance and mobile control base, which could be despatched to any point on the globe in super fast time. Taking off vertically from Tracy Island itself, the aircraft was piloted by Scott Tracy and was described as a ‘First and Fast’ asset, which was to be seen in almost every episode of the Thunderbirds show. As a speedy reconnaissance aircraft, Thunderbird 1 was usually the first International Rescue aircraft to be sent to any incident, or disaster, so it could effectively assess the appropriate response needed and would then remain in the area as something of a command and control centre. As was seen in a number of Thunderbirds episodes, Thunderbird 1 was also VTOL capable and could land in a horizontal configuration.
Rendered CAD screenshots showing the swing-wing positions
As the initial response aircraft to any rescue situation, Thunderbird 1 is arguably the most famous of the International Rescue craft, particularly as it heralded the exciting start of each episode of the programme. As Scott climbed into the cockpit of his aircraft and engaged the engines, the beautifully idyllic Tracy Island would transform to accommodate the launch – the swimming pool would slide across to create the opening to allow for launch. Thunderbird 1 would engage engines and blast into the air and on to its latest adventure.
The unmistakable lines of the iconic Thunderbird 1
Obviously, as these craft were from the fertile imagination of Gerry Anderson, there is some conjecture regarding the fictional size and performance of the Thunderbirds, but it is generally accepted that Thunderbird 1 was approximately 35m in length, with a wingspan of 24m, when fully swept forwards and possessing a top speed of 15,000mph (Mach 22.6). The aircraft was required to reach any point on earth within one hour's flight time, to quickly coordinate the International Rescue response.
Thunderbird 3 - Red for space rescue
CAD images from the new Thunderbird 3 model
Many of us will remember Thunderbird 3 as being perhaps the least used of the International Rescue craft. It was a rather enigmatic and futuristic looking red coloured rocket, which was again stored and operated from beneath Tracy Island. Usually piloted by Alan Tracy, Thunderbird 3 was a re-useable, SSTO (Single Stage To Orbit) rocket space ship, which was used for space rescue and as a service ship for the orbiting space station Thunderbird 5. It was also seen as a high-speed escort for the massive Zero X aircraft, at the beginning of the feature episode ‘Thunderbirds are Go’.
CAD images from the new Thunderbird 3 model
When required, the rocket would be launched from Tracy Island, passing through the ‘Round House’, before blasting off and into space. Thunderbird 3 was powered by chemical rockets for lift-off, and power boost when necessary, and used an ion drive propulsion system for space flight.
Again, the fictional size of the craft is generally accepted as being approximately 87m in length, with a fuselage width of 7m and a full span of 24m, when including the rocket engines. It is said that inspiration for the design of Thunderbird 3 reputedly came from the famous Soviet Soyuz space rocket system.
Beautiful rendered CAD screenshot of the Soyuz inspired Thunderbird 3
Both Thunderbirds 1 and 3 are available to pre-order now. Offered together in a twin pack, we are hoping to release these new tooling models before Christmas.
Development of two Thunderbird classics
Just as the producers of the recent television re-make of the Thunderbirds series experienced, when you are dealing with such an iconic brand as this, you really do have to think carefully about what you are looking to achieve. The Corgi Development team would have to start from scratch with their new Thunderbird 1 and 3 projects, but clearly wanted to remain faithful to the classic design of these much loved aircraft.
Development CAD data from the Thunderbirds project
With a number of existing Thunderbird collectibles already in the market, the team decided to reverse engineer their new models to fit with the Tracy Island diorama set, that is already owned by so many collectors of the series. This means that the new models are not engineered to a specific scale, but rather produced to a design scale.
Exciting times! The Thunderbird 1 First Shot sample arrives at Corgi HQ for evaluation
Utilising the powerful computer design programmes used in all of their latest model projects, base model files were produced, which allowed the designers to work on every aspect of the new models' design and construction, in some detail. Once they are happy with the digital model files, they will be sent to the Far East for costing evaluation by the manufacturing company, to assess whether the new models will come within strict budgetary requirements. Hopefully, everything will be passed and the model can progress to the next stage, where it really begins to come to life – the designers will produce a 3D resin stereo sample, which will be used to check every aspect of the proposed new model, from the shape, to the physical dimensions. By their nature, these resin samples are extremely accurate models in their own right and they will be used as a template for the production of the model tooling itself.
First Shot sample from the new Thunderbird 3 tooling
The entire process from research and digital file creation, to first metal shot from the tooling itself, can take many months to complete and it is always an exciting time when the first metal sample arrives at the Corgi Head Office for evaluation. Even though there will still be much work to do, the project now seems much more alive and development can begin to gather pace.
First Shot samples of the new Thunderbird model toolings
This is also usually the stage that the project becomes available for announcement to the collector market, or inclusion in the latest catalogue and from the series of images included above and below, you can see that this is where we currently are with the Thunderbirds project at the moment. In a future edition of Die-cast Diaries, we look forward to bringing you further images of the pre-production Thunderbird models, as this exciting project advances towards release.
Thunderbirds are almost GO! An interesting collection on the Corgi Development desk
Thunderbird 2 and FAB 1 join the party
We have even more great news for fans of the classic Thunderbirds series, in this significant 50th anniversary year – our new models will have company. Some of the best loved models in the Corgi back catalogue will be re-issued, at the same time as the two new tooling releases we have announced above, as Corgi look to mark the Thunderbirds anniversary in some style.
Catalogue image of the classic re-issued Thunderbird 2 and pod
Thunderbird 2 is probably the most interesting of the International Rescue craft, as it was the heavy duty transport aircraft and carried one of six large equipment pods to any rescue area. Piloted by Virgil Tracy, Thunderbird 2 was a large, green VTOL transport craft, which was totally different to the sleek Thunderbirds 1 and 3, but it’s almost whale-like appearance made it instantly recognisable to millions of Thunderbirds fans all over the world.
When you add the fantastic machines that could be lurking within the rescue pod it was carrying, you have an irresistible combination that made Thunderbird 2 arguably the best-loved Thunderbird of them all. Again launched from the main Tracy Island base, Thunderbird 2 (and attached pod) would emerge from beneath the main building structure, once the disguised rock-face door had been lowered and the palm trees had folded outwards, to allow the aircraft to move forward. It would then taxi to a launch ramp, which would be raised, allowing the craft to blast into the sky and on to its latest mission.
Adding a touch of class to proceedings, International Rescue agent Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward would use FAB 1 to conduct her business in some style. This pink six-wheeled Rolls-Royce was usually driven by her trusty chauffeur Parker and even though this looked like perhaps the most benign vehicle to appear in the Thunderbirds adventure programmes, you messed with FAB 1 at your peril. Featuring an aircraft style, single sliding canopy, FAB 1 was bristling with weapons and gadgets and Parker was well used to using them to maximum effect, in the protection of his ‘M’ Lady’.
A touch of Thunderbird class - Lady Penelope's FAB 1
These classic Corgi toolings will be re-issued as part of this fantastic Thunderbirds range, with the Design team looking closely at all the reference material available to them, ensuring they get the decoration of these iconic models as accurate as possible.
What's on the Desk?
Despite all the excitement surrounding Thunderbirds we have managed to find this pre-production sample in our latest sweep of the Design team desk at Corgi HQ, which is sure to be of interest to our Original Omnibus collectors.
Pre-production sample of Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bus OM46507A/B
This handsome Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 bus is wearing the livery of Delaine Buses of Lincolnshire. This family run business can trace its origins back to 1890, when they used horse-drawn vehicles to transport local people to markets in the surrounding area. Their first motor bus was introduced in 1919 and daily services around the Bourne to Peterborough route were established by 1923.
The current fleet of 27 buses includes this attractive two-tone blue and white Wright Eclipse Gemini 2, which will be a common sight on the roads around Bourne and Peterborough.
New models galore! A crowded Corgi Development desk
To end this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries, we simply had to include this final image. It shows just how interesting a place the Design team desk at Corgi can be – from this image, I think it is safe to say that Thunderbirds are definitely GO!
That’s it for another FAB edition. If there is something that you would particularly like to see covered in a future Die-cast Diaries, please let us know!
Until the next edition of Die-cast Diaries, enjoy your collecting!
The Corgi Team
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