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The colour of war and the world’s worst car

The colour of war and the world’s worst car

As the previous edition of Corgi Die-cast Diaries was delayed by one week to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Captain Scarlet and the very first International Thunderbirds Day, Edition 31 gets us back on track with our latest look at the fascinating world of Corgi Die-cast. In this instalment, we take a closer look at one of the recent releases in the Aviation Archive range and see how the attention to detail of our research team has produced a historically accurate representation of an RAF Ace’s aircraft of the Second World War, including some detail which has caused a little confusion amongst some collectors.

We continue our series of Vanguards 21 features with a look at a particular model tooling which has presented us with a 1/43rd scale example of a vehicle which earned a less than salubrious reputation, one which many motoring enthusiasts feel may be a little unjust. We also get a little shaken, but most definitely not stirred as we celebrate the arrival of our James Bond Collection of models, before ending with the welcome return of our popular ‘What’s on the desk’ feature, where we look at some of the latest pre-production sample models to arrive at Corgi HQ. As usual, there is a lot to tell you about, so let’s head for the deserts of North Africa and a largely forgotten theatre of WWII air operations.


Duke of the Desert

Profile artwork used to support the release of RAF Tomahawk AA28103


Since the inception of the Aviation Archive range, collectors all over the world have been able to combine their love of aeroplanes with the collecting of quality scale die-cast representations of some of the most significant aircraft in the history of flight. Combining the appealing weight of a die-cast model, with the ease and appeal of a fully finished model which is ready to be displayed, enjoyed and collected, the range was an instant success and remains incredibly popular to this day. For the Corgi research team, not only do they have the challenging task of developing the model tooling itself, they must also thoroughly research each and every individual livery suggested for inclusion in the range and ensure everything proceeds as intended whilst the model navigates its way through development and pre-production, towards eventual release. Fortunately, we are able to call upon the skills of some very talented people in this regard.

This depth of research has been highlighted recently with the release of the latest 1/72nd scale Curtiss Tomahawk IIB (AA28103), depicting a particularly aggressive looking aircraft which was part of the Desert Air Force and flown by one of the RAF's most celebrated ace pilots of the Second World War, Neville Duke. The model comes complete with a historically accurate RAF Azure blue paint patch, which extends up the rear port side of the aircraft underneath the squadron code ‘F’, but has caused some concern amongst a number of collectors over the past couple of weeks. Fearing their model may have a paint defect, a handful of people have contacted our customer services to seek clarification and we thought it would be a good idea to feature this issue and the research that took place in support of the model in this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries.


These detailed artwork guides are produced at the outset of each new Aviation Archive project


When bringing our beloved Aviation Archive models to the collector market, the Corgi development team have quite a task in ensuring everything proceeds as planned across the entire catalogue range. The Aviation Archive range has a proud heritage in producing stunning representations of aircraft that took part in the aerial duels of the Second World War and whilst they have access to an extensive research library and can call on the services of several aviation experts, the corroboration of information regarding wartime aircraft can be both challenging and time consuming. It has to be remembered that the world was at war and the noting of particular aircraft colour shades, markings and paint stock inventories was very much of secondary importance, when the only thing that mattered was having your aircraft and pilots ready for action. With many wartime photographs being taken using black and white film, obtaining definitive corroborating evidence for any aircraft scheme, or modelling project can be difficult and may rely on personal accounts and recollections which have been handed down over the years.


One of a number of authentic wartime photographs showing Tomahawk AK402 after Neville Duke had successfully force-landed the aircraft on the desert floor


Fortunately, that was not the case with the subject of this release, Curtiss Tomahawk IIB AK402, which was engaged in fighting Axis air forces in North Africa towards the end of 1941 and one of the first Tomahawks flown by future ace Neville Duke in combat. Over the years, researchers have unearthed more information about this particular aircraft, probably due to the fact that it was the mount of one of the leading RAF aces of WWII and an aviation celebrity in the years following the war. Tomahawk AK402 (GA-F) was delivered to the RAF wearing a US factory applied dark green/dark earth and DuPont light grey camouflage scheme and was repainted by RAF ground crews using British paint stocks whilst in the field. This would have been applied freehand, using a spray gun and standard dark earth/mid stone and Azure blue colours applied to RAF aircraft operating in this theatre. As was the nature of war, aircraft that suffered superficial, reparable damage during operations were simply patched up in the field and prepared for the next day’s operations, which seems to have been the case with this particular Tomahawk. The patch of azure paint extending up the rear port fuselage and on top of the existing camouflage was probably applied to cover a combat repair, but crucially, photographic evidence of this exists and has been widely circulated over the years. Duke and his Tomahawk were shot down by a Luftwaffe ace and after performing a successful forced landing, managed to avoid capture and make his way back to British lines. The downed fighter was later photographed by the victorious German pilot, before being abandoned and left to the desert sands and baking heat.       


Sharks over the desert. Pilots of the Desert Air Force were fighting for their lives over this unforgiving landscape


The Curtiss P-40 series of fighters may not be regarded amongst the most successful of WWII, but as Europe fell to the advancing Wehrmacht and Britain and her Commonwealth fought to stem the German tide, it is difficult to think of a more important aircraft on both sides of the Atlantic.  A capable and well-built fighter, the Curtiss P-40 was easy to maintain and operate and relatively cheap to produce – crucially, it was in full scale production by the time WWII began.  Despite the fact that the Curtiss P-40 was one of the most advanced American fighters in service at the outbreak of WWII, it would be the Royal Air Force that gave the aircraft its combat introduction.  Early RAF Tomahawks (the British name for the P-40B) were not deemed suitable for fighter operations against the Luftwaffe and were initially used in Army cooperation and reconnaissance roles, operating from bases in the UK.  The RAF made a number of suggestions to Curtiss following their experiences with these early machines and a number of improvements were incorporated into the next aircraft deliveries.  This resulted in the Desert Air Force receiving Tomahawks in 1941 as replacements for their Hurricanes and being hurled into battle against Axis air forces.

It was also in the desert that the RAF Tomahawks became some of the most famous aircraft of the entire war, as No.112 Squadron pilots painted sinister looking shark's teeth and eyes behind the propellers of their P-40s, giving the aircraft an extremely aggressive appearance.  The profile of these early RAF Tomahawks really does resemble that of a shark, a fact that was fully exploited by the pilots of the Desert Air Force.  Impressed by magazine pictures of these RAF flying sharks, the famous American Volunteer Group ‘Flying Tigers’ soon added sharks teeth designs to their own P-40s as they battled Japanese aircraft in the skies above China.


 This pre-production sample image shows the position of the Azure blue paint section on the rear of the Tomahawk


This particular Curtiss Tomahawk was the mount of famous RAF pilot Neville Duke, who was posted to No.112 Squadron in North Africa following a successful spell as Wing Commander ‘Sailor’ Malan’s wingman at Biggin Hill.  Used to flying the Spitfire Mk.V, Duke initially found the Tomahawk to be something of a disappointment in combat and was shot down twice during his first few weeks in the desert.  Flying Tomahawk IIB AK402, he was shot down on 30th November 1941 by high scoring JG27 ace Otto Schulz, but managed to crash land his aircraft and return to his Squadron.  He soon got to grips with the desert air war and started to score victories of his own – by the end of the war, Duke became the highest scoring Allied ace in the Mediterranean Theatre, with 27 victories to his name.  He also went on to become a celebrated test pilot and holder of the world air speed record.  

Bringing the story of Neville Duke to a rather poignant end, this RAF hero and accomplished test pilot was forced to auction his medals and flying memorabilia due to worries about his financial security in later life and to help pay for a hip operation for his wife – such a shame for a man who gave so much for his nation.

The Aviation Archive release of Neville Duke’s Desert Air Force Curtiss Tomahawk IIB AK402 (AA28103) is now available from the Corgi website and from your usual Corgi supplier.  


A future ‘Star of Afrika’

Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 ‘White 14’ AA28003 was the mount of arguably the world’s most gifted fighter ace


Before we leave the current Aviation Archive model range, collectors with an interest in Luftwaffe subject matter and the aircraft of WWII in general will be looking forward to the release of Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 ‘White 14’ later in the year. This aircraft is fascinating for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it was the mount of arguably the most gifted fighter pilot of all time, Hans Joachim Marseille. Later to be known as the famed ‘Star of Afrika’, Marseille flew his first combat missions during the savage dogfights of the Battle of Britain and whilst clearly a gifted pilot, he quickly earned a reputation for indiscipline both in the air and on the ground. Preferring to fight alone, Marseille angered his squadron mates by doing his own thing in combat and whilst his victory tally began to rise, he was losing as many of his own aircraft as he was claiming – one Luftwaffe commander is reported to have said that if Marseille destroyed one more Messerschmitt, he would be considered a British ace!


Profile artwork featuring Marseille’s famous Battle of Britain Messerschmitt


Although Marseille would go on to earn accolades from fellow fighter pilots of all nations, it is the relatively unknown period of his Battle of Britain service which is of interest to us here and specifically his use of Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 ‘White 14’ during the conflict. This magnificent aircraft, which is a must for Battle of Britain enthusiasts, was later sent to fight on the Eastern Front, where it was shot down by the Red Air Force and lay undiscovered in the vast Russian Steppe for many years. Recovered by a Warbird collector many years later, this aircraft and its unique history underwent restoration to flying condition and displayed for many years on the US Airshow circuit. Currently based at Biggin Hill, it was hoped that ‘White 14’ would be the star of this year’s Flying Legends Airshow at Duxford, with the aircraft even making it in to the show listing and having a full feature in the programme. Unfortunately, this did not happen and UK enthusiasts will have to wait a little longer to see this Battle of Britain veteran flying in the skies above Britain once more.

Proving to be an extremely popular addition to the current Aviation Archive range, this magnificent model is now scheduled for a December release, surely finding its way under many a tree this coming festive season. To ensure you can add Marseille’s Messerschmitt to your collection, please speak to your usual Corgi supplier, or head for the Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 ‘White 14’ page on the Corgi website.   



Was this really the worst car of all time?



Image - Creative Commons


In this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries, we continue our popular Vanguards 21 series of features in slightly unusual fashion, by looking at a model which first joined the Vanguards range in 2000 and marked a very famous, or rather infamous product of the British motoring industry – the Austin Allegro. This small family car was a regular sight on Britain’s roads throughout the 70s and 80s and many of our readers will surely remember it as a pretty normal looking average family car, if a little unspectacular. Over recent years, the car has come in for some rather specific criticism and has been described in a number of magazine and on-line polls as the worst car of all time – in this instalment of Vanguards 21, we are asking if that title is a little harsh, or are we looking through rose-tinted headlights?


A trio of Allegros - it appears that for some people, this would not be a welcome sight


First announced in the summer of 1973, the Austin (British Leyland) Allegro was designed to be a modern replacement for the Austin 1100 and 1300 models, but a desire to keep costs to an absolute minimum constrained the design team in what they were allowed to incorporate into the new model. Forced to use components designed for use in existing British vehicles and not allowed to go down the route of a hatchback profile, which was becoming a popular feature of many European motor manufacturers, the Allegro adopted a more conservative, traditional design and was aimed at the mass market. Although the car has since inherited a host of unwanted motoring disapproval, when the Allegro was originally launched, it did not seem to attract any undue criticism from either the public or the motoring press and sales were relatively strong, with the Allegro regularly appearing in the list of top selling cars in the six years following its launch.


VA45000 was the first release of the Austin Allegro in the Vanguards range


Always described as a car suffering from a lack of development, stories of the Allegro’s indifferent build quality and reliability soon began to circulate and design features such as the strange square or ‘Quartic’ steering wheel began to raise a few eyebrows. However, for many people old enough to remember the car on Britain’s roads, or even who had a family member who owned one, they never actually seemed to be anything other than an ordinary car and certainly not one that would attract such vitriol in the years that followed. Look in to the history of the Allegro and you will certainly not have to delve too deep before the spiteful comments and condemnation of the car come to the surface – comments such as ‘more aerodynamic going backwards than forwards’ and the ‘All-aggro’ are commonplace, but the car is also described as something of a ‘beacon for everything that was bad about British car manufacturing in the seventies’.

Despite this, over 642,000 Allegros were sold in a production run which lasted nine years and even though very few people seem to have anything nice to say about it, the Corgi team feel that it may have been unfairly labelled as Britain’s worst car and at some angles actually looks fine – in the interest of balance, perhaps that may be because none of us have actually owned, or even driven one.


Vanguards Allegro joins the discussion

Released in 2000, this Harvest Gold Allegro was the first model from this new tooling


As a famous vehicle on Britain’s roads, it was always likely that a model of the Austin Allegro would be introduced to the Vanguards range at some point and that event occurred with the release of the 2000 Vanguards range and Corgi ownership of the brand. The first release VA45000 presented the collector with an Allegro finished in Harvest Gold and whilst this uninspiring colour seems to underline everything unflattering that is said about the car, the pictures above show that this is actually rather an attractive little model and a worthy addition to any Vanguards collection. The certificate description which accompanied the release stated – First produced in 1973, the Austin Allegro ran until 1983, when total production had reached 642,350 vehicles. Available in two or four door saloon and two door estate versions, the Allegro was powered by a 998cc, 1098cc or 1257cc engine. Uniquely shaped and featuring a Hydragas suspension, it was eventually replaced by the Maestro.


A much sportier looking Allegro which actually looks rather appealing


With many releases now in the series, the Vanguards Allegro is certainly not regarded as anything other than a valuable addition to the range and has included family cars, police vehicles and Allegros presented in motorsport livery amongst their number. Again, appearing to fly in the face of any car criticism, VA04505 features a rather attractive vehicle which has been prepared for motorsport and looks significantly different to a standard family car. Taken from the 2001 range, VA04505 ‘Patrick Motors’ is described as – Between 1974 and 1977, the Allegro was developed by British Leyland engineering for the purpose of motorsport. The car was rallied by Don Kettleborough from BL Engineering (who was mainly responsible for any modifications) and Mike Soames. In 1994, the car was sold at auction into private ownership (Paul and Vernon Foster) and has been rebuilt to its original rally specification.


VA04505 was the Patrick Motors motorsport release of the Austin Allegro


We think you will agree that the pictures used to illustrate this feature show that the Austin Allegro was certainly not a disgusting car and actually looks quite appealing from a British motoring history perspective, even in its less than inspiring Harvest Gold colour scheme. It would be interesting to hear from readers that may have owned one of these much-maligned vehicles to see what their opinion is on the Allegro and also from Vanguards collectors, to gain their opinion on the car and its place in their collection.


Was the Austin Allegro really as bad as history appears to be judging it?


We look forward to continuing our drive through the Vanguards range in our 21st Anniversary year in the next edition of Die-cast Diaries. 



‘Bring it back in one piece, Bond’

The latest collection of fantastic James Bond vehicles is here


Fans of the world’s most famous fictional British Secret Service agent will be delighted with the news that our fantastic collection of 007 models are now available and mark some of the most iconic vehicles to appear in Bond films. Each of the six models are presented in the distinctive packaging featured above and commemorate a vehicle that appeared in one of six James Bond films.


Each one of these new models depicts a classic Bond vehicle in distinctive collector packaging


Corgi’s association with James Bond goes back to 1965, when the company won the ‘Toy of the Year’ award for the iconic model of the ‘Goldfinger’ Aston Martin DB5. Since then, Corgi has regularly released models that have featured in 007’s adventures, right up to the unique Aston Martin DB10 which featured in ‘Spectre’. This relationship has continued with the release of this latest series, with six new 007 models, all featuring attractive new collector packaging and immortalising such memorable Bond vehicles as the classic DB5 from ‘Goldeneye’, to the diminutive, yet highly capable ‘Little Nellie’ from ‘You Only Live Twice’, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary year. All these latest models can be viewed on our dedicated James Bond 007 page on the Corgi website and this fantastic series of models are available now, either on-line of from your usual Corgi stockist.



What’s on the Desk

We end this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries by featuring some of the latest pre-production sample models that have arrived on the development desks at Corgi HQ and are therefore approaching their actual release date. Always a popular section of our blog, these models play an important role in the production of any Corgi model release and whilst they are usually the final stage of checking before a model is released for production, we always have to include the caveat that they are still at the sample stage and may still require some alteration before they advance to the production stage. We know that our readers love to see these models, so here is the latest selection:


VA12204 Ford Sierra XR4i Strato Silver



Ford launched the high performance XR4i for sale in Spring 1983, almost six months after the Sierra range had been announced. Its unique ‘six-light’ body and ‘bi-plane’ rear spoiler were inspired by Ford’s ‘Sierra teaser’, the concept car Probe III, which the then Ford of Europe Chairman Bob Lutz felt was truer to the Sierra’s ‘future aerodynamic’ styling theme. The manual XR4i modelled here was built in Genk, Belgium in June 1983 and dispatched to Ford dealers Trimoco of Chelmsford. Current owner, Essex based Peter Rymill, bought the car in August 1985 when it had completed 11,000 miles. Although it’s now covered over 55,000 miles, he has kept it in superb original condition.

VA12204 Ford Sierra XR4i Strato Silver is currently expected to arrive in November.


OM46513A Original Omnibus Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Shuttle Bus


Anyone who has ever visited the superb Harry Potter Studio Tour exhibition at Leavesden, near Watford will have undoubtedly seen one of these beautifully presented Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 buses, which shuttle thousands of visitors to and from the tour site each day. Ensuring that the excitement begins as soon as you see the bus arriving, it has come as no surprise that our 1/76th scale model reproduction of this bus has been a resounding success, as Potter fans and Studio Tour visitors all clamoured for an example of this distinctive model. With the original model selling out in super quick time, we have introduced this new model to the range in an attempt to satisfy collector demand and ensure that this high-profile piece of Harry Potter memorabilia is available to more studio tour visitors.

OM46513A Original Omnibus Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Shuttle Bus is currently expected in November.


CS90690 Limited Edition RAF Red Arrows Synchro Pair set


The distinctive red Hawk trainers of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Display Team ‘The Red Arrows’ are arguably amongst the most famous aircraft in the world and are a source of national pride for all British people. It is therefore hardly surprising that this magnificent Showcase ‘Synchro Pair’ set is one of the most difficult Corgi models to keep in stock for any retailer and is always in high demand with collectors both young and old. These delightful little metal models are a fantastic way to recreate the dynamic opposition manoeuvres of the Synchro Pair at Airshows all over the world and news that these popular models are soon to be back in stock will see a deluge of ordering activity, particularly with the festive season just around the corner.

CS90690 Limited Edition RAF Red Arrows Synchro Pair set is currently expected to arrive in December.


To check the latest release information regarding these and all future Corgi models, please head for the individual model listings on the Corgi website, or our dedicated Coming Soon page, which is updated regularly.



‘Break, Break, GO!’


That’s all we have for you in this latest bumper edition of Die-cast Diaries, which we hope you found interesting and informative. If you would like to suggest a subject to be covered in a future edition of our blog, or send us pictures of your own Corgi model collection, please contact us via our usual diecastdiaries@corgi.co.uk e-mail address.

If social media is more your style, we also have our Die-Cast Diaries forum as well as our popular Facebook and Twitter accounts – please use the  #CorgiDiecastDiaries when posting. We look forward to enjoying all the latest Corgi discussions.


Thank you for your continued support and happy collecting.

The Corgi Team


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