In March I went down to the Swansea factory of Mettoy, to see on the productionline their new Giant Corgi replica of a 1973 Lotus 72 GP car. Corgi haye made this larger scale model because this size is popular in Europe and not, they assure me, because Meccano Dinky have introduced a bigger 1 : 25 scale model of the Ford Capri. Corgi Juniors are to a scale of I : 72 and normal Corgi cars to I : 42 and I : 46 scale. But the giant Corgi, the Lotus, or the JPS, as they refer to it, is to 1 : 18 scale, an impressive size until you remember the pre-war P2 Alfa Romeo and Citroen models.
Mettoy model in Mazak, a zinc alloy. Other components are plastic injected moulded. Corgi car miniatures call for wheels of from 1/2 in. to 3 in. in diameter, in some ten intermediate sizes, and they are automatically put onto their axles.
I was surprised at the extent of the Mettoy works at Swansea, which might well have been producing full-size cars in mass-produced quantity. In fact, in making minute parts and small toys, the methods of the Motor Industry are closely followed, to the extent of automation and spray-painting, etc. Castings are put into rotating barrels to give a good finish for painting, so that another hand-operation is obviated. Before painting, the plastic mouldings and metal castings are hung on wire jigs that move slowly through the paint booths, where electrostatic and air-jet paint is applied. A few tricky parts are hand painted. Before this they have, of course, been degreased in a cold-rinse, phosphated, and again cold-rinsed.
Final finishing of Corgi miniatures embraces things like silk-screen printing and the attachment of suitable transfers. Assembly of the new Lotus 72 Giant Corgi is done by a team of girls, the assembled cars being tested for free running down a ramp, turned round if they are satisfactory, then packed into cartons and put onto a long belt-conveyor that takes these to the final dispatch bay. The number of operators in each assembly group depends on the complexity of the model being produced. The girls sticking on the transfers need good eyesight and steady hands, and some models require highly skilled hand-lining. The “Texaco” transfer which goes round the cockpit front of the Lotus model is actually in three parts, to ensure adhesion. The racing numbers, mirror “glasses” and JPS decals (19 transfers in all) are put on at this stage.
As I have said, the size of the Mettoy operation is very impressive, the Swansea factory having a floor-area of 500,000 sq. ft. and employing 3,000 operatives. Mr. Tony Norton, the Director and General Manager of the Swansea plant, who is a broad-shouldered giant who addresses you as “Squire”, and who had but five minutes to devote to the Press, told me that a Corgi Junior contains about six individual parts and a normal-sized Corgi approximately fifteen. There are, respectively, a range of 50 and 90 variants, which adds up to an output of a million “pieces”, as each toy is called, a week! Incidentally, Mettoy is a very democratic place, the Directors lunching frugally in the ordinary works canteen, at a small table of their own, no alcohol passing their lips—remarkable!
The design work and programming of the intricate jigs are done at Northampton.
As for the new Giant Corgi Lotus 72 model itself, it is a bigger-than-miniature miniature to warm the cockles of Colin Chapman’s heart. It carries No. 1, as so often worn last season by Fittipaldi, and the silver valve covers of the Ford-Cosworth engine shine above correctly bent, golden-hued exhaust stacks. This is not a working replica, so the suspension and rear aerofoil will not move, and although the wide road wheels spin freely, the front ones do not steer. But the result is impressive, the model measuring 10.1/2 in. x 2.1/5 in. x 5.1/5 in. Emerson is strapped in the cockpit, hands on the steering wheel, and each model comes with a tool-kit containing a spanner for the wheelnuts, the wheels being detachable, spare nuts, and some Ronnie Peterson transfers. No. 190 in the Giant Corgi listing, the model is not recommended for young children because of its small accessories but should please many grown-ups, while I bet Chapman is envious of the high rate of production. The Corgi Lotus sells for £2.50. In smaller size Corgi now have replicas of several of the 1973 Fl cars and they tell me they had no financial encouragement from JPs over introduction of the Lotus, nor do they pay royalties to any racingcar manufacturer.
Grand Prix Models of Radlett have introduced a die-cast metal kit of a Ferrari “Breadvan”, which sells for £3.30 plus 20p postage.
Auto Replicas of Parkstone announce a Morgan Plus-8 miniature of screw-together construction, with rubber tyres and steel axles, in which the front and rear suspension is correctly modelled and, moreover, works. It sells for £3. Future models from Auto Replicas will be a Porsche 356 Speedster and a 1938 Tatra Type 77a saloon.—W.B.
Following a letter about March models in “Vintage Postbag”, we have received the following letter about these now scarce models: –
From His Grace the Duke of Richmond
I was so interested to read the letter from Mr. Goulburn and to see the photograph of the March Model GP Mercedes.
I wonder if a little more of the background of this enterprise might be of any interest? I was a wildly keen model-maker from childhood and was later introduced to a very Pleasant Mr. Seldon. This was in the midthirties during that slump (oh yes! those of us in our dotage have seen all this before, you know !) and he was looking for a job.
Saying he was a model maker too, I thought what fun to make up some models for enthusiasts and accordingly bought him a very primitive set of tools. I believe the only “advanced” piece of equipment was a treadle fret-saw! And he disappeared with these and one of my own “half models” to try his hand.
He returned in a few days with a really splendid replica and I could see that he had all the skill and ingenuity the work demanded.
Very shortly I turned him and self into a small company March Models Ltd. and installed him in a tiny flat over the Little Grosvenor Mews car service garage of my Kevill-Davies & March Ltd. activity in Berkeley St., WI.
With the addition of a boy, who also became highly skilled, we turned out a number of special commissions. Models for many of the racing drivers, a Motor Show display of a line of pits cars and drivers for Shell-Mex, and a large model of the singleseater Austin Seven record breaker for the Oxford St. Austin showrooms. Seldon turned out some brilliant work and even my friend Rex Hayes tells me he was considerably urged by our efforts, furthermore if anyone knows anything about model car making he certainly does!
The little Mere in the picture was one of our first sallies into castings. Yes, they were rather expensive, as you say, Mr. Editor, but the work was real artistry. Let anyone who doubts it contemplate making a wirewheel the size of a 2p coin. This, of course, was long before the ensuing and present age of all these brilliantly produced kits for assembly. Maybe we should have stayed in business a little longer, but Hitler, rather than Gormley, intervened. At a later stage Mr. Seldon went to Lagonda at Staines, where he modelled experimental designs for W. O. Bentley.
The affairs of March Models Ltd. would have been highly approved of by that odd section of society which regards the word “profit” as a dirty word, for apart from keeping Mr. Seldon’s wolf a few feet from his door such profit as there was consisted purely of model mania and a love of craftsmanship.
London, W2 Richmond.