Part I: Corgi's 1:64-scale James Bond vehicles
by James Price, images by Doug Breithaupt
Aston Martin introduced the updated DB6 model in 1966, and Husky chose to model the new car in standard and 'Bond' editions. Although Bond drove a DB5, the DB6 had a similar appearance, except for a revised 'kammback' rear end and squared wheel-arches. The Bond car was sold along with the Batmobile and 'The Man From Uncle' models that comprised a special Husky 'Extra' series, that, in addition to extra features included an extra price of twenty cents more.
One edition of the large 1:48 Corgi model featured virtually all the
gadgets seen on the film car; however, economics prevented Husky from offering
so many features on the small version. Corgi included only one feature on
the little Husky model, but that feature was probably the most dramatic...the
ejector seat. A small button on the side released a pin that opened the
roof, which released the springing ejector seat. Each package included two
tiny passengers. Production of both the standard and Bond DB6 ended a couple
years after the demise of the Husky brand. Associated with a resurgence
in Bond's popularity, Corgi reintroduced the 007 DB6 in the late 1970's
and it remained in production into the early 1980's. By the mid-eighties,
Corgi introduced a slightly revised DB6 casting, both as a standard version
with black windows, and a new Bond version. Unfortunately, the details on
both DB6 cars were less crisp, and the grille was all black plastic instead
of plated. Worse, the ejector seat did not work very well, as the panel
did not sit flush with the roof, and the spring action weak.
Aston Martin DB6 (standard issue)
007 Aston Martin DB6
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
By 1969, Husky was Corgi Juniors, and James Bond was George Lazenby (remember him?) Instead of producing large scale versions of James Bond cars to coincide with the film 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', Corgi chose to model an array of cars in 1:64. No less than seven models were produced, which replicated cars depicted in two of the film's key chase scenes. In one film scene, Bond is rescued in Switzerland by 'Bond Girl' Tracy, who drives a red Mercury Cougar convertible. As they escape from the pursing villains driving a black Mercedes 220SE Fintail, they barge in on a winter car rally, and turn the oval track into a demolition derby.
Corgi modeled seven models in their 'Rockets' and standard range. The Rockets had a small wind up key, and were intended for use on tracks that Corgi marketed. The Bond cars included:
1). A red Cougar with a contoured convertible roof painted black and yellow plastic skis mounted to a trunk rack, and a black '007' logo on the hood (Rockets);
2). A black Mercedes 280SL coupe with 'Spectre' logos (the villains' organization). At the time, the 280SL had been an existing model in the Corgi range, and was enlisted for this series (Rockets);
3). A white Ford Escort rallye car with a number '7' on doors (Rockets);
4). A white Ford Capri rallye car with a number '6' on doors (Rockets);
5). An orange Volkswagen Beetle rallye car with a number '7' on doors and 'Corgi Toys' labels on roof, (non-Rockets).
6). and 7). one orange and one yellow bobsled as seen in the final chase
between Bond and villain Blofeld (non-Rockets);
Mercury Cougar XR7 (fire chief)
Mercedes-Benz 280SL (standard range)
Aston Martin DBS
Corgi produced standard versions of the Cougar, one in olive green (a Rockets version with a yellow plastic spoiler in place of the ski rack), as well as a sheriff's car and fire chief car, both as standard 'Whizzwheels'. Mint editions of the Bond models can be the hundreds of dollars. Incredibly, Corgi ignored a film tie-in for the most obvious Bond car: Bond's Aston Martin DBS. Corgi did model a DBS, but whether it was originally designed as a Bond car and the 007 project abandoned, or the model was in the line by coincidence, is not known.
The Spy Who Loved Me
Corgi did not produce small scale Bond models until 1977, when 'The Spy
Who Loved Me' was first screened at movie theaters. The most common model
of cars from this film was a white Lotus Esprit 'submarine' car. This car
was sold individually, as well as in a 'twin pack' with a black Bell Jet
Ranger helicopter used by the enemy. The rarest set was a five piece gift
set containing the two aforementioned models, plus a speedboat, a Chevrolet
van, and black Mercedes. The Chevrolet van was Corgi's 'all-purpose van',
which was Corgi's economical substitute for a Leyland Sherpa telephone repair
truck seen in the film. Bond and a female Russian agent conceal themselves
in the back of the van as the follow enemy henchman 'Jaws'. The Mercedes
is a substitute for the black Ford Cortina (same as Matchbox #56) that chases
Bond along roads in the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. In the film, Bond
flicks a switch, and the rear license plate folds down to reveal smalls
jets that spray concrete (actually gray-colored oatmeal concocted by the
special effects department) on the windshield of the Cortina. Corgi cleverly
spray-painted gray paint on the windshield of its Mercedes to achieve a
novel effect. Such a simple yet lovely feature.
007 Lotus Esprit Submarine
Mercedes-Benz 240 (team car version)
For Your Eyes Only
After producing a 3-inch long helicopter and space shuttle in 1979 as
a tie in to 'Moonraker', in 1981, Corgi produced a Citroen 2CV with 'For
Your Eyes Only' packaging. Though Bond drives a Lotus in the film, Corgi
chose a 2CV, probably because the French car appears in action sequences.
In the film, Bond's Lotus is blown up, and he escapes in the heroine's 2CV,
which he manages to drive skillfully to outmaneuver thugs in twin black
Peugeot 504 sedans. Corgi's model is lemon yellow with a cherry red interior,
and features opening doors. The model is slightly too large a scale; however,
it was time that the venerable 2CV was given proper tribute. Maisto seems
to have copied the Corgi model, although with round headlights, and a painted
black top to simulate the canvas top.
Citroen 2CV (standard issue)
Range Rover (standard issue)
In 1983, Corgi engineers again demonstrated their ingenuity. In the film 'Octopussy', Bond infiltrates a South American airbase by entering in a custom open top Range Rover towing a horse trailer. When Bond is caught, he escapes by entering the horsebox, which is actually a tiny mobile hangar concealing a tiny, one-man jet plane with has retracting wings. On the Corgi model, a lever on the horse box can be pushed, launching the plane from the horsebox. The model retailed for $3.95, but was not available in shops until September 1983, three months after the film's release, thus missing out on the strongest sales impact. Unlike most Corgi models, the model did not lend itself to standard versions, so this was quite an expensive toy for Corgi to design with such limited use. Today, the set is quite valuable.
The Matchbox Years
In 1985, Matchbox became the official 'model maker to James Bond', and
planned models of cars appearing in the film 'A View to a Kill'. Originally,
four models were created, with each model representing different locations
where globe-trotting Bond visits. One model was a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud
II that Bond uses when he visits a horse farm in rural France. Another model
was a blue Renault 11 (Encore in the US) taxi that Bond steals in Paris
to chase down an assassin. Two other models, based on existing castings,
reached the prototype stage, but were not released. One was a Soviet helicopter
that chases Bond in Siberia, and another was a Plymouth Gran Fury police
car with San Francisco Police Department logos. The Rolls-Royce and Renault
models were released over a month after the movie was released, and perhaps
Matchbox decided to concentrate on marketing the newly created models. Matchbox
did manufacture a blue and white Gran Fury with San Francisco PD logos,
however this model was not related to the James Bond films.
Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II (standard issue)
Renault 11 (standard issue)
'007' Aston Martin DB7 (World Class)
No Bond cars were created to tie in to the 1987 film 'The Living Daylights', however in 1989, Matchbox created James Bond cars for the film 'License to Kill'. Matchbox relied on existing castings of an oil tanker truck and pick-up from its 1-75 range, as well as a helicopter and an airplane from its 'Skybusters' range. To stay within the scope of Tales of the Toy Cars, I will focus only on the 1-75 models here. The film climax involves a chase with Kenworth Tanker trucks, hence the tractor-trailer tanker. In one sequence, Bond is being chased by villains in 1970's Dodge Ram pick up, which drive through a wall of flames, and is set ablaze. Matchbox took the existing Holden pick-up and added some crudely designed flame decals to simulate the movie sequence, albeit unconvincingly.
James Bond films went on hiatus for six years while certain legal issues were resolved, but the cars continued in his absence. In 1994, Matchbox released an Aston-Martin DB7, which was also available in its 'World Class' series, complete with painted details like lights and license plates. Though Bond did not drive this model of Aston-Martin, early editions featured a license plate reading '0 0 7', which was the only reference to Bond on either the model or packaging. This model quickly abandoned the license plate number, and one source indicates that there was a trademark problem with the filmmakers preventing use of this registration number. As a result, the model with the '007' plate is rare and valuable. A few years later, Matchbox introduced a BMW Z3, which Bond drove in the 1995 film 'Goldeneye'. Matchbox created a 'World Class' model of this car, but this time used the license plate 'JAMES'. It's obvious what the car represents, but not officially.
By the late nineties, Bond was back on the big screen, and Johnny Lightning, another name which returned after a much longer hiatus, created a series of cars based on the 007 films. In Europe, the models with marketed under the familiar 'Corgi' name. In addition to the models introduced in the late nineties, several new models are scheduled to be released soon. Next month, James Bond will return...