Corgi Die Cast Vehicles
Synopsis of Toy
"The First With Windows."
Die-cast vehicles are some of the most reliably and consistently popular toys in the world of toy collecting. Since the 1930’s, these items have been prized by collectors young and old because they are truly built to last. Successful die-cast toy designers strive for a high level of quality and detail and the result are toys that can be enjoyed for many generations. A great example of this kind of success in the die-cast toy world is provided by Corgi Toys, a company that has been a success since rolling out their first die-cast cars in the mid-1950’s. They became a worldwide success thanks to a combination of craftsmanship and innovation that keep them as popular as ever today.
Corgi die-cast vehicles hail from Wales in the United Kingdom and they take their name from a breed of Welsh dog. Corgi die-cast toys were first manufactured in the early 1950’s, but their roots extended back to the 1930’s in the form of a company known as Mettoy Limited. This company produced a small line of die-cast vehicles starting in 1934. They had to suspend the production of these toys during the mid-1940’s due to World War II, as they were called upon to produce items for the war effort. In 1949, they returned to the business of making die-cast vehicles.
As the 1950’s began, Mettoy Limited began plotting a new line of die-cast toys that could compete with the English die-cast toy king, Dinky Toys. For this purpose, they employed Marcel Van Kleemput to draw and design new toy cars that would set the die-cast world on its collective ear. By 1956, the first Corgi die-cast vehicles were ready for the British marketplace. They stood out from other die-cast vehicles because they were the first to use clear plastic in the vehicles to create windshields and windows. Appropriately, they were marketed with the slogan “The First With Windows.”
In 1957, Corgi produced their first catalog and began advertising their vehicle toys on television. The company went on to sell over two million toys, and their success encouraged them to press on with new innovations for their die-cast toys. They introduced detailed plastic interiors and spring suspension for their die-cast vehicles in 1959. These realistic touches helped Corgi become the die-cast vehicle of choice for collectors. Corgi also began sending a Display Van stocked with their latest toys to trade shows and racetracks in 1959 to heighten the company’s public profile.
As Corgi Toys moved into the 1960’s, their innovations in the die-cast vehicle toy world increased by leaps and bounds. By the mid-1960’s, it wasn’t uncommon for Corgi die-cast toys to features such novel elements as trunks that opened to reveal luggage, front hoods that housed finely-detailed engine blocks, and removable plastic tops for convertible models like the E-Type Jaguar. Battery-powered headlights and taillights were also introduced during this time. The company also began to develop smaller pocket-sized cars known as Husky cars (the brand would later be renamed Corgi Jr.). The success of these small cars led to the creation of Rockets, special small cars with fast wheels designed especially for racetracks.
In 1965, Corgi moved into the arena of licensed toys by releasing a die-cast version of the Aston Martin DB-5, the car driven by Agent 007 in the James Bond movies. Like its feature film inspiration, this attractive die-cast car featured a working ejection seat. Corgi went on to produce cars based on vehicles used in the television shows Batman, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and The Avengers. Like other Corgi cars, these vehicles featured a wealth of fine detail. In 1968, Corgi produced a car inspired by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that has become one of the most-desired Corgi collectibles.
Corgi Toys continued to produce attractive die-cast vehicles throughout the 1970’s. By this time, they had consolidated the innovations of their early models and began to concentrate on eye-catching visual designs. The end result was a rise in licensing-inspired vehicles, including cars for everyone from Kojak to Dastardly and Muttley. The James Bond Aston Martin DB-5 and Batmobile continued to be reliable sellers. In 1976, the company introduced a new novelty: a series of 4-inch cars dubbed Corgi Cubs. As the decade came to a close, Corgi turned to comic-book characters for new inspiration and produced a series of vehicles inspired by Marvel comics characters like Spider-Man, the Green Goblin, and the Hulk.
In the early 1980’s, Corgi ran into financial trouble and the original company ended up closing its doors in 1983. However, the company returned the next year with new management and rebuilt itself quickly. During this time, Corgi set its eyes on the collectors market and formed a special Corgi Collector’s club to court them. The new club quickly became an international success. Corgi extended their success even further at the end of the decade when they decided to accept a buyout offer from Mattel Toys. This allowed the company to develop new lines of toys on an international basis, the most notable being Corgi Classics. This line concentrated on classic vehicles, especially those from the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Today, having returned to their original private-company status, Corgi Toys continue to represent a high standard of excellence in the die-cast toy world. They celebrated their 40th anniversary in 1996 and continue to produce a variety of vehicles, including licensed vehicles for characters and celebrities ranging from Mr. Bean to The Beatles. Meanwhile, Corgi cars new and old remain reliably popular in the collectors market. The far-reaching success this toy line enjoys prove that Corgi’s die-cast vehicles are truly built to last.
Release History of Toy1956 - Corgi
Sub Categories of Toysdie-cast