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(Image courtesy of Vectis Auctions Ltd)

Auto Pilen- Excelente Espanol Modelo!

Here is a maker you might not be familiar with, but you should – Auto Pilen of Alicante produced a good quality range of 1:43 scale cars from 1969, until disappearing in the mid-1990s.

Most of their models came from other manufacturers originally but were modified in some way, mostly by adding some extra features. They also produced the Spanish Dinky models for Dinky at first then most of them became part of Pilen’s own range. I don’t know the exact number of models they made but I have counted 57 so far and that does not include all of the variations they did, they really knew how to get their money’s worth out of a casting with Police, Fire, Ambulance, taxi and rally versions of many and also some hilarious TV show related cash-ins !

I have only recently taken an interest in their models and thought it would be interesting to compare some with their original versions.

In 1967 Corgi launched it’s Oldsmobile Toronado with no opening parts but it did have pop up jewelled headlamps operated by a knurled wheel under the bumper. It was later adapted for the ‘golden jacks’ removable wheels range. The Spanish version is a dead ringer and was even available in the exact same shade of blue, there was also a ‘Policia’ version though I seriously doubt the Spanish Police would ever have used a 7 litre, seventeen and a half foot long 2 door luxury coupe! Pilen improved the headlamp set up by replacing the flimsy knurled wheel with an easier to use lever. Also, at the front you will notice on the Corgi where the bumper wraps around the front wing, it is notched as on the actual car but the Pilen’s bumper is squared off so covering a bit of the wing for no reason that I can find.

Corgi Toronado (left) compared with Pilens (right) – notice squared bumper on Pilens

A great feature of all the Pilen cars are their finely detailed cast metal wheels with treaded rubber tyres and these are a good representation of the Oldsmobile’s hubcap which scores points over the generic wheel Corgi used.

The big change made by the Spanish to this model was to add opening doors which presented a problem on the Toronado due to its sandwich construction method. The chrome plastic bumpers and sills were all one piece and also incorporated the suspension so cutting the doors out would have split the body in half. This resulted in a rather flawed situation where the Pilen Toronado has half-depth opening doors, not so bad on the regular car version but the black and white colour scheme on the Policia version unfortunately draws attention to it. As they had now opened up the car they had to make a new interior for it with tipping seats to replace the cheap vacuum plastic interior of the Corgi. All those mods and the extra quality take the Pilen up to 99 grams in weight with is 10 more than the Corgi.

There were a few concept cars in the range too like the Chevrolet Astro 1. Corgi introduced theirs in 1969 and produced it until 1974 but I can’t find any date info for the Spanish version. At first glance they look identical except for the wheels with the early ‘red spot’ whizzwheels on the Corgi verses one of Pilen’s finest cast wheels. Looking closer you will notice there are 4 louvered panels on the rear body which were left blank on Corgi’s car.

Chevrolet Astro 1 – Pilen (left) Corgi (right)

Another quality Pilen touch are the screwed-on bases rather than riveted which is good news for restorers. The big change from Anglo to Espanol is inside, when you lift the canopy on the Corgi Astro the seats are attached to a cross member on it so they rise up to allow better access but the Pilen’s are fixed in place and the cross member deleted. Behind the seats the Corgi’s engine detail is cast into the base but the Spanish car features a larger chromed plastic motor.

They didn’t just use Corgi and Dinky models, they also tied in with Denmark’s Tekno and used their very handsome Monza GT which was another Chevrolet concept from 1962.

The Tekno had an opening cockpit canopy and an opening rear body but it also has the most complicated headlamp set up you’ll ever see. It has 4 tiny metal eyelids and when you move a lever underneath the headlamps move forward and push them open. That must have been a very expensive feature to include on such a small model which makes Pilen’s change to this car hard to understand. You would think that if they wanted to cut costs this would be the first thing to go but they kept the complicated lights and instead cast the rear body closed just leaving the opening cockpit canopy.

Chevrolet Monza GT – the green version is made by JOAL – Orange version by Pilen

A strange twist to the tale of this model is that it was also produced by Auto Pilen’s home grown rival Joal and they kept the opening rear body on theirs. (the green car pictured is a Joal) Pilen seemed to keep their old models in production for much longer than the original versions and into the 1980s cost cutting was evident. The fine cast wheels and rubber tyres had been replaced by cheap looking one-piece plastic generic items and the wide range of bright plated/metallic effect paint colours had been lost to a few primary colours. At least the attractive plastic display case and stand survived the axe.

You could build up quite a collection of these Monza GTs as due to the three companies all producing them I have counted 22 different colour schemes so far and that does not include the open top version that Tekno offered.

This is too big a topic for one blog so I’ll take another look at Auto Pilen later, there are some original models and their TV show tie ins are not to be missed either!

So, in the meantime, feast your eyes on these Auto Pilens we’ve seen on eBay!

Can you spot any AUTO PILEN bargains ending soon ……….

Have you got any of the models made by Auto Pilen in  your collection? Do you know any other information about these excellent models? Let us know by leaving a reply in the box at the bottom of the page. We’d love to hear from you!

(Thanks to our friends at Vectis Auctions Ltd for allowing us to use some of the images on our post)

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