I like an unusual model be that an unusual model of a common vehicle or vice versa.
You often find that the tiny versions far outsold the full-size cars, possibly because the best built and most durable cars available in the 1960s and 70s were made by Corgi!
A good example of the popular model / rare car is the Ford Zephyr / Zodiac Farnham estate, which was miniaturised by Corgi, Husky, Lone Star and more recently Lansdowne and Neo.
In the mid-1950s Ford commissioned coachbuilders E.D. Abbott of Farnham to convert their large family saloon range into estate cars which was quite unusual at the time in Britain. There weren’t that many estate cars available as showroom models then and they tended to be based on small vans with windows and a back seat added and were intended for commercial use with occasional family carrying capability like the Standard Vanguard or Austin A35. The Farnham Fords were intended as practical family wagons for summer holidays and shopping for those new-fangled TV sets and refrigerators! It was probably an idea brought over from America as that type of car was becoming very popular over there but over here the only comparable estate car available would be the Humber Hawk and you would need deeper pockets to buy and run one of those over a Ford.
Despite Ford’s intentions for it to be a smart family car it probably became best known as a Police car, indeed it was arguably Britains first proper motorway patrol car. With the opening of the Preston by pass in 1958 Lancashire Constabulary decided they needed a car that could carry lots of equipment and with a good turn of speed (no 70 mph speed limit back then) and they became the first of several Police Forces to take on the Farnham Zephyr and in another pioneering move they painted it white ! These impressive motors must have made an impression on someone at Corgi as they launched their tribute in 1960 and unusually, they launched the Police Car before the civilian version of 1961. Both remained on sale until 1965 and it was the Police version that lead the sales by 771,000 to 397,000 both along way ahead of the circa 6000 full size versions that Ford managed to sell. (One full size Zephyr MkII Farnham patrol car has survived and is in Ford’s Heritage Collection). Both of the Corgi’s can be found with plain or shaped hubs, red or yellow interiors and the Police transfers can be dark or light blue.
A few years later Husky added the Zephyr 6 MkIII to their Matchbox rivaling range and it came in two very smart colours, dark metallic red or blue. They are very nicely detailed for their size and have opening tailgates but do suffer from their rather fragile one-piece plastic bases with built in suspension and are hard to find undamaged.
Lone Star’s Impy range was a more impressive offering at 1:59 scale and they picked the top of the range Zodiac and packed it with features including opening front doors, bonnet and tailgate, press down steering, rubber tyres and jewel headlights! Theirs is the pick of all the Farnham’s modelled and its well-built and sturdy, only a weak bonnet hinge lets it down and they are often broken. It comes in several colours including blue, gold and purple. There is also a white Police version. There were at least three-wheel variations used on the Lone Stars so you could build up quite a collection of variations of those.
Lansdowne have reproduced the MkII in very suitable period baby blue and salmon pink hues with white wall tyres and it’s a well detailed model. More recently Neo produced a Zodiac MkIII in resin, their model in grey is quite pleasing, perhaps the tailgate hinges are a bit too chunky, but they don’t detract too much and it’s still a nice one to add to your collection. If you want to go bigger Marx made a remote-control version of the MkII Police car and it comes with some impressive box art as well. The proportions of the Marx car aren’t perfect, and it can suffer from warping of the plastic body, but it would still make a great centre piece for a Farnham collection.
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