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The story of 1:43 scale Vanguards goes back to 1994 when its parent company Lledo launched its ‘Days Gone Vanguards’ marque, a brand made in Britain with an acceptable pricing point, recognising a new collector scale market of 1:43. This market led initiative addressed the needs of a more sophisticated audience requiring precision scale models. The new car and light commercial vehicle Vanguards brand was highly innovative incorporating new developments that included fully detailed interiors, all-round windows, realistic looking woodwork, separate chrome-plated headlights and bumpers, and accurate, colour matched paint work. Undoubtedly, there was a responsive and enthusiastic customer base – Lledo across its product ranges were producing over six million models per annum. With replica classic British vehicles based on a 1950s and 1960s heritage, the Vanguards brand found favour with a baby boomer generation who fondly remembered their childhood and travel in their parent’s vehicles.
By the turn of the new century, the market was changing with cheaper imported models of Chinese manufacture. As a result, the company’s parent collapsed with rival diecast model maker Corgi International buying the Lledo brand and its assets for just under £2m when main production was moved from north London to China. Corgi itself had a long history as it was originally founded as the Mettoy (Metal Toy) Company in 1933 by Philip Ullman, a German émigré, who saw a gap in the market to bring out a range of toy vehicles to compete with the dominant Meccano owned Dinky Toys operation. Corgi Toys were introduced to the UK market in July 1956 and manufactured at Fforestfach in Swansea. Corgi cars – the brand name’s DNA formed from the iconic Welsh dog breed – were on the wish-list of Christmas stockings everywhere. There can be few 1960s boys who do not remember the new additions that Santa brought.
The company eventually entered liquidation some twenty-seven years later, only to be reformed as Corgi Toys Limited as a management buy-out in March 1984. The company was then sold to the US toy giant Mattel in 1989 who moved the Corgi operation to their Leicester headquarters. The Welsh factory, however, features as part of the Oxford Diecast story.
Market changes brought some degree of consolidation as the Vanguard brand started to reflect half a century of British motoring with newer contemporary models of a modern design appealing to a younger demographic. The ‘Designed and Built in England’ slogan went evolving into a ‘Precision Diecast Replica’ marketing strapline as the Vanguards range was re-branded from ‘Lledo Vanguards’ to ‘Corgi Vanguards’ in 2005, along with a fresher style of packaging and a limited-edition policy to increase the desirability of the 1:43 scale to a broader collector range.
Vanguards’ parent company, Corgi Classics, was sold to British model railway firm Hornby in 2008 along with the Bassett-Lowke O gauge model railway interests which had been revived a few years before. Vanguards is now a key brand name in Corgi’s automobile collection with 1:43 models spanning over half a century of British motoring. Each model comes with a detailed, authentic livery and a complete miniature history of the vehicle and engine performance.
Like Oxford Diecasts, Corgi Vanguard cars and vans are the perfect accompaniment for O gauge model railways with a range of vehicles that will be at home in classic British Railways settings, the BR blue and grey era that so many of us grew up with, and that of modern image. We trust you’ll find our initial selection of particular interest.
Shamrock Trains is a provider of O gauge ready-to-run model railways and similar associated products. We provide a high quality, professional and personalised service to our customers. We are a highly knowledgeable operation providing specialist advice to customers around the world; we believe we are one of the few model railway retailers to operate in this way. Honesty, integrity, providing value for money and the highest level of customer care are the principles of our business.
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