Corgi World Cup fever!

22 November 2022
Looking back 40 years, at a pair of Corgi models released to commemorate the Football World Cup of 1982.
Corgi World Cup fever! Images

The 12th FIFA World Cup was hosted by Spain, in 1982, and rounds were played in stadiums around the country during June and July of that year. The grand final was held in the capital, Madrid, and saw Italy taking the trophy with a 3-1 victory over West Germany.

To tie in with the World Cup, Corgi issued a pair of commemorative models in its Corgi Juniors range. Corgi was no stranger to models that commemorated sporting events. As far back as 1964, in the large Corgi Toys range, there was a version of the Citroën ID Station Wagon – complete with skis and poles on the roof rack and a skier figure – produced to mark the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. This was replaced in 1968 with an updated version of the same casting for that year’s Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

More recently, in 1981, Corgi had produced a line of both Baseball Cars and Hockey Cars, aimed at the American market. These were sports cars from the Juniors line that were decorated in baseball and ice hockey team colours and graphics. The idea was that kids would collect and trade them like swap cards, but, as is often the case with this type of product, the popular and local teams sold out quickly, while the less popular and distant teams languished on the pegs. For the 1982 World Cup releases, Corgi avoided producing models for all teams, and instead only produced two items – a van and a team bus. The van showed the mascot character, while the bus was in the livery of the host nation, Spain. The models were officially licensed by RFEF, the Royal Spanish Football Federation. Both were given completely new catalogue numbers rather than being listed as recolours of the base models.

Corgi No 117: Chevrolet Van – Naranjito

Most international sporting events have a specially-designed cartoon mascot for use in publicity and marketing as a souvenir. Usually this character was a native animal or a boy in national dress, but for España ’82 it was an inanimate object – in this case, an anthropomorphic piece of fruit! The mascot was based on Spain’s most famous export, the Valencia orange, and was named ‘Naranjito’ (which translates as ‘Orangey’ or ‘Little Orange’). He was a happy-looking orange with arms and legs and a couple of leaves sprouting from his stem. He was wearing the Spanish national kit of red shirt and blue shorts, plus socks and boots, and carrying a football.

The Chevrolet Van had been introduced to the Corgi Juniors range in 1977 as an American-style custom panel van. It was a scaled-down counterpart of a Chevy van in the large Corgi Toys line, and was much less detailed. It proved to be a much-utilised casting, appearing in a number of licensed character liveries (including Superman, Spider-Man and Charlie’s Angels) plus several company liveries, and was very popular as a promotional item – its large, flat sides made it ideal for this purpose. For the World Cup release, it was painted plain white with a black plastic base. A label covered the doors and entire cargo area. The sticker was white with a colour picture of Naranjito, his logo in black at the front and “ESPAÑA 82” at the rear. There were some variations in this model though – the glazing could be found in blue or amber, while the base could read either “Chevrolet Van” or “U. S. Van”.

Content continues after advertisements

Corgi No 116:  Mercedes-Benz

Team Bus The Mercedes-Benz Bus model dated back to 1973, and was a very accurate model of the Mercedes-Benz 0309 light bus. It was originally produced in light metallic blue with “School Bus” decals, later changing to a more typical yellow. It was a very popular and durable model, probably because it was recognised all around the world. It remained in the Corgi line well into the 1990s, and, in later years, appeared in several promotional liveries, mainly for airlines and hotel chains.

Unlike the previous model, which was just a billboard van with mascot logos, the Mercedes bus was a perfect choice for a World Cup vehicle. These 24-seater buses were an ideal size for a football team, with room for the 11 players, plus the substitutes, coach, manager and assistants. Given that it used an existing casting, it probably wasn’t based on any real vehicle, although it conceivably could have been used for transporting the host side to matches in different cities around Spain.

The bus was painted red with shaped side labels. These showed the tournament logo, which was a football with trailing speed lines representing the red-yellow-red colours of the Spanish flag, plus “ESPAÑA 82” in blue. The Mercedes bus model was normally fitted with clear glazing and a moulded plastic interior, but for the World Cup model, a folded cardboard window insert was used instead. The bus had light amber glazing with the card behind it. This insert was illustrated with colour drawings of the team players and driver figures. It was quite imaginatively done, with some figures sitting, some standing, and some leaning over the seat behind. There was even one looking at the view through binoculars and another reaching up to the luggage rack.

However, there were several variations on this model. All were painted red with a black plastic base and grille, but the interiors differed. A small number were issued with clear glazing and the card insert printed in black and white. Presumably Corgi had run out of coloured interiors, and it looks like someone has just whipped up replacements on a photocopier. There were also two other variants – one with clear glazing and a full plastic interior, and the least attractive version that just had opaque black windows.


The vehicles were sold in special blister packs that were exclusive to these two items. The cards featured a picture of Naranjito on a white background, with a small Corgi logo behind him and “ESPAÑA 82” underneath. The special card stock must have been depleted at some time, as some models were released on standard Corgi Junior ‘bullseye’ cards.

The World Cup models made excellent souvenirs of España '82, and sold well all around the world. They are still relatively easy to find today in original packaging, although some variations are hard to locate.

Corgi intended to follow up on the concept of the football team bus after the World Cup was over. Pre-production samples were made of the Mercedes-Benz Bus in the liveries of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa and Liverpool football clubs. These were probably intended as a British alternative to the American Baseball and Hockey Cars. However, these did not go into production, as Lone Star held the franchise for the Football Association teams in its much less-imaginative ‘Soccer Cars’ series.