Off the beaten track - Budgie Gift Sets

14 September 2023
Delving into the contents of an intriguing box.
Off the beaten track - Budgie Gift Sets Images

There could hardly be an easier way of offering something new with the minimum of effort – just take a selection of your existing products and repackage them in a gift box. No wonder that practically every maker of toy cars used this tactic. Generally, these sets would have a theme – the various Corgi farm sets, Dinky’s ‘Emergency Services’ and ‘Goodwood’ sports car sets, and so on. However, this gift set from Budgie is designated simply as “Gift Set No. 4”, leaving the purchaser to work out the connection between the four models in the box.

The first thing that stands out is the predominance of the colour orange on both the box and the contents, perhaps a deliberate way of creating some kind of harmony between the items. Two models in the set are familiar subjects, which had quite a long production run, while the other two come from the tail end of the Budgie commercial vehicle series, which ceased in 1966.

The Foden Dump Truck was initially issued in 1958 in a Morestone box. Not many Budgies carried number plates, but this one has “BUD123” front and rear, perhaps as a way of adding a bit of detail to a model that otherwise lacks decoration or transfers. The Leyland Hippo Cattle Transporter, first seen in 1959, is still fairly easy to find.

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The other two pieces in the set are less commonly found individually. The tractor appeared first in 1964 with a shovel attachment at the front, operated by hydraulic rams, and a second version followed a year later, now with a dozer blade and a covered cab. The Budgie range was notable for showing creativity and originality in the subjects chosen, and rarely resorted to copying other makers’ products, with occasional exceptions such as the Morestone double-deck bus and the small-scale Packard Convertible, which are closely based on Dinky Toys. However, as far as the tractor is concerned, it looks like Budgie copied the Fiat 25R tractor modelled by Gama of Germany in 1961, though the engine detail is different and the rear wheels are solid black plastic, rather than having cream-coloured hubs as on the Gama. The final item in the set, a Leyland Cement Mixer, has echoes of the familiar Dinky Supertoys Albion Chieftain, but it is much simpler in design. While the cement drum does rotate, the movement is not linked to the rear axle as in the case of the Dinky.  Both the tractor and cement mixer were only in production for a couple of years, and the style of gift box pictured dates from 1965-66, all of which makes it quite a rarity.

As for the theme linking the four items, three are related to construction, leaving the cattle truck as an odd one out; alternatively, the tractor dozer could equally well work on a farm, making the set a combination of two construction and two farming vehicles. As always, though, Budgie expert Robert Newson has the answer. “Almost any Budgie model could be included in the sets” he writes, “as long as it was a suitable size to fit the space available.” Given that quite a few Budgies took the form of long, articulated trucks, the choice of the tractor, cement mixer, dumper and cattle truck is perhaps not all that surprising.