15 September 2008
The final installment in Roger Wynn's examination of the background of the Land Rover. ...
To all intents and purposes, ref no 27D, re-numbered to 340 in 1954, lasted twenty years in the catalogue. It was not actually in the 1970 catalogue; its replacement ref no 344 was. But it was on the 1970 cover, very tiny at the top, where perhaps only your average Land Rover fan (wouldn’t miss one at five miles on a damp foggy night) might spot it.
Given such a period, with only three regular colours (green, orange and red) and three just a tad more difficult, life should not be that much of a problem. But 20 years necessitated a new mould and various other casting changes along the way. Later, general production changes, which introduced the use of plastics, brought driver and wheel variations.
The original mould had a pretty good run and seems to have had little modification, if any. It looks as though a completely new tool was made in the early 1960s, which was different in quite a number of details. As a sort of quick guide – the front bumer was reduced in depth from 3.5 to 2.5mm and acquired ugly mould join lines on the front, whereas before it had been smooth. Also, the front wing tops are concave instead of flat.
Over the ensuing years, further changes took place. Fairly easy to detect are, in order of appearance: the filling of the recess under the seats; the circular recess on the outside of the pto pulley drum reduced in depth, to finally disappear altogether; the gap between the bumper and the front mudguards being completely filled in; and, at the eleventh hour, the tow plate was cut away to completely clear the tinplate tow-hook.
Some have detailed up to twelve changes to the second mould, but I will leave collectors with a good assortment of the more obvious to investigate and observe further...
Far more definite than casting changes, and to most much more collectable, are the introduction of plastic wheels and, not at exactly the same time, plastic driver and steering wheel.
The driver was always the standard Dinky agricultural item, as was the suitably large black metal steering wheel. His cream paint was just about the same as used on the green vehicle’s interior. The later blue plastic man had an undernourished black plastic steering wheel to play with, embarrassing to say the least and, for good measure, a different size hole in the floor to put his legs through.
The standard Dinky metal wheel hubs were painted pretty strictly to keep with their allotted body colours, green for the green and red for the orange. Plastic wheels arrived in about 1965, by which time the green version had been discontinued (prove me wrong with a plastic wheeled green version, please) leaving just red wheels for the orange.
In due course, green plastic wheels appeared on the orange vehicle, an attractive combination; there is even a trailer to exactly match. By the time of the final red issue, red plastic wheels are there to match, while yellow can also be found.
To get the unauthentic contrasting interior colour, a well-fitting spray-mask was produced. Cream interiors are found on the standard green model, also the dark Bronze Green and dark blue. Dark blue interiors belong to light brown and early orange examples, with dark green found within the later ones. The final red issue had a yellow interior, sometimes (rarely) omitted, either a fault or an economy measure – after 20 years Meccano actually did what Rover had done since 1948, one colour everywhere.
Despite being produced to pair with the Land Rover, the trailer, renumbered 341 in 1954, had a job to keep up at times. The collector looking to make exactly matching pairs, though not needing a particularly deep pocket for the trailers, will need luck and patience.
The green one is no problem, but the early orange one, for some strange and unexplained reason, habitually comes with cream wheels. It did come with red ones later, and then red plastic. Green plastic followed, and then red on the final red trailers, also known with yellow or black plastic.
The Land Rover never aspired to carrying its catalogue number underneath, but the trailer eventually had ‘341’ added. For the really dedicated, there are three assembly methods used in succession for the front tow-bar retailer. At the rear is a standard Dinky tinplate hook, omitted from the final red version, as is the neat trailer ‘T’ decal, fitted for all those years previously.
Just for the sake of completeness, mention should be made of a military green version. This was produced in the mid-1950s, presumably to go with ref no 669 US Army Universal Jeep, produced especially for the American market.
For the collector who must have everything and still has some spare dosh, the Land Rover was included in Gift Set 2, Commercial Vehicles. Despite being in the farm series at 1/38 scale, it was kept out of Gift Set 1, and placed among four commercials, looking very oversize. Its companions were either 1/48 (the Bedford) or 1/60 scale.
These were the second generation post-war sets, available from Christmas 1952 for a couple of years. They were also in the first incarnation of the now famous blue and white striped box, long before its adoption for all the larger models.
Another use of the box style, from 1953, was for a much maller set, ref no 27AK, a useful combination of 27A Massey-Harris Tractor and 27K Hayrake. Any vehicle paired with a suitable trailer is good for sales, and I was once told a 27AM was planned.
So, for a bit of fun, one correspondent has produced the 2008 version, exactly along the lines of 27AK. For good measure, this is based on the dark blue pair – nice one...
So there it is, a magnificent twenty years. Imagine a model today lasting that long and still being collectable. The fact that the toys often had the hard life they were designed for, just like the real thing, only adds to our fascination today.