Category Archives: Budgie

Budgie #12 Volkswagen MIcrobus

By Maz Woolley

All text and photographs by, and copyright  of, the Author.

Robin Godwin recently wrote about the Budgie #8 Volkswagen Sedan made by Autocraft using the original moulds, for more on that click here.  My article looks at another model from a former Modern Products mould made by Autocraft: #12 Volkswagen Microbus.

The history of these castings in interesting. Morris and Stone were a Stoke Newington based toy distributor for many small firms in the post-war period who made toys but were not large enough to market and distribute them themselves. One of their competitors was Moko who distributed Lesney products including the then new Matchbox range. Morris and Stone mutated into Morestone and they set up in partnership with Rodney Smith who had left Lesney despite helping found it.  After making a Noddy car and some Dinky size vehicles, such as the Wolseley Police Car as well as one of the earliest TV related models in the UK – Supercar – from the shot-lived Gerry Anderson TV programme of the same name,  they then focused on the Esso Series which was sold in a small box which could be made petrol pump like and was aimed at Lesney Matchbox buyers.  These castings were made for them by Modern Products.

The firm was bought by S. Guiterman and Co. and the company name changed to “Budgie” and the same toys went on being sold under this new brand until Guiterman went into liquidation in 1966 and many of the dies were lost at that time in a factory fire.  Modern Products went on making its own toys and eventually took over the Budgie assets in 1966 and went on making them until Hot Wheels made them old fashioned and unsaleable.

A company called Seerol had the larger ex-Budgie Taxi, London Bus, and Rolls Royce made by contractors in South Wales for tourist shops in London into the 1980s.

In 1988 Dave Gilbert‘s Autocraft company purchased the Budgie Company including what remained of both ‘Morestone’ and ‘Modern Products’. This included old dies, tooling, machines, various part finished dies, and quantities of assorted castings. They have over the last 30 years adapted several of the original 1950s dies for use on modern die-casting equipment – the original hand operated machines are no longer legal.  The restored dies for both Volkswagen’s currently on sale can be seen here.

The Volkswagen Microbus was the 12th model in the original Esso Series being renamed as a Budgie later. The original model was sold in light brown, light blue or metallic blue. Autocraft sell it in a much wider range of colours and I have settled for a utilitarian grey which looks a colour it could have been made in originally even if it wasn’t.

The model is said like many Budgies to be close to 1:76 scale and I am sure it was used on many railway layouts in the days before Oxford and their competitors started to make properly modelled and finished 1:76 scale models.

The reproduction has its lights highlighted but not the VW Badge which was painted on many of the original models. The lights themselves are a curious half moon shape rather than the full dome of the real vehicle.

To the rear there is very little detail indeed as if the maker of the master hadn’t got a real vehicle to look at and was guessing from photographs!

All in all nowhere near as good a model as the Volkswagen Beetle but still a pleasant and inexpensive return to childhood. Autocrafts’ Budgie site can be found here for those who wish to learn more.


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Budgie Volkswagen

By Robin Godwin

Text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise credited.

Budgie Toys is alive and well in the capable hands of Dave Gilbert, owner of Autocraft and DG Models (see https://www.budgiemodels.com and http://www.autocraft.plus.com ) and, of course, the Budgie trademark, along with some of the original Budgie tooling. He has recently reissued the Volkswagen 1950s Saloon (an oval window, as per the original) and the Volkswagen 1950s Micro Bus in diecast zinc using the original moulds. A Budgie Facebook page entry for February 3 (https://www.facebook.com/budgiemodels/) indicated that the Beetles and Micro Buses were sold out but would be restocked soon.  Models are available from his website and eBay. I bought mine from the eBay store in April, and the cars are still available on eBay when this article was written – 10 pounds plus shipping.

Pictured below is the Volkswagen Beetle with Firestone Tires advertising livery (perhaps meant to be a service vehicle, but a Volkswagen couldn’t deliver much more than valve stems or inner tubes). The vehicle also comes in many other colours, unlike the original from 1956, which only came in a metallic silver blue. Other than colours, there is only one difference between the reissue and the original, and that is the addition of tiny axle mounted spacers between the chassis and the wheels to improve the overall stance of the model. This also allows one to determine if a model in hand is an original or a reissue. The box is also a new “Budgie Models” box while the original was issued in an “ESSO” or “Modern” box, or a Budgie blister pack.

According to the UK based model historian, Robert Newson, the original was always a Modern Products casting, and is exceptionally fine, better, in my opinion, than the Matchbox Volkswagen Beetle that appeared four years later, even though the Matchbox had an opening boot with representational motor, and fairly good glazing. The dies have aged incredibly well, as the reissue is also an impeccably clean and detailed casting. Perhaps Mr Gilbert had to “clean up” the dies a bit, but one would then expect the casting to be a shade different, but it isn’t. The early originals had metal wheels, just like early Matchbox, but later issues had grey or black plastic wheels. The reissue is only available with black plastic wheels. I have only one complaint, that being, the paint finish. Originals would have been heat/oven treated for durability as toys, but the reissues are merely sprayed from a can. The paint is fragile and chips easily.

But that is a minor criticism, as these are now being produced as collectors’ models and not toys. I would love to see more reissues of the small Budgie range, even if it might generate similar criticisms to the Atlas Dinky range.

The new Budgie VW Beetle with new box

New left, old right with original “Modern” box

Original base, top. New base, bottom with wheel spacers very evident. These improve the overall stance, and help identify the reissue

New Budgie box details.

Firestone Tires logo is a decal. Fit over trailing edge of door is good but not perfect. Careful handling required so as not to damage decal.

From Internet Posting copyright recognised.

Some original Budgie blister packaging for the US market (photo internet).

Some Budgie copies in white metal kit form included here for fun. Wizard (Australia), left, a rather poor casting with lots of flash and no quarter window. Centre is Steve Flowers RADDS line, a superb casting. Right is Midget Models from UK, also a very clean casting. The Springside at top is actually not a copy, but is a “square window” Beetle kit in roughly the same size. I would like to live long enough to build these some day.

Side by side with the Oxford Diecast square window Beetle. The OD has a better overall finish, but could take some casting lessons from Modern Products here. The quarter window is painted on the “glass” for the OD, but finely cast on the Budgie. Most references call the Budgie 1:76 scale, but it is larger than the OD. I’ll give OD the nod for scale accuracy here, which would probably put the Budgie between 1:75 and 1:72.

Matchbox usually gets high marks for casting finesse, but is surpassed here by the Modern Product effort of 1956. The Matchbox is a 1960 issue. OD could take some more lessons here, not on casting, but on fit of windows on the Matchbox – nearly flush.


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