|Evolution of Yesteryears|
|Many collectors attempt to
classify their models as first series, second
series, third series etc. This gets rather messy
as 'first series' models were still being
manufactured whilst 'second series' models were
being released. Things get even more awkward at
the boundary between the 'second' and 'third
series'. However, there are some distinct changes
that can be observed as the Yesteryear range
The original range produced from 1956 consisted of models quite unlike anything else on the market at that time. New models were added to the range until 1960. The total number of models at this time was 15. (These first models are now generally regarded as the First Series.) New models were then only introduced to replace others in the range. In 1961 the range was increased to 16 models with the introduction of the Spyker Automobile. The Yesteryear range remained limited to 16 models until 1979, well beyond the era covered by these pages. By 1973 40 different models had been produced.
The early range of models were extremely simple in their construction but the quality of casting was superb. The first 15 models depicted a range of transport types with 4 motor cars, 3 public transport vehicle, 2 railway locomotives, 3 lorries and 3 steam road engines.
The first replacement model was the Shand Mason Fire Engine which appeared in 1960 and was apparently to be the Y16. However premature wearing of the tools for the Sentinel Steam Wagon caused the Shand Mason to be released as its replacement. The introduction of this model heralded the last commercial vehicle to be introduced to the range until 1978. During this time only motor cars or motor cycles were produced. Until 1969 the models were all pre 1928. However, 1969 saw the introduction of 'newer' subjects with the appearance of a 1930 Packard. In 1972 the impressive 1938 Lagonda Drophead Coupe was introduced to the range. These models, I feel, form the Third Series.
The first 15 models all appeared in a 'realistic' colour scheme. All, that is, except for the Y15 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost which appeared in a light green metallic paint. This choice by Lesney can be explained by the difficulty in applying a reliable silver finish at that time. However many collectors complain of the startling colour schemes applied to later models, mainly to attract children to the range. It must be remembered that Lesney was, in fact, a toy manufacturing company and not in the business of the producing accurate replicas. The most striking examples of these 'Disney' colour schemes are the Renault, Maxwell and Thomas.
The early models were cast entirely from zinc alloy (apart from tyres). In 1960 the Y15 Rolls Royce introduced the first plastic components with plastic seats. In the same year the Shand Mason was produced with plastic firemen. An obvious comparison can be made between early and later models by comparing the two different issues of the 1929 Bentley, the first produced in 1958 (a First Series model) and the second in 1962 (a Second Series model).
1958 version sports a single piece cast body
including integral seats. The casting of the base
plate includes the mud guards and 'blower'. There
is a separate small casting for the steering
wheel. Excluding the road wheels the model is
constructed using only 3 castings. The 1962
version includes plastic seats and tonneau and
required 7 separate components for its
construction (excluding wheels). The wheels of
this model are typical of Lesney's highly
detailed casting with spokes being 'individually'
apparent. The wheels on the early model only hint
at the spokes. At first the wheels were often
simply attached to the early vehicles by crimping
the axles. But safety concerns soon led this
to be modified to a more 'child friendly',
riveted approach. The bright work evolved from
being applied with gold or silver paint to being
formed from separate plated components.
Evolution and development can also be seen when looking at the variations produced through the life of a particular model. First Series models generally started off life with significantly more detailed paint work than at the time of their withdrawal; the hand painting being reduced for reasons of cost. This cost reduction process can also be observed on later models by the introduction of components common to several models in the range, for example handbrakes and spare wheel carriers. Steering wheels were changed from metal to plastic and the detail reduced. Other changes were introduced to ease manufacture and to increase yield. For example strengthening braces were added to the chassis to prevent warping and gaps were filled in where the removal of flashing was a problem. All these changes produced many interesting variations for the collector to hunt down.
Comparing the early first series models produced in 1956 with the models produced in 1972 it is hard to believe that they belong to the same range. The detail has increased no end together with the weight and size of the model with plastic being used extensively. However, the crudeness of the early models also adds to their charm and are highly collectible today, especially in their mint, boxed condition.
Mark Robbins Copyright © 2001 Back to RobbinsPlace.com