Classic commercial shelf-sized scale models to collect
Posted by Chris Graham on 28th March 2023
Mike Neale takes a look at an interesting selection of AEC, Leyland and Albion Ergomatic shelf-sized scale models.
The all-steel Ergomatic tilt-cab appeared in Autumn 1964 on both AEC and Leyland chassis. Associated Commercial Vehicles Ltd, which included AEC and Thorneycroft, had become part of the Leyland Motors Group in 1962. Leyland already owned Albion, the Ergomatic cab also later appearing with Albion badges. Whether the design work was commenced by AEC or by Leyland, which began before the take-over, is lost in the mists of time. Giovanni Michelotti did the styling and the cabs were made by Joseph Sankey (later GKN Sankey) at Wellington in Shropshire.
This didn’t mean the disappearance of other cab designs straight away, but the Ergomatic soon became the standard cab across the range of chassis. Thus, you could have an Ergo-cabbed AEC Mercury 4-wheeler, Mammoth Major six- or eight-wheeler, Marshal six- or eight-wheeler, Marshal Major, Mandator 4×2 tractor unit, or a Mammoth Minor 6×2 twin-steer tractor unit. Leyland initially called the range ‘Freightline’ with the Ergo cab on the Leyland Beaver, Octopus, Hippo, Comet, Super Comet, Bison, Lynx and Retriever 6×4. Ergo-cabbed Albions were the Super Reiver and the Super Clydesdale.
There were detail differences to the Ergo cabs depending upon the badge, chassis and running gear. Leylands and Albions had smaller upper grilles below the windscreen than AECs, with AECs and Albions having wider front wings. From 1969, full width front grilles were fitted to modernise the appearance, although not everyone thought this an improvement. Some of the Leylands from that point had an increased cab height, with an additional 5ins between the door and front wing, known as high-datum cabs. The Albion name was dropped in 1972.
First on the scene was Dinky’s impressive model No. 925, Leyland Dump Truck with tilt cab, which did actually tilt forward to reveal the engine. This had a white cab with a blue roof and orange tipper. A sticker on the back read ‘Sand Ballast Gravel’. It was in production from 1966-69. Scale was approximately 1/43 and it captured the Ergo cab well.
Dinky No. 285 was an Ergo-cabbed Merryweather Marquis Fire Engine initially in metallic red, later in red, with fire service stickers, produced from 1969-1980. It also appeared in the same colours with Falck decals for Denmark. Early ones had separate bells mounted on the roof, while later ones were cast into the roof panel. The jewelled headlights were deleted on the last issues. The model had an operating water pump. Again, it was to approx. 1/43 scale. Although obviously a toy, this was an attractive model and quite an accurate representation, which with further detailing can be made into a very good model. Talented model-builder Ian Sharp has done just that, creating a Code 3 model of a South Shields Fire Brigade AEC Merryweather. He’s added a wheeled ladder from a Dinky ERF fire engine, as well as changing the wheels and altering the side lockers, with much extra detail.
Matchbox followed Dinky with their King Size model No. K-4 Leyland Tipper in 1969. The scale was somewhat smaller at around 1/56. This had a maroon cab and silver tipper, with LE Transport or Wates logos, and red plastic wheels with separate rubber tyres. Other variants were a yellow cab and green tipper; red cab and green tipper; orange cab and lime green tipper; orange cab and metallic green tipper; lime green cab and tipper; or a blue cab and silver tipper with Miner decals. After 1971, the truck was fitted with whizzwheels in the SuperKings series.
There was also a version in pale blue with a silver tipper as part of set BM-4, with a mechanised coal hopper that had an operating track to drive the lorry backwards using a peg between the front axles. A blue plastic protrusion from the front grille automatically controlled the tipper mechanism.
From 1979, SuperKings model K-37 was introduced with a redesigned Ergo cab with full-width grilles and a deeper bumper incorporating the headlights, the cab in yellow with a white roof or (rarer) in silver, a red tipper and Laing logos. It was produced until 1981.
An unusual model started out as a cigarette lighter commissioned by Ready-Mix Concrete, branded in their distinctive orange colour scheme, a Leyland Ergo (was this based upon the Matchbox King Size model?) with a cement mixer body. The problem was that the lighter leaked and apparently could even explode when ignited. RMC quickly withdrew them from circulation, but they didn’t go to waste, as they gave 500 of them to ASAM Models on condition that they removed the lighter and filled in the hole. ASAM then mounted them on a simple chassis and fitted wheels and sold them on as collectors’ models.
Corgi produced a couple of different types of Ergo cabbed Merryweather fire engines, each in several liveries, from around 1993 onwards.
An example of the first type, similar to the old Dinky model, though slightly smaller at 1/50 scale, was the AEC HCB Angus Water Ladder of Leicester City Fire Brigade in red & silver, CC10304 in Corgi’s Nine Double Nine series, from 2002.
The same basic casting was used for fire engines of Blackpool Fire Service (21801), Cleveland County Fire Brigade (97358), Dublin Fire Brigade (97359), Hertfordshire (97357), Hong Kong (21802), Nottinghamshire County Council (CC10306), Rotherham Fire brigade (97360, in yellow), and also in Chipperfields livery as part of a set (31703) with a Thames Trader box van, Morris Minor pick-up and Land Rover series 2 109”.
The second Corgi fire engine type was an AEC Mercury Merryweather 100ft Turntable Ladder, shown in red and silver Hereford & Worcester Fire Brigade livery, CC10305, again in the Nine Double Nine series of 2002.
Other versions of the Turntable Ladder were Bristol fire brigade (97386), Cardiff City Fire Service (97385), Dublin (97353),
This feature comes from the latest issue of Classic & Vintage Commercials, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE
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