Collectable Austin A55 and A60 models

Posted by Chris Graham on 25th February 2023

Mike Neale takes a look at the interesting range of Austin A55 and A60 van and pick-up scale models currently available to collectors.

Austin A55 and A60 models: Austin A55 Pick-up by Gems & Cobwebs

The Austin A40 (1,200cc) and A50 (1,489cc) Cambridge saloons were launched in 1954, designed by an Austin in-house team under Dick Burzi. The half-ton van and pick-up followed in 1956, fitted with the 1,489cc B-series engine. Saloons were restyled in 1957, with a longer boot to become the A55. When the cars were replaced by the Farina-styled A55 Mk2 in 1959 – and later the A60 in 1962 – the commercials continued with the Burzi body style, and the Farina body was never used in Britain for the commercials.

Austin A55 Gown Van made by the author combining an old Corgi A50 and an Oxford Diecast Morris gown van.

In 1962, a wider grille was fitted and Morris-badged commercials were also offered (with straight grille bars rather than the crinkly Austin ones), after the Series 3 Morris Oxford-based vans and pick-ups were discontinued. In 1963, the 1,622cc B-series engine was fitted. Production ended in 1972.

Austin A55 Van in Castrol livery by Gems & Cobwebs.

No mainstream models of the A55/A60 van were made while the vehicles were in production. Corgi did produce an Austin A50 Cambridge saloon in 1956, in approximately 1/45 scale, as part of its original line-up, but no commercial variants. I have, however, created my own version of an A55 Gown Van, combining the Corgi front with the rear gown van body from an Oxford Diecast Morris Minor.

Oxo-liveried Gems & Cobwebs A55 Van.

It fell to specialist whitemetal model company Gems & Cobwebs to produce 1/43 scale Austin A55/A60 vans and pick-ups, long after the real vehicles had ceased production.  

Gems & Cobwebs began as an antique shop in Maidenhead, set up by Bernie and Graham du Cros. In 1982, the business was turned over to old toys and models. After moving to Cornwall in 1988, with investment from a diecast collector Ken White, it developed a factory in Redruth and launched a new range of 1/43 whitemetal models, including A55 commercials. The company later developed the brand name of Milestone Miniatures.  

Police version of the Gems & Cobwebs A55 Van.

I say A55, although Gems & Cobwebs labelled them as A60s. The models had the earlier grille of the A55, rather than the wider A60 type, although they did also have the swooping sidestrips (chromed on the real vans) as fitted to the A60 but, on balance, I’d say they were really an A55.  

Siam Argenta Pickup in grey by Salvat.

Various colours and liveries were issued by Gems & Cobwebs. The van appeared in Castrol livery in green with red wheels, red Oxo – ‘It’s beefy’ – livery, in all-black as a police van, Anderton & Rowlands Amusements livery in maroon with red wheels, light grey Milestone Miniatures livery, light grey over red Austin Service livery and possibly others.  

‘Before’ view of the battered Corgi A50 used by the author for the Gown Van.

Different wheels were fitted to the Gems & Cobwebs pick-up model than to the vans, with the pick-up ones looking more realistic, in my view – the van hubcaps look a bit small. The pickup in blue pictured here has had the side-flashes detailed in silver to represent chrome, as they would have been on the real thing (Gems & Cobwebs left them in body colour). Other versions of the pick-up that I’m aware of include green BP livery and a white-over-dark blue BOAC Engineering colour scheme.

Austin A60 Suntor by Lansdowne, first issue in white.

Later, in September 2012, Brooklin Models introduced a nice 1/43 scale whitemetal model of an Austin A60 Suntor caravanette in its Lansdowne range of British cars. The real vans were converted by Torcars of Torrington, in Devon. The first model issued (LDM100) was in white, with the registration number YCV 505H.  The top is in two separate parts, the upper roof and the ‘canvas’, so the model can be displayed with the roof in the raised position.  This was replaced in August 2015 by the same model in turquoise with a white roof (LDM100A), with the same registration number. These were made until April 2017. Since then, there have been no further issues. It would be nice if Lansdowne produced a van version, as it wouldn’t take much to modify the casting. I remember a dark green one at the campsite in Norfolk that I used to go to as a kid, and have always wanted a model (hint, hint, if anyone from Brooklin is reading this…).

The second colour of Lansdowne’s Austin A60 Suntor.

Earlier I said that the Farina body wasn’t used for UK commercials. However, in Argentina, SIAM (Sección Industrial Amasadoras Mecánicas) built BMC-derived vehicles under licence. This included the Burzi-bodied A55 pick-up like the British ones, sold as the SIAM Argenta, and even a crew-cabbed version. SIAM went on to produce a number of BMC Farina saloons which were a mix of parts from across the range. So, the Di Tella 1500 had the grille from the Riley 4/68, but the Austin A55 Mk2 taillights. There was also a pick-up version of this produced, again called the Siam Argenta. Wouldn’t it be great to get one of those over here?  

An artisan-made solid resin Siam Argenta Pick-up from Argentina.

Well, you can get a model. About four years ago I managed to order an artisan-made solid resin model in bright blue from a chap in Argentina (other colours were available). Being solid, the windows were painted in black rather than clear, but it doesn’t look too bad.  

Salvat’s 1/43 diecast Siam Argenta Pick-up in Pistones Sylicum livery.

More recently, Salvat has issued two 1/43 scale diecast versions of the Farina-styled Siam Argenta pick-up, originally sold as magazine part-works in Argentina, produced by Ixo Models, which you can find on sale in the UK.  The first issue in 2019 was in cream and blue Pistones Sylicum livery, with a full load in the back. The second was in plain pale grey and unladen, which I actually slightly prefer. Unusual additions to any BMC model collection.

This feature comes from the latest issue of Classic & Vintage Commercials, and you can benefit from a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE


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