- Written by webmin
Armstrong-Siddeley is one of countless car companies whose models have never been memorialized in small-scale. And now, whether by happenstance or design, we are treated to two – same scale, different eras, different die-cast manufacturers.
The Armstrong-Siddeley Whitley, with the name Base Toys molded into the chassis but sold under the classic Bachmann name, is a pale warm gray with a flat black roof; 2,582 real Whitleys rolled out of the Coventry line from 1946-1948. The Star Sapphire is resplendent in its two-tone navy blue and gray; just 980 of the real thing were built before the company sold Bristol and stopped making cars altogether. Both feature soft tires, painted-on chrome trim (particularly delicate around windows and such), molded black plastic bases (the Whitley’s has some detail picked out in silver; the Star Sapphire’s is bereft) and period license plates. The bases are screwed in, by the way, so the detailers among us can change interior colors and play around with ease if we so choose. But only the Whitley has separate clear headlamps.
Never heard of Armstrong-Siddeley? This pair of lovely limos that happened upon our doorstep also prompted a little reading about the marque. Though forged of an aircraft-engine merger, the Armstrong-Siddeley Motors subsidiary of Newcastle upon Tyne’s Armstrong Whitworth Development Company started in 1919. A line of elegant, bespoke, and conservatively styled cars flowed from its gates, but it seems that Armstrong-Siddeley pulled a Packard; following the success of the Sapphire 346 saloon (with nearly 7,700 sold from 1952-1958, it was the best-selling post-war Armstrong-Siddeley), went downmarket, with smaller engines and a lower price. This freaked out the upper-crusty customer base and, unlike Packard’s efforts, they didn’t even sell well. By the time the Star Sapphire (foreground, above) replaced the Sapphire 346, the bloom was off the rose; just 980 sold in three seasons. In 1960, Bristol bought the parent company to merge with its own aircraft interests, and car manufacture stopped cold.
Each model clocks in at 1:76 scale, or just at the 2-1/2 inch mark. They’re perfect to display with gray-wheels Matchbox, on a train layout, or as a collection in their own right. By modern standards, they seem a little small, but we feel that both companies are really nailing it lately, with all manner of models that display perfectly with the classic “gray-wheels” (early ’60s and before) Matchbox era, neatly filling in the gaps with models (and body styles) that Matchbox didn’t produce. Park one of these next to that powder-blue gray-wheel Rolls and it’ll feel right at home.
These cost us in the neighborhood of 4 Euros each (about $5.50 these days), including the clear acrylic case they came displayed in; we got them from our pal Henri at www.tinytoycars.com.