£2100 auction win reveals a Corgi Dan Dare Toy Mystery

This week saw Vectis Auctions host the sale of the Chris Freeman Meccano & Vintage Toy Collection, and as we reported here, among a large selection of both original Dan Dare and Eagle collectibles offered was a lot that sold for £2100 that included a prototype Corgi Dan Dare-inspired toy.

The amount raised, given the rarity of such an item is not surprising – but perhaps the successful bidder was even luckier than some fans might have realised… and not just because, when Vectis previously offered a Corgi Dan Dare Car prototype back in 2014, it sold for £4000.

An image of Corgi’s unreleased No. 278 Dan Dare Car, sold by Vectis in 2014 for £4000
An image of Corgi’s unreleased No. 278 Dan Dare Car, sold by Vectis in 2014 for £4000

The prototype sold in 2014 – one of a few that have survived – was clearly the vehicle featured in the first edition of Corgi’s 1981 catalogue, that proudly announced their No. 278 Dan Dare Car with “independently operating radiation shield and cock-pit hood. Retractable wings and rotating radiator grill”.

Finished in red with white flip-out wings, the car, a tie-in with the abandoned ATV Dan Dare TV show produced by Brookside creator Phil Redmond.The “radiation shield” could be retracted to reveal a bright yellow cockpit.

Another surviving prototype Corgi Dan Dare Car, its retractable wings extended, emblazoned with the Eagle comic logo
Another surviving prototype Corgi Dan Dare Car, its retractable wings extended, emblazoned with the Eagle comic logo
The Dan Dare car as it appeared in the 1981 Corgi Catalogue. Image: Gasoline Alley Antiques
The Dan Dare car as it appeared in the first edition of the 1981 Corgi Catalogue. Image: Gasoline Alley Antiques

When the Dan Dare show failed to launch, in part a victim of changes within the ITV network structure that brought an end to ATV, Corgi shelved the project and reprinted its 1981 catalogue to remove any reference to the Dan Dare Car, although plenty have survived.

However, the latest Vectis sale has revealed that, perhaps, Corgi had plans for more than one tie-in vehicle based on designs from the show.

The prototype sold in this week’s auction is completely different to the better-known Dan Dare Car prototype, this design echoing the spaceships seen in the 2000AD “Dan Dare” comic strip, at the point when Colonel Dare commanded a giant Space Fort and the strip was being drawn by Dave Gibbons.

This Dan Dare Corgi prototype was part of a lot of collectibles that sold for £2100 by Vectis in April 2020. Image: Vectis
This Dan Dare Corgi prototype was part of a lot of collectibles that sold for £2100 by Vectis in April 2020. Image: Vectis

Assuming the Corgi model sold this week is a genuine prototype, and we have no reason to doubt it, then whoever bought it clearly nabbed a bargain, even at £2100 – far more than the £40 – £60 estimated selling price in the Vectis catalogue!

However, the mystery deepens, because downthetubes contributor Steve Winders notes this prototype was released by Corgi as a futuristic Royal Mail MCII vehicle in 2000.

Corgi Royal Mail MCII Futuristuc Car - released in 2000
Corgi Royal Mail MCII Futuristic Car – released in 2000

“I saw one about a year ago in a charity shop and wondered whether it was the Dan Dare vehicle repackaged. I didn’t buy it but when I got home I researched it and obviously saw that it wasn’t the Dan Dare car.

“Whether it was originally created to be a second Dan Dare vehicle and then released as the Royal Mail vehicle is unknown, but obviously these vehicles can be found in some numbers.

“The Dan Dare sticker looks like it comes from the cover of the Dan Dare Biography by Daniel Tatarsky, scanned and reduced in size to fit”.

Corgi Royal Mail MCII Futuristic Car. Images via the Little Wheels Museum
Corgi Royal Mail MCII Futuristic Car. Images via the Little Wheels Museum

Part of the Royal Mail Millennium Collection, the miniature (Scale 1:43) die-cast ‘Futuristic Vehicle’, produced in association with Corgi, 2000, was I issued free after purchase of Millennium stamp packs, between October and December, completing whole set of twelve packs. With a futurist design, ‘MCII’ included a rotating forward thrust fan and rear aerodynamic spoiler, and was described as “multifunctional for road and air”.

If the item sold by Vectis was a Dan Dare prototype eventually repurposed for the Royal Mail, line, it poses the question – were there other Corgi prototypes based on the Dan Dare show – and if so, what were they, and have any survived?

In an age of custom built adaptations, here’s something to muddy the waters still further, listed on eBay Italy but sold by someone in Germany, in such a way to suggest it was not an original

The Corgi Royal Mail MCII Futuristic Car, customised into a "Dan Dare Space Vehicle". Image via eBay
The Corgi Royal Mail MCII Futuristic Car, customised into a “Dan Dare Space Vehicle”. Image via eBay
More photos of a “Code 3” adaptation of the Royal Mail Millennium Collection MCII, the original listing noting the customised vehicle was offered with an adapted Dinky box
More photos of a “Code 3” adaptation of the Royal Mail Millennium Collection MCII, the original listing noting the customised vehicle was offered with an adapted Dinky box

“It was advertised as a ‘Code 3’” notes downthetubes reader Neil Kent, “models that are adapted from an original factory made model (i.e. colour change) by a third party and have advertising/ promotional decals applied by said third party.”

But this raises another question… what prompted the person to customise the MCII into a Dan Dare vehicle? Did they know something we yet don’t?

More about the abandoned ATV Dan Dare show here on downthetubes

Collectors Club of Great Britain: Dan Dare, the classic British hero and the toys inspired by his adventures

View the 2020 lot as promoted by Vectis

View the mystery Dan Dare MCII custom lot offered on eBay via PicClick

CGI designs of the David Gibbons-designed “Eagle” craft from 2000AD

Corgi and Dinky Code 1 Code 2 and Code 3 definitions

With thanks to Wakefield Carter and Steve Winders

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: Auction News, British Comics, downthetubes News, Merchandise News, Other Worlds, SF Comics

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2 replies

  1. I remember seeing this “Dan Dare” car on ebay some while ago. A link to the pictures is here: https://picclick.it/Corgi-Code-3-Dan-Dare-Space-Vehicle-in-152958961803.html
    It was advertised then as a “code 3” – “Models that are adapted from an original factory made model (i.e. colour change) by a 3rd party and have advertising/promotional decals applied by said 3rd party”. So probably nothing to do with Dan Dare.

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