Off Wheels and Whizzwheels
By the late sixties the British toy car market had changed with the arrival from the U.S. of Mattel's Hot Wheels range and their associated track sets. Sales of Corgi Toys began to fall away and matters were not helped by a disastrous fire at the Swansea factory in March 1969 which destroyed a warehouse full of models awaiting delivery. Even one of the company's cleverest innovations the Golden Jacks 'Take Off Wheels' system which first appeared in March 1968 did little to halt the slide. The authentically detailed die-cast wheels fitted to these models were unique to each model, with the exception of the Oldsmobile Toronado and the Chevrolet Camaro which shared a wheel design, and were attached to the axle by means of the 'Golden Jacks' – die-cast golden metal stands, which when folded downwards both released the wheel and supported the model. Only seven models were produced with this feature.
The Mini Marcos was a fibre glass bodied coupe produced by the specialist British sports car manufacturer Marcos and was built on the Austin/Morris Mini chassis and fitted with a highly tuned Mini engine. The Corgi model Mini Marcos GT850 (341), finished in metallic red, was the first in the series of Take Off Wheels models and was introduced in March 1968. The Rover 2000 TC (275) issued a month later in April 1968 and finished in metallic green was a new casting despite Corgi having previously issued a model of the Rover 2000, and was fitted with a clear roof panel as featured on a Rover 2000 displayed on the Triplex stand at the 1965 Earls Court Motor Show, and a plastic spare wheel holder attached to the boot lid which was a popular period extra. A rare version finished in white with a red interior also exists.
The Oldsmobile Toronado (276) released in June 1968 was an updated version of the earlier 1967 Corgi release of the same model but re-coloured metallic red or metallic yellow, but the metallic gold coloured Chevrolet Camaro SS350 (338) issued in August 1968 was a new model of one of the latest generation 'pony' cars from America. The previously mentioned 1968 London to Sydney Marathon winning Hillman Hunter rally car (302) was issued in July 1969 and was finished in the blue and white of the original. The Rolls Royce Silver Shadow Mulliner Park Ward Coupe (273), finished in pearlescent white over grey, was issued in March 1970. A rare version of this model was released in silver over metallic blue which was used as the colour scheme for the later Whizzwheels version. The Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray (300) with detachable roof panels, released in April 1970, was the last of this short-lived line. This model was available in chromed red or green finish. Spare Take Off Wheels were available separately in packs of twelve.
Low friction wheels known as 'Whizzwheels' were introduced to keep up with the competition in September 1969 with the Ferrari 206 Dino Sports (344) finished in either red and white or yellow and black. The first incarnation (known to collectors as 'Red Spots') featured rubber tyres and brass hubs with low friction red nylon centres, which though attractive and effective, were expensive to produce and were soon replaced by plastic wheels. Although giving more 'play value', later Whizzwheels models are less popular with collectors today as they take away some of the character and realism of the earlier regular wheeled models fitted with rubber tyres. Models fitted with the short-lived 'Red Spot' Whizzwheels, however, have become highly collectable, particularly extremely rare versions which were specially manufactured to be used as examples of the new gimick by Corgi's sales team.