Bunhill: Looking at success

Chris Blackhurst
Saturday 15 May 1993 23:02

FROM one man and a model that will rise to five storeys to another who settles for making a living out of the scale models themselves. Chris Guest is head of Corgi, the toy car maker. His company, now part of Mattel of the US, has made 25 million cars since its formation in 1956, making it 'Britain's biggest car maker'. Last year, it sold dollars 40m ( pounds 26.6m) worth worldwide. 'We sell more cars to Japan than the Japanese sell here,' he quipped.

Comparisons with the real thing are how he makes his money. Parents and children still buy Corgi cars as toys but the main business comes from collectors of his faithful period replicas. He has a Collectors' Club of 10,000, including the likes of Tim Rice, Richard Branson and Rod Stewart.

Nearly all his members are male. 'Women don't understand about men and cars. They don't understand that boys never grow up.'

To that end, his Auto City garage was a best-seller last Christmas. Complete with electronic gizmos that create squealing brake effects when the cars go down the ramps, it went into 70,000 homes. This year, he has high hopes for a convertible Jaguar XJS with an electrically operated roof. Is there anything he hasn't made? 'We've not done a Trabant or a Lada.'

His advice to anyone with a toy car is simple: never, ever throw it away.

'Remember the model of James Bond's Aston Martin, the one with the ejector seat and shield that came up at the back?' I do, it was my pride and joy. 'In mint condition it is worth over pounds 300 today.' I think my mother threw mine away. He's right. Women just don't understand . . .

(Photograph omitted)

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