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Charbens "Old Crocks"

The Charbens Company was formed in 1929 by Brothers Charles and Benjamin Reid and it was based in Holloway in North London. They began as makers of lead toys but after the war began to manufacture die cast mazac toys and their "Old Crocks" range of vintage cars was introduced in 1955.
The first two models were a Darracq and a Spyker which were based on the "stars" from the 1953 Pinewood Studios movie "Genevieve" which was about two couples on the London to Brighton Veteran car run,
The models were very primitive when compared to those Lesney were making at the time. They can be very fragile too, this is due to Lead contamination of the Zinc used to make them. They are nevertheless charming and highly collectible toys and unlike many other ranges the low prices they fetch today means a complete collection can be built up without the need of a lottery win.

The bodies of the vehicles were made from die cast Mazac (USA Zamac) and fitted with a tinplate baseplate which included the wings and running boards which can be in either a shiny steel finish or be painted black,
The seperately cast and gold painted headlights and steering wheels were press fitted into the body and the wheels were originally die cast on the earlier issues but were later changed for brightly coloured plastic wheels, The axles could be with or without domed ends and those without dome ends were usually a tight push fit on to the wheels.
The castings were usually painted in bright colours with extra paint detail added by hand but they can sometimes be found with a bright chrome plated finish. Note that the early models had the most detailing which was omitted on the later issues, The final pieces made with plastic wheels had very little trim and the steering wheels were also omitted and the mounting holes for the steering wheels were filled.

The toys were were sold in boxes that were printed to look like a suitcase and were about the same size as the early Moko Lesney box.
There were 34 toys in the series and very few variations, The toys had "made in England" on the base and the model details and number were rubber stamped or printed on the box end flaps. On early issues the Darracq was sold with "Genevieve" stamped on the endflap of the box.
They were fairly well detailed and very colourful toys but sadly the lead contamination means that badly affected models will corrode and can literally fall apart in your hands.
The range was deleted in the late 1960s.

The Models

No 1-4 - No 5-8 - No 9-12 - No 13-16 - No 17-20 - No 21-24 - No 25-28 - No 29-35


For more info see K. R. Bakers excellent Charbens Old Crocks website.