Buffalo Bill's Covered Wagon
Colour variations of box lids
Variation 1: Red & yellow wagon, green canopy, type 1 end-flap picture box
Red & yellow wagon, green canopy, type 1 end-flap picture box
In the 1950's several toymakers produced models reflecting the popularity of films and TV programmes about the Wild West in America and Benbros were no exception. The Qualitoys Covered Wagons used the figure of Buffalo Bill as the driver and printed 'Buffalo Bill's Covered Wagon' on the canopy but early boxes did not emphasise this. Later with the introduction of lidded boxes, the name of Buffalo Bill was included.
At a glance, the Benbros wagon appeared very like the Morestone version but there were several clear differences. The easiest ones to see were underneath. Cast in one piece, the Benbros model had an open rear axle; 'Made in England' was cast lengthwise; and the underside was always entirely painted. The casting of the front seat was also quite different and there was no hole for a whip beside the driver but there was a central hole for Buffalo Bill to be firmly secured.
Benbros first chose red for the colour of the wagon with yellow wheels and shaft, a white printed canopy held in place by two metal hoops, and a red & yellow Buffalo Bill in a black hat brandishing a whip. The printing on the canopy depicted a pair of crossed guns, a cowboy lassooing a buffalo, and the words 'Buffalo Bill's Covered Wagon' and was usually coloured green but black examples are known. Hooked onto the sides of the wagon there were two unpainted detachable barrels.
Benbros designed a configuration for the shaft to fit onto the wagon using a clip-fit and crimped pin instead of a rivet and placed it further forward than the Morestone model. The front axle was attached through brackets beneath the coupling frame. This all made a firm connection and gave the wheels a wide arc for turning.
The shaft itself was quite plain with just four side pegs to attach the horses. These were of two styles, either heads up or heads down and were coloured either white or brown, some with black trim on the harnesses.
After a while, Benbros made some changes to the Covered Wagon. The castings remained the same but the colour was altered to metallic blue or metallic green and the shaft became red although the wheels remained yellow (variable shades). Also, the side barrels began to be discontinued on these later variations.
For the canopy printing, Benbros added new colours of red and blue, usually blue for the blue wagon and red or green for the green one. The horses had a change too, the white ones remaining but the other two could be metallic bronze, gold, black, dark-brown, metallic dark-brown, or tan, all without any trim.
Another change was the replacement of the colourful Buffalo Bill figure with a plain unpainted green or brown plastic version. The molding was very similar to the cast version and included a peg to secure it to the wagon. It was also tougher than the cast figure which frequently suffered breakages, especially to the raised whip.
The first two boxes for the Covered Wagon did not mention 'Buffalo Bill' but instead carried bright pictures and the words 'Qualitoy' and 'Covered Wagon' with the Benbros name appearing on the end-flaps with 'Qualitoy' written in the standard logo.
The third box was a lidded type made of strong card and covered with cream paper with, on the lid, bright red, dark-red or dark-blue printing of an action picture with 'Buffalo Bill's Covered Wagon' and 'Benbros Qualitoy' added. This box appears to have been used for several variations of the model.
Although not as common as the Morestone version, the red Benbros Covered Wagon is not too hard to find although Buffalo Bill is frequently missing or damaged. The early coloured boxes are scarce and the later metallic blue and green models are rare.
With several different components, it is likely that the Covered Wagon was sold in a number of combinations, for example with varying colours of horses. The variations below are listed as a guide to the most commonly found models.
Variation 1: Red & yellow wagons with green or black canopies with two versions of illustrated end-flap 'Covered Wagon' boxes
Benbros Qualitoys Buffalo Bill's Covered Wagon
Commonly found Variations
1) RED wagon YELLOW pmw & shaft GREEN or BLACK canopy print 2 white/2 brown horses (trim) 2 um barrels cast Buffalo Bill Illustrated end-flap box 'Covered Wagon' or Cream lidded box 'Buffalo Bill's Covered Wagon'
2) METALLIC-BLUE wagon YELLOW pmw RED shaft BLUE canopy print 2 white/2 coloured horses (no trim) 2 um or no barrels cast or plastic Buffalo Bill, Illustrated end-flap box or Cream lidded box
3) METALLIC-GREEN wagon YELLOW pmw RED shaft RED or GREEN canopy print 2 white/2 coloured horses no barrels plastic Buffalo Bill, Cream lidded box
Variation 1: Red & yellow Wagon, brown & white horses, two barrels
cast Buffalo Bill, green printed canopy with Cream lidded box
Variation 2: Metallic blue/red/yellow Wagon, met.brown & white horses, no barrels,
green plastic Buffalo Bill, blue printed canopy, off-white lidded box
Variation 3: Metallic green wagon, yellow pmw, red shaft, met.brown & white horses, no barrels, red canopy, cream lidded box
Underside views and colours: Variation 1 (top), Variation 2 (bottom)
Colour variations of box lids