I had some fun thinking about this article. Motoring writer and author, Richard Gooding recently posted up on Twitter pictures from his visit to the Hornby toy museum in Kent. This got me thinking about the toy cars that I longed to own as the real thing. Namely those from Corgi and Matchbox.
There is no sense of occasion with die-cast toys anymore. In the ’80s, a new Matchbox or Corgi release was AMAZING. Imagine the rush for the latest iPhone, to a young boy, it was exactly like that.
I can still remember certain releases with fondness. Even a rehash of an old model in new colours was a worthy occasion. 1985 was a particularly hot year for releases and first to get the new Golf GTi, BMW 325i cab, Escort cab or Lamborghini Countach was frantic.
I would save my £1 a week pocket money and once I had got to the usual £4.99 (I think), I’d treat myself to a large Corgi or for about a quid, I’d buy one of the 75 small Matchbox cars available, choosing it from the rotating Matchbox stand in our local toy shop, Chapmans. The nostalgia I am feeling right now is unbelievable.
The small Matchbox and larger corgis were the ones I loved. I wasn’t so keen on the larger Matchbox or the smaller Corgi’s. Matchbox Superkings lacked details and the small corgis were just cheap. That said, I still had some because, well because I wanted that car like the Peugeot 305 saloon from Matchbox, so don’t judge me.
The die-cast toy was a gateway to driving and car ownership. It taught you about keeping the paint pristine or what would happen in the real world when a brick was dropped onto say, a Rolls Royce. I did end up with a fair number of convertibles and a scrapyard worthy of a lot of money had it been real.
There were also adventures to be had with a die-cast and dream garages could be built from new or exchanging with friends. In some ways, it really is little different to car ownership. So without further ado, let us look at my dream garage of die-cast.
One particular model jumps out. The Corgi Fiat X1/9. It was blue with some racing decals. It looked the nuts. Sleek and wedge-like. There was nothing else like it in my toy box. What’s more, this came with a tow hook. What a stupid option.
That’s what I thought until I was given the Carlsberg X1/9 with the boat on a trailer. Forget the silly little boat you could win on Bullseye, this was a real speedboat with a Cosworth engine. Both of these models I still have and to that, I also have to add a real Fiat X1/9.
Another model was given to me second hand. A small matchbox VW camper van. It was wicked at rolling down the hill. Sadly by the time it got to me, it had lost its pop-up roof. That didn’t stop me from prizing it apart and painting it white over orange. That was always the dream.
Didn’t quite work out that way in the end because I ended up with a yellow VW camper van instead.
Another die-cast hero of mine was made by Solido, the French die-cast manufacture. Always a little more expensive. They made an Alfasud racer. Not quite the Alfasud I wanted but that never stopped the hankering for one. And again I would eventually own the real car. Sadly, like the Solido model that came apart quite easily for restoration, my Alfasud came apart too.
I’ve since managed to make die-cast replicas of practically all the cars I have owned. Sadly Corgi and Matchbox aren’t really the same anymore and what they sell aren’t really what I aspire to own. Instead, I have to turn to the many other makers of die-cast out there for my dreams or more importantly, to remake into my current garage. Thankfully Vitesse made some truly unusual models so I have been able to make the last addition to the fleet, the Berlingo.
Where it goes from here, why knows. I’m hankering for a Lancia Beta coupe, Solido made one of those. I also want another Citroën Dyane and I know Corgi made that because I’ve already got one.
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