Blog : Dear Santa… (or AROnline’s Editor opens his toy box)

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Craig Cheetham

Christmas is almost upon us and, all over the world, there’ll be millions of kids, much like my own, excitedly bouncing off the walls in anticipation of the big day.

For me, Christmas was always about one subject – and, unsurprisingly, it was cars… From October onwards, I’d drop the least subtle of hints to my folks about the latest highlights in the Corgi and Matchbox catalogues, and leave lists of desired models strategically lying around in places such as the living room coffee table and my mum’s handbag…

Three decades on, I haven’t really got much better. Some of my toys have got bigger, and they’re the ones I play with in the summer, but with most of the fleet locked away for the winter I’m afraid that the little kid in me yet again comes to the fore, and even today I can’t resist the allure of a toy fair or car boot sale to seek out that elusive diecast find.

This Christmas, in among the video games, iPad apps and Skylanders, at least three little boys will be experiencing the magic of unwrapping a toy car whether they like it or not – I know that, because I’m their dad…

For the rest of us, how about a quick trip down memory lane? I’ve raided my cabinets and, while there are many, many more to choose from, I’ve selected a handful of my favourite models from both distant and recent years, with a distinct AROnline theme.

Do please add your own (you can always email pictures to craig@aronline.co.uk), as I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ll be misty eyed and nostalgic remembering when these first appeared in the toy box…

Merry Christmas from everyone at AROnline.

First out the blocks, the wooden garage is where it all began for me, at some point circa 1980... Despite its playworn condition, it's now home to a collection of '70s and '80s classics in need of a bit of fettling. The Chrysler Alpine's a particular favourite - I found it a car boot sale for 50p, complete with ready-primered wing and sills!
First out the blocks, the wooden garage is where it all began for me, at some point circa 1980… Despite its playworn condition, it’s now home to a collection of ’70s and ’80s classics in need of a bit of fettling. The Chrysler Alpine’s a particular favourite – I found it a car boot sale for 50p a couple of years ago, complete with ready-primered wing and sills!

 

And here's the other side. If only Icould find a real Peugeot 604 in an old showroom somewhere. A Vermillion Princess and a apir of Mk 1 XJs are flying the AROnline flag, while the Mk 2 Cavalier is being kept inside to stop the rear wheelarches from dissolving
And here’s the other side. If only I could find a real Peugeot 604 in a showroom somewhere. A Vermillion Princess and a pair of Mk1 Jaguar XJ6s are flying the AROnline flag, while the Mk 2 Cavalier is being kept inside to stop the rear wheelarches from dissolving

 

I bought this one recently, as it was one of my favourite models as a kid. Bought for Christmas in 1984, my Bburago Datapost Metro was one of my most played-with toys. I still have it, but it doesn't look anywhere near as good as this!
I bought this one recently, as it was one of my favourite models as a kid. Bought for Christmas in 1984, my Bburago Datapost Metro was one of my most played-with toys. I still have it, but it doesn’t look anywhere near as good as this!

 

I was given two of the dealer-boxed Corgi Metros for Christmas in 1980 - one to play with and another to keep safe. Although I was only three at the time, It has survived really well. The Datapost one came a bit later, as I recall, and I'm sure I also had a cream 'Turbo' version - or am I imagining it?
Continuing the Metro theme, I was given two of the dealer-boxed Corgi models for Christmas in 1980 – one to play with and another to keep safe. Although I was only three at the time, it has survived really well. The other one, which was blue, not quite so! The Datapost one came a bit later, as I recall, and I’m sure I also had a cream ‘Turbo’ version – or am I imagining it?

 

I found this Corgi radio-controlled XJ-S recently in a jumble sale and paid a fiver for it (it works, too) - I have no idea about its history though as I've never seen one before. Can anyone shed any light?
I found this Corgi radio-controlled XJ-S recently in a jumble sale and paid a fiver for it (it works, too) – I have no idea about its history though as I’ve never seen one before. Can anyone shed any light?

 

Corgi's beautifully-detailed 1/36th scale Rover SD1. I had the gold 3500 and the Police version when I was a nipper - the others are more recent additions, and I think I've now got them all - any I'm missing?
Corgi’s beautifully-detailed 1/36th scale Rover SD1. I had the gold 3500 and the Police version when I was a nipper – the others are more recent additions, and I think I’ve now got them all – any I’m missing?
One of the latest additions to my collection - I stumbled across it by accident on eBay when looking for an ABS sensor for my 820 Vitesse! Apparently, this was created for the Matchbox Collector's Club of America to coincide with the launch of the Sterling brand. Exactly the same as the UK model, except for the retro-style box...
One of the latest additions to my collection – I stumbled across it by accident on eBay when looking for an ABS sensor for my 820 Vitesse. Apparently, this was created for the Matchbox Collector’s Club of America to coincide with the launch of the Sterling brand. Exactly the same as the UK model, except for the retro-style box…
Something a bit different - I found this in an autojumble. It's based on the Vanguards Allegro saloon, but somebody has lovingly created an estate rear body out of resin and painted it Pageant Blue. A nice, quirky one-off...
Something a bit different – I found this in an autojumble. It’s based on the Vanguards Allegro saloon, but somebody has lovingly created an estate rear body out of resin and painted it Pageant Blue. A nice, quirky one-off…
Schuco's Rover 75 - most were blue or green, but this red version was sold through Rover dealers and came in an exclusive box
Schuco’s Rover 75 – most were blue or green, but this red version was sold through Rover dealers and came with an exclusive box design. Just a really lovely model of a very nice car…
Finally, a selection of Jaguar XJ6s... The red one is a Polistil model dating from the late Seventies and I remember begging my mum for 50p to buy it at a car boot sale circa 1985. The green one is an early '90s Matchbox special edition, and is quite rare today - another Christmas present, though I think I was about 13 or 14 at the time hence why it's relatively unplayed with. The blue one's obviously much more recent, and was a gift from a friend who knows I have a soft spot for X350s (Note to self: buy real one next year ;-))
Finally, a selection of Jaguar XJ6s… The red one is a Polistil model dating from the late Seventies and I remember begging my mum for 50p to buy it at a car boot sale circa 1985. The green one is an early ’90s Matchbox special edition, and is quite rare today – another Christmas present, though I think I was about 13 or 14 at the time hence why it’s relatively unplayed with. The blue one’s obviously much more recent, and was a gift from a friend who knows I have a soft spot for X350s (Note to self: buy real one next year ;-))

Craig Cheetham

A serial impulsive car purchaser, Craig has had his name on over 200 V5s over the past 20 years. 10 per cent of those have been either 800s or Austin Allegros, with between 10 and 20 cars usually owned at any one time. Started out as a local newspaper journalist then worked for car mags including Auto Express, Classic Car Weekly and Land Rover Owner. Worked inside the car industry for a decade as an employee of General Motors, now works for a news distribution agency. Home based, which is dangerously convenient for further irrational heap purchases. Lover of all makes of car since childhood, with a particular leaning towards Austin-Rover... Father of three boys, so hoping to spread the car love. Other passions include rugby union, travelling and eating out.

34 Comments

  1. Ho ho, an Alpine with a wing waiting to be replaced due to rust. Also did I spot a Fiat Strada waiting for its MOT, it probably would have been a rust colour by three years old? Nice in the 80s photo to see a Peugeot 604, a sadly ignored car in its day but a fine alternative to a big BMW.

  2. Oh yes!!! I can well remember when a new Corgi would attract more attention than any other Christmas present (often even more than my main gift). A gold Sierra Ghia comes to mind in particular.

    I had a few Matchbox, Polistil and was it Buerago or similar? The Corgis were my favourites though – that red Metro (!!), a Princess (but bronze), a yellow Capri S, a red TR7, a pale green Mk3 Escort, a road going Renault 5 and the rally version, the Sierra, a metallic red Jaguar XJS, a lovely, silver Fiat X1/9 ….. oh, memory lane! They all used to feature (out of scale!) in some Lego layout or other I’d created.

  3. My SD1 was a larger Polistil model as was my Mini. Other of my larger models included a Land Rover, a Fiat Strada, a Lancis Stratos and a couple of Mercs.

  4. That second photo of yours showing the showroom on the right and the covered petrol forecourt area to the left of it could almost be the premises of Staddons of Budleigh Salterton, which still proudly displays an illuminated Rover Viking longship sign attached to the wall.

  5. I used to drive past the Lesney factory every day on the way to work. I think it was just off Lea Bridge Road in Hackney. I know it was next to a canal.

    Amazing to think they used to make toy cars in the UK.

    • The Lesney factory stood until not long before the London Olympics (possibly 2010). Now it’s yet another block of overpriced flats. It could always be seen from the A12 just before entering the Eastway tunnel.

    • Lledo models founded by one of Matchbox cars founders made models in the UK from the early 80’s till the end of the 90’s in Enfield I think.

      They used to buy injection moulding machines from my first employer and you never had trouble getting a service engineer to visit them.

      In fact I think they used to drop in if they were in the area to see all was tickety – boo with the machines and pick up a freebie model.

  6. Some nice models here. Most of my Corgi/Dinky collection (in my posession) consists of 1960’s era cars, inc Ford Corsair, Austin Cambridge, Zodiac MKIV,RR Silver Shadow, Rover 2000, Mini’s etc. Many are in original boxes – Oh, also got an Aston Martin DB5 JB original Corgi from 1965.

  7. I have also have a version of the same Alpine model although mine is show room shiny metallic green.

    It’s a Solido model, which was I think once the French end of Dinky toys. Unlike a UK Alpine, it has clear front indicators and Simca badges plus the steering wheel is on the wrong side of course.

    My father working for Chrysler at the time procured them from his contacts in Simca so I have to go with it a Bagheera, Horizon and Rancho.

    I also have a AMX 13 and AMX 30 tank, a Simca light truck (a sort of French equivalent of a Fwd Control Land Rover) with a towed gun and a Alvis Stalwart in Belgian markings.

    • Just thinking about it I also have a Match Box, Pininfarina BMC 1800 in yellow with Super Fast wheels.

      It was the second the fastest car on my super-fast (loop the loop)match box track I had one Christmas in the early 70’s. I think it came as part of the set, I guess because the model was not a fast seller on its own by the early 70’s.

      The fastest was a Rolls Royce Sliver Ghost convertible, I think because it was noticeable heavier (with extra detailing) plus longer travel suspension. I guess Rolls Royce insisted that their name could only go on something tangible superior to the other models.

  8. The Matchbox Rover 800 always confused me as it was simply labelled “Sterling”. I see now that it was primarily for the US market.

    I had a couple of Corgi SD1s, including the 1:60 scale police one.

    Had a 1:60 datapost red Metro too.

    Various Minis.

    Around 20 years ago, Kelloggs had a promotion where you could pick up 4 classic cars (Mini, Minor, 2CV, Beetle) and quite a nice cardboard garage.

  9. Remember a Majorette Mk2 Capri Ghia in orange with a Grey roof, Polistil Taunus L Coupe in lemon yellow, Dinky BL Rally Spec TR7. Those sh*t matchbox cars that had moving parts (Rotomatics) like the Mustang Mach 1 “Piston Popper” that got stamped on by my brother and rolled in dogs mess…thanks! One christmas was a very rare M&S (st michael)re-badge of Corgi which they sold as sets the one I got was a Land Rover series 3 station wagon in white and red, Fiat X-19 in met Green with a JPS (but JPS logos absent only Texaco) Lotus 72 on a trailer.

  10. The Corgi Rover 800, with opening bonnet, boot and doors was my favourite Christmas toy car of all time. I still have mine!

    I also liked the Corgi Sierra, SD1 and Metro mentioned above. My Metro was also a cream Turbo version – the lower doors were black with ‘Turbo’ written along them. I still have it, but it was resprayed red many years ago…
    The Corgi Rolls Royce Corniche was a good one too – a satisfyingly heavy toy car with a metal base.

    I seem to recall Corgi did a yellow Maestro with working lights, but I think they’re quite hard to come by now. I never had one as a kid unfortunately…

  11. I had one of those yellow Maestros with working lights, which stopped working very quicky (was Lucas involved!?) & exchanged for the Police Rover 3500 I mentioned above.

    My cousins had some cars that had a keyhole in the base, so when you turned a key in it the front doors & wheels would lock. I never remember seeing those elsewhere.

    Some of the last toy cars I owned had colour changing paint, that would react to temprature. Made by Matchbox.

    When cold they were red, slightly warm water would turn them orange (or even summer air) & warmer water would make them yellow.

  12. The Corgi Maestro, I have seven of those, they are like hens teeth now, and my ever expanding model collection grows weekly, i am currently just shy of 5,000 models, and there are a lot of our brands of choice models in amongst those, from the many dozens of Rovers, to Austins, Morris’s, Wolseley and so on, i keep trawing ebay, and keep buying all the Longbridge, Cowley Abingdon and so on specials, and i wont stop. and I wont be selling any, anytime soon.

    • I was given one of the yellow Maestros in 1984 by an Austin Rover dealer when my dad bought a 2 year old Ambassador. The lights did not work at all well, Obviously genuine Lucas OE!

  13. From Memory, and i do have a few of them too, the Matchbox 800 was also a special edition in that box for the Canadian Matchbox Collector Club, it is a shame that Matchbox did not really do many different colours in the 800 or the MGf

  14. I am not sure if I still got every Corgi Rover SD1 Model in 1/36, but I still have got 18 different models!
    The Rover Sterling from Matchbox are about eight different models. I think you could expand your collection if you want!

  15. My all time favourite was the Austin Cambridge driving school car by Corgi, with real steering operated from the sign on the roof. That would have been a birthday present in 1967. Second all time favourite was the Land Rover breakdown truck with working crane by Dinky. I got that after being a brave boy at the dentist in 1963 or 64. I can still remember my mum blanching at the price – 5 shillings and 8 pence !

    • I too had that Austin Cambridge when I was a kid; perhaps that’s how I passed my test first time!
      But my all time favourite was a mettalic red NSU Ro80 – can’t remember who by, Corgi I think – but if you pushed the front end down the head lamps lit up, and if you pushed the tail down the rear lights came on. If you pushed down on the roof, depressing both suspensions, both ends lit up.
      Unlike the Metro, they never failed.
      They’ve all gone, given away to other kids to enjoy, or destroy. Strangely all I have left isn’t a car at all. It’s a die cast de Havilland Sea Vixen, tucked away in the back of a cupboard. Won’t get rid of it though, however much my other half complains.

    • After I was a brave boy at the dentist I got a red (Mazda?) pick up truck complete with detachable rear camper van section! Another Corgi I think.

  16. One of my friends had a habit of recolouring his cars with a marker pen, so his Yellow Maestro with lights became black, along with a lime green Fiat X1/9.

  17. Richard16378

    For my birthday one year, when I was young (late 80s/early 90s), I got a set of matchbox cars with marker pens.

    The cars were all white, and you had the oppurtunity to colour them yourself.

    The blue was a particularly nice shade, so they all became blue.
    Then my other cars all became dark blue (their original colour + the blue marker).

    Good times.

    • I don’t remember that range Will, but by then I was a bit old for toy cars.

      One of my cousins had one of those Acclaims with the steering operated by the mirrors.

      I remember it was easy to find 1:24 Marinas in beige at jumble sales by the mid 1980s. Some other cousins of mine had one they seemed to come in a set with a HGV & transporter trailer. They seemed to get some hand my downs from my Uncles family.

      Me & my brother were given a box of car from a family on our street after their sons grew out of them. Lots of late 1960s-70s cars, some of which might be in my parents attic if the didn’t go in a charity bag at some time.

      My parents were quick to dispose of boxes for indiviual cars.

  18. @ Mr Farinborough
    I had (and still have lurking in my loft the M&S set that you describe!

    I also still have the Metro in a box as shown here Craig. I bought it with my own money (at the tender age of 11) from Carrefour in Minworth (now as Asda I believe) near B’ham. I also bought the Charles and Diana wedding model a year or so later.

    I seem to recall having a Truimph Acclaim that you could steer by pushing the wing mirrors in and out. An interesting option, suprisingly not adopted by BL 🙂

    I had the Princess in Bronze too, and a couple of Marinas, a saloon and a coupe

  19. Back in the late 60’s brother Paul had a couple of Matchbox MG 1100’s in green complete with a small dog hanging out of one of the rear windows! I seem to remember they had moulded plastic towbars too. Our grand-dad used to occasionally take us to Mr Green’s cycle and toy shop in Bradford-on-Avon where we were allowed to choose a new car from the spin-around octagonal display carousel that was usually full of the latest Matchbox models. I had a peony red Dinky Morris Marina Coupe for Christmas in 1971 or 72 but sadly it was liberated from my possession a year or two later by person(s) unknown and I have never seen another like it!
    Another car Paul had was a plastic friction-driven Wolseley Hornet in Silver but regrettably it met an end similar to that of many real Hornets when we decided in the spring of 1971 to dismantle it for scrap with the aid of a pair of kitchen scissors!

  20. Ha! Following on from the above comment I’ve just had a look on a certain Internet auction site and found a couple of examples of my long-lost red Corgi (not Dinky) Marina 1.8 Coupe for sale. Car 1 features chipped paintwork and whizz wheels, is unboxed and a snip at £45.00! Car 2 is a boxed example ‘as new’ for £50. Probably buy a real one for less than that these days. Do I treat myself for Christmas? The same model was also produced in a lovely 1970’s shade of Lime Green.
    Currently available in the Oxford Diecast 1:76 range are two Allegro Estates in Harvest Gold and Vermilion and a couple of Marinas in Blaze or Black Tulip. About as close as you can get to the Matchbox models we all so fondly remember and at 21st century pocket money prices too (around £4.50 each). 40 years from now they’ll be worth ten times that but whatever else you do with the cars, above all remember to KEEP (and cherish) THE B****Y BOXES!!

  21. Of course, The Acclaim! How did I forget that I too had one of these? I also had the Rolls Royce Corniche mentioned above.

    I also forgot about my green Talbot Matra Rancho – used to be one of my favourites.

    I tonight also recall a couple of Unimog (?) trucks.

  22. I had a majorette 604 in “rouge plaisir”, that’s the equivalent of a slightly darker Nightfire, I have the same Schuco 75 in Copperleaf just like the one I used to drive. Nice garage, thanks for sharing. Happy new year to all Didier

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*