There I was, in my garage, tidying up the myriad of car books and magazines that I currently have in my life, and wondering why on earth I’ve hoarded so many. Then I remembered – I continually go back and read them, top up my old-car knowledge, and generally transport myself back to simpler times. Trouble is, most of my magazines are bound in volumes and, as such, they’re not quite as I remember them – even if the treasures inside still are…
However, as I rummaged through the boxes, I came across one that was full of Matchbox cars – and, even before I delved in to see what was what, I was powerfully taken back to the 1970s (my formative years) in a far more powerful way than the magazines have come close to doing. And I guess that’s because my magazines have always been with me and continually referred back to, whereas the Matchbox cars were pretty much put away when I hit puberty, and have rarely seen the light of day since.
Looking at them today, it’s interesting to recall how much I loved the Superfast 1-75 series cars. This range was launched exactly 50 years ago, and was effectively a clever rebranding of the existing range of Lesney’s Matchbox cars, but with low-friction wheels, jazzy new colours and pretty new boxes. By the time I was buying them with my weekly pocket money in the late 1970s, the range of 1-75 cars was constantly evolving, and contained some very interesting models.
For me, Matchbox cars were always the one to have, boxed as below, and preferably the day-to-day cars rather than racers or customised cars. I loved playing with miniature versions of the sort of cars you’d see walking to school, or down to the shops, and therefore made sure that in my collection were beauties such as the Citroën CX (above), Ford Cortina, Renault 5 and Volkswagen Golf.
Perhaps the uniformity of the packaging appealed to my OCD, as well as the fact they usually seemed much more accurately modelled than their rivals from Corgi. Yes, I should say that for me, Matchbox were the ones to have, with Corgi a distant third behind the delightful Majorette toy cars from France. But then I would say that – these delicious French toys were a taste of the exotic (literally), and always had softer, longer-travel suspension than their British rivals (just like the real thing!)
Matchbox cars probably fed my love of the Citroën SM and the Pininfarina Aerodynamica (below), which was modelled so nicely, and has made this car more famous than any number of motor show appearances managed to do. So, that’s why I guess there will always be a place in my heart for these cars – and why they’ve been with me since childhood.
As I closed the lid on the box, probably not to see the cars again for several years, I marvelled at how much modelling technology has improved in recent years. Toys and models today are so accurate and lifelike as to be scarcely believable, and yet – give me my battered Matchbox Rover SD1 (with opening sunroof) any day for the sheer joy of being transported back to my childhood (even if the Corgi version was better proportioned, and the tailgate opened…)
All pictures: Die Cast Investor