The Family Cars

My parents were record keepers. Especially my Dad, who worked for 30 years as an accountant for the State of North Dakota. Every time he filled the car with gas, he would write down the price per gallon, how many gallons purchased and the mileage on the car. In his retirement years, he kept a daily log comparing the temperatures in Bismarck with those in Phoenix, Arizona, where my parents had a winter home. I’ve always thought it was a little much, but I recently came across something that made me glad they kept track of things.

In a box of things I acquired after Dad died in 2008, I found a nondescript black record book. Though I had looked through these things before, the book somehow escaped my notice. With the heading “Family Diary” at the top of the first page, the book contains lists of important dates – birthdays, weddings and deaths – as well as notes about where and when family vacations and weekend road trips were taken. One page details hospital visits. There’s even a list of when every kid in the family got eyeglasses!

But the page that I’d like to highlight here is the page titled “Cars”, which is a list of every car bought, sold or traded by my parents going all the way back to 1948.

I thought it would be fun to try to find photos of as many of these cars as I could, because for me, the inspiration for collecting toy cars goes back to the real cars that I was around when I was young.

I am the youngest of 10 children and my dad loved to travel, so many of the vehicles my parents chose were big enough to haul all of us kids around while pulling a big trailer for us to camp in.

My brothers, Myron (left), and Ramon (right), with my dad, Donald, in front of the 1950 Plymouth Suburban.

Brothers Ramon, Myron and Joel next to the 1960 Ford Falcon station wagon.

My siblings, Brenda, John, Myron, Tim, Joel, Patty and Carla in front of the 1965 International Travelall.

Dad saved the brochure for his Travelall.

The Travelall brochure includes hand-written notes from the salesman.

I was born in 1966. I have a very early memory of standing up between my dad and my mom on the front seat of our big Pontiac station wagon as we cruised down the highway on a road trip somewhere. If I could have any of these cars now, I would choose the Catalina wagon.

The 1965 Pontiac Catalina wagon with the 1971 Chevy Cheyenne Super pick-up, August, 1972, at Lake Tschida, N.D. The pick-up was new and didn’t yet have the camper shell.

This is the camping rig that took me all around mostly the western U.S. when I was young. Myself, Tim, John, Brenda at Sibley Park, North Dakota, in 1974.

Brenda, me, Dad, John and Tim, camping in Hastings, Nebraska, City Park in 1978. A good shot of the Chevy pick-up with the camper shell.

Tim, our niece, Kelly, myself and the N.S.U. Prinz 4 in front of our garage. Dad would park the Prinz sideways at the very back, turning it into a three-car garage!

Dad also saved a brochure for the N.S.U. Prinz.

The 1974 Chevy Vega wagon. Yes, it was white with fake woodgrain panels!

The red 1974 AMC Hornet, about 1978.

1983(?) Chevy Cavalier wagon. Much to my surprise, Dad let me borrow this car to drive myself and a friend and our dates to Senior Prom.

Dad standing by the motorhome somewhere along the highway, about 1984.

The 1985 Chevy Astro Van parked along side my parent’s winter home in Tempe, Arizona. 

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Playart Kubelwagen

This nice, late 70s Playart Kubelwagen from my childhood was in the box of military toys that included my M*A*S*H playsets. At one time I had a fairly large WWII diorama in my bedroom and I’m pretty sure this Kubelwagen was part of it. When I was a kid, Playart cars were sold under the Peelers brand at Woolworth, which is where I would have bought this and the other Playart models I still have.

Playart 7850 Kubelwagen | army green | 5-spoke wheel | Made in Hong Kong

The Playart toy company, owned by Duncan Tong, produced diecast and plastic cars and trucks in Hong Kong from 1965 to 1983. In addition to the Woolworth Peelers, Playart cars were also sold under a variety of other brands including Road Mates (sold at Sears), Freewheelers (sold at McCrory), Charmerz Super Singles and Fastwheel. While the cars were fairly well-made, the castings were often based on those of other toymakers such as Tomica and Corgi.

The real-life Volkswagen Kubelwagen was designed in 1938 at the request of the German army by none other than Ferdinand Porsche. The lightweight, two-wheel drive, rear-engine vehicle performed admirably in tough conditions. It had a flat, smooth underside which allowed the oversized wheels and tires to propel it over sand, snow or mud rather well.

 

1979 Zylmex M*A*S*H Playsets

I rediscovered a box of military toys from my childhood a few years ago. At the time, I was really excited to have found three super-clean, old Matchbox models. Recently, I was reminded by an online post of the series of M*A*S*H vehicles that I had in that box. The long-running TV show was – and still is – a favorite of mine. So I found the box again and this time I photographed everything in it.

I couldn’t remember how the pieces were packaged. Fortunately I found a Zylmex fan site of which the following text and photo of the 1979 toy catalog page are courtesy:

First a celebrated movie, then and still a wildly popular TV show, and now, a best-selling toy model series.  All vehicles of die-cast metal with plastic parts. Super play value features include folding blades on Supply Helicopter, removable plastic canopy on Ambulance Truck, folding windshield and detachable trailer on jeep. Detailed, durable, injection molded plastic Playsets are based on actual settings found in the M*A*S*H TV Series. Combination of Vehicles and Playsets create a toy model series in constant demand.  Blister pack assortment, plus a Floor Display of distinctive design.

As you can see by the following photos, I have most of the series except for the Ambulance Truck and the Supply Helicopter.

T439 Ambulance Van with opening door

Rescue Copter and Helicopter Landing Pad Set.

T432 Jeep Car and Trailer

T431 Armored Half Track

Latrine Set

Field Hospital Set

I also had to photograph the box that all of these items have been stored in for years. The plastic model is long gone, but the box has survived in surprisingly good shape.

New Year’s Inventory

Someone asked me recently how many cars I had in my collection. The best guess I could come up with was “in the hundreds” but I wasn’t really sure. So I decided to spend part of New Year’s Day counting everything up. I keep updated lists, so it was mostly just a matter of counting and totaling the numbers. Or so I thought, until I realized how many items were not on my supposedly updated lists. After a few more days of inventorying, I came up with a total of 951 items.

I generally think of my collection as having three categories: Vintage, Novas and Impalas. But occasionally I can’t resist something that doesn’t really fit into any of these. I counted multi-car packs as single items and I did not include several buckets of cars that I have acquired over the years that I have deemed not worthy of my collection. These are the cars that my son and I use whenever we break out the Hot Wheels tracks.

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397 Vintage
In my collection, “vintage” is very loosely defined. These 395 items include my childhood collection and a bunch of almost entirely loose cars with a focus on blackwall-era Hot Wheels. The oldest items would be a few late-1950s Lesney-era Matchbox cars, and I cheat the “blackwall era” with a few cars into the early 1990s.

I have 45 cars that I’ve managed to hold onto from my childhood. They include 18 Matchbox, 9 Hot Wheels, 7 Tomica Pocket Cars, 6 Husky, 4 Playart and a single Majorette.

The remaining 350 Vintage cars break down as follows:

Hot Wheels – 219
Matchbox – 53
Corgi – 14
Zylmex – 11
Yatming – 9
Racing Champions – 8
Majorette – 7
Road Champs – 4
Ertl – 4
Tomica – 4
Siku – 2
Summer – 2
Barclay – 1
Husky – 1
Kidco – 1
Playart – 1
Pit Row – 1
Tin Toys – 1
Unknown – 9

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262 Impalas
When I first started picking up Impalas, I would take them out of the package and display them on a bookcase I had in my bachelor pad. Series like Jada’s Homie Rollerz and the Revell Lowrider Magazine cars encouraged me to start keeping them in the packages. Since Hot Wheels rolled out the ’59 Chevy Impala in 1997, there has been a steady stream of new Impala castings and variations, which puts the brand at the top of this list with 85 items.

Hot Wheels – 85
Johnny Lightning – 59
Revell – 22
Jada – 21
M2 Machines – 15
Greenlight – 14
Maisto – 11
Ertl – 6
Racing Champions – 6
Malibu International – 5
Motor Max – 4
Muscle Machines – 3
Auto World – 3
Disney – 3
Classic Metal Works – 1
Craft House – 1
Geospace – 1
Route 66 – 1
Unknown – 1

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188 Novas
The 2004 release of the Hot Wheels 1968 Nova was an exciting moment for me as a collector. Hot Wheels now has a variety of Nova castings going back to the first-generation body style, so the brand is at the top of my Nova list with 85 items.

Hot Wheels – 85
Johnny Lightning – 38
M2 Machines – 27
Maisto – 10
Muscle Machines – 9
Jada – 7
Ertl – 5
Racing Champions – 3
Playing Mantis – 2
GMP – 1
Universal Hobbies – 1

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104 Miscellaneous
The 90 items here include 10 Hot Wheels 30th Anniversary models from 1998, lots of Batmobiles, NASA-themed items including 3 Hot Wheels Action Packs, some 2005-2006 Hot Wheels Classics and a bunch of other odds and ends.

Hot Wheels – 78
Johnny Lightning – 5
Jada – 4
Matchbox – 4
Lledo – 2
Quartzo – 2
Revell – 2
Bauer – 1
Hormel Promo – 1
Maisto – 1
Upper Deck Collectibles – 1
Unknown – 2

My Collection by Brand
My collection is made up of at least 41 different brands. Being well-represented in all of my categories, the Hot Wheels brand dominates with 476 items. Johnny Lightning comes in second with 102, mostly due to the many Nova and Impala releases during the RC2 era. It’s interesting to note that Matchbox has never made a Nova and the only Impalas made in recent years are the eight-generation version which I have no interest in, yet the brand takes third place with 75 items in my vintage collection.

Hot Wheels – 476
Johnny Lightning – 102
Matchbox – 75
M2 Machines – 42
Jada – 31
Revell – 24
Maisto – 22
Quartzo – 2
Racing Champions – 18
Greenlight – 14
Corgi – 13
Tomica – 11
Zylmex – 11
Yatming – 9
Husky – 7
Majorette – 7
Ertl – 6
Malibu International – 5
Motor Max – 5
Playart – 5
Road Champs – 4
Disney – 3
Auto World – 3
Lledo – 2
Playing Mantis – 2
Siku – 2
Summer – 2
Barclay – 1
Bauer – 1
Classic Metal Works – 1
Craft House – 1
Geospace – 1
GMP – 1
Hormel Promo – 1
Kidco – 1
Pit Row – 1
Route 66 – 1
Tin Toys – 1
Upper Deck Collectibles – 1
Universal Hobbies – 1
Unknown – 12

Late 70s Star Wars Action Figures

When my son was younger, he was all about Star Wars. He watched the movies repeatedly, amassed a huge pile of action figures, several board games and a few costumes. Then, for whatever reason, he moved on. The last time I brought my old Star Wars action figures up out of the basement, he was barely interested.

But with the recent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, his interest in the franchise has been reawakened. His latest obsession is an iPad game in which he is collecting and trading Star Wars cards online. (Who remembers when trading cards were a tangible thing?) So when I heard him say his favorite character was Greedo, I reminded him that I have one of the original Greedo action figures.

After that, it was all I heard about from him – “Dad, can we go look for Greedo?” – until I went down into the cold basement, pulled out my boxes of old toys, and dug through them to find my Star Wars action figures.

IMG_7496Luke Skywalker

In those days, they had an interesting design for the lightsabers, which could be extended by pushing them up through the character’s arm.

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Kenner was the toy company that had been licensed to produce toys for Star Wars, which hit theaters on Memorial Day weekend in 1977. Interestingly, Kenner didn’t even have the toys on the shelves until 1978.

IMG_7499Sand People (Tusken Raider)

IMG_7500Death Squad Commander

My Boba Fett was a mail-order figure. I remember it was advertised that his jet pack would fire a rocket, but by the time mine came in the mail, they had decided the firing rocket was a hazard and it was molded permanently into the jet pack. I understand the few that made it to market with the working rocket are fairly valuable.

IMG_7501Boba Fett IMG_7502

These first Star Wars figures are arguably the first modern action figures. By making the figures about 3 3/4″, Kenner was able to also produce ships and playsets to scale.

IMG_7517C-3POIMG_7503Princess Leia

And here’s Greedo.

IMG_7504Greedo

Although I have a nice Star Wars tin that I had offered my son to store the figures, he commented that the box I had them stored in was “cool”. I had to explain to him what a cassette tape was.IMG_7506

 

An Unexpected Referral

I put a fair amount of time and effort into trying to drive traffic to my blog. WordPress provides daily stats and I look at them regularly to try to determine what’s working and what’s not. Sometimes what I find there is not what I would expect.

Yesterday, I noticed a couple of referrals that came from a website I did not recognize. I clicked on the link and found myself on a website called PaintRef.com. “Looking for automotive paint? What’s the name of a color? Remembering the first car you ever owned? These questions and more can be explored on PaintRef.com,” declares their homepage. So I gave it a try. It’s not the most attractive site around, but it’s easy to use and it houses an impressive collection of information, with a variety of ways to search. With a few clicks, I had the paint codes in a variety of brands for the Green Gold Metallic paint from my long gone 1973 Chevy Nova.

Probably the coolest feature is one that allows you to do an image search for vehicles with that particular paint. I especially enjoyed the photos I viewed of a Green Gold 1973 Chevy Nova SS (much nicer than mine ever was, by the way.) Which leads me to why I was getting referrals from this site. On a page for “Impact Yellow 1980 Dodge Truck,” the image search was pulling in photos of the Matchbox 1976 Dodge Cattle Truck from one of my earlier posts. Here’s the screen capture …

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 10.09.30 PM

Now, this is probably not exactly what the guys at PaintRef.com had in mind, but I appreciate the traffic however I can get it. So click on over to PaintRef.com and check out their impressive database – and tell them I sent you.

A Forgotten Trio: Matchbox Personnel Carrier, Jeep and Field Gun

I recently rediscovered three cars from my childhood collection. They weren’t kept in my old race case, but were in a different box full of military toys that has gone unopened for several years. I think I bought these late in my childhood and didn’t play with them much, so all three are in pretty great shape.

IMG_8153 IMG_81541976 | 54 | Personnel Carrier | army green with beige plastic figures seated in back | superfast wheels

IMG_8155IMG_81561976 | 38 | Jeep | army green with gun, 21*11 label, black hubs | superfast wheels

I even found the two little soldiers and the plastic base that came with the Field Gun. The only thing I’m missing is the plastic ammo that can be fired from the spring-loaded gun.

IMG_8157IMG_81581978 | 32 | Field Gun | army green, army green guard, tan plastic base and soldiers, black hubs | superfast wheels

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