1978 Tomica Alpine Renault A310

Over the years, I’ve bought a lot of cars – sometimes an entire box at a time – just to get a few that I really wanted. All of those many rejected cars have gone into several paint buckets that I still have in the basement. As my collection has evolved, occasionally I go back through the buckets and find things that I passed over the first time. Recently, I decided to give the buckets another scrubbing and was surprised to find a few more keepers.

I still have some really nice Tomica models from my childhood, but none of my toys have the racing-style wheel that you see on this Tomica Alpine Renault A310 from 1978. That’s most likely why I didn’t recognize it as a vintage Tomica and left it languishing so long in one of my reject buckets.

The real-life Alpine Renault A310 was produced from 1971-1985 by the French manufacturer Alpine (first an independent company, later a subsidiary of Renault). The original four cylinder model was larger and heavier than its Rally-winning predecessor, the Alpine A110. However, in 1976 the A310 was restyled, given a rear spoiler and a V-6 engine, and it went on to win the French Rally Championship in 1977.

The 1978 page of the online Tomica History Museum shows two variations of this model, neither one of which matches the paint and decoration on mine. As you can see in my photos, the rear wing is broken off on both sides, but the opening hatch that reveals the rear engine is still intact and functioning.

Tomica | 1978 | F58 | Alpine Renault A310 | orange over blue | 1/60


1978 Tomica Cadillac Ambulance

This 1978 Tomica Cadillac Ambulance is the second of the two models I found at Wichita Vintage. It’s fairly play-worn, but I always pick up Tomicas the rare times I find them, as I have a nice bunch from my childhood, including another Cadilac. You can see the Cadillac Ambulance, along with all of the other Tomica offerings from that year, on the 1978 page of the Tomica History website.

Tomica | 1978 | F2 | Cadillac Ambulance | red with white top | 1/77

Splurging at the Antique Store

Antique stores and art galleries are two things I really enjoy. In downtown Wichita, Vertigo 232 is on the second floor of a building that also houses Shopkeepers Antique Mall. Even better, you have to enter the antique store to access the stairs up to the gallery, a situation that gives me opportunity to browse the cases for cars.

While delivering work for a recent show in the gallery, I saw these four cars in the case. I tend to resist buying from antique stores – as opposed to garage sales – because I feel like someone else has made the find for me and I’m paying extra for it. But, at $2 and $3 each, these cars weren’t too bad a value. So I told myself that if they were there the next time I came in, I would pick them up.

When I came back to the gallery at the end of the exhibition to pick up my work, the cars were still there. So I splurged.

This Hot Wheels Porsche 959 is the 1988 first release of a model that’s been released in a few dozen variations since. I really like this paint and tampo combination as well as the Ultra Hots wheels.

Hot Wheels 1988 | 4631 | Porsche 959 | metallic dark red with orange and yellow trim | MY | UH

There are at least a dozen variations of the Matchbox BMW M1, which first came out in 1981. But this metallic gray version, with its opening hood (trunk?) and lack of rear wing and ground effects, appears to be a different casting altogether.

Matchbox 1981 | 52 | BMW M.1. | metallic gray, black 52 and stripe, hood opens, clear windows | Eng. | Superfast wheels | 1:57

I still have a bunch of nice Tomica models from my childhood, so I’m happy to acquire more when I’m fortunate enough to find them. The Tomica Maserati Merak SS and Porsche 928 are both red and both from 1978.

Tomica 1978 | F45 | Maserati Merak SS | red with black trim | 1/62

Tomica 1978 | F53 | Porsche 928 | red | 1/63

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.


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


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


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


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


For several years, the South Texas Diecast website was my go-to for information on Hot Wheels. The site was home to the most complete online listing of Hot Wheels variations -compiled over 16 years by Diecast Hall of Famer, Robert Graves, Jr. – from the first redlines to the latest releases. In November of 2015, partly to ensure his database would live on, Graves decided to merge the STDC site into hobbyDB.

hobbyDB is more than diecast. The wiki-like site catalogs over 152,000 collectible items in over 30,000 subjects and claims nearly 10,000 users. With detailed descriptions of each item, not only is it a great source of information for the collector, users can also take advantage of the system to keep track of their own collections, create a wishlist, or buy and sell items as well.

Access to this amazing database is “free forever”, but hobbyDB relies on thousands of collectors to help keep the listings up-to-date and accurate. If you are a collector and you are interested in helping out, click this link for more information on becoming a hobbyDB curator.


Tomica 1976 Winnebago Motorhome and 1978 Oldsmobile Toronado XSR

Today I came across a garage sale that was held by a Hot Wheels collector. He had a nice bunch of Treasure Hunts and some Hot Wheels Classics still in their blister cards. But I was mostly interested in the box of mixed loose cars from the 1970s. I passed on a few interesting Matchbox and Hot Wheels with parts missing. I don’t see a lot of old Tomica cars around, so I picked up these two. I liked these when I was a kid – and still have all of mine from those days – because of their realistic detail. The Winnebago Motorhome from 1976 is faithfully rendered in 1/97th scale.

img_3535 img_35361976 | F1 | Winnebago Motorhome | white | 1/97

Like many of the Tomica Pocket Cars, this Oldsmobile Toronado XSR has opening doors

img_3537 img_35381978 | F54 | Oldsmobile Toronado XSR | pearl white | 1/78

Tomica Pocket Cars

When I was a kid, Tomica die-cast models were sold in the U.S. as Pocket Cars, on a blister card made to look like the pocket of the denim jacket. Back then, I liked the Tomica cars for their realistic details and their opening doors. But these days I have to say they seem to lack a little bit of the soul of the Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars of the same time period. Still, I have some really nice examples from my childhood collection.

IMG_6912.JPG IMG_6913.JPGTomica | 1975 | | Toyota Crown | black and white with cherry | 1/65

IMG_6914.JPG IMG_6915.JPGTomica | 1976 | F2 | Cadillac | metallic pink | 1/77

IMG_6920.JPGIMG_6922.JPGTomica | 1976 | F6 | Rolls Royce Phantom VI | metallic champagne | 1/78

IMG_6925.JPG IMG_6926.JPGTomica | 1978 | F38 | Ford Mustang II Ghia | white with black top | 1/63

IMG_6916.JPG IMG_6917.JPGTomica | 1974 | 75  TV Bus | white and turquoise with TV Truck label | 1/122

IMG_6918.JPG IMG_6919.JPGTomica | 1976 | 16 | Nissan Diesel | red | 1/102

IMG_6923.JPG IMG_6924.JPGTomica | 1975 | Hino Semi Trailer | green cab, orange trailer (24 Panel Van)