Diecast Delights: Real diecast delights.

As a child of the ‘eighties, my diecast collection was made up of whatever was available in local shops. I was typically drawn to Matchbox models, they tended to be better resolved, more detailed and, somehow meatier than Corgis of the same size. For whatever reason, I rarely came across a Hotwheels – perhaps it was a geographical thing and only the big cities got them. 1:64 (or thereabouts) was the norm for me, the kind of toy I could buy with a few weeks’ pocket money. 1:43 or beyond was a rare treat, the kind of thing I would only get if was a very good boy indeed.
The most memorable of any scale, though, were cars with built-in features. An opening body panel or two was always nice – quite a few Matchbox and Majorette models had two opening doors and a functional hatchback, and opening bonnets were relatively commonplace. There were some, too, that used complicated mechanisms for the purpose of entertainment. I have a Matchbox Range Rover somewhere whose oversize roof beacon spins with the rotation of its wheels, and I later attained a 1:36 Bedford CF Ambulance with a more elaborate version of the same mechanism.
It was only the other day, with a random find in a charity shop, that I realised just what I had missed out on by being born so late.

While I was more of a Matchbox man than a Corgi kid in the ’80s, the latter brand possibly had the upper hand in the ’70s and earlier. Corgi and Dinky went pretty much hand in hand on the living room carpet, and it was those that my father’s (long lost) collection mainly comprised of. And it was a Corgi that veritably leapt off the shelf at me when I visited a charity shop in Lymington at the end of February.
It’s a 600 Pullman that dates from between 1964 and 1969. I saw the model amidst various other toy cars of varying provenance, in a fundraising shop for a local hospice, and nearly put it back on the shelf when I spotted its missing tyre. But I quickly spotted a feature that shouted ‘take me home’.
Among the ‘new for ’64’ features were vacuum plated chrome trim and slide-open rear windows. Both pretty cool, but the real stand out trick this model has up its sleeve is functional windscreen wipers.

There’s a clever linkage from the rear axle that uses an irregularly shaped pinion to transfer drive to the wipers, which oscillate by means of a cam. Not only that, but a rotary switch on the chassis lets you lock them out, and the linkage is so compact that there’s still space for a proper interior moulding. Honestly, the presence of this mechanism excited the hell out of me, and had me frantically fishing about in my pocket to muster the £2 asking price.
It also had me wondering what other wild and wonderful features other residents of The Hooniverse might have encountered over the years. What’s the most awesome detail, gadget or gimmick you’ve ever found in a toy car?
(Images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse)

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9 responses to “Diecast Delights: Real diecast delights.”

  1. Lee Koetje Avatar
    Lee Koetje

    My 1979 black Tomica ( Pocket car ) Lotus Esprit had pop up headlights with a little switch on the bottom. That Lotus always got the best parking place .

  2. Tank Avatar

    there are a few youtube channels about restoring old die cast cars. You may want to look into them about this one

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Nah, I’ll replace the tyre and that’s about it. I kind of love how it wears its fifty years of play.

  3. zia joaquin Avatar
    zia joaquin

    One of my all time favorite cars. First one I saw in person was at
    Braman BMW in Miami around 1982. IIRC the price for brand new M1s in
    Europe at the time was around $65K but federalized ones were $115K, like
    the one Braman had..
    Heard about Ipe Decking website

  4. crank_case Avatar

    That’s pretty awesome. Good news for those of us from the UK/Ireland nostalgic for Corgi – Hornby (which owns the Corgi brand) has bought out oxford diecast, which makes incredibly nice, yet affordable 1/76 diecast cars (cheaper than your average Herpa 1/87 but very good quality). It’s one of the few success stories in an otherwise stagnant uk model car/train scene.
    As part of the acquisition deal, the head of Oxford Diecast will now be running Hornby, so hopefully he’ll bring some of that magic to the rest of the range, and he’s talking about targetting younger buyers again rather than middle aged hobbyists, so that likely means reviving Corgi as a matchbox/hotwheels rival again.
    I kinda think Mattel needs an overdue kick in the pants of late. They don’t have any serious competition in the 1/64-ish/3-inch diecast market. They bought out Matchbox and perversely don’t distribute it properly in its traditional “home” market and distribution of Hot Wheels is an afterthought compared to the US (barely get half the mainline cases, forget about nice stuff like “Car Culture”). Majorette is sort of making a comeback, and there’s RMZ stuff, but that’s quite poor quality, a modern revitalized Corgi, properly distributed would be great.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Hell, Mattel does a pretty awful job of distributing Matchbox in North America as well. I find most places have about half as many as Hot Wheels (if that), and it tends to be generic heavy equipment. I assumed they’re just letting Matchbox wither away.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        They’ve made some lovely matchbox stuff of late, the GMC stepside, 300c and other bits I can’t track down like a Hudson hornet. But yeah, all you seem to find on pegs is generic construction stuff. I don’t mind that that stuff exists as it has obvious play value. My nephew isn’t bothered about cars but goes mad for “diggers”, it’s just when you only see that stuff over and over. Some of it is shops being clueless and not getting how the seasonal case system works, but I still blame Mattel for not providing oversight.

  5. dukeisduke Avatar

    Ah, Corgi Toys. I only owned a couple of them (growing up, we didn’t have much money), but they were my favorite (this was before Hot Wheels came along) along with Matchbox.