Hooniverse Asks: How did you play with toy cars?

Clumsiness in my study the other day saw a number of things rolling from my bookcase and landing on my head. Among them, this Mazda RX500 and Citroen CX Familiale. I held them aloft for close inspection, and suddenly realised that I had done exactly the same thing thirty years ago. In fact, that was pretty much my favourite thing to do.
“Top Gear” was my favourite game to play when alone with a collection of toy cars, but it didn’t involve powerslides, lap times or getting into ‘hilarious’ scrapes. No. It entailed my laying on the floor, looking at the cars close up as if recreating an endless variety of camera angles. Occasionally I’d do tracking shots, moving my eye past the car and blinking slowly to fade between scenes. I’d do my own commentaries, too, of course.
There were times that I participated in group play sessions with other kids, and that didn’t always go well

In the grounds of my primary school there was a turfed mound of excavated soil from the school’s construction in the late ’60s. Imaginatively, we called it The Mound. Over the years it had eroded under the combined forces of wind, rain and playful feet, and sandy channels had formed in its surface. The topography of these channels, if you had a vivid imagination, looked rather like mountain roads.
For a spell in the late ’90s, I remember that my favourite car to play with on The Mound was a yellow Majorette Honda Accord. I knew a bit about the Accord, and assumed mine to be the plush EX model. As part of my play I would make the sounds associated with using its electric windows, and would frequently take advantage of its cruise control.
As long as common sense prevailed among junior motorists, I was perfectly happy for others to join me. I would even lend my cars out, but not the Accord, oh, God no. But when a kid turned up with a random black coupe and proclaimed himself to be Knight Rider, and went on to use Turbo Boost, he’d need to find somewhere else to play. I demanded a certain degree of realism. Woe betide you if you turn up with a 1:43 and try to enter my (approximately) 1:60 world.
So, I was a strange kid. Maybe I was doing it wrong. But is there any official, standard way of playing with toy cars?
Did you do things differently?
(Images: Chris Haining / Hooniverse)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

23 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: How did you play with toy cars?”

  1. P161911 Avatar

    I grew up in the ear of Smokey and the Bandit and The Duke of Hazzard. The only thing that mattered with toy cars was jumping ability. http://www.arthurhu.com/97/07/hwad1968.gif

    1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
      dead_elvis, inc.

      My childhood firebug approves!
      Shamefully, many 1960s vintage Matchbox cars died a fiery death at my hands. (Unsupervised free time & unfettered access to multiple flammables as a 10 y.o. surprisingly did not lead to structure fires or even any minor burns to my person.)

      1. Alff Avatar

        Control-line planes and cars were big in my neighborhood. That led to many a horror involving Cox fuel.
        I did not get away as unscathed as you. Accidentally set a neighbor’s house on fire with a rocket when I was 12. The only thing that saved me was that he and my Dad were watching me at the time, and it was clearly a defective firework.

        1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
          dead_elvis, inc.

          The one (minor!) fire I had a hand in setting was small grass fire that almost certainly would have burned itself out harmlessly & quickly, but the volunteer fire squad was on point that day. No Matchboxes or other toys were harmed or even incidentally involved.
          The father of a close friend was a shotgun enthusiast who packed his own shells. The seemingly unlimited availability of black powder, primers, and those glorious unsupervised hours after school spent making bombs & blowing shit up still somehow resulted in none of us losing so much as an eyebrow. This same pal’s mom’s garden, on the other hand, frequently suffered mysterious craters.

          1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

            I once tried to recreate a scene from a TV police documentary where an Austin Metro was set ablaze by vandals. As a 9 year old I wasn’t really sure how to achieve it, though, and ended up with a mildly singed 1:36 scale Corgi Metro stuffed with browned paper and a matchstick ends.

          2. Alff Avatar

            Matchstick ends should do the job. A duct tape ball full of strike-anywhere match heads makes an impressive explosion.

  2. nanoop Avatar

    I dragged my Hot Wheels and Match Box cars through my sandbox, and I still have that attitude, sort of, when it comes to paint preservation on real cars.
    Later I owned some 1:18 scale BBbburagos, which I strained a little by exercising parallel parking – 1/3 turn lock to lock, yay. They are now collecting dust in my parents’ house.
    I just looked up ebay prices, the F40 model quadrupled its value from 40 DM to 70 EUR, whereas the real thing only tripled from 0.4 MUSD to 1.2 MUSD in about the same time. Buying the real car was a good investment, but the model had hardly any running costs, mind you!

  3. GTXcellent Avatar

    Wow Chris, can I play cars with you?
    Seriously, I thought I was the only one who absolutely demanded realism. No mixing of car scales. No ridiculous dinosaur shaped Hot Wheels. You can’t drive race cars on the streets.
    My favorite way to play was to drive my F150 Flareside pulling a sweet car trailer I got as part of a Hardee’s Cale Yarborough promotion, hauling my race car of the day – be it a drag car, stock car, sports car, etc.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Where were you on The Mound, damn you? Where were you when I was questing to reach 30 highway mpg in my Accord?

  4. Maymar Avatar

    I definitely had some standard screeching around, fake engine noise play going on, but I had two big things; taking my Hot Wheels track with the loop, sending down something that couldn’t do the loop, and then sending down every single other car after until I had a giant pile of cars on the floor. And less destructively, staging little car shows, organizing every car by manufacturer.

  5. Circle Thomas Avatar
    Circle Thomas

    Not going to lie: discovering that you can buy a pristine Matchbox Citroen CX Familiale or Majorette Honda Accord on eBay for less than $10 shipped to your door has made adulting significantly less painful.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Both sound like essential purchases to me.

  6. Papa Van Twee Avatar
    Papa Van Twee

    I had one of these, which were pretty cool:

    I loved racing my cars, and gravity was the best way. My favorite layout was to use the same dual starter as in the video, and run them into a big Sizzler track turn around so I could see the finish line better:
    Ah, good times.

    1. JayP Avatar

      My dad was replanting some bushes and found a Sizzler buried for 35 years.
      It’s on my shelf now… sans wheels and such.

  7. Sjalabais Avatar

    Traffic jams were oddly fascinating to me, so I redid them on carpets. Accident statistics in my parental home were horrible though, as truck drivers had an extreme tendency to fall asleep at the wheel, approaching these jams. Fire probability was high, and the rescue services were highly strained.
    Later on, I bought sh!tloads of trucks in 1:87 scale. On a tight budget, that meant scouring our one shop in town very regularly for everything that went on sale. I remember my mother getting strangely annoyed when I was super happy about chrome truck wheels on sale for only 5 DM. The shop owner was a very cool guy though, even hiding some editions under his desk for when I’d eventually show up.

  8. JayP Avatar

    Oh, I had HotWheels as a kid. Cars, sets, all the cases… and of all that only a few came out unscathed. My mom packed them in a box for me after I’d moved out.
    My son, who just turned 16 proved to be the spark to start collecting again when he was a toddler. Of course I’d get 2… one to collect and one for him to destroy. Must run in the family.
    When I started collecting again HotWheels was a snap. I’d buy 20-30 at a time from Target and Walmart. Now the designations for first editions aren’t the same and HWs don’t get the same wall space they did 10 years ago. I’ve all but given up but for my son’s 16th, he got the $3 HWs….

  9. crank_case Avatar

    Wow, I had that exact CX toy as a kid, long since vanished sadly. Funnily enough I’ve started collecting 1:64 recently, some “proper” 1/64s like Auto World, Greenlight, Spark, AutoArt etc., along with whatever Hot Wheels/Matchbox take my fancy. You can see an album of my small collection here:

  10. Zentropy Avatar

    I played with my Hot Wheels like I drive my cars. Like I stole ’em.

  11. salguod Avatar

    I had several large flattened boxes on which I had drawn roads in crayon. Cut slots in the corrugated to create potholes and railroad tracks. I’d run the cars with particularly good suspensions over and over these areas just to watch and feel the wheels move up and down. Dad and I would play cars in front of the TV, but dad’s car would spend a lot of time in the parking lot while he was evidently inside shopping.
    I also had a couple of Matchbox suitcase sets that unfolded into layouts to drive your cars in, one was the city and one of the country. I remember my sister driving her Pacer up and over the buildings which drove me nuts. I also remember being annoyed that the roads weren’t actually drivable. Ramps were too steep and corners too sharp.
    I also had a huge collection of orange hot wheels track and a friend and I spent several days perfecting a run from the top of the stairs on the second floor down to the first floor, through the hall, family room, kitchen and dining room to the basement stairs and on down there. The cars wouldn’t make it in one go, but they did stay on track all the way down the stairs, which took some doing.

  12. Kevin Davison Avatar
    Kevin Davison

    My father had one responsibility at Christmas and that was to purchase a toy for the only other male in the house. As such he took that responsibility very seriously. He would spend considerable time trying to locate the perfect Matchbox SuperKing truck each year, usually accompanied by two or three Matchbox cars. He liked Matchbox/Lesney for their realism and I received Hot Wheels only from relatives “who didn’t know what cars are supposed to look like”.
    I was strongly encouraged to play with my SuperKings only on carpeted floors and they were never to be taken outside. One hand was to be on the vehicle at all times while the vehicle is in motion. Thanks to these rules each and every one of the trucks I received as a result of my father’s obsession still sit on my shelves with little to no play wear some 40 years later.
    I was well into my 30’s when I finally acquired that super futuristic Matchbox 2000 set I had been denied as a kid!

  13. Douche_McGee Avatar

    Mostly I would play car dealer, which meant I got to drive whatever car I wanted.
    I also had the Hot Wheels track with the loops and finish line thing that let you know who won. And I had one of these that I remember playing with often

  14. ptschett Avatar

    For me it depended on scale. And mixing of scale was strictly forbidden.
    Stuff that was GI Joe-scaled went wherever the fight against Cobra went. A few Nylint trucks (notably a Nissan Hardbody & a ’87-’91ish Ford Ranger) served as what I recognize now as “technicals”.
    1:16 tractors were too nice to bash around, so they stayed inside and survived to the present day with the 1:32 tractors and the occasional 1:24/1:25/1:32 car.
    1:43 cars were a fun size to play with, so some of mine (notably the red/white ’57 Chevy Bel-Air and green ’68 Pontiac GTO) got some wear; I took better care of my later ones.
    My oldest 1:64 cars & tractors also took a beating but they were a favorite to bring along anywhere, and being more numerous they allowed more opportunities for fun. Sometimes the police car from Dukes of Hazzard was chasing down the Pontiac Trans-Am driver who just couldn’t drive 55; sometimes it was fun to hitch the round baler to the IH 5088 (preferred because my dad had a 5288) and crank out the same green plastic bale over and over; sometimes it was fun to line up some scaled-size road plates in a ramp and have a race, where the car that rolled furthest off the ramp was the winner. (The blue & grey Ertl ’87-’91 Ford F-250 tended to win at that, being heavy with very straight axles & smooth-running rubber tires.)