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When toys are wasted on kids.

Chris Haining June 12, 2018 Diecast Delights 9 Comments

Kids, eh? Today’s young’uns have no idea that we used to sit around boxes with curved-glass fronts, which flickered away at less than 50hz and provided us with fewer than a hundred channels. If there was something we wanted to watch, we had to either wait for it to be broadcast, or we had to play it back from a magnetic cassette to which we had recorded it earlier. There then came the battle against tracking, where you end up with pesky horizontal lines of a kind you never see on Youtube.

And then there’s toy cars. Looking at the Matchbox and Corgi toys of my youth, even they seem to have been broadcast in low resolution. What I once thought were perfect replicas of the cars I loved so much, were actually coarse, crude and, in many cases, pretty inaccurate. And when I opened this ‘Junior Rescue’ set by Hongwell – clearly marketed at the younger end of the auto-curious spectrum – it became clear that todays cheap toys are far too awesome.

This fire service liveried early 2000s Ford Transit has a few obvious shortfalls in construction finesse – the paint is a bit too glossy, the rear bumper is attached at a jaunty angle and the headlamps don’t quite sit squarely in their surrounds. Fit and finish isn’t 100%, then. But this was a budget toy, sold through supermarkets and not hobby shops, and that makes the many aspects that are right with this model all the more impressive.

Take the wheels, for example. The oddly bumpy hubcaps are exactly correct. The tiny ‘Transit’ lettering on the window surround is in the right position and the right typeface, and the doorhandles are the right colour. And though the separate headlamp and tail-lamp lenses aren’t mounted entirely straight, it has separate lenses! And then there’s the boat:

It’s a remarkably accurate model of a rigid-inflatable speedboat by Humber boats of Hull, Yorkshire, England. The details include buttons and gauges on the helm console, grab handles for the saddle-type seats, and a tidy rendition of its aluminium radar arch. The outboard motors look great, too – although a presumed lack of licensing rights mean they bear a make-believe Sharp brand name. Take the boat off its trailer and you find that the latter is just as detailed, right down to the hull support rails and suspicously Range Rover-esque wheels.

And those slight resolution issues on the Transit are perhaps forgiven if the model’s diminutive 1:72 (HO) scale is taken into consideration. The shrapnel in the foreground above is the loose change I brought home from Slovenia, and puts the size of the models – I mean toys – into perspective.

Thing is, though, when toys are this small, this fine and this fragile, they genuinely are wasted on kids. All those details that jut out, all those lightweight plastichrome mouldings, those treaded rubber tyres will rapidly be shed and the precisely tampoed decals will be rounded off. And how many kids really care that the boat is a Humber? The above toy is just a van and a boat, and will be driven on carpets, tables, floorboards and patios, and very likely through the air as well, with ‘brrrrr, brrrrr’ engine and ‘screeee’ tyre noises – the latter assumes that said kids have ever watched a ‘7os or ’80s car chase.

Toys like these should be handed to children when they reach 21, not before.

(All images copyright Chris Haining / Redusernab 2018)

  • My Amazon account has about five model cars in the”save for later” list. Hey, that kind of money could pay two textbooks for Nanoop Jr. – or a power steering hose for Nanoop the First….

  • crank_case

    Hongwell are great, though a tiny bit more gets you Oxford diecast which are proper 1/76 scale, you’ll find them in any UK model shop that stocks Hornby scale. Used to collect them but got fed up with the overemphasis on UK models, which would be ok if anyone else did 1/76 scale. Switched up to 1/64 and discovered Tomica Limited Vintage/Auto World/Kyosho etc. which is a whole other level of wallet draining.

    • I have a few Oxford bits ‘n bobs, and they’re lovely. I’m always torn between OO railway 1:76 and Airfix plane 1:72 scale, though.

      • crank_case

        Yes! the OO and 1:72 thing is annoying for sure, so close, its frustrating. To be honest, had i realized that OO/1:76 was a very UK specfic thing, I don’t think I’d have started collecting, I kinda got pretty far into buying their cars, and there’s some lovely models in fairness, and realized I was never really going to be able to add much international flavour to the collection apart from the odd BMW, Volvo, Citroen, or VW, you can totally forget about American and Japanese stuff in that scale.

  • Sjalabais

    This perspective reminds me of how careful my 5 yo son’s distinction is between toys and “model” cars. He got a 1978 242 in 1:43 for Christmas, and he barely touches it. It’s his “model” car that deserves delicate driving, and he is convinced – and quick to remind me – that he now is old enough and careful enough to be a model car owner. Of the last charge of vehicles I bought off CK models for resale locally, I have sold…none. What sort of undermines my “get free models”-economy approach, is a great joy for my boy. He bought a Greyhound bus (for pocket change of course) that he had wanted for months, and when he finally got it, he was so happy – he gleamed for days. The bus with its fine mirrors and other details is parked securely on top of his cupboard.

    So, yes, early on, some models and their intricate quality may be wasted on kids. You can tell from their wheel camber really rather quickly. But the general principle of inspiring an interest for cars applies, and it doesn’t take many years before respect for craftsmanship gets to be a real thing.

  • GTXcellent

    And when you get old, the toys of your youth turn back into models into models
    Coincidentally, just yesterday I was scrounging around my parents store room and finally came across a long lost Corgi 1957 Thunderbird! It now sits proudly on this same ledge in the family room.

    • crank_case

      True, vintage toys often end up being more collectible/sought after than scale models. Even relatively modern stuff, you have folks paying crazy money for specific rare recent Hot Wheels on the secondary market, when you can get properly scaled models for less.

      That matchbox transporter/racecar combo is awesome by the way.

  • Built many model cars when I was young. Mostly box kits with the many parts and pieces.

    • Learned years later about the glue .