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)