Pontiac Grand Prix and Leyland Petrol Tanker: A Symbiotic Relationship

One thing you need in abundance if you have a Chinook-load of tiny vintage cars is gasoline. This is especially true if you have a near mint ’64 Pontiac Grand Prix Sports Coupe, which demands to be cruised and burns over 7 gallons per coffee table.

Unsure of how we would be able to maintain our rigorous Grand Prix cruising schedule amid dwindling fuel supplies, we made arrangements to purchase a tanker’s worth of gas for our private use. The vintage tiny tanker truck arrived right on schedule last week, rumbling like a jungle cat, but there was something very wrong… There was no gas in it. Apparently the BP-contracted driver had left the tank’s valve open while he drove and our precious cargo leaked out all over America, fouling rivers and farmland from coast to coast. When confronted about this issue, BP guy ran away, and hasn’t been seen since. Last we heard he was in Washington receiving either the Distinguished Helter Skelter Medal from the American Petroleum Institute or a Presidential appointment to head one or more federal agencies.

We didn’t get our gas, but we did get a nice Leyland tanker out of the deal. Near mint condition. We are going to fill it with Love and give it to You.

MATCHBOX LESNEY NO. 22 PONTIAC G.P. SPORTS COUPE NEAR MINT

MATCHBOX LESNEY NO. 25 LEYLAND PETROL TANKER NEAR MINT YELLOW

Tomica to the Rescue

Still have a few Tomicas left after the Piranha feeding frenzy. Check out all our latest inventory on ebay. CLICK HERE.

I have a big place in my heart for these Japanese gems, and I’ll tell you why.

When I was a young grommet, there was no daycare or fancy preschooling for me. I spent my early years with my mom, who seemed to drag me along on marathon outings to the fabric store at least four times per week. She must have spent six hundred thousand dollars at the fabric store. Or, I’m just now realizing, she may have actually worked there full time. Anyway, these grueling excursions laid the groundwork for my later interest in painful endurance sports. This was before I adopted an awesome stray dog, discovered soccer and learned to ride my bike. Diamonds_&_Rust_(Joan_Baez_album_-_cover_art)So most of the time, when we weren’t at the fabric store, I was corralled in or around the house to keep me safe from the omnipresent molesters in vans and left to entertain myself while Mom did things like look into the distance wistfully over her macrame project, and Joan Baez records spun thirty three and a third times per minute on our dusty cinder block-and-board shelf wall. Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light… That’s how I remember it. Not sure how accurate that is. It was the 70s, and I was right in the thick of it.

Now the things that I remember seem so distant and so small
Though it hasn’t really been that long a time
What I was seeing wasn’t what was happening at all
Although for a while, our path did seem to climb
When you see through love’s illusions, there lies the danger
And your perfect lover just looks like a perfect fool
So you go running off in search of a perfect stranger
While the loneliness seems to spring from your life
Like a fountain from a pool

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light…

 …

My attention was often focused on the ground or floor in front of me, where some sort of minor make-believe drama was working itself out. I had a vivid imagination, to put it mildly. I tended to enact rescue dramas—fancied myself quite the little rescuer and watched plenty of bad 1970s rescue TV to stoke the fires: SWAT, Emergency!, Chopper One. Always with my modest collection of toy cars, which included a handful of Redline Hot Wheels and at least one Tomica.

Even then, five-year-old Bobby could easily see a big difference between the Hot Wheels and the Tomica, and there was no question which I liked better. The Hot Wheels were cool, but over-the-top flashy. With their fat wheels they didn’t look like real cars. The Tomica was much more realistic, which made my little rescue dramas work. I didn’t know what a “Cedric” was, or where Japan was, but I knew that I loved the real low-key look and feel of that Nissan Cedric Fire Wagon with its opening hatch. And the way it rolled, so smooth, and with suspension. Obviously better. I still remember loving it.

It sounds crazy, but that little red car gave me some kind of hope for a world that was often Fountain-of-Sorrow, Send-in-the-Clowns rust-colored 1970s Fall of Saigon bleak. What a great little machine! What a serious toy! They didn’t have to make it so great, but they did. Maybe the future would be kind of like this toy car? Thoughtfully engineered just to bring joy to children and the young at heart? Better than it has to be? Its existence made me happy.

Last year my mom brought me a box that held, among other forgotten treasures, my old Tomica Fire Wagon. How it survived all those decades without getting tossed is a miracle—or evidence of a mother’s love and understanding. When I opened the box and saw it, a rush of weird forgotten emotions flooded my systems. I almost fell over, for real.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

The car was almost totally bare of paint. Its lights, siren and hatch were missing, or rather, torn the F off. Played with. I spent so much of my early childhood hunched over that thing. In my head, it was always bright red, shiny and new, just like the one in the photo above.

Of course, it remains my all-time favorite toy, if not my favorite material object, and the most valuable diecast car that I own. I would carry it around all the time except then I would lose it, it would roll silently out of my pocket at the DMV, still so smooth on its suspended wheels, and I would be devastated. What broken dam of emotion would that call forth? I don’t want to go there man.

Seeing my old beloved Cedric after 40-plus years started me on this admittedly strange if not outright worrisome vintage diecast jag. It gave me the sudden and very strong urge to accumulate massive piles of 1960s Matchbox and 1970s Tomicas—the more realistic toy cars—just so I could hold them and look at them up close. I don’t pretend to understand it. A simple urge to regress? I guess maybe. So I made a deal with myself, as there was no practical way I could start accumulating loads of vintage diecast cars and keep them around the house. I could get the tiny goods, but I would have to get rid of them quickly, and maybe make a little side money in the process.

Of course you have to realize that the POTUS campaign was ongoing at the time and it was shredding my soul, so so hard. So some sort of escape was warranted, and the more ridiculous the better. I have several passions—researching and writing about history, making music, riding bikes, hanging out with my wife and daughter (who loooves tiny cars by the way, and has about 80)—but none is nearly as ridiculous. You think you’re getting ridiculous, America? I’ll show you ridiculous. I’LL TEACH YOU!! And so it began.

Long story short, I love Tomica mini cars and you will too. They remind me of good things about my childhood and about the world. And if I don’t sell all of those that I currently possess, it will be all right with me.

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TOMICA NO. 88 NISSAN CABALL PEPSI VERY NEAR MINT

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TOMICA F4 CONTINENTAL MARK IV NEAR MINT

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TOMICA F24 LOTUS ESPRIT EXCELLENT CONDITION, POP-UP LIGHTS

Excitement on the Lot

We’ve been so busy over here with the tiny vehicles we haven’t been able to keep up with our highly informative postings. We’ve had several huge (to us) shipments come in and we’ve been shipping them out at a good pace. Mert has been working dawn til dusk with no breaks as stipulated in our verbal contract. We’re stocked with Matchbox regular wheels from the 60s as usual, but also Superfast from the 1970s. Currently having a huge super-sale on Matchbox Superfast on ebay.  GO THERE.

Here’s a small sampling of what we’ve been buying and selling over the past few weeks. Expert collectors will notice right away a few interesting items among those below:

We also made room on the lot for a bunch of high quality vintage Japanese mini-cars by Tomica. These date from the early 1970s to early 1980s and include almost all near mint or mint-condition stuff. Included are some with the highly sought after “early wheels” from the early 70s. The cars have names like Sunny Excellent 1400GX and Cherry F-II and almost all have opening doors. The market for these Tomica mini cars is different. Most of the energy is in Asia where millions of kids grew up with these. (Tomicas were marketed in the US as “Pocket Cars,” and they did fairly well but ultimately couldn’t hang with Hot Wheels and the rest, being more expensive and initially featuring many obscure Japan-only cars.) It’s also a more hoppin’ market than the vintage Matchbox market these days. It’s not hard to find reasons why when you hold TOMY Tomica mini-cars in your hand.

And that’s not all. We received a 60-pound box from Ed, a former hobby shop owner and diecast collector back east who has accumulated a large amount of Corgi Classics, Models of Yesteryear, big Solido models and the like over the decades. New Old Stock, as they say. I’m having a great time going through it, trying to learn as much as I can on the way as this has not been my forte, and we’ll put em up for sale as soon as we can. The market for these things is not exactly hot but we’ll see what we can do for him. No more room in Ed’s basement. EVERYTHING MUST GO.

Check out our current inventory on the bay.

Tomica Daily News Truck

“What’s that truck for? I don’t get it.” Mert was confused. He was an old fella and had seen plenty of newspaper trucks in his day, but I guess it had been so long he had forgotten what they were for. “Do they put the I-Pads in there?”

“No, that’s a tiny newspaper truck, Mert. Newspapers in there.”

He sounded it out. “Newssspapers.”

“That’s right.”

“I don’t get it. Is it like a mobile wifi hotspot?”

“Well, no.”

This vintage Tomica Daily News Truck, a Nissan Caball (No. 107-1 in the series), is in just about factory mint condition, with the slightest storage wear visible, but only to those who are extremely careful in their examination of tiny vintage vehicles. Made in Japan. A rare model in extremely rare very very near mint condition.

Comes with a load of tiny newspapers. Just kidding, no tiny newspapers.

TOMICA NO. 87, 88 NISSAN CABALL DAILY NEWS TRUCK VERY NEAR MINT • EBAY SOLD, I’M GOING TO MISS THIS ONE

Ferrari Berlinetta

Ever since this very near mint Berlinetta came in last week, Mert has been standing out there staring at it. He is bedazzled. Can you blame him? Unfortunately work around the lot has been backing up.

I went out to have a talk with him about it. Before I could get halfway across the lot he turned around with his hands waving over his head like a football referee and yelled “Halt!”

“I’m going to have to ask you not to approach the Berlinetta, Bob,” he said, trying to calm down.

My Berlinetta?”

“Bob, this Berlinetta is in very near mint condition. Any disturbance could result in degradation of the vehicle. I simply cannot let that happen.”

“Mert we’ve got a whole fleet of Greyhound buses to wash, and that  Lotus needs a t—”

“BOB STEP AWAY FROM THE BERLINETTA”

I have to admit Mert was very good at guarding the Berlinetta. Luckily it sold almost immediately and Mert didn’t have to guard it any more.

The Berlinetta is another unlikely V-12 with obscene overkill power hidden under the bonnet. Lesney modeled a few of them. Six carburetors on this one.

In the “real world,” vintage Berlinettas in very nice condition go at auction for 3-4 million dollars. You read that right. See here. Roughly a half million per carburetor. Real world!

MATCHBOX/LESNEY No. 75 FERRARI BERLINETTA VERY NEAR MINT • $22  SOLD

Volkswagen 1600TL With Bizarre Factory Error

When I got this tiny vehicle it was part of a larger lot and I couldn’t really see what was going on with the wheel in the seller’s photos. I figured that some kind of playtime disaster had befallen the poor thing. When it arrived I could see that the car had never been played with, and that the wheel in question seems  to have been installed backward. But that’s just the beginning of this car’s weirdness.

The Matchbox 67b was produced with two different wheel types, according to the experts. In the early phase of production, from August ’67,  the car had black plastic wheels that were recessed on the front, and silver “hubcaps” were laid into the recessions. The backside of this old-style wheel was flat, as seen above. It’s hard to see in the photos, but if you could pick up this car and look at it closely, you’d see that shiny hubcap which is supposed to be on the outside of the car sitting pretty inside the wheel well. 

Now things really get weird. If you examine the other three wheels on this car, you’ll see they are an entirely different wheel type! By 1968 Matchbox outfitted the VW 1600TL with silver wheels fitted with black plastic tires.  In other words, the tire is an actual ring that you could theoretically take off the wheel. The old-school black plastic wheel/tire, on the other hand,  could not possibly be taken off due to its design.. When on the car and installed correctly the two fundamentally different wheel “systems” appear very much the same.

It’s not unheard of for two different types of wheels to be found on the same vintage Matchbox car, especially those created during a period of transition between the two types on the production line. But to have that different wheel installed backward? It’s a freakshow! The backward wheel gives this car two factory errors in one; it also makes it a lot easier to notice and identify the fact that the car has two different types of wheels. How many 67b’s are out there with both types of wheel, but installed correctly and thus much harder for the layperson to notice or care about? I know of at least one other 67b that is outfitted with both types of wheels, thanks to the very experienced collectors at the British Vintage Diecast Forum, but nobody seems to know of another like this, with the backward old-style wheel.

There are many possible ways for the two types of wheels to get mixed into the same box. Then the person installing wheels on axles picked up one of the old wheels without realizing it and slapped it on the axle without thinking about which way it needed to be installed.  The newer wheel style could be installed in either direction and would look the same, so the error seems quite plausible. 

I considered the possibility that the backward wheel was added by some huckster, but the axle does not appear to have been altered, which it would have to have been to swap wheels post-production.

Not sure how to price this one—or whether to sell it at all. It is clearly a rare “piece,” as they say. It’s rare to find a 67b with the old-style wheels, as they were only installed on the car for a few months at most  in late ’67. 67b’s with the old wheels have fetched well over $100, without the box, simply because the old wheels are so hard to find on this model. Much rarer still to find one with both types of wheel on the same car, although apparently one or two others are known to exist. And no doubt still more rare to find one with both types of wheels, and the old-style wheel installed backward. As far as I know this car is one of a kind. [UPDATE: It seems this car could be the only known example of a car with this kind of double wheel error.] 

MATCHBOX LESNEY No. 67b VOLKSWAGEN 1600TL NEAR MINT WITH MYSTERIOUS FACTORY ANOMALIES • $???