Packin’ What?

When Mert drove this thing onto the lot we both started laughing our tiny asses off. Been a long time since we’d seen a Pacer! Both of us grew up in the midst of the Pacer/Gremlin era of American motoring. Japanese auto makers were looking to … what’s that word that means to completely suck out the innards and life blood from a living beast, leaving only a dessicated shell? Whatever that word is, that’s what Toyota and Honda were in the process of doing at the time. It was a time before American auto makers could be assured of one bailout after another, gas prices were going wild, and they were in a panic. Their panic was a generally good consequence of the oil shock of the early 70s. At least they had to reevaluate, which they’re not doing much of now. But Gremlins and Pacers and a whole list of ill-advised and frankly hilarious chaos came out of North American factories (US, Canada and Mexico) in response.

This little Hot Wheels Packin’ Pacer, like a time machine from the late 1970s with its excellently preserved decals and paint, forces observers to wonder just what is being packed here. But then you look in the back, and there’s like a drag racing motor back there. Isn’t that dangerous? Looks dangerous! But they probably know what they’re doing. Mert says no problem. Take it for a test drive today!

HOT WHEELS PACKIN’ PACER, MADE IN HONG KONG 1977, EXCELLENT CONDITION $18

New Batch of Lesneys

Quite a haul. Nice stuff. A small bit of paint damage – most in what we call Excellent Condition (see the explanation of terms over on your right). No super rare ones as far as I know, but I don’t know that far. Experienced collectors could do themselves some favors by sorting through my inventory and checking for whatever jewels might be laying on the ground over there, ready to be plucked. No doubt I’ve sold some highly sought-after pieces for the proverbial penny, simply because I am a stupid, stupid man. My ignorance is your opportunity. Maybe we will paint that on the water tower.

No. 45 Vauxhall Victor, made in 1958

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. My older brother was in school and my dad worked all day. I spent those awkward post-toddler, pre-Kindergarten days primarily 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.
Diamonds_&_Rust_(Joan_Baez_album_-_cover_art)During those rare moments 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. Sirens! Action! A young lady named Lisa with a ponytail who is in need of rescue! I had a vivid imagination, to put it mildly. Fancied myself quite the little rescuer and watched plenty of bad 1970s rescue TV to stoke the fires: SWAT, Emergency!, Chopper One. Sirens all day long. 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 and engines popping out of hoods they didn’t look like real cars to me. 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 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? It wasn’t just playing with the thing that made me happy — 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 right off. 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 no doubt experience such a disconcertingly high level of emotional devastation that it would make me question my whole deal. Keeping the thing tucked away for now.

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?

Of course you have to realize that the POTUS campaign was ongoing at the time, and things were going south in a big hurry. It’s natural to want to escape such a reality, at least for part of the time, and the more ridiculous the escape the better. You think you’re getting ridiculous, America? I’ll show you ridiculous. I’LL TEACH YOU!! Come to think of it, I might have been looking closely at tiny cars for that same sense of promise in the future that I felt when I was a little kid.

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.

UPDATE: Sold every last one. But good news! We got a lot more of ’em and they’re for sale on our ebay page CLICK HERE.

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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

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.. Fundamentally different, but when on the car and installed correctly the two 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 one very rare original wheel installed with three common wheels, and to have that rare old wheel installed backward? It’s a freakshow. It might even be one of a kind.

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.

How does something like this happen? 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. Experts have reviewed detailed photos and see nothing nefarious.

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. You could search through hundreds of 67b’s on the internet and not find a single one with those old wheels. 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, finally, 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 Matchbox car with this kind of double wheel error.] 

MATCHBOX LESNEY No. 67b VOLKSWAGEN 1600TL NEAR MINT WITH MYSTERIOUS FACTORY ANOMALIES • Not for sale at this time

Alfa Romeo P-33

“Mid-life crisis, Bob?” Mert asked slyly when he saw this little gem shining in the lot.

“More like a two-thirds life crisis, if you want to get technical.”

“I guess that’s quite a bit more realistic.”

And with that happy thought we decided it would be cool to jump in the shiny, near-mint vintage Alfa Romeo (made in Hong Kong by PlayArt, 1970s), and cruise around attracting attention.

Unfortunately we didn’t get too far because, in typical Alfa fashion, the pretty little thing made a sound like a long fart and broke down within about two blocks. But it sure looked great doing it.

PLAYART ALFA ROMEO P-33 NEAR MINT • $15