By Doug Breithaupt – December 26, 2020
Charles Dickens never wrote about toy cars. His opening lines from ‘Tale of Two Cities’, however, are perfect for summing up our hobby for the year 2020. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
What makes it the best is the variety, value and quality of available models. We are living in the golden age of small-scale die-cast model vehicles. The variety of new and used examples that can be found is overwhelming. From every corner of the globe, toy cars are being produced fresh or preserved and offered for sale. You can read about a model and then find, buy and have it sent to you, if you wish. While many still lament the scalpers or boutique companies now selling 1:64 scale cars for $100, the truth is that amazing bargains can be found. The diversity of models being sold online serves to reduce prices for all but the rarest toy cars as available choices continue to expand. Comparing the quality of current models to what has been available over the past 65 years shows how far things have improved. The highest quality can be expensive, but so much is still available in the $1-5 range.
The worst of times needs little justification. The way we search for additions to our collections has changed this year. All toy shows have been cancelled. Garage and boot sales did not happen. Thrift stores and antique malls were either closed or saw limited use. Hobby shops, toy stores, and even some big box stores were shuttered during lock-downs. The few remaining retail options often failed to provide much in the way of new stock. Many of us prefer to see, hold and inspect models before they join our collections. For many, that was simply not possible in 2020.
What I did, and I suspect you did as well, was to turn to online sales of new and used toy cars. While we lost the tactile joy of searching and finding a prized item, we gained in discovering the best online outlets and methods of securing desirable models at acceptable prices. Six of the ten models shown below were online purchases for me.
All of this is a preamble to my list of top ten additions to my collection for 2020. They are not prioritized, I would be challenged to do so. Some are old and ‘well-loved’. Some are fresh from the package. All were welcome.
While I already had an example of Greenlight’s 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, this Indy 500 Medical Director variation was too great a temptation. Several of these special wagons were built for the 1972 race. They are the only factory versions of the Vista Cruiser turned into a 442 on a wagon body. My full-sized Vista Cruiser was sold to a new caretaker in Virginia in 2020, but I know I will still be adding any versions as cool as this one when they appear.
Matchbox and Mercedes-Benz teamed up on one of the best new toy cars. Few Mercedes-Benz 220 SE Sedans had ever been done in small-scale so that made it very nice just to start. Honoring Ewy Rosqvist, an amazing racer and pioneer for women in Motorsports made this new model very special. It’s great to have a Fin-Tail Mercedes-Benz from this era and I’m sure we will see a variety of new colors in future.
The addition of a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Penny Toy model was the culmination of more than 20 years building my collection of these toy cars. The Lusso is considered one of the hardest to find and I was thrilled to buy this from an online seller in Italy. If only I could know where all it has been over the past 50 years. I’ll just have to imagine it racing on the terrace of a Mediterranean villa or being shown to friends at school in a village somewhere along the Mille Miglia route.
This is my favorite Hot Wheels model of 2020. I won’t even complain about having to buy the transporter as well to get this new casting. As a long-time Jaguar fan, this light-weight ‘E’ type is a delight. It is unique to small-scale and looks great in classic BRG.
This 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz from Tomica in their Premium series is not surprising. The 1959 Cadillac has long been a collector favorite in Japan. While I can’t imagine driving it in Tokyo, it may be large enough to be rented out as an apartment. It is included because I love seeing Tomica stepping back to offer classic models like this. Having owned a ‘59 Cadillac, I also can’t resist adding more miniature examples. My only complaint is the use of bubble-gum pink, a shade never offered by the factory.
Some might question the inclusion of a Darda model in my top ten. You cannot say that this Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC is an accurate representation of the real car. It is clearly designed to work on the Darda track. I don’t care. I like the look. The detailing on the nose and tail are quite good. After buying a real 560 SEC in 2018, I had wanted to add this Darda example. I not only bought this model, but a full track set that came with four more cars, including the police version of this same 500 SEC in green and white. Yes, it goes really fast!
Are you beginning to sense a theme with my favorite additions in 2020? If you are a regular reader of my ‘Tales of Toy Cars’ Facebook blog, you know I actively seek out miniature versions of real cars I currently own or have owned in the past. Four of my ten favorites fall into this category. This 1967 Cadillac Eldorado by Auto World carries the same gold paint and black top as my 1968 Eldorado. The necessity for more online purchases this year motivated me to seek out and finally add models like this one that I haven’t seen in the stores. Auto World has done a great job with this casting and I hope they consider tweaking it into a 1968 body at some future point.
How many of my buttons did Hot Wheels push in offering this Porsche 959 AWD endurance rally car? First, it is a Porsche. Second, it is a vintage rally model. Third, it came in close to authentic competition colors. Hot Wheels is on a vintage rally kick lately, and I could not be happier. Having served as rallymaster of the Cascade Classic Rally & Tour since 1997, I love seeing all these examples of my favorite rally cars. More, please!
Thank you Lamley Group readers for helping me find this model. My story on the five iconic sub-compact cars of the 20th Century in miniature featured the Austin Mini, VW Beetle, Citroën 2CV, Honda Civic CVCC, and Fiat 500. I lamented the fact that no toy car maker had produced all five cars in miniature. A reader pointed out that I was wrong and Tomica had done just that. I was missing their classic Fiat 500 but bought this Lupin the Third version and can say thank you, once again.
As mentioned above, my Lamley Group story on iconic sub-compacts proved enlightening. The motivation for this story was the introduction of the Original Honda Civic CVCC from Matchbox. This model is a delight. It reminds me of previous Matchbox classics like the MG 1100 and Renault Le Car. This Honda joins the Mini and Beetle to give Matchbox three of the five icons. There are those who complain about the unsightly roof strut and the grey plastic bumpers and base, but I can overlook those if Matchbox continues to offer wonderful models like this.
We won’t soon forget this most recent trip around the sun. Perhaps now that these ten cars have been singled out as my selections for 2020, seeing them will remind me that there were more pleasant aspects to this year of discontent. Perhaps we will also have a greater appreciation for those times in future when we can gather at shows, conventions or just to welcome visitors to come see our collections and enjoy the hobby we share.