We all start somewhere. As a kid I played with toy cars and spent hours poring over magazines and books about cars and racing. As an adult, not much has changed, although I have less free time to do it than before! Reading only a fraction of the endless diecast content on social media is now a part of that, too, especially here on the Lamley blog.
Those of us who’ve been collecting toy cars since childhood can attest to how much models can teach you about car culture, and especially foreign or exotic stuff that you’ve never seen in person. Growing up in the UK in the 1980s, Matchbox releases like the ’57 Thunderbird, Mercury Sable Wagon or ’83 Vette were a window on a world of cars I’d never seen in person.
I love to write for Lamley in my spare time but writing about cars (real ones!) is also what I’ve done as a day job for almost 20 years, mostly for magazines and websites. In 2020, I had periods where work was in short supply in the early months of the pandemic. It got me to thinking about writing a book. Question was, about what? “Write about what you know,” so the saying goes. I know a bit about cars and diecast so…OK!
The result is the 20 Great Race Cars children’s eBook, which is available now from Amazon pretty much wherever you are. It can be read on the Kindle app (phone, tablet or desktop) or on a Kindle e-reader. All being well, a print version will come later.
Writing for an audience of roughly 7-13-year-olds, I’ve pulled together photos, fun facts and engaging, bite-sized stories about some of the greatest race cars ever made. I’ve then taken a look at how to get hold of each one in toy form – preferably as a pocket-money-friendly Hot Wheels rather than a high-end Tarmac that won’t roll on the living-room track! Click on the image below for a sample chapter featuring the mighty Porsche 935.
The cars I’ve chosen encompass everything from Formula 1 to NASCAR, to sportscar and touring car racing in the USA, Europe and Asia. These aren’t supposed to be the greatest race cars of all time, but they had to be successful and cool to warrant inclusion. Other considerations were the recognition factor for a young audience (Mustang, Ferrari, Porsche!) and the availability of interesting information, suitable models and photos.
Many of the pictures are previously unpublished, including some great shots from my fellow Lamley contributor Bryan McCarthy, aka Bearded Mug Media, like this awesome BMW 3.0 CSL.
With two exceptions – the clockwork Auto Union and the Hot Wheels Ferrari 250 GTO that I borrowed from a friend (thanks Stefan!) – all the models I chose are in my own collection. Most are Hot Wheels but there are also cars from Auto World, Ertl, Greenlight, JEC, Matchbox, Majorette, Mini GT, Racing Champions and Siku. Only one, the Ertl McLaren M8, was bought specially for the book. All but the Auto Union and Models of Yesteryear Maserati 250F are 1:64 or three-inch size.
My hope is that kids who like Hot Wheels enjoy reading about the full-size machines and are perhaps inspired to find out more about cars and racing. At the same time, maybe young readers who are already into cars might seek out the toy ones – or badger their parents to hunt them down (sorry parents!) – and become the collectors of the future. After all, I’m as enthusiastic about toy cars as ever, 35 years after I started to collect them rather than just play with them!
Did I mention that the book is cheap? It’s cheap! To make accessible to all, 20 Great Race Cars is priced at around US$3, depending on where you live. That’s a lot of car culture for less than the price of a Car Culture!
Where to buy it
If you think you or your offspring might enjoy 20 Great Race Cars by me, Graham Heeps, you’ll find it in the Kindle Store. Below are links for three of the bigger markets, but it should be available from Amazon wherever you live.
If you read it, please rate it and leave a review as that will make it easier for other people to find it. I always like to hear feedback, too, and will incorporate it into future titles in this series of Cool Car Books for Kids.
Thanks for reading and until next time, happy collecting!
(follow me on Instagram @diecast215 for the usual diecast content)
(follow my new Instagram account for the books: @coolcarbooksforkids)