July 1st is Canada Day, so the perfect excuse to showcase some of the models in my collection that have a connection with my adopted home. Naturally their number has increased since I moved to Calgary nearly seven years ago. In fact, I’ve made a point of tracking some of them down!
The good news for wannabe maple leaf collectors is that, unlike models featuring the Stars and Stripes or other American iconography, the list isn’t endless. There are many more than I possess but I’d guess that, even taking larger scales into account, the total is in the hundreds rather than the thousands, and most are available for relatively little money. Of course, you could complicate matters by hunting down Canada-only packaging (the unique Matchbox Superfast blister cards come to mind) or models that were issued only in Canada like the blue Hot Wheels Renault 5 Turbo, but if you stick to 1:64/three-inch models in ‘Canadian’ decos then it’s an entirely manageable collecting theme.
Thus, the models shown here are not supposed to be an exhaustive list of what’s out there, just a bit of fun. Enjoy, eh?!
Hot Wheels – Customized C3500 Canadian Tire Special Edition
This was the model that prompted me to put together this round-up, a trade with my good friend, the Chevy-loving @calgarycollector. As we’ll see later, Canadian Tire (a huge retailer of auto parts, gardening supplies, sports and outdoor gear, toys and more) has a long history of commissioning special models, in particular in larger scale, but this C3500 from 2007 is an instant favourite of mine – not least because it’s a great casting to begin with.
Matchbox GMC Wrecker – CAA
Sticking with the GM trucks theme, this version of the popular MB188 GMC Wrecker was a promotional for the CAA (Canadian equivalent of AAA in the US or the British AA) in 1997. It looks a lot like the CAA trucks that I still see regularly on the road here, so it was a must for my collection. Unfortunately, it’s not especially easy to find outside of Canada.
There are a gazillion versions of the Matchbox MB38 Model ‘A’ so naturally there’s a Canada Post (Postes Canada in French) deco among them. The larger Model of Yesteryear version was my first Canada-themed Matchbox and dates from my childhood, when I started putting together a Royal Mail collection (more on that here). For good measure, I’ve dropped Greenlight’s Canadian version of the Grumman LLV into the picture as well. The same also brand makes some nice larger delivery trucks in the Canada Post deco.
Majorette Petrol Tanker – Petro-Canada
And now for something completely different. I have a bunch of Majorette 200-series cars, mostly older issues. I generally don’t collect big models for storage reasons but couldn’t resist this 1:60-scale, Canada-special truck from…well, I don’t know! Let me know in the comments below if you do. I picked up a few years ago here in Calgary.
Matchbox – Convoys
Speaking of trucks, here are a couple of smaller Canadian-themed examples from Matchbox. The Moosehead is a Kenworth Cabover Collectibles issue from 1999, part of a North American Brewmasters series. I really like these old super-detailed, all-metal Convoys. The Moosehead licence was used on a Models of Yesterday Mack truck as well. The other Convoy pictured is another Canadian Tire promo, this time a Kenworth Aerodyne box truck from c.1984.
Matchbox Collectibles – 1938 Dodge Airflow Vancouver Grizzlies
We’ll stay with Matchbox Collectibles for this awesome Airflow van. I bought it in the States but the original receipt shows it was first sold to a customer in Vancouver – entirely appropriate for the NBA franchise depicted on the side, which moved to Memphis in 2001. Coincidentally, they’re the only NBA team I’ve seen play live (against the Sonics), way back in 2003. The van came in a set of four that also features the Clippers, Magic and Pacers.
Toronto Blue Jays
More sports? Why not? I made a beeline for these White Rose Blue Jays promos as soon as we moved to Canada. They look great. The models are the ubiquitous Model ‘A’ (1992), Flareside Pick-Up (1994) and Ford F800 (1996). I have a Corvette and a hauler somewhere, as well.
Corgi Juniors – NHL
Corgi also made a ton of sports promotionals back in the day. I have a few of the NHL editions loose. The two Jaguar XJ-Ss represent the Vancouver Canucks and my local team, the Calgary Flames, while the Ford Mustang Cobras (a great casting incidentally) depict the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. There’s a whole load of baseball-themed Corgi Juniors out there, too.
White Rose – Zamboni
No feature on Canadian diecast would be complete without a Zamboni ice resurfacer, even though it’s an American product! These two examples were issued by White Rose in 1998 (Edmonton Oilers) and ’99 (Toronto Maple Leafs) – two of many, many editions of this casting, which started out branded as a Matchbox but was never released under that name.
These came from a small fleet I bought loose a few years back. The drivers’ suits should be white and blue respectively, but I really don’t care! I also have a later Zamboni that was sold by Upper Deck (updated base). I believe the casting has now been retired. Nowadays Motor Max makes the licensed NHL Zambonis and Matchbox has issued a new, smaller casting in recent years.
Matchbox – Canadian Tire 75th Anniversary set
“Do you want this?”, asked @the_toy_pimp at the Matchbox Gathering a couple of years ago. “Er, alright then!” I’m a sucker for Matchbox in general and couldn’t resist an instant six-fold extension to my Canadian collection for about three bucks a van.
The models from this 1997 set are premium versions of the popular Model ‘A’, Model ‘T’ and Chevy Sedan Delivery castings, all of which have been used for countless special editions and promotions down the years. Here they’re carrying various Canadian Tire brands and logos.
I was pretty happy when Matchbox picked up the Royal Canadian Mounted Police licence a few years back. First came a Skybusters helicopter in RCMP deco, then the Charger pictured above left and a Caprice Classic. The carry case in the background is a Lesney Canada product dated 1974. I have another Canadian Lesney buried in a box somewhere, the Skybusters F-104 Starfighter.
The Crown Vic shown here on the right was a Canadian McDonald’s Happy Meal promotion in 2002. The same car with different stickers was the Ohio component of the Matchbox Across America promotion in US McDonald’s restaurants that year.
Gilles Villeneuve remains Canada’s all-time F1 hero and the Montreal track where last month’s Grand Prix took place is named in his honour. Shown here is the Ferrari 126C2 like the one in which he lost his life in 1982, from the Kyosho/Dydo Ferrari F1 series (click here for more on those).
The 1:43 model of the Wolf WR5 is a bit of an outlier but let’s put it in anyway. In the late-70s, Walter Wolf Racing was UK-based but owned by the titular Canadian and raced under the maple leaf. These old Western Models racing cars are a little crude compared with modern Spark 1:43s, for example, but they’re heavy and have loads of charm.
I was going to include another Matchbox promotional, this time for Agfa film, but I couldn’t find it in time to take new photos! In this case, the MB137 F 1 Racer (later Indy Racer) casting is painted to represent Ross Bentley’s IndyCar from around 1994. Click here for a picture and more about the F 1 Racer.
Para64 – 2019 Audi R8 LMS
We finish with another race car, this time much more recent. This patriotically decorated R8 LMS was a good seller for Para64, which is working hard to find original model and deco choices in an increasingly crowded premium 1:64 market. I bought it because I was at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2019, when this car raced (below left). Can’t get much more Canadian than a big ole’ maple leaf!
It’s a good place to end our amble through some Canada-themed models, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. However you’re celebrating, Happy Canada Day! And if you’re in the US, you only have three more days to go…