Sunday, November 10, 2019

Reminiscing: Matchbox Cars & Hot Wheels

I just read earlier in the week that Matchbox cars were being inducted in the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, NY. The were inducted along with coloring books and Magic: The Gathering. Matchbox follows their counterparts, Hot Wheels, which were inducted in 2011. I had cars from both manufacturers as other, off-brand cars. So, after I saw the news about the die-cast cars earning the Hall of Fame honors, I took an exploration mission to the attic to find where my collection was stored.

My adventure into the attic resulted in four boxes of cars and two Hot Wheels City Sets. The kids were all over it when I deposited the collection on the living room floor. I have one box that are my favorite cars, and I was handed a guilt trip in not allowing my children to play with any of the cars from that box. Of course, those were the ones they really wanted to play with. I held my ground, much to the chagrin of the kids. And I got The Look from my wife. I say good day.

I set up the City Sets on the floor, and showed them all how I used my cars with them. One of them is the City and the other is the Service Center. Iost the legs some time ago, so I put one on each. Unfortunately, that means they sort of lean rather than leveled out. I still was able to play with the cars on them a little. My youngest grabbed all the cars out of one of the approved boxes and put them all in a square. “Welcome to the town square,” she said as she drove a couple of the cars on the City Set. 

My favorite cars among my collection are the ‘57 Chevys. I have five different versions of that car, and I was always on the lookout for more. I have a lot of Cameros, too. Being a fan of NASCAR, I have a pretty good collection of race cars that I used to race around the bedroom floor. Luckily for me, my boyhood bedroom carpeting was plaid, and perfect for these cars. There were double straight lines that were the ideal width for two-lane roads, separated by their own dashed, yellow lines. Some years after I moved out, the basement flooded and my parents changed out that carpet. It was so cool.

I used to have an indoor set of cars and an outdoor set of cars. All my favorites were the indoor ones. I kept those in pristine condition. When I was growing up, my dad was very particular about his actual vehicles. I was the same way with my Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. I would wash them, and keep them in their own case away from the grubby paws of my little brother.

Meanwhile, the outdoor cars were mostly of the construction variety, and sadly, most of those are no longer in the collection. I’m not sure what happened, but they probably stayed at my parent’s house when I moved out, being relegated to use by my brother. I used to dig under the edge of the patio, much to the chagrin of my parents. Those construction vehicles would form a town out of the raw dirt, digging canals, making roads, and wreaking havoc to the natural landscape. They got a lot of use. 

After my dad complained about the digging under the patio, I moved my construction site for my Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars to the bald spot in the yard under the swingset swings. It seemed like a logical place to do it. There was no grass in the way to make progress difficult for the tiny machines. Plus, it was easier access than trying to duck under the edge of the patio. I was guaranteed to hit my head at least twice a day under there. 

I used to carry those cars whenever I spent the weekend at my grandmother’s house, too. While there, I set up various race tracks and towns throughout the dining room and living room. The land area was wherever there was carpeting. The linoleum or hardwood floors were lakes and oceans. Tinkertoys made excellent walls for all of my speedways, and my farms were always large and bountiful. Of course, then the produce would have to be trucked to the lake where a Lego boat would carry it to ports over the horizon. The imagination of a child is limitless.

I spent a lot of time playing with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. It’s good to see them get their due. I’m not sure why it took eight years after Hot Wheels got in. They maybe should have been inducted side by side as a matter of respect. They were fully interchangeable. 

Occasionally, I still find my way to that aisle at the stores to see if there’s a car I just have to have. It’s been more and more difficult to find anything to buy. Lately, it seems, Mattel is focused on unrealistic, post-apocalyptic vehicles rather than the factory models we used to get. Those are the ones I like the best. I would probably actually buy more if those were the ones I found on the shelves.

Will I ever let my kids play with my diecast cars? Maybe. But definitely not the ones in the one collector box. Those are my favorite ones. And they are spotless. Just like dad’s cars back when I was a kid.

It took Craig Bacon a long time to write this article. The Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars were out. It was time to take a play break.