Monday, April 24, 2006

Matchbox cars

I was nuts about cars when I was a kid. Perhaps because you could go places in them. One of my favourite books was a big Richard Scarry hardback, full of elaborate illustrations of townscapes and landscapes full of roads and vehicles and buildings and people - or rather, animals masquerading as people, and evidently getting away with it because there were no real people around to take issue with them. My favourite page of this book showed a country landscape with a road winding across it from one page to the next, so you could follow it with your finger, and imagine travelling along it. And that, I suppose, was also the appeal of Matchbox cars - those tiny yet durable little models that were cheap enough to buy every week with your pocket money, and (cunningly) numbered, so you had to collect the whole series. I think they went up to 75... and each one changed once in a while, so you never really had the lot.
Some had doors that opened, some had bonnets with an engine underneath, once in a while the boot opened too, and just one or two had all three. They were the best ones. Most were modelled on real cars, but a few wacky designs were completely original, if often implausible.

I used to buy one from Egdell’s, the shop on the corner, every Saturday as soon as I got my pocket money. I eventually had 48, enough to fill the specially-designed case which I got for Christmas or my birthday one year.

One of the earliest Matchbox cars I had, when I was about five, ended up in the zebra enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.

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