If you’re an adult who loves old cars, you were probably once a child who loved automobile inspired toys like these. From the “Crashmobile” to “The Visible V8,” here’s a look at four memorable car toys from Christmases past.
“There’s something genius about selling a toy that’s meant to be broken,” wrote the blogger Mark Verheiden. “Squeeze the sides and roof of the car together over a springy-lever connected to the front bumper of the car. Roll the car forward, bonk the bumper, and KAPOW! The lever would be triggered and the thing would burst apart, usually while the child operator was making horrific screaming noises (“Aghh! Gahh! My legs are broken! I’ve been decapitated! Aghhh! Agghh!).”
Tri-Play Toy’s Crashmobile came in two configurations—a 7-inch full-size model and the 3-inch Jr.—and sold for roughly a dollar in the 1960s. To read Verheiden’s full tribute, click here.
Lesney/Matchbox Studebaker Wagonaire
Far more popular with kids than the real article was with adult buyers, the Lesney/Matchbox Studebaker Lark Wagonaire with the sliding rear roof became desperately sought after by children upon its release in 1965. Made in England, the “Lesney” Model 42 in its original box can fetch up to $75 today.
The Visible V8
In 1958, the Renwal Model Co. introduced the aptly named “The Visible V8”—a clear plastic, ¼-scale replica V8 engine with working internal parts—that would become the one of the longest-selling model kits of all time. Still available in hobby shops today for around $60, The Visible V8 has a crankshaft, rods, pistons and drivetrain powered by an electric motor. “Hugely popular in its day,” recalls Mac’s Motor City Garage in this excellent remembrance, “the Visible V8 could be found not only on kids’ bedroom shelves, but in science and auto shop classes, too.”
Hess Toy Trucks
Painted in the company’s old colors of dark green, white and yellow with bright red accents, the 1964 Hess Tanker Trailer was the company’s first holiday toy truck. [source: hesstoytruck.com]
If asked to name some of the longest running toy brands in America, few people would remember the name Hess. According to hesstoytruck.com—the final word on all things Hess—“not long after opening the first Hess branded gas station in 1960, Leon Hess decided to offer families a fun, high quality and affordable toy for the holidays as a goodwill gesture to customers.” The tradition continues to this day—over 50 years later—with many parents and grandparents stilling giving a Hess truck to their children and grandchildren every Christmas.
What was the most memorable car toy you recall finding under the Christmas tree? The Historic Vehicle Association would like to know. Take a moment to comment below or head on over to the HVA’s Facebook page to share and see what other members are saying.