Image credit: Eva Rinaldi
Warning: Reading this article may result in abnormally high levels of nostalgia, a warm fuzzy feeling, rose tinted spectacles disorder and an overwhelming urge to abandon all adult responsibilities and revert back to being a child.
Childhood toys have the ability to take people back years, even decades to that magical time when there was absolutely nothing to worry about. Well, other than what that big cool toy that you absolutely had to have was, whichever particular trading cards you needed at the time and what the next luminous coloured foodstuff you could cram in your face was. Now, as mentioned before, some people’s childhoods are a little further back in time than others, which means for some it is a little hazier. But I think that when someone catches a glimpse of their old toys the fog clears and it is like you are right back there.
I am 21 and I harbour absolutely no shame when I say that, when I last returned to my parent’s house you can be damn sure I was up raiding that attic, getting all the Lego, toy cars and plastic army men I could get my hands on. I spent more than half a day building stuff out of Lego, staging a full blown plastic army invasion and then zooming my old toy cars around the war zone, and that is where I got the idea for this article. I want to take you back on a journey through my (and let’s be honest, probably some of yours too) favourite childhood car related toys. So, without any further ado, please fasten your seatbelt and let’s do this thing!
This list is in a very vague order and based solely on the levels of fun I can remember having, please do not take this list as gospel.
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The Little Tike Cozy Coupe to give its current name, this little vehicle has been in production longer than most actual cars. Currently celebrating its 30th anniversary! If you managed to get to adulthood without at least seeing one of these then where have you actually been! No playgroup or playschool is complete without one of these bad boys.
We can safely assume this was probably the real first car for a substantial portion of the population. You simply hopped in, feet on the ground and pushed yourself along, easy. An active imagination could have you taking part in any number of motoring activities from picking up your other toddler buddies (if you had the two seater version) and going for a spin, all the way up to becoming a fully fledged racing driver.
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My fondest memories of this particular vehicle were achieving the fastest possible speed and attempting what can only be described as a World Rally Championship level power slide into a corner and ending up horizontal on the floor. Much like this unfortunate Little Tike user pictured above.
Imasge Credit: Jano71
Now I know as well as you do that Tonka toys in general were just awesome. They have a vast array of models, many based on heavy machinery. They were very versatile toys and for the most part they all had properly functioning moving parts like their full sized counterparts. That being said I thought that just saying Tonka toys was a bit vague so I selected one that is widely considered a ‘classic’ that also happens to be my favourite.
Out of all of the toys that I played with in my infancy, this is the one that brings back the most visceral memories. Probably because when playing with it, I was at my muddiest and therefore happiest, as all children are when they are covered in muck. It offered such a pure and innocent form of fun, simply moving piles of mud or sand from one location to another and that was enough for me! At one point this toy was big enough for me to ride on, you can imagine the level of joy I got out of commanding my first piece of industrial machinery around.
The other reason I love this toy now is, very simply, the build quality. Just look at that thing, you could tear through a real house in that! I can’t think of any other toy that was built to the same standard as this. I know this for sure because it is one of the only toys that lives in my parents attic in near perfect condition. Sure, there are some bumps and scrapes but that is because I used to play with my toys properly and got full usage out of them. There is no way that a child could break that thing. It is made from steel, all of it (minus the tyres) is made from steel. I don’t think I could break it even today! Despite being considered a fully grown adult now by society, I think this toy would beat me in a bar fight.
You can put good money on me digging out this beast when it comes time to provide toys for my hypothetical children.
Image Credit: JQ
This is a risky one because while some of the transformers toys do of course transform into cars or something similar, as many will know from the bright yellow Chevvy Camaro in the recent Transformers films, some of them definitely do not. This is why I have placed them low on my list, even though I had a vast amount of fun playing with these, I feel it is unfair on the more car related entries to put them any higher.
I never actually owned a transformers toy. When I say I had a lot of fun playing with them, it was with other peoples Transformers toys, but boy did I want one. Unfortunately it was not to be and I settled for occasionally playing with someone else’s when I could, but I know that for a lot of people this was one of their favourite toys so of course I included them.
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This one looks a bit more complicated than I remember! Oh well you know what the kids are like these days with their iBoxes and gamestations!
There were of course many different Transformers to choose from that you could change from being a robot into some form of vehicle (or animal in some cases) and this really was the thing that set them apart. As a child you probably already had toy cars or planes or helicopters so that was nothing new, but the fact you physically move these toys around and change them into something else, well that was a bit special! Some of them had four or five different things they could change in to. Four or five! That is head exploding for a child, too many options. I can only imagine what it must have been like in the shop for the people selling these toys to kids. Loud I should think, very loud, maybe even a bit wet.
Image Credit: Mark Rabo
You don’t hear these little things being mentioned as much as the other toys but I adored them. I had a lot of them, like a lot. Mine were actually mainly the military style ones because I was a boy who liked army men and shooting stuff but the normal cars were the really popular ones.
The really cool thing about Micro Machines are the size. As the name suggests they are really very small, around a third of the size of your conventional hot wheels car. That meant that you could really get a whole load of them in a small place like your pocket or a sock for example, which is how a lot of mine used to travel from room to room. The thing that made these stand out from your standard toy car were the play sets that they came with, or in. You could get a bunch of parts that snapped together and you could create your own city and the clever bit is that the parts were completely modular meaning you could just go nuts and mash together parts from different sets!
Check out the video below of the Micro Machines Van, a pretty nifty bit of kit even by today’s standards. Even though this thing is actually older than me I did own it and had hours of fun with it. The whole thing folded out into a city to let your imagination run wild in and it held a bunch of your cars for you too.
I can imagine that for parents these little things were a huge pain. I know I definitely used to leave them lying around and sadly lost a few good machines to the sole of some lunatic’s slipper who was not watching where they were walking! A few must sacrifice so many can live and all that.
Image Credit: Michael Scott
Now just hold on a second before you go writing in letters of complaint or I wake up with a horse’s head in my bed. I do not dispute that Lego is one of the best ever toys but this is a car related toy list! While you could of course build yourself a sweet ride from Lego, it suffers the same problem as the Transformers do in that the majority of Lego wasn’t specifically for building cars. It was a construction toy that you could build anything from, which is why it is not at the top of the list but higher than some because, well, it’s Lego.
I know full well that I do not need to explain Lego to you guys, it’s Lego, it’s everywhere. For continuitys sake though I will give a brief rundown just in case aliens are reading this after the apocalypse and they want to know what those little bricks that they have been standing on are.
Lego is a super simple and awesome building toy that you can pretty much create anything from, the bricks used to be fairly brick shaped but now they come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and designs.
Image Credit: Chris Gwail
The reason it is on this list is because me and my younger brother built some pretty awesome racing cars out of Lego and had a pretty good time with them too. A Lego car can vary quite significantly in its complexity depending on whether you are feeling creative that particular day or not, as I am sure you all have experience of. Sometimes a Lego car was an elaborate construction project with lots of details on it (much like the one pictured above), and sometimes it was ten bricks with some wheels attached but that is fine because you were a kid for goodness sake, not a car designer!
Want to know what the top five are? Find out here.
In the meantime why not check out our post about the brand new Bentley.
Or if you missed out on the motor sport last weekend then take a look at our motor sport round up.