x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Top 5: Motoring toys from your childhood

Martin Webb's collection of 700 Alfa Romeo toy cars gets Neil Vorano thinking about his favourite toys from when he was a boy.

Fisher Price Parking Ramp and Service Centre.
Fisher Price Parking Ramp and Service Centre.

Model engine

My father was a mechanic, so to teach us how a car engine worked he bought us a plastic, working model of a Ford four-cylinder engine that you had to put together yourself. It was large and had a see-through block and a small electric motor to move all the parts, so you could see the pistons going up and down and all the parts move in perfect synchronicity, complete with the spark plugs firing - represented by small LED lights. For a young, curious mind, it was a perfect toy, and I wish I still had it to this day.

Fisher Price Parking Ramp and Service Centre

This three-level maze of roads, ramps and parking spots was perfect for a young boy and all of his dinky cars, driving them around and making those "brrrrrr" sounds. It came with a car lift and a little service centre where you could have them fixed or filled up with imaginary petrol. It was so intricate that it kept my brother and I fascinated for hours and, consequently, kept my mother very happy. When we were finished playing, we even liked to keep our cars lined up neatly in the little parking rows.

Evel Knievel with motorcycle

You've probably noticed we run a lot on Evel Knievel in these pages; that love for the 1970s daredevil comes honestly. This toy had a large Evel action figure that would sit atop his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a wind-up ramp that spun up the bike's wheel until you let it go. Then it would rocket Evel out and towards whatever kind of ramp a young boy's imagination could build, usually over other toy cars, just like the real Evel would. My dog hated that toy.

Big Wheel

A big boy needs a Big Wheel. I felt like a mean biker sitting in this low contraption, and with its meaty, slick rear wheels you could get some speed and then slide it right around with a quick turn of the handlebars and a pull on the brake. Along with my brother, who got the Green Machine (a similar ride but with rear-wheel steering), we terrorised the neighbourhood - at least from the safety of my family's driveway. But the plastic wheels weren't so good in the dirt, and it began to creak and sag as I got older. Sigh.

Smash-Up Derby

What little boy doesn't like destroying things? I sure did, but this toy was great because you could put them back together and start smashing things up all over again. It came with ramps and two beat-up Volkswagen Beetles with body panels that were designed to break off. You spun up the rear wheels of the cars by whipping out a cord, then put them on the ground pointed at the ramps and let them go at each other. They were noisy and they were violent - so, no surprise, we loved them.