for cars has almost always origins that go far back in time,
rooted in childhood. Is it true also for you, Paolo?
Sure, I've always been fascinated
with cars. As a child I knew all the makes, the models, the
performance, and, of course, my favorite toys were cars, mainly
those of metal of Dinky Toys. Rather small, just a few inches,
but as heavy as lead, they kept on making holes in the pockets
of my pants. I always had at least a toy car with me, in my
pockets, and I could spend entire afternoons with it.
Why precisely the Dinkys? They were imported and, in
general, were found only in big cities.
True, my first car models were not
Dinkyís, they were purchased from the stalls. I did not like
the very small ones, nor the very big ones: they had to fit
into my pockets like a car in a garage. I remember the first
Politoys which were called "APS", with no glass
windows and seats, with tires melted together with the rim
and also rather approximate as to the fidelity to the models.
They were sold in boxes that contained several cars in different
models and colors. There were also the Marchesini cars, tin
lithographed, in packs of six assorted models that stall keepers
hang around the stall. The INGAP ones, slightly bigger and
usually fitted with a clutch mechanism, were on display, but
I appreciated them only when I was very little. The clutch
mechanism made me consider them as toys for little children
while I already felt like a big boy. Then I met the Politoys
in plastic, scale 1/41, with wheels that moved away from the
axles, but they had the advantage to be disassembled so that
I could play pretending to be a mechanic. I used to buy them
in the UPIM shop, in front of the Hotel Risorgimento, where
they were placed in a display in the shape of a small staircase
with the models lined up side by side, without boxes. I remember
very well that the lady of the department as soon as she sold
a model she replaced it immediately by tearing the little
box containing it into thousands of pieces. And to think that
now there is someone that value them more than the model they
And the Dinky Toys', when did you meet them for the
One day, while on holiday in Emilia
Romagna, I saw the Dinky Toys in a window shop and I thought
they were all English, as the catalogs were all-in-one and
the production origin was not specified. It was love at first
sight, they were beautiful, colorful, they accurately reflected
the original models and they were indestructible: even when
they fell on the ground at the most the painting got scraped
up a bit, but they did not end up like the much praised Mercury,
whose bodies were very delicate and when they fell they opened
in two. I still keep the base with wheels and the seats of
the Maserati 3500. Right the day it was given to me it fell
and the body broke into several pieces.
Poor Maserati! Then, after the lightning strike, you
have been faithful to Dinky Toys?
Yes, because, when I went back to
my town, I found a small shop which dealt in plastic house
wares: its name was precisely PLASTIK. It was the time when
"Moplen" started to come out on the market (a plastic
material that supplanted old basins, buckets and many other
iron tools and pottery in the kitchen). Entering the shop
on the right there was a display of Dinky Toys, certainly
not big, but enough to hold quite a lot of cars. I became
a regular customer: I was fascinated by the precision of reproduction,
mainly of the French production. The fidelity was truly remarkable:
Dinky Toys did not produce fantasy cars, or common car toys,
copying this or that model, not in the least, but you had
in your hands near-perfect copies of real models. Yes, they
cost much more than the others, but since I took good care
of them, keeping them in their original boxes (to preserve
the painting), I was often allowed to purchase them.
The shops specialized in modeling were very few. I bought
models in department stores, toy stores and stationers.
It's true. Later I discovered MICRONAVIO,
a modeling shop near piazza Trecentomila. It dealt in different
brands, Corgi Toys, Tekno, Mercury, Solido, and the selection
was not scarce at all. It had a few models of each brand and
each one was unique: those who bought it were the only ones
to have it. The owner was an elderly man, a great lover of
modeling to the point that when he sold a car model he seemed
almost sorry that he had to be separated from it.
But have you also collected models of other brands
or your dedication was total?
Of course I also bought them from
other manufacturers. I remember, for example, when the stores
UPIM moved to a new bigger building, and changed the selling
system: there were no longer display-desks with a shop assistant,
but instead the goods were placed on the shelves available
to the clients to choose. Almost simultaneously the Politoys
introduced the M series, metal made, and I rediscovered this
brand, since the cars were robust, well made and with so many
openings. As for the French NOREVs , I found them for sale
in a household shop, called Carlino, in via Trinchese. Models
were very well done, often with opening parts, but by just
seeing them in the shop window I spotted their defect: the
models, made of plastic, exposed to the sun tended to change
shape, getting crooked.
The work of the "body shop" or "preparer"
for miniatures has always had a magical effect on kids. I
have never thrown away broken cars because some pieces could
always come out useful.
I agree. I always said to my friends
or classmates that if they had any broken cars they should
not to throw them away and sometimes I exchanged them for
stickers or used stamps. Some of them could be restored and
I managed to bring them to their original state, others were
kept in a wooden box as a kind of scrap yard to reuse their
parts. Replacement parts were not in the market, but Dinky
provided the precious spare tires, and since my "garage"
had a department for tire changing, I made a good supply.
Tires over time have proven to be the most delicate part of
a model, especially the white ones that if not rotated periodically
get flat under the weight of the car.
Our adventures of small collectors up to this point
are very similar, Paolo. In the 70s' I have abandoned model
cars a little bit. Is it the fault of the driving license
and of real cars? Of romantic distractions? Work commitments?
Or is there something different that characterized the cars
of that period?
Maybe itís because of all these things
together. When I started growing up, just as I would look
for even more fidelity in the reproduction of the various
models, the quality of the models came down a lot: they became
coarser and poorly finished and the notorious fast wheels
were also introduced. It was a problem that involved all brands
of cars, not just Dinky Toys. In 1974 I put all my cars in
a big box and put it away, conscious of possessing a small
treasure. From time to time I had a look at them to admire
them or to make sure they were fine. Many of them were kept
in a perfect state, I even kept the original boxes, and others,
were a little scraped. Then it was the time of the military
service, the studies, and then work brought me away from my
big box full of car models.
Then the box reappeared again, blessed are the basements
and the attics ... and the game begins again.
Exactly! It's a new game that has
started little by little, as if by magic, to bring me back
in time, in a world that, as you get older, you inevitably
end up forgetting: such as when cars models make you feel
emotions difficult to be described in words. So I found myself
again so immersed in the genuineness of a childhood lived
by a generation which needed very little to be happy. We didn't
have the Internet, nor the PlayStation, for us there was only
the TV kidsí show and after that straight to bed.
But we had so much imagination and we were able to have fun
with nothing. We became world travelers through stamps, we
knew many famous people just by collecting stickers, we dreamed
of driving the best cars, like the Jaguar "E" of
our comic book heroes. We lived in a world of fantasies, the
fantasies of a child of the early '60s, that thanks to the
car models, continue to live in me and give me a chance to
see again, with the eyes of a child, the adultís world.
It's true. We became children again. We can not put
a wedge between the wheels of time, but somehow we managed
to cheat it, to distract him from its unstoppable course.
One day a wise person made me reflect
when he said that we do not stop playing because we grow old,
but we grow old because we stop playing. Well, maybe that's