The collector Paolo Tondo, from Lecce, wrote to me asking why on the site there were almost no news and images related to the models produced by Dinky Toys, which he had collected with passion for many years. Thinking rightly that this was due to the fact that I did not collect them anymore and that I did not have the necessary photos, he made available to me his collection and experience to complete the site in that sense.
We have therefore devoted ourselves to the creation of the pages on Dinky Toys with enthusiasm, being sure to do something very useful to other collectors. To learn more about our friend Paolo here's a short interview, taken on a rainy day in December, while sipping a soothing cup of tea by the fireplace. In the china cabinet, of course, lots of cars.
Alberto Spano

Passion 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 contain.
And the Dinky Toys', when did you meet them for the first time?
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 true.

NOTE: The photos on this page were taken by Paolo Tondo to models from his collection.