I often contemplate how I ended up doing what I’m currently doing. No, not me sitting in front of my laptop in sweatpants with a mild hangover and upset stomach. I know how that happened and I only have myself, mezcal and queso to blame.

I’m talking about the whole getting paid to write about cars and automotive culture. Every time I’m handed the keys to a press car or have a story make it to the front page of Jalopnik I can’t help but take a moment to laugh at how ridiculously awesome it is that this is my life. Sure I can look back and trace most of the steps that led me to this point but for the most part they were random and really could have sent me in any number of directions. That I ended up here, doing this, right now, well I’m still baffled by it all.

The most reasonable conclusion I’ve been able to come to is that although there are a number of contributing factors, one stands above them all, I had a shitload of Matchbox and Hot Wheels.

I know what you’re thinking, “What exactly constitutes a shitload?” and I don’t have an answer for you because today’s scientists have largely ignored doing the necessary research to determine what volume of a particular thing one must have to be “a shitload”. In my opinion it is more than “a bunch” but less than “a fuckton”.

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As a kid with a whole shitload of die cast cars I quickly gained an appreciation for a wide variety of makes and models. I learned about the manufacturers by reading magazines like Motor Trend, Car & Driver and Automobile. I learned what they were selling for by picking up Want Ad Digest at our local market and I learned about worth/value/appreciation from Hemmings Motor News. All my interest in these publications stemmed from the fact that I played with these toy cars every single day for the majority of my youth. “Play with” would be putting it mildly, I concocted elaborate stories and characters based on what the car looked like. In my world villians drove Mercedes, heroes drove Porsches, clearly I knew my shit at an early age.

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It wasn’t until I was in 7th grade that my parents finally allowed my sisters and I to have a gaming console and with the arrival of the Playstation came Gran Turismo, the next step in my automotive education and a story for another day. The diecasts were put in a bucket one last time and stashed away in the attic. My 1:18 scale Maisto models remained on the shelves my father had built for them, the Legos put in their own tubs and the Playmobil stuff, well I don’t know what happened to that, probably donated.

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It wasn’t until years later that I realized not every kid had been obsessed with Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. Once I began to really think about it I realized that very few of my elementary school friends even had more than a few of them. I thought about the multiple Hot Wheels themed birthday parties I had (yep, I was that kid) and the fact that I was given Matchbox as a reward for using the toilet like a big boy while being housebroken, these are memories that stand out as not particularly normal.

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Of the many memories I have of my childhood, the ones jogged by picking up these toys are the most vivid. Grand accidents involving 50 to 100 cars were a regular occurrence, the result of high speed chases stemming from stolen tanker truck full of orange juice or hot rods that time traveled through a wormhole opened up by army scientists who gave chase in a half trak because of course they would. Without the distraction of cable or video games and pace of growing up in a rural town I think I was able to hang onto more of these moments than many people my age. While there are larger societal issues that factor into my affinity for diecast cars, being part of that “in-between” generation that is old enough to remember life before the internet but young enough to be completely caught up in it for one, but I think it mostly comes down to my thirst for knowledge and love of applying that knowledge to storytelling.

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Sure, nostalgia plays a big part and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t waxed poetic about the ritual of going down to Ben Franklin to pick out a new Matchbox. They kept them up at the register area in a neat display case just like the one below. Hot Wheels were in an aisle with all manner of other toys, for some reason that always made them feel less special to me. Yes, there it is, my admission that I prefer Matchbox to Hot Wheels, come at me bro!

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Now clearly I could have taken better care of my collection and for awhile when it was in the early stages I did put cars back in their boxes and keep them on shelves. Once it started to balloon I just couldn’t deal with putting each and every car away but in my defense, I was just a kid and kids are notoriously known for being little shits. For a little shit with a shit ton of diecasts, I think a fair amount survived, although it’s pretty clear which ones I got early on and which ones came later.

When I’m home again in a couple weeks I plan to lay all the cars out, organize them and photograph the whole lot. It’s possible I’ll put some of them on eBay but it’s more likely that I’ll store them in better conditions so that they might be around long enough for me to pass them onto my theoretical children one day. After all, video games might offer a visually thrilling experience that could potentially make a person a great driver but they’re no substitute for the tactile experience of picking up a diecast car and creating your own world around it.

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Cheers,

-Andrew

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