Background: Part I
When I was a kid, I had a lot of Matchbox cars. Most of them were older than I was, from back when they were still made in England by Lesney. They had belonged to my uncle Paul, my father's younger brother, who gave them to me when he went in the Navy. They were some of my favorite toys. Unfortunately, they were left behind in a house that my father then moved out of when I went away to seek my fortune in the outside world, so I have no idea what has become of them now.
Background: Part II
I watch a lot of stuff on YouTube these days. One of the odd corners of tubeage I've wandered into is channels where people restore and customize old diecast toys. This hobby seems to be a bit of a subculture, there are people doing it all over the world. One such channel is Matchbox Garage, which is operated by a man called Rob who lives outside of London.
In Which a Sequence of Events Takes Place
Back in the spring, when the Current Craziness was starting to take hold, Rob posted this video, in which he customized a Fast 111's [sic] Cyclone 3. Fast 111's were Kenner's 1980s attempt to break into the 1:64-scale diecast market, then dominated by Matchbox and Hot Wheels. They were all, as far as I know, fantasy cars, and their gimmick was that they had tiny tampos of authentic-looking license plates on them. (American license plates were much simpler back then, so this could actually be accomplished with some semblance of fidelity at that scale.) I'm sure the hope in the company was that this would prompt kids to buy more than one of any given casting in hopes of collecting more plates, getting one with their home state's plate on it, and so on. They probably expected a trading culture to grow up around them, like with baseball cards.
I don't know whether that ever happened, but since Fast 111's was not a particularly successful product line, I'm guessing not.
Anyway, Rob's custom Cyclone 3 video reminded me that I had a single Fast 111's car among the small wing of my collection that wasn't the vintage stuff I got from Uncle Paul. It was a Shark Shifter, which was a sorta-Batmobile-like car in the vague shape of a hammerhead shark, with fins on top and headlight tampos that looked like eyes. Mine had New Mexico plates on it, which as a child I assumed meant it was a product of Swift Industries. (The Tom Swift, Jr. books from Grossett & Dunlap, of which my local library's children's room had a complete set, were set in New Mexico.)
Feeling a bit nostalgic, I went on eBay and looked around, and the only Shark Shifter available at the time was one that looked like it had been chewed on by a dog—the fins were all chewed up and missing their tips, and the paint was in poor shape even for a 30-plus-year-old diecast toy. But it was all there, and its condition gave me an idea. After all, you wouldn't send a good specimen off to be restored or customized, would you? That would miss the point, surely.
So I bought it, and the Fast 111's-branded collector's case that it came with (the case was probably the seller's main object in putting the set on eBay, in hindsight), and then sent them off to Rob, along with an advance-warning email that I had a commission request for him. Also in the package were several license plates culled out of my father's extensive collection of same, because Rob collects American license plates.
(Dad never throws out license plates. There's a wall in his garage covered in them, and a drawer full of them in his workbench. If I ever track down another 1984 Oldsmobile and want 1984-vintage plates to put on it for Antique Car purposes, he probably has the ones that were on the original one I had in high school.)
Fast-forward a couple months, and lo, this video dropped on Matchbox Garage, in which Rob unpacks my package and does up the Shark Shifter (albeit in the opposite order, since he puts the unboxings at the ends of his videos). Which was kind of a neat thrill. It's fun to see video evidence that you made something happen on the other side of the world.
Fast-forward a few more months, for the wheels of the world's postal services grind exceeding slow in these times, and in the middle of last week I found a note from the postman on my door informing me that there was a package I had to sign for. I wasn't able to get to the post office until Friday, and when I did, the package I was waiting for me was a little box completely covered in customs forms, within which awaited...
... not only my custom Shark Shifter, but the Cyclone 3 that prompted the whole affair as well! The latter was a complete surprise.
Please pardon the slightly iffy picture quality; for some reason the flash picked up every single molecule of dust. In person, the paint jobs on both of these cars are gorgeous. He gave the Shifter a little bit of a Mako Shark fade, styled after the paint job on the Chevrolet Mako Shark concept car that was the progenitor of the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray. It's beautiful work, especially when you keep in mind how small the car is.
So that was nice!
Check out Rob's channel if you've a mind to; unsolicited plug, he does good work and is pleasantly low-key, which is a nice change on YouTube. I've been watching him for a year or two now, and it's been fun to watch his skills (both with diecasts and video production) advance.
Speaking of YouTube channels, GweepCo's very own Andrew Petrarca has one as well. He's starting up a channel for teaching science, which is a thing that he's done professionally. This is a pretty bold undertaking on YouTube, the natural home of flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, and counterintellectuals generally, so he can use all the support he can get. :)
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
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