A SentiMETAL reader shares his joy of discovering a small collection of Matchbox diecast cars dating from the '50s that belonged to his late father.
Words and pictures: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
The romantic idea of a barn find must surely rate as one of the most exciting things that could possibly happen to a petrolhead or a classic car enthusiast.
Both locally and internationally, these stories have grabbed our attention and imagination over the years and still do to this day. The Internet really lights up with the publication of a story like ours on the Cape Flats Ferrari 308 GTB earlier this year.
However, if you are not actively driving around small towns asking about cars hidden away or doing online research through the right contacts, or actually work in the industry, the likelihood of stumbling across a barn find is sadly very small.
Bring it closer to home, though, and there are other possibilities that surface. One SentiMETAL reader recently shared his discovery of a small family treasure.
It all started when his mother, in her mid-70s, sent him two pictures of model cars. The message read: “I found some of your father’s model cars." Excited, he tried to zoom in to see what type of model cars these were, but he could not identify them as the boxes in which they were sold weren’t in the photos. His mother suggested he should visit to see them in the metal.
“Fortunately, I live only 25 km from her, so a few days later I headed over there and found what is, to me, nothing less than a small family treasure. I’m grateful to own other interesting artefacts from my late father, but I don’t have any of his model cars. After all, life happens and who can move model cars with them throughout the decades these days.”
“These cars were packed away in a box at the back of my parents’ garage. They lived in the same house for more than 45 years. Recently my mother unpacked this box and found these model cars in a smaller box.”
“When I arrived, I was quite surprised by two things. First of all they were true Matchbox models. Or, to give them their full name ‘Matchbox’ Series – A Moko Lesney. Secondly, they are in impeccable condition. Either my father never played with them, or he was very careful, because there are no scratches or any marks on them or the boxes.
“It is also interesting to note that the size of the boxes are not perfectly the same as you would expect of modern toy car boxes. I guess that just illustrates the advances in the production processes over the decades.”
Another highlight from this “discovery” is the fact that there are no missing models - it is a complete set from number 1 to 27. However, an online search has revealed that the range did originally go up to around 70 cars.
“The quality of the cars from those years are really impressive, even the rubber on the some of the models are still in a good condition. There are several ones that stand out for me, from a Dunlop-branded panel van, to a Land Rover Series I, as well an Esso truck.
“Matchbox models are quite sought after these days and one friend offered to get an estimated value online through a model enthusiast page on Facebook. Quickly fellow enthusiasts indicated that these cars were indeed quite special and that selling them would be easy, but that is not my plan. I’ve had a carpenter make a neat display cabinet and now they are a joy to appreciate.”