In common with many other English postwar
children my parents didn't own a car until late in the
1950s, but in the early 50s my Dad sparked my enthusiasm
for cars by buying me Dinky Toys as presents for Christmas
and birthdays. He would provide me with a colorful catalog
to make my choice of gift from and I eagerly awaited
each new edition the glossy art paper and aroma
of printing ink adding to the pleasure to find
out what would be new for the coming year. My collection
of miniature cars grew steadily during my childhood.
It was 1957, I was ten years old and in Middle school
when my English teacher gave us a project which would
not only help us understand the art of letter writing,
geography, and economics, but with luck it would also
bring me and my fellow students a reward. The target
of our letters would be car companies both in the UK
and overseas and the object was to request literature
about their latest models.
My letter would be to the Public relations Office of
Ford USA in Dearborn. My other class mates would be
writing to Cadillac, Chrysler etc. requesting literature
which would help us with our school project.
Car company addresses were contained
in 'The Observers Book of Automobiles' which was updated
annually and to provide a rich seam for this budding
Our letters to the USA and other English speaking countries
did, to our delight and gratitude, bring forth large
yellow envelopes with neat split clips and unfamiliar
colorful postage stamps which further stimulated our
curiosity and desire for more of this educational stuff!
Our teacher also encouraged writing to 'pen pals' and
correspondence to Canada, France and Australia which
generated brochures such a Acadian, Beaumont, Citroen
and Holden in exchange for Austin, Morris and Ford etc.
I established a good rapport with fellow collectors
world-wide and regular parcels of mixed makes would
be sent 'to and fro' by 'printed paper' sea mail. When
I think how many Ferrari and Lamborghini 'duplicates'
were traded for a 'lucky dip' of Japanese, East European,
South African and American catalogs I shudder.
Morris Ten Saloon
Inhabiting a small country town we
were unlikely ever to see a Ford Fairlane, Galaxy Country
Squire, Thunderbird or Cadillac Sedan de Ville so the
excitement of opening these catalogs and marvelling
at the big fins, port holes folding roofs and two tone
paint jobs was like looking widescreen at the flight
deck of Starship Enterprise for later generations of
kids. These dramatic shapes and features contrasted
considerably with our domestic automobiles and even
more so with my Dad's ancient 1939 Morris Ten.
Needless to say, 'the die was cast' for me, and numerous
letters were fired off to all parts of the globe to
await the magical results. Often I would say that foreign
language was no obstacle and the fact that many manufacturers
hadn't even started exporting to Britain didn't matter
to me either. The pile of glossy paper grew ever larger,
I kept a record of makes, how many countries and how
many brochures I had acquired. My 'Observers book of
automobiles' was added to year on year until it ceased
publication in the early nineties and forms a complete
set of reference books from 1955.
As soon as I was old enough I learned to drive, the
Dinky Toys - to my eternal regret, were sold off - and
brochure collecting continued with the added bonus of
being able to visit motor shows and car showrooms. A
regular 'diet' of magazines such as "Autocar",
"Motor", "Car", "Motor Trend",
"Car and Driver", "Road & Track"
kept me up to speed with what was new around the globe.
When I left the parental home in the early 70s, several
boxes of catalogs went with me. By that time my long
time American correspondents with whom I had exchanged
many parcels were now bowing out. Brochures acquired
a monetary value. Hershey and other swapmeets became
big business making catalogs 'commercial'. The days
of innocent swapping for fun and to fill gaps in the
collection were over even though 'eBay' was still to
In some respects it is good to know
that my Ford GT40 brochure which was obtained in 1967
from Ford UK is now worth over £1,000, McLaren
F1 hardback and softback, Ferrari 250 Berlinetta Lusso,
LM and many pre-Fiat Ferrari brochures as star items
have a value of several hundred pounds each so are an
'investment' of sorts.
Over time my collection has gradually evolved from 'a
bit of everything' to a more focused 'luxury, exotic
and interesting theme', with an occasional thinning
out sell off to make room for new items.
Fifty years on and I still get a kick from following
the industry, visiting car factories - Ferrari, Lamborghini,
Maserati, Pagani, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Mercedes, motor
shows - London, Geneva, Paris, Frankfurt, Melbourne,
special events like Goodwood festivals, Pebble Beach,
Concours Italiano, Laguna Seca etc.
The best feeling of all though is being given a beautiful
piece of printed literature - complete with that combination
of glossy art paper and smell of printing ink - to add
to my knowledge of the automobile and my library.
A thank you to my Dad, English teacher, my tolerant
wife who shares the family home with my massive brochure,
book, and 1/43 car collection, and true enthusiasts
Rob and Sharon for supporting a lifelong and rewarding