Even as a young kid, I approached life from the perspective of a car collector, and die cast models were my stand-in for the fleet of desirable automobiles I hoped to own when I was all grown up. Like many junior gearheads, I started out with a stable full of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, moving quickly to Corgi’s venerable 1:36-scale pieces by age six. However, I don’t consider myself to have been a “true” die cast collector until 1984, when at age nine I acquired my first 1:18-scale car, Bburago’s classic Ferrari 250GTO. My appetite for adult-level model cars had been fueled for years by Road and Track magazine’s “Cars in Scale” series, as well as by the glossy ads in that same publication for these Italian-made marvels. At $30, 1:18-scale Bburagos were not items to be purchased casually by kids; I saved for months to afford my GTO, and when I finally bought it I treated it with every ounce of care I could muster.
By my side during these first steps toward die-cast fanaticism was my father, a casual car enthusiast himself, who saw the pride-of-ownership I felt in my beloved GTO. The following Christmas, he gave me my second Bburago, a 1934 Bugatti Type 59 grand prix racer (no small feat in El Paso, Texas, where upscale model cars were nearly impossible to find in those pre-internet days.) Thus was born a family tradition: Christmas meant that the old man would source a big, beautiful Bburago, and my collection would grow. Next came an exotic 512 Testarossa, then a gorgeous silver Gullwing, and finally the best of them all: a 250 Testa Rossa. Soon, my interest shifted toward vintage “redline” Hot Wheels cars, but the tradition of giving continued…Dad found a local collector who could provide these rare classics, and the “car-for Christmas” ritual went on.
My life as a die cast car collector (and now dealer) has been marked by many fascinating experiences and opportunities, but when I really think about it, the thing I have always valued the most was my father’s encouragement and participation. We used to spend hours upon hours at antique festivals, eyes peeled for old models stuck amongst the relics. Many of those models we acquired moved out of my collection long ago, but the memory of the chase, Dad as my partner, will stay with me forever.