Friday, May 13, 2016
How Baby Boomer Boys Developed Their Interests in Cars
Their interest in the automobile (and mine!) started at a very young age, well before one could acquire an operator’s license. For example, as a 5 year old in 1953, I was fascinated by a colorful Golden Book of Automobiles that featured stamps of cars. My task (and that for thousands of other little boys) was to match the stamps with blank spaces contained on pages that described specific cars. Undoubtedly, along with comic books, it was one of the first books that I read. I routinely played with metal cast cars, made in mass quantities by companies like National Products of Chicago where plaster replicas were cast into molds and then painted in infrared ovens. It was not long thereafter that I built the first plastic model of an automobile, coincidentally also first marketed in large quantities in 1953.
Until the early 1950s, the hobby of scale modeling had a very small following, not surprising, given the high degree of skill and patience and the ability to work with wood or metal. Beginning in the mid1940s, however, the technique of injection molding had been developed. Soon thereafter, the Revell Company, founded in Venice, California in 1943, used the designs of Gowland & Gowland from Santa Barbara, California in a series called “Highway Pioneers.” Previously Gowland & Gowland had partnered with Revell in making toy cars called “Action Miniatures,” strange little models that bucked when one pressed in a protruding front cable. But sales of the “Action Miniatures” indicated that there was a large potential market for plastic cars, and thus “Highway Pioneers came to be. These sixteen early plastic models were made in large quantities, and shortly thereafter Revell began making its own models, followed by Monogram and Aurora. Model building became the number one pastime of young boys by the early 1960s, and to further empty young boys’ pockets, by the1962 Aurora began marketing their extremely popular slot cars and track. With organized club events and the support of the Ford motor Company, Aurora, Strombecker and the A.C. Gilbert Company marketed a variety of cars and tracks to more than a million competitive “drivers” in 1962. It was a short jump for boys to go from toy cars to their own cars, with the family car as only a temporary set of wheels from which to learn to drive. And in time full scale cars would become toys for bigger boys.