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Car Puzzles & Games.
Collecting full-size cars, motorcycles and lorries isn't always a viable option, often due to problems of space, funds, and spare time in many cases. The collecting of old games hasn't previously been featured on this site, so hopefully this will redress things a little. Since internal combustion first propelled the early dare-devil motorists along unmade tracks, there have been games and puzzles designed with the motoring enthusiast, and their offspring, in mind.
Some examples of older games and puzzles.
The cards inside are beautifully illustrated, not just with motorcars, but also propeller aircraft (such as the Hawker Tempest, Bristol Brabazon and Handley Page Hermes), jet planes (Meteor and Vampire), ships (including the Queen Mary and other passenger & military vessels), race horses, steam locomotives, and even lightning (well, it is quick after all). The cars chosen are all of a sporting or competitive nature - hence the inclusion of the twin cam Austin Seven racer, Dobson in his ERA single seater, Seagrave's Golden Arrow & Eyston's Thunderbolt land speed cars, plus Campbell's Blue Bird, Cobb's Napier Railton (still going strong even today), and a glimpse of early drivers at the Tourist Trophy race of 1905.
The objective of this game is to dispose of your own cards in the quickest time possible. Judging by the machines that appear in this card game, I'd estimate it was produced in the late 40s (the Brabazon airliner first took to the skies on a test flight in September 1949). I've a few other card games that feature motoring, and I'll add a page all about this subject soon. After a request from a visitor to this page, I've scanned in the instructions for the SPEED game - they can be viewed here.
On the front it shows a pair of speeding types on turn of the century motorcars, doing battle on rough country roads. Open up the board and a racing track is shown, as with the cover nicely illustrated. Depending on the 'square' that you land on, you either miss a turn (for instance if you have to climb a hill) or get an extra turn (if you hit 90 mph). Mid-way around the circuit there is a crossroads - if you cross it while another car is stopped there, you have a collision and have to begin the race again. Heady stuff indeed. Despite the condition not being brilliant, it must be 100 years old now and very rare. Photographs of the 1903 Gordon Bennett race, held in Ireland, may be seen on this page of the vintage gallery section.
If you open up the board, there is a map of England with some of its towns and cities marked out, linked up with roads. I don't have the instructions so I'm not quite sure of the objectives to this game, one that is 'exciting, interesting and educative'. Not something that could be levelled at most computer games today! At various locations across the map are road signs, and red traffic lights. Land on these and you miss a go. But the player will gain an extra throw if you land on a green traffic light. If you land on a collision symbol, the cars must return to the nearest town for repairs. Whether there is a winner to this game, I'm not sure. It certainly would teach the locations of key English towns and cities, so I guess it does have educational merit. I think it must date to the 1940s.
A few years newer, again by Geographia, is another 'thrilling map game', this time 'Motor Chase Across London'. The cover of the board shows a cad in his XK Jaguar being hotly pursued by the old bill in a black Humber. The map layout is based on the streets and attractions of the capital city, and again does have a slight educational value. For once I have the box of playing pieces and instructions to go with this chase game. Upto four pursuers, or police drivers, can play, and choose from either a green, blue, red or yellow metal Humber playing piece. Whoever throws the lowest roll of the dice at the start is the baddie, and pilots the black XK while trying to evade the police. The objective is for the baddie to reach 'home' before being caught - if he gets there, he wins. The pursuers have to try and overtake him, or draw level, in which case they nab the escapee and thus win the game.
Electrically operated games.
Scalextric is the first brand that comes to mind usually when thinking about electric car racing sets, but there were others. A rare-ish set, at least in Britain, is the racing set produced by Faller of Germany. On the cover of this example is a late 1950s Opel Kapitan, going head to head with an S class Mercedes, both drivers (and co-drivers) intent on reaching the chequered flag first. Open the box, and various straight and curvy pieces of track are present, finished in grey with a speckling to immitate a gravelled surface, unlike the black top track found in Scalextric.
Three cars came with this set, found at a carboot sale in the mid 1990s. Two of the cars are in tidy small plastic boxes, the first is an open top Mercedes 230 SL (Faller car no. 4852), and the other a Ferrari GT (looks like a 275). The Merc especially is a lovely little car, with 2 passengers sitting inside, and a tin litho interior. The Ferrari doesn't have an interior as such, just a tantalising view of various tiny cogs that power the car. A third, unboxed, car is also included - another Merc, this time a sleek 190SL (pre-pagoda roof) with a hardtop fitted. All the cars are nicely detailed and closely resemble real cars. Inside the box lid are small illustrations of other Faller cars that could be bought, namely Porsche 356, VW Beetle, and Ford Taunus 17M. Various optional trackside buildings could also be purchased. One of the nice things about this electric game is the controllers - no cheapo handheld things such as with Scalextric, the player of Faller races had a great little dashboard with which to control their car, a turn of the steering wheel increasing the speed of the car on track.
Magnetic driving games.
Using a similar magnetic arrangement, but this time produced by Bell Toys of London, is the much rarer game 'Duncan Hamilton invites you to race at Oulton Park'. The box cover is nicely illustrates with a Vanwall being pursued by similarly-shaped red cars, with a photo of Duncan Hamilton, himself a well-known driver of the day, as an endorsement. Inside is a course layout of the Oulton Park track, with a steering wheel at the base which is slid up and across, to aim the car through the curves. Several loose plastic 'haybales' and other bits are available to place around the track. The circuit itself was first used in 1953, and I suspect this game was made 5 or 6 years later.
Every subject under the sun has appeared in the form of a jigsaw, and transportation is no exception. Earlier puzzles were made from wood, and later examples from stiff cardboard.
Most of my jigsaws feature competition cars of some kind, but there are one or two less frenetic subjects in my collection. One of these, produced under the label of 'A Victory Plywood Jig-Saw Puzzle' by G.J. Hater & Co. Ltd. of Bournemouth (itself a subsidiary of J.W. Spear and Sons), was called 'A Busy Quayside'. A bit of everything appears in this particular jig-saw puzzle, namely a ferry, sailing boats, a smart coach, and a saloon car. The pieces are made from thick plywood, hand-cut according to the blurb on the box lid. A page featuring a number of classic jigsaws, of the 1950s and 1960s, may now be found on the car, van and lorry jigsaws page.
Hopefully this article will serve as an introduction to the interesting world of old car-related toys, and I hope to add further pages in about this hobby shortly.
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