As recounted in my recent post on the elusive The East Glows, I’ve been on the hunt for a genuine Chinese CC for decades. And then there I was, working in my front yard, when a sparkle of light down the street caught the corner of my eye. I turned towards it and was dazzled by the biggest chrome grille this side of a Hong Qi Red Flag. As it rolled by closer, I racked my memory banks trying to identify the big red convertible…What the…it can’t be..it’s…a…
POC! A genuine Chinese mid-seventies POC! I’ve had an inexplicable compulsion about finding a Chinese car (no, a Zap doesn’t count) for decades; it’s been a Niedermeyer family obsession since I sincerely offered my kids $20,000 if they could find an The East Glows (with Chinese license plates) to keep them busy on road trips.
And here is something even much more grandiose than that pathetic Chinese Studebaker knock off. As it approached, I grabbed my camera, ran into the street, and waved it at them. They barely acknowledged me, slowing down just enough to mutter something about taking pictures of all the cheap Oregonian real estate they were going to buy, before they regally rolled on by…
Ok, enough of that. But I have had an obsession with Chinese cars for decades, wondering if there are any Curbside Classics to be found there. Gushing Chinese car sales reports just don’t do it for me; I want to see interesting old Chinese cars; there must be some somewhere. And then the light goes off…I’ve had one for decades! I just forgot.
A friend had a toy store thirty years ago, and she used to share her interest in off-beat toys with me. And the queen of the fleet is this Photoing On Car, safely ensconced in its box deep in the bowels of my office closet. The big question…will it still work after all these decades? Chinese goods do have a reputation. One way to find out…after a run to the store for some fresh D-cells.
Success! Time for a video to document the “Mystery Action”, “Horn Sounding”, and “The Girl Taking Photo When It Stops”. Who says the Chinese can’t build things that last? This POC is close to forty years old! The only minor issue to deal with was that the lovely lady photographer’s head was tilted skyward, perhaps her bushy red ponytail’s gravitational pull after all these years was to blame. A little ball of sticky caulk-rope did the trick.
But don’t think I wasn’t worried, because when this car was first gifted to me, it came with some cheap Chinese old-school (non-alkaline) batteries. After taking it out for some initial spins, I proudly put it on a shelf. Months later, I noticed ooze puddling up underneath it. The batteries had leaked and created a corrosive spill. My precious POC needed a careful cleaning and emery cloth treatment, but the paint on the bottom and in the battery compartment peeled away like an old sunburn. I was deeply anxious that the damage might be mortal.
No worries; that rather Western-looking dude can still spin the POC’s steering wheel as madly as ever, thanks to one of the earliest applications of electric power steering.
They make quite a dashing couple, don’t you think, but they do have a decidedly non-Chinese aspect to them. Who says the Chinese don’t know how to tailor their cars for Western consumption?
I’m rather curious as to when this toy first went into production, because that red-haired vixen in my car has had a substantial make-over from the very prim and modest co-pilot represented on the box.
Well, strictly speaking, that applies to the dashing driver too, but I was too distracted by that flame of red hair and the come-hither look in her eyes. Nice hand painting on those eyes and lashes. And what did the women who made these cars make back in the day? Don’t ask.
Equal time time: this guy has also had a make-over since he posed for the box. Oddly, he looks like he went back in time though; his hairdo on the box is rather contemporary, no? But I do like his hand-painted shirt collar, buttons and pocket. Nice.
China was just the latest country to take up the baton of generating foreign currency by making and exporting tin toys. It started in Germany, of course, the Vaterland of the genre. The German tradition goes back quite far, and boomed in the late nineteenth century. Don’t get me started on tin toys; we’ll have to do a whole story on them. But here’s a German Distler of the early automotive era.
Like so many other German specialties (cameras, etc), the Japanese took over after the war with their lower costs on the labor intensive production of tin toys. Here’s a trio from the classic Japanese fifties era.I suspect that Taiwan had a crack at it too, but China got in the game pretty quickly as Japanese labor costs soared in the late sixties and seventies.
There’s no doubt about the provenance of this car, not that it wasn’t obvious. Interestingly, this car clearly isn’t a copy of a real car, unless my family has been too polite about my dementia. So somewhere in China, someone sat down and actually designed this car; interesting parting thought.
With that brilliant insight, let’s wave our handsome and apparently happy couple farewell. They have lots of ground to cover before their investment portfolio is fully committed. But I do have other toys in the closet…
[thanks Marta, for indulging my love of tin cars and toys]