Last week was the 50th anniversary of Tomica, and for many non-Japanese readers these little cars were the first intro to oddball JDM cars like Skylines, Crowns, Demios, and StepWgns. For me, personally, it was family trip to Asia in the early 90s that I discovered Tomica, at first not even realizing they were the same as the Pocket Cars I loved as a kid. After buying a few at the local Sogo department store, I was hooked. My favorite encounter was probably when, on a later trip to Japan, I found silver Toyota Soarer unmarked police car that mirrored my Lexus SC300. As a fan of Japanese cars, there was no other option but Tomica for me to find “my” car as a diecast back then.
What’s your favorite Tomica story?
The most entertaining comment by next Tuesday (Monday is a US holiday) will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What would be the baddest Nissan-Honda combo?”
The nutty answers to this nutty question gave us some ideas that ranged from the practical and good — DesignerD‘s Pike cars based on the Honda e, BG‘s Honda Ridgeline with Nissan’s truck know-how — to ones that were so bad it hurts just to think about — Banpei‘s NSX-based GT-R. Others were just plain fun, like Shaiyan Hossain‘s K24-powered Silvia, or dankan‘s RB26DETT-powered Legend. However, the winner this week goes Dave Patten, who doesn’t just blend Nissan chassis with Honda hardware, but Honda philosophy:
From a performance aspect, how about a new GT-R with Honda’s lighter weight engineering? Same for the 400Z.
Nissan can’t seem to trim the extra weight, imagine 400 pound’s off either of those models.
Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!
Probably would be finding my first Tomica. It was late 2017, it was a cold, dreary November day. I was at work at the Hobby store at the time and I looked into the display case and there sat a red, open-top roadster. It looked like a Hot Wheels from the ’70s or ’80s with….matchbox wheels. So I asked the boss for the keys to the case and picked out said car. It was the Tomica number F8 Morgan Plus 8. I bought it straight away as I had seen mentions of Tomica on JNC articles before. Within the space of an hour, I was on break and left to explore the flea market the hobby shop was based out of (it was more like a large booth at the end of a corridor) and another vendor had a Tomica Datsun Cedric Fire Chief Wagon, which I also bought immediately. I was beaming the whole way back to work and that was also the day one of the vendors at said market sent me home with a bunch of free ceramic dinner plates so it was a memorable day.
That Cedric Fire Chief Wagon is pretty old and hard to come by unless you go to a specialty shop!
Mine definitely would be my first time buying one! I was actually in Japan on an island called Enoshima, which was a very touristy island with some very old houses occupied by locals. The island itself is located right off the coast of Zushi or Chiba I believe. The bottom floors of the houses were shops / restaurants etc, and the tops were living spaces for the owners. One of the shops was owned by an older lady, and she was selling a 2017 Toyota Alphard Tomica. I had been seeing the vans all over the country and instantly fell in love with them. After a rough time asking for the price (I’m 17 and from the U.S. lol), I happily purchased the van.
Since that fateful day 2ish years ago I’ve spent over 400$ collecting 1/64 nissans and toyotas, and learned much much more about JDM cars from brands like tomica.
Enoshima Island is beautiful!!!
Even tasted the tiny fish in the vanilla ice cream deal! LOL
was that on the left side of the main walk up? I saw a bunch of locals in line for something but didn’t know what for.
Yup… it’s a local flavor deal. Just a salty vanilla ice cream!
The only purveyor of Datsun 411s I have found!
I can’t imagine my life without Tomica in it.
Growing up in the ’70s, I always preferred Matchbox to Hot Wheels–MB offered what I thought was a more interesting mix of cars, with more operable features than the blue brand. But then, as a gift, I got a Tomica. My uncle married a Japanese woman, Fusako Takigawa (of the Shizuoka City Takigawas), when he was stationed in Korea in the ’50s; they never had kids so they spoiled their nieces and nephews. Fusako was my favorite aunt–the sort of aunt who actually paid attention to you and got down on the floor and played with you, the sort of aunt who made you feel important. One gift I got when they came back from a trip to Japan in the mid-70s was Tomica: I got a heavy truck with a picture of a fish on the side (I want to say a Mitsubishi Fuso?) and a gold Honda Civic. The truck was cool, but holy cats that Civic! I was enamored of the detail, the separate chromed grille, the sprung suspension, and the delightful click of the doors when I shut them. So mechanical, so precise! Many, many scale miles were driven on my driveway and in my backyard with that Civic. Later, in the mid-80s, I discovered Pocket Cars and was thrilled to see that Tomica was sold in America once again; I spent many a dateless high school Saturday night detail-painting them. Alas, this was not long before they disappeared from American toy-shop dump bins (right around the time Aunt Fusako passed, as it happened). And once again, Tomica suddenly proved tantalizingly out of reach–a special foreign treat for this American.
In 2001 I was interviewed by the Japanese magazine Model Cars–they liked the idea that someone working for a “real car” magazine (I was at HOT ROD at the time) also collected diecast. And they presented me gifts, in the Japanese tradition: one of these was the new Tomica Limited version of the Mazda Savanna RX-7. The paint, wheels, everything about it was perfect; I would go on to hold up Tomica as an ideal through a career change when I left writing briefly and went to work at Johnny Lightning.
The JL job came and went, and I returned to California. Around this time I found online sources overseas to sell me certain models, and over time (as happens with collectors and collectibles) I accumulated more than I needed. After I finished my journalistic duties at JCCS one year (it was the year, early on, where it was set in a bowl of dried grass, instead of the Queen Mary parking lot–possibly 2008?) I went to visit Ben Hsu, proprietor of this website, and himself a Tomica fan. I had a carry-case full of Tomica with me, which I presented to him at his booth. And suddenly, out of my peripheral vision, I saw fingers pointing, arms extending, hands grabbing. “How much is this one?” “How much do you need for that?” I was at the booth for all of 20 minutes, and I walked away with about a hundred bucks in my pocket. And I thought to myself, “there’s a business model here.” And over the course of a decade, I built up a business selling Tomica at shows like JCCS and ToyotaFest. Once I entered the world of Instagram as The Toy Pimp, things really took off. Being The Toy Pimp has afforded me near-yearly diecast shopping visits to Japan since 2014. I have made friends in Japan. I’ve been able to connect with Fusako’s extended family in Japan, including a nephew (my age) who feels the same way about America as I feel about Japan. None of this would have happened if not for that original little gold Civic, given to a car-crazy nephew by his favorite aunt.
I do not have a favorite Tomica story. I cannot. In my mind, I only have the one Tomica story–one long 50-year journey. Tomica has threaded itself through my entire personal and working life. And I look forward to seeing what the next 50 years brings–for both of us.
I was the same.
Matchbox > Hot Wheels
I was able to pick up Tomica cars from previous trips to Japan in the 2000s.
Tomica Limited Vintage Neo Nissan Leopards
Prior to 2016, Tomica only release Abunai Deka F31’s, but with the TomyTec TLVN releasing 6 models, I was excited.
I was planning my trip to Japan in 2016 and one of the leopard owners and I were exchanging some diecast. He wanted Greenlights and I just asked him for 1 TLVN.
When I got to the leopard meeting, my friend didn’t make it, but he had a friend give his gifts to me.
He gave me all six versions. I didn’t think anything of it. Towards the end of my trip, I decided to buy a couple extra and saw they were like $15 to 20 each. I didn’t realize they were that expensive, so I contacted him and told him anything he wants, just let me know.. I want to make it even. I got him all the stuff he wanted once I got back to the US.
He has been to my go to guy when it comes to getting diecast cars.
When Tomytec released 2 more TLVN, but the Grand Selection version, he knew I wanted them and got them for me right away. I picked up them up in my 2019 visit.
Earlier this year, I stopped by and he had gotten me a Nismo Pit!
My other story involves Tomica Premium.
Tomica Premium is different from Tomytec TLVN.
So when they released the Gold Zenki F31 leopard, I was able to secure a few. In 2018, I met up with a former leopard owner and had dinner with him.
While I had a few of the Gold Zenki leopards, there was a release of a Blue Zenki Leopard.
After dinner, we walked around to various stores in Ikebukuro looking for Blue Leopards.
I every time I came up on Gold Zenki’s, I would buy them. I think by the end of the trip I had 30. But I never found a blue leopard.
When I got to Osaka, my friend took me to the Tomica store there and found out that it was ONLINE order and 3 per customer only. Currently the online supply was sold out.
Going back to my brother that got me the TLVN Leopards, he got me 2 Blue leopards. When I got them, I made a video of them with the Tomica Nissan Dealership in the background.
When ever I see a Tomica Leopard, I would take a picture of it. Obviously, all over Japan was a given.
Nissan Gallery/Nismo shop:
But I was able to see one in Vancouver’s show Driven in 2019:
and at JCCS 2019 as well:
Obscure car with not a huge impact…so for someone like me, it is always finding those gems.
I also have an unhealthy thing for vans. These are mostly Tomica
I’m from the us so we dont get hardly any tomica here. But once I was on the oregon coast at a shop that has since closed. They had literally thousands of cars in a giant wood bin. Think the size of a large bathtub. It was overflowing. I took it upon myself to dig all the way to the bottom. At the very bottom I found my first tomicas. A vintage green bmw and a vintage blue vw golf. Both in mint condition. I had never heard of of tomica and only bought them because of that. I ended up buying for around 20 cents each. Seeing the quality of the cars, I was hooked and now have around 20 tomica cars.
As a kid, I always had to play alone as my health was fragile, so I couldn’t imagine what my life would have been without Tomicas. I always treated mine as my little companions and pretty much made me fall in love with cars.
And as I told you guys before, what I love about Tomica is that you get cars that everyone can relate to, due to the fact that their model line is so down to earth, you’re definitely bound to find your “Tomica” rolling down the street.
I just can’t forget the fact that I saw a Y31 Cedric Taxi while me and my mom was on a bike from a check-up. That certainly made it for me, both my taste in cars and the charm that I am bound to collect them until I grow up, and here I am.
The fact that I still have that old orange Tomica Cedric Taxi really amazes me, as it was probably my first and my favorite, due to the color maybe?
My favorite Tomica story was buying a 5 car Pocket Car set of luxury vehicles out of the Sears catalog and not really knowing anything about the brand. There was a pink Cadillac, blue Lincoln, green Porsche, burgundy BMW and a silver Rolls. They didn’t look like any other cars I had until that point. I had to wait 8 days and they finally came into the pickup center. I even opened the box in the car on the way home and immediately fell in love with them! Then I began to see a steadier stream of PC in stores and gobbled them up when I could afford one or my parents agreed to buy one. That started a love affair with Tomica that lasts to this day.
My favourite Tomica story is, of course, my first. Back in 1996, I was that kid who had just started developing an interest in vehicle design, and wanted to do it for a living. The Ferrari Testarossa was the car that made me fall in love with cars.
I had a few Hot Wheels cars. This one time, I was with my family in a small gift shop, where I saw this 1/64 Red Testarossa. I didn’t know the make at the time, and I thought it was Hot Wheels. The shopkeeper showed me the car and I was amazed by the detailing and the paint. It said Tomica underneath. Pestered my parents, and they bought me the car. Brought it home and realised that it had ‘suspension’. The car became my prized possession. Sketched it and stared at it all the time. That front overhang, that hood, that difference in track width, the body-coloured square on the engine compartment. those side intakes – everything had me hooked!
My first real taste of proportions and details in vehicle design. I design motorcycles and other products for a living now, and I partly owe it to this scale model.
My favorite Tomica story couldn’t have happened without the help of Jeff Koch, above.
After bringing back souvenir Tomicas during several Japan trips, I was introduced to Jeff through mutual friends. During one of our textversations, I mentioned that I was being promoted to the gift shop at the Lane Motor Museum and gee wouldn’t it be cool if we could sell Tomicas in our gift shop. He replied “I think I can make that happen. Let me set up an introduction.”
I followed up on that introduction with a meeting with the Tomica Limited Vintage/Neo guys at their Tokyo HQ. The meeting went very well. They explained their challenges with getting into the U.S. retail market and I explained the advantages the museum offered. It was a natural fit. That was five years ago, and we have placed several orders since then. Submitting another this week, in fact.
During a TLV/N meeting a few years ago, we were discussing cars to consider in future releases and I talked a bit about trends America’s auctions, restoration shops, and yes, museums. One of the trends I mentioned was the generational shift of 50s cars falling out of favor and 80s/90s cars gaining in popularity. How the TV and poster cars from the childhood days of today’s buyers were affecting the prices of Lamborghini Countachs and Ferrari Testarossas…
Suddenly, one of the younger guys asked, quite excitedly, “DO YOU THINK WE SHOULD DO A TESTAROSSA?!?” I replied, “Oh sure, absolutely. If anybody can get the side strakes right, it’s you guys.”
A year or so later, Tomica introduced a new line of Ferrari collectibles across their product range. I looked forward to seeing them on my order forms, but they never appeared. Collectors were posting their finds on social media. Customers were asking me when we would get some in stock.
At a later meeting, I politely asked the TLV/N guys about this. It turned out that as part of the licensing negotiations, Ferrari insisted their models could only be sold in the Japanese market. Tomica couldn’t even sell them to me in person, as I am an overseas retailer. They felt quite bad about that. So I picked up a few at my favorite shop near Nippori Station. My favorite of those is a red Testarossa, which sits in a display case next to the red N-ONE that matches the car I bought new in Shizuoka in 2014 (but that’s another story).
Thank you very much Jeff Koch, for that fortuitous introduction.
That is pretty cool!!!
Late as usual to the party…
My Tomica story goes hand-in-hand with my Toyota story.
I have no idea when or what my first Tomica may have been, but probably something from the Pocket Car days in the 70’s. Back then I was a kid for who toy cars were just that, toy cars, so they didn’t have much of an impact on me back then.
Jump forward a bunch of years and I become the owner of a 1977 Celica GT LB and then things start to snowball around 1999/2000.
I’ve been working at a Toyota dealer since 1986, and it was during the 1990’s that there was this club called the Toyota Owner’s and Restorer’s Club (TORC). The dealership where I work became involved with with the club, and we attended it’s early beach fest meets. The dealership and a small group of us inherit TORC from it’s founder, and we would try to bring some fresh life to this little club. We coined the term Toyotafest and held our first show at the Queen Mary in 2000 or 2001 (some 20 to 30 cars in attendance). It was at this time that I made friends with a Japanese couple that were selling Tomica and Japanese Toyota parts –
that couple was none other than Koji and Terry Yamaguchi.
Because of Toyota and Tomica, as the years go by, I make more friends, and meet people like Shin Yoshikawa, Dave Jordan & Scooter Patrick. I also meet my soon to be wife (and primary source of Tomica for several years), the young Hsu brothers, Jeff Koch (who writes an article about my Celica), and even Chris from LMM (even though we’ve still never met in person after all these years), as well as countless other people.
The woman who I met at a Meet & Greet at the Petersen Museum in 2004, and would eventually marry, comes from Japan, thus I have made numerous trips to Japan and in turn I shopped for Tomica in the land of the rising sun. Such joy!!!
Toyota and Tomica have brought me much happiness in more ways than can be attributed to just a car brand and a toy brand. While my Tomica collection today is in the thousands of models, and is still growing, it is the friends, and memories and experiences…. and the life I have today, that will live forever in my mind and heart.
(even though we’ve still never met in person after all these years)
Yes, I need to schedule a longer layover at LAX one of these trips. A visit to the Petersen, the presidential libraries, and the fire station from “Emergency!”, then dinner with you and your wife, Ben and his wife, and one of my Nissan friends would be a bucket-list-checking kind of day.
Better yet would be doing that in Japan. 😉
You may be on to something there.
Tokyo Motor Show 2021, here we come!
I’m game, Japan or LA!