I grew up in the 1970s. In that era, we weren’t hoping we got some kind of iPad or a GTR Racing Simulator to play our video games on Christmas Morning. No, Mom and Dad…er, Santa… would head right for the Sears catalog and get you that Oscar Goldman action figure you always wanted, with super-cool briefcase, with legal documents — and perhaps even an injunction or the apple he brought for lunch – inside. The 1970s mostly sucked. Here’s what we were hoping for under the tree, circa 1975:
Aurora AFX Alpine 500
Aurora had slot cars nailed down in the 1970s. There were a few other contenders, but the AFX tracks were what everybody was looking for. The Alpine 500 track – pimped by none other than Jackie Stewart – was where it was at. With two pistol-grip rheostat controllers, you too could smell the burnt ozone of real racing, right in the comfort of your living room, provided you didn’t set the carpet on fire. I had an AFX Datsun 510 in BRE livery that I’d love to get back someday.
In the 1970s, the “internet” was called “CB Radio” and everybody including your grandma had a CB handset hanging from under the dash. Mego unleashed its own line of toys based on the CB craze, under the name CB McHaul. It was sort of a mashup of Smokey and the Bandit, Convoy and BJ and the Bear, but without the annoying monkey or the musical stylings of Greg Evigan.
You could accentuate your truck with a number of CB McHaul “action figures” creatively named “Bad Leroy,” and “Prof. Braine,” all of which were permanently posed in a stance indicating colorectal distress.
Big Jim was Mattel’s non-military version of GI Joe, a handsome guy with a partner named “Josh.” Josh and Jim liked to camp and fish and do other manly things so as to detract from the fact that you were playing with dolls. The Big Jim Sport Camper was cool on the box, but in actuality, it was made out of vinyl and cardboard, much like the interior of your mom’s Datsun Honeybee.
Who knows what kind of adventures Big Jim and Big Josh were having out in the woods behind the thin vinyl walls of that brown camper?
I remember opening Smash-Up Derby when I was about five, wondering who the hell beat the crap out of my toys before I had a chance to open them. Then I realized that these demolition derby cars weren’t pre-beat-to-crap. They were SSP cars, with a giant flywheel in the middle that you spun by yanking a plastic T-handle which would inevitably snap off at the handle, rendering the cars quite useless.
The best part about Smash-Up Derby was the song from the commercial, which was so stereotypically performed that Junior Sample formed the Anti-Hillbilly Defamation League and later protested at the Washington Monument during the Billion Bumpkin March of ’77.
He’s a dee-mo-lishun demon in a beat-up Chevrolet.
It ain’t worth a dollar, so he wrecks it every day.
…and Cooter wept.
Bionic Woman Sports Car
If you were a girl and liked cars, your choices were limited. All the Barbie stuff was dumb and pink, but Jamie Sommers’ Sports Car was kind of cool. She drove a 240Z in the show, but this nondescript “sports car” had some unique design elements, like suicide doors that were there specifically so Jamie could hang her bionic gams out the door in case the brakes failed. You’d think a dual-reservoir master cylinder would be enough, but there you go.
Attention: I would take a Spinwelder for Christmas RIGHT NOW. The theory was this: you went out and got yourself a six-volt lantern battery the size of something that would power a fork lift. You hooked it up to the Spinwelder, and the end of this infernal device would spin at like 244,305,403 RPM, causing enough friction to melt plastic beams and weld them together. You could also insert rivets in the end of the Spinwelder, which caused the plastic rivets to melt and hold plastic body panels. Then, once you were completely overwhelmed by the odor of burning plastic, you could power the car you just put together. It was the coolest thing ever until your sister’s hair got caught in it and you had to go to the emergency room.