Found in the Letterbox

The following are e-mail responses to 'Tales of Toy Cars' and The Breithaupt Miniature Motorcar Museum. Your letters are welcome and may be submitted via e-mail

One of TofTC's contributors and a true enthusiast, Raed Ammari and his collection were recently the subject of an article in the Gulf News Online. Here is a re-print of the story. The toy car hobby is enjoyed world-wide and it is refreshing to hear what is happening outside the U.S. or Europe. Congratulations to Raed on his collection and passion for our hobby.

Doug Breithaupt - Publisher
Driven by passion
Dubai | By Shalini Rao | 19/12/2001

Raed Ammari with his prized collection... 'Toys are a serious business' ©Gulf News

A proud owner of 2,500 small-scale cars, Raed Ammari wants to be the largest collector in the Middle East

Like every young boy, Raed Ammari played with cars. Like every young boy, he saw adventure in them and longed to own all of them. However, unlike other boys, he went on to actually preserve his prized possessions and continued to nurture this passion well into adulthood. Today, Ammari is the proud owner of an impressive 2,500 small-scale cars. And the avid car collector's eyes light up instantly when mention is made of cars. "My hobby started when I first saw a toy car," says Ammari. "My father used to buy me 'matchbox' cars, as a reward for my school achievements." This grew into a habit for Ammari and soon it became a raging passion. "I got hooked to cars and began putting them in boxes, sorting them by colour, brand or year of production. "Sometimes I used to make and sell sweets in Jordan to save money for my little gems."

What is it that attracts him to cars?

"The spinning of wheels, of course," he says animatedly. "All my life I have been attracted to model cars." The much-involved hobby of a young child saw a sudden end when in 1986, his childhood collection was stolen. "It still hurts," says Ammari. "I stopped collecting for 10 years, until my wife and some of my friends encouraged me to rebuild my collection and try and make it even bigger." The hunt for cars resumed for Ammari. He started looking for them everywhere. He surfed the Net to buy more cars and also chanced upon many collectors from all over the world.

The enviable collection includes cars in all scales. While there are large-scale cars it is the 1.64 scale that Ammari prefers. "I collect all scales but my main scale is the 1:64 or the matchbox size," he says proudly. "I also have 50 cars in the 1:43 scale, 70 in the 1:24 scale and 100 in the 1.18 scale. Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Siku, Corgi, Playart, Zylmex, Tomica and many more cars can be found in his collection. Worth over $5000, some models are pure collectibles. There is the oldest car in his collection which is a 1957 Lesney truck (now available in a Matchbox size), a more recent 2002 Hot Wheels and his all-time favourite, the 1967 Chevrolet Camaro made by Hot Wheels which Ammari believes is "easily the most popular car ever in toy business. Every other year they come out with a new version of it, in a new colour and I have one of the original 1968 models and a newer version of the same." Coming from the auto parts business, restoring cars and giving them a new look is not difficult for Ammari. Yet, his passion for cars goes deeper than mere business.

Newer interests

Today, Ammari continues to collect amid newer interests. He has started writing for a Web magazine dedicated to cars and even started customizing cars and restoring old ones, for his own satisfaction. Raed Ammari's dream is to have a showcase for all his cars. ©Gulf News Collecting, according to Ammari is a healthy hobby and is "one of the most peaceful times for me. Whenever I am tired from work I open my box of gems and all the fatigue seems to fade away. Collecting is very relieving. It takes my mind off things." Access to the Internet has allowed Ammari to get in touch with other collectors who share a similar passion. However, in the Emirates he has not found this to be a very popular hobby. "People have no interest in serious collecting," he says. "They buy plenty of remote control cars or cheap cars. Toys is a serious business. When you give your child a certain toy, you are encouraging in him/her a genuine hobby or passion for something."

While collecting cars does give Ammari a high, the price of a car is very essential to him. He usually goes for bulks and at wholesale prices. On an average he might find himself spending Dhs 200 every month. But not even the passionate car collector is blind to his purchases over the years. He admits openly, "It does get scary when I look back and see all the collection and the money I have spent on them."

Until recently, Ammari was content playing with cars, collecting rare models and trading duplicates with other collectors. But since a year now, he has noticed a new urge that has developed inside him. "Gradually, with time one begins to criticize the models, their wheels, the colour used and so on," he explained. "That's when I realized I was harbouring a secret passion for wanting to restore cars or re-do the look by changing the wheels or painting it new." He picked up this new hobby when he visited the Friday market in Jordan. With cheaper and older models easily available, he found immense satisfaction in working on older models that had neat casts and put great emphasis on details. He found some old models were in bad shape but were also very precious and with a bit of work on them they looked as good as new. Ammari is new to this. "I am an amateur when it comes to cars," he admits honestly. "I have seen how some pros have worked with their cars. It is fabulous." Today he revels in opening up cars, large and small and putting them back with newer wheels, fresh colours and parts. In his own words, "The larger cars have screws but the smaller ones are riveted and I use a special drill to open them up. I take the base off, put different wheels and generally spend time with them."

What makes a car a collectible? According to the collector, "Sometimes, a car becomes highly collectible because of a manufacturing mistake or fault which is exclusive just to the one piece." Another reason that makes a model again very desirable is when an ordinary or an unheard of car has been given a cast by a certain company and there are only a few that have been given such a cast. The rarity of such a cast makes the model highly collectable.

Taken to writing

A voracious reader about cars, Ammari gets most of his information from the Internet. He has also recently taken to writing for a website. His articles are "usually short" and about old companies that used to make fabulous cars in brilliant moulds. The response he says has been "tremendous, especially from fellow collectors".

Along with collecting cars, Ammari has realized the importance of keeping track of them. Like all collectors, Ammari would like to buy a software to keep track of his cars along with model numbers so that at any time he knows how many pieces he has. He also believes in simple but big things for his cars and himself. His dream is "to have a showcase for all my cars where each one has a place." As for his personal goal, it is simple - the desire to have the largest collection of small-scale cars in the Middle East.

© Al Nisr Publishing LLC - Gulf News Online