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A passion for model car collection

Updated:2019-12-04 13:46:08   Yunnan Tourism and Culture Times

Zhou Herui, a native of Kunming, is known as an avid model car collector among his friends. He has built up an incredible collection of over 4,000 models in the past two decades. It seems not eccentric at all for him to repeatedly visit a same store where toy cars that he is fond of are inside. In his view, model vehicles epitomize not only car cultures of different countries, but the entire history of automobile industry from the very beginning.


How Did This All Begin?

As same as many toy car lovers, Zhou began his collection with something mundane back in time: the Matchbox series. “There is not doubt that Matchbox models were the favorites of all boys around the 1980s and 1990s, because they looked cool and just like real cars,” said Zhou. In China, these models had been produced exclusively by Global Toys, a Shanghai-based toy enterprise until its closure in 2004. Its is said that some rare ones can be sold up to hundreds or even thousands of yuan today. “Although Matchbox cars can hardly be seen as real collections from my point of view, I know they opened a completely new world to me, and sparked my passion for model cars.”

Zhou clearly remembers that in 1986 when he was obsessed with Matchbox vehicles as a third grader at primary school, two of his classmates had already owned models with more attractive looks and larger sizes. “As a little boy, I always dreamed to have my genuine model cars,” he said. “And it was around that period, I somehow began to realize that my craze for model cars might be something being carried in my blood which I can’t stop it myself.”

“I asked around and tried to figure out how and from where exactly they got those fancy models,” Zhou recalled. “One classmate said that the cars were bought by a relative in Guangzhou, and the other never let me know where his came from.” Driven by a seemingly unstoppable enthusiasm, Zhou started off his search in all department stores and marketplaces across Kunming. Nothing turned out unfortunately. He felt uneasy and upset for some for a while until a few weeks later when a mom of his classmate eventually told him their whereabouts.


Once he found those beloved toy cars, he began to save his money for breakfasts. Today, Zhou can still recall the excitement and joy when he held the white ambulance kit - which he bought with 1.73 yuan at that time - in his hand. “This one may look bulky and cheap, but it was absolutely the favorite of my childhood.” 


Collecting Through Exchanges

Zhou Herui’s love for fine model cars did not fade away as his childhood ended. On the contrary, he has turned model car collection into a hobby, or more precisely an indispensable part of his life and identity. In the past 20 years, Zhou has invested nearly all his money other than daily expenses in collection. A total of over 4,000 vehicles make him feel more than proud.

One the other hand, he has gradually learned a new means to acquire costly models that he is fond of: exchange. “It happened in 2002. Once I walked by a toy store in downtown Kunming, I was immediately captivated by three fancy cars in the shop window,” Zhou told us. He entered the store and asked with no hesitation: “How much are they? They must be for sale, right?” However, the response disappointed him. The shop assistant said the vehicles were brought back by a friend of the owner from overseas, hence not for sale.

From then on, Zhou began to go to the store every week to two, looking around and - of course - making sure that his beloved toy cars were still placed there. It was not until six months later that the shop assistant finally agreed to give him the owner’s number. “I promptly made a phone call to him with much gratefulness, but I couldn’t believe the answer was still no!”

“I never thought of giving up, so I kept calling him over the next a few months,” he continued. “The owner nodded at last, but said instead of paying him in cash, I had to exchange one of my models for this Duesenberg SJ20 Grand of 1933.” After nearly a year, Zhou Herui attained the car he had been dreaming of, and this opened him a new way of collection by exchanging models with other collectors.

“Most people have no idea about model car collection. They probably think it’s a waste of time and money. But what I have learned from it is a vivid global history of automobiles,” he concluded.

Writing by Wei Ranran; trans-editing by Wang Jingzhong; photographs by Meng Zhigang

Keywords:   collection car model Zhou Herui