by David Holcombe
Editor’s note: Model Auto Review published an article on the diecast old timers and classic cars by RAMI many years ago. It was recently republished by MAR Online here. However, many of the models were missing their photos, so this article will fill in those gaps!
Thank you, David, for taking the photos and writing this article. David’s recollections about the start of his RAMI passion and his photos are below.
My favorite childhood activity in the early 1950’s was the building of plastic models, especially the Highway Pioneers of Revell. (Several years ago I refinished my desk from those years and sanded off the remains of glue, paint, and burn scars from those efforts; a grandson has his computer on it now). My older brother matured into a collector/dealer in American Flyer trains, and that led him into collecting Dinky cars. He retired, moved nearby, and joined with another collector/dealer to start The Carolina Toy Collectors. I joined, even though all I had was interest. I bought a few locally available new models.
And then I found my first RAMI ( an acronym for “les Rétrospectives Automobiles Miniatures”) by J.M.K. ( another acronym that stood for the three founding members of the company: M. Jarry, Henri Malartre, and M. Koch.) Though the models were often known simply as RAMI, the full name of the company was RAMI by J.M.K. All this was twenty-five years ago, and I’m still hooked. My collection and the toy club still continue, even though my brother is no longer with me.
All of the RAMI models were based on actual automobiles in the collection of Henry Malartre in his castle, the Automobile Museum Malartre of Rochetaillée sur Saône in eastern France. I regret that I never visited the museum, and it was taken over by the city of Lyon several years ago. Thirty nine models were produced between 1958 and 1969, and they compose a fine mixture of the earliest years of automobile experimentation and production. Most are French, but other countries are also represented.
I had purchased in my first collecting venture modern manufactured models, including those by ERTL, Solido, Lesney Yesteryears, and the like, but to find twenty-year-old models at about the same prices caught my attention. I was initially put off by the simplified wheels and clumsy production techniques, but then noted the detailing and the historical background of many of these models. The failure of a standardized scale of 1:43 was easily ignored because of what I had been collecting. Such variations in interpreting scale, even though to a lesser extent, still exist today.
And so they grew in number, from toy shows, a few toy stores, and then through the growing business center called eBay. Today they reside behind glass and out of direct sunlight in permanent display, alongside others. Just recently I replaced one that was showing evidence of decay (the only instance of the dreaded “die cast metal failure” among them), and I keep an open eye for a variation or two of which I am aware. I’m sure there are others out there, just enough to keep me looking.
The simple early cardboard boxes were stamped with the contents, and varied in size because of those contents.
Pins from the castle.
The catalog of the latter years, a mixture of pictures of the models and the actual cars.
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