Model car collector Winton Amies: 'I'm just a big kid collecting toys'

by Guy Frederick / 21 January, 2018

Photo: Guy Frederick

A late-starter to collecting models, Winton Amies has made up for it with an impressive collection.

“Rather busy” is how Winton Amies describes his front room, with the classic understatement of a southern man. From floor to ceiling and wall to wall, it’s bulging with tins, clocks, radios, bottles, stacks of cartoons, tools and – the jewel in the crown – his model-car collection. When Amies moved to Naseby’s old butcher shop 22 years ago, he brought 1200 model cars with him; now he has more than 3000, and that number is climbing weekly.

As a child, he recalls being mesmerised by the “living, breathing pieces of steel” he saw on the railway tracks and at train stations – and he was deeply envious of a friend who had a wind-up Hornby engine. “As my parents moved frequently, I never had many toys, and those I did were often lost in the moving process,” he says. “Now I’m making up for lost time.”

His penchant for collecting didn’t kick in until his mid-40s, however, when he was working as an appliance serviceman in Dunedin and bought a (full-size) Studebaker car. Two years later, he got a replica model for his mantelpiece, then other 1950s model Studebakers, then any Studebakers, then any 1950s American cars, and finally any American car.

Most of his models are acquired from a Dunedin dealer, but swap-meets, model shops and catalogues from around the world also sustain Amies’ appetite for more.

“If the house caught fire, I’d have to take the very small and well-worn metal Noddy and Big Ears car with its tin wheels,” he says. Another favourite is a rusted 1930s Chrysler Airflow he found sitting on a fencepost on the outskirts of town.

Remembering his old friend’s Hornby engine, he’s also added model trains to the collection.

“I often come in here and get the engines moving. Each has their own history, like the Flying Scotsman, and the Mallard – the fastest steam engine in the world,” says Amies, who loves watching the trains go round as much as visiting children do.

“I’m just a big kid collecting toys.” 

This was published in the January 2018 issue of North & South.

 

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