Last weekend I was in the front garden digging a hole for a Blue Heaven hydrangea when I found a whole car. Well, a whole die-cast car. The weather that day was gorgeous, and my wife and I had gotten all first-time-homeowner excited to get a head start on our plans to redo the gardens around our house. You see, the previous owners had been a bit overzealous with their planting (why a cactus), and we had to do a lot of removal last fall, leaving some areas looking pretty bare. Plus, we had made some exterior color changes, and of course the gardens have to match and enhance our color scheme and spread it across the yard so the neighbors feel inferior, you know, regular stuff.
At the time I wasn't thinking anything about cars or the podcast, both of which regularly occupy my thoughts more than is medically advisable. I was just listening to some Michael McDonald and digging a hole. And then I had a clump of dirt in my hand that, for some reason, appeared to have wheels. After just a tiny bit of amateur archaeology, I unearthed the die-cast car pictured above. It seems to be a Datsun, but I can't be sure which one yet. Perhaps a 240Z or Fairlady Z, perhaps a 260Z, but it definitely looks like something in that line. It was previously green with a beige or white interior, and the hood opens but the doors do not. Also it's mostly missing one wheel, as you can see. Of course, upon revealing my find, I immediately posted it to our Instagram, where it became our most-liked post ever.
I'm not a big believer in signs or comic energy, but it is quite nice to have a random moment of personal encouragement every now and then. This was one of those for me. Recently, I've been feeling a little stagnant with the podcast, a little like I'm losing momentum, which of course just leads me to obsessively think about what I've done or have been doing wrong, or what I need to be doing differently. But when you overthink your content, it shows in the final product, so you have to think about it without thinking about it but make sure you're always thinking about it so you don't miss your own thoughts about it - small wonder pretty much all artists have anxiety. Yet outside all of that recursive bullshit, at a moment when I couldn't have been farther from my podcast worries, I found a Datsun in my garden. To me, this die-cast car is a small reminder that Hey, You're Doing Alright. It helps.
In order to investigate my find a little further, I took it to the kitchen and tried to wash it off a bit. Unfortunately, the car had been outside and buried for so long that just merely cleaning it off wasn't enough to read the letters on the bottom so I could find out more about the thing. Then, a thought occurred. What if I restored this little car a bit? For content, and also to return the favor it did for me. Is that possible? Is restoring die-cast cars a thing?
How little I knew. When I tell you that restoring die-cast cars is a thing, I mean it is AN ENTIRE THING. Forums, international online shops, YouTube channels with millions of views, collectors, sellers, buyers, conferences, conventions, eBay stores, How-Tos, Wikis, custom-made replacement parts, lingo, techniques...everything. There is everything, and its all out there on the internet for everyone to find; an entire subculture that's as well-developed as any in car fandom, and as technically astute as the most hardcore tabletop gamers. Up to this point I've avoided calling my Datsun a Matchbox car or a Hot Wheels car, and there's a reason for that. After a second of looking into this subculture, I learned that you can't just call every die-cast a Hot Wheels or a Matchbox car, you normie. You casual filth. You have to know the brand. THEN you can worry about the model.
In all honestly, the die-cast restoration subculture seems to be one of the healthiest I've ever seen online. Go check out some videos on YouTube. They're typically just a person with a camera and a voiceover mic showing you what they did, how they did it, and telling you why they did it that way. Every video is an instruction, and the comments are shockingly non-toxic for YouTube, and for car culture, and for the internet in general. Typically its either someone going "Wow, I didn't know this was a thing, amazing" or a different restorer saying how they do things, or pointing out tiny flaws in the finished product with tips or suggestions on what could make things better next time. Nobody fights. Nobody gets insulted. Typing it out, the whole thing sounds kind of simple, but the work these folks put into their restorations is deeply impressive. Clear coats, drilling out rivets, era-appropriate color-matching, custom transfer stickers, modifications, every single thing. If you want to do a die-cast restoration, you can rest assured that somebody out there has done one similar to one you want to do, and they've probably made a video for you to follow.
I think I'm going to give this a try. To pay respect to this little buried treasure, I think I'm going to take a whack at restoring it. Step one will be finding out what it is and who made it. So far, I've had no luck finding a green die-cast Datsun that has an opening hood but no opening doors. It doesn't seem that Hot Wheels or Matchbox made one exactly matching that description, but there are more than 50 brands that have made die-cast model cars over the years, and obviously one of them made my little Datsun. So thank you little Datsun. I would very much like to pay you back, and hopefully with the help of the die-cast restoration subculture I'll find myself equal to the task.