Back in 2009, a TV show in Australia featured a segment specifically about collecting vintage Radio Controlled cars. It’s the only time I can recall seeing this niche hobby mentioned on TV. Yet there it was, in between segments about collectors of stereographs and pressed glassware…
Since the footage hasn’t surfaced online in all these years, maybe I was the only one who kept it? So here it is…
Over the years, my efforts to collect some of the classic vintage R/C cars of my youth has given me a certain respect for collecting of all kinds. And ever since eBay arrived 20 years ago and enabled collecting of anything from keyrings to tractors to belly button fluff, I’ve watched a lot of different TV series and documentaries about collecting and collections. Partly out of curiosity for what motivates people to collect (and partly to validate my own collecting).
And while vintage R/C cars remain a pretty niche hobby that most people have probably never heard of (those who hear about it for the first time, often remark that it seems like quite a “specialized” type of model car interest, which I guess it is), I’m just glad it takes up far less space than the aforementioned tractor collecting. Or piano collecting. It’s also a lot less strange than toilet paper collecting. And arguably a bit more exciting than lightbulb collecting. And yet in a strange way, all of the collectors of these things are helping preserve interesting or mundane things that are nonetheless a part of human history, and which would otherwise have been lost as no museum is big enough to keep track of it all.
Yet in all those years of watching shows like the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, Toy Hunter, James May’s Toy Stories, Extreme Collectors, or Collectaholics… (to name a few), only once have I seen a segment about vintage radio controlled cars. And it was on a show right here in Australia, called Collectors, which ran between 2005 and 2011.
Collectors was a likeable, occasionally daft, but good-humoured show produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that made for homely Friday night viewing in Australia, and was a ratings success for quite a few years thanks to its earnest depiction of collecting in all its forms. No collection was too bizarre, big, niche, cheap or expensive to be featured. Nor were they ever mocked. Whether it was a collection of old Easter egg wrappers, human hair, porcelain frogs, Garfield toys or full size aeroplanes.
Each week’s episode would focus on around four different collections. And if I was lucky, I’d tune-in at the end of a long week at work to see something other than four collections celebrating beige pottery, or the dovetail joints in old furniture. Generally there was a good mix, and often something retro and colourful in there – perhaps even something from the narrow window of time that was my childhood. Vintage toy collections appeared quite often, and were even occasionally the focus of an entire episode.
Then one day, a friend and fellow R/C collector gave me a heads-up that the show had visited a vintage R/C race meet he’d attended, for a segment about R/C cars. He even mentioned there had been “plans” for the camera crew to visit his home and discuss his own collection of cars (which to my knowledge, was possibly the best collection in Australia)…
Alas, the ABC did not end up visiting anyone’s home to discuss the notion of “shelf-queens”, NIB kits, or the joy of vintage Japanese model car design in the 1980s…
Instead, they stuck to a day at Knox Off Road R/C Club in Victoria, filming the runners and interviewing some of the guys there. But no complaints – it was great to see the hobby get some prime-time coverage. And to this day it remains the only time a proper mainstream TV show has shone a spotlight on the hobby of “vintage R/C cars”, anywhere in the world (to my knowledge).
Hotshots, Frogs, Sand Scorchers… even a Jet Hopper got a moment in the sun…
So here is the complete video from the show.
I have edited it to include the show’s title intro, along with any banter about R/C cars from the hosts…
The ABC’s Collectors went off the air in about 2011, and in the years since we’ve seen Youtube become a common way to see amateur footage of people’s R/C collections.
But every few years it seems, there’s a new TV show somewhere about toys or collecting.
Most recently, Netflix has been running a series called The Toys That Made Us, devoting an entire hour each to the history of Star Wars toys, LEGO, Barbie, Hello Kitty, He-Man, Transformers and more. The show has four episodes per season, and is very well-produced with in-depth interviews with the original toy designers. Perhaps if it keeps working its way down the list of famous toy crazes, it will eventually feature R/C cars in some form… but if you like documentaries about vintage toys in general, you should check it out anyway.
The only other time I can recall coming across a video from Australian TV which was anything like a show-and-tell about the R/C hobby, was the wacky clip someone found from Simon Townsend’s Wonder World – a children’s show from 1985 – which you can see at the bottom of this article.
And of course, the US TV series Toy Hunter occasionally stumbled upon a small, collectible vintage R/C car or two, but those were usually only given attention because they were related to superhero franchises, and most were poor quality stuff.
If anyone can think of any other occasions when a non-fiction TV programme featured a segment about R/C cars, be sure to remind me in a comment below!
As always, happy collecting.