This little plastic, highly stylized and caricatured Baja Bug toy sits on my desk, and it’s something I’ve had since I was a kid. It’s called a Penny Racer, made by the same Japanese company that made Transformers, Takara. For whatever reason or quirk of brain chemistry, I remember quite vividly the day I’d saved up enough chore/allowance/illegal Now-N-Later-on-school-bus-sales money to get one. I was determined to get the Baja Bug one, as even then I was an air-cooled VW kid. I also remember that nearly every place I went to find one, whomever I spoke with thought I was saying “pen eraser,” a product I had absolutely no interest in at all as a little kid who never made mistakes in ink, and, if I did, I’d own that shit, not try to abrade away the paper under the ink in shame. I just wanted a tiny pull-back car I could stick one cent into the back to make it do a wheelie. Was that too much to ask?
As you can see by the picture, eventually I found one. Over the years it seems to have lost its little transparent glass insert that formed the window glass, and the plastic dual surfboards on top. That’s understandable, as most of this car’s playing career involved it slamming into walls or furniture at high relative speeds.
As far as why I wanted one so much as a kid, I bet these commercials were the key factor:
I like how it starts with an excited Abraham Lincoln, who normally only got that excited about President’s Day Mattress Sales. Also, there was a kid who looked like that bespectacled one in pretty much anything you’d see on TV in the early ’80s. I think it was a law or FCC ordinance or something.
Interestingly, the exaggerated design of the Penny Racers was very heavily influenced by one particular artist/cartoonist: Dave Deal.
You can see there the distinctive bonkers proportions Deal used to like to draw. And he drew these for all kinds of magazines and ads and even designed the 1971 NORRA Mexican 1000 race poster.
Anyway, good morning from the crap on my desk!