My Open Thank-You Letter To LaLD | Diecast Diaries
To: the community that has become my refuge. From: a poor student who saw the light
Thank you. No, for real, thank you. I know I’ve told you in a DM just how gratified I am to be given not only a jeepney but five of them, as well as other cars I would not have otherwise gotten a chance of buying. But I wanted to do more than that.
Here's the original version of the header photo, unedited.
I want to thank Live and Let Diecast at large for tiding me over this horrid lockdown situation by letting me write long-form and promoting it on DriveTribe, and in the process helping me develop my talents as well as fit in with a bigger blogging community. To do that, though, I only know of one way to pay you back: with a new entry to my Diecast Diary.
PART 1: DETRITUS
See, I’ve found myself in a difficult situation for months now. Between academic workloads, family worries, the pandemic and a depleted creative reserve, Wheelerguy has been barely hanging on by a thread, waking and sleeping and almost forgetting to do anything significant.
The left side is where I rest my body. It's comfy! But sometimes I fall out of the bed.
Numb, unmotivated, resentful, and generally sour, I let the days pass by, doing the barest minimum of coursework and the easiest of news items to bump up my DriveTribe page. I haven’t had a reason to push beyond passable in tasks that, a year ago, I always looked forward to getting blue-riband marks for. Not even my collection — the cars that once got me playing 4K HDR scenes in my head the moment I touch them — could keep me happy or attentive for long enough. Alarming. Yet not out of the ordinary for me.
PART 2: INITIAL PURCHASE
These two castings, on the other hand, are indeed out of the ordinary. And not just because Hot Wheels rarely does a Volvo, much less the famous BTCC brick, but also because it’s rare to have that and the Martini Porsche 917-Langheck in one listing for a reasonable price. But thanks to a monthly-running sale and the magic of free shipping promos, I managed to snag these two along with some accessories for my parents’ phones. Safe to say, they didn’t disappoint.
Looks just like the simulations.
Yes, I know, the Volvo 850 Estate BTCC version is missing headlamps and taillamps, but after a few passes with the markers I have, I say it’s quite a dashing little number. While light in the air, the casting is solid, with body lines that match that of the real thing (though it is far easier to model this Volvo than, say, a McLaren 720S). I even adore the factory livery treatment here: instantly recognisable without losing too much detail. I wouldn’t be surprised if they run a fully-kitted-out version in a premium line, but the one I have is good enough for my purposes.
I prefer this more, really.
As for the 917LH, it satisfies me enough. I finally have the psychedelic swirling livery that I don’t think Martini ever ran again after being seen here. And for a rep, it’s good. If anything, I think the lack of brand logos help this recolour stand out against the Gulf one: to my eyes, it fits the car’s curves better than the plain, slab-sided blue/orange one, which calls attention to the flatness of the rear end.
It's quite an incredible duo, these two.
By this point, I would have been okay with these being my only HW ever this year: both cars cost Php120 each, which took a chunk of cash out of the little I’ve saved. Besides, I already have the Volvo, which was Priority 1 in my list of mainline cars to have this year. I’ve given up my pursuit of getting the jeepney here, among many, MANY other cars from HW and other brands.
PART 3: THE RHODE ISLAND CHARITY ENVELOPE
Until Pixel rang a line.
He sent me a direct message out of the blue. This I found irregular, at first: most DMs sent my way on DriveTribe are the usual notes that my posts have been promoted somewhere (mostly in the pertinent sub-pages; rarely on the global front page). Yet here’s Pixel, who read my rant on how overpriced the Road Bandit jeepney casting is here in Manila, asking me (1) about the exact address of my residence and (2) not to buy from any of those listings. Time check: 11:49 pm Manila time. I was in the middle of constructing some dead-end streets when that chat thread came about. I was shocked, as a third-world citizen would when an unknown overseas person suddenly mails a tantalizing offer their way.
It's so real!
Yet I wasn’t as apprehensive as I usually tended to be.
Live and Let Diecast, after all, does this all the time: exchanging die-cast goodness over the air has been part of our community since the very beginning. I’ve always wanted to take part in exchange programs, but the biggest problem (nevermind shipping) was that I had nothing to offer in return. No gleaming Super Treasure Hunts, no double-protected RLC cards, no Tarmac Works or Auto World of any kind. Not even the cars I have seem to be of any value — either you already have one or they’re not worth bartering with or they’re the only examples I have; examples that I cannot let go.
See my problem here?
Inside the parcel are the goodies I've waited for
With life being as hard as it is and with money being in short supply, spending even a couple of hundred pesos on toys seem utterly frivolous. Absurd. Wasteful. It’s money that could have gone to healthier ready-to-go snacks like oats, or multivitamins, or toiletries, or protective gear, or even tomorrow’s lunch. The four glass cases that house my cars are almost full, and I’ve taken to just leaving some on my desk, by my bed, or at the back of the television. Not exactly great places to keep models, right? And I have enough cars at this point. Why bother adding more to a pile that rarely gets played with anyway? I’m 23. I’m supposed to grow out of this hobby and answer a higher calling. Like screenwriting. Or passing college. Other than a select few, these cars shouldn’t even be here at all.
Out of the parcel.
Which makes this DHL package such a magnanimous god-sent blessing to me.
Part of the reason why this open letter took an immense amount of time to make is that the package got stuck in customs purgatory, meaning I was left waiting for something that was supposed to come in July, around before my sophomore year started. Not until Pixel reminded me to check did I learn of the status of what he sent me, and not until late August did it finally reach my humble abode.
The lineup, minus the Car Culture R8 LMS.
And oh, boy. What a package indeed.
Not only did it contain the jeepney I’ve always longed to have since it was teased last year (in its red recolour), Pixel somehow gave me FIVE OF THEM. FIVE! I would have considered myself lucky if I even got one!
And that’s not all! You also sent me seven other cars, including my first ever Car Culture casting. It’s incredible! Look at them! As a poor Filipino young adult collector, opening the envelope blew my mind. You blew my mind.
Same with the R8 LMS GT3 car. At long last! A Real Rider-shod, metal/metal premium casting of a car I like. Do you know the sticker price of this in the Philippines? Php450. Almost US$10 converted. And you brought it along with the mainliners.
That’s not to say that the Kia Stinger is any slouch. I especially pined for that car since its leak, and with it now in hand, it doesn’t disappoint. Full mesh cutouts on the grille, tampo coverage, Y5 wheels and hefty construction. I didn’t even mind the blue. I’m happy to gain one of HW’s gems this year.
As for the rest? Well, they’re less “what a score!” and more like “bonus prizes”, as I wouldn’t have considered the new R8 Spyder and Range Rover Velar before. They’re decent, but the cost-cutting shows. The black RS5 is a repeat I considered flipping until I realized how common this can get, while the R34 is somewhat undercut by the misaligned stripes on the roof, but otherwise makes for a great character car in future stories.
Stories that I will write down for another time.
PART 4: REPARATION
This letter Pixel slipped in was the trigger that got me to write all this.
What stayed with me mentally (and will stay) was the simplicity of what Pixel did, and why he did it. The gracefulness of it. How underserving I seemed to be to receive a gift with him never asking for anything in return. But then, I suppose that is what grace means: a blessing given to someone who, in almost every other criterion, shouldn’t ever receive one. It’s unrequited kindness, given out of pure, indiscriminate, overflowing goodwill.
All together, now...
Live and Let Diecast was, is, and continues to be my refuge in the most harrowing storms buffeting my psyche. Amongst the nigh-endless open-air garage of cars of every size and make, I found a community of people, intangible as they may first seem, who share in my passion (obsession?) with tiny toy cars, the brilliant models they replicate, and the stories behind them. I’ve seen a few of their faces; heard some of their voices; felt everyone’s kinship all the same. It’s a dangerous connection to make at a time when I’m almost in my mid-20s (an age where I should busy myself with creating true human connections to guarantee my future), but with the real world being as shattered as it is, this blog has been the only place I know that has an open door with room and board.
R8s, ranked: the convertible is dead last.
Here, in this small-scale playground, I get to revel in my lucid dreams, wake up to new realities, and speed headlong into uncertain futures with the certainty that my car will help me see through it all. In the process, you have let me talk at length about those very cars I imagine I drive, the others parked in my dust-caked glass-castle garage, how they make me feel, and why they were worth the money I desperately rationalized spending my meagre savings on. Most people will find this account a little too sappy for something so inconsequential, and I concede the fairness of that take.
Typical Rangie driver...
But what makes something “inconsequential”?
Universally speaking, none of this matters. Does it mean that it will never matter now? It matters now. It has always mattered, and the mere fact that someone cared enough to send a package my way is tangible proof. Of the many things that I am grateful to have stayed for as long as I live, this blog is one that I hold dear enough to fight for.
Now I don't have to worry about missing out on any of you anymore. On to the exotics!
Something as insignificant as a dinky plastic bag filled with toys flown around the world shouldn’t elicit an over 2000-word vertical in most cases. Yet I did. Maybe that’s what this act of grace has become to me: a light that let me find another way out, that bared the words I needed to say as much, that proves just how much good there is in this world.
Probably my best shot of this Volvo yet
I am not sure whether I’ll get back to writing (considerably shorter) reviews and comparisons. Diecast cars are still unnecessary “wants”, not pressing “needs”. But I reckon I can still write stories, slip a few still shots along with, and mail them to the internet for you to read. And most importantly, I’ll continue living, and letting the die be cast where it may.
Video-grab from a laser-lights fan visualization of "Something Comforting" by Porter Robinson
And all the while, these little toy cars come whizzing past, mostly as blurs by the window until I swipe up and open my camera. The moment I point, they come into clear focus, and once I click the shutter and shake the film for a few seconds, you all appear with the car, too. Your presence gives me some solace worth holding onto.
Thank you, Pixel. And thank you, LaLD.
Weird parking lot, this is.
MJ “Wheeleguy” Argoso