Nowadays I usually come out to most people as a ‘toy car collector’. Time was that I might have hidden the fact away from new acquaintances, at least until I was sure they could handle it – and until I was fairly sure they thought I was, in all other respects, normal! Belonging to a collectors club helps in many ways, you realise there are plenty of intelligent people out there with the same hobby – and interacting with the members in my role as editor of the club magazine has led me to explore areas of the model world about which I previously knew very little.

Dinky Toys nos 250 and 259. (c. Blue Light Models, Amberley Publishing)

I’m told that I could identify real cars before I could pronounce the names. I’ve always been a ‘collector’ of toy cars, and since the age of about eight or nine have kept them in their boxes. Admittedly they were taken out and played with, so most from those early days show some signs of that use. There have been times over the years when the collecting was ‘on hold’ but I hardly ever disposed of any toys, and still they keep accumulating as I find new areas of interest.

It was probably a move to the South-East of England in the 1980s that was the biggest boost. I found myself in close proximity to several collectors’ toy fairs, one of which was in the town where I lived. I do find such fairs are the best way of adding to the collection, although internet auctions are good if you know your subject.

With one exception, I have always avoided the temptation to try to get everything of a particular series. It’s the last few that are always the most difficult to get and which cost a lot more. There is always something different to add a new flavour to the collection – for example it’s only in the last year or two that I have taken any real interest in tinplate toys. They have a distinct charm which had eluded me previously. Perhaps with age and experience I can now put toys into a social and historical context which gives a new dimension to my hobby.

Budgie produced the Wolseley in two scales; here we have both police versions and the smaller one again as a fire car. (c. Blue Light Models, Amberley Publishing)

I have to admit that I’m not a specialist on emergency services – I have all sorts, in all scales and materials. In many ways that probably equipped me better for this project than collectors who specialise in only one particular aspect. A lot of British collectors seem to prefer home-grown products, and I think the same applies in other countries. For me it’s the more unusual the better.

When I was young we made regular family trips to Germany and other European countries, and that was a major influence in widening my horizons about what was around – remember that was long before the internet, so the toys and models I brought back from my travels were things hardly seen in England.

In this book I try to give an overview of model emergency services vehicles over the decades, across the world, and some advice about how to buy, store and care for a collection. Of course, most toy and model manufacturers have produced a far wider range than just ‘blue light’ models, so in a way it’s also a brief history and overview of model vehicles in general.

From a range of detailed fire vehicles aimed at the North American marker are a REO Speedwagon pumper and a Mack L pumper - both in 1:50 scale. (c. Blue Light Models, Amberley Publishing)

In fact the title is a rather Anglo-centric as emergency services vehicles in other countries can have other colours of flashing lights such as red or orange. Although it’s written from the point of view of a British collector, I have tried to cover as wide a spread of interests as possible, and have included modern toys available at ‘pocket money’ prices through to the rarer collectibles.

I wouldn’t like your readers to think that toys and models are my whole life! At times I just shut the door to the collection room (yes, it does have its own room complete with small photo studio) and try to engage with the real world. For example, I’m an amateur musician and play keyboards. It’s odd how things overlap though; of the musicians I’ve worked with in recent years, at least two spring to mind as serious model enthusiasts, one is a leading expert on plastic toy soldiers, the other makes the most amazing model railway locomotives and rolling stock from scratch and also edits a model railway club magazine.

I’m a keen, if very amateur gardener, and also hope to get back to more travelling soon. My favourite city to visit is Istanbul, but as fate would have it, Turkey adds very little to my model collection – so going there is a real holiday from my everyday world in every sense.


Adrian Levano's new book Blue Light Models is available for purchase now.