Tuesday November 5, 2019
One of the many attractions of the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show is the opportunity to play Top Trumps – a game that will resonate with many of my vintage.
Back in the late 1970s, there were many fads and crazes in the Junior School playground; Texas Speak & Spell, attempting to pour Pop Rocks into the maths teacher’s thermos of coffee while his attention was distracted by a potential riot on the football field.
Others might stage a re-enactment of a certain Public Information Film - one involving a frisbee and an electricity sub-station.
And from 1978 onwards, there was Top Trumps, a game which offered five considerable selling-points.
Firstly, it could be played virtually anywhere, including inside the classroom during those ‘wet breaks’. Admittedly, breaking out the cards to relieve the tedium of long division Fletcher Maths or while listening to the BBC Schools’ broadcast of Exploration Earth was generally frowned upon.
I remain convinced that teachers were specially trained to detect the rustle of cards in the back of the classroom while the other students were viewing ITV’s How We Used To Live.
But in the main, our teachers regarded it as a perfectly acceptable game.
Secondly, Top Trumps was affordable, at fifty pence a pack, and thirdly the cards themselves were highly attractive.
There were several themes, such as “Military Aircraft”, “Doctor Who”, “European Diesel and Electric Locomotives” or “Tanks”, but the automotive games were akin to having a miniature version of The Observer’s Book of Automobiles at your disposal, with an array of facts and figures.
Fourthly, the cars that featured in the game, unless you were playing the likes of “Vintage” cars, tended to be fairly recent models.
Many readers will recall how the school library would contain books that could be decades old and while for me, the Ladybird book The Policeman with its Wolseley 6/90 patrol cars and Police Telephone Boxes was utterly fascinating, other students preferred more recent cars.
Even some of the more recent textbooks from the early 1970s were starting to look dated, the line drawings featuring Ford Cortina Mk. IIIs and chaps with already passé looking Peter Wyngarde hairstyles. But Top Trumps seemed highly contemporary.
And fifthly, one of the many fascinations of the game, asides from the possibility of victory, was the many cards featuring vehicles that were either very rare or never officially sold in the UK.
There were various themed packs, such as “Racing Cars”, “Hot Rods” or “Super Dragsters” but the vehicles did not have to be particularly exotic to catch the eye.
You might defeat someone in class 4H by trumping his VW Polo Mk. I with a Datsun 120a Cherry Coupe – I recall the game being strong on Japanese cars – and with “Safari Specials” a Renault 6 Rodeo or a Fiat Campagnola might propel you to victory.
So – good luck to all who play the game at the NEC. And I’ll raise you an MG Magnette Mk. IV to Humber Sceptre Mk I…
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