What you see below was the holy grail for little boys in 1980 — Wrist Racers. Although Knickerbocker produced versions of these for TV shows like “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “Knight Rider” and “The A-Team,” I had the plain shiny red version.
I got it for my birthday one year, I think. And man did I love it like Gollum loved the goddam Ring. The concept for the toy is a little weird … it was just a windup toy car that you wore on your wrist like a cheap, bizarre, oversized bauble of a wristwatch. Because God forbid you went through the trouble of slipping a tiny toy car into your pocket.
You wound it up manually as it was in its clear plastic housing. And when you wanted to launch it across the floor, you held your forearm down to the floor with that little retractable red car ramp deployed. Then you pressed a button and the thing would shoot across any smooth surface — delightfully fast. (If you think about it, this toy’s design was a slightly reminiscent of the Evel Knievel wind-up motorcycle toys of the 1970’s.) I remember shooting it under my family’s dining room table (the same place I loved to hurl those tiny period “bouncey balls”), so that it ricocheted off of all the table and chair legs.
And very soon after I got it, I lost the damned thing. I was playing hide and seek in a vast cornfield (yes, rural New York indeed has cornfields, people), and I f@#&ing lost it. The clear plastic housing had sprung open, and I lost that damn shiny red car. Words cannot describe the remorse I felt. I still remember looking down to see the empty housing on my wrist, like a missing limb, and gaping dumbfounded at my discovery. And that car was absolutely impossible to find in acres of high corn (even though I tearfully attempted that Sisyphean task anyway).
I might one day find and order one of these off of eBay, just to achieve closure for that event in my childhood.