I finally remembered what I got for Christmas the year my sister got the big dollhouse. It wasn’t quite as big as the doll house but to me infinitely better. It was a real action replica of a service station complete with gas pumps, a hoist, wash rack, parts counter and lube bay.
It had a car elevator to take cars up to the rooftop parking and a neat exit ramp you could roll cars down and they would emerge at ground level. It also came with some appropriately sized cars and a selection of tools.
For me in those days, the most enjoyable part of a gift like this was the chance to put it together. It came packed flat in a large box with printed instructions for making it look just like the pictures on the box.
I suppose today’s kids would find this pretty tame if it doesn’t have a controller or do some fancy stuff on a video screen but in 1957 it was just about the best present I could have imagined.