January 27th Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper…

Ambassador Report 23




It seems that some markets now have the full complement of 2013 models less the two which have been delayed until this year. A few models have only surfaced in 2014 packaging which spoils the effect for those collectors who attempt to collect one of each blister pack in a particular year’s style. Now three waves for the new year have been issued and so Matchbox are well up to schedule in terms of releases.However, in the UK only a few lucky collectors have found the whole range as availability is very limited.


I was talking to a well-known UK dealer of Matchbox models and I was surprised to learn that the regular wheel prices I had listed in Ramsays and Model Collector for 2004 were considerably below those levels that he would expect today. For instance a metallic red Aston Martin might have fetched £300-£400 then but today only around £150-£200. Conversely, Superfast models from the 1970s have rocketed in price and amazing figures have been realised for models that only a few years ago would not have attracted much interest. How fickle we collectors are, though such trends may of course be related to the age group who collect Matchbox models and what was current in the years of their childhood.




 Unfortunately there are no answers this week. I hope to have more answers next week.


Up first is a 2014 new tool called the Trail Tracker which was first shown at the gathering last year in New Mexico.  Here isthe pre-production image.


These next two are from the 2014 “Rescue Duty” 5 pack which includes the Ambulance and Blaze Blaster.

Next is the Blizzard Buster which was replaced in the 2014 5 pack but also available in mainline singles.


 Lastly we have a 2014 Sky Buster Stunt Plane.


A Little More History

This week’s look back in time features responses from Les Smith. Of course, having a completely different role from Jack Odell, Smith has a different outlook on some aspects of the company.

Why were there different release dates in Australia, USA and Britain for some models?

As time went on and markets became more sophisticated we were very careful regarding release dates. For instance a new model in the UK had to be available everywhere for if, for instance, a model was not issued simultaneously in Scotland,wholesalers or large retailers would send someone down to London to present an order at the factory, even bringing down the money with them so that they could take models back to Scotland to have ready for sale before other outlets.  

In order to avoid someone’s time being wasted at the factory, sometimes new models were stored in a warehouse pending the coordinated release over the whole country. This was not feasible for a world release and Matchbox did not bother so much if one country had models before another. Sometimes, especially in the early days, there could be months between the release of a model in the US and the United Kingdom. However, there were still problems because if retailers in the US heard of a new release in Britain, which had not been issued in the US, he would establish a link with a retailer or wholesaler in the UK and have them shipped over just to be ahead of the competition. This also happened in reverse when a new model became available.

Why was the first saloon car, the Vauxhall Cresta (22a)painted in two-tone and how was it done?

The paint scheme was to make the model more interesting and to follow the example of the real car which was often in two colours. Children liked to have a model of what they saw on the roads or their fathers owned. A die-cast cap was designed to fit over the upper part of the body and Smith said that it was unique and the first time that two tone colours had appeared on a toy car, though I am not sure that this was true. Unfortunately, there were problems in manufacture because the cap expanded and a shadow around where the two colours met was sometimes visible. It was a reasonable standard at that time though today it would never be acceptable. Furthermore, the two-toning made the model expensive to produce because of scrap rates, the need for more paint and the regular cleaning of the cap. A much better job was made of the replacement Vauxhall Cresta PB (22b). Les Smith thought that the first Cresta probably never made any money forLesney but it was never a consideration. Provided that the company was always making money, an expansive model was included in the range, not least to make the competition wonder how it could be done economically. Of course , the answer was that the other cars produced at the time were of one colour and those that were just a body casting, base and wheels were far more profitable for Matchbox and balanced out the more expensive models.

We did not try out the two-tone scheme for a little while until we had improved the process. Then we were more successful with the Hillman Minx (43a) and the Thames Estate Car (70a). However, it was probably used to the best effect on the FordThunderbird  (75a) which was of course very popular in the USA and the second Vauxhall Cresta.


The Vauxhall Cresta PB  (22b)

The American influence was obvious when the VauxhallCresta “PA” Series saloon was released. Both the bonnet and boot were longer and flatter than previous Vauxhalls with slightly raised, angular wings which unfortunately became mud traps. Poor ventilation in the wings often led to moisture build up and thence to serious rust problems. The model, which quickly followed the real vehicle in 1958, (22b), captured these design features and was more accurately representative than its predecessor, the “E” Series Cresta, had been.

The model proved to be very popular and it remained in the range until June 1965. It has been a sought after model with collectors, perhaps partly because the “PA” Cresta has become something of a cult car in Britain but also because of the comparatively large number of colour variations. WhenLesney announced the inclusion of plastic windows as a feature of the range in 1960, this Cresta and the Victor were two cars chosen for uprating. Certainly the fitment of green plastic windows to the Cresta emphasised the wrap around windscreen design of the real car.

There is a real problem in describing the colours for this model as paint shades vary so much from model to model. Although an artist’s impression of the model in the 1958 catalogue revealed a green body, the initial release was painted a creamy pink. This was Lesney’s attempt to copy the “Mountain Rose”colour available on the real car. However, there were problems with maintaining the exact colour balance for models have been found ranging from pale pink to pure cream. There is a debate among collectors as to whether the cream version was an intended colour variation or simply a version which has been coloured in a paint mix which has had no pink pigment added. I believe that the cream variant is sufficiently different from the creamy pink models to warrant a separate colourcoding and therefore seven distinct colour schemes may be listed. However, markedly different shades also exist and so the listing may be enlarged further.

In 1961 it was decided to repeat the two-tone colour scheme. The painting process had obviously been developed and improved to the extent that a Chevrolet Impala, (57b), an Austin Cambridge, (29b), and now the Cresta all featured as highlights of the miniature range because two-tone paint schemes on real vehicles were in vogue.


The first “PA” to have oversprayed lower body sides was the aforementioned pink version which benefited from turquoise sides. It is unknown whether the turquoise paint was intended to be used with the next body colour of metallic brown and the last few remaining pink models were made into two-tone variants or whether Lesney decided that the turquoise and pink was not a good match and turned to another paint combination. In any event the pink and turquoise model has become one of the rarest Matchbox models despite being shown as the current No. 22 in both the 1961 and 1962 “Matchbox” catalogues. The company was never too concerned about model colours and so any colour scheme would serve to illustrate their models. At that time Lesney paid no attention to collectors and did not concern themselves that later collectors could be searching for a model which was shown in the catalogue for two years with precious little chance of finding one.

The metallic brown and turquoise version was available during 1961 and 1962 but before the end of 1962 it was decided to change the colour scheme again. A light or dark grey body was enhanced by lilac side stripes. This model was shown on the first fully coloured picture box for this number and remained until the model was withdrawn from the range despite the fact that single colour paint schemes were reintroduced from 1963 until 1965 when gold and then metallic copper paint was used.

The second Vauxhall Cresta probably had more colour schemes than any other model but it was not clear why this happened. Some of the colour schemes are included below together with a pre-production metallic blue on a body which was not pursued.

Next week will see a focus on the 1970s.


Nigel Cooper      27th January 2014

20 Replies to “January 27th Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper…”

  1. Disgust. Complete disgust. That is the only feeling I can gather from the first 'new' models shown, specifically the 'Trail Tracker' and the Ambulance that should never have been resurrected.

    I am curious who Mattel and Matchbox are planning to market these models to? Evidently it is no longer children, adults, or anyone with a perception of real proportions and dimensions. In addition to purchasing models to collect, I purchase and give many of them to children in my family, who often ask what 'BIG' car it is so they can remember to look for it while riding in the car to school, or wherever. You will not however see any of the above on the road.

    I am not asking Matchbox to return to the past, and understand the constraints of maintaining a $1.00 price point in the U.S., so use plastic tastefully if you must (as in the case of the Renault Master Ambulance which was executed perfectly) but who at Matchbox is allowing Mattel to guide them on this downward spiral away from desirable products? There is a reason so many of the Matchbox play sets and 'creature' cars from the past year are sitting in the clearance isle at Walmart, Target, & Meijer as of this week; while competitors products sold.

    If Matchbox hopes to succeed they must make relevant models of modern cars and trucks on the road today. Sure, intermix the occasional quality generic to save on licensing costs, and bright colors to appeal to children but why waste your designers great talents and consumers time on an unwanted product? It seems these 'originals' only sell because it's $1.00 and has a brand printed on it that people associated with quality diecast from the past.

    Every week I see more children and adults of all ages and demographics pass up Matchbox products after glancing at them for Hot Wheels as a second choice. Why not satisfy consumer demand and stay where Matchbox differentiation excels; authentic, realistic vehicles?

    Thank you Nigel for another quality report. The metallic copper and metallic blue Vauxhaull's are especially nice looking. These should be an example for Matchbox as making diecast relevant to what's seen on the road today.

  2. Thanks Nigel for another awesome report. You take a break with me not asking questions. I absolutely have no questions! Doubt that!

    So anyways, this kind of a question, but is that new tooling Trail Tacker in the “MBX Explorers” assortment? Correct me if I'm wrong, that was the correct answer I just mentioned.

    Hey, the old ambulance isn't it? Okay, that model was used in the 2013 Fire 5 pack and now it's used in another 5 pack after a year? Holy cow! I guess this ambulance wasn't such a bad model after all. Because, last year's 2013 5 pack ambulance version was a disaster. I hate it's design like that. But now, it's getting better. I like how Matchbox detailed it with the word “Ambulance” when Matchbox didn't put the word “FIRE ambulance”. When I never commented this blog since around 2012 to mid July. So my firs time to comment here was kinda on the July 19, 2013. My first time to comment here on that day because I was not interested in the posts on those days before I got interested real soon and ready to check what's new everyday such as ambassador reports like today. I really visit this blog everyday now. So yep.

    Speaking of my first time visiting this blog everyday, let's see let's see…

    Aha! No answers for this week. I wanted to see some people's answers to agree on something interesting. Why no answers for the people's questions? That's a BOO!

    I think that is all for my comment (plus announcing of my first time of visiting this blog), so see you Nigel that next ambassador report. And I hope you receive better images of better casting some people and I are going to be really interested into hehaheheha!

  3. Can not blame MB for not taking any questions this week after that showing.
    I've heard of two steps forward one step back but this is more like back to the future. If this keeps up there will be no future for MB! Let's put the plastic aside these models are rediculious! Ok one Blaze Buster for the sake of staying up to date with my collecting is enough.

    I have posted this so much I am getting sick of reading it but here goes. LENSEY was GREAT and Tyco did it way better than Mattel has even come close too. There there is NO REASON they can not put out relevant models at a dollar when HW dose it consistantly unless their just trying to kill the line.

    This I've also posted too many times to mention. The main consumer of die cast are not children cause their playing on electronics. PCs. Xbox. PS and whatever other gadget they can get their hands on. Even pre-schoolers have to have an iPad or a tablet.

    Is Mattel losing profit in die cast? Probably! The problem isn't what's selling it's what's not. My fix would be shorten production get rid of what don't sell and produce what is selling. Listen let's face it HW is putting out some crape of it's own but we don't See it showcased on Lamley and I'm ok with that. So why do you suppose they showcase the awful crape MB is putting out and not HWs crap?

    Easy they want to know how sick of the MB line we're getting! There isn't a week that hose by where someone isn't ranting of their dissappointment with the line and making known what we as collectors want. Yet they put out a couple of models that we think their hearing us and then BAM back to the junk.

    Every report seems to highlight the classics of MB but they our so far removed from that and the collector I can not figure them out. Listen MB wake up do some market research and realize kids unless an adult is encouraging them are not your demographic anymore. The average parent is way to busy to sit with their children and play when it's so much easier to put a device in their hand to keep them busy. After all it is the future. I'm not saying all kids are disinterested but let's teach them the heritage of the automobile.

    I could go on and on but I know now I'm wasting my breath and they know better than me but we'll see in the end and if this keeps up it won't be long for a once great brand in MB….

    Swifty's Phillywheels….

  4. among all the negativity i'll try to remain positive with my comments.

    the new model, the trail traker, or whatever, despite the odd coloring it does look like a 4×4 safari vehicle. but once again it's matchbox giving us another 4×4. idk how many more of these the collector base is going to take before imploding.

    as for my specialty, the emergency vehicles, the ambulance (although not the best ambulance produced) does have a better decal design then previous so it's not 100% terrible.
    the monster truck fire truck from last year. well i do like the blue/yellow color combo but that model will never find it's way into my emergency vehicle collection.
    at least i have the seagrave from last report to look forward to.

  5. Haha, implode indeed.

    The folks at Matchbox must have been testing a new lead-based paint in the office the day they read collectors thought the Sahara Survivor had completed its useful life-cycle… then BAM out comes the 'Trail Tracker'! (or 'Travel Tracker' as it says on its side??) Bring back the Sahara Survivor in its place if you must; we'll take it in pink, blue, anything but the plastic abomination in its place!

    I agree with your thoughts on the 'Blaze Blaster'. The International Brush Fire Truck already fills this void perfectly, great design, vanishes off the shelf, oh, and fire fighters can actually reach the ground.

    In summary, yes, the explosion of 4x4s is suffocating, stated by someone that collects 4x4s. Matchbox Unimog, may we see you again some day? I would akin this Matchbox 4×4 problem to minivans in the auto industry. For all intents and purposes the minivan is dead. Consumers hate the minivan. Chrysler is essentially the only player left in the market with a minivan; great. Keep making them in 1 or 2 models at acceptable quality and fair prices and focus on what the consumer actually wants. Maybe minivans will catch on again some day? Success.

    ***Chrysler Adopts the Mattel/Matchbox 4×4 Strategy for their Minivans.***
    High level meeting is held where executives discover the Minivan is hated nor is it selling well. Deploy the minivan carpet bombing strategy. Current line of 2 minivan models becomes 10. Dealer lots cleared of 2-door, 4-door and near every vehicle without sliding doors. The minivan is what they will learn to want after all! These 10 models include a 4×6 minivan, though no transmission is present; a spiffy new model with solid windows, made of light-blocking plastic, profit margin reasons are cited despite competitors retaining real windows; oh and among others, a Submarine Minivan! It's still in the developmental stages and doesn't float, or sink for that matter like a submarine but to add customer value, at least the prop on the back still spins! WAIT. IT DOESN'T. IT DOESN'T EVEN SPIN.

    Matchbox policy in place Chrysler waits patiently for 2 years with minivans on the lots as their closest confidants warn them of impending doom. “Surely these naysayers are merely envious of our genius!” Customers cease to inquire about new real products any longer. Sales plummet. Business ceases. All because of the disproportionate, out of scale, balloon tire'd, plastic Matchbox 4×4.

  7. Hello Nigel Thanks for another great report!
    I'm a fan of 4×4 and travel tracker goes to my list! A few years ago the Majorette made ​​a similar truck: “The Explorateur”.
    I wonder if they could create more versions of Desert Thunder V16 and not just color variations but a 6×6 model!

    The 2014 Sky Buster Plane Stunt I think that is the actual model of the aircraft used in the Red Bull Air Race.

    I think the delay in the Range Rover and Land Rover was due to a change of policy in Matchbox: start delivering more real models!
    See you next week!

  8. well, if thats teh latests and greatest from matchbox for 2014, thats more money in my pocket and none in theirs, they are awful, matchbox has really gone downhill, I loathe the generics, they dont even look real, more of my money will be going to other better brands, I would rather pay extra for a Norev, at least they are really life like models, not cheap tacky plastic crap.

    BTW-Nigel, did you get the questions I sent to you direct some while ago ?

  9. So…despite all of the naysaying…I am a fan of the Travel Tracker. No, the proportions aren't very realistic, but the vehicle itself is based on something real, albeit something more exotic than you see from day to day. Examples:

    Hot Wheels often pulls the same trick, albeit with a different set of vehicles. Exotics and supercars aren't exactly everyday fare, either, but it's still fun to have a toy version of the car. They also tend to exaggerate proportions, but in a different way than does Matchbox.

    At any rate, I like the added detail of the motorcycle on the front of the Travel Tracker. That's a feature I've seen on several expedition and patrol vehicles. I like the roll cage/awning in the back. It looks like it shouldn't be too hard to remove the cage and have an open truck bed to work with, which is always fun. I plan on getting at least a couple of these.

  10. The Travel Tracker is odd looking and reminds me of the Creature Catcher series from a year or two ago.

    I don't get why so many people dislike the older ambulance. Sure, it doesn't have a detailed interior and patient compartment like the Renault Master or Ford E-350, but at least this ambulance has a mostly metal body, unlike the other two and the last two versions, I think are the best this model has ever had. Plus, it looks like the Sprinter Type II ambulances that are becoming popular here in the US.

    I don't like the Blaze Blaster casting, but I like the paint scheme, as it's similar to the one used by the fire department here. I would like to see the paint scheme on the more realistic fire apparatus castings, like Hazard Squad, the Pierce Dash, and the F-550 mini pumper.

  11. Amen to that! The yellow paint looks great on fire apparatus. Still hoping to find the yellow Seagrave in stores.

  12. Very interesting, I will have to show that link to some of my buddies into military vehicles. I've actually never heard of that! I was thinking 'hot pink' when I made my first post but if they made it in a cool matte-pink camo type finish like that I'd buy it for certain. Just no more bloated generics PLEASE! :O

  13. Nice! Thanks for the additional info, this should be a suggestion to Matchbox via Nigel. I would be willing to be they are not familiar with the Pink Panther??

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