May 13 Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper…

Ambassador Report 38
  • We need more Fire vehicles! I miss the old 5 packs when the FD models all had the same livery. There are so many models that Matchbox can use just by painting them red and calling it a fire truck, either in a 5 pack or in Mission Force sets.. My suggestions are:  RWR Freightliner Satellite, RWR E-One Command Center in Red, F350 superduty in Red FD livery, Express Delivery, Highway Maintenance, Desert Thunder, Scrambulance in Red, Aqua King (air bottle truck?), Int’l CXT
Thanks for the suggestions.
  • Will there be another Line Review later this year? The one I attended was just   brilliant. 
There are no plans to have a line review this year. 
  • If Majorette, Corgi, Maisto and so on can produce the £1.00 ish genuine model, why can’t Matchbox. 
By Genuine do you mean licensed? If so we already have them. 
  • I got 12 Majorette models from our local Morrisons, from Lambo to Citroen, Renault to Peugeot, Mercedes to BMW, ALL at £1.00 each, so why can’t Matchbox do it ? 
We cannot comment about pricing structures as these differ in different regions.
  • Can’t say I’m a fan of the latest taxi. I’d much rather have the Crown Victoria taxi re-released, or better yet the Checker Cab from 2004. Is the Checker Cab still compatible with current production methods? If so, is there a possibility it could be re-released? 
Yes, both the Checker Cab and Crown Vic taxi will be available in the future.
  • In England a typical Matchbox price is £1.50 with a plastic body, usually a generic casting of Americanised versions of vehicles. Your major competitor now is Majorette with models still priced at £1.00 with full tampos, plastic inserts, suspension, realistic paint/real racing deco’s and even opening doors on some models. How can they do it? 
We have no idea.
  • The Load Lifter in the orange-and-white “Ranec” livery matches that of the Skidster when it first came out. I don’t know if there have been any others in this paint scheme, but I like the look of it. I hope the theme continues. I can see the upcoming Mini Dozer going with the other two to make a nice set if all three matched. Can you give us any further information? 
We have used the “Ranec” livery before in both the basic and Real Working Rigs lines.  We will continue to use this livery in the future where applicable. 
  • I’m curious as to the extent of the changes for the modified three-axle dump truck casting. Can we have some indication as to what has been done to it? 
The main change is the way the dumper bucket is attached.  The hinge is now a press fit rather than being full trapped between the body and chassis. The Matchbox logo and chassis markings have also been updated.
  • Why oh WHY is that green Cherokee only in the 5 pack?! 
It’s in the 5 pack because it has a trailer hitch which is needed to pull the trailer in that pack.
Here are images for some future releases. 

A Little More History

Some new Matchbox miniatures from 1979.
The 1979/80 Matchbox catalogue was a breath of fresh air for those who so loathed the Hot Wheels styled models of the early 1970s. Whilst most of the extreme releases of 1971-3 had been deleted by 1977, a few had lingered on, such as the Blue Shark, but finally in 1979 it was no longer pictured in the catalogues. This also applied to the hybrid Turbo Fury was absent, the Mod Tractor, generic Toe Joe and Stretcha Fetcha, and the Rod Roller. The new releases page for 1979 also made it clear the weird looking Clipper was soon to meet its demise, along with the Stoat, Cosmobile, Piston Popper, Beach Hopper and Hellraiser. (David Tilley would have been rocking in the aisles!!!)
In their place was a whole raft of new and exciting models of genuine vehicles, with generic models no longer holding sway. Some of the models shown as 1979 new releases had in fact been pictured in the 1978 catalogue, such as the superb reproduction of a Ford Escort RS2000 at #9 and a Datsun 260Z 2 + 2 at #67, though many others were shown for the first time. There are some interesting anomalies between the standard catalogue and USA trade catalogue for 1979. 

The #3 Porsche Turbo is shown on the front of the catalogue and was to prove an exceptionally successful release, remaining in the standard range for almost fifteen years. The initial colour was an extremely unusual, but very attractive, metallic brown, not a colour Lesney had ever used on a Superfast model before. It is only found with a cream interior, 5 arch wide wheels and a flat or gloss black painted base, and although unpainted bases apparently exist they must be extremely few and far between. I remember when this model was released there were large posters in bus stops in England extolling the virtues of this new model in an exciting metallic brown colour.
The very next year the colour was changed to silver, now with a red interior, although some exist with the cream interior from the brown version and even with with a beige interior. Again a black base was standard though the silver version may also be found with charcoal or the rarer light metallic brown painted base. A very small run of these silver models with red interiors were made with small dot dash wheels instead of the more usual 5 arch. Two shades of silver body are known to exist. 
In 1981 the colour was changed to bright green, with a dark yellow interior, although the cream and red interiors from both previous incarnations can be found, though only with charcoal bases. The green body with a red interior has now become quite sought after as it appears to be rarer than all the other cross-over models. Those with dark yellow interiors come with black, charcoal, brown or blue-grey bases. In 1982 Lesney changed the body colour yet again, now to red and for the first time with tampo print applied in white. These models are only ever found with beige or white interiors and black or grey bases, though the grey bases come in many shades. Genuine red examples exist with the tampo print missing from the sides and even in plain red, though this version is extremely rare. It can also be found with tampo print applied to a much lighter shade of red body. Whilst the red model was being produced production shifted and bases were modified to read “Made in Macau” and later it was manufactured in Thailand. The two models shown below were manufactured in Brazil.
In 1984 Matchbox International changed the colour once again, this time to black with gold tampo print. During 1985 there was an on-pack offer in the UK, where the purchaser could send off for two Porsche models, one of which was the Porsche Turbo in navy blue with Wrangler tampo. This was supposed to be an exclusive offer and the models were stated to be available by no other means, but later many excess models were made available generally in stores, much to the annoyance of those who had made the effort to send off for these “exclusive” pieces. In 1988 a white Porsche also with “14” tampo print became the standard issue. This version also exists with just a slight difference to the tampo print on the doors as a Japanese release, whereby the “14” does not come inside a box. A far rarer Japanese release exists in red with black stripes over the rear wheel arches. 
In the catalogues of 1989, 1990 & 1991 the Porsche is shown as part of a Twin Pack release in a sky blue shade with yellow stripes, but in reality the released model was in navy blue, seen only in the 1992 catalogue as a Twin Pack, but which in fact had replaced the 1988 white bodied release in the standard range the very next year, 1989. In1991 this standard release blue version reverted to red, but now with a Porsche logo tampo, which lasted in the range until the military Hummer finally displaced it in 1993/4.
The black Porsche with gold side tampo was issued with a King Size model, exclusively for Woolworths in the UK in a large display box. The white version with BP on the doors was one of the ill-fated 12 models which were originally to be part of a BP promotion which was axed. The Porsche was also used in the Glow Racer sets when the luminous windows gave off a glow in the dark. A few of these were packaged separately from the set. The Porsche was also used in the Chinese New Year set of models and the Dutch BP set.

However, the Porsche continued to be produced in Twin Packs: the model can be found in lemon yellow with a pink spatter pattern. It was further available in medium yellow with the Porsche logo as part of a gift set, and finally in blue with orange and white stripe tampo as part of a 5 pack release in 1997. This model was always popular and would not be out of place in today’s Matchbox miniature range. 
The models shown below are pre-production.
The new #10 Plymouth “Gran Fury” Police Car was shown both with wide 5 arch wheels and narrow dot dash wheels respectively, the latter (from the USA trade catalogue) would prove to be the model released. Rarer examples have opaque blue roof lights and although the version with amber windows was available for some time, it is always more sought after than those with blue windows. The blue windows vary in shade from a dull blue-grey to midnight blue, with medium blue being the most common. The baseplate came plated, or silver painted, which is the more desirable and the tampo print to the sides was updated frequently, eventually extending to the roof, bonnet and boot. This model is extremely unusual in that the mould broke after just a couple of years of production and whilst it was being repaired the old #59 Mercury was substituted. This model was in fact still in production as a Two Pack issue, but in this case it was given the same tampo print as the Plymouth. This was the same year, 1981, that Lesney gave up on the Adventure 2000 range and thus had a lot of surplus purple plastic in storage. Very rare examples of the Mercury in Plymouth guise appeared with purple windows, whereas the Plymouth never did. By the time it was reintroduced blue windows were once again the order of the day. In 1983 the model started to be produced in Macau and for the first time the black tampo print became blue and the base became pearly silver. This model survived in the miniatures range until 1987.

The #28 Lincoln Continental always looks rather small, because the scale had to be such that the model would fit into the box lengthways, but it is a very narrow model and thus can appear slightly out of scale next to other saloons of the same period. It was only in the range for three years and during that period was only ever available in red, although this can range from very bright to extremely deep red. It was always fitted with a white plastic roof and a plated base. Curiously several different colour interiors were used. The standard colour interior was bright beige, though it can also be found, in far smaller quantities, in grey, brown, or chocolate. The model with a cream body is pre-production.
This is the standard release with a chocolate brown interior.
Here are some of the colour schemes issued in Bulgaria. 

When in 1981 the majority of the range was re-coloured, this was one of the very few models that remained unchanged. It was replaced in 1982 by a Formula Racer, which was in fact a barely disguised #36 Formula 5000 with a different engine! The fact that a model was brought out of retirement to replace the Lincoln after such a short life would indicate the Lincoln was considered a poor seller. However, the Lincoln was one of those models that was later manufactured in Bulgaria and the huge range of colours produced there perhaps indicated what might have been had Lesney decided to change the body colour.

Thanks again to Graham Tomlinson for his kind help in writing this article.
Nigel Cooper      13th May 2014

18 Replies to “May 13 Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper…”

  1. POSTAL TRUCK! SWEET! Glad to see that casting back in the line…and it looks like it's still metal, too. That makes me happy. The BMW in blue and the Caterham look nice, too.

    As far as this week's answers go, I'm glad to hear that the classic taxis will be making a comeback at some point. I'm sorry to have missed both of them on previous releases.

    Also, thanks for the answers on the Ranec livery, and the 3-axle dump truck casting. It's nice to have an avenue for this sort of question-and-answer.

  2. Typical crap responses from Mattel, they have no idea, that's rubbish, if they have no idea then they are not doing their job right, hang on, well that answers that question, pricing structure, again rubbish, they can dictate the pricing they chose not to, and therefore the cost is sky-rocketing.

    Mattel has CHOSEN to produce generic rubbish, they have CHOSEN not to have working suspension, they have CHOSEN not to have opening parts, they have CHOSEN to produce plastic rubbish, so to say they have no idea, show a bit if dumbness on their behalf.

    Corgi are producing great small scale models lately, look at this blog

    scroll past the Vanguards Morris Oxford and you will see some of them, they are very well made, with moving parts, genuine looks, great tamping and at only £8.00 for the five pack, general the individuals are £1.99, and they do Mercedes models too, as well as other armed forces, police, ambulance and police models, all look good, why cant Matchbox, MATTEL CHOOSES NOT TO.

  3. Like Corgi, both Majorette and NOREV are so much better than Matchbox at the moment and have been for quite some time now. It’s a shame Mattel aren’t taking this competition more seriously.

  4. The Caterham is a nice addition to the Matchbox line-up, but the BMW and postal van don’t add any real quality. This may be a toy company, but so is Majorette, yet the quality of their cars is superior to that of Matchbox’s… I haven’t bought a new Matchbox for over two years now and whilst the Caterham is nice, it isn’t good enough to make me want to part with my money any time soon. Looks like Mattel will have to wait another year before I part with my money for one of their products. Thank goodness for other companies like Majorette and Siku who can actually produce quality toy cars! Mattel, please take note…

  5. Hm, it seems that Bulgaria was to Matchbox what India/LEO was to Hot Wheels, heh.

    Nice write up!


  6. First of all, I'm really glad the USPS mail truck is back. I have the original release of that model. I know that it isn't a USPS licensed version, but this one's fine. It does need dish wheels though.

    The other two aren't that bad I especially like the Caterham.

    I just bought a lot containing the Twin Pack Porsche. What was the other model in the twin pack, as the lot doesn't contain a trailer.

  7. The companion piece to the twin pack Porsche was an air glider in an enclosed trailer. The trailer deco matched the car's appearance.

  8. I'm guessing that the way Majorette can produce better models for the same (or slightly lower) price, even while making their cars in the same country as Matchbox, might come just to accepting lower profit margins.

  9. I suspect the reason they aren't taking this more seriously is that Majorette and NOREV aren't available in the United States. No matter how much I like the cars made by those brands, I can't buy them without footing the bill for international shipping myself. The competition here is Maisto (less expensive, but generally pretty lousy castings), and the premium model vehicles like Autoworlds and M2 Machines. Autoworlds and M2 Machines aren't marketed as toys (nor are they built tough enough to be toys), and so they really don't compete in the same market niche.

    Unless we can convince Majorette to re-enter the U.S. market, I think Mattel will continue to ignore their international competitors. Yes, I think it's a shame, but I think that's the reason why. It is easy to ignore what you don't see in the stores, and the Mattel team doesn't seem to see stores outside of the U.S.

  10. Typically sad attempt at replying to or answering the real issues eating away at the brand.

    Though the 3 models above look good, still perplexed as to why BMW demanded the 1M be improperly renamed the M1 which is an entirely different model altogether; very bizarre regardless of logic likely tied to the 1 series becoming the 2 series now. Other than that glaring flaw the above new models look nice, the Caterham is always a welcome addition which I will gladly add to my collection of that casting!

    Thanks again for the look into the past Nigel, who doesn't love a 911 or a mile long Lincoln Continental!

  11. Hi again Nigel, great to see you again.

    Okay, starting always with saying, anyways, let's start off by saying hello to the new releases. Let's just start off.

    Okay, here we go hitting 'em. We've got- the new color of the Beamer 1M coupe (fantastic), the Catheram Superlight (ooh) and the Mail Truck (not really a fan, but looks darn great). See? That's what I expect to see every time in these ambassador reports. That's not bad to not impress me. But you get the idea.

    BMW (or call him just Beamer) 1M sports coupe In blue- Very my cup of tea! I'll give a Level 4 🙂 for the work Matchbox has done. Very cool! There's the head and tail lights printed, grille too, but I wonder why the front BMW logo isn't there. Or is this not that prepared yet to show, hmm? Before showing, always check the detailing you do, Matchbox company. That's why I could use a little sophistication.
    But still, the Beamer is great and absolutely stunning a lot for now I have to say. Really and VERY.

    Catheram R500 Superlight- Looks sweet with dark teal/aqua green color with yellow stripes. Wondering ever since thought Matchbox wouldn't make it anymore. But my dreams came true! I was looking for orange color with white stripes instead, but darn on this that Matchbox's idea is pretty thinking darn good. So that's their fancy way hehe.

    Mail Truck- Not really talking about this much, because I don't collect construction vehicles, tractors, delivery trucks etc., those working vehicles in the mood angrily. But this, it's not bad. I mean, no offense but the desire on working vehicles aren't my choice. But this is the only thing I'm trying hard to work on getting. So that's cheers. “Cheers”.

    I would like to agree definitely on some comments/questions that have been answered on this latest development. Phew, sheesh I wasn't going to let my mind down sweating on. BOO!

    Okay, I agreeing with the first comment, OF COURSE WE NEED MORE FIRE VEHICLES!!! How 'bout we use some ideas to work on when I comment MY question. Anyways, by that being said, I really would want to see how Matchbox works to plan in action then. I would want want want to see this something.

    Something else to be curious seeing with my eyes, ooh, yes speaking of taxis hint, eh? Okay the Checker cab was really great as a taxi from 2000-2005 or '06, but, yea we get this fella back soon. And the taxi versioned Crown Victoria too.

    Then let's go to my including the fire vehicles ideas.

    Question- I agree with a comment last report telling with more fire vehicles. Is there any chance of trying to add these types of models- your 2012 Ford Explorer in this livery- FFD (Ford Fire Department), a new model casting, can you make- '07 Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon NYFD (New York Fire Department), your Ford F-550 mini pumper truck in another fire livery, but I don't know any examples, but try? And more blah, blah, blahs. I can think of these, but try thinking, alright? Okay, alright.

    Question's done.

    Wow, I guess I have been commenting long! I always sometimes make long comments. But chattering on the chaps that bombshell, see you soon Nig!

  12. Its Disgusting there lack of knowledge on International affairs. Imagine if Mazda only made cars in RHD and with everything on and comes with the car in Japanese, then came out and said we have no idea what are competitors are doing, nor do we care, they wouldn't sell many cars that's for sure.

    I believe if Mattel could, they'd only produce true MBs and HWs for the US market and sign a deal with a Chinese toy maker or Maisto to rebrand their packages for the Interna….non American market. I doubt mattel know what a £ even is.

  13. Don’t forget the models Tomica make. I nearly always buy them over Matchbox these days here in the States. And I know other people who buy the models for their kids too cos the kids don’t like the generic vehicles Matchbox are making. They want to play with the car(s) their Dad drives no less! Great post by the way Nigel – Much appreciated as always!

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