International Love Affair: A complete look at the Matchbox International Pumper, by Sammy Fox…

If you have been an active member of the Matchbox collecting community, or if you have been a reader of the Lamley Blog for at least a year, you are aware of the in-depth knowledge of diecast fire collector Sammy Fox.

We love to occasionally hand over the reigns to experts in a specific area of diecast collecting, and Sammy is our go-to guy for fire trucks.  Not only because he collects every and all fire-related diecast vehicles, but because he is a captain with the San Luis Obispo, California Fire Department.

Sammy has featured two Matchbox Fire Trucks here in the past, and he is back with the third.  We suggest giving it a read, not just a gander.  Sammy is as in-depth as it gets.  

And remember, if you would be interested in featuring a model like this, or part of your collection, just email us and let us know…

Now enjoy the article.

(Thanks Sammy.)

International Love Affair
Collectors (and people in general) for years have had an “International” love affair with fire engines. While the International Pumper (MB76) may not be a fire apparatus that is used across around the world, it is recognizable across the globe as a “fire engine” and as such has been a popular model finding it’s way into many collections and toy boxes alike. 
As usual, we’ll start off with some photos of the real deal –

Along with some close ups of Matchbox’s diecast miniature. – 

The Matchbox version first came on the scene in late 1999 with the three releases of the International Pumper including the ROW model with blue light bar, a Maltese cross design on door with crossed axes and hash marks above the hard suction hoses and ladders on each side –
The Premiere Series Fort Wayne FD version which included rubber wheels, chrome wheels, and real department markings and high detail paint scheme which included full white cab roof, four side tampos including nose and tailboard section, and painted hose bed and hose reels – 

And the regular line model similar to the ROW model with a red lightbar instead of blue,  same color scheme and compartment door logos but had cab doors marked with a Maltese cross with words “Fire Dept” instead of crossed axes, as well as “MB Fire Dept. No. 7” instead of hash marks – 

February 2002 saw two very similar releases of the pumper. The first released in white with neon yellow and “Engine Company 77” markings, along with a red Maltese cross on the door with the words “Fire Dept” surrounding the letter “E” ( a similar version was a shade variation having a neon green colored stripe rather than yellow) – 

In March of 2000 Matchbox also released a school bus yellow colored version of the pumper with black stripes on the sides –

A month later the ROW five pack hit the shelves which included a white version very similar to the US release but with a all of the English language tampos removed from the sides. For example the Maltese logo on the door only had an “E” in the center with no other words surrounding it, the words under the pictogram on the side compartments were deleted, and the markings changed simply to “34” (instead of Engine Co. 77) and a blue light bar. Like the US release this model also came with both color tint variations of neon yellow and green –

April of 2000 also brought us another version of the International Pumper with the same design as a previous model but this time in gold paint and black markings – 

In the year 2000 MB issued a logo series which featured mainline models with a “Matchbox 2000” logo on them. The pumper received this treatment on the hood as seen below –

We didn’t see any other Code 1 releases until 2001 when the pumper reappeared as part of a playset sporting a flashy paintjob of white over red paint which included a painted nose section and white hard suction hoses on the sides –

In mid 2001 the red Metro Alarm pumper came as part of the Metro Alarm 5 pack –

Later that year the ROW model was issued coming out in a deep maroon color with silver hash marks and yellow lightbar – 

The heroes series in red, white and blue was released at the beginning of 2002 and included this patriotic version of the International –

It should be noted also that MB took the time and effort to ensure that the American flag flying on the Captain’s (or passenger) side of the model was flying backwards in battle forward formation – 

2002’s ROW very arrived on scene with an orange and white paint scheme marked “Feuerwehr” which is German for Fire Department or Fire Brigade. These models were released both with and without the MB 50th anniversary logo on the sides –

2002 also was the year that a modified version of the International Pumper was released by MacDonald’s restaurants as a give-away toy in Happy Meals. The model was released in plain orange-ish red paint with yellow lightbar and dark tinted windows. This McD version of the pumper had several casting changes which made the model safer for children including a molded in lightbar on the roof and smaller light beacons at the rear which did not stick up as far as the regular casting – 

Depending on where you purchased your McDonald’s model it came with two different sticker packets which the user could apply. The US version came with Illinois stickers and a 50th anniversary logo which would resemble the MBAA design released later in the year – 

While the Canadian version featured more generic stickers –

By May of 2002 the metallic maroon Fire hunter variation started showing up, this model came both with and without the 50th anniversary logo on the hood – 

Several months later in summer of 2002 the Alarm 5 pack was released and included this yellow pumper with blue windows, lightbar and red tampos –

At the end of 2002 MB had it’s Matchbox Across America version of the International Pumper out with the Illinois paint job mentioned earlier. Each model came in a special blister and included a plastic license plate for the state it represented – 

In 2003 MB started experimenting with a different style of five pack which was a long rectangular plastic blister which included this maroon model from “Station 5” (according to the tampo) and an amber lightbar – 

Another playset model was released at the beginning of 2003 similar to the red one from several years earlier but this time in white over yellow paint design – 

The Metro Alarm five pack issued in late 2003 had this school bus yellow pumper with blue lightbar and windows –

By 2004 MB had entered the Hero City era and gave us this neon yellow fire engine with HCFD logo on the doors and “Alarm Unit” design –

Many collectors were happy to see the return of this model in late 2005 with a bit more subdued design. This one a tasteful white and red color scheme simply marked as Pumper 99 – 

After taking some time off duty the pumper appeared again in 2007 with this red paint job as Airport Unit 379 from the MB County Fire Department – 

In 2008 Unit 379 returned in a neon yellow uniform –

And again in 2009 with a fresh white coat of paint and marked again as 379 –

 In mid 2009 MB released the last version of this exact casting in school bus yellow with red and white markings as unit 379 –

It was not until three years later in 2012 that MB re-released the International Pumper with this revised casting which included a molded in plastic lightbar and an interior that also included the hosebed allowing for a different color hosebed without the added cost of painting it in order to make it stand out as a different color from the body. The first release of this casting was this black version with red plastic base –

The black model was followed a short time later by this red version with white doors (and again as Engine 379) –

You may be asking yourself… “Self, why are so many of these marked as Unit 379 or Engine 379?” Well, quite simply 379 is the MB man number of this casting.

Code 2 and 3 models
This casting was an extremely popular model for both Code 2 and Code 3 variations. Collectors, companies, event organizers, and many others had companies such as Color Comp Inc, Ad-ventures, and others make promotional models for them. 
These models were most often based off of the simple red version and had hood tampos added to them – 

Or hood tampos and door markings like this pumper commissioned by our late collector friend Mr. Bill Cairns –

Some collectors took it a bit further and removed the existing printing from these models prior to having them printed. Such is the case with this Color Comp model that I had made several years ago to depict an International fire engine used by SLO City Fire – 

In addition to the printing on the sides this model also had details added to the rear of the model –

And of course there were even those that went beyond basic tampo removal and gave the model an entire new paint job as seen with this beautiful pumper done by Ad-ventures for the Kingwood Fire Department – 

Extreme Make-over? 
Not every model in the line is popular and successful enough to stick around for 15 years and be recast multiple times. Here’s a few side by side photos comparing the casting changes that have occurred over the past decade and a half – 

What’s that thingy?
When looking at model fire engines you may find yourself asking “what is that thingy?” Well, I am a bit of a “fire nerd” and am here to tell you exactly what that mystery part is just in case you wanted to know…

Preproduction models 
As usual we’ll discuss a few of the prepro models that either didn’t quite make the cut or were simply part of the approval process at MB…
First up is the non painted preproduction casting of the model – 

Next we have a prepro model that actually made it into production. This sample is from the resin stage of the development process –

And the last Pre-production model I’ll show you is the Philadelphia pumper which sadly did not make it to production. Here are a few photos of the beauty –

Copy Cats 
Though these models are not copies of the MB casting, being models of the International Pumper I they do serve to compare the quality of their work to that of Matchbox’s so I thought I would include them.
Motor Max – 

Road Champs – 
Boley – 
Great things come in all packages…
Being a collector who opens more than 99% of my models I may not be the best source for learning how these pumpers came packaged but I’ll give it a shot.
Here are a few of the various blister cards issued over the years – 

Five packs –

Five pack tubes – 

These short lived tube packs were designed to be hooked together for increased play value as shown on the back side art work –
This last pack is the most unusual five pack of the bunch… a square, box tube five pack –
Regardless of how the came packaged, I would guess that the majority of these that were sold were opened up and played as this was such a cool model. 
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief history on the International Pumper Fire Engine. Until next time… happy hunting.
As always, a special thanks to my friend and “human encyclopedia on emergency diecast” Jim Hoshaw for his help with the release date information. In addition to the paint variations there were of course base plate and wheel variations. For detailed information on such variations (as well as a ton of other incredible models) I recommend visiting the his website 

3 Replies to “International Love Affair: A complete look at the Matchbox International Pumper, by Sammy Fox…”

  1. Golf Clap Captain.

    Here is a Code 3 from the Central Districts Fireman's Association of which I was a member.


  2. Another informative feature on a MB fire vehicle. Would love to have all shown but alas that is not possible. Thanks to Sammy for putting this together. Don

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