June 17 Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper…

Ambassador Report 43
I was grateful to all those collectors who were able to confirm that the China label affixed to a blister pack I showed last week was offering two models for the price of one. If you have a Matchbox related query, perhaps we can pool knowledge to answer the question. Two queries are shown in the History section. 
1. Will all of the new licensed castings come without interiors?  No.
2. I sincerely hope the ‘premium’ line anticipated for 2015 still comes into existence and ALL have diecast bodies and chassis, no more absurd fictional cranes in the premium collector series either please… PLEASE! Can you give us an update please? 
We will provide an update on this series next month.  With the exception of one vehicle, they will all be licensed vehicles. Stay tuned.

3. I love the reports on models past, and would like to know if it would be possible to continue in the future. I love to see all the versions, colours and trims that were available, and I really appreciate all the hard work that goes into making this part of the report very interesting. What is the Matchbox team’s view? 

We enjoy this as well.  The content of future reports will depend on the format chosen by the future Ambassador.

 4.  Why does this new Ford casting not have an interior??? It is already half plastic… this is pathetic, first the otherwise promising Toyota lifeguard truck ruined by solid black windows and now this? Why are more people not upset… it’s as though we are reverting 20-30 years in the diecast world suddenly… this would not fly in a new Hot Wheels, why here in the Matchbox division? As someone who would like to spend a few more dollars on Matchbox how could they ruin an otherwise well executed casting? I would consider myself an optimist among the Matchbox faithful relative to the future of the brand and even I am beginning to wonder why everything is still sliding down this irreversible slope? 
We are sorry that you feel that we are “Sliding down an irreversible slope”. Since this truck has a tilting stake bed, it could not have a separate interior due to parts count which is generally 4 parts.  We think that the tilting bed is a more important play feature. 
To your comment about Hot Wheels, they also have models that don’t have interiors in their basic line.

5. Since the Chevy K-1500 4×4 casting has returned, is there any possibility of getting the Ford F-150 4×4 casting redone again? (Sorry, I don’t know the casting/tool numbers). They made a great pair when they were in the basic range back in the 1990’s when I was a kid, would love to see the Ford return so the Chevy has its counterpart. And, as that Chevy Van has a current tool, are there any plans for a 4×4 base for the current tooling as well? That was another of my favorites when I was a kid. 
The Ford F-150 4×4 was a fun casting.  Not sure if we would bring it back again due to the tool condition.  The Chevy Van started out with a 4X4 base. We converted it to the stock configuration.  We won’t change it back.

6. The Ford Stakebed needs some modifications before release: along with adding the interior the base needs to be retooled because the front bumper needs to stick out a little more and the rear gas tanks looked warped (bent down) in these pictures. Otherwise nice! 
Thanks for your comments but there is nothing wrong with the Ford Stake Bed in fact this model was developed in cooperation with Ford and approved by them.

7. Now to the real cake; the Ford F-350 Stake Bed Truck. It is absolutely perfect. This is how I would have loved to see the Unstoppable theme executed. Licensed, realistic trucks with realistic designs, and play value. This has it all: it’s a Ford, has a fresh livery, and a tilting stake bed. Beautiful. I am also ecstatic that the generation of Ford F-series chosen was not the same as the F-550 Mini Pumper or the F-350 Superlift. I prefer this version of the F-350 because the newer versions look too bold and chintzy, whereas this generation has a more resolute and determined front fascia. I have also noticed that the inside grille (the two bars with the brackets around them) is actually from the newer generation of F-series, not compatible with that older generation F-350. However, the surrounding grille-piece is still a correct part of that generation truck. That is surely on the odd side, maybe by Ford’s request? Weird quibbles like this, however, make models that much more interesting and admirable! 

We agree. Thanks for your comments.

2 new Sky Buster Deco’s:  Flight Strike & Twin Blast.

2 new deco’s for mainline singles.  The retooled Highway Maintenance Truck MB954.  Now has the front plow blade as part of the chassis rather than a separate part. Also shown is the Jeep Hurricane.

Another new model is this Creature Catcher Helicopter that will include a giant Bear that can be captured by a claw that can be raised and lowered by a cable.

A Little More History

Why does the 55/15 Ford Sierra show Made in England on the base but was not cast as a Lesney model? Was this the only model produced in this way as I thought all made in England models were made by Lesney?
I am unable to shed much light on this question and so further comments are welcome. I know that the model was released at the same time as the real car and Ford had worked with Matchbox in providing photographs and information to ensure that the model was as accurate as possible for many months beforehand. Indeed, the special box in which the first models were packaged was designed by Ford. Given the fact that the model had been some time in the making one would expect Lesney to feature on the base. 
I have a part resin model in silver with red and black XR4i tampo which has the axles held in place by tape. The base is plastic but instead of the usual casting it has the following words lightly cast, “WARNING – Salesman’s Sample Only and for reasons of safety must NOT be given to children. PROPERTY OF LESNEY PRODUCTS PLC.”

A red XR4i pre-production model has a Made in England Matchbox Toys Ltd base whilst a blue pre-production model has no model number but it does have 1983 cast with a Made in Thailand Matchbox Toys Ltd base. 
Why did the #48 Unimog, which had a copyright 1983 base, still have “Made by Lesney” included on the base lettering, when all other models from this time were now Made in Macau with “Matchbox International” bases?
I have always thought this strange as most 1982 models are Lesney, though there are a small number of models such as the Fire Engine and Datsun 280ZX which have 1982 baseplates yet are Matchbox International made in Macau, not England suggesting that the manufacturing changes took place in 1982. Paul Carr was able to offer an explanation.
Paul told me that the Unimog had been designed some years before it was released as for some reason it was decided not to proceed prior to any further work on the moulds. The model would never have seen the light of day but for the fact that some new apprentice toolmakers had just successfully passed their year’s apprenticeship and were taken on at the Chingford toolroom where tooling work on moulds took place. As the Unimog mould was only occupying shelf space it was decided that one of their first projects was to complete the work on mould. They made such a good job of their work that the decision was taken to release the model after all. (The body of the original Unimog is also shown for comparison purposes before it became part of the twin pack range). 
Obviously models like the Renault 5TL and Police Patrol carried on being made into 1984/5 in England and maintained the Lesney base into 1984. It is interesting to learn how a new 1983 model with Lesney on the base could be released when the company had gone bust and into receivership in 1982. It was almost as though the Unimog was a last tribute to Lesney and Made in England!!
I have received several requests to examine further Lesney Superfast models in a little more detail and there is far more interest in passenger cars than any other type of vehicle. Thus we are looking at two cars from 1978. The 1978 catalogue was the first for many years to specifically indicate which new models would be released that year. Twelve were shown within the range, though three of these had been previewed in the 1977 catalogue. A further six new models were previewed in the 1978 catalogue. Of these eighteen models, only three were passenger vehicles and as the Jeep CJ6 was not strictly speaking a car, this leaves only the Ford Escort RS2000 and the Datsun 260Z 2 + 2.  
The rather beautiful AMX Javelin was replaced in the range by the equally impressive Ford Escort RS2000 at #9. The Javelin would however remain in the Two Pack range until 1982. Pre-production examples of the Ford can be found in a bright red shade which would have been a good choice in production. 
Instead Lesney chose white, enhanced by no less than four labels: “Ford” to the bonnet; “Shell” to the roof and “9” to each side. The shell emblem on the roof label can be found centrally located or slightly toward the front. The side labels come in two distinctly different lengths and rare examples have rounded edges. Such was the desire to use up paint that though the base plate was usually painted gloss black, it may also be found in matt black, charcoal, dark grey, blue-grey or an extremely dark metallic brown. However a very small run had silver painted bases, which to some is considered a far more attractive look and creates further interest. 

The windows were clear as standard, although a relatively small run were made with amber glass, which attracts a small premium. The interior was dark beige as standard, although it can also be found in a bright creamy beige shade, or pink-tan, and the very desirable red colour. The wheels were almost always dot dash on this model, although on the white version very rarely it can be found with 5 arch wheels or maltese cross. These are extremely rare.   
It was perhaps a curious decision for Lesney to give this sports version of the saloon car a tow hook, but this proved useful when in 1980 the Escort replaced the Capri in the Two Pack 5 “Weekender” set, towing the Boat & Trailer (another former #9). In these sets the Escort can be found in white as above or in powder blue with four “Phantom” labels. This model came with clear or smoky white windows, and a gloss black or charcoal base. Cross over models do exist in white with “Phantom” labels in reasonable numbers, so should not be too hard to find. The blue model could also be found packaged on single blister cards.
In the 1981 catalogue the Escort was shown in the miniatures range with “Castrol” labels, although the labels were only pre-production and indeed it was never actually released like this.  
In 1982 the colour of both the single and Two Pack release was changed to metallic green, although in the USA both single and Two Pack versions were deleted. In the green guise the labels changed again to a seagull image, and on the sides the seagull could face forward or backwards, such that four combinations exist. The base was still gloss black as standard, but could also be found in satin black. The interior was mostly found in dark beige, although it can also be found, without too much effort, in an attractive white. Red interiors can be found in extremely small quantities and this variation is much sought after. Indeed in 2012 an example sold at a leading auction house for no less than £1,300, and that was before commission!  
The last examples of this superb and authentic model produced were in a non metallic dark green with the dark beige interior. This version retained the seagull labels, but curiously almost all examples have the seagull facing backwards on both sides. Occasionally one seagull can be found facing forward but these are rare, and I have yet to see an example with both seagulls facing forward! 
The Ford Escort RS2000 was deleted in 1983 in favour of a revamped AMX Javelin, highly modified and as a result losing almost all of its original appeal. It would perhaps have been wiser simply to re-colour the Escort again! 
The Ford Escort was revived in 1985 as part of the Super GT range, with the standard black plastic base and windows and lacking an interior. It appeared both as an England and a China issue, in red, beige, blue, purple or rarer yellow bodies with various tampo print.  (Unfortunately I cannot take photos of these models at present).
The Datsun 260Z 2 + 2 was introduced in the #67 position, in a purple shade which varied in tone including burgundy. The model was enhanced with opening doors, and included a cream interior, clear windows and a matt black metal base plate. Some versions appeared with a charcoal base. Apart from also being available with a yellow interior, this model remained unchanged into 1981. Some pre-production models are shown below.

As with so many models during that year, it was given a makeover, which resulted in a silver body with a red interior. This version again came with a matt black or charcoal base, although additionally it could be found with a blue grey or very dark brown base, and occasionally smoke windows. A rare and desirable version in silver can be found with the cream interior from the purple version.  
In 1979 the TP-21 was a new release comprising the #51 Citroen SM which had by then been deleted in the miniatures range, towing a specially created casting, a Motorbike Trailer with three yellow bikes, which bore a remarkable similarity to those found on the back of the #60 Holden Pick-Up! These models both came in metallic blue, and are shown again in both the 1980 and 1981 catalogues. However although never shown, this duo could also be found with the Datsun replacing the Citroen, in the same metallic blue shade and with a cream interior. Rare versions can be found with a red interior, which indicate this sought after variant must have been found in 1981 once red interiors started to be produced for the silver version.
In 1982 the silver body had red and black tampo print applied and the interior was changed to white. This was available as a single issue or in the new TP-30 towing a very attractive black and yellow #5 Seafire. 
No Two Packs were advertised in 1983 and the single miniature was deleted in favour of another modified model originally released in 1972 like the Javelin: the #44 Boss Mustang, now at #67, sprayed in black with tampo print and named the IMSA Mustang.  
However in the 1984 catalogue the TP-107 includes #67 Datsun, now towing the #31 Caravan! Still in silver but now with a black interior and two tone blue stripes tampo, this model is not seen again in a Matchbox catalogue, yet was made available in several other guises, all made in England into 1985. These later versions had the opening doors cast shut, and include a plain silver model with silver base and black interior, and a plain black model with a gloss black base and black or white interior. These can be found with Lesney bases and then Matchbox International bases, in Twin Packs with the #9 Boat & Trailer! These last variants can also be found with opaque white glow windows from the Glow Racer sets which varied in opacity! 

Finally the casting was sent to China, and in much the same way as the #55 Ford Cortina with sealed doors, was used as a test piece by apprentices and with a tampo design much the same as the 1984 Two Pack version in silver, except that rather than two tone blue, the tampo was now blue and green. Such pieces were never officially released outside of China. In 1989 the moulds for this Datsun were sent to Bulgaria. A huge range of colours were applied and just some are shown below.

I am grateful to Graham Tomlinson for his help with the compilation of this article.
Nigel Cooper      17th June 2014

6 Replies to “June 17 Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper…”

  1. Hi Nigel, great to see you again.

    Anyways, not much to say about now. My only interest is in the new releases. I always get my interest on that, correct?

    Moving on, the Jeep Hurricane looks amazing than ever the other versions, beside the other Jeep castings for now. But I'm not into the shape of it still, technically.

    The Highway Maintenance truck ain't bad, either.

    Okay, cheers! (This is the firstest time I'd post a short comment on an ambassador report!)

  2. Nothing to interest me on the new front, but the look back at the older range says one big thing.

    Matchbox has seriously lost the plot, when you look at the range of cars throughout the late 70's and well into the 80's. matchbox produced some amazing castings of real cars, ones that were not covered in garish rubbish, baby colours, and stupid logo's, just a quick look at the Rover Sterling, Jaguar XJ6, Mercedes-E-Class and Volvo 760 shows what can be made given a little time and effort.

    Why has matchbox gone all wrong, well, i suspect we know the answe to that, and a quick pop down the aisle at our local tesco shows what could have been produced, the Tesco own lable models are just stunning, the latest Focus, The latest Audi TT, Touareg, Q7, Mercedes E-Class,Mitsubishi Evo, some nice heritage models, like the A4, Golf and more, and all for just 80p

    If Realtoy can do that, then it begs the question why wont matchbox, it has been clear that as ach new release is made, more and more are becoming plastic, with hideous colour schemes, majorette, Realtoy and others are getting my money, matchbox is getting very little of it.

    Thank yo Nigel for another great report on teh older stuff, it is always the highlight of the week, it is a shame that teh newer stuff lets it down.

  3. I'd rather spend 4 or 5 dollars for cars that have quality and features like Auto World, Majorette and Tomica. If more collectors and parents would vote with their dollars it will hit Mattel where it hurts.

  4. My only fear is that should sales drop like we suggest, mattel would rather dump Matchbox than spend their way out of the slump, after all, there is no way they will hurt Hot Wheels, god only knows why, half of the range is rubbish……

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