The next great Matchbox Era is in full swing with the return of opening-parts models.

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This truly is nuts.  I am showcasing two Matchbox models with opening doors.  To some, this means nothing.  And that is ok.  If I am being totally honest, opening parts never have done much for me personally as a diecast collector.

But this is significant.  Really significant.  And it is part of a very interesting evolution over the last five years.  The current Matchbox Team has revisited all options when it comes to making the brand better, and it is quite phenomenal to see what has transpired.

If you have only been collecting for a few years, you may not be aware of the zigs and zags the Matchbox brand has taken this century.  The brand known for realism has always had to be “what Hot Wheels is not” since Mattel bought it, and that has been defined in all kinds of ways over time.

In the mid-2000’s it was Hero City, a debacle of a brand direction that had Matchbox catering to little kids with police cars shaped like whistles and weird stuff like that.  Then around 2005-2006 it shifted back to realism, starting what I, among others, have dubbed the Last Golden Age at Matchbox, when classics to sports cars to pickups filled the range.  That ended around 2011, when a push to younger kids grew again, and Matchbox models started sporting crazy colors and designs, while new castings shifted to exaggerated off-road vehicles.  It may not have been a whistle-shaped police car, but it was an off-road school bus, and almost as bad.  I remember a designer at the time saying the theme of the designs of that era revolved around the perspective a little kid would have looking up at a vehicle.  A bit of overthinking if you ask me.

By 2013/2014, licensed vehicles were a tiny minority in the basic range, and while gems were still being made, they were few and far between.

This back and forth not only hurt the brand in general, but it also fractured the Matchbox collecting world.  It is hard to collect a brand when it goes in all kinds of directions, and in today’s social media-dominated collecting community, the most negative voices tend to be the loudest.  The next thing you know the vitriol is high, the quieter collectors retreat, and a community splinters.  It has been sad to watch.  The brand wasn’t good, and neither was the community.

But, that is all changing.  While still dominated by Hot Wheels, today’s collector is far more open to other brands as long as the car is cool.  Make a cool car, collectors will pursue it.  And in 2018, Matchbox has been making cool cars.  Lots of them.  That goodwill among today’s newer collector has drown out the old grumps, and Matchbox is generating a lot of excitement again.

It is that abundance of good vibes that Matchbox is building on, and it is amazing to see what has transpired.  Compare what Matchbox will be in 2019 to just a few years ago:

  • Only four unlicensed New Models in 2019, and even those four are replicas of real vehicles.  All the rest are licensed.
  • New realistic card art, and the Power Grabs continue.
  • A return to realistic colors and decos.
  • Two new lines – Basic Plus and Premium Plus – both featuring all new tools, and all with opening parts.

Honestly, Matchbox might be something completely different five years from now, as that is the pattern, but right now it is pretty darn good.  Instead of overly critiquing, we should enjoy it.  There is a team at Matchbox right now, severely understaffed, that still takes time to listen and create a brand that kids and collectors can enjoy.  And yes, differentiate itself from the blue brand.

And it starts with these.  Matchbox Basic Plus, a $2 line hitting stores later this year, will debut with these two models, the Volkswagen Fastback and Pontiac Grand Prix.  And both are based on classic Matchbox models from the early days of the brand.

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We saw these first previewed on the Matchbox IG feed, and then they were at the Gathering in July.  These two were sent to me for a preview, and yeah, dig them.  The opening doors are solid, and open and close nicely.  Simple colors that are a total throwback to the originals.

And there will some of the throwback themed, and some of the brand new.  We have already seen some early versions when Abe previewed them:

Just think that these opening-parts new models outnumber the total amount of licensed new models released a few years ago.  And these are ON TOP of the licensed new models coming to the basic range.  2019 will be an incredible year for Matchbox.

So here are the first two models, coming soon.  More to come.

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28 thoughts on “The next great Matchbox Era is in full swing with the return of opening-parts models.

  1. I absolutely cannot wait for these to hit. I never had the original Grand Prix because back in the day, that particular car just wasnt available in my tiny realm. Later in life I found a tore up busted version. Matchbox by Lesney had amasing designs that were unfortunately brittle. The one I got my hands on wound up a *crushed car* in dioramas with my monster trucks. Even then, the realism was absolutely the best.
    I know most kids for whom these toys are aimed, wont get the coolness of the 1960s castings. I hope that MBX will continue its outreach with their beginnings and match them with the same attention to detail on new castings todays generation of young auto enthusiests can relate to. Idike to see the original Series 62 Cadillac. A return to the original casting of the Mercury Park Lane police car…nit the 1980s re-do.
    Plus a host of others. And I hope to see a flurry of new cars.

  2. First and foremost let’s give credit where credit is due! Mattel may have well listened but the real credit goes to none other than Lamley! Wow! I’ve stuck with the blog that long. Anyway imo if it wasn’t for the blog, the ambassadors that you brought in and the open forum for collectors to voice their frustration.
    We endored hell and back again and again! make no mistake if it wasn’t for Lamley you can bet Matchbox would be a memory. So all you collectors that are enjoying this transformation give it up to Lamley! Sure there were probably others out there in the diecast world talking about Matchbox but Lamley was FIGHTING to bring them back from the brink. Yes there are still challenges but from where we came the future looks pretty dam good!
    Now to the cars, are these great or what? Not only are the mainlines hitting on all cylinders but now what do we call this a premium line a semi premium line? Who in the hell cares this is a tremendous transformation That Lamley gave us a voice to push to happen! 2017 was good 18 has been even better and well 19 is going to be the New Golden Age.
    So to John and everyone at Lamley that worked their asses off THANK YOU! A special thanks to a former ambassador Larry you know who you are. Because I think Larry may have stressed what many of us were thinking to Matchbox. That’s why I enjoy the Previews now because it’s like we are reaping the rewards of the frustration we had to endore.
    It was hard to watch what was an inevitable dying brand. It looked really grim, I actually thought it was coming to an end. That just makes this even more enjoyable.So THANKS again you deserve a lot of credit and I know first hand you had to puyt up with a lot of BS from trollers. Even having to change the way you did things. Chage is not easy but this change is amazing!

  3. This is great to see! I’m currently more excited about finding the MBX I want than the Hot Wheels. The quality control is so much better, and they just look great. I hope they keep the interesting models coming. Personally I would love to see them tackle more of the new supercars. Seeing the opening features on the i8 made me think about how cool it would be if they did some Koenigseggs with opening features!! Since HW produced one a few years back I assume they could get the license. Having some really “out-there” modern cars would be an interesting counter-point to the classics and standard MBX fare. And of course, they’d be just a little better than the HW. 😉

  4. I cannot help but be skeptical. These models look quite nice, but even so, they looked better 50 years ago when they had metal bases and nicer interiors. Time is supposed to be the impetus for evolution, but this seems more of a cover band of a once great artist.
    I hope the brand does evolve, and it’s possible these are the first mutations with a hint of old DNA showing through. My personal hope is that the wreckage that is Matchbox will eventually be properly restored to circa 1969, and continue to push forward in better directions.
    Because 1969 was the last truly great moment for this brand. Everything beyond that has been reactionary, either to Hot Wheels or to saving pennies while slowly torturing the brand to death with cheap plastic and unlicensed nonsense.

  5. The original red ’64 Grand Prix was my favorite car as a child (at least until I broke one of the doors off). My dad always drove full sized Pontiacs in the late 60’s and early 70’s and this was as close as it got in small scale diecast at the time. Although it would be better with a diecast chassis and more accurate wheels, I am thrilled that they are even doing this at all. For 2 bucks, this is a no-brainer to me. AutoWorld has this car nailed at the $6.00 price point, but the nostalgia that Matchbox provides here is most appreciated.

  6. The quality of the paint, the sharpness of the tampos, the accuracy of the casting and the fact these are available for $2 is what makes these truly amazing. Hats off to the Matchbox team for pulling these off!

    P.S.- now solve those bloody distribution issues, make the brand available in more countries and I’m sure these will be a big hit!

  7. I second BlackWind’s remark on distribution, it is an absolute joke here in the Houston area, sorry to sound brash, but we are the 4th largest city in the USA and I can’t seem to track down anything fresh from Matchbox in a simple 5-10 mile radius of my house/work. I suppose I could drive then entire 655 square miles that is the Houston City limits, but that is a bit of a task and much more costly in gas.

  8. Really nice models that seem to have really good paint jobs. Well done to the designers and I hope eventually features can creep back into the main line. However I wouldn’t call it an evolution. We had all this and more thirty years ago (suspension,opening parts and metal bases etc and they were still just toys). It was Mattel that got rid of all of these. Its nice to see a slight return but nothing new here.

  9. Hats off to mbx, nice to see opening features back. I would like to see the old ford cortinas produced. As above mentioned the age old problem of distribution. Also as matt says ,these to opening features blended into mainline. Nice one, I hope to see them…… ……. next year.

  10. I am 60 years old. I have loved toy cars since the beginning. It started with tootsie toys. I then graduated to matchbox cars. Hotwheels came along and we loved them still do. I had a bunch of Hotwheels. The biggest set they made in 69 super charger Grand Prix set. And the sky show set. But matchbox cars were my first love. The Chevy Impala 🚕 in yellow was my favorite. The Pontiac Grand Prix is sensational. So here we are with an incredible series of cars and I am all in. So psyched

  11. What’s the deal with no chrome bumpers, chassis, or accents? Dull gray plastic stuff. I can see using plastic in place of metal, but why no chrome?
    Very disappointing Mattel, very disappointing!

    1. You’d think the $2 price point would give Mattel the wiggle-room to use chrome. Sadly it seems chrome is fast becoming a thing of the past in the basic line.

      1. Yes, I understand, but I would gladly pay just a little more for features which incorporate some authenticity. I still wholeheartedly agree that for the $2 price point that chrome would be utilized.

        I just went back to look at the last Lamley posting comparing the two Jaguars & the two Austin Healeys (THE BRITISH ARE COMING! LOOK FOR THIS PRETTY PAIR OF MATCHBOX ROADSTERS CLOSING OUT 2018 – August 15, 2018), and the older versions with chrome look so much better compared to the crappy gray plastic used now for the base & bumpers. Ahhhh .. I’m gonna’ miss chrome …the good old days!

    2. I strongly agree. Such great castings are being produced by Matchbox, but the grey plastic is a massive hindrance to the appearance. Strange that the Jeep Wagoneer from the one-dollar mainline earlier this year had a chrome base, yet these two-dollar models are missing it. I hope they reconsider this new cost-cutting measure. Classic cars need chrome!

  12. The thing I love about these is that they are still designed and built to be toys. AutoWorld, M2 Machines, etc., are nice looking models, but really not made to be played with. This is something that I can give to my kids and they can play with it and enjoy all the cool working features. This is something that I can get and actually play with (because I do that, too). The design and the price point are perfect. I’ll be hunting for these.

  13. Just like many of the above commenters, just fix the damn distribution problems and it’ll be a walk in the park. I’m so sick of walking into Walmart and Target and all I see are either empty pegs with generics left behind or completely filled with old stock from a batch that came out over a year ago! Also, the amount of retail space that these have is absolutely a joke. Usually only five-ten pegs whereas Hot Wheels probably gets forty or more! I would think that if the new team is so committed to restoring the brand and making it a household name again they would somehow situate the distribution a little bit better and would start to see the result already.

  14. If some of the guys in the US are having problems getting hold of Matchbox cars imagine what it’s like for us in England where they were originally made. It saddens me that Mattel only seem to cater to the US market and the rest of the world is an afterthought, I was brought up on Matchbox cars in the ’60s when I was a kid and I still collect today…………when I can get them !

  15. As you write Keith ,we have our one and only asda which takes no pride, display and distribution their selves. The mbx line up scrambled with other cheap makes bottom baskets. Its a case of some do , some don’t stock. Other areas in England are 2 batches ahead of my area. The weird thing is asda have put the prices up on HW. £1.87. Mbx £1.97 single. HW are pegwarmers now. Instead of putting mbx down to £1.25 as HW. I think asda have tripped up somewhat. This exclusive thing is a joke. All the great toy outlets, other various shops. Mbx only for asda! As above opening parts and so on….hats off to mbx . my personal opinion , we won’t see them…. 65th a joke…. 2019…open the brand up for UK. The price as USA. Also each country have different tastes of which we can relate too… Advertise!!! Also powergrab style boxes ,RWR and other USA only products. Bring them here…..!

  16. Glad to see these back! The old red #22 Regular wheels Pontiac was one of my all-time favorites. It was the car that came to mind when I first heard the word “Pontiac”.

  17. If the distribution of “MATCHBOX” is ridiculously poor in the UK thanks to ASDA’s exclusive deal, it really looks as if Hot Wheels are going the same way. Basics no longer available in other supermarkets such as Sainsburys, and Wilko no longer stock them either (favouring their trashy new own branded Teamzsters instead……

  18. As far as distribution to the UK it is primarily a trade issue between governments. It sucks I think but it has nothing to do with Mattel. Hot Wheels and Matchbox are plentiful in Australia. Until we can get trade agreements that work for both sides it’s going to be tough on you guys on the otherside of the pond. Like I said it stinks but this one can not be blamed on Mattel.

    1. Thats an interesting thought John. Do you mean between the countries which produce Mattel products or the US where they are based? Looking at various sites it does seem Australia gets FAR MORE different varieties of HW and MBX than we do in the UK.
      I think you are right in saying we shouldn’t blame them entirely, surely the buying departments and wholesalers have some blame too for such lacklustre choice and distribution.
      What I do blame Mattel for is allowing just ONE retailer in a large populated country to sell one of their most iconic line of diecasts. How can they maximise sales if no other retailers or big chain toy shops arnt allowed to sell Matchbox other than the supermarket ASDA. They routinely miss several cases each year yet since 2016 when they took on this exclusivity deal they havnt missed a SINGLE batch of Hot Wheels. Ironically ASDA are one of the best places to find fresh HW even if their prices have shot up recently!
      Many of our retailers still stock HW so I don’t panic about distribution at the moment, the Sainsbury’s in my area are up to date, the only problem being peg space is very limited with the rest being taken over by overpriced plastic generic cartoon sets!!
      The most worrying thing for UK 1:64 collectors is the almost complete dominance of HTI generics. Traditional licensed budget models from Maisto, Realtoy, Motormax, Welly etc…have been almost completely expunged from this country and nearly every shop which sells toys from independent souvenir shops to big name retailers have now moved to these distinctly unappealing models. To anyone living outside the UK, if you can imagine those dreadfully unrealistic diecasts Toys R Us used to sell under their Fastlane brand being the only 1:64 range you can buy apart from HW in the whole of your country you can then see what a depressing place Britain is and I don’t see it changing.
      The Festive period is approaching which is normally a great time for finding new stuff when retailers have toy aisle resets but all I’m finding is YET MORE HTI generics. Matchbox are a god send compared to this tat and it’s very frustrating when you can’t find them. Sorry for the rant, I’m a passionate 1:64 collector with a 13500 collection and where possible I like to buy at bricks and mortar stores, it’s getting harder to do so as each month passes! 🙁

  19. I wish I lived near your Sainsburys, Craig. The branches in the East Midlands haven’t been up to date with HW in months. In most instances, they just haven’t bothered stocking mainline basics, going with the more pricier premium sets (Lamborghini, Honda, Forza, Marvel etc). ASDA has been pretty poor too, restocking with batches from months ago. Tesco also no longer sell HW round here.

    1. How strange distribution can be so varied depending where you live, especially in this day and age. I live in the West Yorkshire area and have luckily been able to find the latest J and K batches of Matchbox at ASDA along with the latest HW Mainlines. Admittedly Sainsbury’s isn’t the best overall with severely lacking peg space meaning a 72 count case can take ages to sell through. I’m very lucky as my nearest branch is one of their smallest yet is able to display about half a case in it’s tiny toy section, I’ve found quite a few new stuff there this year even sometimes before ASDA.
      Again, my Tesco stores do still stock HW but invariably they are usually older batches and since they replaced Realtoy last year with HTI generics I don’t buy from them anymore. Same with Wilko, they used to be a great source of budget licensed vehicles, Hot Wheels AND Matchbox but again everything has been replaced by HTI generics with the only basic HW Mainlines they sell are usually 2016 vintage!!!

  20. Hotwheels are down to £1.20. In asda. How ironic! Newly stocked as ever!.yet this same local asda has only had d ,e, and the same remnant’s of g ,for 3 months! And full price still on mbx£1.97. Mattel the best era, total bs! It seem that anything to disappoint and kill the UK connection, Mattel are doing good job!!! It isn’t as though they have to distribute widely. And different outlets. Only one ASDA!!!

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