Matchbox Monday – A look at the first 2020 Superfast batch

Well It’s about time I start earning my keep around here. Many years ago, John set up the Lamley Group to be a joint venture between himself (John Lambert “LAM”) and myself (David Tilley “LEY”). It was actually based off a signature we both set up years before that on a Matchbox message board as we both realized when it came to Matchbox, we were pretty much on the same page about most things. So we started signing off the same way and later John came up with the idea to expand it into a blog (and now much further). He has subsequently spent the next (I don’t know, how many years has it been now) trying to convince me to get on board. He eventually convinced me to get on Instagram, but is still attempting to nudge me into other social media. I have occasionally emailed over an article which he put up on the blog on my behalf, but has finally talked me into joining him on the blog. So I am finally registered properly, and am going to be an active participant.

(Find Matchbox new and old at Wheel Collectors)

The plan is for each Monday to be mainly devoted to Matchbox, hence the Matchbox Monday moniker. I will be preparing the article hopefully on a weekly basis as best I can. Now I am based in the UK and to be honest, the place to be for all the best stuff is USA. They have the widest range of Matchbox products available, and as such I have partnered up with Wheel Collectors who will attempt to feed me with the latest products as soon as they can after they hit their store. Obviously they will need to send them overseas and so that does mean it could be a few weeks before I can get the article up and running each time, so bear with us, we will do the best we can. In weeks where there are no new items I will dig into my collection (which is all miniature based from the beginnings of the Superfast era (late 1969)) until the present day.

For my first article though I will be right up to date. This is the first Superfast batch of 2020 and consists of 5 castings with a premium level of detailing and 2-part rubber wheels. There are 2 more more batches planned for the year so this series will be 15 models by the end of the year. A small increase on the 11 models that were in the 2019 Superfast series.

Number 1 in the series is the MB1146 ’82 Datsun 280ZX.

It features opening doors as it was originally developed in 2019 for the Opening Parts series.

So this is its second release to date, and the first with a premium look to it. So this means more tampo printing as we as the afore-mentioned 2-part rubber wheels in place of the standard wheel. But this is a throwback model with a nice nod to the Matchbox history and red does sort of work too.

Both the previous castings have seen red in their releases. But only just.

Back in the 1970s, during the Lesney era, a range of vehicles had been created especially for the Japanese range in 1977, coming in unique picture boxes, which carried through 1978. But all the models were literally older castings that the brought back just for Japan, with a few seeing unique designs. So the Lesney team sought out a partner in Japan to create and build some unique castings sporting the Matchbox name and put them in the Japanese range. They set about creating 4 castings with a distinct Japanese flair to them. There was a Savannah RX-7, Galant Eterna, Toyota Celica XX and this Fairlady Z. This model debuted in the number 5 slot in the Japanese range in 1979, known as J-5 to separate it from the regular MB5. However, when Lesney saw some samples back in England they were not happy. They felt the castings were not up to their usual standards. The deal was cancelled and the Japanese exclusive range was folded after 1979. During the 1 year of production in Japan, the model was sold in either red or silver (with red seeing a nice shade variation between light red and a dark almost metallic red).

As part of the deal, Lesney still had control over the castings themselves (don’t you just love legal stuff) and pulled them out from the Japanese factory and set up a new deal with a company in Hong Kong to do something. They made a few small tweaks to the casting to try and improve it but it was not successful.

The casting continued through until 1982 being produced in Hong Kong, although Lesney sent them some tooling for old wheels to give them a better look as well as some other castings which they started selling exclusively in the USA market, as in 1981 they created a split range between USA and the rest of the world (known as ROW). They noticed it was cheaper to produce in Hong Kong to ship to USA than England, so the castings that were exclusively sold in the US market started seeing Hong Kong production. Black with red design was a USA exclusive MB24 for 1981 & 1982 with the change of wheel proving to be a nice touch. As part of the change, this was given a manufacturing number of MB093 too.

The base of the casting itself saw a few tweaks too. The first “made in Japan” base sported J-5 Fairlady Z on the base as well as a Lesney KK moniker (the Japanese sub-contracted company). In 1980 the base was altered in Hong Kong not just for the new factory, but also remove the J-5 and the Lesney KK, changing to Lesney Products & Co Ltd. However, as Fairlady Z was the vehicle’s Japanese name, and in real life it was sold as a Datsun 280ZX in major markets, the base was also later altered to put the international vehicle’s name too. They also changed the Matchbox logo to include the lozenge too at that point.

So while all this was happening, back in England at the R&D Centre (I am English so the spellings may be British English rather than American English), work began on their own versions of the 4 castings. The plan was to work on them through 1981 and add them to the 1982 range. As such they received the first manufacturing numbers beyond the initial MB75 as when they created a split between USA and ROW in 1981, the factory were getting confused over which model they were supposed to be making. So the 1982 manufaxcturing number list began with the ROW range being MB001 to MB075, then the new castings that were going to debut being MB076 to MB078 (the Galant Eterna was just a Dodge Challenger under another name, so they decided to just alter the casting they already had, which oddly is coming up shortly) and then other USA exclusives after. The new Datsun 280ZX 2+2 casting was MB077. But all 3 castings had major issues. The Mazda had a rear license plate that wouldn’t fill, the Toyota Supra had a roof that kept breaking, and this Datsun….

The doors wouldn’t stay in place when open. These 3 preproduction samples all had a Lesney England base and they were hoping they would be out in time for the 1982 range, but by the time they finally fixed the issues, Lesney had gone bust and Universal had stepped in to take over.

So when the MB077 casting finally debuted worldwide as MB24 in 1983, production immediately started in Macau, the Universal factory that they used to produce many Matchbox items for a while.

The casting, as well as a unique MB144 police variant, were produced exclusively for the Japanese market in 1984 running for 4 years. Universal either did not know about the Lesney issues in the late 1970s, or just ignored it.

The casting was also used in the Superfast series and the Laser Wheels off-shoot through the mid-late 1980s too with the Lasers getting a re-colour late in the run too. Of course there was a random red issue that just turned up in China in the 1990s (where did you think the red one shown earlier came from?)

So that’s number 1 in the series done. If you are still awake let’s move on to number 2.

This is a bit of an oddity. It was originally due to debut in the 2nd batch of 2019, but a few issues caused a slight delay and the MB1193 ’74 Dodge Challenger arrives in the number 2 slot.

This one sports a nice opening bonnet (I said I am British) and also a separate roof section to give the appearance of a vinyl roof.

Luckily I am able to show a preproduction sample of the model too. Matchbox put one in the auction at the Leipzig Convention in October and I was the lucky recipient. Apart from a few tweaks to get the bonnet to stay up for production (the prepro doesn’t actually stay up) there is only one other minor change.

Well unless you look at the base, as the prepro is blank. No written details.

At the rear in the middle, the word Dodge is actually cast in to the model. It is painted, but running a finer along there you can feel the bumps of the word “Dodge”. I did wonder if it was just going to be a tampo print, but no it was added for production. So if we see a moving parts release, it will still say Dodge on the back.

However, one other thing I did notice was the rear does still have the 50th Superfast logo print. Obviously the design was signed off the the licensee before the issues causing its delay from the 2nd batch of 2019 models. Legal stuff. Always fun. It was likely easier to just run it as is once the issue was sorted or otherwise they may have had to re-negotiate the sign off and it may have caused further delays. So it has a small throwback to 2019. Although not as big a throwback to this….

The casting has a serious retro vibe as they have created it especially to be a throwback to the classic MB1-C Dodge Challenger. This vehicle debuted in 1976 as MB1 and ran until 1980 in red with a white or off-white roof. Of course the bonnet didn’t open at the time and the interior formed the hood scoops, but everything else about the new vehicle is a giant nod to the past.

The original came with either 5-arch or dot-dash wheels and shades of red could be found too.

Originally chrome, the interior did change to white in 1979 and a final run in 1981 before the model turned blue had already reverted the interior to the blue model’s interior colour.

The blue only ran for 1 year, but still saw nice shades from light to dark blue.

But as mentioned in the Datsun section above, the casting was modified in 1982 replacing the attempted Galant Eterna casting which had been renamed in 1981 to Dodge Challenger. Now sporting side exhausts, and a raised rear, the twin scoops were gone, replaced with a large central scoop. It also spoted the first manufacturing number, MB001.

The casting ran until 1996 in the basic range, and was also a part of the five-packs , with these green and yellow being the 1995 and 1996 Hot Rod 5-pack models.

It did also see a change in 1994, with the metal rear raised base being replaced by a plastic flate base under Tyco ownership.

It gave the model quite a different look.

But I am very happy to see the model revert to the original’s look upon its return to the Matchbox brand.

Number 3 is next.

This is the MB1056 Meredes Benz G63 AMG 6×6.

This is a rather clever build. Restrictions limit basic range models to a certain amount of parts, and being a triple-axled vehicle, it was quite difficult to get it done. So the Matchbox team created a very clever way of building this. If the model is basic, the windows are blacked out and the interior section is not thrown in. If the model has a more premium look to it, the windows can be seen through and the interior is added. Whether the interior is there or not actually has no result to the build. It doesn’t cause any issues to other parts, and simply fills a gap.

Being a premium issue means you can see through and it gets an interior. The debut was actually a toy fair model in bronze for the 2017 Toy Fair back in September 2016. Premium. It has also seen premium examples for the 2017 Leipzig Convention and very sneakily, the Target exclusive Superfast issue in 2019. Sold alongside basics, they managed to get that a premium look.

Therefore basics, like the 2017 cream, 2018 charcoal and 2019 red will sport black windows and no interior piece.

The Jurassic World and Mercedes Benz sets also was classified as basics so saw black windows.

But it’s really nice when we get a premium look for a model and this is really nice in blue.

On to number 4.

The MB1145 ’59 VW Microbus.

I like the look of this with the hippy vibe to it. This is the sort of model that would struggle a little with the more basic look as it gets a lovely split colour design with black upper and white lower. Adding it to the Moving Parts range could be a struggle for that reason.

Hence its second outing is Superfast just like the 2019 debut.

I much prefer the newer wheels for it. They are a huge improvement over the debut. Now this casting does sport opening side doors, which is a throwback to a classic model. But as I mentioned earlier, it is from before my time (it was a the MB34 from 1967 to 1970 but never transitioned to Superfast, so I don’t own it), so what else can I do for this one?

I can show 3 classics from the periods I do collect. Like the 1970 MB23-A VW Camper that had an opening roof section. It was also sent to Hungary in 1987 for production for 1 year, where it was a load of variations.

Or the MB390 from 1999 which saw the same roof style as the new casting.

Or perhaps the MB734 ’70 VW Transporter which arrived in 2008 and used as a toy fair model that year, and was last seen in the Best of series in 2017.

4 different VW Transporters (or whatever you happen to call them in your area) all lined up.

Finally, the number 5 slot.

The MB1020 Volvo V60 Wagon.

After debuting back in 2016, we saw a 2017 release, but nothing in 2018. After a 5-pack offering in later 2019, we saw another for 2020, and the first time as a premium issue.

So there is not too much to show with this one. It’s only ever had 4 issues to date, and there is no throwback issue to talk about.

But it is always cool seeing more wagons. But maybe I should try and do something….

All white! Get it? All right? All white? No? Oh well I tried. This is every Volvo car that Matchbox has ever made. From the 480ES and 760GLE from the Universal era, to the XC90 C30 and P1800S from the Mattel era. White is the only colour they have all been done in. Daft fact (although the XC90 and C30 are a sort of creamy white). If the P1800S ever comes in silver that fact will no longer hold true. But I had to finish off with some daft fact didn’t I.

Well I hope you enjoyed my first Matchbox Monday post. Please let me know if I waffled on too much, or did too many pictures. I think there were quite a few here.

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David Tilley

37 thoughts on “Matchbox Monday – A look at the first 2020 Superfast batch

  1. Great write-up, extensive deep dive, refreshing to see the ‘long read’ format. Thank you! Please keep it up, time permitting. I particularly like the Dodge Challenger, a model I loved as a kid (but sadly long ago lost to irreverent nephews). One question: I too am UK-based, but am inceasingly struggling to find Matchbox in retail shops. Where would I find these in London? Any tips would be appreciated. Cheers. RK

    1. I am glad you liked it. I will try my best, time permitting of course, to try and do as best I can with each post. Glad to hear you didn’t fall asleep reading it. As to the UK, sadly there is only 1 official source. Tesco. They sell singles, and depending on the size of the store, 5-packs too, and the larger stores also 9-packs. With a February reset I am hoping for more products, but we are still in a “wait and see” zone. However, a discount store called One Below did bring in some singles on long card from somewhere and some Poundland stores have shown signs of 2019 Jurassic World models. But they appear random.

  2. the Meredes Benz G63 AMG 6×6….
    having No Interior….
    completely turned me off this model,
    especially since it was so narrow

    1. Growing up in the 1970s, many models didn’t have interiors. Cars were guaranteed, but anything beyond that was hit and miss. So I have never been overly worried about it. I actually preferred it being thinner too as sometimes when a vehicle is artificially fattened to make a model it can be too much. This gives it an impressive feel of being long to me. But that is what I like about us all. We all have different ways of seeing things. If we all felt the same the world would be boring.

    2. The no-interior thing is actually interesting to me…normally I’d be right there with you in the hate for no interiors, but I actually don’t mind it QUITE as much if the window piece is tinted very very dark but not quite solid black. This kind of replicates the dark tinting you see in some real-life luxury vehicles, so on the model it just looks like very dark glass. If it allows Matchbox a work-around for accommodating things like extra axles, this is how I prefer it be done.

  3. Would be cool to see the Galant Lambda make a return. There isn’t any modern options out there currently in small scale. Will we see Mitsubishi make a return in the future?

    1. I hope we do. Mitsubishi is a little underused as a company. Mind you Matchbox has done an L200 triton and the Lancer as a police car. I would love to see them tackle another classic though. My choice is the 1980s Starion.

  4. Great article but to me the Volvo and Mercedes being a $5 MB with some RRs is lame. No opening feature and not have to have customs for me makes them a hard pass.

    Wonder if any of these will make it to the retail pegs as they’re overflowing with the last releases. It seems they made too many thinking they’d move the same units as the HW Car Culture/Premium lines and now they’re clogging pegs. At least in all the Walmarts where I’ve seen them on the East Coast.

  5. Where did you get the V60 superfast?…… As I am UK based….. What is the best and cheap.way to obtain?… .. Are Mattel supplying Uk these now and many more?….. Many thanks.

      1. Thank you Craig. I hope in due cause the superfast line up and more come here for normal retail \outlets. Shame again and again… History and all. My local tesco has just put the same 1st batch of 2020. Same since October 19. Hopefully soon something new?!…. With the above reduced at £2.49!!!😀🎈……..😮🎆

    1. Yes, if you are in the UK Tesco has an exclusive deal with Mattel UK for distribution at the moment. However, they only take the core lines (singles, 5-packs and 9-packs). Hopefully they will make a change for their February reset and add more lines in. It all depends on how well their sales have been so far.

      For me, I source my Matchbox from USA. Wheel Collectors is doing a great job in providing me with what I need.

      1. Thank you Mr tilley, Keep up your great work to keep this brand alive with great reading , info and history alive…..

    2. The G63 6×6 is a disappointing for me. Surprised noone mentioned it before. I’m all for the real riders, and blacked out window doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is its tiny size! Compared with the regular G class in same Jurassic world line. It is so much undersized, especially when you line them up together…

  6. My two complaints: one no more metal chassis/base. Seems we got the tradeoff; gain rubber tires (which, honestly, I’m not a fan of the styles MBX uses) to lose metal chassis. Thus, these don’t even come close to Lesney Edition. Distribution. Walmart is my only source for anything but mainline. They are usually a batch or so behind. Dollar General carries mainlines and Skybusters, but is several batches behind. And I feel my store chooses not to stock stuff–mine carried ONE restock of the first batch of Moving Parts, and that was it.

    I think this is a pretty good looking bunch. But, unless these make their way to a clearance outlet heavily discounted (as did the last couple of MBX premium batches), I’m likely only picking up the VW, Challenger, and Datsun Z.

    1. I know what you mean, I have an affinity for plastic wheels. I suppose it was what I grew up with, and when these 2-part wheels were introduced in the late 1980s, I actually dismissed them after picking up the first batch and missed a lot of premium content. I am only now filling in many MANY gaps from the 1990s. Mattel era is fine, I got those. It’s the Universals and Tycos I now need to get.

      AS to the metal bases, that honestly does not bother me in the slightest. But as I always say, we all see different things we would want. If we all liked things the same, the world would be a boring place.

  7. Thank you for the great and very informative article. It’s always refreshing to learn more about a hobby you enjoy but your article was more detailed and interesting than the usual quick article found on most hw/mbx news sites nowadays. It was also nice to see a viewpoint from outside of the USA as well. Keep up the great work and I look forward to seeing more from you in the future!

  8. I have already found nos. 1, 3 and 5 in local Walmarts. Hoping to find the other two soon. So far they’re all “outside” my “collection” parameters (’emergency vehicles’), but I seem to be collecting them anyway.

    Curious: are the issues each year going to be numbered just for the year of issue….that is, the featured models are ‘officially’ numbered 1 thru 5….so the rest of the 15 this year will be 6-15? Did this happen with 2019’s batches? (Guess I can go look at what I ‘collected’ of the series “last year” (weird saying “last year” for last WEEK?!)) Even though there are only 15 per year, it seems it could be confusing to have a ‘new’ SF box with the same number for each year of production/release but no ‘year’ code indicating which year that ‘number one’ model came from? (I’m overthinking, aren’t I?)

    1. They will be. There are 15 this year, and will just be numbered 1-15. Whatever we have next year will just start again at number 1.

      The 2019 batches were numbered, although we did miss a number out due to the Challenger running late.

  9. Great photos of this new set. That said, the Challenger is absolutely appalling. The original model from the 70s was inaccurate in many ways, but at least it was a quality model. I understand what Mattel was trying to do with this new casting, but it looks really sloppy and cheap.

  10. I’m glad to see someone remembers the Japanese Four. I bought mine from Harold’s Place in Lynn, MA back in 1980. They were in a four-model blister with decals to customize them. I still have all four.

    Now I need to find the white XC90 and 760.

    1. I remember getting that 4-pack specifically. The year was 1990. I had not long passed my driving test and was free to drive. Paul Carr (an ex-Lesney employee) used to have a shop in Chipping Ongar in Essex (UK). It was just a toy car shop, but over half of it was pure Matchbox. My first visit to his store (I went a few times before it closed) I remember seeing that 4-pack pinned to the rear wall. As it was a US release I had never seen it before. Needless to say, it was one of the first things I got from there. Those stickers I think I must have thrown them away. The package was ripped apart once I was home and I guess I literally pulled the 4 models out and chucked the rest.

  11. this was great! i prefer these write-up style posts to youtube videos, as i have to listen to it with sound. but I understand you earn revenue from the videos. I would just like to see more of these write up posts!

    1. Well I know John is working on that as we speak. But for now, we are guaranteed a Matchbox Monday post pretty much on a weekly basis (there may be random occasions I cannot do it, but will cross that bridge if I get to it).

  12. Awesome post. I like the length and the prose. More pics do not hurt.

    That said, I was not a huge fan of the mix. The Volvo is amazing and the Mercedes is okay (but needs to lose the ‘Matchbox’ print on the side). I do not like the opening part (the oversize hinges) on the VW nor the bluish windows. The Z does not have an attractive deco and the wheels design does not work. As for the Challenger, hopefully others appreciate the nostagic proportions and the printing on the trunk more than I do.

    I felt the Superfast were so-so in 2019 too. Hopefully, the mixes improve.

    1. Another who stayed awake. Awesome! Looks like I will be spending more time working on my write-ups. Ha ha! It’s funny how the Dodge Challenger was my favourite of the bunch, yet it appears I may be a minority on that one. I guess things like the Dodge Challenger, and the Blue Shark that was in the previous batch are really for the hardcore Matchbox person.

  13. Wonderful to have another voice on the blog (though I know you’ve contributed in the past too). I had mixed feelings reading through this though, because the models do excite me (to varying extents) but I also know my chances of scoring any of them are slim, if my experience with the previous set is anything to go by. If I can just find the V60 I’ll be happy (and maybe the G65 and 280Z too). I’m not overly impressed by the Challenger, and I still detest the door treatment of the Microbus.

    Keep up the great work, and I look forward to seeing more about the orange brand!

  14. David T., I am a small collector but I must have my Volvos. I had a ’69 P1800S (full size) but I never saw a 1/64 scale model. What year/make/series is that from?

    1. This particular white version of the ’69 Volvo P1800S was part of the 2011 Classic Rides 5-pack. The casting had a very brief life. It debuted in 2010 as MB17 first in red, then changed to blue. It was yellow in 2011 then dropped from the range. 2011 also saw a Lesney Edition model in a very dark green too. Then there were the 2x 2010 promotional models, spectraflame blue for the Diecast Blast and spectraflame brown for the Leipzig Convention.

      Since 2011 we have not seen the casting. I am still keeping my fingers crossed though. With 3 basics, 1 5-pack, 1 Lesney Edition and 2 promos through those 2 years, it did see some decent action at the time, but I am sad to see nothing since. It is a lovely little casting, and I think the white one seemed to garner the most attention at the time (something to do with being “saintly”).

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