It has been quite a few years now, but 2020 sees the return of the Convoy series to the Matchbox portfolio. I would just like to give a big shout out to Wheel Collectors, as the guys there have been instrumental in getting me a set over to the UK to do this post. Thanks guys. I really appreciate it.
Before I get stuck into this batch, I thought I would provide a brief history of the range. It all started back in the 1970s when Lesney launched the twin pack range.
Vehicles towing trailers. A simple premise. But as the decade finished, they saw a need to expand it out slightly.
So in 1980 they launched the long haul trailers into the twin pack series.
They were simply a part of the TP-series but were a little more costly to produce. However, they were proving to be popular so in 1982 the Convoy range was launched.
The first year saw 8 vehicles with 8 different trailer units. Some were re-tooled castings of the earlier Long Haul model units, and some brand new.
Convoy models, trailers and units continued on through the 1980s, 1990s and into the early 2000s before being dropped after 2002. For some reason, the move to Hero City did not include Convoy. But when the new team in El Segundo took over, one of the first things after changing direction into a more realistic one was immediately bring back Convoy.
However, they had hit a snag. The tooling was moving factories, but somewhere along the way it got lost. No trailer unit from before was available (still not). A few truck cabs were still in China, and so Ryu Asada quickly created 2 trailer units, 1 tanker and 1 box truck and they were sent to China for production. After tooling for just about everything had gone to Thailand, Convoys were still being made in China. This lasted until 2008. Later a simple flatbed sporting either 2 cargo containers or 2 pipe containers was added to the mix.
After this 2009 saw the debut of Real Working Rigs, and it was decided to come up with Super Convoys. They were built on a larger scale than regular models as they felt they worked more in line with the RWR models. I don’t have a picture as I only collect miniature size and they were bigger, so outside my collecting remit. They ran until 2011 officially, but some stores were re-ordering the last batch through 2012, so they came up with some new designs for the 60th anniversary in 2013 and for a few years continued selling them, eventually quietly fading out in the mid ’10s.
But now, they are back, back, back!
It appears to be a very handy thing now, but Matchbox are putting models numbers for many things on the J-hook at the top now for items in blister packs. Convoy are no exception, and this is number 1 of 8. Now as far as I am aware, all the 2005-2008 tooling is still somewhere in China. So as part of the relaunch, all trailer units are brand new, created especially for the launch. Later this year we are due to see a couple of re-imaginations of early Convoy trailer units from the 1980s, and I am very much looking forward to that. That will be fun for comparison shots. But for now, we will concentrate on these 4.
Number 1 of 8 is the Skyjacker Suspensions set. We see a brand new casting in the way of the Lonestar Semi Cab (day cab configuration with straight exhaust option and no roof fairing), and as stated a new MBX Box Trailer on the rear.
Built by International, the Lonestar sports the manufacturing number MB1026. This is not because it was in planning stages for a number of years, but because Mattel have had a blank there for a while now so decided to fill it. The number was sidelined for a casting a number of years ago which never got anywhere so they thought something needed to go there. It does happen occasionally.
The trailer unit has the name, plus a few other details as is usual for a base.
As part of the 2020 relaunch, one thing they needed to do (at store requests) was to include a miniature with them. These are however, repeats of designs already in use. But what the team has done is come up with a way of making a subtle change to them for those of use who enjoy finding something unique. Me, personally, I always enjoy looking for a variation, so I had a whale of a time comparing new vs old on each of these.
This was an easy one to spot. The MB720 ’72 Ford Bronco 4×4 was first released in the 2018 basic range, and was repeated as a part of the 2019 Ford Trucks series at Walmart. It makes its third appearance, but this time out the brown wheel rims are gold.
Number 2 of 8 appears to be perhaps the most popular of the quartet so far (from initial buzz).
The Tesla Semi has beaten the real vehicle into production, as it is due to commence later this year in real life, and again is mated to the MBX Box Trailer.
As with the Lonestar, the Tesla Semi has filled in a gap that was going spare. It is MB1110.
Same trailer unit as before.
Paired with this Tesla Semi is a Tesla Model S. This looks a lot like the debut release of MB903 from 2015.
But the new one is significantly darker (shown on the left here with the original on the right). I knew as soon as I saw the model in package, I just thought to myself “that’s darker”. Sure enough, when I put them together it stood out.
Number 3 of 8 is the Dragon Slayer Petrol team up. All Matchbox originals creations here. We see an MBX Cabover with a fuel tanker rear sporting a Dragon Slayer Petrol design with a Badlander as a companion. Nothing may be licensed in this set, but I like it.
The MBX Cabover looks very realistic, and honestly, I can see multiple vehicles it looks like. It has a roof fairing on this vehicle which is nice too. I am impressed with it.
This one is MB1150, and has quite a weight to it. As with the other 2 cabs shown so far, it sports a triple axle layout, but still has 4 other parts to the casting, so I do wonder if these will ever be sold as a single. But hopefully we will see many years of Convoy and many variations of them regardless.
The new trailer unit has been given the name MBX Tanker Trailer, which it sports on the base alongside other usual details.
As stated, included alongside the Convoy is the MB732 Badlander. This vehicle is a repeat of a model going the furthest back. It was originally part of a 2009 Castle Battle playset.
Therefore this model sports the most changes. As seen here with the new release on the left, it is now a much darker red than it was 11 years ago.
It sits on the bottom here in the side view stack with the door design being larger (the crest is the most notable part, but the writing is larger too). Also, the sword over the rear wheel arch is now shorter and sits straight, whereas before it was angled up. I love this stuff.
Finally we see something a bit different. As a regular Convoy trailer unit we have never seen a log transporter before. This is number 4 of 8.
It is also the only release to utilize a model that has been known already.
The MB977 ’13 Ford Cargo has been around since 2015 in the basic range, and is slid across into the Convoy range for 2020. However, keep reading as after I finish this particular 4/8 release, I will make note of the few changes.
The trailer unit is rather unusual. It literally just says Made in Thailand on the base. No other details at all. So I guess it will just be known by what was written on the blister, Logger Bed. However, I am guessing that as time moves on we will see other loads on the rear, so it may require a different name. I will see if I can find out if there is an official Mattel name for it.
Included with the set is the MB916 Dirt Smasher. It is the debut issue of the casting from 2014 that is used, although we only ever saw it 3 times, so not many to choose from. There was a specific reason behind using it though.
The logs are removeable and the Dirt Smasher has an opening front end to scoop up and hold logs for moving.
So in retrospect this is the release with the most play value included in it. Yeah I am a big kid. I was having fun with it.
But the Dirt Smasher has the subtlest of variations on it. The side stripes were black and yellow. They are now black and orange.
I wonder if we will see the same happen with this production run than we did in 2014? During production the standard ringed 8-spoke wheels ran out, and dual-ringed 8-dots were utilized for a short while. I will be keeping an eye out.
But I did mention about changes at the point with the Ford Cargo base shot. So I will try and explain it. The Ford has seen a new interior and base section. From the front you don’t see too much, although the lower grille section is now smooth and no longer has slats across it.
But from the rear you see where most of the changes have taken place. The cog design spare wheel has been changed to the new convoy wheel design and has also moved forward. This is because the trailer hook section has been completely revised. It now has a much larger opening, which I have to admit when you click a trailer into it really clicks in well.
With the base manufacturing number being unaltered (still MB977), I guess this is a permanent change, and the new Western Star that is due to surface later this year in the basic range will also sport the new hook section. But what does this mean?
When we saw the first Long Haul models in 1980 they came with one style of hooking mechanism.
It was a T-section style. When Convoy launched in 1982, they came up with a new design, which was basically a larger hole towards the rear, which you would slide the trailer unit into and then push it forward to click into the smaller slot. But I guess if a model is attached and released too many times the slot would wear and the trailer would start falling off the back. The new design has the large opening at the front, with the trailer pushing back to click in. Therefore it you are rolling the vehicle around even if it does start wearing, the trailer will be kept at the back by momentum with no worry of it falling out again.
This means that the new for 2020 Convoy are incompatible with older vehicles. Just like the Long Haul models were incompatible with the 1982-2008 Convoy series too. So the new Convoys had better be around for a while now, as I hope we get plenty to switch models around for fun.
We also get to see certain castings in their 4th configuration, like the Tanker trailer which has seen 4 different styles throughout the years.
From the early Petrol Tanker from the Long Haul days, morphing into the Convoy Petrol Tanker in 1982, we then saw the Tanker Trailer in 2005 and now MBX Tanker Trailer in 2020.
Also, some may be wondering, I did mention about China having all the stuff from the 2005-2008 era, but the new models on this batch appear to be sporting the same style wheels. But they are actually all new. They look fairly similar at a quick glance but are different when you look closer.
As can be seen here, the old ones have a cog look to the outside of the central area. They are Also slightly larger. The new ones also have more outer grooves running around the edge of the wheels. It is subtle, but this is a brand new wheel type.
So Convoy has come a long way since the first Long Haul units were created 40 years ago.
It’s fun having singles added with them for people like me, although others may not be as fussy about having them. But I hope you enjoyed my little write up. Finally, I was having a little fun.
Skyjacker is joined by the 2019 Jeep issue of the ’18 Jeep Wrangler JL Rubicon 4-door and the ’68 Ford Mustang “Mudstanger” from 2016 as both sport the Skyjacker logo too.
The Tesla Semi has a white Model S as well as the Model X in this shot.
Yeah Dragon Slayer is still looking to slay that dragon here. He has been around since 2009. Maybe adding petrol will help. Dragon? Petrol? Yes? Ha ha!
Finally, this one is a clever little picture. First of all, I am giving a hint as to what I think we could come up with for a second release. How about an INC issue? Maybe pipes instead of logs on the rear too? as I said, I see the trailer base being a conduit for a variety of different hauled items. If we are still utilizing previously issued basics to pair up, the Dirt Smasher came with an INC design. Also, what is that with it? The 2020 batch B issue of the MBX Backhoe? Ooh guess what’s coming next week….
Until then, let me just add a little tidbit of information. The next batch of Convoy will only sport 3 new additions. The final one hit a tiny snag and is not going to be ready in time. It is still coming, but will not appear when batch B hits. So don’t panic when we only see 3 new Convoys next time. It is not a mistake.