This week for Matchbox Monday another dive into my collection. I think this is the oldest dive so far since I started doing these earlier this year. Sadly there is still no new items coming from Wheel Collectors but I choose to find another item to focus on in the meantime.
The year was 1994. Tyco had not long taken over the Matchbox brand after buying the assets from Universal in 1992 when they went bankrupt. It had been too late to change 1993, but they had a field day with the 1994 range, especially the US side of it. The ROW range was slightly more subdued though. Although many vehicles were still extremely well created, the tampo designs on them underwent a complete overhaul with squiggles, scrawls, and bright colours being the norm. But they were children’s toys, and they had a more premium series that was already in the system. World Class. They also had a special licensing deal with a company called White Rose, who were creating smaller run models aimed more towards the collector. Most of the models were racing themed, many of which were using exclusively created castings. But they set up a deal to expand in 1994 by creating a unique set of 24 very realistic looking models in a short run. These were all standard castings from Matchbox, each one in an exclusive livery and packaged in a nice window box. They even had a special catalogue for them too.
So let’s have a look at the models shall we?
Number 1 in the series was the MB004 ’57 Chevy. This was in reality a modified Chevy Bel Air, although the base never made mention of it. Literally, just ’57 Chevy.
It had been around since 1980, and was a continuous part of the US range until 1996. In the ROW countries, it had been dropped after 1986, but returned again in 1990 for another run until 1995. So during 1994 the model was still available in the regular range.
Luckily, it was not one of Tyco’s “OMG we are going to go nuts” tampo changes. It had rolled over unchanged from 1993 in red with a silver side flash and flames (the hood flames were taken off late in 1995). But the Collector’s Choice model did have a little more detailing with front and rear badges, detailed window edging and some headlights. This was a nice nod to prove that it was a little more than a basic range issue.
Number 2 in the set was the MB041 Ambulance. Officially a generic model, it was pretty much a Horton Type 1, based on the Chevy C/K chassis with just enough to tweak it away from requiring a license. But it was a very popular model. First debuting back in 1978, the US range kept it going until 1996. It had been dropped from the ROW range after 1982, although briefly popped back up in 1990.
The rear featured 2 opening plastic doors to see inside. This release was in fluorescent yellow featuring side detailing, roof detailing, and some additional lights tampo printed on the front of the roof section.
The US basic range was still running a design that had been going non-stop since 1984. It was also the design seen in ROW packages in 1990.
It too was seeing a change late in 1995, where the upper print was taken off. It was another idea Tyco had come up with. The 1995 basic range saw many model get some of their tampo deleted off in later production runs for collectors to chase down. The Ambulance only saw a new design for its final year in the US range after a 12 year stint like this.
Number 3 was the MB053 Ford Flareside Pick-up. The Flareside had first debuted in 1982 and ran through the 1980s worldwide, almost. ROW countries dropped it after 1988, the US 1989.
However, 1994 saw a resurgence of the casting. As well as being included in the Collectors Choice series, it returned to the basic range worldwide too running for 4 years in ROW countries, and an additional 5th in the US range.
The 1994 basic wasn’t overly tampoed. It was red with flames across the front and sides. Although sporting over-sized wheels (something the casting had been doing since 1986), the design of the Collectors Choice was much more subdued, and also featured some nice front and rear detailing. It was something they were aiming to do, add more finer detailing around lights, nameplates, window surrounds etc.
The basic range did also feature a chrome base, which also forms the front grille, although originally it was just going to be black, as seen in prepro form.
Number 4 in the range was the MB064 Caterpillar D9 Tractor. Another older casting, this had originally debuted in 1979 and ran until 1997, although the ROW range did take 1984 and 1985 off.
Again, as you can see, this casting did see more attention to details than a basic range model would, with the front grille detailed and certain other parts highlighted too.
Again the basic range counterpart was not wild. The design for 1994 was actually the 1992 model continuing. It carried through 1995 too, and was another of those “delete a tampo” models, with the red design on the front being wiped off later in 1995.
Number 5 in the range was the MB073 Ford Model A. Another casting that had it roots in the 1970s, this was originally launched in 1979. But being a classic vehicle from the 1920s, It didn’t really matter when it launched. It was another of Universal’s modified models, with the rear being raised and large slick wheels added in 1986.
You can see the attention to detail on this one. Running boards and grille painted black. Windows highlighted and rear lights depicted out. Side slate and door handles also saw attention lavished on them.
Now the model had actually been dropped from the basic range after 1993. The ROW range had originally dropped it in 1988, and the US followed suit in 1989, but the US brought it back in 1991 for 3 more more years. The ROW range thought what the hell, and brought it back itself for a final year too in 1993. This was its final basic range look for 1993. Obviously the casting was used elsewhere in other ranges too, and even reverted back to regular rear wheels later on too. I am just busy comparing the Collectors Choice to the basic range. Or otherwise this article would go on way too long.
Number 6 in the set was the MB094 ’62 Chevy Corvette. The first of 3 Corvettes in the set. The casting had first launched exclusively in the US market in 1982, where it ran until 1987. It was then dropped, and only resurfaced in 1994 when the Collectors Choice set emerged. At this time, it also debuted in the ROW basic range. The ROW range dropped it after 2 years, but the US range kept it until 1997.
The design chosen for this set was very nice. Black with a white roof and side flash. Attention to details were all over with lights, badges, grille and window surrounds all depicted. A bit of a contrast to the 1994 basic range issue.
Yeah, now we are starting to see things. Metallic blue, yeah fine. A chrome interior. Funnily quite a few issues had a chrome interior in the past, so that was not out of the realm of normal. But the tampo design was a little unusual. This is where we see what Tyco were doing with some of the basic range models.
I did say there were 3 Corvettes. Number 7 in the set was the second one. The MB097 Chevy Corvette T-roof. This model had debuted in the US range in 1982, and then the ROW range joined in 1983. However, after 1985, the ROW range dropped it, but it saw continued use in the US range until 1989. As with the Ford Model A, the casting then returned to the US range in 1991, although this time ran until 1998. The ROW range decided to join in for the final year too.
Again, a really lovely look to the model, in dark green with loads of highlighted areas. This was in complete contrast to the basic range. Being a US exclusive casting at the time, the US range saw quite a lot of more “out there” designs.
This is what they came up with as a 1994 US exclusive basic range. A design on life support. Or something like that. Now we are really starting to see just how good this Collectors Choice set was. What we often taken for granted on designs nowadays was not always the case. Tyco really came out with some very unflattering designs.
Moving on the number 8 in the set, and NUB 120. It’s actually an official license plate of an old racing version of this car, and when Matchbox first released the MB138 Jaguar XK120 in 1984 as an ROW exclusive casting, the license plate was cast into the model. However, when World Class launched, all models used in it had any raised details like that smoothed out to enable better tampo printing.
It was the first time we had seen the NUB 120 detailing since World Class had launched. Apart from that, it was simple detailing all around highlighting the areas that best required them.
Now the thing is, NUB 120 actually looks more like this. The 1986-1987 ROW exclusive basic range issue in cream with a racing number on the side. But also, that was the last time it had been in the basic range. It had been seen elsewhere but not in the basic range. There was a unique Australian 1997 issue though after this.
But that issue did pop back up briefly in a multipack in the early 1990s, after it had debuted in the World Class series, so you can see the earlier v later casting styles.
Plus they had fixed the doors. Early issues the door lines were so faint you could barely see them once painted. So they deepened the lines to make them stand out more.
Number 9 was the MB154 Lamborghini Countach LP500S. Debuting in 1985, this model ran uninterrupted worldwide until 2000. I think it was a little bit popular. Hence choosing to put it in this set too.
It was silver, with Countach written on the sides, the Lamborghini badge on the front, and detailing for the engine slats and lights. A bit of a contrast to….
This. Well, the ROW basic range for 1994 was actually pretty okay. As I mentioned Tyco went totally nuts on models for the US range, but kept the ROW range a little more subdued. This was a prime example. The ROW range simply kept the look that had been going since 1991, albeit adding the new spiral wheels that had debuted that year. But for the US range. Yeah, it saw a complete transformation. It was, errm, well, next model….
The MB184 Ford LTD Police Car. This was the 10th model out of 24. First debuting in the basic range in 1987, it ran until 1994 in the ROW range, and on until 1999 in the US range. Although weirdly, Germany brought it back in 1999 as an exclusive in a unique colour and it was also seen in 2000 there too.
The model was a very nice blue with a full range of tampo prints across the front, rear, sides and top. It was also a real cool model, as they created 2 window pieces. A tiny red piece for one light, then the main blue piece that drops in after it holding it in place, giving that instant dual light look. It was a really nice change from the basic range.
Which doesn’t look too bad. Except you realize that it was still the debut look. It debuted in 1987 like this and it lasted unchanged in the ROW range as it only changed for 1995. And at that point, it was a US exclusive. Although there was one tiny tweak.
If you look carefully, the police badges had a white background. Until 1992 it was a silver background, as they just took the silver section away for 1993. On the right was the 1995 issue. After dropping it from the ROW range, they just changed black to blue for the next year.
Number 11 in the set was the MB187 Ford Bronco II. I still remember when I first got my set of 24 in 1994 (I ordered them and they were sent to me at work), this was the star of the set for me. I absolutely loved it. Still do.
I just loved the metallic green with tan detailing and Bronco written across the window. A nice simple design, yet just stunning as far as I was concerned.
The model had debuted in the basic range in 1987, where it would run until 1999 in the US range, with the ROW range almost getting there but spluttering a bit at the end. It stopped after 1996, but popped back in 1998. Its 1994 design was actually the last year of a 3-year stint in blue with white mud splashes and Bronco 4×4 tampo design. It was unusual in that you could find the Bronco print on the top either on the hood or on the window.
Next up was the next manufacturing number up. The MB188 GMC Wrecker. This is one of 2 castings from this set that is still in current use by Mattel, albeit with small alterations (in this case, the rear hook is now fixed, rather than an attached piece to the boom). First debuting in 1997, it run worldwide until 1999 before 2000 saw it as a US exclusive. After that it became a little more sporadic, with more basic range uses in 2006 (worldwide), 2008 (US and LAAM only), 2010 (worldwide) and 2011 (US and LAAM only). It was last seen in a 2019 9-pack. This model just keeps on towing.
Sporting a Ron’s Towing design and a full set of tampo prints, including the roof, this was another standout piece from the set. I don’t know who the Ron was in this case, but it is my father’s name, so I think of him whenever I see it.
As I mentioned it was in the worldwide basic range. It was still in its debut look too. Just as the Ford LTD Police I mentioned earlier, this had not changed at all since debuting in 1987. Although this was the final year of Frank’s Getty. Mind you I say not changed at all, it had tweaked quite a lot.
It was at the end of its 8-year run, but over the years the look and feel of the model did change. When first launched it sported a metal base, but Universal went through a cost-reduction across most of the range at the end of the 1980s, changing this to plastic. The 2-colour striping (orange and red) lost the orange part later. Plus the telephone number on the side was removed too. These all happened at different points meaning there was quite a bit to find for the variation hunter.
Moving in to the second half now with the MB228 Grand Prix Racing Car. This was never actually in the basic range. Like this.
The casting was showcasing the Matchbox look of the time with the yellow to orange fade, the “Get in the Fast Lane” tag line, and the generic model that would be placed on blisters of the era. But as I said, this casting was never in the basic range.
This one was. It was identical, except the rear spoiler was different (known as large rear spoiler compared to small rear spoiler obviously). It was the earlier MB203 casting and they simply tweaked it a little in 1992 for an Indy set. The MB203 though had been around since 1988 worldwide, and continued as a basic range issue until 1995 in the US range, and on to 1997 in the ROW range. The livery was based on Nigel Mansell’s 1989 Ferrari look and had been running since the 1990 range. However, over the years it kept getting small tweaks which by 1994 had arrived at its final configuration. For fun let’s go through them.
When it first appeared in 1990 the Agip logo was yellow and white, and N. Mansell actually appeared inside the Marlboro logo on the side. In 1992 N. Mansell disappeared, in 1993 the Agip logo became all white, and by 1994 the Marlboro logo itself had disappeared from the side.
The casting itself was still undergoing tweaks and after the Collectors Choice model it then had the front wing thinned out too, becoming MB247. The Collectors Choice set had been the swansong for MB228, although MB203 was still going strong.
The 14th model in the series was the 3rd Corvette. Yes, a series of 24, and 1/8th were Corvettes. Somebody must have liked Corvettes when they were deciding what to include.
The MB204 ’87 Corvette Convertible had first arrived in 1988 as an offshoot/replacement of the MB123 ’83/84 Targa top version. Almost completely consigned to the US range, there was just a brief ROW issue in 1990, but that was it. The Collectors Choice was black with all the regular detailing.
Compared to the basic range black issue which was errm, that. You could really see the difference between aiming at collectors or kids as this one actually started off with the same premise. A black car. But a fluorescent yellow interior, with fluorescent yellow and pink squiggles was not exactly a flattering look for the model. However, it ran for 2 years like that.
Number 15 in the set was the MB213 1921 Ford Model T Van. It celebrates its 100th birthday next year. The oldest casting that Matchbox has assigned a manufacturing number to I believe.
The livery for this was a traditional looking design apart from the Matchbox logo itself which was at the time the current design. You may think it is still the current design. Check new stuff. Where are the quotation marks?
Another casting that had just been dropped from the basic range. It was sold worldwide from 1990 until 1993, and after 3 years in a Bird’s Custard design, its final year saw it in blue with a classic Goodyear logo on the side.
We hit number 16 in the set now. The MB221 Chevy Lumina Stock Car. The casting had first arrived in 1990 where it was sold worldwide until 1993, and for 1994 saw 1 year extension for the US market.
The model came with a Performance 12 tampo design on a purple background, which may look rather familiar.
Well that is because it was the same design as the basic range issue. After 1992 the model was turned into red with the same Performance 12 design as appeared on the Collectors Choice model. It hadn’t been “Tyco-fied”. However, being a slightly more premium affair, the purple one did receive additional tampo with the front detailed and the Performance 12 on the rear too.
As mentioned with the GMC, there are 2 castings that are still going. This is the other. The MB222 Highway Maintenance Truck. First arriving in 1990, it ran uninterrupted until 2000 in the US range (it took 1999 off in the ROW range), at which time it became a little sporadic. It appeared in 2003, 2009, 2012 and 2013 before being modified into MB954. This was merely turning the separate plow section on the front that would pivot into a part of the base section. It then carried on in 2014, 2015 and 2017. Of course there was also MB652, which was simply the original without a plow at all, which was seen in 2007 and 2008 too.
This particular issue was orange with grey parts, and enhanced detailing over models that had been seen in the basic range at the time. The roof and front grille were detailed. I think that was the only time they ever were.
The basic range was actually another that was still carrying on from before. It debuted in pure yellow in 1990, but in 1992 the dump and plow were changed to red, but the tampo design was the same. It didn’t change until 1995.
Number 18 in the range was the MB005 Jeep 4×4. You may not have noticed, but until now all the MAN numbers had been in order (except the Grand Prix Racing Car, which had it been the original casting would have slotted in order too). This is the first time in reality that the MAN numbers went out of sync. It’s as if they were going to do 18 then decided to throw in another 6 on top at the last minute.
The Jeep had been around since 1982, although only the US range was seeing it as a permanent resident. It lasted there until 1997, but the ROW range dropped it after a 2 year run in 1983, then brought it back in 1990 for another 2 year run. This was the first time that is saw a full tampo treatment though, all highly decorated on a blue model.
The basic range version was a red one with an eagle on the hood. It had actually been going since 1984 like that, meaning an 11 year run unchanged. It was actually based on the debut which was golden tan with the eagle. However, the 1994 issue was a LHD. When the casting first appeared, the steering wheel was on the right. But after the ROW range dropped it for good, they decided to flip the wheel to the other side. In 1993 they swapped over. Of course it had also seen a cost reduction from metal to plastic base too at the end of the 1980s. It finally went with a weird new design for 1995.
The MB134 Fire Engine was next up in the number 19 slot. Although it basically is, they never mentioned that it was Oshkosh. The L1838 was used from the mid 1970s mainly as ladder trucks and when Matchbox created a model for 1984 they tweaked it just enough to sidestep the license. It ran until 2000 worldwide, before the US saw an additional design for 2001. Then we saw a final basic range issue again worldwide in 2003. It was last used as a Superfast issue in 2006.
It came in a simple design, with additional front detailing, and for the first time (but definitely not last) additional writing on the ladder.
This was in contrast to the basic range issue which had been rolling along since 1992. It ran in fluorescent orange until 1995, in a matching design to a few other fire units in the range. An early example of a themed design. Even during the Universal era, they liked getting a few themed designs in, and in particular emergency vehicles quite often saw some shared liveries.
Number 20 in the Collectors Choice series was the MB157 School Bus. Again, just like the Fire Engine, this was basically an International. The S-series was produced between 1979 and 2004 and when Matchbox created model, they somehow managed to sidestep that license too. They were good at doing that at the time.
The casting ran from 1985 until 2000 in the US basic range. It then popped back up for a final issue in 2002 before a newer School Bus casting was swapped in. But until now, all basics had been traditional yellow. This one came in a Mt Laurel Pre-School livery but was rather unusual as it didn’t feature any additional enhanced tampos. But by then the basic range had almost dropped them.
You see the basic range issue was still the same debut design from 1985. It did not get a new livery until 1996 and School District 2 was 10 years into its 11 year run. It also happened to be the last year in the ROW range apart from a brief re-appearance in 1998.
But although the casting still had the same side design, the front and rear was slowly fading away. That was how it looked until 1992. For 1993 the red in the tampo was taken off. For its final year all front tampo was removed, including the chrome grille effect. But why 2 of the same on the left? Well….
The casting saw an alteration. When it debuted in 1985, the casting had a split window section for the rear door. But in 1986, that lower window was removed and black square took its place. Then obviously, as above, 1993 no red, 1995 blank.
Number 21 in the series was the MB164 Chevy Camaro IROC-Z 28. That is how the baseplate listed the model as. Tampos show that it is Z-28 with the hyphen there, but with the IROC (International Race of Champions) added too, they just decided on 1 hyphen. It was the first Camaro that Matchbox ever made. It debuted in 1986, but stopped being a part of the ROW range in 1990. However, it also stopped US range runs too after 1993, so was no longer part of the range.
This release therefore was after any basic range model, with the opening hood and fully detailed design on a purple model. Definitely the most detail the casting ever saw.
The basic range (which was US only by that time) had just come off a 2-year stint in black with orange and white tampo. Although original plans had it as pink and white tampo. It was changed last minute. It was, and still is, one of my favourite castings of the Universal era, but sadly Tyco didn’t want a lot to do with it. The Collectors Choice version proved to be the last one ever. Of course, the casting did see a modification during the Mattel era into a police car for a few D.A.R.E. sets, but as a civilian model it was no more. It might have had something to do with 1994 seeing the next generation Camaro debut, but I still prefer this one.
Number 22 in the range, and this is the first of 2 Ferraris. Yes, we are almost done and yet just getting started on Ferraris. I still miss having Ferrari castings in the range. This is the MB172 Testarossa. Or the red head as I call it. Testarossa is Italian for red head, so I often use to say there’s the Ferrari red head. It has been in the basic range since 1986, where it would run until 1995. Although Germany saw an exclusive later in 1999 and the US one more exclusive in 2000.
For the Collectors Choice set, the model was metallic blue with full detailing. It was a nice alternative to what was in the basic range.
So this was another of the models that was being split up. The ROW range ran from 1986 until 1995 unchanged. Yes the model had minor alterations over the years, as the logo on the front used to have an Italian flag across the top of it, and the wheels turned into the gold spirals in 1994, which then turned chrome in 1995. So as an ROW collector it was nice seeing a non-red one. But as a US collector, it was a case of what the…!For the US range 1994 saw it turn fluorescent yellow with black and pink on it. I just don’t know what they were thinking. Although it sort of matched the 1994 release of the ’87 Corvette basic shown earlier. Mind you, originally it was planned to look like this….
That was the design as shown in the 1994 US catalogue, but then they swapped it out last minute. It ran until 1995 in fluorescent yellow, although with some leftover stocks (I wonder why) they added it in as a temporary MB78 in early 1996 to get rid of them. Even though at the time the range only went to 75 models.
I am a bit of a Porsche fan, so this was my favourite model of the set. Although as mentioned, not my favourite look (that Bronco). The MB191 Porsche 944 Turbo had been around since 1988, and 1994 was proving to be its final year of use (except when it was brought back in 1997 for 2 years as a Premiere).
I always thought the wellow with detailed everything was a very nice look. Expecially as the basic range had only a slight differentce between how it started to how it finished.
From 1988 until 1991 it was red, before turning green for 1992 and running until 1994. The tampo design was unchanged. Still the original design from when it debuted. It wasn’t bad, but I was looking for something different, and that yellow really stood out to me as a really nice look.
Finally, the other Ferrari. Taking the final spot in the series was the MB207 Ferrari F40. You know I mentioned the first 18 being in MAN number order (with the exception of the Grand Prix Racing Car which had it been the original casting, not the modified one, would have fitted in too). When they went and started again for the final 6, they also were just in MAN order. This is why I am sure that it was going to be 18, but then they decided to up it to 24. I do not know if that was the case, it is just my assumption. The numbers all being in order for 18, then again for the last 6, just leads me to believe that they were tagged on late in the process.
The F40 for the Collectors Choice series was metallic white with full detailing again. It was actually pretty similar to the tampo for basic range issues up to that point, with a few additional details added too. But this was 1994, and Tyco were going absolutely nuts. I am almost afraid to show this next picture.
As with the Testarossa, the F40 for the ROW range was continuing on from how it looked from its debut in 1989. But the poor US range was given this. Orange with black blotches and a solid yellow window piece. It still had an interior. You just couldn’t see it. Honestly, I almost cry when I look at that model. Such a beautiful casting, and yet such a hideous product. I always say Matchbox ebbs and flows through good times and bad times, and Tyco was one of the lower ebbs. Especially for those in the US range areas. I can see why the Collectors Choice series was put out there. You could buy an orange blob, or a lovely metallic white highly detailed model.
So there we are. A little run down on the 1994 Collectors Choice set. Now anybody who read my report last week may be wondering about my line at the end. I mentioned how it was something smaller from bigger.
I still remember getting my set in 1994. The catalogue came with it and I went through it, and there at the back was a nice little line…. “Collect all 24. Look for future series coming out soon”. But there was no future series. I was very much looking forward to getting more of these. I loved them. I was a huge fan. But sadly, this series was the only one. Who knows how many they were thinking of making. White Rose was still dealing with Matchbox until Mattel took over, so there was time for more. They just never materialized.
I hope people enjoyed my delve into 1994. Who knows what I will come up with next time. Until then….