Well you probably know the drill. Sadly still nothing new from Wheel Collectors, so this week’s deep dive looks at all the times the Matchbox 5-packs have hooked up. With social distancing being a bit of a thing now, I thought well it only applies to humans. So it’s time for the Matchbox collection to get these pairings together for some fun.
Now 5-packs themselves weren’t exactly a modern thing. Lesney created a number of gift sets and multi-pack sets during their time, with the one that really sticks out being the MP-1 set. First appearing in 1979, they often featured some rare and unusual items. Usually they were models from the basic range, but with some Japanese exclusive stuff popping in, and various mis-matched models appearing too, they were a lot of fun. During the Universal era, some themed 5-packs appeared too, but they were just duplicates of models from the basic range. It wasn’t until Tyco took over that 5-packs were officially launched with exclusive designs unique to the packs, all themed together in some way. But at first, there was not a single trailer unit to be found. Twin packs were phased out when they took over, but trailer units were still being found in some multi-model sets until 1996, but not in the newly launched 5-packs.
That changed in 1997, just as Mattel were taking over the company. Now 1997 would have already been sorted so was still a Tyco offering as such, but after the launch in 1993 it was their final year that brought us some trailer units in 5-packs. The Land, Sea and Air 5-pack arrived with not one, but 2 trailer units. The first was the MB793 Inflatable on Trailer. First arriving in 1984 as one of only a few castings made completely of plastic it was in red with a Red Valley Camp design, and was logically designed to hook up with the MB180 Land Rover 90 in matching look.
They made for a great pairing and I was always a fan of this little group.
Not so much the other pairing. But first a quick side-bar. When Mattel reached some of the older twin pack numbers on the MAN system they forgot and came up with new models in those slots. When the system started after the confusion of the 1981 split, they started a new system for 1982 where the ROW range were given the first 75, alternate models for the US range the next set of numbers (apart from 3 due to arrive but not getting released until 1983) and then every new casting from that point on simply had the next number assigned. But twin packs were still in use, and Lesney were using models that were not from the basic range in them too. So they gave them a far off number. Most cases were simply their old number from when they were in the range with a 7 in front. Or 7, 0 if it was originally a single digit number. A couple had 8 instead. New twin pack issues created after the split were just assigned random numbers with a 7 in front too. Now these stood until 2007 when numbers finally caught up. That first year, any twin pack issue with a number between MB702 and MB725 was over-written with a Mattel issued casting. It was pointed out, and for 2008 all remaining “twin pack” model numbers were skipped.
So this was originally MB705. Seafire. That number is now assigned to the Honda Ridgeline. It first arrived in 1987 in a slightly altered state to the earlier MB5 from the 1970s. The man in the boat was gone, and it obviously came on a trailer. It was designed to be hitched up to the rear of the MB230 Isuzu Amigo as both sported the same white with blue splash design which featured some orange shadow effects.
In 1998 a number of models simply came in new colours in the basic range as Mattel were still getting to grips with their new acquisition. This also applied to 5-packs, and the Beach Fun 5-pack saw the Isuzu/Seafire combo return except in a new alternate blue with green splash featuring white highlights.
But just like in 1997, the set contained 2 trailers. With the 5th model being a red Mustang with no tow hook, the untampoed MB793 Inflatable on Trailer would obviously be paired with the MB156 Ford Escort XR3i Cabriolet. This casting had not been seen since the twin packs were phased out in 1993 but popped back up for this one final showing in white with an Ocean Explorer design on the sides. This also proved to be the swansong for the Inflatable as after this pack finished the model was deflated. Awful pun, but I had to.
The MB180 Land Rover 90 was not forgotten though. It would appear in a 5-pack later that year. The name of which was put on the side of the model; Mountain Trails.
This time is was paired up with the MB031 Caravan in what would be its only time in a 5-pack. It had one more basic range outing after though before being retired. The funny thing is, it said Caravan 2000 on the side. It never got that far. Retired after 1999. The lower edge featured the same design as the Land Rover which I thought looked really good.
But that also wasn’t it. Mountain Trails also had 2 trailer units in it. With the Land Rover and Caravan tied up, and the 4×4 Jeep not having a tow hook, the obvious choice was to match these 2 up.
The MB273 [blank] and MB791 Motorcycle Trailer. I often call the MB273 casting [blank] as officially it has no name. Depending on the market it was being sold in, the model would be either called a Vauxhall Frontera, Isuzu Rodeo or Opel Frontera, and that particular name would be tampo printed on to the base. For reference purposes, as the first one that debuted was in USA in the basic range, the model is informally known as the Isuzu Rodeo. However, this 5-pack also has the same variation. If you picked up the Mountain Trails 5-pack in a US market, it would have Isuzu Rodeo tampo printed on the base. If you picked up it up in ROW market, it would have Vauxhall Frontera on the base. Mine has the Frontera base, as I got mine in Woolworth in the UK at the time. The other model would be the swansong for the classic Lesney era Motorcycle Trailer. When first launched in 1980, the casting was never a part of the basic range and it simply was known by its twin pack number, TP-21. The base originally had TP-14 detailed into it as it was going to take over the TP-14 slot, but was changed last minute. Rather than alter the number they just blanked it out. It was only when twin-pack production moved to Macau in 1985 that it was finally assigned a random number. With twin pack trailers being in the 700s they just gave it 791, clearly out of the way of the first 75 just in case an older casting came back. It hadn’t been since 1991, so was quite a surprise. But that proved to be it, as it has never been seen again.
This moves us onto 1999. First up for trailer units was Dude Ranch. I never quite understood why they called the pack Dude Ranch when the models had Black Star Ranch on them.
Included with 3 other random models was the brand new MB369 ’98 Jeep Wrangler casting that had only just arrived in the basic range too. This was paired with the MB743 Pony Trailer. That casting had been around since 1968 and has been through various changes, but was still going. It was the first time it had been seen since 1994 when the twin packs were phased out. It was also the first minor change it received. The horses inside were the ones that were being used in the Bedford Horsebox. Until then, the Pony Trailer horses had always been much larger. I always loved the matching tan and mud combination for these 2. That was it for 1999.
2000 rolled along and they did the same again. Except this time with the trailer unit. Canyon Base featured the launch of the MB447 Pop Up Camper. It just arrived before its debut in the basic range. It was being towed by the MB406 Land Rover Freelander which wasn’t exactly much older, as it had only debuted itself in 1999.
Again, these came in a matching olive paint scheme and I loved the fact that the roof section in the camper would lift and click into place exposing the sleeping dog inside. It was a really cool new casting. It was also nice seeing brand new items in 5-packs. Usually they tend to arrive in the basic range first, then following years pop up in 5-packs.
Later that year the MB373 Watercraft with trailer casting that had debuted in 1999’s basic range saw its first 5-pack outing. With a plane, a boat and a truck being the other items in the Ocean Dock 5-pack, it fell on the MB398 Chevy Silverado to be its front end.
Unlike the Canyon Base set earlier, these didn’t sport a matching colour scheme. But as the only 2 compatible items in the pack they were the pairing.
2001 came along and gave us something a little different. The S.O.S. 5-pack, which in some markets was known as Survival, gave us a choice of models. The MB422 White Water Raft had first arrived on the scene in 1999 and this was its debut actually as a trailer in a 5-pack after a few basic range issues. But we had 2 models with a tow hook, and both featured the S.O.S. design, and were both in different colours to the trailer. So it was dealers choice.
Do we go with the MB230 Isuzu Amigo or the MB149 Mercedes-Benz 280GE G-Wagon? Both worked just as well.
Later in the year we saw the Wings ‘n Water 5-pack. This saw the return of the MB373 Watercraft with trailer, this time married to the MB363 ’62 VW Beetle.
Unlike the 2000 Ocean Dock set, all 5 models saw a rather similar fishy design down their sides. Each one had a different water creature. Mostly fish, but a cephalopod in the case of the watercraft as it has an octopus on the side.
2002 started straight away with a trailer. The Beach Buggies pack saw the return of the MB422 White Water Raft which this time was being hooked up to the MB149 Mercedes-Benz 280GE G-Wagon which also made its second appearance in the same amount of years too.
But then we had a bit of an unusual one. Towards the end of the year, Weekend Heroes appeared. Included were 2 trailer units, but only one other vehicle had a tow hook. The MB363 ’62 VW Beetle. We had an MB426 Mercedes-Benz E430 Wagon and MB380 VW Transporter included too. So in this case it appears that the Beetle has a choice of which activity he would be participating in at the weekend. Does he go on the water with the MB373 Watercraft with trailer?
Or perhaps out in to the wilderness with the MB447 Pop-up Camper?
So this brought us on to 2003 and one final issue. Beach Buggies re-appeared at the beginning of 2003 and was simply the same 2002 pack but in alternate colours. A few packs during the year were done like that as they were transitioning into the short-lived Hero City era.
Of course that did mean that 2004 was punctuated with various odd-ball vehicles in the way of animals on wheels, or vehicles with hats, or in the shape of inanimate objects. This caused a huge drop in sales, and the Mt Laurel design facility in New Jersey was closed, and the Matchbox brand was brought in-house to El Segundo CA.
Now the new team set about trying to rectify the Matchbox situation and improve sales, and one of the first things they did was re-release twin packs. Now branded as Hitch ‘n Haul, they came with a few accessories in each pack which enabled them to be sold at a different price point, and so they felt it was unnecessary to also include trailer units in 5-packs. So for the rest of the 2000s we saw no trailer units in any 5-pack. But in 2010 a decision was made to stop selling Hitch ‘n Haul. Mind you stores didn’t want that and kept ordering them for a number of years. In 2012 they even refreshed some of the designs on the models in the Hitch ‘n Haul sets too.
But with Hitch ‘n Haul officially finished they decided to bring back trailer units for 5-packs. They first appeared in 2011. The first one was in the third pack of the year; Farm. The trailer in this pack was officially the debut of MB829. The Farm Trailer had originally debuted in 2008 as part of the Bull Ride Hitch ‘n Haul pack, but was at that time MB717. There was a small modification to the stakes section of the casting which gave it a new MAN number for this issue. It was mated to the MB703 Tractor, which meant it was the same pairing as the Bull Ride HnH was.
The funny thing was though, the MAN number was changed due to the alteration so late in the game that the initial design for the model had 717 included as part of the tampo design.
Later in the year we saw another pairing that was known from the Hitch ‘n Haul days. The MB705 (or should I say MB705b?) Honda Ridgeline and MB747 Travel Trailer. Originally seen together in the 2008 Vacation Day HnH, this pairing came back for the Camping Adventure 5-pack in 2011. Admittedly, they were not exactly matching, but the Ridgeline was the only casting from the pack with a tow hook so was the only choice to pair with it.
But then in real life, how often do you see a vehicle towing a caravan and both matching up. The MB747 was the second incarnation of the Travel Trailer as it had been swapped from an earlier MB718 almost immediately after being introduced back in 2007 (body and base components were swapped metal/plastic wise). The Ridgeline was still on its first configuration.
2012 saw a lovely pairing in the way of the MB486 Jeep Wrangler with luggage matched to the MB422 White Water Raft. One of my favourite match-ups of the whole series I just loved this bright greeny yellow pairing.
And again we saw the pairing of the MB705 Honda Ridgeline and MB747 Travel Trailer later in the year for the Outdoor Sights 5-pack.
For 2013 however, the Travel Trailer found a new partner. For the Outdoor 5-pack it was being towed by the MB436 Chevy Suburban. But the Travel Trailer was no longer MB747. It had been reworked on the inside with rivets being put through in a different way to enable an easier build, and as such it was granted a new number, MB868. I always thought this one was a little funny, as the Suburban was the only vehicle with a tow hook so was the only choice, but had a Forest Ranger side design. It got me thinking, do forest rangers take their work vehicles on vacation with them? It was the only 5-pack that year with a trailer piece.
For 2014 though, we were back at 2 packs with trailers. The MB168 Jeep Cherokee civilian vehicle (no roof light) saw its final use (unless it comes back, the Police version still continues) in the Sea Rescue 5-pack that year after first arriving in 1986 towing the MB422 White Water Raft. But this was a fun pack. Usually the Jeep sported cog wheels.
But there was a run where they had been swapped for large 6-spokes instead.
Oh look, the Honda Ridgeline/Travel Trailer combo appeared again. Except as mentioned the Travel Trailer is the MB868 version matched with MB705, so technically, if we went by MAN numbers, this is the first time this pair were matched up. They were a part of the Outdoor Sights 5-pack at the end of 2014. Funnily enough, this is the last we have seen of either MAN number. The Honda was altered after this release, but the Travel Trailer is AWOL. Hopefully it will return, or we get another caravan casting to replace it.
After that things went very quiet. Being the last pack of 2014, the Outdoor Sights pack was still included in assortments until almost the middle of 2015. But we never saw another trailer until the first pack of 2017. However, there was a small problem. Instead of the Tractor, the Construction pack sported the MB1010 Dirtstroyer towing the MB829 Farm Trailer. The trailer unit itself looked very similar to the 2011 one, being red and having a mud splash on the side, but instead of 717 on the side, it now had Trevino Farms, matching it up to the Dirtstroyer. But that Dirtstroyer had a very thick tow hook. So thick it couldn’t actually slot into the eye of the trailer.
So a small adjustment was made as a running change to the trailer unit. The lower lip under the eye was removed allowing the Dirtstroyer to slot straight in.
And the Honda Ridgeline was back. Except now it was linked to the MB422 White Water Raft for the first time. But as I said, MB705 was retired after its 2014 showing.
The casting underwent a few revisions during its downtime, of which the easiest change to see was with the rear bed. As is the case with a lot of models, changes have been made to ensure that the body section is being riveted to the base. It was causing a lot of strain on interior sections and was not so easy to rivet. So many models have been altered over recent years to facilitate a quicker production time. This was one of the last ones to be given a new MAN number for it. MB705 no longer exists. Even the earlier Seafire is no longer at the factory. The Ridgeline is now MB1071. But after this it was decided that if a model was to be completely over-ridden by the new altered casting, then the altered casting would simply over-ride its MAN number too. If a model does get given a new number now, this is because it has been modified, but the original still exists.
But that still wasn’t it for 2017. After missing 2 years, they made up for it by having 3 different 5-packs in 2017 have a trailer. And this was not just any trailer. This, was MB743. That casting that had first arrived back in 1968 came back. However, this time it had been heavily modified. The rear was now sealed up and the body was now plastic instead of metal. It also sported an interior now, which it never used to, and the interior formed the wheel arches and the front area for the towing eye. Originally the body was the wheel arches, and the base stretched forward to the towing eye. Also, for fun, the Matchbox team threw us a little curveball with the interior. You have to look through the top window to see it but some interiors have a saddle visible on the floor, others have bales of hay. I could show you a photo but I can’t get a good enough shot of it. So, instead….
During production the disk wheels ran out and 6-spokes were swapped in for a small run. I almost got through that without mentioning that this was all in a police theme because the pack was called Police, but it was being towed by the MB919 Acre Maker. Of course, there is a possibility that rural police forces, especially those that need horses, could utilize tractors as police vehicles. But that casting choice was definitely out of left field.
A quick shot of how the Pony Trailer had evolved through the 5-packs with the 1999 and 2017 side by side. The horses were actually deleted from inclusion after 2002 before they even thought of a revamped casting. It’s one of the biggest modifications we have seen of a casting, but it is still the same one.
Which leads us to 2018 and the Ranger Rescue 5-pack. The MB743 Pony Trailer was in use again, this time sporting the long-running National Parks theme. However, it was pointed out that the only model in the 5-pack that sported a tow hook was the MB129 Chevy Blazer 4×4. Now it hooks up and rolls perfectly okay. But to do it, the Pony Trailer does get rather lifted. It’s only on its rear axles, and had it been real life and horses were inside, they would be squashed against the rear.
Of course the trailer unit itself does point down at the front when not being hooked up. So unhooked the horses are going to slide towards the front again.
But as I said, National Parks is a long running theme, and there are other choices for models that were not in the 5-pack to hook up, like the MB728 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U300.
Or the MB574 Jeep Cherokee Police. Mind you, even that one is tilting the trailer back a little.
Talking of the MB574 Jeep Cherokee Police, it saw a later use in the year as part of the Texas Rangers 5-pack, which it was being used to pull a recent trailer casting, the MB1045 Speed Trapper. After debuting in the 2017 basic range, the trailer saw its first multipack usage in 2018 in this set.
It was another trailer unit that saw a small run where 6-spoke wheels replaced the usually found disk wheels.
And this brings us to the last trailer unit seen so far in a 5-pack. 2019 and MBX Wild arrived sporting the latest trailer casting created, the MB1076 Trailer Trawler in iridescent white with a matching MB720 Ford Bronco 4×4 to tow it. They had a matching white, with brown wheel arches and golden tops.
They sported a new Camp Arrow Flint design on them with the trailer having a Campy AF license plate. That was absolutely hilarious. It looks like this is the beginning of a new theme that has play value, as in 2020 a set of 9-pack exclusives also feature the Camp Arrow Flint design.
The MB1035 ’59 Chevy Brockwood Wagon in either silver or olive appeared and due to having roof pieces that are interchangeable adds more play value to the series as well. Now all we need is the MB1184 Land Rover Gen II Safari to see the same design with its own roof accessories and we could have a whale of a time mixing and matching Arrow Flint parts.
But hey if we are talking mixing and matching, lets have a little fun with a few random match-ups from the models seen today. The Honda Ridgeline looks good pulling a motorcycle trailer.
The Amigo is doubling up as a police unit to take the horses off.
The Jeep Wrangler takes a break from rescuing people from the surf to take a camping trip.
And the Escort has found a new way to safely be out in the waters to attend to the dolphins. I could spend all day doing all these, but I need to finish at some point.
So that’s it for another week. I hope you enjoyed checking out the history of Matchbox and the 5-pack 2-packs. I am looking forward to seeing future trailer units and still would love to see regular twin-pack return, even if they are the recent Hitch ‘n Haul variety with additional items to slot them in at a different price point.
Next week I will not be showcasing anything new as nothing is coming over as yet, so it will be another dive into the collection. Until then, stay safe.