Collection Update: The Matchbox MB688 ’61 Jaguar E-type

The Jaguar E-type. Or as it is sometimes known in North America, the XK-E. First released on March 15, 1961, it was described at the time as “the most beautiful car ever made”. Who made that comment? Enzo Ferrari. Even now, the E-type is still seen in the upper echelons of most iconic and beautiful cars.

Matchbox originally made an E-type and sold it as MB32 between 1962 and 1967 in dark metallic red. But that was all we saw until 2006.

(Matchbox Jaguar E-type on ebay)

Then, as a part of the direction the team at El Segundo were taking the range in, we saw a brand new casting, built from scratch, of the E-type. It debuted in the basic range as MB4 in red. Daft fact, the early production runs had the base detailing marking this as a Jaguar E-Type. Officially, the “t” is not capitalized, and the base had this updated later on during production of the red model. But it wasn’t quite the debut.

That was actually the 2006 West/East promotional version in British Racing Green. At the time there were 2 Matchbox Conventions in USA. The Gathering was the “West” and on the “East” was the Matchbox USA event. That year they shared a promotional model which was the brand new casting. But it actually beat the basic range version out.

Release number 3: 2006 wasn’t finished with the E-type yet. Late in the year the latest batch of Stars of Cars, exclusively to the German market, arrived. One of the 12 models chosen that year was the E-type in cream. Production started on the cream just as the red was finishing production and as such….

The tampo printing on early examples actually sported the same FAJ17U1R with red border license plate that the basic range had, before moving to the correct 61 Jaguar on black background license plate. I did hear of the basic range red being found with the 61 Jaguar plate, but I never actually saw one. So I cannot confirm if it did or not.

Release number 4: Technically, this is a 2006 release again. Unofficially it turned up at the beginning of 2007. When Superfast was relaunched in 2004, the first batch didn’t begin until the middle of the year. Therefore by the time it finished, we were well into 2005. Therefore the 2005 series actually ran into early 2006 and 2006 into early 2007. It was only when they launched 2007 as a smaller series that the years synced up properly again. This was because the 2004 series was launched in USA and in 2005 they expanded it worldwide with a dual USA/ROW series with all 75 models sporting alternate colours between the 2 markets. In 2006, they reverted back to 1 design worldwide, but stores weren’t taking such a big range of premiums. After the first 3 batches it was so bad that they ended up making it a Walmart USA exclusive who continued on with the rest of the series on their own. They then asked for a smaller set for 2007 (there were 18 that year). So this black SF-58 (as we often refer to it to, to separate from the basic range numbers) was part of the 3rd to last batch of the 2006 series, exclusively found in Walmart stores in USA at the beginning of 2007.

Release number 5: It’s first multi-pack appearance. January 2007 and while they were doing a small run of black for Superfast 2006, the 5-packs were already on 2007, and the Classics 5-pack was the second one of the year. We had this lovely white issue included.

Release number 6: Which was swiftly followed by the Best of British release in tan. Originally a UK exclusive, eventually hobby stores in USA were allowed to order them too. This arrived in February 2007 and was the first time we saw an “over the top” tampo design with the black and red striping and 34 roundel.

Release number 7: For 2007, the E-type was chosen as one of the models to sport 2 different looks for the basic range, and the first arrived in batch B in pea green, which also arrived in February. Literally a week or so after the BoB version had arrived.

Release number 8: Keeping things real. Literally. During the later half of the ’00s, Matchbox would release a series of 4 all-exclusive 10-packs through the year. The first would be called “Real” and feature 10 realistic cars seen on the streets (“Action”, “Adventure” and “1st Editions” would appear later in the year). March (yes we managed to move on a month, as from the cream Stars of Cars released in December 2006, we are 3 months later and this is the 6th model all crammed into a short release time, I am surprised we didn’t get more incorrect license plates), this blue with white and red striped and a 27 roundel was one of the 10 models chosen to include.

Release number 9: Wow! We had to wait a whole 2 months for the next release. I still remember the withdrawal symptoms from not getting more. May 2007 and we saw the version 2 for the basic range. MB28 was now dark blue with a medium blue stripe and 6 roundel.

A roundel that had a habit of moving. It just didn’t like to stay still. But that was a hell of a run. Get it? 6, 6, 6 across the front of these 3? No? Oh well, I tried. After that the casting went on hiatus. For the rest of the year.

Release number 10: Best of British 2008. Strictly speaking, it did come out just before Christmas, arriving in mid December 2007 but the majority were sold in 2008 and it is classified as a 2008 model. Iridescent white with red and black striping and 21 across the front.

Release number 11: Things are starting to space out now. It next popped up in the Classic Cars 5-pack in June 2008. This was in dark charcoal,and the first in a while with just front and rear detailing.

It was also the last to date to sport some kind of noticeable variation (I mean you may find shades of paint on most models, but some ignore that). There was a short production run where the tri-spoke wheels ran out and they were substituted with disc wheels instead.

Release number 12: Right at the end of the model year (batch L November 2008) the model finally arrived in the basic range. MB6 was light blue with simple front and rear again.

Release number 13: My personal favourite, for no reason whatsoever. The final “Best of…” series was another Best of British. This set arrived in February 2009. Another series was planned for later in the year in a different theme but was canceled. The E-type was one of only a few models that was a part of all 3 BoB sets. The best livery was left until last. However, I am going to confess something. I saw the first pictures online of the model and thought it looked really nice in British Racing green with black and orange stripes and a 23 roundel. I was waiting until I got my own example before having a proper look at it. But a friend of mine, Christian Falkensteiner, pointed out what was on the side. T9ll5y. This is part of the codes that often adorned Matchbox models, and I got in touch with Michael Heralda who did the design. There was even more to it. The front license plate says 8OM175. Quite often letters and numbers are transposed in the numerical sequence A-1, B-2, C-3 etc. Michael pointed out that it was a code for him paying homage to me. Tilley being my surname and the license plate swapping into “homage”. So as I said, no real reason for it being my favourite.

Release number 14: A new guy was on the team for Matchbox who was helping Michael with the designs for models. His name was Jeremy Cox. I am guessing he had a middle name that started with a “P”. He put his stamp nicely on what would be, unless it reappears, its final appearance in the basic range. MB9 arrived in batch K in September 2009 in yellow.

Release number 15: Jeremy had his hand in this one too. Released only 1 month later, the 2009 Classic Cars 5-pack saw the model released in metallic light blue.

Release number 16: Something tells me Jeremy was involved in this one too. In 2010 the 10-packs were still as they were, but the names for the exclusive sets were a little more elaborate (apart from 1st Editions). The Real pack was now called “Showroom Models” and the Jag returned in a very similar metallic dark red to how the original Lesney issue was sold back in the 1960s. This turned up in January 2010.

Release number 17: The model was also included in the Lesney Edition: Double Diecast series that launched that year too. As denoted in the title, it was paying tribute to the bygone age of a model sporting a diecast body and diecast base. Although it looks unpainted, the process is called zamac, and means basically a coating to stop the metal from turning rusty. Sporting a black and red design with 12 roundel, it was part of the last batch of 2010 in October that year.

Release number 18: The model was winding down multiple uses now and in 2011, there was only 1 issue. Arriving in August, the Classic Cars 5-pack saw another of Jeremy’s designs in orange before the casting took exactly 2 years out.

Release number 19: To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Matchbox the model returned in a special 24-model set, which was simply called 60th Anniversary. Each model sported the 60th logo on them somewhere, and the models were in a blister with a box and a higher level of detailing than core models would be. Not a fully-fledged premium, but somewhere in the middle. This saw its third British Racing green issue, this time featuring black and orange stripes and the logo in the rear window (just like the first BRG had a logo in the rear window). It was part of the 5th and final batch of the 24 model and as I said, it was exactly 2 years after the last issue, as this too was in August.

Release number 20: What is it about August and Anniversaries? Honestly, exactly 5 years later and to celebrate the next big milestone for the Matchbox brand, its 65th Anniversary, the Jag popped up again in the Coffee Cruisers 5-pack in August 2018. Sporting a lovely sapphire blue colour and 65th Anniversary logo it still looks as fresh as it did when we first saw it in 2006.

So that is the story so far. Since it debuted in 2006, we have seen 20 different versions of this casting. I am hoping that will not be it. I mean 2021 is the E-types 60th birthday itself. Could be good for a celebration of the model, not the Matchbox brand this time. Who knows. I don’t. But I do think there is more life to give in this casting.

(Matchbox Jaguar E-type on ebay)

David Tilley

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