Matchbox Monday: Dateline, Germany 2002

Ah, 2002. It was a fun year. I have revisited it a few times in between Wheel Collectors packages and while I await another package to arrive with more 2020 goodies inside, I will take another stab at 2002. This time though, what was Germany up to? I am going to be careful because in Germany in 2002, Völkerstrafgesetzbuch came into effect. Often abbreviated to VStGB it was a German law that came into effect that year meaning they could prosecute non-German people for any crime that affects anybody in Germany, even if it was not done in Germany itself. Of course it was for more serious issues, I am sure I will be fine. But I promise to not say a bad word about German cars. As if I could. They are awesome! Especially Porsches!

I want to say up-front this report is a bit BMW-heavy. So be prepared. Lots of Bavarian themed anecdotes? No, just many Matchbox BMW castings. So where to start. Well, in 2002 BMW requested a special set of 8 models to be sold at dealers nationwide in unique window boxes.

I think Austrian BMW dealers also sold them too. There may have been other countries as well, but with packaging written in German I know it wasn’t a worldwide release. Matchbox already had some BMW castings in their database so let’s start with those.

The first casting was the MB240 BMW 850i. Oddly enough, the real vehicle had stopped being produced by then (it had finished in 1999). But BMW still wanted to include the model as it was a really nice vehicle anyway and was still being seen as a bit of a flagship model.

Now there were two things that BMW insisted were on each casting. The first was that they had the BMW badge front and rear. The second I will get to later. The badge was a necessity, and because these weren’t being aimed at children as such, there was a level of realism to each model, with front and rear lights depicted too.

However, this casting had been around a while. It debuted in 1993 as MB49 in the US market or MB2 in the ROW market in silver.

It had seen a lot of use as it had been in the basic range every year until 2001 (except 2000) in at least one market. Unfortunately, it was showing its age. The doors in particular were not fitting very well.

They either were hanging down or were simply not closing correctly any longer. BMW couldn’t have a model looking like that in the series, so Matchbox spent a little time with it and cleaned it all up.

I had a pre-production sample of the casting as it was being prepared for its 2002 dealer set, where they had sent samples over to BMW for approval. Once approved, production began on the promotional model.

Next up was the MB424 BMW 328i.

This model was orange for the promotional set.

Weirdly though, that was its only outing in 2002. The casting had first debuted in 1999 as a German exclusive MB68 in dark green but didn’t see a lot of use as a civilian vehicle. After the BMW set we only saw one more outing as it was gold for the 2003 basic range, where it was exclusive to the ROW range as MB40.

Which also means that the BMW dealer model is a bit of an anomoly. The base was changed to metal for 2002, but was reverted back to plastic for 2003, so the BMW model is also quite a lot heavier than any other civilian BMW 328i.

But there was also a modified casting. The MB439 BMW 328i Police, which featured a roof light on the top.

The casting was also added to the BMW dealer set featuring the standard Polizei theme known around Germany for their police cars.

It wasn’t the first, or last time, we saw this. One of the debut looks for the 328i Police was in 2000 as MB11, where the German range had it exclusively in a Polizei theme (the other ROW range had it in white with Police markings), and in 2005 the Stars of Cars series brought back the white and green look too.

But the police casting used the same base section as the civilian one did, and as such this did see a few uses with a metal base. As well as the dealer model, a green Polizei themed model was sold as MB28 in the ROW range that year, and a blue version appeared in the Mission H2O theme. Both of those also sported the metal base.

Finally, from existing castings we saw the MB451 BMW 3-series coupe.

This was issued in a dark blue colour scheme with just the usual lights and badges adorning the front and rear.

This casting was sold between 2000 and 2005 in various ranges, with the 2000 debut in silver in the basic range and a pair of 2005 Superfast issues (US version in white shown) being part of its final year. There is more, I will get to that later.

But now we get into new stuff. I was told the MB532 BMW Z8 casting was already going through the processes before the BMW dealer set was requested. Talk about perfect timing.

So this carried on going through the processes as per usual with this silver model being the BMW dealer version.

Of course the casting had already arrived as MB9 that year, being in the first wave of stuff that had arrived (2002 used the wave system much like in use now, with 6 waves of new items per year). It therefore had already been seen in black with side striping. It did show the difference as to what BMW wanted in the dealer set compared to what was being sold as a toy in stores.

The casting was basically retired after being used in the 2006 Superfast set in dark grey with an 08 design (part of the Streakers sub-series), but randomly popped back up in the 2014 Exotics 5-pack in red.

Next up was a bit of an awkward one. You see Matchbox already had a BMW Z3. The real vehicle was just finishing production as the new Z4 was about to be launched and take over it. But BMW were not ready to give Mattel the schematics for the Z4 to create a model as they weren’t sure the set would arrive first and spoil the surprise. But they didn’t want to use the Z3 as it was.

So Mattel started from scratch and built a whole new Z3. BMW asked about opening doors, so the 3 new castings that were created as a part of BMW’s request all featured opening doors.

The original MB297 BMW Z3 casting had debuted in 1997 in red.

And had been in constant use until 2001. This was the MB63 for the ROW market that year. But BMW were not too keen on some of the detailing, but the main things were the wing mirrors. It had no wing mirrors, and that was the main thing that caused it to change. This was the other request from BMW that was a requirement. See, I told you I would get to the second requirement. They could have just tinkered with the casting they already had to try and get it to work, but they just thought it was easier to start from scratch.

However, they did make this a dual casting. You see, the original opening door version was assigned MAN number MB533, but they also created a non-opening door variant, giving it the number MB538. That casting debuted in the basic range as MB74 in 2002.

The opening doors variant did see one more use. It was number 25 in the 2006 Superfast series. Because they decided to use the opening door variant, they decided it would be a chase model too, and it could be found in either golden yellow or charcoal.

The closed door variant only saw 2 basic range outings, as they did cast the Z4 to replace it, but it saw a couple of sporadic issues, with the last, also in charcoal, being the 2007 Stars of Cars issue in Germany.

Next up was MB534.

The BMW 3-series cabrio. Again, being one of the new castings requested by BMW, they created it with opening doors. It was never seen again after 2002. There was no sealed door variant either. It was a 1-year special.

So much so, and because I loved the casting so much, I was determined to obtain a pre-production sample of it. I did find one in white with a purple interior. However, the blue dealer model was not its only issue. I will get to the other one later.

But first, the last of the dealer models. The MB535 BMW X5.

This was the only time that MB535 got used. Period. It debuted, and finished, in the BMW dealer set in grey.

But that was because they also created a sealed door variant of this too, and they released the MB539 casting in the 2002 basic range. MB31 arrived in blue with no detailing compared to the open doors and front/rear detailing of the dealer model.

As a civilian model the X5 didn’t get a lot of outings and finished also in the 2006 Superfast set. But unlike the Z3 which used the opening doors as a chase model, this was the regular sealed door version in the number 14 slot, and ended, where it started, in blue.

Of course the casting was also modified into a police unit, and first saw action in 2003 in the Stars of Germany series, and was last seen as an exclusive in the 2018 9-packs. Both the debut in 2003 and final model in 2018 sported Notarzt designs, yet you may notice the model in the right’s lights are a bit different. It was originally MB596 with a separate light bar, but in 2014 was modified into MB872 where the light bar was actually part of the window section.

But that wasn’t all Germany saw exclusive in 2002. With the 50th Anniversary celebrations taking place that year, we saw that most markets saw 4 unique models, but USA saw a huge Across America series (I already wrote a blog report on that). But Germany wanted more too. It was one of the biggest markets outside USA. So Matchbox created a unique series just for them (again I think Austria and perhaps a few other surrounding countries got them). They called it Stars of Germany. It was so successful that they repeated it in 2003. It was slightly modified in 2004 into Stars of Cars (just meaning a few non-German cars could be added) and ran until 2009 with the last 2 series renamed Euro Edition. But we are talking 2002 here. Stars of Germany featured 4 more BMWs. I told you this was BMW-heavy.

But in addition, we also saw 4 Mercedes-Benz models.

As well as 2 Porsches and 2 VWs. So let’s get into those too.

So to break up the BMW-ness of the post, I will begin with the MB356 Porsche Boxster. It’s actually because I am going in manufacturing number order again, and this had the lowest one. Not being in a dealer set, the detailing was not necessarily as high, and the need for wing mirrors was not applicable either. The Boxster was in red with a simply front headlight and badge design.

This was in contrast to the yellow one which had been in the basic range as an ROW exclusive MB5.

The Boxster had originally debuted back in 1999 as a German exclusive in silver with a tan interior and was last seen in a 2014 10-pack as an exclusive in blue, which was just a random appearance after it finished being used in 2006. I do like random re-appearances of castings.

Next up was the MB363 ’62 VW Beetle. For the Stars of Germany series it came in orange with just the foldable roof highlighted in black.

One of a few times that it has been seen in orange. These are just a couple of others, with these being in the same shade of solid orange. The Storm Trackers 5-pack edition from 2000 also sported some side designs, and the 2007 MB29 had front and rear details instead of the roof highlighted.

Being such an iconic vehicle, is it really any surprise that it is still going? The 1999 MB53 (US) or MB48 (ROW) debut in black and blue is joined by the 2019 MB12 in red, and I will delve more into it in an upcoming blog as the 2020 release has just arrived in batch D.

Next up is the MB380 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. This came out in yellow with just rear lights depicted.

Which although rather plain was a bit of a contrast to the other 2 issues that year. It was in a Snow Cappers 5-pack in white and a licensed Rugrats 5-pack in purple.

Shown here are all the basic range issues it saw throughout its life. It debuted in 1999 in red. However, if you were in Germany it simply sported front detailing (where it was sold as MB75), whereas the rest of the world also saw a canoe side design (those being sold as MB56). After that, the ROW market saw a silver version as MB31 in 2000 and Germany saw a unique black one as MB61 in 2001. It did pop back up in 2005 worldwide as MB32, again in red, but now with an A-Class side design before being dropped once and for all from the basic range.

Although it was actually last used in 2006 in an Ice Age 2 licensed 5-pack, again in yellow like the Stars of Germany model. But this one had Scrat on the side.

Another Mercedes-Benz next, as the MB400 CLK Convertible was also in the Stars of Germany series. This actually had no tampo printing on it at all. This was its only outing in 2002.

The casting was another of the 1999 debuts, where it was also a German exclusive as MB71. In 2000, it was then sold worldwide as MB1, with the only different being the interior was now black instead of the tan it had started off as.

It ran until 2005, with its final issue as MB62 sporting a number of fun variations. Apart from the fact that production moved to Thailand from China mid way through, you were finding either flower or lace wheels, and the rear tampo either featured orange or red lights during the China production.

Next up was another VW. The MB405 VW Delivery Van. It was a very attractive and simple iridescent white with just a red stripe and classic font “Matchbox” series design.

Part of a run of models that were being produced in 2002. The Across America Georgia Peach Mobile was showcased recently on the blog, and we also saw an Avon Exclusive Rice Krispies model in their annual twin packs sold through their own catalogue, and there was also the Spongebob Squarepants licensed 5-pack blue model.

This was a series of models that stretched from the 2000 debut TNT Tour vehicle in blue which was sold as MB72 in the US market and MB52 elsewhere. It finished in 2007 in yellow as MB36 with a Painting & Custom Signs side design.

Although the model has just been retooled (still keeping the MB405 manufacturing number) for 2019 where we have seen an all blue Service Crew 5-pack issue with a throwback design to an early Lesney model, and a blue/pink SweeTARTS model in the Candy series.

Next up in the list was the MB427 Mercedes-Benz ML430 in blue. Now the VW previously shown had arrived in 2000, but this was another 1999 debut. It appears the VW was just running a little late.

It was a part of the basic range too, where it was sold in white with a side tampo design as MB29. There were a couple of Across America models too, but I just showcased those the other week so thought no need to pull them out again.

As I said, this was a 1999 release, with the burgundy being a German exclusive MB63 that year. It last saw use as a Superman 5-pack issue in the second of 2 packs that were released that year to coincide with the Superman Returns film that came out that year.

Another Mercedes. This was the MB434 Mercedes-Benz S500 in dark burgundy. As with quite a few models from this set, it was quite plain, as there was no tampo printing on it.

It also wasn’t its only dark burgundy release either, as the 2004 Auto Cargo Launcher set saw a very similar look. That release was slightly lighter, and had a grey grill and darker grey interior compared to the chrome grill and lighter grey of the SoG model.

It was its only release of 2002. It had debuted in 1999 as a German exclusive in silver as MB66.

However, this one went out in style. It was last used as a set of exclusives in the non-exclusive packs in 2008. Alongside each exclusive pack, we had 2 additional packs that just pulled models from the basic range or 5-packs. Those packs contained the same 2 exclusive castings top right throughout the 4-set run. One of the castings was the Merc. Alongside the “Real” pack it was blue, the “Action” pack it was silver, the “Adventure” pack it was cream and the “1st Editions” pack it was dark grey.

Which brings us back to BMW. 20 models in this blog (22 if you include the extra 2 I added in to some pics and 12 of 20 or 14 of 22 were BMWs). The MB451 3-series coupe was also a part of the Stars of Germany series. Unlike the BMW dealer set, this model saw no tampo printing either. It was just plain dark green.

Well I did say I would get more into this one later didn’t I. You see it was a part of the 2002 basic range. The tampo design on that one was a sort of hybrid of the 2 already shown. The front was fully tampoed with the BMW badge, but the rear was blank.

It also saw another issue in the 2002 Auto Cargo Launcher set in gold. That is the one on the left. I did obtain a pre-production mock-up of that model in a much more yellowish gold with flower wheels.

But it was still nothing on the debut. Back in 2000 multi-coloured light details were not used for basic range issues. They were something consigned to the premium ranges. So when this model debuted as either MB83 in the US range or MB63 in the ROW range, it was quite a surprise to see such a high level of tampo for a basic. There were 3 variants of it too, as the first 10,000 US issues sported a Matchbox 2000 logo on the front window, and a later run from early 2001 before the model was deleted from assortments saw it transfer to the flower wheels which were debuting for 2001 instead of the more common 5-spoke. I believe the flower wheels were also only found on US long card.

I showed the US version in white with the dealer model earlier, and it is at the back here again. But the other one was the ROW version of the 2005 Superfast issue. It came in almost the same shade of dark green as the SoG model did. Except now it was fully tampo printed.

But it was also in the basic range in 2005 too. It was sold as MB63 that year, but just like the debut release in silver something happened during the production. Not a wheel change this time, a factory change. Early runs were done at their Chinese factory, but during production it moved over to the current Thailand factory to finish production. The China is the closest to the front in a duller blue compared to the brighter blue of the Thai issue behind it.

A quick base shot of the Thai issue along with China. The funny thing is, the model was about to be deleted from assortments at that point. They sent the casting over, did one small production run and retired the casting. The Thai issue is quite hard to find compared to China, and was the only time we ever had a Thai made version of that casting ever.

The MB532 BMW Z8 is up next. This one did see a small amount of tampo printing on the Stars of Cars model. A small red rear light strip adorns the rear to depict the lights of the blue model. But that was it.

Now I already mentioned the black basic range issue, which obviously being 2002 did see a 10,000 piece run with a 50 logo on it. But we did also see this in the Auto Carrier launcher set that year too alongside the 3-series coupe. That one was a darker blue with additional front detailing too.

I already showed the last 2 issues (2006 Superfast, 2014 5-pack) earlier with the dealer model, so how about the last 2 basic range issues. It only ran for 3 years in the basic range, and after the black debut we saw a darker blue with side design as MB10 in 2003, and in 2004 a final green one as an ROW exclusive MB23.

Which leads us to the last outing of the MB534 BMW s-series cabrio. After debuting in the BMW dealer set above, its final issue was in the Stars of Germany series later in the year. This one was green with simple detailing.

In fact the detailing was almost identical to the BMW dealer version except it didn’t sport the BMW logo.

So as I can’t really talk about the cabrio much more (due to the lack of releases) I will move on to MB539. Technically, this was not in the BMW dealer set, as that had opening doors, and this had sealed doors. It came in dark red with simple front detailing.

Which was a little more than the basic range had, although if you include the first 10,000 made, that did see a small print on the roof.

The 2002 SoG was very similar in colour to the 2003 basic range issue. It was sold as MB54 with a simple stripe and number on the side. However, this was exclusive to the ROW range as it was already dropped from the US range after 1 year. It never saw another basic range outing as a civilian model.

Which brings us the last model in the set. Although we had quite an influx of BMWs debuting in 2002, we did see a new Porsche too. The MB544 Porsche 911 Turbo arrived that year too, and was immediately thrown in the Stars of Germany series too, which saw it in green with front detailing.

That was in contrast to the MB69 basic range issue in yellow which only had silver headlights added, unless it was one of the first 10,000 that had a 50 logo on the side. However, that was an ROW exclusive. With Stars of Germany being German exclusive too, it meant this casting was not seen in the US market at all during its first year.

Of course that didn’t last long (it was worldwide in 2003). Shown here is the 2005 MB69. This was to be found with either flower or lace wheels during production. Of course early plans had a little additional tampo printing. The front model is actually the one used in the poster for the 2005 range. It was a mock-up of how it was going to look, but after they took the pictures for the poster, they decided not to have Matchbox on the doors directly under the window, or 05 over the rear wheels. They airbrushed them out of the poster picture before printing it off.

2006 was fun too, as during production again it was found with either flower or lace wheels. But then after being dropped, it was run one more time in a set of 3-packs, and this sported the brand new double 10-spoke wheel that was just being introduced on models.

This casting has seen occasional use ever since, with the red being the last use in the 2017 Open Road Cruisers 5-pack and the plum being its last outing in the basic range as MB106 in 2012.

There is one little thing I didn’t mention about the first Stars of Germany set. As it was a German request due to the 50th Anniversary celebrations, they tampo printed the 50 logo on to the base of all 12 models in the set. It was not done for anything else that year, just SoG.

So there you go, a run down of some German stuff that came out in 2002. BMW Dealer models and Stars of Germany. At some point, when I have another deep dive, I will look at some more German years too. They have some brilliant stuff unique to their market.

And I think I am safe from the Völkerstrafgesetzbuch.

2 Replies to “Matchbox Monday: Dateline, Germany 2002”

  1. I found some of the “Stars of Germany” range in Muller around 2005. Nice mix from a beautiful country.

  2. I wish I was an adult and a collector during this time as these cars are exactly how I like my Matchbox cars to be. I think we have BMW to thank for for forcing Matchbox to keep making realistic cars (that continues to this day) during the Hero City days.

    I hope Matchbox has not forgotten these models and just like they brought back Superfast, it would be amazing if they brought back Stars of Germany/ Stars of Cars/ Stars of *insert country* and did the models in the same style as these. With modern tampo printing and molds, they would look even better. I don’t know about USA but in Europe and Asia this series would be a hit.

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