Collection update: The Matchbox ’09 Ford E-350 Ambulance

The Ford E-350. A versatile vehicle, the E-series has been around since 1960 and is only officially in its 4th generation. The current generation began in 1992. Matchbox has made a few E-series models, with the 2009 Ambulance being one of their most successful.

The ’09 Ford came about due to various requests from the collector community to return a licensed ambulance to the basic range and was launched in 2009 and has so far seen 17 different versions across 2 manufacturing numbers. But with the MB1178 International TerraStar arriving in 2019, is this the sum total of this particular ambulance casting, or will there be any random pop-ins in its future?

(Matchbox Ford F-350 Ambulance on ebay)

Release number 1: The original MB771 casting first debuted in batch H of the 2009 basic range in red as MB55. This was in July that year and sported an Ambu-Medic side design.

The casting at the time was created with a metal front, metal base and a plastic rear box section. There are pluses and minuses with that, as on the plus side it gives an instant colour break between front and rear as and when needed, but on the minus the way they tampo parts means that the front would not often receive tampo hits as it is a different component and they tampo 1 component at a time. But what you also found was that with the base being metal, it was often left unpainted, but with a zamac coating. Depending on how it was formed it would often give off either a blue “cool” hue or a brown “warm” hue which I often refer to as the burnt look. So I show the differences on this particular issue, but you can find them on many of these over the years.

Release number 2: Hot on the heels of the debut was its first promotional release. Everett Marshall runs an annual golf tournament and each year he sets up a unique Mattel promotional model for the event. Due to the time constraints on the model, they simply used the same design they had for the debut version and then added some additional tampo hits to the doors. This also came in a special box. Although the golf tournament was on August 14th that year, the model did actually arrive in late July for distribution.

Release number 3: The Ambulance was one of the models chosen to receive 2 versions that year, and in September’s batch K this arrived in orange and white. This was its first chance to showcase the front/rear colour break, and also my chance to have fun finding shade. This Primary Response Ambulance Service designed look had a lovely metallic orange that was always good for a shade or 2.

Release number 4: Capping off its debut year, the casting was also added to the 1st Editions 10-pack at the end of the year. Arriving in October, this was an all-white version with Metro Fire Rescue on the side.

Release number 5: After that things were just a little quieter in 2010. Which is a shame, as this was its first real livery too. Through Sammy Fox, who works at the SLO Fire Department, they obtained their first official look for the ambulance, but sold it exclusively in the US range as MB54. This was during the era of 3 ranges. There was 1 for the Latin American market, known as LAAM, and one for the rest of the world, known as ROW. Each consisted of 75 models, but a slightly different set. The US market had 100 models, of which that included all the LAAM and ROW models, plus some exclusives. This was an exclusive.

That was it for 2010.

Release number 6: They made up for it in 2011. It started off in February with the release of a special Life EMS promotional model. The first to see a complete set of tampo hits across all surfaces.

This was mistakenly thought to be a Meijer store promotion, but it can be a little confusing. You see, Life EMS is a company that was set up around 40 years ago by Mark Meijer, who is the son of Frederick Meijer, who owned the Meijer chain of stores. Along with his friend Ken Morris, they set up Life EMS to help in the Michigan area (they currently run a system of 80 ambulances in 10 counties in Michigan), and this promotion was for them. But because there was the name Meijer floated around, many thought it was the store. Not his son’s business.

Release number 7: It was only a month later that we saw another highly detailed release. This one was part of the Lesney Editions series and sported another licensed livery. It arrived as part of batch C in March that year. This time Keith Hoskins, who works at the Boone County Sheriffs Department in Columbia MO had a hand in obtaining the license. He had already set up a deal to create models of the vehicles in the sheriffs department, and it didn’t take him long to involve other departments too.

Release number 8: It was a busy period, as also in March we got the next basic range issue. White again with an Alert First Response look, and still MB54 in the range like it was in 2010, but this time the LAAM range also saw it included, but still no ROW action.

Release number 9: The ROW collectors did eventually see a release after almost 2 years, as the model saw its first 5-pack issue. Pack number 9 of the year, which was actually the 6th one released (seriously, they were numbered but released out of order), & it was known as Fire.

Release number 10: Okay, in 2012 Matchbox tried to move the brand a little bit in terms of the look of models. It was immediately seen in the first 5-pack that was released for the model year at the end of November 2011 (as model years are not calendar years). Simply called EMT, the liveries on the models were a little more extravagant than in recent years. This had a black rear section with a Rescue/Response EMT design featuring large flames.

Release number 11: Luckily it wasn’t a massive change, and the basic range release was much more subdued. Arriving in April 2012 as a part of batch F that year for the US market, this red and yellow design was pretty well received. It is worth noting that after 2011, the US/LAAM/ROW split was stopped and we had one full range again. However, the US long blisters were released in smaller and more frequent batches than the ROW small blister assortments. But although it was a part of the 6th batch of the US range and turned up in April, it was actually a part of the batch D in ROW markets that were taking small blisters and arrived in May.

Release number 12: I mentioned about the US and ROW markets assortments as it was actually almost a year and a half after the last issue that we saw the next version that the next one arrived. The 2013 MB30 arrived in batch J in ROW countries in September and batch M in October 2013 in US range countries, in a flurry of batches piling in at the end of the year. Therefore the ROW market saw this particular release before the US market did. A simple orange and white MBX County design adorned this one.

Release number 13: It wasn’t long before we saw the next one. As soon as the 2013 issue was deleted from assortments we had the 2014 MB75 in red. The Matchbox Tri-County issue was actually in batch B in the US market, but in the larger batch A in the ROW market. Both arrived in December 2013.

Release number 14: And then something happened. During 2014, the casting went through a few changes. The cab section of the body was amalgamated into the rear section to create a 1-piece body. It also featured roof lights for the first time too. So we now had the opportunity to tampo print across the entire body of the model. But it did mean it was now an all-plastic body. Plus having more noticeable lights was always a good thing. It arrived in May 2015 using the manufacturing number MB944 as a part of the EMT 5-pack that year. However, 2015 was a year that not all 5-pack models were exclusive, and this resurfaced as MB75 in the basic range in October that year as a part of batch K worldwide (US and ROW assortments were now the same).

A quick shot of the differences between the 2 castings. Most notable are the roof lights now added. The front and rear being 2 different parts before meant that when a model had the same colour front and rear , it wasn’t immediately obvious. Especially on white vehicles. You don’t get the colour break. However, you can see how this now means tampos can stretch out a little more though.

Release number 15: There was a swansong for the original MB771 casting. It was released as a part of batch B of the Supreme Heroes series. Supreme Heroes was their first venture back into premium releases after they were dropped after the 2011 Lesney Edition series (the 60th Anniversary set in 2013 wasn’t a premium, just a slightly enhanced core range). All the Supreme Heroes models featured licensed liveries, and this was for the Pasadena Fire Department. It arrived in September 2015.

Release number 16: Batch C of 2016 saw the first time it had ever been done in green. This MBX County EMS Medic design was released in January 2016.

Release number 17: Which brings us to the last issue seen so far (who knows). It was a part of batch B of 2017, which strictly means it arrived in December 2016. It was red and yellow. You may be wondering if the livery looked familiar. Well it was.

It was a throwback design to the 2012 issue. Except when first issued, it was on the original MB771 casting. The new issue was utilizing the MB944 casting. There was another tiny tweak, as the Emergency Ambulance writing on the side now had a black background instead of dark blue and also featured no silver edging around the background either.

But that is it. From the first red issue, to the last red issue, this is the full history of this casting (or should I say castings as it was modified) to date. Who knows if we will see more. As I said, with an International TerraStar now available this could be the entire history from start to finish for this model.

David Tilley

2 thoughts on “Collection update: The Matchbox ’09 Ford E-350 Ambulance

  1. Love the Matchbox licensed emergency vehicles and have several of these releases. Several have been difficult to find over the years and others I did not pick up when I saw them and they were gone.

  2. The E-350 is one of my favorite Matchbox models, due to its ubiquity in EMS fleets. I have quite a few of them myself, but very few of the licensed liveries. I only have Boone County, MO’s MCI. I need the SLO and Providence, RI issues. I am hoping that if MBX is in the business of reissues, we see a reissued LIFE EMS promo. The prices on that thing were stupid. I was offered one for $75, which is WAY too much!

    Personally, if I was that Matchbox team, I’d have done a Chevy Express that used the same module as the E-350 to save tooling costs. The Terrastar was not very successful in real life, and had been discontinued three years by the time the Matchbox model was introduced. And there’s rumors the E-350 has been discontinued by MBX, along with the Renault Master.

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