Collection update: The Matchbox ’97 Land Rover Defender 110

(Matchbox Defender 110 on ebay)

Designed by Maurice Wilks in 1947, who would have known that his idea for an off road utility vehicle would become such an icon. He worked for the Rover Group in the UK and came up with an idea for this vehicle, convinced the company to make it and launched it at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1948. It was a huge hit. They created a Range Rover in 1970. but during a tough time, it was decided to split the Land Rover models from The Rover Group in 1975. In 1983 the original Land Rover received its latest update and finally a moniker. 110. It was purely down to how many inches the wheelbase was. This was because they were also creating a shorter wheelbase 90 which launched the following year. Daft fact, on the vehicle the numbers are written as numbers, but in literature they were spelled out. I don’t know why. But when they launched a new vehicle, the Discovery, in 1989 they thought it was about time to give the original a proper name. In 1990 it finally got one. Defender! It ran until 2016 when due to tighter restrictions on vehicles, they just could not continue. A new Defender arrived this year to replace it.

In 2006 Matchbox launched the MB697 casting, noting it as a 1997 model. I am not too sure what was significant about 1997. If anybody knows, please let me know.

Release number 1: The model arrived mid 2006 in green as MB55 in the range. It sported a simple front and rear detail and sawblade wheels. At about the same time, Matchbox were just launching their new 6-spoke wheels too and this quickly moved over to the newer wheel style. However, the wheel style was created in 2 looks, thin tyre edging and large spokes, or thick tyre edging and small spokes. Most sported the thick tyre/small spokes, but a few came with the alternate. I don’t have the alternate (hence not picturing it).

Release number 2: But I do for the follow up. Only a few batches later, and we saw our second version of it too as it was chosen to be in 2 colours for the year. It swapped to white with the same tampo front and rear as before. Obviously it was no longer using the sawblade wheels after that first run of green, so this only came with the 2 types of 6-spoke wheel.

Release number 3: To promote the Matchbox brand at the 2007 Toy Fair they decided to fully deco the Land Rover casting and utilize it as the toy fair model. After the 2 plain issues, this was the complete opposite with literally everything being detailed. Even the windows.

Release number 4: In May 2007 it moved to the MB65 slot in red as a part of batch E. This time the wheels stayed consistent as it only came with the larger 6-spoke wheel. It was also the first Land Rover to sport the D.E.R. logo. Desert Endurance Race was a recurring theme with Matchbox for quite a few years, and this Land Rover saw quite a few of them. If you were completely nerdy like me, you could find the tampo striping coming in either brighter yellow or orangey yellow during production.

Release number 5: The 2008 model year proved to be a very productive year for this casting. The model year actually started in December 2007 and we saw this yellow version arrive in the Best of British series.

Release number 6: But it didn’t stop there. It was also a part of batch A in the 2008 basic range, which was also arriving in December. This was the first year of the 3-way split for the basic range. However, this was a worldwide release, and was sold as MB93 in the US market, and MB70 in both the LAAM and ROW markets. The matte brown paint varied quite a bit during production too, with some coming out more satin than matte as well. You may have noticed, this was also a D.E.R. model.

Release number 7: The casting was also included in the Superfast series for 2008. It was number 6 in the first batch of 10 models and this arrived only a month after the other 2, January 2008.

Release number 8: That still wasn’t it for 2008. Target stores in USA wanted something exclusive, and in July 2008, they launched the Skybuster Action Packs. The Land Rover in orange was a part of the Blizzard Expedition set.

Release number 9: For 2009, things did get a little quieter. Do you see D.E.R. again? I told you it was recurring. It was a part of the side design on on the Best of British release this year, which arrived in February.

Release number 10: The only other issue that year was another basic range model. However, this time it was not included in the ROW market. The US saw this blue model released as MB83, and the LAAM market saw it as MB31. It came out in batch F in May that year.

Release number 11: For 2010 the model was back worldwide in the basic range. This orange version was sold as MB100 for the US market and MB72 for both LAAM and ROW markets arriving in batch E that year in early May.

Release number 12: But that wasn’t it. The casting was also chosen to be one of the ones sporting 2 different versions, and in batch H which arrived arrived at the end of June (in a flurry of new batches). The matte green did see a little bit of shade variations during production. Not as noticeable as the brown the other year had.

Release number 13: This kicked off another little flurry for the model though, as it was also added to the Adventure 10-pack that year which arrived in July in grey.

Release number 14: It was then included in the Mountain Adventure 5-pack in August too. First time in a 5-pack for this casting. It came in a mint green Forest Service livery which did see quite a shade variation during production.

Release number 15: For 2011 it was only used in the basic range. Matchbox has decided also that any model carried forward from 2010 to 2011 would sport the same number in the US range. LAAM and ROW were not always lined up as they were renumbered to fill slots, but this one did. MB100 US, MB72 LAAM/ROW. Batch F in May saw this tan model appear, which again saw a variation in the shade during production.

Release number 16: It might have only been used in the basic range in 2011, but they decided to give it 2 versions again, and in Batch K in September, we saw a second release, now in white.

Release number 17: Batch H of the 2012 basic range saw the next issue, which was red as MB104. However, the eagle eyed among you might have noticed the snorkel is on the other side of the vehicle. Until now it had been on the driver’s side (the vehicle is LHD). But as a general rule they would normally go on the opposite side to the driver. So they switched it. You are probably thinking why just do that? They didn’t.

The casting was going through a change to reduce some weight anyway involving transferring some of the roof into being part of the window section. While the casting was being altered from MB697 into MB838, they decided to switch the snorkel at the same time.

Release number 18: So now MB838, we saw a second issue in 2012 too. In October it was included in the Jungle Adventure Crew Mission Force set in yellow.

Release number 19: 2013 saw Matchbox celebrate their 60th Anniversary and as such they released a set of 24 models to commemorate, and this G4 challenge liveried model was a part of the third batch which arrived in March.

Release number 20: 2013 only saw one other issue of the Defender, as batch P of 2013 in November 2013 saw this yellow MB59 release.

Release number 21: April 2014 saw the second, and so far last time, the Land Rover has been seen in a 5-pack. Jungle Reconnaissance even saw a wheel change during production as it could be found with 6-spokes or dot-dash wheels.

Release number 22: The same wheel variation occurred with the basic range issue that year too. MB55 arrived in September as a part of batch L in the US range or batch H in the ROW range (the ROW range was being released in larger assortments less frequently).

Release number 23: 2015 proved to be a bit of a quieter year though. It only appeared once in the basic range. It was sold as MB96 (officially, the US long card assortments accidentally printed it as MB101) that year arriving in batch C in March. Again, during production the shade of tan could vary quite a bit.

Release number 24: In February 2016, the Best of series was released and included the Land Rover as a part of it in silver. This was the first time it saw 2-part rubber wheels.

Release number 25: In June it emerged again looking slightly different. It was a part of the Land Rover Walmart exclusive set (which also at the time included Asda in the UK, as Asda is part of the Walmart family). This green issue did not seem quite as high as we were used to.

The casting had seen another adjustment. However, the earlier incarnation of MB838 was being completely redone with this new version. The window section was now also including the roof lights, and the upper section of the roof rails were removed.

Release number 26: This newer version was then released in the basic range as MB110 in batch K that August. Of course I love my variations, and even silly ones like finding out that the window can be a lighter or darker orange.

Release number 27: 2017 proved to be the final basic range outing for the Land Rover. Not bad going since it started in 2006 and saw a 12 year unbroken run as a basic range issue. Mind you, there could still be return possibilities. It actually arrived in December 2016, where MB84 in black ran for a few batches into early 2017. But there was one more surprise.

Release number 28: They only went to the archives, and dusted off MB697 again for a Globe Trotters outing in 2018. It was a premium release, they felt it needed a premium casting. When MB697 was swapped to the first version of MB838, the original casting was still left there. When MB838 moved to version 2 it over-rode version 1. However, there was one small issue.

They forgot to leave the base intact. When it got updated for the first MB838 they never left the original behind, so unfortunately the 2018 Globe Trotters model had to use the MB838 version of the base.

But it was a nice way to possibly finish the casting off. With an MB1184 ’65 Land Rover Gen II Safari now created (as of 2019), it may be the end for the MB697/MB838 duo (or trio if you think like that). But it has had a pretty decent run. 13 years (12 consecutively in the basic range) and 28 different releases. Not bad going. They do say Land Rovers last well. It obviously applies to models as well as the real ones.

David Tilley

One thought on “Collection update: The Matchbox ’97 Land Rover Defender 110

  1. The Landie should be a permanent addition, but now with the Gen II and possibly the new Landie, along with Sport and Evoque, we need another new 5 Pack, maybe all white with LR Experience deco, now that would be totally awesome, and would trump Oxford diecasts LRE limited versions..

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