Matchbox Monday looks at the Albuquerque Gatherings

Well as many would know, this weekend just gone should have been the 18th Annual Matchbox Gathering of Friends, and I should have been sending this report from a hotel in Albuquerque NM. But this year has sadly had events that have taken precedence over our little hobby. Jim Gallegos, who runs the event, made a tough decision in the health and safety of everybody to cancel this event with the hope that next year will be even better. So in lieu of my posting about the weekend, I decided to do a post about all the Mattel produced Gathering models that have been done over the years. There will shortly be an additional post (going double Monday this week, hence this one being slightly early) with a rundown of what to expect for 2021.

When the event first started back in 2003, we never saw a Mattel produced model. At the time they were still based in Mt Laurel in NJ and had a show in New York. So initially we simply saw some Color Comp produced code 2 models like this MB405 VW Delivery Van which was made for the 1st event.

By 2005, Mattel had moved the Matchbox team from Mt Laurel down to the El Segundo main HQ, and making trips to the north east of USA for a convention was proving tough. The 2004 event had been in Hershey PA and they had already re-booked for 2005. But they had noticed this little gathering picking up a lot of steam. So much so that in 2005 they sponsored it.

Then in 2006, they gave them a unique code 1 Mattel-produced model for the event. It was given to all attendees as a dinner model. However this first year the model wasn’t exclusive to the Gathering. Charlie Mack ran his own convention in the north east of USA at the time, and Mattel covered both conventions with the one model. The MB689 ’06 Ford Crown Victoria Police Car, which was actually duplicated from its debut design, except was now blue instead of black.

Although it did sport an additional logo on the rear too. But this is why the logo on the rear states “West-East” on it. They were acknowledging there were 2 events happening that year in USA. But as it was easy to get to Albuquerque from California, they decided to set up camp at the local show.

So in 2007, with Mattel fully behind them, the show really went to town with the models. Again we had a dinner model. This was the MB715 ’65 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA.

The casting had just arrived that year, and this look was inspired by a racing car look that Alfa Romeo were using in the mid 1960s, even though the casting is a road car. It sported a 55 on the side for the 55th Anniversary of Matchbox that was happening that year, and also a number of logos that had been created for various members of the Matchbox team.

But that wasn’t all. Setting up the toy show on a Sunday morning to finish the event was becoming quite important. So as a gesture to those who were putting in the effort to bring lots of stuff for sale, we also received a dealer model. This was the MB694 Double Decker bus. Designed to replicate the look of the classic Lesney buses that used to transport employees to and from the factory in the 1970s, this model proved to be quite the success.

The model sported retro 5-spoke wheels that had been created for the Superfast series for use on classics too. This just added to the look. There were references to the 55th Anniversary of Matchbox and the 5th Annual toy show adorning this model.

But in 2007, what they also created was a show model. This was simply in a blister pack in a unique design, limited to 500 examples and sold at the toy show.

They chose the MB713 ’65 Austin Minivan for this, and it came in a lovely blue with Vintage Diecast Rescue side and rear design.

Fresh off a very successful show with 3 models, for 2008 they put in a request for 4. The idea was to create an “early bird” special for the dinner model which would sport a slightly different look. This was the brand new MB739 ’69 Cadillac Sedan DeVille casting that had just arrived in the basic range.

The early birds received a purple version of the car with a white roof sporting the convention logo of the year and additional detailing.

After the first 75 registrations, the rest received a lighter pink version. However, 2008 was a bit of an unusual production. For starters, the factory accidentally created the alternate look to the wrong model. The Cadillac was supposed to have been the dealer model. But when Jim received them, he just flipped dealer and dinner around. You will see why in a sec. The other thing is that over time, something is happening with the 2008 models. I have no idea what is causing it, but the paint appears to be bubbling up. The Cadillacs are starting to sport lots of small bubbles of lighter paint marks dotted about all over. But that’s nothing.

The MB734 ’70 VW T2 Bus was originally down to be the dinner model, and even sported “dinner Car” across the roof. Now they seem to be affected at different rates, and there are a few that are barely showing any signs of anything but on mine, the green is bubbling pretty badly now, and the white tampo cover over the top half is literally just falling off. Such a shame. This was a beautiful model.

Let’s face it, it still is. I mean, from the rear, it doesn’t look too bad. Mine has been badly affected up front, but it’s fine at the back. Very weird. As I said, this was the dinner model, but got flipped around and became the dealer model so that people still got their early bird special for dinner.

The toy show still had a unique blister packed model for the event. This year it was the MB733 ’55 Ford F-100 Panel Delivery Van. Another brand new casting that had just debuted in the basic range, this came in gold for the event. Again, there appears to be signs of bubbling, but it is not affecting the roof.

To me, this is just a mottled gold model. And it still looks really good. One of my favourite looks to the casting.

Now it was only 2008 that has seen that unusual after-effect to the paint. None of the others have before or since. In 2009 the MB755 Pierce Dash Fire Engine was chosen to be the dinner model. Again, as a part of the 7th annual event, we saw the dinner model in 2 variants.

The first 75 who registered received the model with a black upper front end and red windows.

The rest had the red upper front/amber window variant. The rear end was very well done on this model. For those curious, on the side it stated “share the fun of diecast, collecting with kids in your community”.

Dealers saw the MB765 ’64 Austin Mini Cooper 1275S in dark green. 2009 happened to be the 50th Anniversary of the Mini itself, so the model saw plenty of nods to that fact with the 50th Anniversary over the rear wheels and the 50 roundel.

The rear also saw a nod to Jim too, with his birthday as the license plate.

Again we saw a show model for the event, and again it was celebrating a birthday. In this case it was the 40th Anniversary of the Superfast name.

The rear even saw a coded Superfast license plate.

2010 rolled around, and so did the 8th Annual Gathering. This was the last year of a full set of 4 promotionals. Again the dinner was well attended, and the first 75 would receive a different dinner model to the rest.

The casting in use was the MB736 ’75 Chevy Stepside. The first 75 people who returned their entry forms saw their Stepside in lime green.

The rest? Theirs was bronze.

Dealers saw a fantastic black from the past. The MB336 ’71 Chevy Camaro Z-28 in dark red with dual black stripes. It was part of a tiny resurgence for the casting, as it had been around since 1998, but not been used since 2006. As well as the Gathering promo, it also saw a Lesney Edition release and a 5-pack issue in 2010. Funnily though, it has not been seen since.

This was just beautifully executed with full detailing and just a roof logo to showcase it was not a regular release (as well as a small nod to more of Jim’s family in the rear license plate).

This would turn out to be the last year for including a show model though. The show model swansong was the MB785 ’71 VW-Porsche 914 in blue.

Again, much like the Camaro, this was simply very highly detailed with just a large logo on the rear to show it as something beyond a regular release.

Sadly 2011 had a slight hiccup. The show model itself was not going to continue, but there was a small hitch with the proposed dealer model and we only had a dinner model. The MB812 ’68 Ford Mustang GT/CS. But arrangements were made and it was decided to not utilize them all as dinner models.

Therefore, what was going to be the 1 of 75 early bird dinner models ended up being utilized for dealers instead. This is the one that sported the blue roof.

The rest of the models were then given to all dinner recipients, whether early bird or not. However, I discovered that a few of the models came in an unusually dark shade of blue to the rest. Yeah, only somebody like me would be able to find a variation like that in a rare, short run promotional model.

2012 was back on track again. As noted, we were no longer getting show models, but we did get dinner and dealer models in full force again. The dinner model this year was the MB810 ’71 Pontiac Firebird Formula. The first 75 saw the one with the screaming chicken on the hood.

The back end of that model. Something not easily noticed, the chrome base had been painted gold to try and match up to the body, but the rear bumper was left plain chrome. It’s the little touches.

Obviously the plain hood version was the standard dinner model for registered people from 76 onwards.

The dealer model that year was the MB843 Seagrave Fire Engine in dark red with full tampo treatment.

It even had a small no.10 on the sides due to this being the 10th annual convention.

A blast from the past was in order for 2013. This is the first time we had seen a model return as a promotional model. After being the dealer model in 2007, the MB694 Double Decker Bus came back, but this time as the dinner model.

The first 75 people who registered for the event saw the bottom half of the model zamac plated.

The rest saw the lower half in green. Both models sported the same tampo print all over.

Dealers saw this absolutely stunning MB858 ’56 Buick Century Fire Chief. It was actually created to honour Brahaim Hindi, Jim Gallegos’ cousin who sadly had passed away. He was the fire chief at the Duran Fire Department in Albuquerque, and members of the Duran Fire Department were in attendance to accept an example in his memory too.

The casting had debuted the year before, but this was showing off what they could do to full effect. Even the light dome on the roof saw a tampo print. I mean, every single surface here appears to have had some sort of tampo hit. Wheels, base, window, front, rear, sides, roof. No surface was left untouched. I still remember the first time seeing this and just being blown away by it.

I have to admit, I could see this one coming. When Matchbox announced they were doing a Toyota Tacoma for 2014, I knew Jim was somehow involved. He is a big Tacoma fan in real life, and I would have been more astonished not to see the model used at the 2014 Gathering. Sure enough, it was the dinner model.

But given the freedom to submit a full range of tampo hits can really showcase just how beautiful a casting it was. The MB911 Toyota Tacoma Lifeguard for early birds saw additional white across the roof, hood and front over and above the white flash on the side of the regular issue.

I like checking out the tampo printing, as I sometimes find nice little extras added like the “Follow Me 4 Diecast Adventures” note across the rear.

The dealer model this year was the MB933 Dodge Charger Pursuit. The casting had debuted in 2013 as MB846, but was altered after its debut offering into MB933 by amalgamating the roof light into the window piece. So technically, this manufacturing number was in its debut year.

Again, it saw a very high level of tampo treatment, and was a nod to the Albuquerque Police Department themselves. Jim decided to create the model to honour the local police department for their support over the years.

In 2015, there was another brand new casting as the dinner model. This year saw the MB964 ’75 Mack CF Fire Pumper which had just debuted that year used as the dinner model. The difference between the early bird and regular issue was the additional tampo printing on the roof.

The early bird special was sporting some additional printing and Matchbox logo on top of everything else.

The rest of the models left the roof blank.

The dealer model was straight out of left field. Nobody could have guessed this one. The MB720 ’72 Ford Bronco 4×4 in purple.

The casting had been around since 2007, but had not been seen since 2012. However, it suddenly popped up again as a Skyjacker liveried basic after the 2014 SEMA show had seen Skyjacker utilize a real Bronco for the show and Matchbox tied in with a model. It brought a new found interest to the casting again, which saw it then used here too.

In 2016 Jim used the same scenario as the previous year. The MB1012 Mazda MX-5/Miata casting had just been launched in the basic range. The Gathering saw a lovely design based on a real Mazda 787B Group C Sports Prototype look which won the 1991 Le Mans 24-hour race. It was the 25th anniversary of that win and Mazda themselves were doing little celebrations too. So this tied in perfectly.

The difference between the first 75 and the rest was purely down to the trunk printing on the rear.

It sported the number 14 because it was part of the 14th Gathering.

The dealer model was the MB862 ’66 Dodge A100 Pickup. The casting had actually been around since 2013, but this was definitely one of its nicest looks.

The shiny metallic red looked really nice, and the full set of tampos really enhances the look of the model. For those who do not know, Hindi Sheep And Cattle Co is the Gallegos family ranch.

For 2017 they really went to town with the dinner model. The MB1022 ’71 Nissan Skyline 2000 GTX was the model chosen, and was absolutely plastered with logos for Jim and his family/friends and we well as various Matchbox team members. Again the most visible difference was the additional logo added to the middle of the trunk.

But if you were to flip it over, you would find that the early bird was also chrome plated. Daft fact, when the Nissan first debuted in 2016, people quickly discovered that there was an interior variation. Some came with a harness seatbelt on the front seats, the others didn’t. But Jim checked all the examples, and all the early birds were one interior, all the others sported the other interior. No fun crossovers to try and collect.

This model also featured 2-part rubber wheels for the first time in a gathering model.

As the wheels were recently added to the Matchbox production facility. The black wheels really suit the overall aesthetic of the model.

The dealer model was also one that has a dual interior casting. The MB1013 VW Transporter Crew Cab. This was a brand new casting in its debut year, and the promotional run was slipt 50/50 between empty and full beds.

The models sported the same type of design as the dinner models (first time they did that) and even came with the same wheels. However, not having early birds or anything, all bases were chrome plated.

2018 saw the only time so far that the MB1027 ’17 Ford Skyjacker Superduty F-350 has been made not sporting the look it had when the real vehicle was created for the 2016 SEMA show. The casting had debuted that year in the basic range, then returned for the 2019 basic range and Ford Truck set at Walmart in grey with the Skyjacker logo across the sides.

However, the Skyjacker logo is still on this one. But the main crux of this model was its classic Matchbox logo, evoking the style from the 1950s and 1960s with the door detailing. It was a part of the 65th anniversary of Matchbox and the wheels were also a throwback to the fact that in the early days of Matchbox, wheels would be grey. The first 75 entrants booked saw a zamac basis to the model.

The rest saw the model in gold.

The dealer model was following the same pattern, with a similar classic Matchbox Series style door design, and grey wheels. All of these were gold though.

The casting had originally debuted in 2017, so was in its second year at the time. It is the highest level of tampo detailing it has seen to date.

Which brings us to last year’s event. The MB1169 ’80 Mercedes-Benz W123 Wagon was a brand new casting that year and Jim’s son, Shaun, was a bit of a fan. We had a feeling this was going to be utilized in some way. References to Shaun in particular adorn the dinner model.

The early birders were gifted a green example of the model.

With the rest receiving a blue example of it. Even the hot foil printing on the wheels was matching the colours.

We also had a feeling that this would see a Gathering promotion at some point. When the MB1089 GMC Scenic Cruiser was announced in 2017 as coming for the 2018 new castings, they even mentioned at the time that they knew it was Jim’s favourite Lesney classic. The MB66 Greyhound Bus had been around from 1967 until 1971 and this was a nice throwback. However, the casting was not ready in time for the 2018 Gathering, so it was used as the dealer model for the 2019 Gathering.

As was sort of becoming tradition now, the dealer model was looking fairly similar to the regular dinner model in terms of the design. The rear was sporting a number of logos that were also starting to become synonymous with the Gathering too.

The Gathering has come a long way since that first event back in 2003. Sadly this year’s event had to be cancelled due to the ongoing real-world issues. But Jim is already hard at work on the 2021 event. It is due to take place at the usual hotel in Albuquerque New Mexico from July 23-25 2021. As per usual the registration will start at the stroke of midnight (MST) as the New Year begins.

But the 2020 models have been made. Who wants to see them?

Now with no event happening this year, how about a little snapshot of various points from previous events? There is literally no order to these. Just random snapshots of events gone by.

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I miss the cake. I miss the pool party. I am sure there will be plenty of those next year.

But there is the small matter of this year’s models. They still went ahead. If you haven’t seen them already, Jim posted them on his Instagram account after the line preview (under @jimgallegos on Instagram), and they will also be a part of the video that is going to be live very shortly on the Lamley You Tube page. Here you go.

The dinner model this year was the MB1173 ’69 BMW 2002.The first 75 who registered will recieve an example with additional roof printing. The rest will be seeing just the stripe on the roof.

The dealer model is the MB363 ’62 VW Beetle. In a break to the normal the casting chosen for this release has a smaller number in zamac and the rest in a matching white to the BMW dealer, with the orange/yellow striping typical of the Lesney era in the mid 1970s. A lovely throwback.

The models will be on their way out very shortly to those people who had registered for the event. Please make sure Jim has your shipping address. When I receive my examples I will do another little post on them. A bit more of a close-up detailing them more.

But for now, stay tuned to the Lamley page for my rundown of 2021 coming shortly, or as said, if you want to watch the video conference from the other night, click here. It is coming very soon.

David Tilley

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