If you regularly read my stuff or follow me on Instagram (@diecast215) then you’ll know I’m a Matchbox guy at heart. You’ll also know that I have my own particular Matchbox collecting mission – what I’ve called #MBMission800. The goal is to obtain an example of each MB casting number (sometimes called a MAN – manufacturing number) from 1-800. That sequence ran from 1982, the final year of Lesney ownership and the first time that castings were allocated an absolute ID to help the factory keep track of the molds, until midway through the 2010 lineup. This older article has more on the mission.
As time goes on, it becomes tougher and more expensive to plug the gaps. I’m now down to about 20 missing castings, give or take a few prototypes that never made full production – those are models I may never be able to obtain. I usually manage to fill in some blanks at the Matchbox Gathering in Albuquerque but with no convention this year, it’s been harder than usual to find unusual models. Nevertheless, eBay has yielded half a dozen in the past six months or so. I covered some of them in a mail call article in May; let’s take a look at the rest!
The oldest casting number on the list belongs to this, the MB104 Mustang Piston Popper, which was in the US range 1983-4. I thought it was the only remaining post-Lesney version of a long-running Mustang model that I was missing, but it turns out there’s one more to find (the orange MB105 Boss Mustang). That happens a lot when you’re looking for 800 models. Fortunately, it’s not particularly rare or expensive!
You can see the new Piston Popper below with its close relations, the Lesney-era Boss Mustang and Rolamatic Mustang Piston Popper (both first issued 1972), the US-only Roman Numerals Boss Mustang (1980) and the MB122 IMSA Mustang (1983 onwards).
I like the bright Sunkist colours on this one, which came from the collection of Matchbox legend, Charlie Mack, via an online auction. It’s still a Rolamatic at heart, too, with the pistons popping up and down.
Also a US-only model for 1983-84 was this, the Red Rider (badged as Flame Out). It too was update of an existing casting, one that dates back to the Big Banger and Pi-Eyed Piper that were made in the mid-1970s. These two models rode again in the 1980s as the Cosmic Blues (MB082) and Red Rider (confusingly, a different one! – MB086). Beneath all the big-engined craziness lies a ’69 Charger, I think. More on these models in a future article!
Next up is the MB262 1993 Chrysler Voyager in a beautiful shade of blue. This model is familiar to many of us as the MB128 Dodge Caravan, which joined the basic range in 1984 and was produced in quite a few different decos. However, the van was modified with a new base, front fascia and casting number for use in a dealer promotion in Belgium in 1994. I don’t know whether the promotion was tied to a specific event, but the second-generation Voyager was launched in Europe in 1991. Even the updated Matchbox version can’t quite ape the look of the real car’s restyled front end with its wraparound lights.
I won this model on eBay from a guy in the UK. He’d originally bought it because he apparently imported the first ever full-size Voyager into the UK! He also had examples of the other vehicle in the promotion – a green Jeep Cherokee – but since that doesn’t have a unique MAN number, I don’t feel the need to add it to my collection!
One oddity with this model is that the front wheels don’t turn. It sits lower than a regular Caravan, leading me to believe that the front suspension was also removed – perhaps as part of the modification to incorporate the new grille. The seller told me that he’d owned several examples, none of which rolled, which is certainly rare for Matchbox models.
There are more than a dozen major versions of the regular Dodge Caravan to collect, beginning with another promotional – a burgundy model, 5,000 of which were produced for a Las Vegas Chrysler convention in 1983. Note that this was the only one without a sliding door. I don’t have it, so the comparison pictures above show the Chrysler alongside the black-and-silver Caravan, which was the first in the regular range. Here it is with some of the other releases.
The last of my new additions is another American icon, the Hummer. Specifically, this is the MB329 Hummer (with Armaments) from the 1997 movie, The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It was one of six models issued in playsets at the time; I’m still missing one of the versions of the Mercedes ML.
These Lost World sets were pretty cool. The armaments add play value and the figures are heavy cast metal. The dino is a velociraptor and the human figure is supposed to be Roland Tembo, played by the late Pete Postlethwaite.
Here’s the Hummer with some other models from the series.
The regular Hummer casting already existed as MB256 with a gun on the roof; it was later retooled without it, as MB506, and renamed Humvee.
And that’s it. I’m not travelling at the moment and toy shows aren’t really happening, so I don’t expect to fill any more #MBMission800 gaps before the year’s end, but hopefully I’ll get to cross a few more off the list in 2021. I’ll be sure to report back when I do!