Matchbox Monday goes off roading

Today I am taking a look at what was supposed to be the first batch of the Walmart USA exclusive Off Road Rally series. Scheduled for 2 batches over the latter part of 2020 I have a feeling that the current pandemic may have caused a few headaches, and this was one of them. As of writing I am just starting to hear reports of Walmart getting them, but people in USA have also been finding them randomly at other, smaller retail outlets. Other countries have also reported finding them too (sadly not where I am in the UK, but that doesn’t stop me). The second batch has started surfacing, mainly in Australia at the moment, but for now, I will concentrate on the first batch. As will also happen with batch B, the mix contains 3 brand new designs and 3 carry forward designs of older releases. So let’s get stuck in.

Number 1 of 12 (first 6 in this batch, 7-12 will be next batch which I will hopefully show later) is the MB1023 ’70 Datsun 510 Rally in a brand new design.

For this release, it comes in green with a side tampo print, due to its ruling of odd number years top print, even number years side print clause. What, there is no such clause? Okay, pure coincidence then. Mind you, I will show that make believe rule was broken anyway.

But what I think is a rule they have is that Nissan Motor Co Ltd is always on the tampo printing somewhere (except a 2018 promotional issue). It looks really nice in a mid green, with orange, yellow and blue tampo prints. Plus silver detailing too. I think it really gives off a 1970s vibe with this release. Talking of releases, I think I could do with a dive back into its history.

It started in 2017. Odd number year, top print. It debuted as MB94 in the basic range that year in orange with a black hood/bonnet and 9 roundel. Plus a few other logos and the roof items detailed too.

However, if you were a bit of a variation freak, you were having a field day with this one. For starters, there was the obvious. A batch was made with disk wheels, a batch with 6-spokes. Instant gratification for the variation nerd (like me).

But you could find shades too. That’s right, lighter or darker shades of orange were also to be found during production. Oh yes, now we are talking.The roof accessories also found small shade variations on them as well. You can just make out the yellow jerry can on the roof in these 2 models. One is a lighter yellow than the other. So much going on. I keep wondering why I have 6 of them….

But that was not the end of the story, and the 1 time the odd number year release saw side printing. Because it was a promotional issue. JCCS took place in September that year, and a Matchbox custom car contest had taken place for people to create whatever they fancied on a Matchbox model. The winners were chosen at the 2017 Albuquerque convention, and the winners were then sent a raw unspun example of the Datsun to create a custom to showcase at JCCS. Matchbox rewarded the winners with this unique additional tampo version of the basic range model, as well as giving a few more away at the event itself. They are not that easy to obtain.

2018 rolls around, and so that means side tampo. The model was again included in the basic range, this time it was MB108 for the year in red. In among the tampo prints was the first nod to a former Matchbox Ambassador for the company too. John Yanouzas was the first Matchbox Ambassador back in 2005/6.

The model saw a different promotional issue for the 2018 Matchbox Gathering that year in chromed gold and blue with grey wheels, as a nod to the 65th Anniversary of the Matchbox brand. Early Lesney issues used to have grey wheels. This dealer model was a limited run and obviously being a promotional also featured a full tampo scheme. It was also another to feature a former Ambassador. This is because Jim Gallegos was the 2nd Matchbox Ambassador (2006/7) and runs the Gathering. With his name, well initials really (in the JGAK logo, license plate), being a part of the tampo scheme this does give us another Ambassador nod on this model.

2019 saw what is currently its final basic range outing. Let’s see, odd number? That means top printing. Yep. It was MB73 for the year and came in dark blue with not 1, not 2, but 4 different Ambassador references. On the hood it states Wiersma Safety Equip. (Chuck Wiersma, 6th Ambassador 2010/11), Shabbir Oil (Shabbir Malik, 7th Ambassador 2011/12), Ozima Tires (Terry Ozima, 4th Ambassador 2008/9) and Nigel Shocks (Nigel Cooper, 9th Ambassador 2013/14).

And if you are a complete nerd like me, you might have more than 1 of them. For me, I discovered the base comes in a lighter or darker shade of yellow.

And finally, not being biased or anything, but obviously the best ones of the lot. For 2020 apart from being in the Off Road Rally series with side printing, it was also added to a round of 9-packs, also with side printing. Because, you know, even numbered year. For 2020 each round of 9-packs featured 2 assortments, and each assortment featured the same model but in an alternate colour scheme. The Datsun was to be found in either black or white depending on which pack you got. The tampo design was the same, and featured another 2 former Ambassadors in the tampo printing. Spanning the doors on the driver’s side (it is LHD) and visible on the black model is…. ME! Woohoo! See I told you, best of the lot (totally unbiased opinion). I was the 3rd Ambassador back in 2007/8. If you were to turn the model round, hence the white one facing the other way, the alternate design has Scaduto across the doors. Larry Scaduto was the 10th Ambassador in 2014/15.

By my reckoning that makes 8 former Matchbox Ambassadors having their names featured on the MB1023 ’70 Datsun 510 Rally casting. We had 11 in total, so at the moment there are only 3 names to be featured. Will these appear on future issues? John Nijhuis (5th Ambassador, 2009/10), John Lambert (8th Ambassador 2012/13) and Dirk Schleuer (11th Ambassador, 2015/16. Who knows…..

The number 2 of 12 slot belongs to the MB1049 ’15 Subaru WRX STi. Some people may be wondering why a casting, that was specifically designed as a police car is now in a rally themed pack.

Well I think it has been quite cleverly done. It has been designed as a safety car. With a ’00’ racing number too. Ooh, that’s a bit Dick Dastardly (I can hear Muttley’s wheezing laugh in the background as I write). So safety cars come with roof lights. A perfect fit. Plus, I like the “out of the box” thinking that was employed with this model.

It is the first time we have seen the model in a few years. So I am happy to see it return, although I know some felt the casting was not positioned correctly when created.

It has only seen 2 issues to date before this one. Obviously both were standard police designs. The first was in 2017 when it debuted in the basic range as MB60 in blue.

The second being the 2018 second issue in black with Japanese style design to it as MB67. I would love to see another model sport this same design at some point, as I think it is a great one.

I am really impressed over how these last few years have seen an influx of Subaru castings. Another is coming for 2021 joining the recent influx (I didn’t include the original MB751 Impreza WRX from 2007 which was the first), as after this debuted in 2017 we saw the MB1188 ’14 Subaru Sambar Truck arrive in early 2019 in blue as MB82.

Followed by a current white issue for 2020 as MB16.

Plus we also had the MB1171 Subaru SVX arrive right at the end of 2019 too. Also in white, as MB5. I am sure another version will be with us fairly soon.

Three Subarus in their white last issues. Now you see why I didn’t include the old Impreza. Its last issue was grey. It wouldn’t have fitted in with this last picture.

The first carry forward. The MB1185 ’85 Porsche 911 Rally in white.

It appears in white with a very familiar look to it as number 3 of 12.

Unlucky for some I guess. Well it is number 13 on the side.

That is because it is a repeat of the 2019 MB95 debut basic range issue.

Seeing as the model is only a year old, there is not much difference between the 2. The only thing I can see is with the interior section which forms the front and rear bumpers too. The new one is on the left in this picture. It is a little bit darker, but also shinier. If that makes sense. The original release doesn’t seem to shine as much, and appears dull in comparison.

The side printing is pretty much identical. Very minor nuances in shade between the models, which is often found simply between production runs in the same window.

So where shall I take this one? Well, I though how about another racy little Porsche. The first one. For this we go back to 1970. It’s hard to believe that during the Lesney regular wheel era there was not 1 Porsche model at all. It never crossed their minds to add one to the range. The real vehicle was launched in 1966 as a racing vehicle for the World Sportscar Championship (now known as the WEC) shortly after the Ford GT40 had won the 1966 LeMans 24 Hour race. The Porsche 906 had been going a few years, and this was basically an evolution, officially titled 906/10, it gained the 910 moniker after. This model though, it didn’t really do so well in the above 2000cc prototype series (something that Ford and Ferrari were embroiled in. Although they did enter some in 1967 with larger engines, they concentrated more on the below 2000cc prototype category, winning the 1967 championship easily, trouncing the second place Lotus entries. Their larger engines models did actually beat Ford into 2nd place in 1967 in the above 2000cc class, but lost out to Ferrari. The 910 was replaced by the 907 for the 1968 season due to the new regulations. So although it was launched in the Matchbox range at the same time as the Ford Group 6, in reality it was a previous generation racing car to it, more in line with the GT40. As a kid though, I used to often race my Ford Group 6 and Porsche 910 around together.

The casting ran for 5 years in the basic range as MB68 from 1970 until 1974. During that time it was only ever sold officially in 1 colour. Dark metallic red. But with 5 years of production, and Lesney’s inability to use the same paint for more than a few weeks (it appeared) you just know that variations in shade was quite extreme.

Windows would also vary. Usually some sort of amber tint would be on them, but examples could be found with clear windows.

And at the tail end of 1971 they set about widening the wheels for better track use too, so later examples came with wheels that were much wider than before.

It didn’t really require much to alter the casting, as wheel arches were already quite large. Hence it being one of the earlier models to make the switch.

Of course I also had to mention about labels. First of all the obvious. If you read my previous post on the 1969 Superfast (if you didn’t, click here if you want to read it) , you would have seen a plethora of models that were in the G-3 Racing set. One of the other models was the Porsche. So you could find that with additional labels on too.

But you may also be lucky enough to find a label or 2 nabbed from another model for the basic range. This 45 label should have been on the Ford Group 6. But it ended up here instead. There is a rare scorpion label which I am still hunting down too.

But finally before I move back to modern stuff again I thought I would mention the Brroom Stick again. I also mentioned this the other week in my 1969 Superfast article. Weirdly, I did not throw the box away when I got one many years ago. I kept it with a view of finishing opening it and using the aforementioned Brroom Stick to see how it actually works. I threw it in a box and forgot about it. I had still forgotten at the time of the last article, only randomly finding it a week or so ago as I was just about to photograph these Porsches. I wonder if I should do a video or slideshow showing how it works or something. Ha ha! But apart from an exclusive Lamborghini Marzal appearing in the Brroom Stick packs in 1972, so did a white Porsche 910.

This brings us to number 4 in the list. Another outing for the MB788 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor.

This casting has had quite the run of issues over the years. Definitely one of the go-to models of the last decade.

But is it looking a little familiar? No it is not a carry forward, but rather a theme repeat. I love these continuing themes on models.

It all started back in 2008 when the MB723 VW Beetle 4×4 showed it off. It was (deep breath) MB91 in the US range, MB63 in the LAAM range and MB31 in the ROW range that year, plus it came in 2 versions through the year. First in orange, and then later in green.

Earlier this year, the MB1058 Sonora Shredder popped in the basic range as MB81 and with it, the return of the theme.

I love recurring themes and am thoroughly enjoying this one. In fact, the new Off Road Rally 5-pack for 2021 has another new addition to the run. But, well, I am getting to the Beetle very shortly, so because I did the Raptor run down with the Top Gun Maverick report a few months ago, I don’t want to repeat myself.

Which is why I am delving into the short history of the Sonora Shredder. I love this little model. I think it is so cute. It is a Matchbox Originals design from 2017 where it first arrived as MB93 in black.

However, if you are crazy like me, you might have noticed that the paint finish varied during production. From quite a glossy finish to the model on the left, to a matte finish of the model on the right.

But that was not its only 2017 release. It also appeared at the very end of the year as MB61 in red. That was a very unusual batch of models, where only 2 new additions were included, and the rest of the assortment was made up of a sort of “best of” 2017 basics, with models returning from batches across the year.

And yeah, this one also varied quite a bit during production. From a ruby red shade to a dark pinkish red.

The 2018 MB107 was the only one to date that I have not been able to find a shade on. Usually green is pretty good for shade variation nutters like myself, but I am sure others were able to find something.

And after taking 2019 off, it returned in 2020 in the orange that matches the Raptor.

But again, shades have been rampant through this release.

In fact, it got so much that I was even finding shades to the white tampo printing on the side. Bright white or pinkish white. Yes, this model has been a lot of fun for me. Sadly, with the Raptor being such a tough find, I have a feeling I might not be able to obtain a shade to that one.

And now for the reason why I did not go through the back catalogue of the Beetle. Because it is number 5 in the series.

MB723 has not been seen since the Gulf issue which appeared in every 9-pack of 2019. Or what felt like every 9-pack of 2019 (plus I think it did spread into 2020 too).

This is a carry forward too, but unlike the MB1085 ’85 Porsche 911 Rally already shown, this is a carry forward from 2009. That was 11 years ago.

So that means it looks quite different to how it did back then. At the time of release, is came with the ringed gear wheels, but is now sporting the ringed 8-spokes. The tampo printing is in different shades, particularly evident with the yellow.

But most of all, metallic brown? Matte chocolate? Check inside, black interior/tan interior. It may have been a carry forward, but this has so much of a difference. This is why I love seeing carry forwards from years back. A carry forward from a year or 2 might give us something small. But give it a chunk of years and the models are almost entirely different.

Okay so now I go through the history of the casting. The casting was first created in 2007 as a replacement for the MB491/MB582 casting which had been in use from 2001 until 2006. For its debut it was sold as MB61 in light blue. Or very light blue. Honestly, me and my shades.

And well, I have already mentioned MB91 (US)/MB63 (LAAM)/MB31 (ROW) for 2008. But I didn’t go into the details.

Version 1 (orange) was found to sport either the standard ringed gear wheels, but a production run popped up sporting the older oval wheels.

And it could be found in shade variations too between light and dark orange. Strangely enough, version 2 in green I never found anything unusual on.

But around the same time as the orange was in production the model was also included in the Dino Mountain 5-pack in olive. You can find small shade variations, but the main change was again when the ringed gear wheels ran out, they threw on some old ovals to keep production going.

But 2008 was also an extremely busy year. Aside from 2 different basics and a 5-pack issue, we also saw a purple model in the Adventure all-exclusive 10-pack that year and a Dora the Explorer liveried yellow model in the Nick Jr licensed 5-pack too. A total of 5 releases.

Then there was the 2009 issue. Again, I did not mention full details. It was found as either MB82 in the US range, MB24 in the LAAM range or MB31 in the ROW range for 2009. During production the shade of chocolate varied quite a bit. I do own 4 examples myself, but simply show the lightest and darkest here.

The oval wheels made another random appearance during a production run of the Desert Adventure 5-pack too in place of the usual ringed gear wheels it sported.

Plus, the shade of teal also varied during production too. Lighter and darker shades can be found.

It also made another appearance in the 2009 Adventure all-exclusive 10-pack. This time in grey.

Yay! National Parks. Got to love the National Parks models. This casting received the NP theme in 2011 where it was sold as MB91 in the US range, MB55 in the LAAM range or MB58 in the ROW range. Again though, I do enjoy finding shades, and I found the shade of mint to vary quite a bit on this one.

2011 saw absolutely nothing from the casting, but in 2012 it was back in the basic range in white as MB41.

Which this time sports the shade on the base section. Lighter or darker orange bases can be found.

It was also a part of the Desert Adventure 5-pack that year, which saw us receive another green issue. Scorpion 38. I am sure there is a history behind that name.

It was not seen in 2013, but returned to the basic range in 2014 as MB63 in white.

And then a final purple issue as MB105 in 2015 before taking a holiday.

It made its return in the 2019 No Road, No Problem 5-pack in familiar blue Gulf design. And as mentioned, it was also a part of the 2019 batch B 9-packs (1 of 2 packs), batch E (both packs), batch F (1 of 2 packs), 2020 batch A (both packs) and batch B (1 of 2 packs). A total of 7 different 9-packs. They definitely got their money’s worth out of that license.

Apart from rolling into several 2020 9-packs, the Beetle has seen another proper 2020 release too. The Sweets set that appeared at the start of the year saw a white “Dots” liveried model included as one of the 6 models.

Which brings us to the last of the models in this set. Taking the number 6 slot is the MB721 ’72 Ford Bronco 4×4.

As I mentioned at the start, the series is half new, half carry forward, and so as we have seen 3 newbies and 2 carry forwards so far, this one is obviously a carry forward too.

And again, this is not a recent carry forward. They have gone back to….

2009 again. Yes, 2 of the carry forwards are models that were originally part of the 2009 basic range. So again this one is seeing quite a bit of a difference between the 2 releases. The ringed gear wheels of 2009 have now changed to dual ringed 8-sot wheels for 2020.

But quite similarly to the Beetle, the matte paint finish of the original has turned glossy. Except this time it is not a metallic paint finish, just a noticeably lighter blue (now gloss) shade. Quite a difference. With the tampo just being black and white, there was not any differences to be found between the 2 releases. But a significant paint change and different wheels it good enough for me.

But, just as with the Raptor earlier, I did a run down in the Top Gun Maverick report, so I decided to go with the other Bronco. With the new 2021 Bronco coming for 2021 (something I can’t wait for) I think it is only fair to remind people of the first Bronco that Matchbox made. The MB187 Bronco II in 1987. Although using the same name, the Bronco II was actually a smaller vehicle. Bronco II was not a moniker to the generation, but rather a note that it was the second Bronco in the line-up. It was made alongside the 3rd, then 4th generation of larger Bronco (which did not go by the name Bronco I at that point, before anybody asks). Did you know it was the predecessor to the Ford Explorer? It was actually a sister model to the Ford Ranger Pickup when launched in 1983 and it ran until 1991 when the Explorer 3-door replaced it. Matchbox launched the Bronco II as MB39 in the US range, but it did not join the ROW range until 1988, and there it was MB35. The first issue was white with a red, orange and black Bronco design on the side. It ran for 3 years, so plenty of time for ROW collectors to catch up.

During this time, under Universal ownership, Matchbox came up with the Super Color Changers series. The series ran from 1988 until 1990 and featured models that would change colour depending on how warm or cold they were. Models were simply used in an alternate colour to the one being used in the basic range, and the Bronco II became brown. It would turn pea green as it got warmer. But with 3 years of production it is possible to find shade variations. But quite difficult to ensure you are getting a shade, and not just a different level of warmth.

In 1990 the basic range issue changed design. It was now a Beach Patrol Coast Guard liveried model. During production the casting was boxed up and shipped out to Thailand from Macau, with roughly 1 year of production at each factory.

In 1991 the model joined the My First Matchbox series. Using mainly primary colours only, the casting did not include the spare wheel on the rear for safety reasons. There is supposedly a first run with blue on the wheels, but I am still to find that one.

1991 also saw a promotional issue for Kellog’s in the US in yellow with flames.

For 1992, the basic range issue turned blue with a 4×4 and white splash design. However, with 3 years of production of this design, we did find a few changes. The shade of blue could alter over time, the orange tampo printing sometimes came out more of a peach shade, but the main thing was that the Bronco window print slid down to the hood as time went on.

Also in 1992, the model was added to the EM-89 multi-pack in a design that matched the MB184 Ford LTD Police. At first the roof print was a dark peach and the shield sported a silver background. But with the multi-pack running for 3 years, the roof print turned light orange, and the silver background to the shield was blanked off (just leaving the white underneath).

Which brings me to a nice little prepro. It is amazing how many random pre-production samples I have of vehicles. This one was on a yellow model instead of white, but featuring the dark peach roof print and no silver behind the shield. A crossover variation but on a yellow vehicle.

In 1993 the Off Road 5-pack featured the same design on the Bronco II, but this time it was on a red model. It may just be me, but would the ’72 Bronco look really cool sporting this design as a retro look? Future ideas?

What is my favourite version of the Bronco II you ask? Okay, so nobody was asking that, or even thinking it. But I am going to tell you anyway. It is this 1994 Collectors Choice model. I just loved the green and tan look to the model. It was one of the star models of the 24-vehicle set when it came out in my eyes. I still love it now.

In 1995 the model changed its look for the basic range again. It turned black with a piranha theme to it. Over the course of the year, the Tyco team (who owned the brand at the time) created a deliberate collector chase by reducing the tampo printing on a number of models. The Bronco was one of them, and the hood print was removed later on in production.

We also saw this zebra themed Off Road 5-pack issue that year too. Now there was an Australian promotional model in 1995, but I am still to get it. It was for World 4 Kids, and was yellow with a red roof and blue lower section. One day I will add that to my collection.

1996 saw changes to both the regular issues. The basic range turned from black to silver.

And the zebra became more zebra like now in white and black in the 1996 Off Road 5-pack.

1997 was the final year for the model in the ROW basic range, where it (as well as in the US) turned white again with a Luigi’s Pizza design to it. Australia though, Matchbox came up with a number of unique models exclusively for the Australian market that year, and a Kidz FM liveried black model was MB15 for that market only.

Also in 1997, the USA market saw a unique run of all models in the 1-75 series in plain gold as a part of the Gold Challenge. They were mixed in with regular assortments over the course of the year. But not every box contained one.

For 1998, as stated, the ROW range dropped the Bronco II. But in the US range it was still pottering along and the white Luigi’s Pizza model turned red in 1998. This was also the first year of Mattel ownership proper, which meant that the 1-75 series was no longer just continuing each model under its original number. So the Bronco II moved to MB51 that year.

The Rugged Riders 5-pack that year saw a rather familiar looking Bronco II too. After an orange with black zebra striped debut, 5-packs continued with a white with black stripes, and now a purple with white stripes model. there is a variation on this, if you are so inclined. I may be slightly crazy when it comes to variations, but I don’t do base variations, unless they are visible without the need to turn over. This one does require you to turn the model over though. It was a part of the 1998 5-pack, but then returned in a 2000 Safari playset. But the later production run for that was with a slightly updated casting. Until now the writing had been in italics and was legible by putting the front of the model towards the left. The base saw them blank all the writing out, and then re-write it all upside down, but no longer in italic font. So you would need to put the front of the model to the right to read it. I have literally no idea why they did that. It was just something they did. All the writing was the same. No changes to any wording at all. It was purely now in a straight font instead of italic and now upside down.

1999 saw the final basic range release of the Bronco II. It was sold as MB25 exclusively in the US market, but now in a Vinnie (and pizza) livery. The same livery was used on the ROW MB25 too, but instead of the Bronco II it was the MB281 Ford Transit.

After that, the model took a few years off before returning for 1 more run. This was as a part of the 2002 Across America series, where it was the model chosen to represent Montana. After that, the casting was retired. But I am hoping to see one or two of these designs (hopefully the white splash 4×4 one) used on a newer Bronco casting as a part of the Retro series. I like the retro stuff.

So that brings us to the end of another report. Off Road Rally. I think this is a cool little series. A second batch is out now (hopefully will be running down that one soon) and a themed 5-pack has just arrived for 2021. Just imagine if they can get a few more rally themed vehicles going. My personal choice would be a classic Opel Manta B400 with additional front spot lights. Anyway, enough pondering over future ideas, next week I will be back with more of 2020 batch F. Until then I hope people have a good week.

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