Model: Matchbox Powell Sport Pickup
Line: MBX Countryside (90/100)
Ebay link: Matchbox Powell Sport Truck
This is such a unique subject matter that it could be part of the Single File series. It’s physical proof that Matchbox designers are proper car geeks, the sort of people that know their cars inside out and can pick certain models out of obscurity and put them onto pegs. And they’re getting better at it: the Subaru SVX, the Divco Milk truck and now the Powell Sport Truck.
The Powell Manufacturing Company was founded in 1926 by Hayward and Channing Powell. They were primarily known for producing radios, motorbikes and scooters. Looking to expand the business, the company switched to four wheels. The brothers took inspiration from their lifestyle and hobbies, wanting a vehicle to be able to take them hunting, shooting and fishing. They wanted the rugged reliability of a Jeep but a more relaxed, comfortable car like driving experience. In 1955 the Sport Wagon was born and arguably the Powells invented the modern “crossover” vehicle!
The Sport Wagon used the refurbished chassis, engines and transmissions from scrapped 1941 Plymouth sedans. Employees would scout wrecking yards in search of parts and then send them away to be refurbished. This wasn’t just an exercise in extreme cost cutting, the Plymouth was known to be a very reliable vehicle and thus made the perfect base.
The body was made from stamped steel with no compound curves to keep costs as low as possible, and the front clips were made of fiberglass in a local boat yard. One innovative feature was the optional slide out storage tubes in which the sporting gentleman of the day could store his rifle, fishing rods and nets.
The company introduced a station wagon version in 1956 and made over 150 of them, and nearly 1000 pickups. Sadly though, a business relying on local junk yards as their source of parts was never going to be sustainable. Despite making a reasonable profit, the company had to cease production in 1957. They had simply ran out of parts.
To bring such a weird and wonderful vehicle to their mainline is such a cool step from Matchbox, and I’m sending a virtual high five to the person who got this onto the drawing board. It’s a fantastic casting in every way. The blocky lines can obviously be replicated with ease but its the little touches that make this thing great: the colour with the contrasting red interior, the wheel choice, the decals (which are superb), the California vanity plate, the catches for the split bonnet (hood). It looks ready to load up with a couple of rifles and the weekend’s camping gear and head off into the wilderness.
A properly fitting tribute to a vehicle perhaps too ahead of its time. I am really looking forward to whatever forgotten classic Matchbox chooses next, I know they’ll do it justice.