Matchbox Monday 9-packs are a bus…. load of fun

There is a saying in the UK (not sure if it is used in other countries) that goes “and then the penny drops”. Basically, it means that somebody (or something) starts doing something unexpectedly and only later do you realize why they started doing it. Until this year I had not done many write-ups on the larger multipacks, sticking mainly to single issues of models. Sure there are random deep dives into my collection for models from these larger sets, and once in a while I might decide a 5-pack was so good it deserved a piece. But when I saw the latest Two Story Bus in this pack in various Instagram posts, before I even got my own, I hatched a plan. Seeing as how 9-packs had now enlarged to include 2 exclusives and a series of 3 semi-exclusives in each batch giving us 5 models, I immediately got to work on writing up the first batch, knowing that it would lead into this one. Sometimes there is a method to my madness. I will get to that model shortly, but I am going to start this rundown of batch B 9-packs of 2021 with the 2 exclusive models.

And first up is the MB300 ’56 Ford Pick-up. This is a really cool casting that just keeps going and going. Mind you it did stop for a while as they created an offshoot in the way of the MB733 Ford F-100 Panel Delivery Van which saw action for a number of years. But recently the original Pick-up made its return.

In 2021 it appears as one of the 9-pack exclusives in black with a Matchbox Surf Country side design. I love the little details. Does anybody notice the little “Surf’s Up” logo behind the rear wheel? I think this is a lovely design. Plus, it really reminds me of something.

This MB282 Holden FJ Panel Van from 2001. It was sold exclusively in the Australia/New Zealand market that year as MB63 in black with a surfing scene on the side.

However, if you look at the rear of the model, you will notice a rather familiar looking Surf Country design there too. I do believe this was a big influence over the new model’s design. I think that is extremely cool. I love it. Now do I dive back into the Holden history, or shall I go with the Pick-up’s own history.

I went with the Pick-up. Maybe I will attempt a Holden picture set later this year. I have ideas percolating already. MB300 debuted back in 1997. This was during the first year of a 3-year stint where new castings saw a “Fire Edition” debut. These were the very first models run off the production line, and the first ones would be left unpainted to show off the raw bodies, with the models also seeing a fully detailed model included too. This one was black with a white roof and fine detailing.

Before being added to the basic range as MB48 in purple with flames. Although I did find what I dub the “Johnny Storm” version. For anybody who doesn’t know who he is, Johnny Storm is a member of the Fantastic Four. A Marvel comic-strip/film franchise whose alter-ego is the Human Torch. Flame on – Human Torch. Flame off – Johnny Storm. Do you see where I was coming from with this one? It was missing the flames on the model.

In USA 1997 was seeing the entire range also sport a special Gold Challenge release, and this one I discovered could sport a shade variation, even on the small 10,000 piece run it had.

In 1998 it moved to the MB35 slot and this time all the models were plain. This sported no tampo at all on the red body.

The model did also see some premium issues, but as you may already know, I am still in the midst of filling in many premium issues of older Matchbox models, with this 1998 Premiere Collection series 20 model being one of the few I have.

Although what I do have is this. In 1998 Matchbox Collectibles was launched, and one of their early items was a special Matchbox Railroad train set. Included on the train was a pair of premium miniatures. A second set was done as a seasonal item, and a side item sold on its own was created featuring the Ford Pick-up in pumpkin with M.B.R.R. on the doors and premium detailing/rubber wheels to tie in. Some leftover bodies (missing the M.B.R.R. door detailing) were created using excess concave 5-spoke wheels and dumped on the local market in China.

1998 also saw the Star Cars series debut with the Happy Days TV show being immortalized on the side of the Ford.

1999 was a bit of a quieter year for the model though. It only saw 1 release, as MB21 in the US market only.

2000 saw things gather pace again as MB56 for the US market was red with a Texaco themed side design. The first 10,000 examples sported a Matchbox 2000 logo on the hood.

But with the range seeing a 5-way split, the Australian market also saw an issue. This one was black with Great White Adventures on the doors as MB15.

The model was also included in the Car Wash 5-pack that year too, in what I still think is one of its best looks ever. Plain yellow with a muddy side. Down the 1 side you saw 2 finger squiggles.

The other had 3 finger squiggles. Definitely in need of a wash. I loved it!

Another really nice design adorned an Avon exclusive twin pack of “Father-son” models that came with a more modern Ford Expedition. These models all sported a Coca-Cola theme to them.

In 2001 the model went through a small change. During production of the MB15 they changed it from a plastic base to a metal base. Early runs saw a chromed plastic base section as MB300, but this change, at the time, gave the model a new MAN number. It became MB437. The new updated base was now silver painted. You also discovered that the model would usually sport flower wheels, but could be found with concave 5-spokes too.

MB437 was rather short lived though. Apart from a premium issue Toys R Us twin pack in 2001, it continued into 2002 as a part of the Across America series for Maine, featuring Al’s Lobster Shack on the side.

And it was also a part of the General Mills licensed 5-pack that year, in green with a Lucky Charms design.

But later in 2002 it was in the Roadside Rescue 5-pack, and the plastic base of MB300 had returned. MB437 was around for just 1 year. From here-on in, all issues were back to being under the MB300 moniker.

Including premium issues. I do own this 2003 Collectibles Ford 100 Years model which did have the plastic base. I believe it was the only model that appeared that year.

2004 and another licensed 5-pack issue. This time in purple with Huckleberry Hound on the side as a part of the Hanna Barbera 5-pack.

The model was also included in the Superfast series that year too in blue. This was in the number 26 position.

It continued on in the number 26 position for the 2005 Superfast series too, with 2 different colours for the 2 markets. There were 7,500 green made for markets outside of USA that was taking the series, with the USA itself seeing a 15,000 piece run in burgundy. As was the case at the time, packaging was being overly cautious by now, and although they made 7,500 or 15,000, packages stated they were “up to” either 8,000 or 15,500 as they were adding 500 to each number count for legal reasons in case anybody could prove the count was wrong.

In 2006 the model finally returned to the basic range as MB66. This was a simple silvery blue look, and during production the usual “older style” dish disc wheels were swapped out for some lace wheels for a short run.

It was also included in a tie-in 5-pack for the Superman Returns film, in a Kent Dairy Farm livery.

As well as continuing on as the number 26 in the Superfast series in purple with white-walled wheels.

2007 was to be, until the model returned, the last we would see of the casting for quite some time. As mentioned they created the Panel Delivery as an offshoot and ran with that instead. The Farm Fresh Produce liveried green model still stands as the last time this casting has been seen in the basic range. I did notice the MB56 matte green shade could vary a bit during production though.

The standard Superfast series had been replaced by a smaller Superfast America series for 2007 exclusively for Walmart in USA, and the model was chosen to a part of the set as number 18 in charcoal. This was to be the last we would see of the casting for over a decade.

Because it did not see another use until the 2018 Coffee Cruisers 5-pack. During production I did see the shade of yellow would vary too. It also saw additional production in the 2019 Walmart exclusive Ford Truck set too as a carry forward.

Obviously with over a decade out of use, when it returned it did need some work to get it going right again. The rear bed became a part of the interior section, but what is not quite so obvious is that the model shrank a little.

It is slightly narrower, and slightly shorter. The main part of the shortening is from where the cab goes to the rear wheel arch. The gap between them has been reduced ever so slightly. After seeing all the cosmetic surgery done to the model, I was surprised we had not seen more of it since the re-debut in 2018/19. I am sure this is not the last we will see of it.

The other exclusive to the packs, only found in 1 of the pair released for batch B, is the MB759 Dodge Challenger. Considering the Ford Pick-up has not seen much action lately, the Dodge is the complete opposite. It saw a bunch of 2020 issues.

Although it has never been seen in anything like this golden tan before. I really like this colour scheme. Again, as is always the case with the Challengers, it is very clean and simple, with just front and rear tampo.

Now I did do a recap of all the Challengers last year (as I said, 2020 saw quite a few of them) so I am going to gloss over this one a little bit, so I can get to the semi-exclusives for more fun. As we know, the model debuted back in 2009 as MB12. Shades of metallic orange exist.

As well as a solid orange variant too.

Right from the word go, this model was fun to collect. Solid vs metallic, light vs dark. Yes I was having a lot of fun with it.

We saw a number of issues over the year in singles and multipacks. The 10-pack of 1st Editions seeing a blue version in 2009.

But the 10-pack that got most people talking was the 2012 one. This was not an exclusive model for that pack. It was supposed to have been the 2012 basic range issue, but a slight hiccup with the Dodge license meant all production of Dodges were temporarily halted. However, they had already done a run and included it in batch C of the 10-packs that year, in an International Fire Pumper exclusive set. It was only when the year played out and people realized it wasn’t coming that suddenly interest in that pack skyrocketed. When they finally did make the model for the 2012 basic range (in late 2013) they decided to turn it purple so the green became an exclusive to the 10-pack without intending to be.

But after all that, we never saw the model again until 2017 when it randomly popped up in the basic range again. MB21 in dark pink. Until 2020 that was the only one we saw.

But as I said, 2020 was a bit of a year for the model. A 5-pack appearance in the Highway Speeders set in green. A second 5-pack, this time one of the Top Gun Maverick licensed set too in grey. Plus, Mission Force included it in the Rescue Squad set as a carry forward of the 2012 (or 2013 depending on how you look at it) purple basic range issue.

So in the last year or so, we have seen 4 different Dodge Challengers arrive. That is quite the resurgence.

So now I move on to the semi-exclusives. First up, a fun little design for the MB444 Ford Panel Van (now) with roof light. This model being a semi-exclusive means that it appears in both the 9-packs in this batch, whereas the Dodge and Ford Pick Up already shown were only in 1 pack each.

It comes in white with an ABQ Rooter side design. One of Michael Heralda’s I see. A quick word from Michael on his inspiration behind this cool look.

Since we now reside in New Mexico I try to pay homage to this wonderful state when an opportunity presents itself hence the LARGE ABQ on the side deco for that model.  I have yet  to actually get one in my hands to add to my collection but I hope that situation changes soon.  The best line of copy in that deco is for sure “Hire The Best & Flush The Rest!” See the attachment above!

Thanks Michael. I agree on that tagline. It made me smile as soon as I saw it. Job done! Now I did mention that this was MB444 (now) with roof light, because when they retooled the casting, they used the first MB444 casting which originally came with roof equipment, and turned this into a police style vehicle. They did not use the MB474 alternate which was already sporting a separate light bar, or the MB479 which was the one without anything on the roof. So it can become a little muddied when looking back at the history of this casting in general.

You see the original police variant was an offshoot of the MB444 casting. It debuted in the 2000 D.A.R.E. series 3 for Dover Police. Obviously the roof accessories did not work on this, so they gave it a new MAN number for the light bar accessory on there.

It saw a second outing in 2001 when it was added to the Airspeed 5-pack. This was a dark green model with M-Force Airshow on the side. It might have had lights on the roof, but was definitely not a police vehicle.

But it did have a police themed look in the Police Air Patrol Launcher pack that year too. Its busiest year ever, as this was the only time it was used more than once in a year.

Mind you saying that, just being used once in a year was an achievement. This was the next issue of the MB474 casting, as part of the 2002 Heroes set, exclusive to the USA market.

After that we did not see it until 2006, when it popped up in the Fire 5-pack that year in red with a paramedic themed side design.

After that, only 1 more outing before MB474 was retired. The 2009 Police 5-pack in white. Out of all 3 MAN numbers assigned to the various incarnations of the Ford Panel Truck, the MB474 was the first to retire.

So when the model returned in 2017 as a part of the Police 5-pack again, it was using the earlier MB444 number. The roof accessories had been removed and the window element creating a light itself. Even though, to some, it should have been MB474. But as I often say, this MAN system is for the factory workers. It is what makes sense to them, so we just roll with the blips in the list.

It then popped up in the basic range in 2018 as MB69. Has anybody else noticed that since the model returned in 2017, we only have 3 new releases and all have been white? I don’t know if other countries have heard of the expression, but in the UK we had a phrase, known as “white van man”. It often referred to the professional worker who used their vans (more often in white) for their job (much like the ABQ Rooter man would), and were often seen on the roads aggressively making their way through traffic, parking in awkward spots so people were unable to get by, and just being a nuisance. It became quite big in the late 1990s, although has faded away somewhat now. Anyway, that was just a silly little anecdote I thought of as I was finishing this model off. Next!

This looks rather familiar. Not the fact that this is the MB781 Rock Shocker, but the look.

Red with a muddy Scorpion side design.

Well, that is because it is. The Scorpion look was originally a part of the 2012 Desert Adventure 5-pack. There are variations though.

First of all, look at the shade of red. Quite a bit of a shade.

Plus the line under Scorpion is now fully filled in. The original 2012 issue had a bit of a gap towards the right end. It is good enough for me.

Because, if I go back through the model’s history, I do find quite a lot of variations over the releases, and until now the 2012 5-pack had none. The model began its life back in 2009, where it debuted in 2/3 of the market that year. This was during the 3-way split between US, LAAM and ROW markets, and although it was a brand new casting, the LAAM market did not see it. In the US it was MB76, for ROW markets MB7. And right away I was finding shades with this one. Grey or creamy grey.

It 2010 it became a US exclusive, only being sold there as MB88. There was a batch where 6-spoke wheels were applied instead of the usual cog wheels.

But for me, it wasn’t as good as finding a shade. Oh yes, lighter or darker orange anyone?

It saw its first 5-pack action that year too, as a part of the Desert Adventure pack. This was the first time I couldn’t find a variation.

But as a part of the all exclusive Adventure 10-pack in green , I did see lighter or darker shades to add to my collection.

In 2011 it continued on as a US exclusive issue, again as MB88, and this time there was no wheel variation. Just the shade variation on the dark yellow which could be a more orangey shade at times.

But that was nothing compared to the Off Road Adventure 5-pack. Usually the model was found in a greeny gold shade, but one batch just saw green.

For 2012 it finally saw a worldwide release in the basic range, as the basic range was amalgamated between all markets again. MB58 was white, and I did not find anything unusual to note.

Obviously I have already covered the 2012 5-pack, so moving on to 2013 and a dark purple model was a part of the basic range as MB118.

Ooh I found a shade again. Well, dark yellow, if I remember right, these can often turn a bit orangey. Yes sure enough, a pair of 2014 MB53s, plus, this model was also included in the Dino Adventure 5-pack as this was during the short lived period of pulling models from basics for 5-packs. Although in this case, with the model sporting a dino themed side design and the 5-pack being Dino Adventure, I am sure the reverse was correct. Designed for a 5-pack, nudged into single use too.

In 2015 the model only saw 1 brief outing. Due to Mattel obtaining the rights to Jurassic World at the 11th hour, they did not have time to properly create a series of models from the first movie of the trilogy. We have seen what they achieved with the second one, given time to work on it. But with such a quick turnaround required, when they got the rights, they simply created a bunch of models with Jurassic World themed designs on them. The Rock Shocker was one of them, and was simply silver with a dino head side design (& JW in a hexagon for Jurassic World). It was sold as a single, as some were singles, some 5-packs.

In 2016 it returned to the basic range as MB125 in gold with a Rock Shocker side design. Again I found shades of gold.

And after that it only saw one more outing, in 2017 as MB107 in tan. Again I found shades of tan.

But what I also noticed was the the 2017 side design was the same as the 2016 side design. It is only when you put them together you realize that 2016 was gold, 2017 was tan, they are different. Just a recurring theme. This is the first we have seen of the casting in 4 years.

And finally, well I had to leave the best until last didn’t I. This is the reason why I knew I needed to work 9-packs into my blog reports.

The MB887 Two Story Bus. A British vehicle with an American spelled name. In the UK, story is just something you read in a book. In USA it also means more than one layer. But the UK changes that to “Storey”, adding an “e” in the word. One of the spelling differences between UK English and US English. A Matchbox originals design of course, this is a very good proximity of the types of double decker buses that get used in the UK without the need to pay license fees to any particular company. I always thought it was a very good design, and have been wondering where it has been all this time. But the best part to me, and again, this is such an honour. That’s me on it! I honestly had no idea this was coming. When I saw the first pictures as the sets were hitting stores (I think Australia saw them first) I fell off my chair. I couldn’t believe it! I was totally blown away.

Obviously there is also the tie-in with this site too, Lamley. The UK notes though (the cities of London, Birmingham and Manchester, as well as the whole county of Yorkshire) a few iconic London silhouettes and then the “pièce de résistance” as they say in France (and in many English speaking countries who couldn’t be bothered to translate it including us in the UK) the “See all the sneaks in the UK! Superguide David” piece on the side. The caricature on the side is not exactly me, but it is not that far off. Those who know me are saying it does look a bit like me. They did a phenomenal job with this and I am so happy that it is a semi-exclusive, because this meant I got 2 of them. One for the collection, and another to show off to anybody who may even show any slight flicker of interest….

Can everybody tell I really like this? I mean REALLY like it. Again, many MANY thanks go out to the guys at Mattel for coming up with this design on the model. There is only thing left to do, and that is to add in a few extras.

I am very happy to see this finally return. It debuted in 2013 as MB1 in white over gold with an MBX Bus side design.

After that we saw a much more traditional red bus look as very well known in the UK. This was the 2014 MB6, and proved to be the final basic range issue.

The only other issue we have seen to date is the 2015 10-pack exclusive issue in white over green. I am very happy to see it return, especially in such an incredible look. Did I mention I like the look of it?

We don’t appear to be having a lot of luck with buses recently. The Two Story Bus was sort of replaced by the MB1016 Swift Shuttle for 2016. It debuted in orange as MB6.

But this followed a very similar pattern. In 2017 it saw its second (and to date) last basic range outing as MB12 in white.

The following year, 2018, it moved to a multipack for one more run. This time though, it was a 5-pack as it was a part of the Metro Transit set. Plus, this one had a nice wheel variation too coming with either 6-spokes or disk wheels. But just like the Two Story Bus, this had a total of 3 releases at first. I wonder if this will return soon too?

Mind you, is anybody ready for this to return yet? The MB649 Bass Bus. No? Still too soon? 2004 Ultra Heroes. They happened!

But I am having a bit of fun finishing my report now. White over grey? That is rather familiar, albeit last time it was white over zamac. The MB694 Double Decker had a similar colour scheme as the 2013 Early Bird Gathering Dinner promotional model look.

It also reminds me of this. Quite poignant timing as the Queen of England’s husband has just passed away. A silver MB17-B The Londoner was prepared for her Silver Jubilee in 1977.

But we can get further afield with silver too, as a couple of coaches have seen nice silver looks. The MB66-A Greyhound Coach which ran from 1967 until 1971 was always silver. The MB170 Ikarus Coach was a 2004 promotional Coca Cola item in its final year of production in 2004 too. So the new bus has some good company. Have you forgotten I showed a picture of the Bass Bus yet?

Well I am sure you will soon, as I have finished off another report. 2 exclusives, 3 semi-exclusives making up the Batch B 9-packs of 2021. I can’t wait to get a hold of the batch C sets as they are looking to include more awesome models.

None as awesome as the bus though. Did I mention I like this one? I can’t remember if I did. Next week I will be finishing off batch B of 2021’s basic range, and yes I have batch C from Wheel Collectors ready to move on to that batch pretty quickly afterwards too. So lots of up to date goodies to come. Until then have a safe week everyone.

8 Replies to “Matchbox Monday 9-packs are a bus…. load of fun”

  1. Wow! When you compare the newest offerings to previously released versions.. all I can think is a classic tune we all know so well by a beloved recording artist..
    but the song, “Goodbye yellow brick road..”, add in instead. “Goodbye chrome plated base..”!

    You catch my drift, right Mattel??!!… Ahhhh.. the good ole days!!!

    1. The chrome thing has always happened. I remember the Lesney Dodge Challenger in red. It started with a chrome interior, but after a while they dropped the chrome and left it with a white one. Early AMX Javelins had a chrome hood scoop, but that didn’t even last a year. The Badger had a chrome antenna, but after a while they dropped the chrome and left it with a cream one. During Universal times, many models had sirens on the roof (Command Vehicle, Mercedes 450SEL Police, Rover 3500 Police, but after a while they dropped the chrome and left them black. It’s a recurring theme and not something that Mattel have started. They try and chrome what they can, but I hear it is quite an expensive process (in ratio to the costs involved in making models) and so they have to pick and choose which ones can get it.

      1. Yeah, I know it’s a cost thing & I understand mainline releases need to fit the “$1” price point. I also understand that big powerful retailers like Walmart supposedly dictate that these toys must be affordable even if the manufacturer has to trim features like chrome plating or tampos to meet the infamous dollar sale. It’s just sad that since costs to produce are ever increasing for some reasons & it’s becoming a shape of things to come, but it’s very unappealing compared to past releases which have had more chrome applications.
        I noticed Hot Wheels has even lessened chrome a lot more also, BUT if you if you are really keen on the chrome thing.. you’ll also notice the lack of chrome for wheels even on PREMIUM HW’s releases! Look at patterns & you’ll see what I’m referring to. Thanks!

    2. That recording artist tried to hide the fact he had a chrome dome head!…… Hot wheels gets the generous portions… Matchbox gets the 🎶” I’m all out of love”🎶vibe… Or charity 🎶”Feed the world, let them know this brand is here🎶.. Chrome nose day soon….

  2. Great write-up, David.

    Did the MAN number for the Ford van change when they added side mirrors to the casting?

    1. No. Recent alterations and tweaks to casting are being done simply by altering the casting itself and leaving it in the same slot. They are not creating a new one. Therefore MAN numbers stay the same. The problem was that when they altered a casting and gave it a new number, the storage area was starting to become stretched out, and lots of gaps were starting to appear where older MAN slots were vacated as those castings were no longer used. Each MAN number had a spot in the storage area, and they were kept in number order. The factory requested a change to the system as they are done for them (just useful to us as a guide to keep track).

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