I haven’t written about my Matchbox Mission 800 project since March, so time to bring things up to date. In case you’ve missed previous updates (you can catch up here, here and here). Mission 800 refers to my quest to collect one each of the first 800 numbered Matchbox castings, beginning with the MB001 Dodge Challenger of 1982 and ending with the MB800 Road Roller from 2010. This latest batch takes me closer to single figures for the castings left to find. As you’ll see from the selection of vehicles, being a completist doesn’t always make for the most glamorous model collection, but they all count. Let’s begin.
MB725a Flat Car (with container)
The Flat Car with Container had left the basic range at the end of 1981 and was a Lesney design that had a limited life as MB725a in the Universal Matchbox era. So far as I know, its only true release in that period was with a yellow container in the 1990 Motorcity Freight Yard set, which is awesome but expensive and hard to find nowadays. But some months ago, I spotted this on eBay:
Here is an older Lesney release in a sealed Universal blue box from 1983 or later. What happened? Most likely, some leftover models at the factory were packaged up in plain blue boxes (note the lack of a printed model name) and dumped into the market. To my mind, that qualifies it for Mission 800, which is by definition Universal-onwards, so it’ll go into the display until such time as I find a Freight Yard one for a reasonable price. Loophole!
MB023 Atlas Tipper
Here’s another refugee from the Lesney era, but this time the model will definitely satisfy the scrutineers. The #23 Atlas was my very first Matchbox – well, joint first Matchbox, bought for me when I was about two years old at the same time as another 1970s Superfast classic, the #60 Lotus Super Seven. It survived in the basic range until 1982, when it was allocated the casting number MB023.
The MB001-800 sequence began with 75 Lesney-era carryovers in 1982. These castings were the first to be given absolute manufacturing numbers (MANs) instead of just being numbered for their position in the range. As with the Flat Car and several other early casting numbers, when it comes to the Atlas there’s some blurring of the lines between what constitutes a Lesney model and one from the Universal era. The truck was unchanged in 1981-82 so you have no way of telling them apart if buying loose, as I often do. A couple of years ago I missed out on a hard-to-find blue box Atlas on eBay, issued after Universal took over. I haven’t seen another since.
One Atlas version has impeccable Mission 800 credentials, however: a rare China-made model from a 1991 three-pack. This truck has an updated Matchbox International baseplate instead of the usual Lesney one. The build quality is noticeably poorer than with earlier tippers and the tool must have been pretty worn out by this point. I am indebted to Rob (@robmatchbox117) for sending me this model as a RAOK after he found out I was looking for it. An amazing addition!
MB461 CAT D11R Bulldozer
Of the gaps I’ve filled this year, perhaps this is the most unexpected. Originally scheduled for release in about 2000, I’d never seen the CAT D11R Bulldozer as a finished production model until a few emerged on eBay in China last year, seemingly factory-finished but never issued. I didn’t need a second invitation to order one and it arrived exactly as advertised. According to Shanghai-based collector Lingyun Chen, who also bought one, licensing problems may have originally caused the bulldozer to be pulled before release.
It’s a cool piece – lots of plastic, but big, chunky and detailed. For more on the Matchbox Caterpillar models, read my previous update.
MB340 DAF 3300 Space Cab (with mirrors)
Before we move on to the next acquisition proper, I wanted to give a quick mention to this Premiere Convoy. I’d been looking for a second example of this premium DAF 3300 Space Cab (MB340) for the 1-800 display so that I could keep my other one (in Holsten Pils livery) in my Convoy cabinet. It turned up in a collector store when I was briefly in British Columbia in October, having originally been released in 2001 as part of the Coke Around the World Collection. A terrific truck!
MB535 BMW X5 (opening doors)
Now for perhaps the most desirable of the new additions (though not the most valuable) – the BMW X5 from the Dealer Set. This set has been a Matchbox collector favourite since its original issue in Europe in 2003. John got excited about it in an early blog article that you can read here. Why the #lamleyhype? Many of these models featured opening doors when the regular-range versions of the casting did not. This was the only X5 with opening doors and as such, the Dealer Set model was given its own MAN of MB535.
I’d picked up most of the BMW models down the years. It’s often said that this set was only available from dealers in Germany but I don’t believe that was the case – I bought my first cars from the set from a UK BMW dealer in about 2004. But the X5 had eluded me and, like most of its counterparts, had become expensive. Then during another late-night eBay trawl, I came across a guy selling a full set for a fair price. Turned out he actually had two sets, so a friend and I clubbed together to buy them all.
The duplicates have already gone to another happy collector friend. Meanwhile I’m delighted to have checked off the last of the BMWs through the addition of the silver X5.
MB513 Ford Falcon (triangle roof light)
And finally… This is another model I’ve been after for years and closes a major chapter of Mission 800 collecting – the emergency vehicles. For a period in the late-1990s and early-2000s, Matchbox went all-out to confuse the completist by allocating multiple different MANs to very similar models. The Ford Transit, for example, comes with four different-shape roof lights, each with its own manufacturing number: triangle (MB431), vee (MB472), square (MB554) and light bar (MB848).
It took me ages to recognize and decipher all these differences. Several times I thought I had all the bases covered, only to realize I’d classified a model under the wrong MB number and still had a gap to fill. But in the end, it came down to just one more, this Ford Falcon with triangle roof light (MB513), which is a modified version of the MB292 Falcon that first appeared as an Australia-only race car in 1997. The police car was also an Australia exclusive, from 2001, making it hard to find in the UK and Canada. I was finally able to snag a loose one in a Lamley Purge – thanks John!
And that’s it for now. I’ll be back with another update in the New Year, by which time I will have hopefully filled a few more gaps. Mission 800 continues…
(follow me on Instagram @diecast215 or search the hashtag #MBMission800 for updates)