Matchbox Monday ponders over Best of Italy

Another week, and another straggler from 2021 as I work my way back up to new stuff again. As far as I can think, after this report I have 2 more reports left regarding 2021 items, and then after that anything new I am talking about will be 2022 stuff. I may still have a few bounce backs into classic items to fill in gap weeks as we are not back to normal yet. Getting there slowly, and anybody like me who is getting items from Wheel Collectors is happy seeing that stocks are finally arriving in their store. Batch A of 2022 is there, along with various other items (I only do Matchbox so for other brands, you will likely know what you are looking for). More items will start filtering in and I cannot wait to really be diving in with loads of Matchbox stuff again soon. But in the meantime, I had this internal debate over whether I wanted to try and obtain a set of Best of Italy. These were a late addition to the 2021 “Best of…” series, after Germany, UK, France and Russia started seeing some items. But unlike the other 4, all 6 of this batch contained carry forward models. There was nothing exclusive in them. So for the regular collector on the hunt for something new, they were sitting there saying “I have them all already”. Of course some (I am definitely not in that camp) like to leave the models in their packaging. So to them getting a set of 6 is still worth it for the new package. But then I hear that there is a packaging variation too!!!! Some packages have “Italia” on them, because you know, they are sold in Italy, whereas others have the English spelling of Italy on them. So there are some who are hunting down 2 of each to get the package variation. That REEEEAAAAAAALLLLLLYYYY does not affect me. But after some internal monologue, I decided what the heck, I will get a set. Just to see if there was anything in the set that might be cool for the nutty variation collector in me. I am very glad I did.

So let’s dive in with the first model in the set. Number 1 of 12, the MB905 Alfa Romeo 4C.

This model comes in dark charcoal, with simple front and rear detailing to it.

This is a beautiful casting, and I have loved the model ever since it debuted back in 2014, and have been very sad seeing such little use for it. This however, is a carry forward of the 2015 release.

This model pops up here for a little comparison. I was feeling pretty confident as soon as I saw the new one.

It is a significantly darker shade. Quite a big difference between the 2. Even the tampo detailing is coming out darker. If nothing else were to pop up as a variant, I am happy. I got the set in the hope. I found something. To some (I can hear you rolling your eyes) this is nothing. But to others (me definitely being in that camp) this is a noticeable variant making the chase for a set worthwhile.

But you know what? As I mentioned, this did not get a lot of love, and you will see why. This is the 2014 debut. It was MB99 in year 1, and came in a lovely red before it moved to MB21 for 2015 and then was given one more outing for 2016.

So for that final basic range outing it turned white. And that was it. Dropped from the basic range after 2016.

These are all the single issue. 2014 MB99 (red), 2015 MB21 (charcoal), 2016 MB26 (white), 2021 Best of Italy 1/12 (dark charcoal). However, this is not quite everything.

It has had 1 multipack release in grey. That was also in 2021, which means after 4 years (2017-2020) sitting there doing nothing, they did remember they had this awesome little sporting number in the toolbank and gave it a little time out to play again. This was a 9-pack Batch E semi-exclusive model.

Which means, back to the line-up, we have managed to eke out a set of 5 to date. Apart from the red debut, they are all in rather muted colours. Greens, blues, yellows? There are some lovely colour choices out there which I think could still prove to be very popular if they do them. I know the coupe stopped production in real life in 2019, but as a Matchbox model I am still up for getting some more looks for this.

So, I had an Alfa I was quietly optimistic about. I mean it was carrying forward from 6 years prior. Next up though, an Alfa that is carried forward from err, well perhaps 6 months prior? The MB715 ’65 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA. This is a carry forward of the 2021 MBX City Drivers 5-pack release. It came out earlier in the year and then got added to the Best of Italy series too.

So I have to be honest, I wasn’t holding out much hope on a shade. I am surprised that with some classics from 2007 and 2008 to choose from (especially due to the fact that this set doesn’t have a white model, and I thought that would have been a logical choice), that they decided to go with one that has barely stopped production anyway.

Not that this is a bad model, but I just felt it was too new to be already used as a carry forward. But you know what?

I dug out the other grey one from my collection to compare to it and….

Holy moly! I almost fell off my chair. Another big difference. The new Best of Italy release is a noticeably darker grey than the one that came in the 5-pack. Sold! Yes, carry forward stuff from whenever they feel like. Ancient? Modern? I should know better than to think it doesn’t happen. I mean I have found some pretty significant shades on models in basic range production produced mere weeks apart. Why am I worrying that a 6 month difference was too short? Two for two. I tell you, I am so happy I decided to pursue getting this set.

Just checking the dates. The earlier one was dated P04, clearly visible on the base as it was printed on it. The later one was imprinted (in the same position) with P36, so that means a 32 week difference. Or 7 and a half months to be more precise. Still not much more than half a year, but that was obviously more than enough time to get a cool shade. And now, as I had mentioned the 2007 and 2008 stuff and the collection was out, I guess I will recap it again.

The model debuted way back in 2007 in red as MB32. It also sported a chrome interior, as this also formed the front and rear bumpers.

It was chosen to be one of 25 models in the series to see 2 looks during the year too. After a few batches it turned white and continued on with the same livery as before.

It had a stellar first year too, as Jim Gallegos chose for it to be a dinner model for the 2007 Matchbox Gathering in Albuquerque NM in bronze. This was before they launched the early bird special so there is only the one variant.

And at the end of the year it was also added to the 1st Editions 10-pack in metallic dark red too. And yes I found a decent shade on that model, which was produced only weeks apart from each other. Seriously? Why was I worrying about a 7 and a half month gap?

In 2008 it moved to MB4 in the basic range and they turned it green. No they didn’t. A new person at Alfa Romeo only wanted red or white ones. So they dropped the proposed green and reverted to white again. But with a twist. It was metallic.

Err no. Solid white. Production had just begun on the metallic white model, but it was swiftly altered to solid white for the majority of production. I believe metallics were only found in Walmart in USA as they happened to receive the first batch produced. I was very lucky as I happened to be in USA at the time, hit a Walmart who had just stocked the new batch and got the metallic. They are not easy to see in picture, particularly if they are on their own. Lining up against a solid white does help though like it does here.

The only way to really know the difference between a regular white 2008 and a white 2007 is with the tampo printing. As I said, 2007 saw the model in red and white featuring identical tampos. This had a 715 1L61 license plate (715 for the MAN number and 1L61 swapping numbers for letters says ALFA) and also sported the cloverleaf in a triangle. For 2008 the license plate was simply MBX 715 and the cloverleaf had no triangle. So if you see one loose and it is a solid white, if it has nothing down the side, this is how to distinguish the years. Why did I mention nothing down the sides?

Because the model was also a part of the Best of International series in 2008. Again this was a solid white model, but now they added in a little cloverleaf motif to the side as well.

Plus the rear tampo was different again. A different license plate again (I believe linked in with Jim Gallegos in some way).

We also saw a Superfast release too. This was another solid red model. Being Superfast it had a lot more detailing with a triangle backed cloverleaf motif on the sides and door handle depicted too. Even the windows had a silver edge trim.

But there was only so much you could do with red and white. So they had some thoughts and decided to re-develop the model as the MB779 ’66 Alfa Romeo GT1300 Junior. Work began but it never got beyond prototype stages and was never produced. This model then lay dormant. But the good thing is, as people come and go, new philosophies occur and in 2017 it returned!

In white! Yes, after a 9 year absence, we had a new white one. It was a part of the Best of series and was the first time that white was being given a premium treatment. This sported 2-part wheels (or real riders as some call them) along with detailed trim.

And obviously a new license plate again. BESTOTW was the newest plate for this one. I had been wondering what had happened to it after this brief re-appearance. Now we have a grey one I am hoping that this means the floodgates are opening and we will finally see more Sprint GTAs in the future.

Now this is one I am not extremely happy to see. Why? Not because it is the MB1037 ’16 Fiat 500X taking the number 4of 12 slot in the series. I like the little casting. I like the metallic orange too.

And it is not because this metallic orange is a carry forward. I mean they are all carry forwards. That is the whole premise of this specific blog. The fact they were all carry forwards.

No the one thing that got me with this one is that this is the exact same carry forward as was used in the Best of France series too. I know it doesn’t have an extensive back catalogue to choose from, but it did have others. I am honestly fine with carry forwards. They don’t bother me. Especially when you get some awesome shade variations, like I have shown with the 2 Alfa Romeos already. But if we are carrying forward the same model a number of times, I would like to see them attempt to use different versions from the back catalogue for different carry forwards. Not the same one over and over again.

I did go through this with the Best of France number 11 of 12 a short while ago. It was a carry forward of the 2018 MB12. The model now has a different shade of interior to when it was originally released back in 2018, and when I bring in the French release, yes the new shade of interior still carries through.

And yes (again), I am happy enough as the new Italian release is a deeper orange to the French release, so I am actually adding this to the collection.

But I just felt this was a wasted opportunity to revisit the debut look for the model. It arrived as MB3 in the 2017 basic range, and came in dark green. Sure there is a green model in this series already but that is bright, this is dark. And the Italian flag is one third green, so I think having 2 greens would have been fine. I mean we had grey and charcoal, which is like a dark grey. We could have had the Alfa Sprint GTA in white as a carry forward, and this in the green. Still a good colour variety and although I was happy finding a shade to the green when it first appeared, I do remember the talk at the time of just how dark those windows were. They were almost solid black, and there was talk of perhaps reducing the tint so you could see in. This could have been a great opportunity to re-issue this, but reduce that tint and see inside.

There were only 2 other issues. Blue. That could have worked. No blues in the set of models, and this would have stood out well too. This was a 2020 MBX Highway 5-pack release, and I know I have 2 shades of blue on it already, but the grey interior could have yielded this new light shade.

The only other issue to go from is the 2021 Off Road Rally 5-pack release, although with an Alfa in a very similar red, I am thinking perhaps not this one. I already found a shade. I tell you this model is really good for shades. As I said, I like it. But carrying it forward once and choosing 1 of 4 looks for the carry forward (perfectly fine for me), and then carrying it forward a second time and using the exact same look for the carry forward is where I want to see them changing things. Try and use other variants for secondary carry forwards. Green and blue I feel would have worked very well here. Still given a nice colour variety for the models in store, and given us something else to look at.

So Italy? Of course, a Jeep. Now I have always said about these models are of vehicles that are seen in the country in question and known there. Not necessarily made there. But this is. The main manufacturing plant for the Jeep Renegade is in Melfi, which is also the factory which makes the Fiat 500X, which shares the platform the Renegade sits on. So yes, ask an Italian person where Jeep Renegades are made and they will happily tell you in Italy! Of course Matchbox made the MB1199 ’19 Jeep Renegade and first issued it as MB1 in the 2020 basic range. This is the model that has been carried forward this time in to the number 5 of 12 slot in the series.

Is it a Fiat 500X in a different skin? Sure. But I like it. I like Jeeps.

And when I see the front end of these I still see a Jeep so I am happy. I know some Jeep purists are not exactly this vehicle’s biggest fan. But I am not in that group. So I was happy to see this again, and I do like the green.

So, this is another that is not a big difference. My original comes in, except not in focus. Stupid camera.

the new release is on the left. The shade of green is slightly darker. It doesn’t show up too well on camera. The interior (which forms the front end, not the base) is also slightly darker. It’s not a massive difference, but enough for me to decide to keep the new one anyway. As I said, I like Jeeps.

A more overhead view might give us a slightly better look at the difference in shade. Yes? No? I see it. I’m happy.

Of course there is only one other release. That appeared a short time ago in the 2021 basic range as MB26 in red. So given these were the only 2 issues, it was logical they went with the original.

Green, red, green. If the next time we see a Jeep Renegade and it is somehow red-related, I am going to laugh.

The same is basically true of the next model in the set. Number 6 in the series is the MB1205 ’16 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Yes, a set of 6 models, and 3 of them are Alfa Romeos. But when you look at the list of Italian car manufacturers that have toolings in the Matchbox system, it is pretty small. We know Ferrari is too awkward to deal with, and there are currently no Lancia or Maseratis to source from. That leaves Alfa, Lamborghini and Fiat. We had 1 Fiat, and the only other one has only just been launched, so it was too early to use that. Lamborghinis, there are 3. The LM002, Gallardo Polizia and Miura. Funnily enough, the Gallardo was used in Best of France (much like the Fiat was) but did not get used in this lot. The LM002 is next, and the Miura? Where is this Miura? Such a cool casting that barely gets any use. It’s around. It was in a Target Retro set randomly in 2020. But anyway, I am going off topic.

Just like the Jeep, this model has only been with us since 2020. So there was precious little choice to go from. Two! The 2020 or the 2021. And as I said with the Jeep, the 2021 is perhaps too new to revisit, so the 2020 model it is. As we know, it arrived in red as MB12.

A beautiful debut version. Which when it comes back again is not much different.

Bringing in the original to compare to it I would say out of all the 6, this was the closest to being a perfect match.

The only difference I can see is that the model now is just a little bit darker. Not much. But enough fro me to think “yeah I will keep it”.

Aside from the 2 core issues (which are the only ones that could be revisited for a core range model) this has seen a few premiums. First of all was its actual debut. It arrived in late 2019 as the 2020 Toy Fair model, breaking the tradition of being in bronze. This model was a dark red with full detailing.

And yes, we still haven’t even arrived at its basic range debut yet, as it was also a Mattel Christmas employee model at the end of 2019. Then it hit the basic range.

Which as we know was red, and then for 2021 was switched to a metallic white. Which I was able to find a shade to, as the MB47 did come in a brighter or more creamy shade. But I will be revisiting this model shortly as some will already know there is another premium. Spoiler alert, the final Collector batch of 2021 is still to see my usual waffle treatment. It’s coming. Soon.

Which leads me to the last of the set. And the first Lamborghini. The MB956 LM002. This is another of those castings that just doesn’t see an awful lot of action. As I said there are 3 Lambos in the database. The LM002, the Miura and the Gallardo Polizia. That Gallardo has seen a lot of action. Pretty much constant since it first arrived. Most of which are white. But the other 2? Much more sporadic. Which is a shame. The Miura is just plain gorgeous and the Rambo Lambo (as this was nicknamed) is just so unique. It’s a Lamborghini, but it looks like a Hummer! Of course they could make a tractor. Lamborghini did start out as a tractor manufacturer and they still make them. But this was such an unusual model, and it still stands out as something completely out of left field for them.

So yes, I was happy to see it getting more action. And I was quite optimistic too, as this was the debut look for it when it first appeared as MB82 in the 2015 basic range.

It looks pretty normal so time to dig out my original to check.

Oh I had 2 originals. A lighter and a darker shade of yellow. I hope this doesn’t blur things too much.

Not… at… all! ?This one was basically lemon. It is so much lighter. A big difference in the shade this time, so I am very happy with this one.

Plus, when you start looking closely, you notice more too. Like the fact that the front headlight tampo has shrunk in the wash.

And the red in the rear tail lights is trying to take over in 2021. Did I say I was very happy with this one? This is the sort of thing I love with these carry forwards. Seeing quite a big difference like this.

As they are out, I will recap the remainder of the small set. There wasn’t a lot. As I mentioned, this doesn’t get a lot of action. After 2015 came the 2016 basic range issue. AKA the final time in the basic range. It was MB101 that year and came in matte red. Which I found quite a noticeable shade difference on.

Plus it was given a premium outing that year when they put it in the 2016 Best of series, with a full tampo print and 2-part rubber wheels.

And then we waited. 2019 saw it resurface in the Autobahn Express 5-pack in black.

Before we had an alternate 2021 issue in the Target Retro series in light blue.

But this is it so far. The full release history of this casting across multiple platforms in 7 years. With 5 looks and 1 carry forward (total of 6 releases) it is averaging less than 1 per year. So see it in 2023?

So that is it for the new stuff. A set of 6 Italian models from the Best of Italy series. All carry forwards, 3 of which sported a huge very noticeable shade, and 3 that was smaller, but enough for me to keep all 6. So we know what this means.

It’s time for a dive back in to my collection. As I mentioned before, not tying myself to castings that are somehow linked to the ones I did the new stuff about is giving me opportunities to dig deep and pull out some castings that I have not done anything with. Like the MB28-A Mack M-18 Dump Truck. This casting was a classic Lesney issue and first arrived in 1969 in red and came with a yellow or red wheel middle to the large tyres being added (these were more often used for larger vehicles, and use in the small scale ones was quite unusual).

In 1970 they changed the casting to Superfast wheels and with it swapped the model’s colour to pea green. It pretty much ran like that unchanged from 1970 until 1973. I never saw any crossovers between the regular wheel and Superfast era in regards to a colour being on the alternate wheels. But this was Lesney, and with 4 years of production a pea green model was never staying the same. Although I have to admit the body and dump always tended to appear about the same, with no shade variations in them. Although never say never. There could be some noticeably different body/dump shades out there.

Because the model did vary overall in shades of pea green. A more yellowy tint or a more greeny tint can be found. Although for those who are not so inclined with shades (I hear there are some out there) there is another variant.

This is a later 1972-73 production run model. Yes it happens to be the more greeny one of the 2 I have. But in 1972 they did make a change to the casting.

They filled in the steps. I guess over time they were starting to become quite difficult to deal with as thin pieces of metal, so turning them into a solid piece seemed an easier option. So Superfast production was roughly split half and half with steps with holes (1970-71) and solid steps (1972-73). After this the model was dropped from the basic range, but it was not the end of it.

It returned in a TP-16 twin pack mated with a Case Tractor where it would run through 1978 before being switched out in 1979 by a Ford Wreck Truck/Alvis Stalwart pairing. As this was an early TP military pack this meant that this was part of the initial roll out that was painted in an extremely dark colour. Now known as olive drab, when they hit stores, the store owners hit back with a complaint they were too dark and as such Lesney quickly changed to a much lighter olive green.

The lighter olive green soon arrived in 1976 and ran through until they switched out TP-16 for 2 new models for 1979. At this time the casting was retired. As was also commonplace with twin pack models, the casting was cost reduced.

They never bothered adding a window piece to twin pack issues. It wasn’t alone as the Case Tractor in the pack with it came without its canopy too. It was a fairly common practice to reduce parts for twin packs in those days. A number of vehicles saw opening parts sealed up (AMX Javelin, Ford Cortina etc).

So now I move into the 1980s and as we are doing a piece about an Italian set, I decided to go with one that never used to have issues with toy makers making models of their cars. Nowadays Ferrari are very picky, and exclusive deals are done with random toy makers for a certain length of time. As such Matchbox has not had a Ferrari since 2005 but their longest lasting one was the MB70-D (or after the debut year MB070) Ferrari 308GTB. It arrived in 1981, but not like this.

I do like a prepro, and this is a really nice one. Metallic green with a copyright year of 198 (obviously unsure on when the copyright would be finalized at this point) and it had a No [blank] too as again at this point they weren’t too sure where it was going to slot in the range. As we know, 1981 was the year of the brand split and these are some of the last models to have a number on the base. Some 1981 new issues had already deleted them, and from 1982 they did not apply a number to the base any more (except for some reason the 1983 Ford Sierra XR4i).

By the time of production it had been decided it was MB70 and a 70 was applied to the no part rather largely. And the copyright was granted in early 1981 so they popped a “1” to the end of the copyright year with a slightly larger gap between it and the 8 than the first 1 had to the 9, plus it does sit slightly lower down too. It was close enough. Who pays attention to that sort of thing anyway? Was “nerd” a thing in 1981?

Of course the model was red, or orangey red. Or various shades in between. But there was a problem.

The way they had built the casting was that the upper body came down to the side strip, which was basically just the interior section poking out all around. They then built up the base section to that strip too. Simple enough for construction purposes. But these 2 parts were being painted at different times. So when the model was put together the shade of red differed between the upper and lower halves. In many cases, the shade was quite minimal. They got away with it. But more and more often they were noticing quite an extreme difference between the 2 halves. So at the end of 1981 they decided to do something about it. They had an idea.

Add some tampo printing. Err? How did that stop it? Sure a nice prancing horse over the front and a Ferrari badge design on the side was nice but was it really covering up the shades? By the way some can be found with only the top tampo, no sides.

No! It was still blatantly obvious that with all the shade variations at the factory that people would see right through that. So they scrapped that idea and came up with something else.

Paint the base silver. There you go. Problem completely sidestepped. Of course the England factory were so busy with silver bases they completely forgot about the fact that a Ferrari badge design had been put on there. Oops!

So we moved from a tampo top/side on a red base to a tampo top only on a silver base. This all happened during 1982.

then 1983 rolled around. Universal had taken over and immediately sent the casting over to Macau to continue production.

They knew to get all the correct pieces put on the model. Red body, silver base, with a tampo on the top AND sides. Yes. So in 1983 we finally had the planned later 1982 release.

But Macau didn’t keep it the same either. The model ran in this design until 1984. At first they were using the same 5-spoke wheels as had been used throughout the England production, but later on they switched them to 5-spokes. They had received a shipment of parts from Hong Kong as Universal had closed down operations there, moving everything to Macau. With the models came some new wheel designs too. So they thought why not use them on some models that might better suit them. The Ferrari was one.

And then they thought is the model a bit too orange? Ferraris should be more red, so they tweaked the colour to make it darker. This is a timeline event, not like the England based stuff where all sorts of crossovers were taking place, and as far as I know there does not exist a dark red with 5-arch wheels. It changed from 5-arch to 5-spoke and then later turned darker.

In 1985 they decided to mix it up a a bit. During the Universal era Matchbox really got into rallying stuff. It felt like every other car was being given a rally-liveried makeover. However, this was pretty much a real one.

Even the number 39 was real. Obviously it didn’t have all the sponsors on the model, but a company called Michelotti developed the 308GTB for rallying, with the blessing of Ferrari. It ran a number of rally events between 1978 and 1986, although rarely as a part of the actual World Rally Championships. However, they did appear at the 1982 Tour de Course in France in the 1982 WRC and came 2nd. So it was a pretty decent rally car. So Matchbox decided it was perfect to do a rally version themselves in 1985.

they liked it so much they just left it like that until the model was dropped from the basic range. For the US market that was 1987, but the ROW market saw 1 more year as it ran until 1988. During that time there were a few tweaks to the model. Firstly, in 1986 they made a change to the underside by thickening the area around the axles (due to a new wheel that had been launched).

Secondly, due to the new World Class stuff that was debuting in 1989 the rear license plate was wiped off a final run of ROW issues. And if you were reading carefully, you might be thinking that I just said it ran until 1988. But before Mattel took over, models would run continually. Mattel sell items in batches. A model will appear for a few months and then it is gone. But in bygone days, the full range would be run together. In 1989 the MB70 slot for the ROW range was to be taken up by the new Ferrari F40 casting. But as I often say, they don’t appear at the start of the year. Although we get new stuff appear every few months or so now, it was still the same in those days. So the F40 didn’t arrive until later in the year. So until that time the 308GTB would still be produced. Therefore the last ROW issues from early 1989 before the switch to a new model in the slot saw the new rear end.

I did mention the first change in 1986 due to a new wheel. This was the starburst wheel. It was the wheel used for the “new” Superfast range launched in USA that year. These wheels needed a more sturdy build for the axles to reduce friction and increase speed. It was the whole point of their launch, being the smoothest fastest wheels out there. So if they are changing the axle points for these, they are not going to keep the original. That wold be pointless and not needed. It took the SF-11 slot and ran until 1990. During that time you might find a shade of yellow.

This was joined in 1987 release by the Laser Wheels counterpart, LW-11. This too ran until 1990 and the only difference here was the wheels. It saw no tweak to the paintwork like most other Superfast models did. However, although technically both ranges wrapped up in 1990, this was more down to stocks taking time to dwindle out of stores. The last production run of the Superfast version was in early 1989 before the license plate was blanked out, but the Laser Wheel version did make the switch before its own production ceased.

then we have this. Look familiar? It does look a lot like the 1983-84 basic range issue, now with concave 8-dot wheels. Well technically, that is basically what it is, but this was no ordinary issue. This appeared in 1987, exclusively in Brazil. It was part of the license that they had obtained from Universal to build Matchbox models at their own plant in Manaus. Parts were shipped out from Matchbox, and then they were put together and painted up in the Brazilian factory for local distribution, due to laws pertaining to the import of goods. Items for sale, no! Items for construction in Brazil, yes! A new base was also made for the Brazilian counterpart too.

It was made of plastic, as opposed to the usual metal bases that regular issues had. And yes, mine is cracking.

So they basically used the same look as the 1983-84 model, but as you can see, the shade of red was significantly darker than even the darkest of the Macau based ones. It ran until 1990 and as well as the 8-dots, some locally sourced 4-spoke wheels were also used for a while.

In 1988 a company in USA called Data East, a manufacturer of pinball machines, approached Matchbox to see if they could have a Ferrari made for their latest release. After Laser Wars had been such a success in 1987, they were following it up with Secret Service in 1988. They already had a look.

It included a Ferrari 308 in the artwork and design, so they wanted to actually have one in the game. Matchbox obliged and the back of the artwork does actually say about it.

I am sorry, it is as big a picture I could find of the back of the artwork. Down the left you can see it says “Faster than a speeding bullet” and mentions the Matchbox car in there.

And so Matchbox produced a run of bodies all with a special Data East Secret Service tampo. Data East started taking some and installing them in the game. However, they only ended up making just over 2,700 pinball machines. Matchbox had produced a little more. Not a lot, but there were some leftover parts. Now you can’t see too well in the picture, but for the game, the model actually came without an interior.

But they didn’t want to waste what was left, so they just popped in an interior and shipped them out to a few outlets to get rid of them. These can be found with either a black or a white interior. Although the white is much tougher to find.

They were just using leftover interiors from what was being produced at the time. I guess they were busy with a Laser Wheel or Superfast run when they started fixing these together. A few at the end received some white interiors from the next basic range run.

Another random 1988 item was from Hong Kong. They requested some Chinese New Year items, and a set of 12 models was made with the characters from the Chinese zodiak all numbered from 1 to 12. The Ferrari was the number 12 in orange, featuring the rat.

The lower half was still the same lower half as was used in the basic range.

As we moved in to 1989 this was when the World Class series debuted, and along with it the wiping of the license plate to accommodate them popping on whatever plate they liked. Like the original CTA 11V plate that had been on there originally. Of course they did start getting more original with their plate designs as time went on. Although officially never with the 308GTB again. There was a plan for a second premium in 1997, as they were going to do another red one for a Gold Collection release, but they didn’t continue on with the Gold Collection after the initial series. A few however did get made as a test run, and these ended up being dumped in the Chinese market as overstocks along with various other items at the end of the decade.

After a full and busy 1980s, the model was pretty much on its last legs by the 1990s. We had a few. Firstly in 1990 an ROW 3-pack was made. MP-803 featured a trio of Ferraris all in red. The 308GTB was given the same front hood treatment that the F40 and Testarossa were already sporting in the basic range, and the trio were sold together in a Ferrari branded pack.

After this an MC-18 giftset was to be released. As well as the 3 Ferraris already mentioned, they were going to also add the Grand Prix Racing Car in a Ferrari look and a Daf with Box Transporter Convoy, but they were looking at changing the colours for the 3 Ferraris already sold in the 3-pack. the 308GTB was going to turn yellow (F40 blue and Testarossa white), for some colour variety. But at the end of the day they decided you know what, they’re Ferraris, let’s do them red. And the alternate colours never got beyond pre-production stages.

In 1992 a plain white (with green windows) version was added to Graffic Traffic.

And in 1993 we saw what some thought might have been a final look for the model, as it was a part of a Dream Machines 3-pack. Dream Machines was a very short lived attempt from Matchbox to target a series of items towards girls. Two 3-packs were made featuring all exclusive looks for models, and 2 small playsets known as Rainbow Stables and Malibu Beach Shop were made (the 2 playsets featuring already existing models).

And that was almost the last we saw of the model. After 1993 there was nothing. But when Mattel took over, they came up with something called Star Cars. Launched in 1998 and continuing through 1999 they took various licenses for TV shows and films, and sold them with a model that sort of resembled a vehicle known from it. Magnum P.I. was well known (I used to watch it all the time) and obviously Tom Selleck would drive around in a Ferrari 308GTS. Because this was quickly put together (they had not long taken over the brand and were trying to figure things out) and so most castings were not that close to the real vehicles. This was about the closest we got. This is a GTB, that was a GTS. A removable roof is about the only difference, so they painted the roof black to resemble perhaps a removable section on this one and popped it in a pack.

You might also notice the highly detailed interior too. After this release, which did actually span the 2 years (1998 and 1999) the model was officially retired for good. The best part of 2 decades after it first arrived.

So next up, as I am in 1999, I am staying there. This was one of the early Mattel created Matchbox models. MB406. It was the Land Rover Freelander. Initial prototypes had this with a closed rear end, but they decided to have it as an open back model instead when it launched in the 1999 basic range. A basic range that had a lot of fun. This is because 1999 was the year they thought a lot about where models were being sold. For the US market, where more English was spoken, more writing was added to models. ROW markets spanned a lot of parts of the world, and as such many languages were spoken, so the details included a lot less writing and a lot more picture. For the US MB66 debut in silver with a Canyon Park and green stripe side design, they had Ranger in the shield.

But for the ROW MB61 release, the word Ranger (being quite American) was omitted. However, Canyon Park itself they felt could be understood in more places so left it on.

In 2000 it was now MB64 for the US market or MB44 for the ROW market, but the altering design system was no longer in play. As they were keeping the same look, but now in blue, they just went with the worldwide version. Of course if you were in USA you would have found Matchbox 2000 across the front of the first 10,000 made.

As the model was nearing the end of its production schedule we were drifting into 2001, and as such many models were seeing 2 things happening. A number of tools were being altered from plastic to metal bases temporarily, and the concave 5-spoke wheels were being replaced with either flower or lace wheels that had been created for the 2001 year. Therefore late runs of the Land Rover flipped to both of these new elements.

For 2001 things were much more simple. It was MB9. Worldwide. No variations or differences.

Of course 2001 was also the year that the model started expanding beyond the basic range. Its first non-basic outing was in a Rugrats licensed 5-pack. This was one of the earliest licensed packs as they were really a 2000s things dying out in the early 2010s. Of course I was still nutty enough to find a variation. The interior section and spare wheel comes in a lighter or darker yellow.

2002 saw them repeat the 5-pack in all new colours. However, you might notice that this newer blue version had the Rugrats logo moved from the front (as a third pass through the tampo machine) to be a part of the side design at the rear end.

With the model having been dropped from the basic range after 3 years, never to return, we were now seeing other uses for it. As well as a licensed 5-pack in 2002, it was in a regular 5-pack as well. This was Team Players, and featured 5 models, each with a different sporting theme to them.

It was also a part of the Across America series, representing Rhode Island. It was red with a Rhode Island Yacht Club design.

2003 saw another standard 5-pack release. This was in the Fire 5-pack, and ermm, I am not really sure whether it was supposed to represent a fire chief car? Hero City came out with some very eclectic designs.

It saw another licensed release as well. But this was not a 5-pack. It was a single issue. At first licensed packs were sold as either singles or 5-packs. Then singles became 5-pack issues in alternate colours. Then they were just pulled from 5-packs, and then dropped. 2003 was the last year of the single pack exclusive.

2004 saw it added to the Around The World series, this time representing Ayers Rock (as it was often known as at the time) in Australia. It does officially have a dual name, as the indigenous population call it Uluru. It was added as a dual name in 1993, and in 2002 was switched to Uluru being first and Ayers Rock second.

It also saw not one, but 2 licnesed 5-pack releases that year. This model really liked being in licensed sets. A Looney Tunes set featured Taz on the blue model and a Nickelodeon set featured a couple of characters from The Wild Thornberrys on the green one.

In 2005 we saw another 5-pack issue. Jungle Adventure. This sports a variation because production began in China and mid way through they moved it to the current factory in Thailand. The Chinese made one is on the top, the Thailand made one on the bottom.

The green bases also looked quite a bit different in shade too.

We also saw our first look at the model in a Hitch ‘n Haul set too. Mated with the MB442 White Water Raft this too went from China to Thailand mid-production.

And if you were wondering what else was in the pack, we had an octopus, a shark and a diver.

In 2006 the model was only used one time. In an Off Road 5-pack in blue.

It then took 2007 off before returning for a long session in 2008. The Vacation 5-pack was not exactly long, as 5-packs don’t hang around for too long. Although long enough for me to find a shade of yellow.

But it was also given another Hitch ‘n Haul release. This time the pack was called Wild Water, and we had the MB373 Watercraft with Trailer being towed.

It might have had a new trailer unit and a new name, but the additional pieces were still the same. Although they were now in different colours. At the end of 2008 Mattel were going to drop Hitch ‘n Haul. But stores kept asking for them. So they carried on making the same 2008 sets in 2009. And 2010. And 2011. In 2012 they thought, you know what? They keep asking for them. Maybe they should get a refresh.

So they updated the look a little. This pottered on for another couple of years before stores finally dropped them.

After that the model saw just one more release. It was included in a 2016 Land Rover series, exclusive to Walmart in USA, and Asda in the UK at the time. Asda being the UK part of Walmart. It was the only set they stocked. They stopped taking the Walmart exclusives after that. But other countries around the world do see the US Walmart exclusives in their stores. After this the model has not been seen since, and likely retired.

So now it is time to move to a casting from the 2000s. This week, the MB535 BMW X5. I was a big fan of this model when it first appeared. The X5 was an early SUV that was starting to take the world by storm (I mean SUVs are everywhere now), but at the time it was still quite a unique design. They stood out, and when Matchbox added a casting too I was stoked. Plus it came with opening doors. Brilliant! It actually debuted as a BMW dealer promotional model in 2002, mainly in Germany, although I believe a few other surrounding countries did also see them. Namely Austria. It was silver and had simple headlight, grille and BMW badge detailing to the front.

Rear lights and another BMW badge adorned the rear. What a debut. I couldn’t wait to see more of these. Still waiting. This was it. MB535. 1 release. Period. On to the 2010s.

Wait. They did a second version. MB539. It was the same, except this had sealed doors. Yeah, still cool. So it too was a 2002 release. This was in the basic range in blue.

Being 2002 meant that the first 10,000 examples of MB31 sported a 50 logo on the roof, and although the initial production was small, I still managed to spot a really noticeable shade variation to it.

After that, the rest were left plain. I mean very plain. Apart from the Matchbox logo on the side, they didn’t tampo print them. And if I found a variation to a 10,000 piece run, is it any surprise that I found one on the rest of the production run?

It was also given a special German release in the Stars of Germany series too. Ooh look. Lights! And a grille print. Still pretty plain, but not as plain as the blue one.

As we moved in to 2003 the model moved from being a worldwide release to being an ROW exclusive in the basic range. It was now MB54, and again came in metallic dark red. Except now this one had a side stripe and no front print. Plus, again, it was a logo year, and the Hero City logo adorned the window on the first 10,000 made.

But fear not those outside of the ROW market, as the X5 was given a worldwide release in the Cars 5-pack. This again was quite a plain model, with just a black faded to red stripe going down the side.

In 2004 we had a rather plain model. Who would have thought that? As the model had been dropped from basic range usage already, this was to be found in the Auto Carrier Launcher set and was metallic green, this time with a Matchbox logo as the only tampo print, on the rear license plate.

But, like the Land Rover I just showcased, this was also a part of the Around the World series too. It had a Gateway Arch depiction on the side of this mustard gold model.

At this time, they decided to do away with core issues. What? No more plain ones? It was moved to a more premium role as a Superfast exclusive. This dark green was number 14 in the 2004 Superfast series.

And in 2005, it was in one of the first batches, before they launched a newer Superfast wheel (due to this wheel not being well perceived by collectors for being too blingy). 2005 was the split year, with 15,000 in burgundy made for the US market, and 7,500 in tan being made for the ROW market.

And in 2006, now sporting the newer Superfast wheels, it turned out this blue number 14 would prove to be a swansong. it started where it finished in a sense, being a little blue. It’s a shame as I really liked this civilian model. There was a police spin-off which I will go through another time.

Because now I am in the 2010s. And doing what I just did but on a bigger scale, I am finishing where I start. The dive back began with a Mack. It’s ending with a Mack. The MB906 ’63 Mack Model B. The Model B had a lot of uses, and one of the build styles was as a fire engine. The Model B in real life would have actually been manufactured by Mack around the same time as the Model M in the my first dive back too. See how I am looping everything round in a nice circle. So the Model B had a fairly brief existence. This was the debut. MB100 in 2014 in a lovely red, with a simple classic look to it.

It was also chosen by Everett Marshall to be his 9th Charity Golf Tournament model, which saw this lovely black and gold example appear.

In 2015 the model was already out of basic range usage. This issue was a Fire 5-pack release in yellow.

And it was also chosen to be in the Supreme Heroes series too, a series of 10 fire themed models as they were re-debuting premium issues that year after a few years off.

Its final release was in 2016. Again a core issue. But after being a single in 2014, it moved to a 5-pack in 2015 and now up to a 9/10-pack in 2016 in green. That’s as big a pack as Mattel do that contains an exclusive vehicle. There was nowhere higher to go, so they dropped it. Well, that might not be the actual reason for dropping it. As another Mack had just debuted too and neither were seen again, I am guessing there is an issue with Mack themselves. Which is a shame. It was a cool model.

And on that note, I do believe I am done with another report. I hope you enjoyed my fun outing through what is essentially all older vehicles in a way, even though some were recently made. I still enjoyed getting this Italian set. Next week I am getting another 2021 set finished and that will include new stuff. Not just carry forwards. Until then, have a safe week and catch you next Monday.

One Reply to “Matchbox Monday ponders over Best of Italy”

  1. Nice review. I own a real Allfa Giulia in the UK and I’ve got the toy fair but the employee one seems beyond my grasp. Very jealous.

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