This week on Matchbox Monday I am doing another hybrid run down of new items. I was very happy to receive a batch of Hitch & Haul items through Wheel Collectors in USA, but also decided to tag on a little playset that I picked up while in USA the other month too, as I wanted to include it too. But just so you know, the playset itself didn’t come from Wheel Collectors. Just the other items. Okay, with that sorted, let’s work backwards through the H&H stuff. And did you know, that each H&H item is coming with 2 alternate looks? Most tend to be simply the accessories included being in different colours, but a few are seeing something on a model itself.
Why? Because I am crazy like that, and also wanted to get this out of the way first. Pack number 8 of 8 for the year is called MBX Fire Rescue and actually contains no trailer unit. It actually reminds me of the one of the very first twin packs from the 1970s. Well actually I should say 2 of them. TP-2 was a fire engine and a police car. TP-10 was a fire chief car and an ambulance. But both of them were of vehicles that just worked well together. Neither one had a hook and neither was a trailer unit. In those days when it first launched, that was not important. It was just 2 vehicles that would go together. The majority tended to sport trailer units and hooks on the front vehicles to tow, but it was not a necessity. Over the years, the USA market started calling them Hitch ‘n Haul, and it was by then all about vehicles with towing capabilities. When the range returned in the mid 2000s, they brought back the Hitch ‘n Haul name, and last year when it returned again they carried on with the name. Except they tweaked it to use the ” & ” in the middle, not the ” ‘n “. So yes, technically the Ambulance cannot haul the Hazard Squad around, but it does have a tow hook.
So we get the MB679 Ambulance appearing in white with a nice simple side design, which I think looks really nice.
And the MB996 Hazard Squad in red with a nice simple and very realistic design as well. I think they have done a wonderful job with these 2 models giving us a very realistic look. Sure, both happen to be Matchbox originals castings, and neither one is a trailer unit, but I am enjoying them.
Plus I love the accessories too. We get a lovely sign with a sticker attached to it. We also have a pair of firefighters attempting to put out a fire and a couple of barriers. For those who may have noticed the “in-pack” picture to start this set, the firefighters can be found in grey as well.
The detailing on these 2 new pieces are really good. The firefighters have a lot of detail to them, and I am loving the undergrowth to the sign too. A very good message too. So yes, technically this isn’t a Hitch & Haul per se, but I like the end result. If I ignore the name, I do like it. I think I like the accessories even more though. Particularly that sign. So yes, happy enough to see this, but I am not starting to think that maybe they should be looking at a new name for the series. Looking back at the history for ideas, it did sport a number of names. Matchbox two-packs. Simple, obvious, but with accessories, that doesn’t work now. Matchbox 900. I have no idea why. That was weird. Matchbox Trailers? Again, that is signifying that trailer units are involved. Not good. Team Matchbox? Yes they used Team Matchbox for a number of items in the later 1980s and into the 1990s. It sorts of works now. Adventure Packs? That was how they finished up in the late 1990s before returning in the mid 2000s. Sometimes known as Action Packs too. I think perhaps that is a better idea for a name. It doesn’t specify that a trailer is involved, so 2 vehicles together in a theme, which was more common with those, along with some accessories. But other people may have other ideas. But to me, if we are looking at using some more pairings rather than trailer units, the Hitch & Haul name should be dropped for something more logical. But with that aside, I am not going to dive back on both vehicles, I think what I will do is a dive back on one of each pack. For this?
The Ambulance. Now this is currently the 5th and most current casting from Matchbox that was just given the name “Ambulance”. After a Lesney model (that was pretty clearly a Chevy) debuted in 1977, we saw another in the late 1990s (clearly a Ford) that was just called Ambulance, before a trio of originals castings from 2001, 2004 and this 2005 issue. It was actually a bit of a rush release as when the new team took over in 2004 and saw the 2001 casting and new 2004 casting that had just debuted, they felt a more realistic representation would be needed for the new direction they were taking before they could attempt to find a licensed model later. So they created this new casting, and debuted it as MB66 in the basic range. The majority came with sawblade wheels, but a batch was found with dome wheels instead. I wasn’t getting wheel variations in 2005 so skipped it. Now I am looking. Can I find one? Nope!
Of course the casting was a little different at first. It went through some cosmetic changes a little while ago, which may be noticed. The roof light was originally a separate unit, but was switched to part of the window piece. The front grille was tweaked, and the large oval, a little reminiscent of the Ford one, was removed, as well as headlights getting a small tweak.
The rear body section was changed from a metal piece to a plastic piece, and additional window pieces were added to the sides. You may also notice that the base section was originally a lot higher, but has not been lowered down. They kept the tow hook that was put on the model for some reason. What do ambulances tow?
But back at the front again, when show from low down, can you see how the current incarnation of the casting is actually quite a bit lower than the original was too. No tall ambulance crew in the back please.
In 2006 it moved to the MB37 slot in the range. It was now in a Seguridad livery.
It was also added to the 2006 Superfast series in the number 31 slot. It came with a Willmott Auto Medic livery and due to a slight mix up, some of the production run did not get the chrome base section. An instant variation.
In 2007 it was now MB53 in the range and had a simple blue stripe and Ambulance livery.
We also saw out first non-white liveries that year too. The Fire 5-pack had this red paramedic model. During production this too saw a wheel change, like the debut model did. I have managed to find that. It can be found with either sawblades or 6-spokes.
Not content with a red one, they came up with this orange model too. It was a part of a second Go Diego Go 5-pack that arrived that year. The animal rescuer theme does sort of fit it in a way.
We also had another white model in the Action 10-pack too. This was a close up orange livery on the side.
In 2008, Matchbox had got around to adding a new licensed ambulance casting into the basic range, so this was shifted out into support ranges. Another Fire 5-pack, and another red model. This time, no wheel variants.
A Skybusters Action Pack was also release, exclusive to Target stores in USA. Each pack featured a Skybuster model, along with 2 basics, a few accessories and a diorama to play them on. This again was in red, but this time featuring just an Ambulance related livery.
In 2009 we only saw the one release. This was again a part of the Action 10-pack that year, and again was white with orange. Although not so close-up, and also featuring a little blue (plus a few other colours too).
And to finish off the casting in its original guise, we saw one more 5-pack outing in 2010. The Blaze Buster pack saw this in a vivid yellow colour scheme, with a Fire Department side design. After this the model went on a long hiatus.
Returning for the first time in its new configuration in 2018 as MB60 in the basic range. It then was carried forward to a 2021 playset too unchanged. This is the second look for the updated casting.
Oh do I like National Parks or do I like National Parks? N umber 7 of 8 in the series is this MBX Off Road Pack featuring the MB878 Jeep 4×4 towing the MB1076 Trailer Trawler. Again for this pack we simply see alternate colours to some of the accessories. The bear and sign are in either light or dark brown, and the walker is either reddish brown or grey. The wolf is silvery grey in both sets.
Now I love this theme, and I believe a lot of others do too. So whenever we see a new model (or 2) appear, you know they are going to be popular. You can’t go wrong with these.
Or can you? After all, this Jeep has massive wheels. Much larger than the trailer it is towing around. So when you hook them up, which you can do as the trailer doesn’t drag on the ground here, you do notice it is leaning backwards at a very steep angle. Eat your heart out Leaning Tower of Pisa! In all honesty, I would have looked at a better model to tow this. The Honda Ridgeline and Nissan (D21) Hardbody are 2 pickup trucks that would look awesome in National Parks liveries, and both feature a lovely tow hook on the back that this could have slotted into in a much more level way. Not that I don’t want the Jeep in National Parks livery. I love it like this. It is just this having large 4×4 wheels makes the items it tows a bit weird. Something that was actually addressed on a certain 4×4 Ford Bronco casting, which sports large wheels but has a tow hook that drops down to accommodate a trailer much better.
For those wondering, as per usual the Trailer Trawler has a rear tampo print, which shows off the National Parks logo and the mint green is mainly underneath the removable boat. Although it does also feature over the wheel arches.
Again I am loving the new accessory pieces that they have made for this. Well, the wolf isn’t new. It was created in the mid 2000s. The bear is really cool, but I do wonder if having a wolf and a bear along with a walker can give off some pretty weird scenarios. But after having a fantastic sticker added to the fire set, the lack of a sticker on this sign was a missed opportunity. Especially as they could have created a little National Parks sign to put on there. In fact, especially as they might have been working to a cost point, I would have knocked off the wolf, and added a small sticker sheet with 2 stickers to add either side of the sign, for kids to stick on. Because why not? That would have been awesome, and a little added fun. Especially as they could stick the stickers on other things instead. Turn anything into a National Parks sign. I think that again could have been a missed opportunity. So as much I am loving this pack, I do see ways it could have been even better. A different front vehicle for a level trailer, and a sticker set instead of the wolf.
So with the Jeep seeing lots of action, and me doing various dive backs on it already, my attention turns to the Trailer Trawler, mainly because I want to show a couple of specific things. First of all, as I go through these I do want to point out that so far it has only seen rear printing. It debuted in 2018 as MB94 in the basic range in green with a grey boat on top, and a simple Matchbox livery on the rear, along with a bumper label which is in about the same position as the new one is.
After that we got this most awesome look as it was just Campy AF! The Camp Arrow Flint model from the 2019 MBX Wild 5-pack. And that was a really wild livery. I loved it! Plus, Camp Arrow Flint is slow turning into a recurring theme as well. I do enjoy a recurring theme. And that begins another things.
Recurring themes! And yes, this is the second time that this has seen a National Parks theme. The 2020 MB79 release for the basic range was given a more traditional looking mint look for its National Parks outing.
But as you can see, these are 2 really different National Parks looks. I love how they made them so different, for something that was essentially the same.
And last year we saw the model in the basic range again as MB92. This time it was sporting a Red Valley Camp livery, which itself was the first we saw of a classic theme returning as a new recurring theme. So apart from the debut, each one is sporting a recurring theme. How awesome it that?
Which brings us to the next set. Number 6 of 8, MBX Rodeo. This one is awesome! I love this. I would say this is my favourite out of all the models in this particular batch.
And this time I do have both sets open. It comes with the MB1082 Jeep Wagoneer in brown towing the MB743 Pony Trailer in matching (albeit a darker shade) brown.
They come sporting a Jimmy G’s Rodeo & Bull Riding livery. This is a nod to Jim Gallegos, who runs the convention in Albuquerque. Sadly, he doesn’t run a Rodeo & Bull Riding course in real life. But of course, being the nerd that I am, I had to attempt to get this twice. Why?
For those who are unaware, the Pony Trailers sport an interior variation. You have to peer inside through the window section to see. Now I tried my best. It is not easy to photograph with my cheap setup.
Since the casting retool of 2017, the interior either sports a rope and some bales of straw, or it contains a saddle. You can just make out with my bad attempt at photography that these feature both types of interior.
And if you get things right, you might also get double the variation as the Jeep itself can be found in either a lighter or darker brown shade. Quite a bit different. What a fantastic bonus!
Which means on this one, I am getting both accessory variants too. Only this time, it is just the one. The man is either a reddish brown or grey. In fact, if you were to check again, you will notice that in all 3 of these sets, the people included are either a reddish brown or grey. I took the packs with reddish brown firefighter and grey walker. Not the alternates. I bet you weren’t paying attention to that little piece of symmetry.
Again, I am going to go with the history of the trailer. And this one’s a doozy! Pony Trailer. Added to the Matchbox range as 43-c in 1968! Yes, you heard that right. 1968! The oldest Matchbox casting that is still going, in some form. Because obviously it has been altered. But this is where it traces its lineage to. So this pre-dates any ideas of twin packs, Hitch & Haul or anything like that. Arriving in the number 43 slot in 1968 it ran for 4 years. It came with an opening ramp in back and inside you would find a pair of large horses on a sprue. In fact, they were so large that you could barely fit them in the back. This is because they had originally been created for a king side model in 1967. A K-18 Dodge Kew Fargo Articulated Horse Box. That ran from 1967 until 1971 and featured 2 pairs of these horses in the rear. A year later, a smaller model was created for the basic range, and the horses could just about fit in, so that’s what they did. Daft fact, a year later, they created an AEC Horsebox for the basic range, and although using the same ramp, the fact it was on the side meant these could not fit in, so they came up with a second set, simply shrunk down, to fit in. But the Pony Trailer continued using the larger ones that were squeezed in.
Over the course of 4 years in the basic range, not an awful lot happened. Early runs had a brown base section, but by 1969 they had switched it to green. In 1970 the model was transitioned into MB43-A as a Superfast model. It continued for 2 years until being dropped, but although the yellow can sport a little shading, that was nothing compared to the shades of green the base sported. The grey ramp also shades too, but they tend to be sort of middle grey for the most part, and again, like the yellow body, were not major. Especially during the Superfast era.
Another daft fact. I love doing those. The box artwork for the Pony Trailer saw the back end of the MB72 Jeep towing it. So this latest variant being towed by a Jeep is even more significant. A Jeep towing a pony trailer is very Matchbox!
After being dropped from the basic range, the casting lay dormant until they came up with the idea for doing twin packs. They launched in 1976, and the Pony Trailer returned, as TP-3 being towed by an AMX Javelin. Now, as with all things Lesney, nothing was straight forward. TP-3? AMX & Pony Trailer? Sure, was that Jeep & Pony Trailer? Field Car & Pony Trailer? Lotus Europa & Pony Trailer? If you were to find a TP-3 mint in blister, there is a possibility that you might not actually have an AMX towing it. It ran until 1982 and with 7 years of production a lot was possible. But I will try and focus more on the Pony Trailer itself.
In 1976 it was orange and contained a horse head sticker on the side. Hey, can I do another daft fact? That sticker was actually from that old king size Dodge Kew! It ran until 1971, and the sticker worked, so they made more for this. Shades of orange exist, as these ran for the first 3 years. The brown ramp on the rear would also sport a nice shade or two.
And then of course they didn’t always bother stickering it up either. Plenty were found plain.
In 1979 it changed to tan, but again still had the horse head label and brown ramp.
Which later on did see the wheels change from the centre cut style to the dot-dash ones.
But we also had extra fun as rears started seeing green ramps, and of course the labels were not always found. As 1982 faded away and Lesney went bust, Universal took over, but left the twin pack series in 1983 as they were busy playing catch up.
However in 1984, they relaunched twin packs, but started a new numbering system. They began with TP-101 and continued from there. Twin packs re-added the Pony Trailer as is in TP-111 now towed by a Ford Cortina in red. The bases were now unpainted, but the rest was mainly the same. Although by now green was normally the ramp of choice.
But rather bizarrely TP-111 was swiftly dropped, and by the end of the year, TP-114 was now in use. It had a VW Golf towing it. The model was still tan, but now had a Silver Shoes side design, and a white ramp. But variations exist with both green and brown ramp. However, as ramps can be unclicked and re-attached, there is not a big premium on them. Especially if they are loose. TP-114 ran until 1986. And you might even find transitional runs where alternate Pony Trailers are on either set with either car.
In 1987 TP-114 was replaced by a new TP-117 which featured the Mercedes-Benz 280GE towing the trailer. It arrived in all white with matching design for Merc and trailer. A simple checks and Polizei design.
Not content with a Merc towing it, for 1988 they added another Pony Trailer in an MC-7 multipack with the Land Rover Ninety towing it. The Land Rover & Pony Trailer pairing continued through a number of years, and after arriving initially in a larger multipack it did end up getting a twin pack release on its own.
The multipack ran initially from Macau, and later moved to Thailand. It was then pulled from the pack and released on its own as TP-130 too. It was also added to a Farming set in 1993. Again Thailand made. The daft thing is, shortly after sending this casting over to Macau and altering the Lesney England to say Made in Macau, they blanked it out. Seriously. During production of the Silver Shoes issue, models started appearing with no country of origin. I have no idea why. in 1988 production was still in Macau, but when the factory was closed in 1990 it moved to Thailand. They never changed the base. It was still blank. Luckily there is a tell. A Macau made Pony Trailer has quite a different green shade to the ramp than the later Thailand one does. Macau is on the left, Thailand on the right above.
Because the bases are the same. Matchbox series “______”. Lots of fun. Why Macau did it and why Thailand never picked it up is beyond me.
This also affects the TP-117 issue. After 2 years, they updated the Polizei look for the Mercedes-Benz pack. Now it was white and green. The Merc itself had been in the basic range for a few years, but the Pony Trailer was added for twin packs. But again, production started in Macau and ended in Thailand. However, this had a black ramp. There is no real tell for knowing which was which. So that Polizei Pony Trailer could have been from either factory. I honestly do not know. After 1991, the TP-117 set was dropped.
But in 1991, they were experimenting with a few different things. One was a 3-pack with one vehicle and 2 trailer units. This saw a certain TP-121 Land Rover Ninety and Seafire twin pack get joined by an additional trailer unit for a trio. Not the easiest to find, this Pony Trailer only appeared in that triple pack that one year.
After the TP-130 and Farming packs had finished up, the Pony Trailer lay dormant for a while. In 1999 it popped back up. By now production had moved to China so this meant, absolutely nothing. They never bothered adding a country of origin either. 1999 saw some really cool models in 5-packs, and a certain Jeep Wrangler, which had only just debuted as a basic range issue, get paired up in the Dude Ranch 5-pack with the Pony Trailer in a matching design.
But what we did get this time was small horses. I have a feeling that with the move from Thailand to China the moulds for the horses got a little confused. The Bedford Horsebox casting was using smaller horses at the time, and it is likely they thought it was just a duplicate and left it aside. But what this actually does mean is the horses actually fitted better inside the rear of the trailer.
We didn’t see the casting for a few years after that, but in 2002 it popped back up in the Across America series. This was the first time we ever saw horses in any other colour than black or white across all outings for them (Dodge Kew king size, AEC Horsebox and Bedford Horsebox being the other vehicles using them). They were brown in this model. But there is a variation. During production somebody actually noticed the mistake. Err, there’s no country of manufacture? So part way through, they added China to the base of the model. Literally, just the word China.
We then saw it again when they relaunched Hitch ‘n Haul in 2005. One of the first sets was called Cowboy Trails and contained the ’99 Chevy Silverado towing the Pony Trailer. Production moved from China to Thailand during the year as the new team who had recently taken over moved all back to Thailand again. But there is something else very interesting about this pack. It came with accessories. You know, just like the new H&H does.
Do things look a little familiar? Now in this first incarnation of the newer H&H, accessories did see some detailing to them, but this is something that doesn’t tend to happen with the current lot. But with the other 2 packs sporting pretty much all new items, this was a dig into the archives.
The cacti are the same. Just a different colour. However the 2 characters have seen adjustments. Apart from no longer being coloured up, the person on the horse has been shrunk down. I always thought it was a little large. It actually improves it as a smaller scale. However the cowboy holding a gun has been altered. That gun is no longer there. A part of me sees why. Do guns on kids toys really give us a good image? I see the logic behind removing it. But doesn’t Lego still make a lot of cops and robbers style toys for kids chock full of guns for the minifigures? Is this Mattel taking a lead in the hope that others follow? There is an outlier. The wolf was in the Cowboy Trail pack, but was not in this one.
But as you already saw, it made an appearance in the National Parks themed pack.
After Cowboy Trails the model went on a long hiatus before returning in 2017 in a Police 5-pack. As a part of the return this was when the casting saw a significant revamp. The upper body was now plastic (and featured a few styling tweaks), and the rear ramp no longer opens. An interior piece was added instead giving us the variation each time. The only model with a trailer in that 5-pack was an Acre Maker. An odd combination, but not everything is logical.
We also added in double the fun with this model as a run saw it sport 6-spoke wheels instead of the usual disks.
The model was next used (and also last used before now) in the Rescue Rangers 5-pack in 2018. This was another National Parks themed set, just like the MBX Off Road pack is in this batch. The daft thing is that this again was only able to be towed by a large 4×4 vehicle that had a tow hook. The Chevy Blazer 4×4. This is the next outing for it, 4 years later.
But before I move on, just another daft thing. As I said, this is the second time we have seen a large 4×4 vehicle towing a National Parks trailer at a weird angle. But do you know that the 2 4×4 vehicles were both originally from 1984 and both based on Kenner castings? Yes, this was during the early Universal era where they were struggling for new castings, and adapted 4 Kenner tools in to Matchbox ones. The other 2 are both long gone, but these 2 continue to plug away. And both happen to be 4x4s with a tow hook really high up. Isn’t that weird.
Now this assortment was a box featuring 4 different sets. 3 of them were new but one was a carry over from 2021. Strangely enough it was number 5 of 8, MBX Construction Zone. Hence me working backwards through 8, 7 and 6. It is unfortunate that of all the 3 from 2021 to choose to carry forward, they went with the least popular. Plus, when they launched, one of the trio was late to market and is in shorter supply. Personally, I would have brought back the MBX Roadside Assistance pack for another outing. But that was also number 7 of 8, so the packaging might have needed a small alteration. Just knock off the number. Easy to do. But that was it for this batch. However, a second batch appeared almost at the same time featuring 2 of these and 2 new sets. I will get to that at a later date. But before I dig into my collection for more dive backs (I think that Pony Trailer was quite extensive), I did want to add in another newbie for 2022. And because it is on its own, I thought it best to tag it into something else I was showcasing.
I think the current Action Drivers theme to Matchbox playsets is brilliant. The way that they can be clicked together to make larger scenes is awesome! However, I have to admit to being a little sad over the fact that after debuting them in 2021, for 2022 they changed the sections that interlock into other sets, so the 2022 sets can’t click into 2021 ones. For the most part these sets are simply sporting an older vehicle thrown in, but the new Pizza Hut Pizza Run set has a little more to it than just a carry forward.
But before I really get into the model, I thought I should build the set too. Because why not? I thought it was great how they have a Pizza Hut set. Hmm! Pizza! So I empty out the contents to see what I am working with.
Oh look. An instruction manual. To some this is of no use whatsoever. Some people will just start bashing things together and hopefully win out.
I’m not one of them. I see an instruction manual, I will follow it to make sure I get it right first time.
Although this was pretty easy. The most fiddly parts were applying the stickers. Apart from the large roof stickers which were pre-applied, and in the internal shop ones which also were for obvious reasons. I think it is a really cute little set. Subliminal advertising? Never heard of it. Just give me a minute, I am ordering a pizza.
It comes complete with an MB684 VW Golf V GTi in grey but they also added in a roof sign to click on top of it. How cool is that? There is play value to the set too.
Excuse the fingers. I couldn’t actually do this without them. As the Golf pulls up and presses down on the lever, the front door to the store slides to the side and the person inside comes out.
Delivering a pizza direct to the car. This is brilliant!
And I just love that they managed to obtain a real licensed store front too. Pizza Hut is a very well known pizza company. I believe it is currently the biggest pizza company in the world in terms of quantity of stores. It is sold in many countries. So most will likely know of it. But I have to admit, I love all the detailing. I also like how they are doing their best to be inclusive. A disabled parking space up front. Very nice.
And the restroom inside is for everybody. It is the little touches I am impressed with the most.
Yes this is a very well thought out little set. I like it a lot.
Unfortunately the bear from the MBX Off Road Hitch & Haul pack didn’t. Turns out they put pineapple on his pizza and he isn’t a fan. Yeah I would be like that if they put pineapple on my pizza too. See, everything makes sense when you put them in the right context.
But anyway, there was a car. The VW Golf. This is technically a carry forward of the 2017 MB118, but as I mentioned, the set comes with a clip on roof piece, which I am keeping on this model.
But even without it you can see the newer issue is a really different shade of grey. This is almost an olive grey compared to the regular grey of before.
Plus all the tampo prints are noticeably brighter than they were. Oh and yeah, the casting was updated in the interim too.
Back in 2007 they did an off-grey look for the “Real” 10-pack too. I was being curious as to whether that colour was closer. No, it wasn’t.
But obviously being an older model it could take a turn with the roof sign.
Although I did have to bring out the original too. The debut 2006 MB1 was in red, and the roof sign was red too. I have only recently done a few dive backs on this casting, so I think I shall leave this there. I just wanted to show off that the playset is worth getting for the cool variation on the model. Oh, pizza’s here.
So with the first part over with, I take a quick food break and then get on with my little dive back again.
I have to admit, that I keep focusing on cars for dive backs, with the odd non-car casting. But as Matchbox does a lot of non-cars over the years I thought I really should dig further in to the collection and pull out more of the non-car castings. Like this. The Kaman SH-2. Developed by the Kaman Aircraft Company as a ship based helicopter and although development began in the 1950s, it didn’t enter service until 1970. It earned the nickname Seasprite, and this was the name that Lesney launched the model under in 1977 as MB75-BC. It was sold for 5 years until 1981 and only came in white over red. But as always, dig deep and you will find little things that differ.
Now this is how people will likely find it. Blue windows, and a Rescue sticker on the side. You might find a random one without a sticker. But that is actually pretty rare. They did a good job of always stickering this one up. But there is one way of knowing if you have a 1977 original or a later issue.
By looking at the rotor on the top. You see when they first launched it, the blade at the middle where it first comes out from the central section, it was quite thin. They felt it was perhaps proving to be a little thin, so in 1978 it was thickened up to provide more strength.
But those windows? They didn’t always appear in blue. In 1978 a batch was produced with green windows instead.
Later on a purple window was also found. 1978 was a fun year.
And if you hunted around enough you might even discover one with no window at all.
Things tended to settle down a bit, but as they were close to wrapping it up, they did another run, with red windows this time.
Shades of white, shades of red base and even shades to the blue printing on the label are known to exist too, if you really wanted to get stuck in. Plus, if you were that way inclined, you might be able to find one where the rotor on the roof was attached upside down, so the blades start coming out to the left instead of the normal right of the middle. I have to admit, I have not bothered with any of those. I just concentrated on windows.
After 1981 the model was dropped from the basic range, and a new helicopter took over its slot. But it wasn’t quite the end. In 1986 they sent it over to Bulgaria for local production. It ran for a little under a year (due to the arrangement they had with Universal at the time) and the model can be found in 5 colours (dark blue and gold here, as well as silver, light blue and green). The bases can either be orange or peach (shown here) or yellow. And the windows were either yellow (both of these are yellow) or clear. Logically, with the way they did things, all combinations are likely to exist. Which could mean there are up to 30 different variations of Bulgarian Seasprites to find.
I admit, I currently have 2 Bulgarians. I am happy enough with them, although over time if I happen to see a silver, light blue or green one, I might add them for a little more variety. But I am not aiming to obtain all 30 of these.
Who likes a Unimog? I do. This was one of those unusual ones. It was an ROW exclusive when launched, but was actually slow to get going. Pre-production began in 1982 while Lesney were still in charge, and somehow when it got finished, got copyrighted with a 1983 date, they totally forgot to change the detailing elsewhere. It was simply called Unimog and was given the MAN number MB125.
So it still had Lesney England on the base. England was not unusual in 1983. ROW exclusives continued to be manufactured there for a few years, with the last models coming in 1986. But this was the only 1983 copyrighted vehicle that had Lesney on the base. Which was obviously incorrect as Lesney went bust in late 1982 and did not exist in 1983. It debuted as MB48 in the ROW market.
And of course this was the England factory. Production began with the model sporting a white base and plow section. It soon switched to yellow to match the body. Although there is also a rare black base/blade combo out there. Still looking.
During the next 2 years, the model continued officially unchanged. But if you are lucky you might find the side tampo being put on the wrong way round. Usually the diagonal stripes are at the rear. Once in a while you might find them at the front.
Plus you might find ones where they didn’t bother printing Rescue across the front either.
And of course shades. Window pieces, bodies (actually the least likely part) and bases. All are prone to a shade or two.
In 1985 it moved production to Macau.
It was dropped from the basic range after 1985 (except in Japan where they kept it going until 1987), but for 1986 it shifted over to twin packs gaining a trailer unit as TP-112. It only lasted 1 year like this.
Because for 1987 TP-112 changed its look. The model was now in red with a UR83 side design.
They also added it to the Roadblasters series that year as well. Road Raider (as it was called) was part of the Turbo Force team and this one came without a canopy.
Instead, it came with a number of accessories to keep it safe from attack.
TP-112 was changed to a third and final look in 1989, which ran until 1991 when the set was dropped from the twin pack range. This white and orange G&S look was the longest lasting twin pack.
Which does mean it did not stay the same through production. But there is a reason.
The Macau factory closed down in 1990 so they moved production to Thailand. After the twin pack was dropped, the model itself was quietly dropped too.
But it did pop back a couple of times. First off, in 1997 a Tundra Defence Force playset was released, with this model as an exclusive. It ran for a few years, and again production switched from Thailand to China during that time.
Plus we also saw this little model. Technically this was no longer MB125. This is because the licence for The Lost World: Jurassic Park saw them create a number of alternate castings based on ones they already had. This was officially now without the canopy (even though we had a Roadblasters model without) and there was a large rear bed with winch section that would be slotted in the back to haul off a dino. Sadly, I got this model loose many MANY years ago so do not own the extra pieces. It came with Nick Van Owen and a baby stegasaurus, as well as the large bed/winch slot in section. So I guess I should make do with what I have.
I mean, isn’t this a better way of dealing with dinos? Hello Blue. She’s back again. By the end of the 1990s the Unimog was done for good.
Ah, the Mercedes-Benz convertible. Such an iconic part of the Matchbox basic range, and after a long absence, I am very happy seeing that we are getting a new one in 2023. This was a really nice one. The MB400 CLK Convertible. It started off in 1999 exclusively in the German basic range. Part of a whole stack of exclusive castings Germany had that year. It was sold as MB71 and came in a dark green with simple lights tampo printing, and a clip in chromed grille.
It was quickly added in worldwide though, being part of the first batch of 2000. It stayed in the same metallic green as the German issue, but the worldwide one saw a tan interior instead of black.
And of course, if you lived in USA, the first 10,000 produced on long card were sporting a Matchbox 2000 logo on the top of the window.
After that though, this casting quietened down a lot. In 2001, we saw just the one release. A gold model appeared exclusively in the ROW range as MB48.
2002 was quiet too. A little quieter. We only had a plain blue model arrive in the Star of Germany series in Germany.
2003 saw just the one release again. A Convertibles 5-pack release, worldwide, saw this white model with a rather unusual side design. You can tell, this was Hero City.
Oh how things changed in 2004. First off, it was back in the basic range again. Albeit as an ROW exclusive again. This was MB20 there, and replaced one of the Ultra Heroes that had been added to the US range. Oh how saw were we ROW collectors?
But that wasn’t all. The US might not have had the basic, but they did get a model in the Around the World series. This one was obviously advertising the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.
But wait, still not done with 2004. Stars of Cars, as it was now called, the German exclusive series had ventured beyond just German vehicles so they renamed the series. That didn’t mean there weren’t German cars in there. And just like the 2002 series, it was blue. Except this time it was lighter and had lights depicted.
And unbelievably, we are still on 2004. Because that year they also added it to the Superfast range too. Exclusively in the USA. This was number 67 in the set and came in a dark red.
After that though, 2005 saw just the one outing again. It also proved to be a final outing, as a new Merc convertible had just arrived. So they phased this out. It was MB62 in the basic range and came in a solid brown. But boy did this give us a lot of fun to finish up with.
For starters, how about lace wheels instead of flower wheels. Sure, a batch popped up where they switched them out.
How about orange rear lights? Later on during production they changed them. I don’t know why.
And then it finished up with a run where there were no headlights depicted. I found one, and others did find them. But it may have been an error of sorts. There were only a few being found. But it is one of those arguments. How many of a model turns it from an error into a variation? For some, more than one means a variation. For others, it would have to be a whole run. Then there are those in between. But for me, it was a variation I did not have, so I added it.
Because as I said, this went out in style. I was sad to see it go though. There wasn’t an awful lot of releases to it. Mind you, that is nothing compared to the next casting.
Does anybody remember this? The MB520 Air Boat. No? Hardly surprising.
It wasn’t a bad little casting. I know the early 2000s were a point where they were expanding the range beyond road vehicles a lot. A good deal of water based vehicles were added. This had a metal top section, plastic hull and caged section surrounding a propeller that spun around it, if you flicked it.
It was added as MB63, exclusively in the US range, in 2001. And, well, yeah. That was basically it. It was done. Dropped from the US range, and never even seen in the ROW range. But wait. There was one random outing later.
It appeared in the Jungle Recon Battle Kings set in 2006. It had a lot of detailing. Plenty of black added to the top section, and the hull saw lots of camouflage to it.
Although for some reason, part of the way through production, the hull removed half the tampo.
Although bizarrely, when they removed the camouflage, they left on the rear lights. Do these things even have rear lights? I have never paid attention to them before. I guess they do, for when they go at nighttime. But once the Battle Kings outing was finished, so was this casting. Two goes and done!
So now I move into the newest of the quintet this week. The MB858 ’56 Buick Century Police. It just doesn’t seen to get a lot of love. In fact, many classic police vehicles seem to be lacking action lately and no new police vehicles appear to be joining the range either. This one debuted in 2012 as MB69 in the basic range in a lovely black with white doors design. Well it is pretty recognizable as a CHP style design isn’t it.
For 2013 it sort of did the opposite by being white with black doors. Obviously not a CHP design, this was a simple MBX County look for the model.
We also saw this stunning Dealer exclusive issue for the Matchbox Gathering in Albuquerque that year. Still one of my favourite looks for the Gathering promotional issues. This was absolutely beautiful.
2014 would go on to be the final time so far we have seen it in the basic range. It was sold as MB76 in blue, but would also provide double duty by also appearing in the Crime Squad 5-pack that year, as many packs saw a model pulled from the basic range and 4 exclusives.
And then in 2015 we had a lovely Fire Chief model added to the Fire 5-pack.
After taking the next 2 years off, the model popped up in the Coffee Cruisers 5-pack in 2018, which saw this cool State Police look, which started off a recurring theme. It also had a lovely I “Heart” Donuts sticker at the back. I love these little extras they pop in occasionally to the tampo prints. But sadly, this is still standing as the last time we have seen the casting.
Which I think is a real shame for this model. 5 regular releases and a promotion since debut. Some castings seem to appear over and over again. Others appear to be quite fleeting. I do hope we get more police car action in the future. They have built up quite a solid police car stockpile, but just don’t want to use them.
And on that note, I do believe another report is finished. I hope you enjoyed the bunch this time out.
Next week I am doing another larger group, but learned from a recent attempt and have reined in the photos for new stuff to continue adding a dive back at the end. I hope you enjoy the dive backs too. Have a safe and happy week and catch you next week for more Matchbox madness.