Matchbox has gone all-out for its 70th Anniversary celebrations. In February, David Tilley shared a rundown of the various 70th-themed ‘platinum’ models planned, many of which are already turning up in stores.
There was no mention back then of this model, however – a recreation of Lesney’s Gold State Coach (known as the Coronation Coach). A couple of different coach models were originally produced in the early-1950s. The success of the second, miniature version in 1953, the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, paved the way for the launch of the Matchbox Series later that year.
Seven decades later, King Charles III is about to be crowned and will travel in the same coach to Westminster Abbey, so a new model of the coach seems appropriate, especially in Matchbox’s anniversary year. Click here for more info on the real Gold State Coach.
Matchbox’s marketing people sent me a bunch of material to share with you on the blog. I don’t have a sample of the coach to review and honestly, it’s not my thing. But it’s an ambitious undertaking and while it may not appeal to as many 1:64 car collectors as the more conventional Matchbox releases, my guess is that this coach will find fans way beyond the usual toy-buying audience, just as the original coaches did: more than a million were sold in those days of patriotic fervour! If that helps direct new customers towards Matchbox’s regular output, then it’s a good thing.
The model is being sold through Mattel Creations for US$60/£60 from today, 26 April (UK time), until 18 May and will be made to order, so no need for RLC-style stress if you plan to buy one!
Now for more details. To begin with, here’s an interesting Q&A I’ve been sent with Julian Payne, Senior Manager of Matchbox Product Design.
Describe the design process – the stages and technologies used. Did you visit the real coach or work from digital images?
We started by 3D scanning an original 16-inch (40cm) Lesney State Coach and horses. We did this to capture the original details because we want to pay homage to the original item, while adding detail where necessary for improved accuracy. In this way we kept the original detailed gold carved sculpting on the coach, and the horse and rider sculpt details are also maintained as original.
I then referenced my own photos from a visit to the Royal Mews a few years ago. The proportions of the actual coach differ from the original Lesney item. The coach body sits lower and further back in the frame. The Triton figures at the front of the carriage are actually different from those at the rear. The original Lesney coach used the same Triton figures front and rear.
With this information we then marked up the CAD scan with detail overlay sketches: updating the carriage proportions, resculpting the angels and adding missing detail. The CAD was then adjusted digitally.
We made the decision to scale the new version of the State Coach to our standard setting of 1:64 or 3-inch (7.5cm) diecast length. (The scale isn’t actually 1:64 but that is the term used for 3-inch diecast as it is the average for an average-sized vehicle). Therefore, the coach itself is 3 inches long – the maximum length for our iconic Matchbox line. The overall length of 9.1 inches (23cm) was the organic result when horses were attached.
Any interesting challenges you were able to solve? For example, was there a clever design to minimize part count?
We did everything we needed to do to make this accurate to the original 1952 Lesney item plus add even more accuracy. No cost savings were made. This item was developed at the outset as a celebration of the Coronation of King Charles III in 2023 and the birth of Matchbox 70 years ago in 1953 with the first ‘Matchbox’ scaled vehicle.
The metallic gold finish is achieved through a metal plating process that celebrates the diecast material that Matchbox toys are still made from today. A gold clear lacquer adds the colour and gloss.
The front carriage axle pivots just like the original Lesney item. Therefore, the item can be posed as if turning a corner.
The horses’ harnesses are replicated with a central metal rod and side chains – exactly as in the original item.
The horse-harness rod and chains can be unhooked from the carriage if you wish to display the carriage separately. Again, it’s exactly as the original item.
How long did the design process take to get a signed-off product?
We spent about four months in design on this project, from scanning to digital CAD modelling through to engineering.
Other than the addition of windows, what other elements did you want to improve/change from the previous iterations?
We included red molded interior seats as these are very visible in the real coach and bring a touch of colour to the interior. We updated the front and rear Tritons to match the real coach, with the front Tritons blowing horns. The painted panelling on the sides of the carriage is represented for the first time here on this new coach too.
Something new is the addition of a protective display case and plinth (below). The plinth is molded with road surface texture detail and coloured red to resemble The Mall, London outside Buckingham Palace. The case is molded clear as it extra tall for great visibility. Both are removeable.
Any ‘Easter eggs’, or variations that diehard collectors could seek out?
We have sculpted in the three angels in the roof cap that represent England, Scotland and Ireland. These were not included on the original coach.
I’m back! Some good stuff in there. To finish, here’s the Mattel press release in full:
Matchbox crowns its 70th anniversary celebrations and King’s Coronation with new Gold State Coach model
One of the most recognisable pieces of royal memorabilia has been recreated to mark both King Charles’ Coronation and the 70th anniversary of Matchbox. Strictly made to order, a 1:64 scale model of the Gold State Coach has been announced by the toy car brand, which owes its foundation to the coach used in the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Seventy years ago, London-based diecasting business Lesney sold over one million of its 11.8cm Coronation Coach produced to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. Its sales success enabled Lesney to fund the launch of the newly conceived Matchbox brand. Today the iconic diecast brand has produced over three billion cars and counting.
Available to order from 26 April via MattelCreations.com, the 2023 Matchbox diecast set measures 23cm long and perfectly captures the majestic presence of the 261-year-old, four-tonne Gold State Coach. This specific coach has been a prominent feature in every Coronation since King George IV in 1821.
“Not only is 2023 a pivotal moment in UK history, but it also marks an important one for Matchbox. Celebrating 70 years of rich design heritage, Matchbox is launching an exclusive Coronation Coach that evolves the brand’s signature craftsmanship while drawing on innovation and cutting-edge technology to write a new and exciting chapter in our history,” says Roberto Stanichi, Global Head of Vehicles, Mattel. “Being built to order, we expect this coach to be one of the most exclusive models Matchbox has ever created.”
With the goal to create a model ‘fit for a king’, Matchbox creators set out to produce its most detailed version of the coach to date. Its designers pored over hundreds of images taken by Julian Payne, Senior Manager of Matchbox Product Design during a visit to the Royal Mews, together with hours of footage of the most important royal celebrations in recent times to faithfully reproduce the giltwood coach, eight ‘Windsor Grey’ horses and four coachmen. The intensive four-month design process was a true blend of old design practices and some of the most innovative techniques used today. The team used the latest 3D scanners to capture the incredibly detailed sculpted form of the horses and riders from the original Lesney model. Prototype parts were then created in real time using 3D printing.
Packed with features, it is the most comprehensive edition of the four iterations to date, including ‘tampo printed’ reins on the diecast horses, rolling wheels with a front turning axle, windows – a first for a Matchbox Coronation Coach – and, inside the detailed red interior, metal figures of King Charles III and the Queen.
The designers also seized the opportunity to correct elements of the original 1952 model. The Tritons on the front of the coach are now accurately depicted as blowing horns, while the painted side panels are represented for the first time with additional printed decoration. Collectors searching for more detail will be pleased to find that the designers of Matchbox have, for the first time, incorporated three cherubs, representing England, Scotland and Ireland, on the roof.
Ideal for display, the coach can be removed from its custom display box and textured plinth; the latter is modelled to reflect the surface of The Mall. As a nod to the very first model, the 2023 Gold State Coach features the draw chains between the four pairs of horses and comes in a red presentation box.
“The original State Coach is a pivotal piece of Matchbox heritage, and crucial to the brand’s destiny,” comments Giles Chapman, author of Britain’s Toy Car Wars (published by The History Press – www.thehistorypress.co.uk). “Lesney’s design genius Jack Odell already had a terrific reputation for accurate detail but this gleaming horse-drawn vehicle – often used as a cake decoration at parties to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s coronation – opened his eyes to ultra-miniaturisation. It was the forerunner to the phenomenally successful Matchbox 1-75 series launched in 1953 that put toy cars and trucks into the eager hands of all children, not just those lucky enough to have wealthy parents. The little coach was the blockbuster product that started it all.”
The story of the first Matchbox Coronation Coach is now part of the brand’s folklore. For the 1951 Festival of Britain, Lesney had plans to produce a scale model of the Gold State Coach. Shortages of zinc meant very few of the 40cm coach were produced but the casting was resurrected when King George VI died and Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation was imminent. Just a few hundred were produced when the makers noted the casting still included the figures of the now late king and heir to the throne, Elizabeth. Subsequent models saw the late king’s figure being cut off at the knees. After some 33,000 had been produced, a new, smaller version, measuring 11.8cm, was created in 1953. Over one million would be sold to fans to mark that Coronation and it was instrumental in the ensuing success of Matchbox.
2023 has seen the Matchbox brand invigorated in the UK with expanded distribution of its range of diecast toy cars available at Amazon, Tesco, Sainsburys, Argos, B&M Bargain, Morrisons, The Entertainer and Toymaster stores. As well as celebrating its history, Matchbox continues to consider the future of toys. Initiatives include the use of recycled zinc in some of its Platinum Anniversary models and the move to 100 percent recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials by 2030.
The 2023 Matchbox Gold State Coach is available to order between 26 April and 18 May, priced at £60/US$60.
Facts about the Lesney Matchbox Coronation Coach
- The original 40cm coach was first planned for the 1951 Festival of Britain but was cancelled due to zinc shortages brought on by the Korean War. The model was revived for the Coronation of Elizabeth II, with the late king’s figure removed after a few hundred units had been produced. In the end, over 33,000 were sold. In good condition and with their box, these are collectible.
- In 1953, an 11.8cm long version was launched and went on to sell over one million units. Its success funded the creation of the Matchbox brand. It was silver plated that can tarnish to look gold.
- In 1992, Matchbox created a Models of Yesteryear version.
- The 2023 version, made from Zamac with gold metallic finish, is the most detailed Matchbox Gold State Coach model.
Facts about the Gold State Coach
- The State Coach was designed by William Chambers and manufactured by coachmaker Samuel Butler in 1762.
- It has been used at every Coronation since King George IV’s in 1821, as well as other prominent royal celebrations.
- The coach is made of giltwood, which is a thin layer of gold leaf over wood.
- The coach is seven metres long and over three and half metres tall. It weighs four tonnes and needs eight horses to pull it at walking pace.
That’s the lot! Let me know what you think in the comments below. I’m interested to hear what Lamley readers make of this very different kind of Matchbox model.