Model: Matchbox 1969 Triumph TR6 (MB1405)
Release: Matchbox Collectors 2023 Batch 4
eBay link: Matchbox Collectors TR6
Why I’m featuring it: Not sure how you feel about it, but I’m a little disappointed with the Matchbox Collectors Lexus LFA. For me, the absent rear quarterlight changes its appearance too much. It’s arguably the most distinctive feature of a car that was never a looker to start with, for all its V10 epic-ness and importance in ushering in what has become a golden age of Toyota performance cars.
But never fear! The perfect consolation comes in the very same wave of Collectors – and at two per case, no less.
Behold the 1969 Triumph TR6, surely a contender for Best New Matchbox Model of the Year in the upcoming Lamley Awards. Deeply unfashionable it may be (a British sports car revival is unlikely to supplant JDM or Lamborghinis in the hearts of collectors anytime soon), but in my opinion this thing outshines other 2023 Matchbox highlights like the Creations 911 RSR and the 70th D-Type.
It’s not the first 1:64-ish TR6 from Mattel, of course. The version by former Hot Wheels designer John Violette is a winning rendition of an SCCA-style racer that’s been in the line since 2009. But this new one is what you’d expect from Matchbox – a stock TR6 in all its manly, Karmann-styled glory. It was one of the last Collectors castings designed by Abe Lugo, with that role now passed to fellow designer, Garry Gopinath.
At 70mm in length, it’s about 1:56 scale, and almost identically sized to the Hot Wheels TR6. Abe worked mostly from photos, double-checking the sizing with blueprints and determining the scale using other models that it might sit alongside. “I think I put this in the world of the Austin-Healey 3000,” he says. That world may grow in the future because a Triumph Spitfire is also in the works.
Let’s take a closer look at the TR6, starting with its construction, which tosses the ‘four-part rule’ out the window. Hood, engine, base, body, bumpers, interior and screen…that’s a lot of parts, even without the wheels.
The straight-six engine is its own piece of plated Zamak. Old school! The forward-hinged hood slots perfectly into place and the door-mounted mirrors are perfect, while inside, an opening in the interior piece reveals pedals cast into the base, Morris Minor-style.
The deco by Michael Heralda is thankfully understated – “a clean and classic look” was the goal, he tells me. The tampos for the front lights and grille, rear plate and Union Jack thankfully avoid the inkjet-printing fuzziness that we’ve seen on recent Hot Wheels Premium models in particular. The plate itself, 3L1SS93, is literally a ‘classic’ Heralda Easter Egg. Thanks go to Abe for letting me reproduce the e-sheet here so you can admire Michael’s artwork in detail.
The True Grip wheels are new. Since rubber tires became a feature of the premium lines again a few years ago, Matchbox’s slim wheel catalogue has often left it reliant on Hot Wheels Real Riders – with mixed results. But this new rim, dubbed Matchbox Classic Hub, is a great addition, replicating one of the brand’s most versatile basic wheels in two-piece form. Abe reports that these will be available in two sizes, the larger with more tire profile. They also appear on the Volkswagen T2 Bus that’s in the same Collectors batch as the TR6.
Traditional British Racing Green paint is a safe choice and will doubtless be welcomed by many collectors. The TR6s in my mind are usually brighter hues like yellow, orange or (my favourite) French blue. But never mind – that gives us lots of scope for future editions and I’ll probably buy them all. Unfortunately, the green example I opened has a small paint flaw on the hood. It’s pretty much the only thing I don’t like about this model.
A couple more detail shots to finish – of the base, and of a snippet from the card back. It’s easily forgotten that BMW retains the rights to the Triumph car marque. It was reported at the time that BMW’s then-CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder’s love of classic British brands like Triumph and MG fueled his enthusiasm to buy Rover Group back in 1994. And while the rights to MG ultimately went to SAIC, Triumph – like Mini and Riley – still resides in Munich, with British Motor Heritage granted limited rights to classic Triumph designs like the TR6, hence the two licensors on the e-sheet.
If you haven’t done so already, hunt down the TR6 and (re)awaken your love of hairy-chested British sports cars. A dark horse in the end-of-year Lamley Awards? I wouldn’t bet against it. Lexus? What Lexus?
(follow me on Instagram @diecast215)