Monday, March 31, 2014

Matchbox Ambassador Report #32, by Nigel Cooper

Ambassador Report 32


Marcel Colijn sent me a photo of the latest Toys R Us display. This appears to be a regular event in this chain store though I believe that other stores may do the same thing. How things have changed over the years. I think that Matchbox models and boxes always look best in their original environment.


There are no answers this week. I hope to have more next week. Please keep your questions coming in.


There are just three new images available to show this week. The Dirt Smasher is a new model for 2014. I hope to have more in my next report. I believe that the 2014 Disney Bus has been released though I have heard that there may be some supply difficulties.

A Little More History

I am very grateful to several collectors who were able to update me with some facts about the Citroens I looked at in the previous two articles. The word "Safari' was probably erased from the base because the name "CX Safari" was only used by Citroën in the UK, and Matchbox, with export sales in mind, thought it would be simpler to just call the car "CX". "Safari" was Citroen UK's designation for the station wagons (there were also Citroen DS/ID Safaris from Husky/Corgi Juniors and Corgi Toys) but these were not used elsewhere and in France it was called “The Break”.

As the CX model was aimed at the European market (LHD steering wheel) Matchbox just deleted the Safari name from the baseplate. The BBC use two DS cars and then a CX Safari. Perhaps Matchbox might have considered modifying a model to the BBC colours.

I now believe the 15 CV and 16 CV are the same car. Citroen called it a 15 but it actually fell in the 16 CV (CV = tax horsepower calculated from engine size) class. The only Traction Avant longer than the 15/6 CV was the scarce V8-powered 22 CV. There was never a Citroën officially called the 16CV, just the 7, 11 and 15CV (plus the elusive 22CV). Citroën never introduced annual facelifts on its cars. It now appears that this was a first draft of the car, incorrectly named and too big for a standard Matchbox box, so the tooling department decided to start again with a smaller, and more correct, prototype of the same Citroën model.

I think that collectors are generally interested in actual models and colour schemes on models that were not eventually chosen. Last week I looked at the Citroen Safari and the Citroen 15. This week I will consider some more models that reached various stages of production before they were dropped. If you are able to provide any further information on these models, I would be pleased to relay it to others.

The Pontiac Grand Prix was planned to be blue. The decision to suddenly change this to red must have been taken very late in the day as the boxes had already been ordered depicting blue models. It was always Odell who had the final say but there is no evidence to explain his change of heart except maybe the fact that there were already a good number of blue models in the range. An even stranger decision must have been taken when the first batch of models, with NEW MODEL, on the end flaps had been exhausted. The second batch of boxes also showed a blue box, but with the NEW MODEL no longer being shown.

The three pre-production models shown are from different eras of the model, though they have all been played with or used for test purposes. The blue car with opening doors is one of the few that the artist used originally for this box design. When the model was converted to Superfast wheels, it was not possible to continue with the opening doors and so they were sealed shut. The mauve model shows sealed doors but still with black plastic wheels. As no interior or windows were fitted, it is presumed that it was just made to see what the Pontiac looked like with closed doors.

A decision had been taken to ensure that the whole range had bright colours in 1970. The Pontiac was eventually painted in various shades of metallic purple. One wonders why this staid pea green version was even painted up.

The model continued to interest collectors. The red cross-over version is very rare and commands high prices as does the final regular wheel box.

This model shown below was called Black Beauty and was driven by a character called Green Hornet. I seem to remember that it was often the case that licensing could take several months or even longer and this has been echoed even today. Design was carried out in great secrecy in case a competitor got wind of it and fast tracked production to steal a march. One way to speed up releases was to assume that licensing approval would be given. This was the case with this model. However, another company had already secured the licence and Matchbox stopped development immediately. There is no interior and no decoration for this model and I believe this was the extent of the manufacturing process. I think the model was to have been linked to a radio and television programme.

The Green Hornet was the alter ego of Britt Reid, a wealthy young publisher of the Daily Sentinel newspaper by day. But by night Reid wore the long green overcoat, green fedora hat and green mask of the mysterious "Green Hornet" to fight crime as a vigilante. Reid was accompanied by his loyal and similarly masked partner and confidant, Kato, who drove their technologically advanced car, the "Black Beauty". Though both the police and the general public believe the Hornet to be a criminal, Reid capitalizes on that perception to help him infiltrate the underworld, leaving behind criminals and any incriminating evidence found for the police. What a pity this model did not proceed, though of course the model could only appear in black and that would have restricted variations.

The Mitsubishi GTO was a sports car built in Japan between 1990 and 2001. In most export markets it was rebadged as a Mitsubishi 3000GT. However, it was also imported and sold by Chrysler in North America as a Dodge Stealth from 1991 to 1996, with only minor detail differences. Mechanically, the two cars were identical. The Mitsubishi GTO, the Mitsubishi 3000GT and the Dodge Stealth designs were the result of the collaborative effort between Chrysler and its Japanese partner.

There were plans for a Viper television programme featuring the Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo, a Viper Morphed and a Dodge Viper in 1994. There must have been a tie-up with Matchbox as Tyco, the then owners, decided to produce several models for the show. Although in the event the show was cancelled, it must have been close to release. Several models were produced with a complete base showing 1994, a proper die-cast body, interior and windows. The Stealth model shown has an unpainted body with a blue interior and a white plastic base. The second was painted plain black with tinted windows and a grey interior with lights picked out front and rear and a black plastic base. A third version had green stripes without any further decoration.

I believe that the Dodge Morphed was also produced for the same series. These cars were complete down to the full date, a detailed black plastic base showing a scale of 1:60 and traditional rivets. One was painted in plain silver and the other had decoration that was supposed to represent bullet holes.

I have no idea why either car could not have been released as a standard vehicle, though it has been suggested that that the Stealth model looked too wide and possibly the Morphed would only be recognised if the TV show was running. In the event, only the Dodge Viper joined the Matchbox miniature range.

David Tilley has suggested that perhaps the Stealth was to some extent retooled into the Mitsubishi 3000GT Spider as per its origins. He suggested that Matchbox looked at the casting, re-evaluated what they wanted to do with it and worked on a top down version instead. I guess we will never know the whole story.

The final model evades my memory. It may be based on a Bugatti or a Ford GT40. I will leave it to the experts to enlighten me. This model was stopped at the resin stage because licensing was presumably refused, unless the real vehicle did not proceed.

Nigel Cooper 31st March 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Matchbox Ambassador Report 31 - by Nigel Cooper

Ambassador Report 31



The long-awaited Toyota Tacoma Lifeguard Truck is shown here by kind permission of Mattel. It is bound to be popular. The “A Little More History” section is devoted to Twin Packs following requests to consider this range. If you have an interest in a particular year or themed group of models, please let me know and I will do my best to cover them.


1. Will 2015 see a different type of segmentation than we have seen in 2013 and 2014? If so, can we be enlightened on the plans as of now?

Cannot discuss the 2015 line at this time.

2. Please find a way to keep the licensed models appearing in the series "decently above" 50%. If you go back to a 1-100 model lineup, please aim for a minimum of 60-65 licensed vehicles. I'd like 100 out of 100, but I know it can't happen and just asking that would devalue any point I'm trying to make here.

Thanks for your suggestion.

3. Although I can understand retiring models that have passed the mark of time, why on earrth retire a model like the KG or A100 which has only been out one season? How can development costs be justified by such a short model run? Or is there a sinister plot powering the retirement of great licensed models and replacing them with generic trash?

Please refer to the Ambassadors latest report regarding the A100. Also note that have never used the word” retire” when referring to these two castings which would imply that they will never return again. These models will return.

4. Would there be any licensing issues with John Deere if Matchbox made the Acre Maker with a green cab, green body, and yellow wheel?. I'd like to see a version like that.

While there may be some color schemes that may seem synonymous with certain brands there are some colors that are universal. We try to be creative in that regard.

5. The report states that there is "no school bus at all," but I wonder if the "Field Tripper" is the production name for the "Mega School Bus." From what I remember, Mega School Bus was just a placeholder name. Can you please enlighten us as to the fate of the Mega Bus. Were you able to listen to the voices of collectors?

You are correct that the Field Tripper™ is the final name for the Mega School bus. It is #96 on the list.

6. Mattel has owned the Matchbox brand for several years now. Are there any plans for a book to be written on these years with sponsorship from Mattel?

Not at this time.

7. The Citroen DS Mattel came up with a few years ago is a stunning replica. Not many manufactures get the shape of the car that spot-on. I'm still surprised we never got a Lesney Edition version of it. I'd still love to see a dark burgundy version with a cream roof. Please assure me that you have not consigned the Citroen to the Garbage Grinder!

Rest assured, the Citroen DS has not been sent to the Garbage Grinder. It will appear again sometime in the near future.

8. I'd like to see the Mercury Cougar casting back into the line up. One of my faves - any chance??

It will appear again sometime in the future. We like this model as well.

9. Does Mattel keep records of sales as I was wondering what has been the best seller during the Mattel era?

That’s a good question.

10. Is there any reason why the new castings for 2014 are all the final MAN numbers?

Not sure what you mean by the” final MAN numbers”. Can you elaborate?

(I think the collector meant that the latest Manufacturing numbers are grouped at the end of the 2014 range between numbers 100 and 120.)

11. When choosing a color for a model, do you have all of the other 119 models out in front of you so that for instance you don't have too many yellow models in the range and not enough red ones?

Yes, we do this for every SKU we make.
It does get complicated sometimes because we also have to include carryover models as well. It’s very challenging for the team.

12. It does seem that Hot Wheels sometimes make models which come under the Matchbox category. Are there meetings to decide who makes what or are you independent?

Yes we meet with the team on the blue side. Sometimes a cross over is allowed to happen.

13. Does one person make up the names for the non-licensed models and is that his or her only job?

We do have such a person(persons). They are called copywriters and they create names and written copy. They help us with names and vice versa. It is a fulltime occupation to do just that. Many companies have copywriters. Their job is very important since they deal not only creating names but they must create copy for anything written or published.


There are more new images available to show this week. The much anticipated Toyota Tacoma Life Guard truck that was first previewed at The Gathering in New Mexico last year is finally here. It will be in the Heroic Rescue segment.


Last week I showed some photos of a real truck upon which this Torque Titan could be based. The blue colour scheme may well prove to be the most popular yet.


There are new colour schemes for two more Skybusters.


A Little More History

The Two Packs Range

By 1975 Lesney had almost recovered from the three day working week, shortages of materials, strikes, fire and the flood of 1973/4, although the reintroduction of Models of Yesteryear was still a year away. There were two initiatives in regard to the miniatures range this year: Streakers and Two Packs. Whilst the Streakers were available early in the year, the latter were not produced until the closing months. They were an inspired initiative, pairing two associated models from the miniature range in a single, large and brightly decorated blister package to create, at least theoretically, twice the interest. Many of these models were re-coloured and around half of them were re-releases of models which had been deleted over the previous five years. Two sets included models in their standard colours, but these were deleted after a year and replaced with different re-coloured models.


At the start of 1976 there were eight sets available, but this increased to sixteen later in the year with the introduction of eight military themed sets, which again included some revived obsolete models. These were originally painted in an unattractive very dark green or “olive drab” colour, but this was altered after a few months to a lighter olive green shade, known as military green, to increase appeal. All of these military models had black hubcaps. The TP-12 was of interest because it initially comprised of a #18 Field Car and #20 Police Patrol, which only months after the switch to military green had the #20 replaced by a revamped #23 VW Camper with a new base-plate stating “Dormobile” and with the opening roof and interior removed. Indeed in the 1977 Matchbox catalogue, printed in late 1976, this model change has already taken place. It is surprising therefore that sets with the #20 enclosed are nonetheless still plentiful and command no premium almost forty years after initial release.
Rare TP-12 sets include the Dormobile with chrome hubs and a few other military models can also, very rarely, be found with chromed hubs, including the #20, #3 Mercedes Ambulance, #71 Wreck Truck and extremely rarely the #1 Mercedes Truck and #18 Field Car. The 1977 catalogue also shows the TP-7 Jeep and Glider Trailer (a model created exclusively for Two Packs) in silver, but alas this colour was never used, and they were released in a less inspiring yellow.


What really created interest amongst collectors was the fact that frequently a wrong model was included in the set, and many very rare models were available in the sets, often exclusively in these Two Packs. For example some sets include standard colour issues of Two Packs models such as the #9 AMX Javelin in light green rather than blue, #40 Guildsman in pink rather than red, the #74 Toe Joe in green rather than yellow. The #9 was later changed so that the opening doors were cast shut, the blue model exists both ways and the colour was then changed to a rare dark green and then even rarer red, which comes in two shades and can have unpainted or silver base-plates on most variants. The #40 also came with unpainted or silver bases and the Streaker version was sometimes found. The TP-5 included a #54 Ford Capri in orange, though rarely the #67 Hot Rocker was enclosed by mistake. This set included the #9 Boat and Trailer and the Boat would over the years be included in different sets and altered many times. Many of these variations are rare, especially one with a black deck, or the all white variant. The TP-8 could be found with the #18 in white and this has long been considered one of the rarest and most desirable variants, and it has been found with both black and chrome hubs and even bizarrely “Wildcat” labels from the #8.


In 1979 the range was varied and expanded to include large Long Haul vehicles, as a result the name was changed to “900”. These Long Haul vehicles have never created the same interest as the Two Pack models, except on very rare occasions such as where the TP-22 Double Container Truck had unusual containers fitted. This year saw some more rare and desirable sets released. The TP-4 now included a #32 Maserati Bora in gold, which though supposedly available for over two years is very hard to find. The TP-13 now included the #49 Unimog with or without an ammo box and with two different labels, all are desirable. The TP-16 included a #61 Alvis Stalwart without the canopy and the previously mentioned #71. This set was only available for a year so is highly collectable.


In 1980 the TP-1 Mercedes Container Truck and Trailer was changed from red to powder blue with different advertising, and is another set which has always created interest. A new TP-16 Articulated Truck (#50) and Trailer (another trailer made exclusively for these sets) is illustrated in a striking two-tone metallic deep green and lime green. However like the silver TP-7 three years earlier it was never released, but was to be found disappointingly in the original blue and yellow, although the yellow was now a lemon shade. Later it was released with the same red cab from the #63 Freeway Gas Tanker and a silver dump.


However this disappointing non-materialisation of an impressive colour scheme pales by comparison to the let-downs of 1981. The TP-4 Maserati is illustrated in a dark blue colour but was never released, the TP-7 was shown in a very impressive red shade, but it was decided to revert back to the original yellow. This seems a curious decision as the red colour was an improvement and it seems unlikely it would have cost any more to produce. This set has always been almost impossible to track down and though rumours persist that it was issued in Holland, I believe that it did not appear outside of the factory.


In fact most of the colour changes this year appear to have been made in relatively small quantities, the TP-5 with the #9 Ford Escort with Phantom labels in blue or even rarer white, the TP-8 Field Car and Honda in yellow, and especially the TP-9 Field Car and #24 Team Matchbox in orange, which is another very hard set to locate, yet despite its limited run can be found with the #18 with a black or white interior and the #24 with white, lemon or tan drivers and occasionally with 5 spoke front wheels. All these variants are extremely desirable. Strangely however the new release #TP-27 Steam Loco and Caboose in an attractive green colour appears to have been produced in large numbers and commands very little enthusiasm. A pre-production example of this set is shown here.


By 1982 the Matchbox catalogue shows a very sparse range of just four original sets, now called Two Packs once more, with many sets seemingly no longer available, though despite this with five new editions now available. In fact in the USA edition of the 1982 catalogue the Two Packs range is completely absent, although they were in fact available in stores in the USA now called “Hitch and Haul”, a title that continued to be used into the Mattel era! It is often considered that the new TP-32 with the #74 Toe Joe in dark yellow with “Hitch Hiker” labels and the #1 Revin’ Rebel is one of the very rarest sets, but although it commands a good premium it is in fact easier to find than many of the other rare sets discussed here. In truth the Toe Joe in red is far harder to locate. It only came with a black base, but can be found with green or red booms, and red or black hooks, making it very tough to collect all four variants, especially in mint condition.


With Lesney being bought out in 1982, during 1983 the Two Packs range seems to have been placed in hibernation, though it reappears in 1984 and now with another name change to “Twin Pack”. Although many of these sets are of little interest to collectors, several were, for a couple of years, still made in England and these are considered very collectable. This includes the TP-109 with the #12 Citroen CX and #9 Boat & Trailer and the TP-110 #37 Matra Rancho & Inflatable which both have several rare variations, and even more so the TP-111 which includes a #55 Ford Cortina 1600GL now with fixed doors and in non-metallic red. All red variants are desirable, especially that with a black base with clear or opaque windows, both of which are extremely rare. 1984 followed a previous trend by illustrating a model never to see the light of day in stores: the TP-106 with #21 Renault 5TL in black with “Celtic” tampo. In fact it was released in a far less impressive white body with the same tampo design, though a few of the black pre-production models were produced in England with Lesney bases and an example is illustrated here.


After 1985 these Twin Packs continued to be made into the 1990s, but they were now made exclusively outside of England and thus created far less interest, although some very nice sets were made. Two sets that did not make it into the range are shown below.


Nigel Cooper 25th March 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

AutoWorld - The Return of Quality Diecast

We had to wait ten long years before Playing Mantis founder Tom Lowe could jump back into the diecast arena...and it certainly was worth the wait. They have introduced 3 levels (Deluxe, Premium and Licensed Premium) of detailed castings at price-points offering varying degrees of increasing detail. The selections introduced by Auto World have been a good mixture of popular Muscle Cars and obscure castings previously not available. It makes sense to grab collectors of Mustangs and Camaros but to also pull in new collectors by introducing station wagons and the like.

AutoWorld Packaging Proofs

Final Packaging

The brand itself has been quite hard to least in my neck of the woods. I have only been able to find them in a very small number of Walmarts, ToysRus and recently from Hobby Lobby. Hopefully the distribution gets better as the newer releases start to hit retail. My advice for now is to reserve yours by contacting your favorite Online retailer. Be sure to check out their website at:

Now let's take a look at the numerous teasers that Mr. Mike Groothuis has been very kind enough to show us to keep us on the edge of our seats.

(Limited to only 10 of each casting mixed into the entire production run)

(Limited to 3% of the production run)
Just take a look at those gems....absolutely beautiful. Keep in mind these were all pre-releases and some small issues had yet to be rectified.

One very important attention to detail was the desire by Auto World to keep these models all true 1/64 scale.

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but it was the main reason why companies such as Jada, M2, modern Siku and even Greenlight to a degree did not get my $$$. The scale was just too big to sit on a shelf next to my Lesneys, Majorette, Johnny Lightnings, Welly, Hot Wheels etc. This is important to many collectors from what I have read on the boards.


Very Nice!

Another area where Auto World are really making a difference is their presence on the diecast boards answering collectors questions and more importantly responding to their grips. Some complaints by the collector are valid where early 'testshots' are previewed with minor mistakes. Mr. Groothuis is aware of some of these but on a few occasions, he has thanked the collectors for pointing these issues out before the final product hits the retailers.


Collectors have waited a long time for Station Wagons...especially those of the Land Yacht species:)

Very RARE chase models

(Limited to 3% of the production run)

Their latest Sneak Peeks show that more goodies are on their way. The trend is the same...popular casting desired by collectors with some oddities thrown in. I am so looking forward to these upcoming releases!!!!

A 1976 Trans Am...never done until NOW!

(Limited to only 10 of each casting mixed into the entire production run)

(Limited to 3% of the production run)

 Well, this article can not be complete until we show you some of the pictures of their early prototypes so here you go.

Casting Differences for Various releases...amazing!

Look at the forward thinking of creating molds for various options and years...Very smart!

 And just because followers of my blog know I am nutty about Wagons, check these out! Early word is that the online dealers have completely sold out of these and they are bringing a good amount of $$$ on ebay. My hope is that Tom and Mike will see this trend and get some more models into the design phase to join them.Until then, how about some 'Sport' versions of these wagons to keep them fresh...

Now, I would like to profile some of their first releases that I have in my collection. Please enjoy and let me know if you have any questions about this article.

This is one of the longest 3inch replicas that I have in my collection.

TRU Exclusive: $14.99:(

These were very nice but not worth $14.99. I got mine at 50% off!

TRU Exclusive

TRU Exclusive


Jeff (94SS)