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

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