Tuesday, May 13, 2014

May 13 Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper

Ambassador Report 38
  • We need more Fire vehicles! I miss the old 5 packs when the FD models all had the same livery. There are so many models that Matchbox can use just by painting them red and calling it a fire truck, either in a 5 pack or in Mission Force sets.. My suggestions are:  RWR Freightliner Satellite, RWR E-One Command Center in Red, F350 superduty in Red FD livery, Express Delivery, Highway Maintenance, Desert Thunder, Scrambulance in Red, Aqua King (air bottle truck?), Int'l CXT
Thanks for the suggestions.
  • Will there be another Line Review later this year? The one I attended was just   brilliant. 
There are no plans to have a line review this year. 
  • If Majorette, Corgi, Maisto and so on can produce the £1.00 ish genuine model, why can’t Matchbox. 
By Genuine do you mean licensed? If so we already have them. 
  • I got 12 Majorette models from our local Morrisons, from Lambo to Citroen, Renault to Peugeot, Mercedes to BMW, ALL at £1.00 each, so why can’t Matchbox do it ? 
We cannot comment about pricing structures as these differ in different regions.
  • Can't say I'm a fan of the latest taxi. I'd much rather have the Crown Victoria taxi re-released, or better yet the Checker Cab from 2004. Is the Checker Cab still compatible with current production methods? If so, is there a possibility it could be re-released? 
Yes, both the Checker Cab and Crown Vic taxi will be available in the future.
  • In England a typical Matchbox price is £1.50 with a plastic body, usually a generic casting of Americanised versions of vehicles. Your major competitor now is Majorette with models still priced at £1.00 with full tampos, plastic inserts, suspension, realistic paint/real racing deco's and even opening doors on some models. How can they do it? 
We have no idea.
  • The Load Lifter in the orange-and-white "Ranec" livery matches that of the Skidster when it first came out. I don't know if there have been any others in this paint scheme, but I like the look of it. I hope the theme continues. I can see the upcoming Mini Dozer going with the other two to make a nice set if all three matched. Can you give us any further information? 
We have used the “Ranec” livery before in both the basic and Real Working Rigs lines.  We will continue to use this livery in the future where applicable. 
  • I'm curious as to the extent of the changes for the modified three-axle dump truck casting. Can we have some indication as to what has been done to it? 
The main change is the way the dumper bucket is attached.  The hinge is now a press fit rather than being full trapped between the body and chassis. The Matchbox logo and chassis markings have also been updated.
  • Why oh WHY is that green Cherokee only in the 5 pack?! 
It’s in the 5 pack because it has a trailer hitch which is needed to pull the trailer in that pack.
Here are images for some future releases. 

A Little More History

Some new Matchbox miniatures from 1979.
The 1979/80 Matchbox catalogue was a breath of fresh air for those who so loathed the Hot Wheels styled models of the early 1970s. Whilst most of the extreme releases of 1971-3 had been deleted by 1977, a few had lingered on, such as the Blue Shark, but finally in 1979 it was no longer pictured in the catalogues. This also applied to the hybrid Turbo Fury was absent, the Mod Tractor, generic Toe Joe and Stretcha Fetcha, and the Rod Roller. The new releases page for 1979 also made it clear the weird looking Clipper was soon to meet its demise, along with the Stoat, Cosmobile, Piston Popper, Beach Hopper and Hellraiser. (David Tilley would have been rocking in the aisles!!!)
In their place was a whole raft of new and exciting models of genuine vehicles, with generic models no longer holding sway. Some of the models shown as 1979 new releases had in fact been pictured in the 1978 catalogue, such as the superb reproduction of a Ford Escort RS2000 at #9 and a Datsun 260Z 2 + 2 at #67, though many others were shown for the first time. There are some interesting anomalies between the standard catalogue and USA trade catalogue for 1979. 

The #3 Porsche Turbo is shown on the front of the catalogue and was to prove an exceptionally successful release, remaining in the standard range for almost fifteen years. The initial colour was an extremely unusual, but very attractive, metallic brown, not a colour Lesney had ever used on a Superfast model before. It is only found with a cream interior, 5 arch wide wheels and a flat or gloss black painted base, and although unpainted bases apparently exist they must be extremely few and far between. I remember when this model was released there were large posters in bus stops in England extolling the virtues of this new model in an exciting metallic brown colour.
The very next year the colour was changed to silver, now with a red interior, although some exist with the cream interior from the brown version and even with with a beige interior. Again a black base was standard though the silver version may also be found with charcoal or the rarer light metallic brown painted base. A very small run of these silver models with red interiors were made with small dot dash wheels instead of the more usual 5 arch. Two shades of silver body are known to exist. 
In 1981 the colour was changed to bright green, with a dark yellow interior, although the cream and red interiors from both previous incarnations can be found, though only with charcoal bases. The green body with a red interior has now become quite sought after as it appears to be rarer than all the other cross-over models. Those with dark yellow interiors come with black, charcoal, brown or blue-grey bases. In 1982 Lesney changed the body colour yet again, now to red and for the first time with tampo print applied in white. These models are only ever found with beige or white interiors and black or grey bases, though the grey bases come in many shades. Genuine red examples exist with the tampo print missing from the sides and even in plain red, though this version is extremely rare. It can also be found with tampo print applied to a much lighter shade of red body. Whilst the red model was being produced production shifted and bases were modified to read “Made in Macau” and later it was manufactured in Thailand. The two models shown below were manufactured in Brazil.
In 1984 Matchbox International changed the colour once again, this time to black with gold tampo print. During 1985 there was an on-pack offer in the UK, where the purchaser could send off for two Porsche models, one of which was the Porsche Turbo in navy blue with Wrangler tampo. This was supposed to be an exclusive offer and the models were stated to be available by no other means, but later many excess models were made available generally in stores, much to the annoyance of those who had made the effort to send off for these “exclusive” pieces. In 1988 a white Porsche also with “14” tampo print became the standard issue. This version also exists with just a slight difference to the tampo print on the doors as a Japanese release, whereby the “14” does not come inside a box. A far rarer Japanese release exists in red with black stripes over the rear wheel arches. 
In the catalogues of 1989, 1990 & 1991 the Porsche is shown as part of a Twin Pack release in a sky blue shade with yellow stripes, but in reality the released model was in navy blue, seen only in the 1992 catalogue as a Twin Pack, but which in fact had replaced the 1988 white bodied release in the standard range the very next year, 1989. In1991 this standard release blue version reverted to red, but now with a Porsche logo tampo, which lasted in the range until the military Hummer finally displaced it in 1993/4.
The black Porsche with gold side tampo was issued with a King Size model, exclusively for Woolworths in the UK in a large display box. The white version with BP on the doors was one of the ill-fated 12 models which were originally to be part of a BP promotion which was axed. The Porsche was also used in the Glow Racer sets when the luminous windows gave off a glow in the dark. A few of these were packaged separately from the set. The Porsche was also used in the Chinese New Year set of models and the Dutch BP set.

However, the Porsche continued to be produced in Twin Packs: the model can be found in lemon yellow with a pink spatter pattern. It was further available in medium yellow with the Porsche logo as part of a gift set, and finally in blue with orange and white stripe tampo as part of a 5 pack release in 1997. This model was always popular and would not be out of place in today’s Matchbox miniature range. 
The models shown below are pre-production.
The new #10 Plymouth “Gran Fury” Police Car was shown both with wide 5 arch wheels and narrow dot dash wheels respectively, the latter (from the USA trade catalogue) would prove to be the model released. Rarer examples have opaque blue roof lights and although the version with amber windows was available for some time, it is always more sought after than those with blue windows. The blue windows vary in shade from a dull blue-grey to midnight blue, with medium blue being the most common. The baseplate came plated, or silver painted, which is the more desirable and the tampo print to the sides was updated frequently, eventually extending to the roof, bonnet and boot. This model is extremely unusual in that the mould broke after just a couple of years of production and whilst it was being repaired the old #59 Mercury was substituted. This model was in fact still in production as a Two Pack issue, but in this case it was given the same tampo print as the Plymouth. This was the same year, 1981, that Lesney gave up on the Adventure 2000 range and thus had a lot of surplus purple plastic in storage. Very rare examples of the Mercury in Plymouth guise appeared with purple windows, whereas the Plymouth never did. By the time it was reintroduced blue windows were once again the order of the day. In 1983 the model started to be produced in Macau and for the first time the black tampo print became blue and the base became pearly silver. This model survived in the miniatures range until 1987.

The #28 Lincoln Continental always looks rather small, because the scale had to be such that the model would fit into the box lengthways, but it is a very narrow model and thus can appear slightly out of scale next to other saloons of the same period. It was only in the range for three years and during that period was only ever available in red, although this can range from very bright to extremely deep red. It was always fitted with a white plastic roof and a plated base. Curiously several different colour interiors were used. The standard colour interior was bright beige, though it can also be found, in far smaller quantities, in grey, brown, or chocolate. The model with a cream body is pre-production.
This is the standard release with a chocolate brown interior.
Here are some of the colour schemes issued in Bulgaria. 

When in 1981 the majority of the range was re-coloured, this was one of the very few models that remained unchanged. It was replaced in 1982 by a Formula Racer, which was in fact a barely disguised #36 Formula 5000 with a different engine! The fact that a model was brought out of retirement to replace the Lincoln after such a short life would indicate the Lincoln was considered a poor seller. However, the Lincoln was one of those models that was later manufactured in Bulgaria and the huge range of colours produced there perhaps indicated what might have been had Lesney decided to change the body colour.

Thanks again to Graham Tomlinson for his kind help in writing this article.
Nigel Cooper      13th May 2014

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