Monday, May 6, 2013

Oshkosh by Gosh! An in-depth look at the Matchbox Extending Ladder Fire Truck, by Sammy Fox...

Friends, this is truly a treat.  Occasionally we here at Lamley will reach out to collectors we know, and ask them to feature a model or models in their collection.  These features can be educational, but even more so they provide an in-depth look into what we collect.  We all got into this hobby for one reason or another, and each reason is a little different.  And in turn we are all drawn to different corners of the hobby.

Today we have a fantastic feature by our good friend Sammy Fox.  Sammy is a firefighter for the San Luis Obispo, California Fire Department, and an avid fire diecast collector.  I have always found that having a chat with Sammy can be one of the more enjoyable experiences at the Matchbox Gathering in Albuquerque, which both he and we Lamley folk regularly attend.  He is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to fire trucks and their diecast counterparts, so we asked if he would want to share a little of that knowledge with us.  We are thrilled that he obliged.

If any of you would like to do a similar feature, just email us at and let us know...

(Before we start, we want to mention that this and all Matchbox Monday Features are sponsored by our good friends at MVE Collectibles.  Thanks again to Tim and gang at MVE for helping us every Monday.  If you haven't checked our their online store, you most certainly should...)

Now on with the article...

(Thanks Sammy.)

Oshkosh by Gosh!

A while back I was asked to pen an article on a casting in my collection. The casting could be any model of my choice but oh boy, what a difficult choice to make. While there are many models in my collection that I do enjoy more (for various reasons)… I was somehow drawn toward discussing the Matchbox Extending Ladder Fire Truck (MB 134 / 313).

Much discussion has been had regarding this model and the thoughts that it is a generic model. Quite a few collectors that I have spoken with in the past had believed it to be simply a model designed by Matchbox. Many avid collectors of diecast models who specialize in emergency vehicles and people who work in the fire service will however tell you that they believe this model is in fact a copy of the Oshkosh Fire truck. 

You be the judge –

The Oshkosh laddertruck came with both aerial platforms.

And as a straight ladder without a platform.

And a few different angles to compare.

And even this artist’s rendition of it in this ad from 1975 bears an uncanny resemblance to the MB Extending Laddertruck – 

I have discussed this model with MB designers, former Oshkosh employees, even a Master Fire Mechanic (with 35 years of experience working on fire apparatus including Oshkosh) as well as various collecting experts. While none of them could provide 100% confirmation that this model was based upon the Oshkosh most of them believe that given the similarities it must be.

Whether the Oshkosh Fire Apparatus was the basis of the design or the similarities are simply by coincidence, it makes for a great model that has rolled across many a child’s playroom floor and collector’s desktop alike. 

But enough firehouse chatter, let’s focus on the toy and take a tour through some of the major paint variations of this casting.

Like this all red version with 8 dot wheels that first rolled onto the scene in 1984 - 

Next up comes a similar all red paint scheme but with Golden Shields on each door which read “Fire Dept.” released in 1986 –

The Extending Ladder Truck also came out in plain yellow as part of a 1988 multi-pack –

From the MC-15 Gift Set released in 1990 came this version marked as truck “3” with a crest on the cab doors and a white aerial ladder –

A version that had several variations (including wheel color, ladder color, and base-plate color) was the “Live N Learn” ladder first released in 1989, but seen here from 1991 –

Although I tend to be more of a traditionalist when it comes to the color of fire apparatus, I did rather enjoy this 1992 design (and all of the matching emergency vehicles that were released) with the Safety Orange paint scheme and checkerboard striping – 

1992 also gave us the Graffic Traffic series which included this all white version of the Extending laddertruck which also featured a painted white base –

The Safety Orange color was here to stay for a while with several versions wearing that same body color including the Intercom City series from 1993. The laddertruck from this series came with both black and silver base plates –

Around the same time this version was released in the regular line with same orange body color with Metro Fire Department logos on it. Ironically this model is marked as “Engine Co. No. 5” although it is not actually an “Engine”. Fire Service professionals and Emergency vehicle collectors alike will tell you that an apparatus with an aerial ladder attached is a “Truck” and not an Engine. Both have completely different functions and purposes. Be that as it may, here is MFD’s Engine Co 5 from 1993 –

In 1994 the Metro FD theme continued but this time in the more traditional color of red and this time marked as “Engine Co. 3”as part of their “Collector’s Choice” line  –

Soon after in 1995 MB released this fan favorite of white over red as part of a matching five pack – 

Early ‘96 brought us an all red variation of the previous orange colored model with blue and white checkerboard scheme –

In 1996 we also saw the release of the MB Ladder in all red paint scheme with black and gold trim and “FD No. 1” markings (which was later copied by another company) – 

In mid 1996 the ladder TRUCK marked as Metro Fire’s “Engine Co. No. 5” arrived on scene once again… this time with a white body color -

The next release of the MB Ladder showed up in 1997 and was yellow with red striping marked for the “Matchbox Fire Dept” –

1997 brought us several releases from the Premier Series including this one marked as “Ladder 3” from the Bay District – 

And this one as “Ladder 5” from the Springfield Fire Department – 

Mid 1997 delivered a twist on the MB 134 casting and that was the MB 313 which had a lever on the side of the aerial ladder to allow for easier extension of the ladder during play. This model came out in only two variations that I am aware of. 

This red version was found in the Action System pack –

The same MB313 ladder was also released in white with black ladder which was a bit harder to find –

Late ’97 we saw the Gold Colored “75 Challenge” series bring us the Ladder truck in metallic gold paint –

The laddertruck was also released in later 1997 with an all red scheme with white striping and white aerial ladder and simple markings on the side of the cab which read (Matchbox Fire Dept.) –

This was followed with a similar scheme but with gold striping and a grey aerial ladder section in 1998 –

A similar design in white with red stripe was issued around the same time –

The Premiere series continued in 1998 with several highly detailed variations including this one labeled as Ladder 1 for the Park Ridge Fire Department –

This Truck marked Company No. 4 from Laurel Springs Fire Rescue –

And in 1999 as “Truck 5” from the City of Miami –

This casting continued to be used in Y2K with designs such as this amber windowed, red truck with white stripes numbered “54” –

The Cleveland Fire Division’s Ladder 4 from 2000 –

A white Laddertruck with red a Maltese Cross on the door, red hoses and a red aerial ladder with yellow hash marks was also released in 2000 –

The next release in 2000 was this version in Lime Green marked as Ladder 21 for the Laurel FD -

This was similar to an earlier released version from 1999 which had same markings but without the words “Laurel” and “Ladder” –

This model was also released in 2000 along with a book titled “Fire” – 

Although the drawing on the cover of the book depicts the model in red it actually came in a maroon color with gold striping as seen here (this same version was also released several other times with wheel variations) –

A version with a higher level of detail was released in early 2001 when KB Toys featured the FDMB series with FDNY style striping and door logo which came marked as E64 on the body but as Ladder 3 on the aerial –

The Metro Alarm version in white followed later that year –

Mid 2001 also this White and Blue ladder marked as Truck 8 for the Westworth Fire Dept –

Not all of the variations were released in single blisters and multi-packs, this red and white model marked as “Emergency Patrol” came in the box with a computer game CD released in 2001 – 

Much like a fighter jet, the manes of the crew were painted on the doors of this model –

In early 2002 we saw the release of the Heroes Series which included this red, white and blue colored Laddertruck marked “USA” in both single pack and three pack gift sets -

The Matchbox Across America (MBAA) line brought us this red version marked as “Delta Unit 20” from the State of Mississippi in 2002 –

Also released in 2002 was this version of the Laddertruck in yellow marked “Spider Peak” and numbered 49 – 

The 2003 Hero City models gave us this red truck with yellow ladder –

This version came with and without the “Hero City” logo on the engineer’s side windshield –

The Metro Alarm design made a return in 2003 but this time with a red body color instead of the white used on the 2001 model –

In Late 2003 Matchbox released their 20 pack of exclusive models which included this metallic red version of the Hero City truck 4 which also featured gold colored rims - 

The last time we saw this casting released was back in 2007 in the “New Superfast” series when it was released as E20 in white and red paint scheme –

Didn’t quite make the cut

Now let’s take a quick peak at a few things left on the “cutting room floor” of Matchbox Design Team and review some preproduction models that never made it to the assembly line.

First up is a color trial model in orange with yellow stripe.

Here is an example of the Gold Challenge model in non-metallic gold paint. All production models were given metallic gold paint. 

Another version that actually made it to production but in this case shown hand painted with hand laid decals instead of the production tampo printing.

This prepro version of the “My First Matchbox” laddertruck has the fireman’s head on the driver side door facing the rear of the vehicle which was changed prior to production.

This version of the laddertruck in LA County Fire Department uniform would have been a popular one and ranks up there among my favorites.

Lastly, my favorite… the “squeeze” pre-pro version which actually sprayed water onto a color changer Gas Tanker Truck. The tanker truck was to have flames on the sides, which much like the real thing, disappeared when sprayed with cool water. When the ladder section was “pressed” it forced water out of the hose and nozzle.

And here’s a photo of it next to a regular laddered model

The aerial section was made of soft rubber as shown in these sample ladders from various stages of development.

The set was slated to be released with this flaming tanker truck -

In addition to the paint variations there were of course base plate and wheel variations. For detailed information on such variation (as well as a ton of other incredible models) I recommend visiting the Jim Hoshaw’s website 

Copy Cats

Whether it was designed after Oshkosh or not, Matchbox did create an iconic diecast toy model. The old saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” was certainly not coined with toy fire trucks in mind, but nonetheless if that old saying is true, then this model (or Matchbox) should be very flattered as it has been imitated many times over. 

Here are a few examples of similar “copies” that have been over the past 25+ years.

Perhaps the most commonly known copy is the Maisto Laddertruck with dozens of major variations made –

One of my favorite copies was the Light & Sound laddertruck from Racing Champions in 1989 –

Tootsietoy also got in on the act with this similar model from their Hard Body series in 1992 –

Many cheaper copies, generic versions, etc. were made in very similar castings –

Even small plastic no name versions were made –   

Good things come in all packages

Lastly, (although I am not a cardboard collector and open 99% of the models in my collection) I wanted to share with you some photos that demonstrate the variety of ways that these laddertrucks have been released in.

Of course they came in your standard blister packs such as these – 

And the standard five pack –

They have also came in a variety of other packaging such as special series single blisters like the Premiere series which came with a collectible box –

The MB Across America packaging which included a special license plate – 

Or even a single pack from the Heroes series – 

Or this short lived style of five pack –

They also came packaged as part of a newer style three pack –

Or even in an older style three pack –

And lastly is the Intercom City packaging –

Well, speaking of packaging, that just about wraps this up. Thanks for taking the time to read the article. Special thanks to my friend Jim Hoshaw for his expertise on the subject and the numerous other people who helped contribute information and confirm data for the story. I hope you enjoyed it and maybe learned of a new variation or even a little history.

The End 

Keep on Truckin’

Sammy Fox

(Looking for versions of this model?  We found some on sale here...)


  1. Wow! What a great (and complete) collection! Thanks for sharing.
    I only have one release of each casting (If one comes out in better paint, I get rid of the old version), so posts like these are a real eye-opener to how many are released.

  2. Wow!! That is what I call a great article, of course, I'm always waiting for Matchbox Mondays.

    Have a nice week


  3. Another "proof" that this is a model of an Oshkosh truck (to me, at any rate) is the oval badge seen in Sammy's final picture of the rear end. Similar to the Pierce badge, I once found some photos online of the Oshkosh ladders that included the rear end, and there was an oval badge just like the model.

    JB Young

  4. Great read Sammy! Very informative and such a legacy to the casting! -Terry O.

  5. I'm digging the one with the hose! That one was awesome as hell!