Monday, July 1, 2013

Mack Attack! A Look at the Matchbox Mack Auxiliary Power Truck, by Sammy Fox...

Happy Matchbox Monday.

A few months ago we asked our favorite fire fighter, Sammy Fox out of San Luis Obispo, California, to profile one of the Matchbox fire truck castings in his collection.  He chose the Extending Ladder Fire Truck.  Well, we asked him back and he once again has put together a thorough look at another Matchbox model, this time the Mack Auxiliary Power Truck.  This, just like his earlier article, is a very interesting read, whether you collect models like this or not.

And while reading this and thinking about what Sammy does for a living, we can't help but think about those 19 fire fighters in Arizona who lost their lives yesterday fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire north of Phoenix.  Consider this our tribute to them, and let it be known that they and their families are in our thoughts.

(Thanks again Sammy...)

Mack Attack!

As a follow up to my last article on the Matchbox Extending Ladder Fire Truck I thought I would stick with another “oldie but goodie”. This time we are discussing the Mack Auxiliary Power Truck (MB-229). 

Although it is named the “Auxiliary Power unit” this model has mainly been produced as a Fire Department Heavy Rescue Unit. You may be asking yourself “Self, what exactly is a Heavy Rescue Unit, and what is the difference between it and a Fire Engine?”

Well, I am here to help answer that… while Fire Engine carries water, hose, and a pump for fighting fire. A “Heavy Rescue” does not typically carry hose, water, or a pump. It does however carry specialized equipment for performing rescues such as extrication equipment (similar to the famed “Jaws of Life”), rope rescue gear, confined space rescue gear, airbags, rescue stabilization struts, trench rescue equipment, water rescue/scuba gear, etc. Many of these apparatus had walk-in access at the rear of the rescue body similar to the MB version as seen here –

You’ve no doubt heard the phrases “built like a Mack truck” and “hit by a Mack Truck”. Mack Trucks have always been known for their toughness and it would see that even back when this model was introduced in 1991 Matchbox must have already had the theme “Unstoppable” in mind. 

Although she’s not my favorite looking Fire Apparatus I do have a soft spot in my heart for the Mack chassis as it was the first Fire Engine that I ever drove in my career. While the handling and braking abilities cannot compare to apparatus of current day they did seem to run forever and were thus pretty much “unstoppable”.  : ) 

Here’s a few pictures of some real Mack trucks along with some close ups of the MB rendition – 

And some MB models - 

In my opinion one of the coolest things about this casting is a feature that many people are not aware of on the MB model… and that is the telescopic scene lights as seen below. Personally I knew about the lights being able to rotate for several years but did not know they would rise up or extended until my late friend Bill Cairns pointed this out to me. I’ve shared this info with several fellow collectors since that were as equally surprised. I’ve always appreciated models with moving parts, opening doors, etc. as these feature definitely add play value. 

Follow me as we look into the “Diecast Firehouse” once again to see some of the major design variations of the Mack Power Truck.

It all started back in late 1991 with this neon yellow model marked as a Floodlight Heavy Rescue unit for the Newfield Borough Fire Co. (note how the Maltese Cross on the door is marked with “F.C.” for Fire Company as opposed to “F.D.” for Fire Department.) Newfield Borough Fire Company is of course well known for Mr. Everett Marshall who in addition to owning and running the Matchbox Rd. Museum has served many different positions in Newfield Borough including Deputy Fire Chief, Assistant Fire Chief, Fire Chief, Councilman, and Mayor.

By mid 1992 the next variation of this model hit the shelves. This time in a fluorescent orange paint scheme with blue and white checkerboard pattern (a design that would see much use by MB) - 

The later part of 1992 gave us several more version of the Mack Power Truck including this all white version made for the Graffic Traffic series which first showed up around November –

And this red colored version of the Mack using the same tampo designs as the previously mentioned fluorescent orange truck. The red version came as part of a gift set (mine was from a gift set available at Sam’s Club)  –

The Mack seemed to disappear for a while until it showed back up at the end of 1995 with the same fluorescent safety orange paint scheme and tampos but this time with black baseplate and lights -

In March of ’96 a five pack was released with the Mack marked as a “Floodlight-Rescue Unit” and had a paint scheme that matched the other vehicles in the set –

By mid 1996 this model was offered as a “mail in” special marked as a Fire Rescue Unit with “Action Systems” printed on the roof –

The “Floodlight-Rescue Unit” was released in ’97 in all metallic gold paint design as part of the 75 Challenge –

Shortly after a five pack hit the shelves with this red Matchbox Fire Rescue version –

1997 also gave us this version of the Mack with premium paint and details as part of the Premiere series. This particular model was marked for the Acorn Hill Fire Department -

By the first part of 1998 we saw the return of the Mack in another Fire Rescue five pack. This time with the same design as the previous five pack but with reversed color scheme of white with red print –

Near the end of 1998 MB produced another Mack for the Premiere Series line which was painted an apparatus from Eagle Point Fire Rescue –

Several months later in 1999 this Heavy Rescue for Houston Fire was issued in the Premiere line up – 

Towards the end of 1999 MB decided to brighten things up a bit with this bright green version labeled as Unit 33 Action Metro Base –

In Y2K (remember that?) the Mack came out in the U.S. as part of another five pack marked. This time as a Fire Department Emergency Power Unit #77 –

A very similar model was also released as part of the ROW (Rest Of World) five pack but with several changes including the unit number changing to #34, the words “Fire Dept” removed from the Maltese Cross on the door, as well as the wording on the sides of the rig – 

Seen here is a side by side of the two models for comparison –

Later that year MB released this red model with yellow scene lights in one of their “Launcher” sets –

In 2001 another “Launcher” set was released with reversed color scheme. This model came with either chrome and blue scene lights –

The Mack made another appearance around the same time with this green and white version that came in the Metro Alarm five pack – 

By mid to late 2001 the Mack came out in yet another design. This time in a white paint scheme with red and black tampos marked as Universe Alarm Centre #34 – 

Within a few months a very similar Mack was issued without any cab markings. It had the same body but with the number “34” printed on the body as opposed to the cab – 

Here is another side by side photo showing the differences and similarities of the two Macks –

In 2002 MB started a new line called “Matchbox Across America” (MBAA) with models marked for different US States. Included in the line was the Mack in blue paint as an Ozark Fire Rescue Unit 25 out of Arkansas –

In early 2002 the True Heroes gift set came out including an ambulance, police sedan, tank, and this nice looking version of the Mack from the MBFD –

Later in 2002 this yellow Mack began to show up both with and without the 50 year logo –

Once again the Mack seemed to go on an extended hiatus until it returned as a “Paramedic Fire Rescue” unit in a Fire Department five pack for 2009 –

Promo Models

The MB Mack Power Unit was such a popular unit that it has been used extensively as a promotional model for many different Fire Departments, businesses, events, etc. Matchbox made “blanks” available to various companies that produce promotional models. The blanks were models that were painted but had no factory tampos –

Here are a few of the more common promotional model made using the “blanks”….

Like this beautiful model produced by White Rose in 1996 for the Shrewsbury Fire Company –

Or this nicely detailed US Promo model made in 1998 as Rescue 13 for Clear Fire and Rescue –

In 1999 ASAP made this model for the Main Transit FD in Amherst, NY – 

The Sugar Grove FD had these models made by ASAP in 2000 (these models only had one sided tampos on the Engineers/driver’s side) –

The SGFD models also showed up in 2001 with similar markings but this time on both sides and with a large “2000” printed on the side of the body – 

In 2005 our friends at Color Comp Inc (CCI) produced this beautiful looking version of Rescue 3 for the New Fairfield Vol. Fire Company –

ASAP produced many models for private businesses and companies including this one for M/A-COM – 

CCI made another version in 2005 for Forest Hills Fire Rescue –

Another promotional model was the Mack made for the West Virginia Firemen’s Association in 2006 –

In 2006 we saw the Mack used as a promo model for the 2006 Everett Marshall Charities Fundraiser (see first production Mack Model listed in this article) –

Everett continued his fundraising efforts in 2007 with this orange model – 

The same model was used by CCI in 2008 for this model –

A Wolf in Sheep’s clothing

Not every Mack Power Unit was made in a Fire Department theme (and contrary to popular belief, I do collect non-emergency vehicles  ). Listed below are several non-emergency versions of the Mack Auxiliary Power Unit – 

Including this version marked as a unit for the Bridge and Highway Department –

Which also came in red (and later in an orange paint scheme) – 

The Riethoffer’s Circus gift set also included this version of the Mack –

As well as this yellow model marked as an Elephant Rescue unit form the “Go, Diego, Go” cartoon – 

Lastly is this “Super” version from the Superman five pack marked as a unit for the Metropolis Power Company – 


Models take a lot of prep work before they actually make it to production. Here are some of the prepro models that were involved in the development and production process of these models.

First up is this prepro version of the Premiere series Eagle Point model with decals instead of printed tampos –

Next up is a non-metallic preproduction version of the 75 Challenge model (which was released in Metallic paint) –

Here is a prepro sample of the Metro Airport model from 2002 (note the hand laid decals instead of tampos, and the orange instead of red roof on the body) – 

And lastly here’s a prepro model with hand-laid decals and resin windows –

Disassembly of this non-riveted model shows the inner working of the model –

Copy Cats 

As seems to be the case with any popular MB model there are of course generic knock off models that copy parts or all of the casting. The Mack is no exception.

Seen here is a cheap generic model which no doubt borrowed it’s design from the MB Mack body. You be the judge…

How to Pack a Mack?

While I open up (or liberate) the vast majority of the  models in my collection I can tell you that these Mack Trucks that we have been discussing have been packaged and released in a variety of ways. 

From the older US single pack –

To ROW packaging –

While they carried the same model they didn’t necessarily came the same numbers as seen here – 

The Mack came in the MB 75 Challenge packaging –

To the newer US single pack – 

MBAA packaging – 

Old school 5 pack – 

Or newer generation 5 pack – 

Well, that about covers this review of the Mack Power Truck. I hope this article answered a few questions or taught you a little bit more about the Mack Truck or the Fire Service in general. Please feel free to contact me directly or comment here if you should have any questions or comments. Special thanks to Jim Hoshaw for his assistance with this article. For more specifics on release dates and ASAP variations visit his website at the following link 

This article is dedicated to all of the public safety personnel who have lost their lives in the line of duty in May and June of 2013. RIP Brothers and Sisters.

Thanks for reading.

(As always, Matchbox Monday is brought to you by our friends at MVE Collectibles.  Be sure to check out their store for the latest Matchbox, plus many you may have missed...)


  1. well done Sammy !!!!

  2. I love this model. It's probably the first that got me into fire truck diecast collecting. A local truck changed it's color scheme from silver to red so I may get a few more versions of this truck.

  3. great, one thing I might add, the florescent orange fire trucks are the norm for German fire maybe a nod to the German market as I do see them in toy stores in Germany.
    It was a great article!!

  4. As someone who has about a third of the ones you showed (including that knock-off), you've again managed to surprise and impress me with the sheer number of variations and code 2/3 that have been produced. I see a few there that I can't believe I missed when they were on the pegs. Thanks for the show-n-tell, Sammy!


  5. I have the one from the 2001 Action Launcher. I have had it since 2001 since I was four or five. Unlike the dumb generics that would follow in the year after, it is still, after at least 12 year, one of my favorites. Even though I have Hazard Squad, the Mack Auxiliary Power Truck still beats it. It has many functions, Hazard Squad does not. I can recall me being intrigued by the floodlights that could raise,lower, and rotate. Plus, considering mine has the old base, it also has a working suspension. I have two one from 2001 and another from 2002. P.S., which is rarer for the 2001 version, chrome floodlights or blue ones (mine has the blue floodlights).

  6. Thanks for the great article and accompanying photos. Seeing quality photos of variations side by side is nice, but it's vastly better when it's presented the way this article does describing which year, packaging, or set each of the variations was originally found in. Which is an especially helpful reference for someone who might seek out the same models for their collection!

  7. Wow!! I'm blown away by all the in-depth detailed information on the MB Fire Mack Trucks. The article was extremely fun & easy to read. I enjoyed seeing all the different variations & packaging options as well. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us all Sammy & thank you for your dedication to protecting others.