Monday, October 28, 2013

October 28th Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper...

Ambassador Report 10

This week sees the clocks put back in the UK as well as Halloween celebrations. Some would argue that Halloween “celebrations” would have been better left in the US. Not every collector will be aware that both Hot Wheels and Matchbox supported a very worthwhile charity auction attended by the rich and famous from Hollywood called Dream Halloween, which was organised to support children with AIDS. Michael Heralda is the senior graphics designer on the Matchbox team. He has made a wonderful job of transforming a model from the miniature line each year from 2007 until 2011 into a collector’s item linked to Halloween, which was included in a goody bag distributed when patrons left. Sadly, only a Hot Wheels model was produced for the charity last year and this year. Hopefully, a Halloween Matchbox model will be produced again in the future. (I apologise for the poor quality of the photos).

Thanks to Mattel, I can show some new colour schemes for 2014. As mentioned previously, the VW W12 concept returns in the 2014 Exotics 5 pack. I am sure this will elicit a variety of responses. One comment made already was: 
Let's talk about the 2014 Exotic Rides 5-pack. Miura: Fantastic! Z8: Fantastic! ZR1: Would have picked others first, but good! Exige: Overused, but good! W12: NOOOOO. I HATE the W12. I hate it purely, with more hate. I am not saying the Matchbox is bad, but the real concept is SO ugly. I would have wanted a 1M in its place, or something modern. Why use a concept that is so old and gunky, as it was already used in an Exotic Rides 5-pack years ago? And same with the ZR1. It was already in a 5-pack, but at least as far as we know, it is not in the mainline like the Exige. I would have asked for an Aeromax or G37 in its place, as they are used so much less. The Exige is a nice little model, but enough is enough. Having it in the mainline and in a 5-pack, at its age, is too much. Why spend so much money developing a new casting if it is not going to be used?
A second comment read: 
Great news about the contents of the Exotics 5 Pack, I'm willing to bet most will be very satisfied with that multi-national assortment - even if I feel (as a VW fan) that the VW W12 Concept is due for retirement. Though I'll gladly take a long in the tooth concept car over any generic!
You can’t please everyone.

Next is the Water Hauler for general release.

This Water Hauler has its origins of course in the old Faun Dump Truck that first saw the light of day in 1977. I show two early colour trial models here.

Since then it has survived in a variety of guises, including a Mobile Crane. There had been an idea several years ago to produce a set of models, outside the regular line, that had additional play value for children in that they could be used to squirt water. The idea progressed some way with pre-production models assembled before the idea was shelved – presumably because Mums would not have wanted their children to get wet or because Matchbox got cold (or wet) feet!!!  I also show here the idea for a Water Hauler then based on the Refuse Truck, which may be compared with the 2014 version. A truck with a load was also shelved.

The Tractor Plow is also designated for recolouring to grey and orange in 2014.

Finally everyone’s favourite, the Dump Dozer has a recolour for the mainline. One collector was slightly bemused by the name given to this model as he had always presumed that a Dozer was short for Bulldozer. He thought that this name always implied a blade at the front to move sand or soil and so he was interested in your responses.

Here is an advertisement for a Dump Truck from the mid 1950s. It is of course the Matchbox model which has to date fetched the highest recorded price at auction with a winning bid at MICA of approximately £12,000  ($18,000). Although it has been mentioned that maybe only one or two trucks were made, I tend to think that if it had been finished in terms of production, then perhaps there are more trucks out there, probably in North East London, just waiting to be found.

Responses to your questions from the Matchbox team
I feel that it is necessary to explain that not all questions I submit on your behalf to the Matchbox team can be answered in depth or even at all. Those of you who have experienced company policy will understand that because of security, competition and sometimes for legal reasons, not all answers can be forthcoming. Company directives may prohibit comment in certain sensitive areas. “No comment” should not be taken as a refusal to answer, rather that there are company policies that dictate otherwise. I try to include a cross-section of questions and comments but I have no control over which questions may be answered by the Matchbox team. Although the answers may not always be what we would like to hear, I am grateful for the responses that have been given, for images alone would mean a very short report. The questions this week were certainly far-ranging and diverse. 

.  On Ebay this week (200975296653) was the model and packaging shown at the top of this page. I think it includes the newer Hot Wheels Batmobile but that Matchbox blister card design seems to be from the 1970s. Was it possibly made for a special event? The box looks like a modern design. This item sold for more than $300. Of course it could be a privately made item, but I would love to receive your comments as I doubt whether a US company would dare to use the Matchbox trademark without permission from Mattel and whether you could give me any further details. 
This item is not an official Mattel product from either Matchbox or Hot Wheels. It is also not an official licensed product authorized by Mattel.

2.  Is the MB line marketed as a collectable line anymore or has that notion now been abandoned in favour of getting the consumer to buy on impulse? 
All die-cast cars are purchased on impulse. If you see it and like it, your impulse it to purchase it.   

3.  I would just like an open and honest answer from them, that is all. If they say that the line is not aimed at the collector anymore, that will do me. 
The Matchbox 1-75 and the current 1-120 basic line is not targeted specifically to collectors alone. Superfast and Lesney Edition models were directed entirely towards collectors. We have always made toy cars that appeal to a broad spectrum of consumers which includes kids as well as collectors. We are a toy company after all. That is what our age grading on basic car packaging identifies. A child’s first purchase may very well be a Matchbox vehicle and we are very aware of this. We are also aware that grownups like our vehicles too for various reasons. We create the 1-120 line to appeal to different tastes and age groups and for those that are young at heart.  We really make toys that kids actually play with. Play value is also very important.
4.  We continually hear of the need for Generic vehicles in the MB120 range. Can you please explain why 2 of the better generics , namely the BADLANDER and SWAMP RAIDER have not been released as single issues? 
Define “better Generics”.   This is subjective. We prefer to call these models “Matchbox originals” which they are.  We will continue to use the Badlander and the Swamp Raider in the future. They are not going away.

5.  Why do the design team every now and again spend wasted time and effort designing vehicles such as the Lotus Europa and other so called classics when they shifted the trend to design toys for 2 year olds? 
We still make toys that appeal to kids and adults in our basic line.  

6.  No toddler will have any interest in an old Lotus and some old timer like the Seagrave. What is the real reason for this wasted effort? 
Creating the Lotus Europa was not a “wasted effort” It was a labor of love.  This model was created to appeal to collectors not kids and it is one of our favorite Lotus models from both our childhoods as well as a certain British TV show from the 60’s. We also consider the Europa to be a “heritage model” which is a car that was part of Matchbox in the earlier years such as the Mini Cooper, Jaguar & the Lamborghini Miura to name a few.

7.  I understand that manufacturing processes have changed over the years and that older moulds cannot be modified because of changing techniques. Would you please explain why some very old moulds, such as the Shovel Nose Tractor MB029 originally released in 1977, seems to be going strong - at least until very recently? The Tractor Shovel is made in Thailand so it currently fits the manufacturing profile which is why it carries on. This tool while released in 1977 has been refurbished many times over its lifecycle.  This could equally apply to the Hay Trailer and Pony Trailer . It cannot. Both models were made in China which currently does not fit our manufacturing profile. We also examine tool life and other issues such as weight and piece count. Since they are trailers we also have to consider if they can still work with trailer hitches we now have in the line. This has been the challenge with Hitch and Haul recently. 

8.  Would you also please tell me if the Dinky moulds which must be at least 15 years old are still being used by Atlas in France? 
I will not comment on how Atlas in France makes their products or which tools they have.  They are our licensee.  Their products are directed entirely to Collectors which is fine but we have different requirements. 

9.  Hype or not, some models are impossible to obtain when you consider we get them in two waves out of the year! To date I still have not seen the Buick Century (first release) and either version of the Seagrave in retail stores. Forget about finding the A100 and 1M. What's plentiful on the pegs are the generic models. The Tank looks good but I have to say the mismatching colors (the shade of green on the plastic turret versus that on the metal body) detract the overall looks of the model. Do remember that the photo shown by the ambassador is pre-production. The color matching will be improved by final release.  The removable bed cover is the only redeeming factor for this terrible model. Okay, make it two -- it has three axles! However, I hope MB will consider giving camper shells or bed covers to some of the pick-up castings. We will.

10.  Kids will love the 6x6 truck thing. Big chunky wheels, good ground clearance - enough to get it through sand and play-dough. To be honest, Mattel have got it right from the child's view - so fair play. Thank You. This is not a collector line model. And hence the problem - Matchbox has always been about collecting the 1-75 series of models - Mattel have eroded this, which has devalued what the brand stood for. I can't see this changing for the future. This is why the brand gets smacked so hard by us here - Mattel bang on about heritage, but they are not looking at what made the line great. More motivated by Walmart ordering in bulk and placing orders to make their figures look good. Would Mattel please like to comment? 

11.  The new BMW is nice little model but why did they pick that to cast? It is not exactly a big seller in reality. 
We like it because it’s cool and relevant. We have lots of them here on the west coast in America and they are popular around the world as well. Do keep in mind that this is the 1M version. It is popularly known as a poor man's 3 Series. We are ok with that. Will there be more BMWs? We will let you know next year.

12.  Personally I cannot see a need for Matchbox to produce war related vehicles and if I get some time I am going to get in touch with some US mums and stir ..... to get them banned. What is Mattel's policy on military vehicles? 
Making military vehicles is not new for Matchbox or Hot Wheels for that matter and represents a classic heroic play pattern that boys have been a part of for decades. We also recognize that there are many military vehicle enthusiasts out there that are just as passionate about them as sports car enthusiasts are about sports cars. There are also many folks that serve in the Armed forces that like the replicas and Matchbox originals that we make.

13.  The new Blockade Buster Tank looks remarkably similar to the MB724 Armour Piercing Tank (MB724). In fact, looking closely, it appears that the main part of the body is almost identical.  So with that in mind, is the new Blockade Buster a sort of retooling of MB724 Armor Piercing Tank due to the main body being almost identical? 
This is a very good observation. Yes the Armor Piercing Tank was used as inspiration for the Blockade Buster.  

14.  If so, is MB724 still available to be used?
 MB 724 APT does still exist however it was created in 2006 and manufactured in China. It cannot be used in its current configuration in the Basic Matchbox line because the tooling is not compatible with methods used in Thailand. It is also much heavier which has cost issues. I see very little use in the new Blockade Buster we disagree. The Blockade Buster will continue to have a strong future as it will be used in 5 packs and Mission Force sets or whatever we come up with in the future. (I see they are still using the 2-name both using the same first letter syndrome here) as there is a perfectly good MB724 Armour Piercing Tank in their database. 

15.   With Mattel now working with Alfa Romeo again, and a new 4C coming in 2014, is there any chance that the supposed retool of the MB715 Giulia Sprint GTA into the MB779 1300 Junior ever see the light of day? Yes it will. You will see its return in 2015 if not earlier. We know that the MB715 was retooled due to problems with the lack of different colors on the real vehicle, and the Junior having a wide array of colour choices.  But the retooled vehicle never appeared, and some will be hoping that the tooling could be dusted off and used, perhaps for 2015 (guessing it will be too late now for 2014).  The MB779 gap in the MAN #s is a space we would love to see filled.

16.  Do you have a MAN# for both the Terrainiac and Blockade Buster? Yes we do.  Terrainiac is MB921 / Blockade Buster is MB907.

I am indebted to Chris Pryor who was able to confirm that the proposed Rolamatic military model I showed last week that did not go into production was a miniature version of the French Panhard M3 armoured car.

I have received many positive responses regarding old advertisements and displays so here are a few more.

I think the advertisement from 1962 shows just how diverse Matchbox products were at the time with the latest feature on miniature being wire wheels, a Yesteryear model with fantastic detail, a Major Pack designed to appeal to children in the US and a large Matchbox garage. Finally, here is a Matchbox display that I believe came from Canada in 1960 or thereabouts. I am not sure whether the red Cadillac shown was a preproduction colour or whether there was a financial limit to the number of colours used to manufacture the display. The advertisement shows what was available in about 1968.



Nigel Cooper   28th October 2013


  1. I might not be a huge VW fan, but I always respected the W12 (as the real car). Admittedly, the matchbox version could have used a little more work, but for me it had a little more sex appeal than most VW offerings.

    And as an Alfisti myself, it's great news to know that the Giulia is making a comeback. That has to be in my top ten Matchbox castings ever.

  2. Nigel could you ask the team if there are any plans to make anymore new military vehicles, I personally love them.

  3. The Alfa GTV was an excellent casting, let down by that gawd-awful chrome interior. I own a real 1966 Alfa GTV, which I drive regularly. The interior is not chrome.
    We were told the reason was a compromise. MBX wanted chrome bumpers, thus casting the bumpers and interior as one unit.
    There was a better solution.
    The bumpers should have received a silver tampo and the interior, which is a much larger volume than the two slivers of chrome on either end of the Alfa, should have been a separate piece. When you shrink down a car 64 times, the reflective qualities of chrome become lessened. Autoworld does all their bright work in silver, and it looks correct in 1/64th scale.
    Some collectors are not bothered by the chrome interior, but I ask - why not? Are we not car fans, at least to some degree? Buying an Alfa at any scale puts one into the car enthusiast category. So, dang it, care enough to speak out against chrome interiors.
    And Mattel, knock it off.


  4. Ah, one more thing. The VW W12 looks really nice. Yes, I said it - it looks nice. The paint looks evenly applied, the tampos show restraint, and the choice of wheels is good. All 120 casting should be this way, and they should all be properly licensed.


  5. Two more important clues into current company policies/directions:
    1) Older castings made in China are (generally) incompatible with die casting methods employed in the current Thailand plant
    2) They are still considering some trailers, but are running into hitch compatibility problems.
    Both are helpful things to know as we ask about possible models we would like to see.

    I have to say, while some of Matchbox's responses last week seemed pretty terse, this week they were models of self restraint. They responded respectfully and politely to some pretty big insults. I appreciate that we actually have a chance for dialogue with them--I don't see that available with Hot Wheels, for instance. Sometimes I think we forget that having a good relationship is a two-way street, and being insulting of something that the designers have spent a lot of time and effort on (it's their job, not just their hobby) is unkind and unhelpful. Criticism and suggestions are more likely to be well-received if framed politely.

    1. I agree 100%. I may not be a fan of most 'Matchbox Originals' as they are to be called, but to tear apart a great model and casting like the Lotus Europa is unnecessary regardless of taste. The model is spot on in all dimensions, the colors of each release have been well chosen or period correct, and it has appeal to all age ranges. As Nigel said... you can't please everyone it seems!

  6. Nigel, as I was thinking, yes the second comment up there is right. We should make some new military vehicles or make a new casting from an old casting like this example: Jeep wrangler superlift in a military police version in white and green. How is that. Oh, the wheels in the same as the 2014 one on your 8th ambassador update.

    But are you serious you really hate the W12? I like it! And plus, it's a Volkswagen supercar!

    1. I did not make the comment regarding the Volkswagen Supercar. That was quoted in italics from a collector. I feel that as Ambassador I adopt a neutral stance and display comments from both sides.
      I get the impression from Mattel that alterations to castings are expensive and need to be seen as a necessary requirement. Would an altered model sell as well as a new model?

  7. Nigel, thanks again for an incredibly well thought-out and assembled Ambassador Report! Thanks for including my comment (the 2nd listed) about the upcoming MB Exotics 5 pack.

    Just curious, is that your personal collection of the Dream Halloween series? I own the Routemaster from 2008 but wasn't even aware of the London Cab or Ice Cream Truck, they are all very cool Halloween themes! Mr. Heralda did a great job with the original graphics and design!

    Looking forward to the next report already...

    1. No problem including your question. Yes: the 5 models are from my collection. The cab seems to attract high money when up for offer I understand. I was fortunate enough to go to one of these events and it was amazing how much money was raised for charity. If you want a better individual photo of any of these 5 models, please send me your email address.


  8. I personally like the VW W12. At least it isn't a Bug or a Van, and the black and red paint scheme looks great.

    The Water Hauler has a much better paint scheme than its predecessors, and I might now actually get it.

    Regarding the appeal of the Seagrave and the forthcoming Mack to younger kids. Two of the local fire departments have classic show units, one a Ford the other a Mack (much like the new Matchbox one!, although this one is a Mack L, not a B like the new Matchbox model.). The Ford has appeared at local car shows, and I'd say many kids have seen it. I'd say the Mack will be fully restored by the time Matchbox releases theirs, so pretty good timing on Matchbox's part. If it can be found easily, I'd say this one will be a hit with local kids. I'm a teenager, but this is pretty much a drive for me to purchase this model, and although I already have the Corgi one, but considering the Matchbox Seagrave looks better than that one, I'd say the new Mack will surpass the Corgi in looks.

    1. One thing I forgot to mention. I am not opposed to Matchbox making military models, in fact I like them. I have three: an Abrams tank (which looks good with its olive drab paint scheme and white star. It reminds me of tanks the Army used in WWII), the missile launcher (although it seems too big and does not look as good as the Abrams), and a '70s Field Car (in olive drab).

      Could we see some WWII models, especially the current Willys Jeep in a WWII paint scheme with olive wheels? What about a Skybusters Huey helicopter? Or what about retooling some of the tanks and personnel carriers we saw in the '90s?

  9. Is there any news concerning new Alfa Romeo castings? I'd love to see a Giulietta Spider or one of the many streamlined 6Cs.

  10. Who's comment is right underneath my comment? Nigel, was it yours? It's the one that has a profile "Nigel".

  11. Nigel, I was wondering, some people were looking forward to see the design of the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD. Can you please decide about the design this week or through the weekend to show the design of the Silverado? I really want to see TEMPOS!!! Oh, plus I want it to be in a color metallic red.

    1. Almost forgot, the wheels you decide what kind of wheels but I really want to see it in metallic red. Please show the Silverado next ambassador update? JUST A BIG PLEASE!!!??? Thanks.

    2. Nigel Cooper does not "decide" what to show you, so to speak. He is given several images a week and posts them in his update. He is a liaison between the Mattel Toy Company and Matchbox Collectors. Also, he does not work for Mattel, nor is he a Matchbox designer. He cannot 'design' the Silverado to your taste. Also, the design for the Silverado has most likely already been decided on months ago.

    3. If you want red that bad, then I would suggest that you take up customizing, buddy.

  12. Ford escape 2013?

    1. You MR. Cooper is exactly right. The matchbox company should have put a morgan aeromax or the G37 in it's place. But last time I heard a comment of no more SLR McLaren since 2008 and the Bentley...

      and when are they going to be back? But the Porsche panamera from your 8th ambassador report is back and I like the design and tempos. So how about the SLR McLaren and the Bentley? The two british exotics.

  13. Great news! The Exotics 5-pack! The W12 looks fantastic. The red interior maybe a bit too much but it does look sharp. And it goes well with the Black exterior. Tinted windows and 10sp wheels also work very well. All in all, a great model. I'm waiting to see how the BMW and ZR1 turn out. Both are castings which I like and both have been absent from the mainline or packs for a few years now (I dont consider the 2012 ZR1 as a ZR1. More as a cheaply made, plastic, clown car with the body of a ZR1). Not really interested in the Miura or Exige as I already have those. Will definitely look out for this pack. Rest isn't my cup of tea. So anyway, thanks for the report and photos!

    - Black Wind

  14. Hello Nigel
    Thank you for another excellent chronicle.
    No doubt we fans would like to keep the questions to Mattel , however I think that no one should criticize them. I think if they do it may be the frustration of seeing the “Toys” of the childhood brand so low compared to its rivals ... and the failure to revise the cars produced in comparison with their cars childhood dream ...
    I would like to put some questions to Mattel :
    1 ) could explain succinctly how is the acquisition of rights to be able to produce a real car ? The prices of these rights are negotiated with each car manufacture?
    2 ) They can produce sports cars without competition , right ?
    3 ) If yes , I wonder if they intend to produce some of these models in future years (all cars mentioned below refer to the road legal versions) :
    - 1963 Fiat 500 Abarth
    - 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth
    - 1992 Lancia Delta Integrale
    - 1980 Lancia 037
    - 1973 Ford Escort RS 2000
    - 2013 Ford Escape
    - 2011 Ford S -Max
    - 1990 Ford Sierra Cosworth 4x4
    - Ford Focus ST or RS
    - Kamaz 4326 4x4
    - Pandur II armored vehicle ,
    - 101 Land Rover / Land Rover One Tonne
    - Renault Sherpa
    - Bowler Wildcat
    - Bowler Nemesis
    - Bowler Range ERXs
    - Citroen AX GTI
    - Citroen Saxo GTI
    - VW Polo G40
    - 2013 ktm adventure 1190
    - 2013 ktm 990 adventure
    - 1985 Mg Metro 6R4

    1. Hi Pedroso
      I will try and answer your questions. Licensing is carried out between Matchbox and the car company. It is done separately from Hot Wheels. The process is not shared. There is at least one full time employee at Matchbox who deals with licensing. It can take more than a year and even then sometimes there are problems. For example, a manufacturer might want its badge or logo on the vehicle but to apply the design might put the cost of the model out of reach economically. All model car companies have to negotiate costs. Matchbox operates under a tight budget and so if no licence is involved, then a model may be produced quicker and more cheaply.

      All realistic models have ot be licensed - even sports cars. At the moment only Hot Wheels may produce models associated with speed so there will not be any race cars in the Matchbox range, at least for the time being.

      Matchbox would not be able to reply to a question regarding your list of Wants in the range because they might then be giving away plans for the future and a competitor might jump in and produce it first, costing Matchbox time and money.. We do not generally know what is being produced until nearer its issue date when a competitor could not catch up in the process.

      I hope this helps.



    2. HI Nigel
      Please secretly pass the list to Mattel...

  15. I wonder why Hot Wheels can pass in to Matchbox's territory (everyday street cars, and emergency vehicles) but Matchbox can't pass into theirs (i.e race cars), when Matchbox was producing race cars before Hot Wheels even existed.

  16. Nigel, I saw the list of 2014 matchbox on wiki, so when is batch A hitting stores? Or what is the batch A line? Can you ask wiki to organize the list? Please and thanks.

  17. I looked on wiki but could find no list of 2014 Matchbox. We still have some 2013 models to be released but it should not be long before we hear more information about 2014.

  18. Howdy,
    I have a couple of enquiries:
    1)How come MBX does not do ranges equivale to the higher priced lines like HW, like Retro Entertainment, Nostalgia Series, Store Exclusives like (Wal-Mart & Smoth's)?

    2)Also, Has Mattel ever thought of dividing up manufacturers by company? European cars by MBX and American cars by HW? And the rest of the world could be divided amongst the 2 companies. Construction vehicles by MBX and Emergency vehicles by HW.

    Also do you think MBX could get away from the overuse of tampos? Most tampos detract from a great casting, not to mention coloured windows (yellow, red, etc. etc) that also detract from a great casting.

    I have purchased less than a dozen MBX models in the last 3 years but at least 20X0 HWs and 50 GreenLights and 2 dozen M2s.