Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16th Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper...

Ambassador Report 17

Thanks to David Tilley and Dawn Robertson, I can now add three more sites that carry the Ambassador Reports and comments from collectors who use those boards. Please let me know if there are others. Please also keep the questions coming. I do forward the questions but as most of you understand, the Matchbox team are only able to answer some of them. These are the three sites:
There are three new models for 2014 for this Report. The 60 Fire Engine is the retooled model, MB949.  The body has been shortened and the trailer hitch is now exposed. This model will be in the 2014 Mission Force Fire pack. 
NEW Models

Fire Engine BFK60 MB949

GMC Wrecker BFP73 MB188

This model has been through many livery changes since its original release in 1989 and I show some pre-production models here, though most vary only slightly from the released versions. I wonder if you prefer the neutral opaque windows and roof lights or whether they look better when coloured. I think these wheels are well suited to this truck. However, is this model still representative of a current small Wreck Truck or should we be looking for a more modern design after 24 years? What do you think?

I have never been a fan of chromed interiors though I understand that there has to be a compromise to allow for a chromed grille on this Mustang GT. Is there a solution to this problem? I do like this model and particularly the understated colour scheme.

Mustang GT  BDV25 MB812


1.  Could you please give us a little more information on the 3 Burger King Matchbox Toys. I think they are the ground breaker, tipper, and frost fighter. Were all colors derived from the mainline releases? Should we expect more?

There are 3 models total :  Ground Breaker (yellow), Pit King (yellow & green) & Frost Fighter (red & black).  Each model has a working feature.  Ground Breaker - shovel extends, Pit King - working lights, Frost Fighter - extending winch cable. Colors were selected based on the Matchbox mainline decorations.

2.  You appear to have stopped using some of my favourite models in the line-up.  Do you think there is any possibility of seeing the Land Rover Range Rover Sport, the Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren, the Mercedes Benz CLS550, the new Jaguar XK, the Volvo C30 and the Bentley Continental GT again?  Please?? 

No plans to use these models currently.

3. I am making a cabinet to hold all my wonderful Real Working Rigs. I think I have all that have been released so far with the light blue Tree Trimming Truck and the UFO & Construction Mission Force sets. However, I am not sure whether there will be one more recolour release of a previous model. Please can you let me know if there will be one more model as I have to leave a space and if possible, which model it will be - with the colour???? 
Regarding 2014, Real Working rigs will continue but there will be no recolors .  This will be carry forward product but will be in the new 2014 package.
4.  If asked what would be attractive for premium lines in the future, I would say, make the package simple and invest in better decoration of the models. If they could cost only double the price of a regular model, and not four times the price, they would be quite interesting. If we make suggestions, how far back can we go so that the moulds still may be used?  

This is a tricky question to answer regarding old tooling.  While some old tooling may still exist it may not be compatible with our modern manufacturing methods . In some cases we would need to create a completely new tool rather than dust off an old one. 

5. I love 5-packs. Can we have some more themed 5-packs as in the past? They are some of my favourites. (5 different colored BMW 1M would be wonderful).  
We are glad that you like the 5 packs. Thanks for your suggestions.
6. Have you completely finished making Licensed Cartoon 5 packs? Will there be any more Licensed 3 packs?  
This is TBD.
7. Do you think that ON-pack offers will ever be revived? There used to be so many in the past. It was fun hunting them down. 
Not sure what you mean by “ON-pack offers”.  Can you give some examples?
8.  Dear Mattel,
I have just received a Dodge A100 Pickup that is on the new 2014 long card. It is very clear that it is from the 2013 collection. My question is, why is the card completely devoid of series number? Is this a mistake or a deliberate strategy? I ask because this sort of thing matters to collectors (your customers). It is bad enough that the 2013 short cards have no numbers. I am disappointed to see that this has also extended to long cards.

David Tilley gave me this answer. Is he correct????

David T’s answer is essentially correct.

David T: They always do that when a model is still in assortments when a new year starts. I was told a number of years ago it was done to keep the range being put out all in the same package (so when they change the package design the older stuff matches when being shown on pegs) and to not confuse people with having 2 differing numbers for different years. By denoting as part of the older year it stops people getting confused with which year it goes in. Of course, the Questor which is also in the batch was never on the old card and has never been shown with its number (MB87). But if they put that there and said it is MB87, then when the 2014 MB87 arrives later in the year, it would again cause arguments. The clearer answer would be to finish a year off before starting a new one, and not include any older models in the first batch of the year. Just put out all new stuff. 

A simple package without a number anywhere!!!!  If this were to be universally adopted it would give the old collectors with inferior eyesight and no magnifying glass to hand an even chance over nimble-fingered children.



The Dinky Massey Harris with engine covers and the first Matchbox miniature Tractor

Farm vehicles have figured prominently in the Matchbox range ever since 1953. Last week I mentioned some of the first few models of the miniature series were scaled down versions of existing Early Lesney toys, which were themselves copies of the larger scale Dinky Toys. There had been a Massey Harris tractor in the Dinky range since June 1948 and at first glance the only major differences between this and the Matchbox version appears to be the engine covers and the driver details on the Meccano version.

However, the first tractor had different origins from most of the earliest releases.  Les Smith had confirmed that whilst the first three were scaled down versions of existing Early Lesney toys, the miniature tractor was designed almost concurrently with the short lived Major Scale series model. The large scale Tractor first appeared in 1954 and indeed the first advertisements for both it and the miniature version were to be found in Games and Toys in April of that year.

There had been several large scale Early Lesney models produced from the late 1940s in a wide variety of colours – according to Jack Odell – whatever colour paint they could get their hands on cheaply. However, the large scale tractor was to be the only representative of this new Major Scale series range to have any success and it appears that this model was in fact a great seller. Even today, certain auction sites often have Major Scale Tractors available in various conditions.

This model does not owe its inception to an idea from either Odell or Smith or to the Dinky Tractor which had been produced since 1948. Apparently a toolmaker at Lesney had a brother who worked at Massey Harris and Les Smith put together a deal whereby Massey Harris would order the first production run for resale and promotional purposes and they would pay a subsidy towards the tooling costs up front. At this time Lesney was operating often on a shoe string budget and so a large order with reduced set up costs coupled with the benefit of being able to sell future production runs without these tooling costs made sound business sense. 

This explains why there were copy differences on the boxes. The first boxes, as shown in the photograph, highlight the virtues of the real Massey Harris Tractor on a farm rather than extolling the virtues of an accurate scale model with so much play value. The later production runs of the tractor proved to be steady sellers but because the tyres had to be bought in from elsewhere and delivery was unpredictable and the production machinery took up capacity that could be used for the increasingly popular miniature models, the Major Scale Tractor was not produced after 1955, although it took another two years to dispose of the remaining stock. I showed an advertisement for another Major Scale model, the Euclid Dump Truck, in a previous Report which still holds the record for the highest price paid at auction for a Lesney produced model.

Les Smith said that somewhere between two and three hundred thousand of these large scale tractors were produced so even today it should not be too difficult to find. I cannot remember who told me but the tread pattern on the rear tyres may be fitted such that they face to the front or to the rear. Apparently, those pointing forwards were destined for the home market and those designated for abroad pointed backwards, but this information cannot be verified.

Even a glance at the engine detail of the Matchbox miniature shows the magnificent skills of Jack Odell, who was not content with a tractor fitted with slab shaped engine covers. Presumably part of the deal was to incorporate the manufacturer’s name and this may be clearly seen on the sides of the model. Many thousands of tractors were produced in miniature and gradually “flash” built up in the gaps around the engine and I believe that more than one mould was running given the differences that may be found. The final issues actually included a cast insert to fill the gap between the engine and its cover. 


There was not enough room on the base to cast Lesney and Made in England and so the mudguards had Lesney and England cast into them but the fact that both the right and the left hand mudguards could be found with either word and indeed both mudguards with the same word suggests that this was of little importance at the factory. As I mentioned last time, opportunities for improvement were taken where possible but it seems that the Tractor was subject to cost cutting as the mudguards were removed in the 1957 version and the attractive four spoke front wheels were replaced by solid metal wheels which were common throughout the range on other vehicles.

Although plastic wheels were fitted to the Massey Harris in 1959, the decision had already been taken to include the much more modern Fordson Tractor in the range at No. 72, which was released in England in October 1959, but not until March 1960 in the USA. At this time there was no intention of limiting the range to 75 models but then a decision was taken along these lines in 1960 and the Triumph Motor Cycle that had been designed with a No. 78 on its base had to be retooled to add a small plinth bearing the No. 4. This Lesney Massey Harris had remained in the range for seven years. Dinky preferred to retain this obsolete tractor in their range for 23 years.

Thus the 1960 range included some replacement models rather than updated versions. I found this 1960 wooden display at a Swapmeet in Gloucester many years ago. It was very heavy and was planned to display the whole range, including Major Packs, Accessory Packs, Yesteryears and King Size. At the time the display was designed no decision had been taken to limit any range and the numbers extend beyond any models that were actually made for that number. I have a sales sheet indicating that the display was withdrawn in 1960, probably because it was top heavy, and so I presume that few were manufactured. The wings originally bore the name of the series.


Maybe your next batch of questions for the Matchbox team could have a feeling of Christmas about them – for instance what would you like to find in your stocking!!


  1. The generic fire engine is very well decorated, but I am not really a big fan of the casting.

    I am a big fan of the GMC Tow Wrecker (mine is about 14 years old already, it is probably my favorite Matchbox model), but I think that this new version is a little garish. I've noticed that the wrecker arm is able to be pushed down, rolled under another model, and then springs back up to hook the car.

    I think what the other collector refers to as on-pack offers is a mail-in offer for a Matchbox model or another item.

    I find that the Matchbox history segment that you do in every report is very intriguing.

  2. i want to know if the bmw 3-series coupe has been discontinued. the model was from late 90s to early to mid 2000s.

  3. Merry Christmas Nigel! I have excellent news!

    So mattel and the Matchbox company has made an impression. 2014 Matchbox Batch A and B are out at eBay!!! I just got the 2014 Matchbox Porsche 911 GT3, the Toyota 4runner, the Jeep Superlift Wrangler, and the Ford Ambulance, which is that some people may have seen the Ford Ambulance, Jeep Superlift Wrangler, and the Toyota on an ambassador report before. Not the Porsche. Well that is I got the four models at my Wal-Mart.

    Anyways, that was all the news I explained. So speaking of that, I have 2 remaining questions.

    Question 1: What is with the windows on that GMC wrecker tow truck? Hahahaha funny!

    Question 2: Is there any explanation of the 2014 Corvette Stingray C7, 2013 Ford Escape, 2010 Camaro SS, and 2013 Dodge Dart? I'd like to see my answer please??? If it's certain is it OK??? Thanks.

    If they're certain, put them up please. I'd actually like to see the answer for the second question. Not the first question because it's too silly haha!

    But so so anyway, I'll see you Mr. Cooper next ambassador report.

    Best regards Nigel.