Ambassador Report 22
I hope that the new models shown below will generate some questions that I can forward to the Matchbox team. I believe that the whole range for 2013 has been issued both in the UK and in the US, with the exception of the Evoque, which we hope to see along with the Land Rover LR4 later this year. We will keep our fingers crossed that details of the whole 2014 range will be made available next month.
MATCHBOX ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS
1. What has happened to the MB842 Blizzard Buster casting? The latest batch of 5-packs has this model replaced with a basic range Sand Shredder. Will it return before production stops on the 5-pack or is the mould damaged too badly? If it does return, will there be any notable difference to the vehicle when it returns (possibly warranting a new MAN#) or is it simply a case of fixing a broken part?
The Blizzard Buster has been repaired but will not return to the 5 pack before the end of the productions run, unfortunately. However, this same version will appear in the singles line.
2. The international short card (or as collectors call it, the ROW range) series for 2013 is still missing a number of brand new castings (BMW 1M, VW Karmann Ghia, Deep Diver, Whiplash, Dodge A100 Pickup, MBX Coupe) as well as version 2 of the BMW R1200TP Police Motorcycle in olive. Are these coming on short card? Until close to the end of the year the short card range was pretty much in line with the US long card range, but the last few batches things just seemed to fall apart. The worst thing is, the missing models (apart from the BMW bike) are all brand new castings, which are often hotly anticipated and sell well for the debut releases.
The models you have listed for 2013 will carry over into this year in the short card.
4. When can we see the full list for the 2014 basic range?
Possibly by February.
5. Can we ask if there are 8x planned 9/10-pack sets for 2014 as have been released in previous years? And that all packs will feature an exclusive model top right.
Yes: this is correct on both counts.
6. In late 2013, Toys R Us in USA released 2x 9-packs with no exclusive vehicle inside. How did these come about? Both packs seemed to include similar models, and sported a large picture of the Road Raider on the front of the box (where usually the "exclusive" model is shown).
This format was requested by the customer.
7. Do you know how many Skybuster models are scheduled for release in 2014? Why have some Skybusters been found in Hot Wheels packaging?
There are 30 Sky Buster models scheduled for release this year(2014) , 5 of which are new tools.
8. Are there any further plans to expand on the colour changer models released in 2013? More Skybusters, or even a move into the basic range models too?
Sky Buster Color Changers will carry over again in 2014 with no additional models or new decoration.
The International Scout 4x4 will be included in the Explorers segment.
The Road Tripper will also be used in the Explorers segment.
The Sand Shredder will be a third member of the Explorers segment.
The Seagrave Fire Engine will feature in both the Heroic Rescue Segment and the Fire 5 car pack.
The Tractor is to be found in the Construction Segment.
Although I believe that the Bus has been released, it is bound to be popular in this colour scheme and may be in short supply. Here is what you will be looking for.
A Little More History
Twenty years ago in 1994 I was writing an article bemoaning the fact that the old Lesney factory in Lee Conservancy Road was being demolished to make way for a housing development. It had been empty for many years and it was perhaps ironic that one reason for this was a shortage of local labour. There were few houses around this industrial sprawl and in the heyday of "Matchbox" manufacturing workers had to be bussed in from outlying areas. A good friend of mine contacted the agents responsible for the site and was able to obtain the huge six letters of LESNEY above the entrance door. He would have liked the “MATCHBOX” letters on the top of the building but there was no way of getting them down and so they were a victim of the wrecking ball. I remember visiting the site and staring into the canal which ran alongside the factory and wondering just how many pre-production models had been thrown through the open window (on account of the fact that most of the senior executives smoked) into the canal below, as was often the norm after decisions had been reached on a colour for a model.
How times had changed! At the end of 1962 exports of Lesney products had reached an all time high with the bulk of exports going to West Germany. (How many of us would have guessed that the USA would have been the largest export market then?) As a comparison, Matchbox accounted for 96.6% of the 1962 increase in toy sales in this type of market. £1,000,000 was earned for Britain in exports over the year. However, my article made reference to the fact that it was impossible to find any shop or store selling the complete range of miniature models and by the end of 1994 several models had either not been released in Britain or had appeared in such small numbers that the poor collector has had to turn to imports from elsewhere. In particular, it was no wonder that the Aston Martin, highly acclaimed by the few collectors who had actually found the model, was to be withdrawn from the 1995 US range after less than a year in production. What hope did collectors have of finding the four variations recorded on this model? Thus the complaints of today regarding distribution are not new.
The first version is shown along with two pre-production, more detailed Astons.
The UK range in 1994.
The year of 1962 had seen a price rise to 1/9d, (9p). However, the models intended for release during the year showed that the small increase was being put to good use with even more detailed features. By September 1962 Lesney had claimed to have sold over 20,000,000 miniature items of contractors' equipment. To maintain this achievement the previous MB43 Hillman Minx was replaced by an Aveling Barford TS 250 Tractor Shovel with working bucket and four extra large wheels and tyres of equal size.
The 1-75 series model was released in the UK in August but had appeared in July in the US. The introduction of this model into the 1-75 line gave rise to two Tractor Shovels in the series from 1962 until February 1967, if the Weatherill Hydraulic Excavator is included. The Hatra Tractor Shovel was added to the range in January 1965. Each was distinctively different.
The Aveling Barford body, with an open cab and forward mounted driving position, remained in yellow throughout the model’s six year life. The shovel and arms which pivoted up and forward may be found painted either yellow or red. Similarly, the base and driver was painted either red or yellow. This resulted in four possible colour permutations. The all yellow version as shown in the 1963 catalogue and on the 'D’ box is probably the most difficult to find. The final version is also depicted on an ‘E’ box. In 1968 the Aveling Barford Tractor Shovel was replaced by a Pony Trailer.
A similar but more detailed King Size version was also released in 1962 numbered K-10. The exhaust was removed for later releases.
The Hatra Tractor Shovel was also available in a range of permutations as shown.
The smaller Weatherill, first seen in 1956, had given way to a larger version which remained in the range for eight years from 1959 with no change beyond the colour of the wheels from grey to black. The model shown below was possibly to decide whether costs would allow tyres on separate hubs and much smaller front wheels. Unfortunately, this idea was not followed up.
Nigel Cooper 20th January 2014