Monday, February 10, 2014

February 10th Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper...

Ambassador Report 25


The INC image above was taken from Mike Heralda’s Facebook posting last year where he tells us that there will be more vehicles in this livery for 2014. Several collectors have stated an affinity for this colour scheme and we wait to see which models will be used.

I must start with an apology. Last week I inadvertently included the six-wheel Trail Tracker, also known as Rescue ATV, which will be included in the Heroic Rescue Segment of the miniature range. I show it again here as it was removed from some message boards. However, I was interested to learn from different collectors that this model is not entirely a figment of a Matchbox designer’s imagination. One wrote, “The new RESCUE ATV looks really amazing. You see a lot of rural fire departments use these kind of apparatus for wilderness fires/rescue as opposed to regular sized rigs. For an example, check out Mildred Fire Company in Sullivan County, PA. They run two, since they protect part of Rickett's Glenn National Park.”

Another wrote, “I am really excited to see the 6x6 ATV. It looks good, and has some fun details included. For those of you unfamiliar with the actual vehicle it's based on, run a Google image search for "Polaris Ranger 6x6," or take a look at these that have already been converted for ambulance duty:

Matchbox has done a really great job in modelling that vehicle, and as far as I'm concerned, it's a really cool vehicle to start with. These 6x6 models always win bonus points in my book.”

The Matchbox team are keen to hear your views.

To clarify the images of last week, the Dodge Charger Pursuit will be in the Heroic /Rescue segment of the 1-120 range. The Ambulance, Scrambulance and 4 X 4 Fire Truck will feature in the Rescue Duty 5 pack for this year.

  • I would LOVE to see a National Park 5-pack honoring the firefighters of the Park or Forest Service, with the International Workstar Brushfire truck, F550 Superduty and F350 Superlift pumpers, the Explorer Ranger rig, and one of the licensed pickups in the appropriate color/livery (preferably all the SAME!). No need for a structure engine since the guys at Matchbox have given us so many delicious wildland fire engines the past couple years! Along the lines of the Brush Fire Rescue 5-pack in 2012(?).

         This is a good suggestion. Thanks.
  • I second the suggestion of a modern Fiat 500 Abarth! That certainly goes along with "Amazingly stupendous fantastic outdoor-indoor adventures in diecast" or whatever the current brand statement/strategy is!? Just put it under the sub-category 'city', it will sell exceptionally well there Matchbox. I promise.  
Our segmentation is actually : Adventure City, Heroic Rescue, Construction & MBX Explorers.  A vehicle like this would fit in the adventure city segment.  We will take your suggestion into future consideration. 
  • The Seagrave has me bubbling with excitement for the '63 Mack B Pumper. We should be seeing a sneak of that soon, I hope!!! When will it be released?
It is planned for later this year. We are excited about it too. When it’s ready, our Ambassador will give you a sneak peek!

  • How will the Bulli be assembled? It has a rather famous and signature 2-tone body, so how would the top tone be integrated into the model? Or will it be left out?
We can’t tell you that yet.
  • In answer to my previous question you said that later castings and wheels were used unless there were exceptional circumstances. Would you please explain why the new Ford Crown Vic Police car is shown with the old lightbar? The Vic was originally fitted with the older compact-strobe lightbars which were later replaced by an LED lightbar. Why have you reverted to the original lightbar with this new model?
Because we still like the old light bar.

  • The small disc wheels were introduced in 2010 and suited many of the 2011 models that were fitted with them such as the MBX Mover, Monaco, Express Delivery. However, it appears that the ill-proportionate large disc wheels are now being fitted to several models. What is the reason for this?
We feel that the larger disc wheel suits certain models. It can work either way on certain models.

  • You replied that Matchbox does include in the range cars that Dads might drive.  Unless he works for the emergency services or drives a 4x4 with huge wheels, I can’t see it. The only common modern US cars made are Police cars such as the Charger, Crown Vic and Taurus. Not all Dads are policemen! Where are the civilian models of the above and cars such as Malibu, Focus, Impala, Cruze, Fiesta, Maxima, Accord and Dart? I would like to see some cars that drive along my street.
We are sorry that you feel that Matchbox is not meeting your specific needs in relation to the “civilian models” that are your favorites. We do have civilian vehicles if you take a second look, although we realize that there are not as many as you would like. 

  • Matchbox, since Hot Wheels is also owned by Mattel, Hot Wheels does a movie series called "RETRO ENTERTAINMENT". That's how Hot Wheels calls it when they have a series of cars from movies. So why can't Matchbox do a series of movies cars or just themed models? Isn't that a great idea?
Yes it is. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Would be possible to get some Swedish cars in the near future?  For example second gen SAAB 9000 Aero, or SAAB 9-3 Viggen, or 1977 SAAB 96, or the last SAAB 9-5. Volvo 244/245 or 242 Coupé, Volvo 780 Bertone Coupé, Volvo 850 T5-R, Volvo S80, or modified C30.
As we have stated recently, if we see something cool or relevant we will do it.

  • When is the Matchbox company doing the 2013 Ford Explorer Police in its own police livery. You know the Ford Police Interceptor from the 2013 mainline? Its police livery says "Police Interceptor", so why can't we do that on the Explorer soon?

          We just might. Thanks.

  • Why is the Ford Crown Victoria still used as a fire chief vehicle when many fire chiefs have changed over to SUV & large vehicles such as command post type units? Don't take it wrong as me not liking the model, because it does look good, I'm just wondering why a car's still being used when SUV's are becoming the common fire command unit.
While the Crown Vic in real life is being phased out, the Crown Vic is still a popular iconic recognizable model in the die-cast world.  We do have the new Ford Explorer in the line and it will serve as both a Police and Fire unit or whichever suits it, but we still like the Crown Vic. It’s a national treasure.

  • I like the GMC Pickup, but I wish that the construction-related design were removed and the GMC logo instead were printed on the front. I've been watching the Canadian TV series Heartland and noticed that the character Ty Borden drives a '57 Stepside, and ever since, I've been wanting to see Matchbox do the '57 Stepside in the paint scheme of his truck which is dark blue with a white grille and front bumper. Could this model be done in that paint scheme?
We have done the Stepside without side graphics before on previous versions. We are not familiar with the show you are referring to on this side of the border, but it sounds interesting.
  • I just picked up the Land Rover Defender. It is certainly an "Unstoppable" vehicle, and proves that it doesn't have to be an odd fantasy vehicle. I've been wondering if Matchbox could do 5-packs containing emergency vehicles from one specific town or city. I would like to see a Case, Farmall, New Holland tractor in the basic range. Is there any chance?
It’s possible but we like to choose vehicles that we can refresh (deco wise) quite frequently with regards to farm vehicles. Regarding 5 packs dedicated to a certain town or city, we may not always have this freedom on certain models to do this.

  • The Crown Victoria police, ah, again this casting. Love it, there's nothing wrong with it too but a fire livery? I wish Matchbox could have done a "Fargo Police" police car livery on it instead. You know when the Ford Taurus police interceptor appeared. The first colour was the "Fargo police" livery, so how about that on the Crown Victoria?
It’s possible.


Up first are 4 new 2014 tools. These are Matchbox originals that were first shown at the Gathering last year in New Mexico. These pre-production images are shown with permission from Mattel. First up is the Ground Grabber (aka Wheeled Excavator). It has a rotating cab and the shovel arm moves up and down. It will be in the Construction segment.

Next is the Acre Maker (aka Long Nosed Tractor). It has a tow hitch that will work with our farm trailer from Hitch n Haul. This is also in the Construction segment. Note that all heavy duty vehicles such as mining, farm, etc. are in this segment.

In the Heroic / Rescue Segment we have the new Sahara Sweeper (aka Military Dune Buggy).

These next 2 items are from the Mission Force Jungle Adventure pack for this year.

Not the best castings??

The same friend with somewhat forthright views last week picked out some of his favourite castings. He was also keen to stress that unpopular models were not limited to this century. You may remember these models from days gone by or you may have views now of what your least favourite models of the 1970s were. I would be pleased to hear your comments and whether you agree that these castings left much to be desired. I will try to show some colour schemes that were not chosen for release.

For instance, in 1970, the Draguar could be described as the very worst interpretation of the iconic “E” Type or XKE. I have no idea whether such a car was used for Hot Rodding, but the panoramic bubble window does nothing to enhance its lines or famous marque. The Draguar’s engine was eventually reduced in size and fitted to the Gruesome Twosome, Wildcat Dragster and Blue Shark. In 1970 only this model and the Road Dragster were overtly designed to compete with the outrageous styling of Hot Wheels.

The Mod Rod first saw the light of day in 1971 as an out and out generic invention. The red wheels were clearly intended to appeal to the younger collector but its success must have been limited as black wheels succeeded within the year. The current desirability of this model is mainly due to the fact that it is one of seven models fitted with the scorpion labels. Coincidentally, the red wheeled models today can command a substantial premium. Maybe the black windows shown above were an attempt to save costs by not fitting an interior, though all issued models were fitted with interiors. I don’t usually collect unpainted models but the images of the Mod Rod reflect early stages of the casting.

Although regular wheel Aveling Barford Road Rollers had been part of the miniature range from 1953 until early 1968 and were accurate representations, the Rod Roller of 1973, included an oversized seat and flame label. Nevertheless, play value was enhanced by virtue of a handle which steered the front roller but there was never an attempt to change the body colour.

Also during 1973 Lesney were busy designing and releasing their Rolamatic range of models. One of the first two available was the #39 Clipper. At the same time a Speed Kings version without the Rolamatic feature was released as the Shovel Nose, a far more apt name as after all there is nothing remotely attractive about a shovel. This model had the same problem as the Mod Rod, in that whilst it was supposedly designed to look sleek and aerodynamic, it was just too “heavy” looking. It featured exhaust pipes that moved up and down as the model was pushed along and an opening canopy, but it suffered from having no colour change during its six year life span. However, it was one of the first castings to be chosen for manufacture in Bulgaria and though it was not made for long, various colours do exist.

Still within the realm of 1973, Lesney designed a range of arguably unattractive chopper bikes, with an initial three released that year and with three more to follow. That they were not a great success is borne out by the fact that the subsequent releases never materialised, and that by the end of 1976 the initial three, the #38 Stingeroo, #49 Chop Suey, and #71 Jumbo Jet, had all been deleted. These models were very light as they were made up of a simple metal skeleton with plastic bases and forks, a plastic animal head and large plastic engines. The Jumbo Jet with its huge bulbous engine with stacks and an elephant’s head was particularly hideous – according to this collector! Nevertheless examples with chrome forks are highly sought after as they were only released for a very short time on the #38 and #49, and not at all with the #71, though a pre-production example is shown here. They are quite difficult to find today in mint condition, perhaps indicating that the children who owned these in the 1970s enjoyed playing with them or they were not robust enough to last through several decades.

Early in 1974 Lesney introduced three Rolamatics on a military theme, the #16 Badger, the #28 Stoat, and the curiously shaped #73 Weasel. This model had a snub nose, front headlights which resembled eyes, and a rear section that was significantly longer than the front, making the model look somewhat unbalanced. It did benefit from a bright metallic green body and base, but when this was changed to a military green colour with un-chromed wheels it instantly became one of the least desirable models in the range. It was unfortunate therefore that in the 1990s Tyco decided to re-release the decidedly unattractive Weasel, whilst the #16 and #28 which were far more deserving of a re-release were sadly allowed to languish and have never resurfaced in any guise.

Perhaps quite famous, or infamous, as a poor casting is the #75 Helicopter from 1976. Whilst designed to scale, it just looked like a model more suited to the range in the 1950s as it appeared extremely small. No attempt was made to enliven this model: it remained stubbornly white, usually with blue windows and a red base over a period in excess of five years. Although examples can be found with different window tints, this model would definitely have benefited from a bright metallic colour scheme to create some interest amongst children and collectors alike. It too was sent to Bulgaria and was made for less than a year. So far as I know it was only painted in metallic blue, gold and silver with either an orange or yellow lower section, though shades exist on the metallic blue body colour.

My own preference for the worst model of the 1970s is the #4 Gruesome Twosome. It certainly lives up to its name. It has two outsize engines, a strange shaped window and no obvious means of entering the vehicle. It did have a diecast body and base however and the gold version with amber windows commands a premium today. I prefer the yellow-bodied colour trial model with pink interior to the issued release colour.

Please let me know what you regard as the worst castings of the 1970s and your opinion of how they compare with your least favourite models of today. When I look at the range in 1976, there was not too much for the collector of authentic vehicles to enthuse about. Perhaps one must be consoled by the maxim - What goes around comes around!

Nigel Cooper 10th February 2014


  1. Hello Nigel. Happy to see you back again.

    Anyway, I see 3 questions of mine of asking if Matchbox can do a series of models from movies. Like Hot Wheels does their "Retro Entertainment" series. I really hope Matchbox can do a movie series of some of their cars. I just really hope.

    I also see my second question that yes, Matchbox is hopefully doing the original police version! If that is true, I would also want to see the original police version of the 2012 Charger Pursuit too.

    And my third question, yes I'd like to see a Fargo police livery on the Crown Victoria. The debut for the Taurus Interceptor's first color was in the Fargo police livery, so how about that on the Crown Victoria?

    Not so interested into those new models coming up for the year. Oh, why these are all made up (or if except the Sahara Sweeper buggy)? And always because I don't really collect made up or fantasy cars.

    I think that is all for now, see ya next time Nigel...

  2. Thank you for including some of my comments in this report. It's always nice to be heard.

    I really like the yellow body/black wheels on the 6x6 Amphibious ATV for the new jungle pack. I want to get that pack, and hope the other three vehicles in it are equally interesting. (I'd vote for the Sahara Survivor, Jeep Willys, and the Cliff Hanger, or perhaps the Toyota 4Runner. But that's me.)

    To preemptively strike against some of the complaints about Matchbox inventing new vehicles, here are some examples:
    Ground Grabber--

    Acre Maker--

    Sahara Sweeper--

    6x6 Amphibious ATV--

    Jungle Crawler--

    Now that that's out of the way, other thoughts on the models:
    Ground Grabber looks interesting, and I'm glad it has motion built in to the cab and arm. I think it'll be a fun toy, and the wheels make it more playable than a similar model with non-working treads and tiny rollers. I've already got the RWR Excavator, though, so I don't see a need for this in my collection.

    The Acre Maker tractor is, I think, the best of the three new models this week. It has a good resemblance to actual 4wd tractors, especially the more vintage models. The color is nice, too. I'll be hunting for this model.

    The Sahara Sweeper dune buggy, while interesting, seems very jumbled. I can see it in the vehicle it's based on, but the Sahara Sweeper came out looking more top-heavy and ungainly than the Desert Patrol Vehicle/Fast Attack Vehicle that it seems to have been inspired by. It makes me wish for more of the 1998 Sand Speeder Dune Buggy, which I loved:
    I do like the paint job, and I think the vehicle looks like it will be fun to play with, but I don't think the proportions came out quite right on the casting itself.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing these pictures. It's always fun to see what's coming up.

    1. I forgot to mention that I also really like the green on the Jungle Crawler. I'm glad it has some nicely neutral windows, too, as strangely colored windows have been a deal-breaker in the past. I think I prefer a black engine/interior piece over the grey, but the overall look of the model is still good enough that I would definitely jump for it on its own. Now it just remains to be seen what will be in the rest of the 5-pack.

  3. Why is the plow on the back of the Ground Grabber? And the shovel arm is too short to even work. It looks like cheap crap.

    1. i wondered the same thing until i read that it will swivel 360 degrees so maybe it's just like that for packaging reasons. limited space in the plastic on the blister card. and wasnt the old Abrams tank casting like that too? packaged with the turret swiveled backwards for space constraints?

  4. Yet another off-road unlicensed deluge of models... what to do?

    The Acre Maker is a pleasing design, though the plastic cab area detracts from it and will surely be less durable than previous tractors with a metal cab area.

    I want to like the Sahara Sweeper but I agree with others that it appears jumbled and the plastic upper roll-cage portion adds to this. It would certainly be better if that was cast from the same piece of metal. Undecided if I would purchase one... it does seem quite Mad-Max like!

    Thanks again for the look into Matchbox history Nigel and for passing along my comment regarding the Fiat 500 Abarth! I still hold out hope for an Ambassador report full of clean, licensed, sports cars, sedans or actual pickup trucks with headlight & tail light tampos for once...

  5. Peter Bidel SchwambachFebruary 10, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    Can we ask our Matchbox questions here, or is there a specific page for that?

    If it's ok to ask here, I'd like to know if we're going to see anymore classic American Muscle cars from the 60's and 70's, like the 71 Firebird or the Mustang CS. I know Muscle Cars are more up Hot Wheels' alley, but, in my opinion, Matchbox's take on the 71 Firebird was much better than Hot Wheels' "custom" version, for example.

    From the stance, to the proportions, to the overall body shape, there's something about Matchbox's 'Bird that just feels right and I can't quite put my finger on it, but I do know I'd love to see more american cars getting the same treatment. My personal suggestion would be the 1973/1974 Chevrolet Nova, which, despite similar to the 1968/1972 models, has yet to be done in small scale. Is there a place for it in Matchbox's lineup, with the Firebird and Mustang?

  6. With regards to the historic models, there are indeed some hideous vehicles there. I'd like to see how the exhaust pipes on the Clipper move, though, just out of curiosity. I do see at least a dozen vehicles in the pictured cases that I would've bought had I been in the market at the time, though.

    As far as the Weasel goes, this may be another instance of recognizing the vehicle it's based on. I look at that car and see Daimler Ferret Scout Vehicle:

    I own the 1990's re-release of the car. I thought the desert camo paint job fit it well, and the Rolamatic feature is just as strong as ever.

  7. Hey! Thanks for the answer to my question about Swedish cars! :-)

  8. Nice report! Funny you show all the colors on the "Mod Rod" and I believe I have one in white with a black top, rolamatics and the moving exaust. It was a gift when I was 12 years sure if white/black was a regular color.

  9. Tanks for another excelent report Nigel.
    Can you ask to Matchbox how is the progress from the BMW Gs 1200?
    Best regards

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  12. Another splendid report, sir.

    One of the new Matchbox toolings is listed as the 1993 Chevy Caprice Police. My question for Matchbox is: What's the status on that car? Will a proto image of the vehicle be posted in the next report?

    1. Mr Wong I regret to inform you that I believe that a Matchbox brand '93 Chevy Caprice Classic die cast police car is a hoax (not from Matchbox but from someone who made that list or at least claimed that the Matchbox 2014 line up would consist of a 1993 Chevrolet Caprice Classic die cast cop car) so I'm sorry if that disappoints you.Oh yes I read somewhere on some internet article that claims that this Matchbox brand car is a hoax