Monday, April 14, 2014

April 14th Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper...

Ambassador Report 34



I have received a request to look at some of the Volkswagens which have featured in the range throughout the history of Matchbox. It is always interesting to see colour schemes which were considered but ultimately rejected. This week I will look at some of the early Beetles.




1.  Will the Dodge Monaco return next year? Is the Dodge Monaco retired or it will be back? For me it is one of the best castings of Matchbox of late.

Yes the Dodge Monaco will appear again in 2015. It has not been retired.

2.  Is/was there a 2014 Toy Fair model created for Matchbox?

Yes it was done last year. It was the Dump Dozer.

3.  Can you double check the MAN# for the re-tooled Sahara Survivor?   According to the new 2014 1-120 list, MB924 was supposed to be the new 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500. 

924 is the Silverado.  942 is the retool of the plastic body Sahara Survivor.

4. What is the point of the Sahara Survivor now being in a plastic body? It is already a generic so no licensing costs, surely by making it plastic you are only proving the point that the bean counters are determined to turn the Matchbox brand into nothing but a collection of plastic models. 

This is an unfortunate reality.  Yes bean counters are a fact of life and can be very influential in what we can make in Matchbox.

5. Are you aware if you live in a German speaking country the word Tripper is German for gonorrhea. Presumably this Mega Bus will be released in Germany. Could this not cause Matchbox some embarrassment?

Thank you very much for bringing this to the teams attention!  We will work to correct this issue.  Thanks again for your comments.

6. Your competitors are able to make real vehicles, usually with diecast bodies for roughly the same price. I am sure collectors and Mums would be happy to pay a little more fordiecast models of real vehicles. Is this being considered?

We already make “real vehicles” with die cast bodies.  Most of our plastic bodied vehicles thus far are non-licensed. Moms don’t always have the same mindset as collectors unfortunately, when it comes to price.

7.  I have a Question about the name of the BMW 1M why has it been changed? I thought BMW named it the 1M to avoid confusion with the M1.

We are not sure why BMW asked us to change the name but we must follow their request. We have no issues with doing this.

8.  It's really cool that you're going to make the Virgin Galactic Space Ship II. It represents exploration and adventure, which to me has long been a selling point for Matchbox and toys in general. I hope they incorporate the proper hinge action in the wings. Please comment.

We are very excited about doing the Virgin Galactic Space Ship II for the reasons you just described. It will indeed have the hinge/pivot action on the wings.

9. How difficult would it be for Mattel to produce a few 2 packs that would contain special models that you could only buy in the 2 pack?

It is not difficult but the team has to stay within budget.

10.  I've seen the new Sky Buster and Miniature pairings that have been selling here in the states at Wal-Mart (see attached).  They have no name to distinguish them as being part of a separate line but they do say "Mission:Combat" in the upper left hand corner.  Each pack contains one Sky Buster and one miniature, all of which are not unique to these packages. Is it possible Matchbox will be making more of these 'two-packs' under different Missions?  If so, will the models be unique liveries or just repacking of existing liveries?

Matchbox will continue to make these types of packs in the future. We cannot elaborate further at the moment.


Here are some more new images. These images are from this year’s 5 car packs. The first 3 are from the “Sea Rescue fivepack. These next 2 are from the “City Works” pack.

A Little More History

Although most of the regular wheel cars were of a British origin, there were some foreign cars included to reflect the worldwide market of Matchbox sales. Several American cars joined the range in the early 1960s but models of German trucks, vans and cars were also released and continued to feature in the range from then on.

The Volkswagen Sedan was released in 1960. It was the first example of a Volkswagen Beetle. Various other Beetles have featured in the range since then, but none perhaps had the same charm – especially with the opening engine cover to reveal the engine.

Even though this model was popular, it remained in the range for less than four years. However, it was probably not a poor seller, it was more likely that the mould wore out and it was decided not to make a replacement, as was often the case at this time. Later, in 1968, another Beetle was released and carried Monte Carlo advertisements on the front bumper and 137 labels on the doors. The versions shown here wereSuperfast colour trials which never made it, as was the “Polizei” version which would have suited the German market admirably.

This Volks-Dragon Beetle, first released in 1972, with exposed engine and air intake pipes, which partially followed the roof line, received several different liveries. The orange versions are in fact light and dark in colour and were used to test resistance to direct sunlight. The metallic blue model is particularly appealing but was never used. Early versions had smooth ribs on the engine intake section.

In 1983 the Volks-Dragon casting was modified to enable large wheels to be fitted, thus developing a 4 x 4 version called Sand Digger, which now had a T roof. It was later recoloured and renamed “Dune Man”.

Once the Dune Man had outlived its usefulness, the casting was shipped to Bulgaria where it enjoyed a resurgence in a wide variety of colours. The Ambulance version is particularly interesting!

This Flying Bug was clearly another Volkswagen Beetle casting but interestingly, it was not based on the Volks-Dragon as a comparison glance at the rear windows will verify. This model had a rear wing, plastic “engines” and a figure of the German Kaiser. It was one of several cartoon type modelsplanned with character drivers. In the event only two such models found their way into the range in 1973. All of the models shown were colour trial or pre-production in some way.

There was some controversy with the Flying Bug. There were comments in some quarters that the model was disrespectful to the German nation. I am unable to confirm whether this model was left out of the assortments which were sent to Germany, though this suggestion has been mooted.

As a footnote, the Flying Bug was released in 1973 and wasaccompanied by another cartoon car, the Mini Ha Ha, into the range in 1976.  At least two other cartoon cars might have joined them, with both a French and an American theme.

I am grateful to Hardy Ristau and Graham Tomlinson for providing some of the photos for this report.

There will be a further look at other Volkswagens next time.


Nigel Cooper      14th April 2014



  1. Why oh WHY is that green Cherokee only in the 5 pack?!


  2. How to contradict yourself in two questions, the answer to Q9 say they cant do a two pack due to cost/budgets, yet Q10 says they will continue to produce 2 packs, surely the two pack, with two cars would be cheaper to make than a car and flying thing.

    If you don't speculate to make money how do you expect to gain further market share, it is definitely a case of we will make stuff that wont sell, and wont make stuff that will, a totally blinkered and stupid way of running a business (into the ground)

    1. Matchbox is at the bottom of the Mattel ladder, and a position I don't see them ever escaping from.

  3. What is going on with the Matchbox property? It seems so under presented everywhere I go, and honestly, the product is getting less and less pleasing. I know this site is a "matchbox apologist" but I don't even know what that means anymore...

    1. Toys R Us did put out their yearly display for Easter, but as far as Target and Walmart goes - who knows. There are only 5 waves out, and none of them contain new licensed castings. I've moved on to Auto World. I would rather pay 5 or 6 dollars for a superior quality product from a small company than buying the garbage Mattel puts out.

  4. I find it pretty humorous that the word "Tripper" means gonorrhea in German. If there's a name change, will it apply only to the German card?

    Out of the ones shown, I am most interested in the Cherokee, boat trailer, and Wrecker.

    I'm from the US, but I've noticed that no Canadian emergency services agencies have ever been (officially) featured on a Matchbox model. Could Matchbox make a Toronto EMS Ford E-350 ambulance, or a British Columbia Ambulance Service Dodge Charger?

    I would have loved to have had this German Police Beetle if it had been released. Could Matchbox make one using the current classic VW Beetle casting?

    1. They could...but it would sell like hot cakes and that is not in their plans to actually make stuff that sells:)

    2. Sarcasm! I am lovin' it! 8-)

  5. I bought the Sea Spy this weekend. I'm wanting to take one apart and do some detailing, but there are no visible rivets to drill out, nor is there an obvious spot where it clips together. Can anybody who has taken one apart give me any suggestions?

    I enjoy the appearance and proportion of the Sea Spy, but I have a serious objection to the wheels. The new tiny rollers are terrible. They are also used in the Frost Fighter, and I think they're also in the Blizzard Buster and the Trail Tipper, among others, but I can't remember for sure. The old tiny rollers actually had a metal axle and plastic wheels, but the new ones are a single piece all the way across. They barely roll in most cases, and in the Sea Spy that I got this weekend they don't even turn without some serious force. I think we'd be better off with no wheels than with the single-piece tiny rollers, although I'd prefer that Matchbox return to keeping the wheels and axle as distinct pieces.

  6. The Jeep Cherokee casting dates back to the late 80s, and is one of my favorite Matchbox "survivors" (castings that came out prior to the Mattel era that are still in the lineup today), so I'm glad to see that it's in a 5-pack this year. Looks great in green as well, reminds me of the first few releases of the '85 Toyota 4 Runner. I hope to see it in the mainline next year as well!

  7. You know guys it is very interesting to see your comments and opinions. I thought those problems with Matchbox we see here in Hungary is local - very underpresented, we did not have the wave with Dodge A100, BMW M1 at all -, but as much as I see, everybody experiencing the same or at least similar problems worldwide. And this is a very bad sign!

    I hear exactly the same things from the fellow local collectors: "I don't look for Matchbox/HW anymore, I will buy more expensive, but better quality brands," etc.

    I also had an impression the quality is dropping rapidly, especially with HW, because we getting non-quality controlled things. The tampo missalingment is so everyday thing that we are not mention it anymore. Like:
    Also we have this wich is a world record:
    But I saw the comments here - and on other sites as well, like T-Hunted from Brasil - and I have to see, this is common worldwide... For example: Did anyone saw a perfect HW Civic?

    I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but... I was wondering if Mattel read the feedbacks on the enthusiast sites? In Hungary surely not. 8-(

  8. Hi Nigel, good to see another ambassador report and you.

    Anyways, YAY, YAY, YAY the Dodge Monaco police car in coming back to us! It will return in 2015 though, but not now (aww... : ( ). The Monaco is just one of my favorite Matchbox castings. Of course it is exactly in 4th place in my top 10 Matchbox list.

    Now, it is time to judge myself on the detailing so far on the new releases. All of them are not my interests, but we'll pick up the pace on that soon.

    What's new? Ah, well if I'm asking you Nigel we've gotta go to the first 3 models, like you said, these first 3 models are from the "Sea Rescue" 5 pack. I can tell what the models are; The re-tooled Ford F-Series with a rescue boat, a trailer boat, and the returned Jeep Cherokee.

    Now there is something about the Jeep Cherokee.
    Since this is the 1980's-1990's era year model Matchbox has made, I think it's time to make something new and replace it.

    My idea to replace the old Jeep is to replace it with the NEW year model, the redesigned all-new 2014 year model Jeep Cherokee. And it would be better if we'd added a special feature. How about we add the TRAILHAWK editon model to it. Worth a try, Matchbox? I am convincing if you are going to make it or making it in the future. I do already imagine what it's like when it's already alive NOW.

    Moving on, we've also got the last 2 models, from the "City Works" 5 pack. I wonder, as that if that's the Express Delivery and- uhh, I have just forgottenwhat that Tow Truck is called again hehe. And i's not the Urban Tow Truck! It's something. I need an answer or correction.

    No questions! Well, just asking if it's a try to Matchbox making the redesigned 2014 year model Jeep Cherokee with the Trailhawk edition model. Worth a try? So they probably have to ask the company first. If not, there's no need to make a silly excuse.

    So that's all it! See you Nigel soon!

    1. Please, please do not suggest that Matchbox kill the classic Cherokee. Adding more Jeeps to the lineup is fine, but don't kill the existing Cherokee!

    2. The 80s Cherokee is an excellent realistic casting that has aged very well (of course, it helps that the real thing has also aged very well). Its retirement would be a sad moment in diecast history (especially since Johnny Lightning 's equally excellent Cherokee casting is history due to... well, JL being history).

      (I'm also heavily against the idea of Matchbox retiring ANY existing realistic casting if they don't have to - even that disappointing Scout)

      I do support the idea of a 2014 Cherokee in the MB lineup, though.

    3. I like the old Cherokee myself too. It doesn't need to be retired

      I'd like the new Trailhawk Cherokee as it's the only version of the new Cherokee that I like. However, I don't think it could be executed that well in 3" scale, though, as there are many details that would be almost microscopic in this scale.

  9. If Mattel wants to cut costs why not get rid of the 4 or 5 "premium" Hot Wheels lines that are released every year, and cut it down to maybe 2. I'm fine with the Retro Entertainment and Cool Classics lines, but the Pop Culture line has garish tampos that can't be removed as they're clear coated over. Three years later, I'm still finding the Flying Colors series at Magic Mart.

    We Matchbox collectors are lucky to get (at most) one premium series.

    The "monster" models in the basic line use more plastic and metal than a regular Matchbox model, thus they cost more to make. If many had a stock appearance, like the Dodge Ram, for example , I'd buy them.

    1. Any money cut from the Hot Wheels line won't go to Matchbox. Matchbox is the lowest of Mattel's priorities.

  10. Thanks for the look back again Nigel, that original VW 'sedan' is awesome, and I actually think I have a few of those VWs you said are preproduction color samples? I may have to give them a closer inspection.

  11. Is this new/old Ford with the boat the Rapids Rescue? I'm dying to see that but I can't remember if it is a new casting at all.

    1. No it's the F-350, or as Ford made Matchbox call it the F-250.