Sunday, April 20, 2014

April 21 Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper...

Ambassador Report 35


Marcel Colijn has informed us that as from today British Pathe News now has a You Tube channel. It has more than 85,000 clips. Some of these include clips relating to Matchbox toys that have previously been unknown as they had remained in their archives. You may wish to look at:


With both the blue and orange sides of the aisle releasing some of the same licensed models (Panamera, for one and other Porsches as well), are there really two separate design teams developing separate versions of the SAME CAR? And, with all the explanations from the Matchbox team about the costs of the "tools" and the expense of adding one simple detail to basic models (any tampos for lights), is it economically rational to have TWO separate manufacturing processes and TWO separate molds/tools producing the same cars. I would hope we're not being duped and the Matchbox and HW models are actually made using the SAME tools!?

Your questions are bit conflicting. Yes we have two separate teams developing the same model such as this. While the manufacturing process is the same they are made in 2 separate countries. Both brands have different aesthetic and performance requirements. The orange and blue brands collaborate with each other on models such as this but both brands have different specifications so it requires two separate teams (already in place) that share information. We do not share tooling however. 

The Rolamatics were pretty clever in general without being too gimmicky and the added function didn't deteriorate anything aesthetically from the basic model as you sometimes get with extra features like that. I wonder how well a similar concept to Rolamatics would go down in this day and age if Mattel where to incorporate the idea into some of their current Utility/Emergency designs? I appreciate it's finding a way of doing it without adding too much cost on to the product but a spin-off series to replace the very retro Superfast range that we no longer have could work nicely ...

Food for thought.

Even though the 3D printer process has taken over from the old way of creating hand crafted prototypes do you happen to occasionally still create resin examples?

We use what works best.

That Ford Superlift Brush Truck is a home run. I always love the white/red combo. It is the nicest looking version yet. Just one question for the Matchbox team: in the line-up they gave for this year the Ford Superlift Brush is listed with man# 938 while the one that came out in 2012 was man# 837. Does that mean the casting's been modified and if so what's different with it?

Yes: this casting has been modified but it is very subtle. The rear bumper has now been added to the chassis instead of being part of the die cast body. You will have to look very closely to see this change.

We saw recent sneak peeks of the Dodge Charger Pursuit and now the BMW X5 with modified bodies to incorporate a light bar as a part of the window piece. Yet the Ford Interceptor still continues with a separate light bar. Will this become a policy?

We are making these changes on a car by car basis.

Is it me, or is the Sanitation design on the Road Sweeper very similar to the Ford Ambulance's design? I like that, as it sort of links them together and helps to build up a scenario. Is this deliberate?

Not entirely but it works for us in this case.

The only thing I am not keen on with the Ford Superlift is the fact the pipes are white. With the model being so white anyway, I feel that the pipes should have been a different colour, possibly red to help make them stand out. I think red would work as it is a part of the side design. Would you consider this?

Yes we would. Thanks for your suggestion.

That Ford Interceptor Police car with black wheels is a total mis-match.If our local police force started putting black bling wheels on their fleet of expensive German Police cars I would be camped outside the offices of the chief of police wanting to know why. Comment please?

Sorry this did not meet with your approval.

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 shown last week if it had been released.

Could Matchbox make one using the current classic VW Beetle casting?

With regards to your question about Canadian liveries on our Matchbox emergency vehicles, you raise a good point. The brand has been somewhat remiss about adding some of these. As with replicating any real liveries however especially international ones, permission and agreements are required.

I see the Evoque has been released as a Hot Wheels model. Has the licence problem with Matchbox been resolved?

You are incorrect. Hot Wheels has never done a Range Rover Evoque.


Here at last is the new 63 Mack B fire engine as was shown at The Gathering in New Mexico last year.

Up next is the International Workstar Brush truck. It has been retooled with plastic body and die cast chassis and will be numbered MB939.

The third model for this week is a recolour of the Travel Tracker. I guess the “E” of Tracker must have been lost on its journey!

A Little More History

Last week we looked at some of the early Volkswagen Beetles. Wolfie Ginsburg reminded me that at first the English speaking Lesney staff could not even spell Volkswagen calling it wagon by mistake.

An interesting choice for an alternative to the Beetle was the Volkswagen 1600TL which was released in August 1967. Initially it was fitted with silver hubs on black wheels but there may have been a problem in production for a decision to change to black tyres fitted to silver hubs was soon implemented. It is easy to see which version is which by a glance inside the wheels. The one shown in red was produced with a roof rack for the G-4 Race & Rally Gift Set. Though red was the standard colour, when the Superfast initiative took place in 1969 a few of the recoloured metallic purple models were still fitted with regular wheels. Most of these found their way to Canada. Possibly even stranger was the fact that a few red painted models were fitted with Superfast wheels. All of these variations are quite sort after today.

It was decided that the Superfast version should be a bright metallic colour and the metallic blue version shown was eventually rejected in favour of the metallic mauve livery which was made in several different shades.

In 1976 a new Volkswagen joined the line in the form of a Golf. For enhanced play value, the model featured a clip on roof rack with surfboards. Several versions of this model were manufactured in a variety of colour schemes and just a sample is shown here. The roof rack was not fitted to later versions.

Some models were even fitted with heavy duty large wheels and various promotionals abounded.

In 1985 a later form of the Golf, a GTi, was introduced. This included an opening bonnet to reveal a detailed engine.

In 1977 an exclusive German version was painted yellow, modified to include an aerial and advertised ADAC.

Of course when the mould for the original Golf was shipped to Bulgaria the number of colours was prolific.

Next week I will look at some of the Volkswagen vans and campers.

Nigel Cooper 21st April 2014


  1. That Mack Model B is a thing of beauty...definitely going to be hunting for that one. Nice job, Matchbox!

  2. The Mack B is great, but there should be the famous Bulldog logo where the Mack logo is on the side of the hood. The deco looks great, and this minor goof doesn't really bother me that much

    I like the deco on the International, but I will not be buying it due to the plastic body. Plastic bodies should only exist on Hot Wheels.

    If this trend of retooling to plastic bodies and integrating lightbars to the window glass continues, I will not be buying anymore Matchbox . Put these penny-pinchers in the unemployment line, they are ruining the Matchbox brand. I am already buying more Siku and Tomica, even though they are much more difficult to find in the US than Matchbox. They are mostly metal, and most feature working or opening parts.

    1. It's because of Tomica that I can't even bring myself to pick up 1 Matchbox these days. And now that Auto World is becoming more available, I'd rather spend 5 dollars on a diecast licensed car then buy 5 Matchbox that combined have the same diecast content.

    2. Unfortunately I must agree. My collecting line has been drawn on models once made of metal and nicely finished to the flat-plastic models lacking real paint and depth. No thanks.

  3. Was the deco on the Mack B, by any chance, inspired by the old LA County markings? It looks fairly similar to those from Emergency!

  4. The Mack B is an opiate for us collectors. What we REALLY need to know is what the goal is with this brand. There is no advertising, no website, no local events. Stores are not stocking, or eliminating singles all together .Now we are seeing models being retooled in plastic, more generics, over saturation of 5-packs and those monster trucks that have more diecast content then the entire mainline combined. At this point Mattel can make a damn Morris Marina, and I wouldn't buy it.

  5. Hi Nigel, nice to see you again.

    Anyways, now the new releases are getting better. And that is good news to say when we not complain about little kid toys always shown.

    But although, let's start with the new releases already. The Mack B fire truck is interesting, but there we go with the popular International Brush Fire truck. It's back! I always loved its changes, and then the 60th anniversary mystery model has gone mad. Now we get the 2014 yellow. It look kinda good. But missing stuff has escaped out of it. But it is the best casting Matchbox has ever done.

    Ah, the Travel Tacker. Doesn't make it cool doesn't mean it's my intrest. I need more impressions than just a Travel Tracker and just a bunch of old ratty kid toys.

    Well, by saying that, that reminds me that some Matchbox collectors aren't still used to it. I think now I have to change a little. Because some of us Matchbox collectors need some interests, some variety of super-cool things. I suppose that should actually happen to us and this company.

    No questions and that is all it! See ya soon, Nig!


  6. that mack is amazing. will be adding it to my collection and putting it next to the classic seagrave.

    as for the international, at least they didn't change much with the design. so as long as it saves them a bit of money doing the plastic body i'm fine with it.

  7. Thanks for the look back at all those amazing VW models Nigel, I'd love to own them all. Especially the cool and lesser appreciated 1600!

    As for the new models, the Mack is a welcome addition, I feel the roof light could have been integrated into the casting a bit more sharply but still nice. The Brush Fire truck, how sad it had to meet it's end so soon. The plastic body is horrible, and just like the Sahara Survivor, once it goes plastic I won't be purchasing another, not 1.

  8. Love the Mack, Love the VW's, loathe the rest, and as usual some rather rude answers to questions from Mattel.

    I spend £75.00 last week on models, £1.00 on matchbox, £74.00 on various other makes and models, from Norev to HW, and more, it use to be the other way round.

    And as for them constantly going on and on about licencing, it is not that much, not in real terms, and certainly not enough to warrant discontinuing so many licensed products, its just another dire excuse to dump decent stuff in favour of plastic crap.

  9. Its a shame Matchbox has become the mess it is. They drop models from the line up because its not popular in the US and the have become cheap skates to keep the price low in the US. Instead of this becoming an American owned English brand it became a an Americanised company tailored exclusively to the US, its like its an accident its sold world wide. They need to recognise this because if this was any other international brand they'd be the same price world wide and they'd be better quality, but maybe they'd be $1.70-$2 in the US and there would be a less narrow minded choice of models.

    1. I agree. They've been $1 since at least 1984, as I have a boxed Refuse Truck that has $1.00 stamped on the box. Factoring in inflation, that $1 is now $2.37.

      I live in the US, but I appreciate many foreign Matchbox models, especially if it's done right.