Monday, April 7, 2014

April 7th Matchbox Ambassador Report, by Nigel Cooper...

Ambassador Report 33


I was pleasantly surprised to receive so many snippets of information regarding the Dodge Stealth and Morphed together with the Ford GT-90. We have a much better picture of what happened and this could only come about through collectors willing to share their knowledge so thank you to all the contributors. 

  • Shouldn't #78 SWAT truck be MB830 instead of MB824? 
This is a very good question.  Tool MB830 was intended to have a different body molding process from the current version. This process however has not been implemented yet, so we will continue to use MB824.  
  • The original Land Rover Defender was MB697 with its exhaust on the left, the new one is MB838 with a new roof design & the exhaust on the right (hence the new number) so why is the orange 60th version with the exhaust on the right & new roof design MB697? 
The 60th Anniversary version is MB838 (new one). If you are referring to the chassis markings only, it is possible that the plant had used surplus 697 chassis’ on your sample to use up inventory. The 838 chassis would also include the Netherlands address. Since both chassis will fit the new body, you may have the older chassis.  Send us a picture. Thanks.
  • I have a question about licensed new models. The Tacoma pre-pro was made from a 3D printer, by a computer. I am assuming the 3D file in the computer was a perfect format of the truck, or was that the part that Miguel designed? Or, once the perfect file is printed, does the designer use that as a basis for their casting? Or do they just modify the 3D printed resin model? Can anyone clarify 
Sorry that information is confidential. 

4.  I quite like the Tacoma, but it's a shame that the HiLux wasn't done as that's what the rest of the world gets. Did you consider making the HiLux? What made you decide on the Tacoma? 

Yes we considered the HiLux version. The Tacoma is more widely known on this side of the globe where we live and we have better access to the actual truck making it easier to replicate. This does not mean that we wouldn’t consider the HiLux in the future.
  • I can find no mention of the Tacoma's scale anywhere. Is it shown on the chassis?  
The scale is 1:64th
  • The Toyota is great. With front lights it would be even greater, and, if we could get a set of Baywatch figurines with the model, Pamela perhaps, it would be perfect. Would the team please give this some consideration? 
We thought about it.  It would increase the cost.
  • I am wondering if the Infiniti G37 and '70 El Camino will make a return to the MB line-up at some point. It is truly a shame that the Infiniti has only been released once, and it'd be great to add another example of the '70 El Camino to my El Camino collection. Any answer from the Matchbox team would be appreciated. I heard that the Infiniti G37 is coming out in 2014 as a gift pack exclusive. Can you give us any further information on this, please?  
Both the G37 & 70 El Camino will return to the line at some point in the future.
  • Casting 256 Hummer - The data base shows this casting as being the correct number, because it has the roof turret. The base plate on the casting in the five pack still reads 522 however. Can you explain, please? 
Yes: #256 Hummer has the gun.  The #522 version has no gun but the chassis is interchangeable. It is not always practical or cost effective to swap out multiple variations of chassis markings when the vehicle itself has not changed.  For 2015 we will be modifying the body again. This time the hatch will not open and it will be part of the die cast body. The gun will also be removed and the chassis name will be updated to HUMVEE instead of Hummer since Hummer is Civilian. When this is done the MB number will change again. 

Casting 606 Armored Response Vehicle -. The database and livery show this as 606, but the base has number 510 on it. What is the right casting? And what is the casting difference between 510 and 606. 

The current model is 606 but the chassis marking has not been updated.  The 510 number originally was used for the China casting.  606 denotes that the casting is duplicate tool and is from Thailand. Both 510& 606 are visually identical but 606 indicates a different country of origin.
  • I've just been reading the ambassador's reports, and I noticed someone suggesting that Matchbox should make regional fire vehicles and worldwide rural fire vehicles.  I would like to voice my support for their idea.  Australia probably has more bushfires (that's what they're called there) than any other area.  If the design team is looking for inspiration, then the site is a good place to look.  It's a New Zealand site, but the city and rural fire appliances here are very similar to the ones used in oz.  Here are links from that site to two rural brigades near where I live, Motueka/Tasman Rural Fire Force -- -- and Ngatimoti RFF -- -- which are part of the Waimea Rural Fire Authority.  I have also taken pictures of these vehicles myself.  I think it would be a good idea for the design team to look at this site for inspiration; there's plenty of it here. I recommend starting at Region 4, Area 17 (Tasman/Marlborough); which is where I live. 
Thank you for your suggestions and interest in Brush fire vehicles. Thanks also for sending the links to some of the vehicles from your region of the world. We will definitely give them a look.
  • The "blue" side of Mattel produces "Final Run" models which at least indicates to collectors that a model has been totally deleted from the range. Would Matchbox consider doing this ..... or at least publishing an annual list of models that you have decided never to use again. 
Interesting suggestion.


Here are five more new images of models which will be included in the 1-120 range. The Superlift will be found in the 9/10 packs as an exclusive model.

A Little More History

I was so pleased to have so many responses linked to the Viper Morphed, Stealth and Ford GT-90. As these cars led to so much interest, I have tried to pool the knowledge and pull the comments together. If I have missed your name or comment, I apologize.

Joseph Schuman - The last picture is the Ford GT90, and if I'm right the reason why it was cancelled was the Mattel merger in 1997 for Hot Wheels had their own version for the 1998 First Editions series. Also I think it would be tough to mould the spoiler on the metal body in the up position.

Sirentoys - Thanks for the update. The resin model is the Ford GT90 concept. It was done by Ford in the late 80s as an updated version of the classic Ford GT. I have seen a painted resin version that eluded me a couple of times in auctions. There was also a 1999 Thunderbird show car and a 1965 Pontiac GTO that never made it around the time Black Beauty was tooled, and you can blame (or thank) Johnny Lightning for making the Black Beauty.

Mark Chan The last photo isn't a Bugatti. It is the concept Ford GT40 from the 1990s. And yes, the car never went into production until 2005, when it changed totally...

Mbx 64 - As far as the pre-pro you have pictured at the end, it was a concept car made by Ford in 1995 and called the GT90. The GT90 took Ford 6 months to build and develop, and cost around $3 million, debuting at the 1995 Detroit Auto Show. It had an amazing V12 engine that packed a punch; top speed is said to have reached over 225 MPH, but no solid number was ever recorded

NZ - The Ford is the GT90 Prototype and Big Blue themselves must have taken the Matchbox work as they released it in original debut factory white (as was the show car) as a 1999 or was it 1998 Hot Wheels First Edition - It was a hard one to find and I brought one at swap meet in 2005 still mint on card.

Another car they were going to do was the ill fated Ford Rally weapon the RS1700 based on the Ford Escort Mk3. It appears in real life that 2 groups within Ford work were working on a separate Rally Weapons - one group was working on the Ford RS1700 and another on the mid-engined Ford RS200. Matchbox must have been working in secret with Ford in developing its RS1700 as the pre production model was planned to be white like the one off prototype. It was almost ready to go but at the eleveth hour Ford Pulled the plug and the RS200 was given the green light. Of course Matchbox went on to release in 1987 the RS200 as part of its range. In addition A Bugatti Eb was under development and canned perhaps when the firm went out of business. (I think this was the model I was thinking about originally – Nigel).

Joe - The Viper tv show did happen. It ran for 4 seasons, in fact the first Hot Wheels Viper model was supposed to cross promote the show. The deco on the "Morphed" (Actual name in the show was the Viper Defender) in the back isn't bullet holes. It was supposed to evoke the ablative armor and the transformation process between the Viper RT/10 star car and its Defender alternate form. for a clip and access to other clips.

Finally, the only version of the Stealth Viper to make it in production is the "Get in the Fast Lane" artwork for the 1994-1997 packages.

C. Mack: Footnote on Dodge Stealth. I was told for "hurry-up" purposes on the marketing dept.'s end that the model be designed and tooled based on the Tyco slot car version of the same piece. The slot cars didn't need to hold up to the accuracy as much as the diecast.. However the model ended up too flat and wide. The model was condemned by Dodge as misrepresenting their vehicle and not approved. The model was to retooled properly but only got to resin development and not tooling. Too much $$ was already invested into a failed TV project so the model including the Morph Viper was dropped. I think the show was on less than 6 episodes. The "flat-wide" Dodge still looks like a "real" car. Too bad it can't be resurrected as a Matchbox generic with a new name!

I remember (vaguely) the pilot TV program involving the Dodge Stealth and "Morphed" concepts. It was interesting how they depicted the car morphing into its Viper-like state. As for Tyco's decision to not make the cars as MBs, could that have had anything to do with Tyco offering them as slot cars?

Bert has seen both slot car versions...

They were not "normal" slot cars, but were called "U-Turn" cars, capable of running in both directions. A certain kind of "English" applied to the controller on curves would cause the cars to snap about and go the other way. The TV show ran for several seasons. According to wiki-pedia, the Morphed car was destroyed in a 3rd season episode to keep it from "falling into the wrong hands".

Greg Andrews - I've been looking at this image and I think this paint scheme is not bullets but the vehicle is starting to morph from the Defender back into the Dodge Viper or just ending the morph from the Viper into the Defender. This, so called, "hex snake skin" transformation reportedly cost NBC $50,000 in special effect graphics per transformation for the first season. That does seem pretty excessive but maybe that is why NBC dropped the show after the first season, 1994, and it was picked up by Paramount Domestic Television and syndicated from1996 - 1999 giving us a total of 78 episodes. I too liked the show.

  • The Matchbox Ford Pick Up and its many transitions
In 1968 Lesney received its second Queen’s Award to Industry, but the company was not resting on its laurels. In the miniature range there was constant innovation. Scale and thus size had increased over the years and by 1968 it had, for the most part, reached a level that would remain constant from then until now. Glazing, interiors, and opening parts were gradually introduced and wheels which had been originally metal were now plastic. However this was not enough, and over the next year Lesney introduced two new innovations: Autosteer and disc wheels, both for added realism. 

One of the first models to include Autosteer was the #6 Ford Pick Up, introduced in September of 1968. This model had a red body, clear windows and a removable white plastic canopy. By use of gentle pressure on the front wings, the front wheels would turn left or right. For such a small vehicle this was quite a coup and a design achievement of no small merit. In March 1969 the #50 Ford Kennel Truck was introduced. This also featured the Autosteer mechanism. It was painted metallic green which often varied in shade and was fitted with green windows. Play value for this model was enhanced by the addition of four white plastic dogs in the rear which was covered in a clear or pale blue plastic canopy. Although not named a Ford on the base or packaging, this was in fact a slightly revamped Ford Pick Up, with the name “Ford” clearly visible at the rear of the body. So started Lesney’s love affair with this particular casting. The yellow and blue versions are pre-production.

The Autosteer tenure was short lived as the transition to Superfast wheels in 1969/70 meant it was no longer feasible to include it and both models were converted in 1970. Initially both models were fitted with thin Superfast wheels, but in 1972 wide Superfast slicks were fitted instead. Unusually this body casting needed no alteration to accommodate these wider wheels. Both models could be found with chrome or white plastic radiators and both had a variety of base colours including black, pale green, primrose and yellow, although by far the rarest variation in both cases is an unpainted metal base. Such examples have been known to fetch around £500 each. The reason for these base variations was essentially down to cost. If the base was not immediately visible when the model was placed on the floor or a track, it was thought that it would not matter which base colour was used. Spare paint was thus used to save cost. Possibly the white plastic grille was also a case of economics as this avoided plating the grille.

Early in 1973 Lesney created Rolamatics, which some would argue were even more ingenious than Autosteer five years earlier. The Superfast wheels on these models had pegs moulded on to the inside edge. This would connect with a plastic part within the body of the model which, when rolled along, caused it to revolve, rock or jump each time the peg struck it. This added great play value to each model. 

Of the six Rolamatics models introduced during 1973, no fewer than five were based on existing models and the Rolamatics #57 Wild Life Truck used the same body as the #6 and #50! Again the fact it was a Ford was not acknowledged in the name itself, but it was still boldly retained at the rear of the vehicle. Originally sprayed yellow with a “Ranger” label on the bonnet and the windows now coloured red, this model had a yellow turntable at the rear, with a tan or brown model lion connected to it by two small pegs, with the see-through canopy retained from the Kennel Truck. As the rear wheels turned so the turntable revolved, making it look as though the lion were stalking round within! The canopy could be found in amber, clear, light blue or smoke, whilst the metal base of the model was unpainted except for a short run in silver. With this introduction, for a few months during 1973 Lesney had three models with the same body casting in the range at the same time! Regular wheel collectors will remember the #25 Dunlop Van, 29 Bedford Milk Float and #42 Evening News Van.

In late 1973 the #6 was deleted from the range in favour of a Mercedes 350SL. However, the #50 continued for a few more months into 1974 and the body colour was changed to a bright lime green shade. This colour scheme did not last very long before the Articulated Truck replaced the Kennel Truck in the range, and thus the short run lime shade has always been quite desirable.

The Wild Life Truck had a very long nine year run in the miniatures range and in 1981 the colour was changed to white. The label was removed and instead a zebra stripe tampo print ran along each side of the body. However in France this colour scheme had the very rare “Climat” labels applied to the bonnet instead, which can be found on models with the standard red glazing or the less common purple windows and are worth around £150 each. Standard examples can also be found with amber glazing and a small quantity of yellow models can also be found with the amber windows. Although quite rare, this variant seems to command no premium.

In 1982 Lesney decided to replace the #57 with a Carmichael Rescue vehicle, and if the 1982 UK catalogue is studied, it would appear that the long running mould was now obsolete. However, a glance through the 1982 US catalogue, shows an avalanche of new models and two of those new models were particularly relevant to this article. The new #22 in silver was a Toyota Mini Pick Up and an unnumbered and unnamed red model (in fact #57) was clearly using the same Toyota mould. However neither of these Toyota models would ever be released.

Lesney decided instead to revamp the Wild Life Truck, and probably the same mould was used again, but now it was fitted with large maltese X wheels, to represent the #22 Mini Pick Up in silver and the #57 Pick Up Camper in red. Perhaps for licensing reasons the name Ford was finally removed from the rear of the body, but otherwise it was exactly the same casting, and of course one retained exactly the same model number! Both models were available only in the USA, and both could be found with unpainted or rarer silver painted metal Lesney bases. The #22 could be found with a white plastic canopy, which originally had a step but this was later removed to make it smooth, and thus was not dissimilar to the canopy of the Ford Pick Up first released fourteen years earlier! The #57 had a black plastic roll bar, which was also fitted to the #22 in error and is very hard to find. The #22 has two other very rare variations: it can be found as standard with tampo print to the sides of the body and the bonnet “Big Foot”, but examples with no side print, or no tampo print whatsoever in plain silver, do exist in very small numbers. 

In 1983 these models started to be made in Macau following an extremely short run in Hong Kong and the bases were now painted in gloss black. In 1986 the #22 was changed to a red colour and the #57 to light blue, both with alternate tampo print. That same year the #22 finally became available as a UK issue, though as #35, with the red body advertising “Aspen Ski Holidays”.
A UK only promotional version in white was released with “SLD Pumps” tampo, which is not common but attracts no particular premium. Another promotional fitted with large wheels was produced just for the UK company called McVities and promoting “Wagon Wheels”.

The #22 was finally replaced in the USA range in 1990. The #57 in blue with “Mountain Man” tampo print fared just slightly better and was replaced in the USA in 1991. After 23 years of continuous service, this long running mould was finally allowed to retire, but it had a very impressive run and produced many desirable and attractive variations along the way!

(Grateful thanks to Graham Tomlinson for his contribution to this article).

Nigel Cooper      7th March 2014


  1. Good to hear that the Infiniti will be back! I hope that it will be done sooner rather than later, as that is a model I truly want to collect (I missed the 2011 version). I have my eye on the Hot Wheels 2014 gift pack version so it'll be nice to have the Matchbox equivalent as well. About the new releases, I'm totally down for the Ford Police Interceptor and the BMW X5 Police. Pray to god that I find them! Also, I would like to know which real-life region the X5's livery is based on. And thank you for the update!

    - Black Wind

    1. The X5 is based upon a London Metropolitan Police car

    2. More importantly, a pre-2013 London Metropolitan Police ARV. Most Armed Response Vehicles in the UK are now BMW X5s, along with BMW 5 Series and Volvo V70s...

  2. I also think it was a great report this week. I like most of what was shown. The Fire truck is always great but dose anyone go over color schemes? Black roll cage would have made this much nicer. That interceptor is awsome. I'm glad to see maybe MB team picked up on a comment I made months back about clear light bars. I said it would be better that way and probably more cost effective. Maybe not from me but good idea anyway. With that said the light bar incorperation is awful to me they have no real attribute. The street cleaner I love but was wondering if the old style would make a comeback along with the postal truck?


  3. My .02 on the new models:

    F350 Superlift: Great design, white roll cage is different at least, though the resulting blue windows because of the connected light bar detracts for me, but what do you expect I guess? I will not pursue this one.

    Ford Interceptor: This new color, design, & realistic livery is a absolute HOME RUN! This is precisely what Matchbox needs to be producing. The separate light bar piece & slight detailing of the front turn signals add additional value despite the limitation of 2 tampo hits. The different shade of green & black wheels are a welcome change to the white police car with chrome wheels usually seen. My compliments to whoever designed this one.

    Turn Tamer: I will never purchase one of these; though why make it worse and add the 5-spoke wheels seen above that should be on a Corvette? The previous off-road wheels were believable for a fictional off-road vehicle.

    Street Sweeper: Excellent for a Matchbox original, a color not yet seen, and authentic design! Though I imagine some are growing tired of this casting by now?

    BMW X5: Nearly perfect! Authentic design believable as a European police livery. Only thing better could be a genuine livery as seen on the Lesney edition X5. The required front BMW logo adds a little appeal in lieu of printed headlights and taillights.

    Now if this is a taste of what we'll see in 2015 only with newer current automobiles then my level of spending on Matchbox may return to 2010 levels!

  4. Hi Nigel. Nice time to see you again.

    So, the new releases are quite back to what I expected. I like those multipack exclusive things there, the Ford Police Interceptor in a different police livery. Whoa! Now, something about the Interceptor. There are two versions for 2014, but personally this Marshalls police version I guess is in the multipack. Am I correct? Please say. I know earlier before the second or third ambassador report were shown the three Ford emergency vehicles, including the Interceptor, the first version you showed us was a white and the wording "Police" with the same printing along with the Explorer. But what is exactly the multipack version. This one or the other? I don't know.

    Well, there's one more thing to say for it though. It's fantastic with that Marshalls livery!

    Next, we go with the Turn Tamer. Surely, this was a disaster with thee debut version. But now, I like the Turn Tamer because of the better syling. It's sporty now. I'd like to see Matchbox continue on like that with the Turn Tamer and some other models they pick on. Nice work, Matchbox!

    The Street Sweeper. This is another child car. A city truck. Some graphic details about it. Stupid. It's just STUPID!

    Next. Ah, here we've got another version of the Beamer X5 SUV. Now this is still returning like a police. I would want to see a plain version of it, since it's nearly the astonishing police decade for a while. But I still do like the X5 police.

    That's all it. No questions either. So I'm out.

    1. Why did I forgot to mention something of the Superlift? Darned out again!

      So anyways, the Supelift's turn. Right. I like this time its Fire Department livery, but I'm looking forward to a REAL fire truck livery. I still do like it! And that's all.

  5. The F-350 Superlift I really like, and it will go well with both the '12 and '13 versions that I already own.

    The Ford Taurus Police Interceptor looks good. Is this Marshall another real town?
    I can see both this casting and the Charger with almost infinite variations in the future, as they are both popular in many towns and cities.

    The Turn Tamer isn't a casting I really like , but it looks good in red.

    The Street Sweeper is a better street sweeper than its predecessor, and with the "Tri County" shield it will go well with the ambulance.

    The BMW X5 is a great looking British police car. The door logo looks like Matchbox copied the logo for the London Metropolitan Police.

    I have the "Mountain Man" issue of the Ford pickup.

    Wasn't the Sunburner originally planned to be a Viper?

  6. My specialty first: emergency vehicles

    That ford superlift brush truck is a home run. always love the white/red combo. 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?

    The interceptor is really good. i like the idea of a "marshal" unit. although it seems to be spelled wrong.

    the BMW Police Car is also very well done

    Now has anyone else realized that they used the "Matchbox Tri-County Department" logo again on the street sweeper like they did on the ford ambulance earlier in the year? Will this become another livery that'll continue like the forest service livery or INC construction livery?

  7. Nigel: I wonder if you can talk about the strange TYCO experiment where the Ford F-150 4x4 (introduced in 1995) and the Chevy K-1500 Pickup 4x4 (Introduced in 1996) shared the same exact dimensions?

    Also can you mention some ideas for the 2015 (or 2016) line to the Design Team:

    2015 Ford Transit Van (full-size one): MB has a long history with this casting, and now that it's being sent across the pond to the US for the first time, it would be nice to see an all-new casting appear (the 2006 version shared the interior and base from the 1980's casting, thumbs down on that move!)

    One-ton Dully Truck: I think it would be nice to see one of these in the line. Either the new 2013 Ram 3500 or a classic like the 1985 Ford F-350.

    2014 Camaro Z-28 and 2015 Corvette ZO6: Hot Wheels has plenty, Matchbox none. Good chance to get your hands on one before HW makes another one (and trust me collectors on both ends will be pleased).

    Classic Honda: Like a Prelude or 1975 CVCC hatchback.

    Jeep Wrangler Superlift: How about retooling the casting to be roof-less; with the roof it looks too much like the Rescue Concept. Plus I think it will look best as an open-top (someone did a custom without the roof and it looked much better than with it.)

    Jaguar F-type Roadster: Why not?!?!?!

    Subaru BR-Z: One of my favorite modern sports cars, I would like to see one with the classic MB detailing touch (think 2005-early 2011 MB line).

    1995-1997 Ford Ranger Splash: Stepside or Fleetside, and the base can have two different versions for 2WD and a slightly-raised one for the 4x4 versions.

    Realistic-looking Generics: A few Matchbox rescue and construction vehicles, and Hot Wheels Ryu LX is a good example; enough with the rally-style look, not everyone wants a rally vehicle. This can give the opportunity to make generics that look like real vehicles without paying a copyright fee to do so.

    ***Finally, and the most important:
    # If no one in Mattel can make a decision what the Matchbox brand should represent, why not split the line down 50/50: 50 realistic cars with realistic decals for the collectors, and 50 with the generics/adventure theme for the kids. This has been an back-and-forth swing for decades at Matchbox, with not one party agreeing on what is best for the brand. IF you're so unsure of where the brand stands, why not split the line even instead of upsetting collectors or kids. I think this is a better idea!

    # Also throw in some exclusive treasure hunt editions (like Hot Wheels Super Treasure Hunts, regular models with special paint and rubber tires) to really get the collector's attention every time they look at Matchbox toys (the chase 60th Routemaster Bus in 2013 was a good example).

    #Finally add some collector playsets to the mix like car dealership, car wash, drive-in, for those who like to display their collection as a diorama.

    These are good profit-making ideas that will keep the Matchbox brand alive and well, and will further differentiate itself from the Hot Wheels brand, all without upsetting our long-lasting, original collectors of the Matchbox toys brand.***

    See what you can do, Nigel. Thanks.

    Joseph S.

    1. Myself and most all Matchbox collectors are greatly opposed to a 'chase' line of vehicles. The Matchbox brand has never had these until the Routemaster appeared and due to the already low distribution and volume of regular Matchbox, the chase was just bought up by Hot Wheels T-Hunt collectors and sold at a premium to those unable to find them. Resulting with an increase in resentment rather than increased sales. The Matchbox brand has prospered in many years all without the introduction of any super rare, 1 in 20 cases sort of chase.

    2. I'd have to agree about the playsets looking more realistic. Although you could buy 1:64 (S) or 1:87 (HO) scale train layout buildings to display your collection, the older (1960s) playsets were realistic, and modern ones need to return to that.

  8. Just got around to reading the history of the old Lesney Ford pickup truck, such an impressive, detailed roster of the models history! I only hope models like the current Routemaster and the new Dodge A100 will see such a long and varied future!

  9. Nice write up on the Ford Trucks. I just found one at the Flea too. The mountain man has always been a favorite.

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