Our ongoing series showcasing the best of Matchbox from 2005 to 2011 will usually focus on castings that made their debut during that era. But not always.
There was a lot of magic happening at the time, and with lines like Superfast, some existing models took on new lives. There is no better example than the Nissan Xterra.
The Xterra was big deal when it debuted in 2000. The SUV craze was in full swing, but the vehicles lumbering down the road were less about "sport utility" and more about status, ride height, and comfort. The Xterra was the opposite, more about the "sport" and "utility", with its emphasis on function, and its look as unique as any in the SUV world. I remember the Xterra - especially in its signature yellow - being the first SUV that I always noticed on the road.
And Matchbox jumped on the Xterra bandwagon quickly. It was a no-brainer candidate, and debuted within the same year as the real Xterra. The only problem was Matchbox, at the time, was producing great castings, but giving them terrible decos. Those early 2000's were marked by Matchbox's hatred of subtlety. There seemed to to be a fear that no one will know the Xterra is an off-road vehicle if there wasn't an attention-grabbing graphic on the side to tell them. Hence:
With the occasional exception, the Xterra was relegated to crazy 5-packs, play sets, and cartoon-themed models. It seemed a waste for such a fantastically made casting of such a unique car. Look underneath the goofy graphics and you see a very nice casting.
Then 2005 happened. John Coyne and Felix Holst, along with a slew of designers like Michael Heralda and a new designer at Mattel named Ryu Asada, started pushing realism. As we have documented extensively, this group of car guys started making castings of cars from all over the world, new and old, and started what we have dubbed the Last Golden Age of Matchbox.
The era was highlighted by all the new castings, but the team had at their disposal a plethora of existing castings that fit in with exactly what they were doing. Models like the BMW X5, Porsche 911 Turbo, and most certainly the Nissan Xterra.
All of these models finally were scrubbed clean of the crazy decos and given realistic colors and designs, and the Xterra shined with its new look in the 2005 Superfast line. It was a daytime talkshow-worthy makeover.
As we have documented before, the 2005 Superfast line was especially unique, because it was actually two 75-model lines. One for the US, and another, with the exact same castings but in different colors, for what Matchbox collectors dubbed ROW (Rest of World). That means the Xterra received two colors. Green for the US and signature yellow for ROW:
But the green is no slouch, and the red that followed in 2006 as part of the 5-model Off-Road Superfast set was fantastic as well. Three models, all in realistic colors (and I don't even mind the blingy Superfast wheels, especially in graphite gray on the 2005 models) and full tampo treatments. Even the roof rack was painted.
We haven't seen the Xterra much since the Superfast models, and seeing it now would be impossible unless Matchbox modifies the casting. Their "4-part" rule means the opening hatch would have to go, and we do wonder if the way metal is being cost-limited with Matchbox models, the roof rack would be converted to plastic as well.
But whether we see it down the line or not, we will always have these three. I don't have any other Xterras, because I am more than satisfied to have these three beauties in the collection. Three highlights of the Matchbox Golden Age...
(These do pop up on eBay occasionally, and there are a couple of red and green right now if you want them.)
Matchbox Nissan Xterra (2005/2005 Superfast):