Forwarded to me by Craig Dickson
Oh boy, but did I ever have a bunch of those. Unfortunately, they also served as guinea pigs for my early attempts at body and paint work.
They featured so many American models that I never realized the company was British until I was a little older.
Here is one of the cars featured in the clip, the Austin Cambridge A55 Mk 2 built from ’59 to ’61. I’m still experimenting with how to take good pictures of my assemblage, so please give me some latitude. The car is far more detailed than the image suggests. I love buying them in well used condition. Thanks Paul and Craig!
Did I ever have hours of fun playing with my dinksters as a child- possibly some Corgi time too!
I have some diecats too, and some of them come from the other side of iron curtain
A GAZ Chaika? Not bad. CC effect here: I saw a full-size one at the Lemay Family Museum yesterday.
Before there were Hot Wheels, Matchbox was the sh!t. They seemed to be the highest quality, 1:43 scale cars, particularly the ones with some sort of feature, usually opening doors. My most vivid memory was of a mid-sixties Pontiac, maybe a ’66 Grand Prix or GTO.
Then Hot Wheels came along with their faster rolling wheels. I don’t think any Hot Wheels cars ever had opening doors, but they had opening hoods. So the choice was a Hot Wheels car with an opening hood, speedy wheels, and ‘Spectraflame’ colors, or the more subdued, slower Matchbox cars with opening doors.
Matchbox (1-75) were much smaller than 1:43.
Never the same scale. Small cars and trucks had to fit into the same “matchbox”.
I had a Matchbox vinyl carrying case during my 60s boyhood, carried it everywhere. My favorites were my Rolls convertible and Mercedes Benz ambulance.
If more of use geezers had saved their Matchbox toy cars & boxes, we’d all be rich now .
Oh, well, they were indeed the shiznit in the late 1950’s through the mid 1960’s .
I have a few Hot Wheels but they’ll never be the same .
The quality of Matchbox models peaked in the late 60s with nice detail combined with working features and recessed lines for the doors etc. rather than raised lines. I remember seeing the factory itself in Hackney when it was still open, complete with the blue double deckers (ex-LT RTs), and again some years after closure. The last part of it was only very recently demolished.
Some of the toolmakers and designers later set up Lledo Models and from that the current Oxford Diecast range has bloomed.
The quality seemed higher back then, to me, as well, but I thought it might just have been nostalgia. Of course, the cars were a lot cooler, too.
In fact, it’s interesting how, to this day, there are many cars from the sixties and early seventies still used as the basis for miniatures.
It’s a bit more than nostalgia. Here’s a photo of four Matchbox Ford modes:
Ford Anglia, no.7 intro. 1961
Ford Cortina GT, no.25 intro. 1968
Ford Cortina, no.55, intro. 1979
Ford Sierra XR4i, no.55 intro. 1983
The Sierra is slightly better detailed than the later Cortina (though without any working features), though the paint finsih is inferior. Neither match the finesse of the 1968 model.
Great comparison between years. You’d hope that the quality would improve, not diminish, over the years. The price has certainly increased with inflation. I guess it’s still possible to find some really nice, comparable scale models, but you have to look for the more expensive ‘special edition’ versions. Some of those have really good detail, even at the 1:64 scale.
Fascinating video. Had many of these as well. Here’s a couple of favorites that have survived.
Ha! Just picked up the sharknose in a thrift shop a few weeks ago.
Join the Club ME. Here’s two survivors still in my collection.
Great video on Matchbox – a London company and, though the brand name survives to this day as an Mattel product, absolutely the junior English die cast company.
Dinky, from Liverpool, was the first UK producer of die cast toy cars – pre WWII. Post war Dinky revived and Matchbox appeared in the high streets – for pocket change.
Dinky Toys were about 1:43 scale (as were later Corgis). Matchbox were about 1:64. They were competitors but the customers preferred one or the other but generally not both. I was a Dinky (and later also Corgi) aficionado.
While Matchbox, Dinky and Corgi were common in the USA the best stuff was European – Marklin from West Germany, Solido from France, Tekno from Denmark, Mercury from Italy. Those were mostly 1:43 too.
Of course the original die cast model (or toy) cars were American; we were first. They were Tootsietoys from Chicago.
It could be argued that the most famous Corgi was the James Bond Aston Martin DB5, complete with ejector seat, front machine guns, and pop-up rear bullet deflector.
Either that or the long-running Batmobile.
The comment above about Matchbox being at it’s peak in the late ’60s is dead on. I had dozens upon dozens of them as a little guy, and I loved them for their realism. I was disappointed when that was mostly lost with the change to “Superfast” wheels in 1970 in an effort to compete with Mattel.
I think they were normally 59 or 69c each at that time, but I remember “three for a dollar” sales at the five-and-dime chains.
Agreed. Hot Wheels were new and flashy while Matchbox was more traditional and more realistic. Matchbox sort of lost me when they went to the Superfast, which I considered a “me-too” copy of Hot Wheels. I think I still have the bulk of my Matchbox (and Hot Wheels) collections somewhere in my basement.
The problem was that Matchbox sales dropped dramatically in the U.S. when Hot Wheels was introduced. The U.S. market took the lion’s share of Lesney production. One of the founders of the company wanted to declare the American market a lost cause and continue the company’s focus on realistic models, but he lost that battle.
Lesney began moving back to more realistic models in the mid-1970s. Some of the Superfast models from the late 1970s were quite nice. Unfortunately, the company overextended itself and went bankrupt in 1982.
Forgot about the Batmobile. My guess is it would have been a matter of age group, with the DB5 having more appeal to those older, pre-teen adolescents with higher movie theater access. Sean Connery was substantially more subtle than Adam West.
So. Cool. Thanks Paul and Craig.
Thanks Mr. Niedermeyer for the share. I had hundreds of Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars when I was a kid.
I believe most of today’s toy cars are now made in Malaysia or China but I’m always impressed with the rare models they’re putting out – Renault Clios, 70s racing Datson Bluebirds, a freak’n Lancia Stratos and, my favorite, a Alfa Giulia Sprint.
I’m been buying these rarely seen die cast cars for years to put on my office desk, but they have since been passed down to my 4 year old, Luke.Though he beats the paint off of then but I can still teach him about these cars and what made then so special… the differences in how each country designs a car and the difference between these and a regular Honda Civic. One of his favorites is a classic red “Push” (as he calls it) 356. I believe these are the few ways to build a kid’s love of cars other than the normal Vette or Mustang.
True, today’s video games, like the Gran Turismo series, give young ones a glimpse at vintage foreign cars. However, I have a hatred of the ruining effects of video games on today’s kids.
Anyway, I know these newest Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars are to key to keeping the enthusiasm to future curbside classics alive for future gear heads… especially while a large number of teens have little interest in cars or even driving.
As a kid in the early 60s, my first exposure to miniature cars was through cereal boxes. Post must have had a long term contract with Ford as I seem to remember several different years/models of the Thunderbird being offered in one of Post’s Sugar Frosted cereals. Then, at some point I noticed a Matchbox display at my local Newberry’s.
It wasn’t until I was into my 20s that I even heard of Dinky and Corgi. I actually bought my first Corgis while stationed in Sicily. Beautifully detailed models of Fiat sedans that were very rare in the U.S.
IMHO, Hot Wheels aren’t in the same league as Matchbox, Dinky, and Corgi, as Hot Wheels are almost caricatures of “real” cars. Yet, if you look at them as being “different”, they do have their own special appeal.
Howard: Those Post cereal Fords were made by “F & F” in Dayton, Ohio from about 1954 to 1961. There were also some Plymouths (1960 model year) and from the late ’60s some Mercury Marquis and Cougar pieces. I have several of these plastic cars; my favorites are the “bullet Birds”.
I remember when Hot Wheels were introduced in the late 60s I was about 7 or 8 and had quite a few Matchbox models which I loved, but the Hot Wheels were really something special with their wild colors, wide mag style wheels with redline tires, but it was the springy suspension that made them fun to play with. You could lean them in turns and make them look like how a real car responded when cornering.
Matchbox quickly responded with their own Superfast wheels, springy axles and bright metallic colors to even the score.
I would say the British were the best back then for diecast detailing, particularly Matchbox with the 1.75 range any kid with a bit of pocket money could buy.
l love to look for Matchbox items today, and buy them when they are reasonably priced.
As much as I love real cars, I love “toy cars” that much more. From Matchbox and Hotwheels on up to large scale plastic and diecasts. It’s easier to say I’m a “toy car” guy that to get into the differences in diecasts and plastic kits. I only want realistic cars – no fantasy cars. Matchbox seem a little more realistic than Hotwheels and the lesser brands are usually too poor quality. I usually take the nicer cars and add/paint the details and try to make them look as real as possible. Drives my wife a little nuts that we have 191 cars from 1/64 to 1/12 displayed in our living room. And mine is a small collection compared to some. Of course there are thousands of cars in other places in the house, storage building, store space(!).
I love this video, showing the ladies adding the paint details. I would love to see how the Franklin Mint et al, cars were produced. How the cars are built so precisely so quickly. It takes me months to finsih a plastic car kit. Of course that is at a hobby pace, not production line.
Great piece, thanks. The older Matchbox cars were beautifully done and quite affordable for an 8 year old! A local hobby shop carried them (about $0.55 as I remember). Matchbox had a ‘King Size’ line too, larger scale in most instances like Dinky and Corgi. They did some very nice trucks.
Great film! And that voice – the voiceover for everything in 50s and 60s Britain.
Yes, I remember Matchbox cars, but always preferred the larger Dinky and Corgi models. But neither came close to the train set that’s still resting in the loft!
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