I have had this car affliction since I was about two or three. As a result, I had dozens of diecast 1/64 scale cars as a kid. At the time, there were four major brands: Lesney/Matchbox, Hot Wheels, Tomica/Pocket Cars, and Majorette. I liked all of them, but Majorette (and Tomica, which we’ll discuss some other time) were the most detailed. Made in France, not only did they have a number of European models, but quite a few US production cars as well.
One thing I really miss on modern diecast is the opening features. While Hot Wheels almost never had opening parts, many other brands did. Majorette was one of the best, with almost every model having either an opening hood, doors or trunk lid.
Some even had sliding doors and sunroofs that opened and closed. As my parents drove Volvos exclusively through the ’80s, Majorette’s 760 was very familiar, but other models like the Renault 25, Peugeot 205 and Ford Sierra weren’t.
Majorettes also had really robust suspensions. When you turned one over, you could see slots in the baseplate where parallel wires ran front to back, in a kind of torsion bar suspension.
They were so stout that you could raise one end of the car, drop it, and it would bounce up and down several times before stopping. Almost every model had a tough metal baseplate too. As long as I didn’t actively trash them (yes I was a destructive kid), they held up very well.
Another neat feature was that many times, clear headlights would be incorporated into the model’s glass area, and taillamps were often integrated into the interior bucket. Naturally, this worked best with red interiors, as shown on the Sierra above.
Majorette also made quite a few 4x4s, with models that would warm any off-roader’s heart. The Jeep CJ-5 was a favorite of mine, and it came in both standard height (shown above) and jacked-up versions. The top was also removable if you wanted your imaginary passengers to enjoy al fresco motoring.
Considering they were a French company, Majorette did quite a few American cars, including a late ’80s Mustang convertible, aero T-Bird and Chevy Impala taxi and police cars. There was even a Military Police Impala in olive drab. They also made what may be the only diecast model of the tough-as-nails Tercel 4WD wagon.
Sports cars were also in abundance, in addition to the sedans, wagons and vans. Again, detail was very good for the scale. The 911 actually has ‘PORSCHE’ spelled out on the back.
This Celica (and the 300ZX further down) actually has pop-up headlights in addition to the opening doors. Most models also had an interior with not only accurate seats, but detailed steering wheels that duplicated the real car’s tiller.
The Renault 5 shown above is one of my earliest Majorettes, picked up at a flea market years ago. I also had a really cool W116 Mercedes, but it did not survive to the present day. I said I was a destructive kid!
Majorette models were pretty easy to find and collect between the ’80s and early ’90s, though not every store carried them. I recall that most of mine came from Osco or Target. I don’t believe they were priced any higher than equivalent Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars.
By the late ’90s, I started having trouble finding them. Between 2000-2003 Osco seemed to be the only place that had them. That was a shame as I still collected these neat little cars, even though I was out of college and working full time by the end of 2002. Since then they have completely disappeared.
A few years ago I read that the company was having issues, and finally had to move production out of France. They are still in business, but I’m not sure if they are sold in the US anymore. Even if they’re not, at least I still have most of my original ones.