Drawing Conclusions: Steve Moye Recalls His Days as a Matchbox Designer

steve moye matchboxA couple weeks ago, we brought you the story of Rob Romash, Master Modelmaker for Matchbox in the early 2000s. His ability to translate sketches and technical drawings into perfect prototype carvings was amazing, and he was responsible for most of the castings of that era. Now, meet Steve Moye,  the creator of most of those designs. 
matchbox steve moye

Former Matchbox Senior Product Designer with one of his all time favorite creations.

Moye worked with Romash at Mattel in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, from 2000-2005 as the Senior Product Designer. “I worked on almost all of the non-licensed basic (3” long) Matchbox vehicles, plus launcher-type toy vehicles and two special marketing/packaging diecast-related toy products,” he said. “Also, during the last eight months of the Mt. Laurel operation, I was also responsible for the licensed 3” long vehicle design process, including selections and graphic decoration designs. Rob Romash and I had a very special designer-modelmaker relationship. In the five years that Rob and I worked together at Mattel, he always seemed able to translate my ideas into three-dimensional reality, many times on-the-fly, and always arriving at great aesthetic and functional solutions in a timely manner.”

Matchbox cars could be grouped into two categories: licensed designs (based on real cars or pre-existing designs from elsewhere), or unlicensed designs (newly imagined vehicles.) The key to the unlicensed cars was to make them plausible in function and aesthetics without stepping on any copyrights, while still giving these little rolling vehicles play and collector value and doing it mostly with three or four manufactured parts, for retail at $1.00 each. In other words, the designer’s responsibility was to create a vehicle that looks and rolls like a real-ish car, but not like any particular brand.

steve moye matchbox taxi 2

Moye worked on the sketches and technical drawings for most Matchbox 3″ offerings in the early 2000s, such as this Taxi.

One of the first steps to designing a new model was figuring out what exactly Matchbox wanted to offer for sale. “There would be internal discussions of what models in Matchbox’s 1-75 lineup were outgoing, where we had new opportunities for our offerings, and what we needed to replace,” he said. “We needed X number of cars to fulfill some new purpose, to fit into an overall marketing theme.” 

That’s when Steve’s task would begin. For licensed vehicles, straight interpretations of actual cars and trucks, there was no need to create concepts. “On those, the manufacturer would oftentimes submit a folder of photos and measurements; then, it was straight to tech drawings.” His ability to translate those materials was no doubt helped by his previous jobs in the design departments at Chrysler and Subaru. His understanding of automotive design, both engineering and aesthetic, made him a natural for model car design.

steve moye matchbox fire truck

Some designs translate from sketch to production without any discernible changes like this 4×4 Fire Truck.

Early on, Steve jumped pencil-first into projects in progress, and eventually became part of the Matchbox die-cast decision-making team, headed by Trevor Hayes, Rob Butkiewicz, Jim Carty and Berdj Mazmanian. “When I first started working at Mattel Mt. Laurel in early 2000, I didn’t have much leeway in selecting vehicle types because we were in a crunch to get the design process on already-approved vehicles going.” Moye said. “Eventually, I also became involved in the vehicle selection process, too. While a specific design was being created, I did have quite a bit of leeway in changing and improving aesthetics and functionality before a vehicle received its final mid-management and upper management review and approval.”

Another challenge at Mattel was to avoid stepping on toes at the company’s other big diecast brand, Hot Wheels. Hot Wheels generally was the domain of flashy fantasy racers, while Matchbox became the brand known for more realistic, down-to-earth models. The goal: a $1.00 product that was realistic, but to save Mattel royalty fees, often not based on a real car. Hot Wheels was also becoming the brand for older kids and collectors, while conversely, Matchbox was being marketed to the younger kids. “A lot of the collectors and Matchbox purists didn’t like that shift away from licensed designs,” he said. “Collectors understandably wanted more of the realism that was part of Matchbox history.”

steve moye matchbox dump truck

This dump truck was aimed squarely at Tonka’s foray into 1/64 diecast.

In total, Steve created 70 die-cast vehicles for Matchbox in his five-year stint at Mattel Mt. Laurel, plus two launchers and two diecast-related packaging designs. When one multiplies that figure by the number of vehicles each die cast tooling mold set is capable –a conservative estimate is 100,000 cyles-per-mold set– of making, it’s easy to conclude that his rolling creations easily got into the hands of millions of worldwide scale model car collectors, both young and old.

Whereas Romash sort of stumbled into his prodigious career at Mattel by turning a hobby into a job, Moye took a more calculated route. “My San Jose State University Bachelor of Science degree is in Industrial Design; before that, I attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena CA, preceded by a correspondence course –Academy of Automobile Design- in car design,” he said. Since age 12, Steve’s career goal was to design cars, just maybe not in miniature. “Incidentally, I was the only correspondence student to actually complete the entire course. J. Bruce Bollinger, AAD’s originator and the designer of Chevy’s original Nomad, actually had to create new courses for me, and those led to my first vehicle design portfolio.”

steve moye exoto gt 40

Moye’s AutoCad work for Exoto, translating real production cars into detailed 1/18 scale models.

Prior to Mattel, he held a similar job at Paramount Industries in Philadelphia designing for the Franklin Mint and Exoto, among other clients. Automotive design conceptualization, however, wasn’t part of the process at Paramount, as their models were exclusively based on existing classics; hence, his work on die-cast classic vehicles involved technical drawings, with an occasional on-site photo shoot/documentation session for good measure. “The big challenge for ‘The Mint’ was that many of the cars were vintage ones so at times, we had to find a collector with a restored car to document and use as a guide. There were no company archives of material to work with, because many of the auto companies don’t exist anymore.”

steve moye matchbox carrying case

Moye designed this carrying case while he worked at Mattel.

Over his six-year stint at Mattel, he rarely ran into any issues with designs which closely resemble a copyrighted design. “I did a trash truck in 2005 before the Mt. Laurel operation was given notice to shut down, an original design,” Moye said. “But I later heard that one of the OEM manufacturers thought the back end of the truck looked too much like their rear crush mechanism compartment.” Aside from that, the vast majority of the designs he worked on while at Midlantic Drive in Mt. Laurel, NJ went into production with relatively few hitches. Steve still has a collection Matchbox models, many of which emanated from the entire design process; a few are shown here.

steve moye matchbox taxi 2

The final production model can take on many variants, resulting in tens or hundreds of thousands of copies.

Moye and Romash have remained in touch over the years, fondly remembering their days creating the toys and collectibles that fueled the imagination of kids everywhere. “Mattel Mount Laurel was such a great place to work. The place was staffed with good, friendly, talented and skilled people, from the executives on down to the marketers, the graphics folks, the engineers, the product planners, the separate modelmaking staff which Rob Romash was a big part of, all of the creative folks over in the Matchbox Collectibles, Tyco RC, and Tyco divisions, my hard-working graphic design compadres Christine Peterson, Jeff Osnato and John Mullane in Matchbox 1-75 and, last but not least, Midlantic Drive’s great support staff. I was sad to see it close.”

Comments (3 Comments)
Karl

Great article.  It's fun to learn about the origins and designs of these little toy cars.    Mattel got Matchbox in 1997, I think.  What happened in 2005 that Mt laurel was shutdown?  Where are Matchbox designed now?

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Citroën DS: A History Through Model Cars

A Guest Blog from Patrick Wehr, owner of Pat’s Modellauto and carcollectorsgarage.com and also a Curator and Champion at hobbyDB.

 

The Citroën DS19 was the successor of the Traction Avant and was first presented at the Paris Motor Show on October 5, 1955. During the first 15 minutes of the Motor Show, 743 orders for the futuristic new car were taken, and a total of 12,000 orders was reached at the end of that day. By the end of the show, after 10 days, some 80,000 cars were ordered, which was a record which stood for over 60 years, though Insiders think that those selling numbers were only a marketing trick.

 

 

The car was designed by the Italian sculptor and industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni, as well as by André Lefèbvre, a French aeronautical engineer. The futuristic hydro-pneumatic self-leveling suspension was developed by Paul Magès. The car was such a success for aesthetics and engineering that it has inspired countless scale models.

 

The car was manufactured from 1955 to 1975 as a sedan, wagon/estate, and convertible. It was also the first production car that was equipped with disc brakes.

 

The DS used hydraulics for the power steering, the brakes, the suspension, the clutch and the transmission. In fact, with all that new technology it was a very expensive car, so Citroën decided in 1957 to produce the cheaper ID19. This car would have a conventional transmission, a simplified power-braking system and lack power steering. The ID was also not as powerful or luxurious. Maximum power for the ID19 was 69hp compared to 75hp for the DS. The ID submodel was produced from 1957-1969.

In 1962 the nose was redesigned and designated as Series 2. The car was more aerodynamically efficient and had also better ventilation. It was now available with an optional set of driving lights mounted on the front fenders.

 

French President Charles de Gaulle survived an assassination attempt at Le Petit-Clamart near Paris on August 22, 1962 while in a DS. The plan was to ambush the motorcade with machine guns, disable the vehicles, and then close in for the kill. De Gaulle praised the unusual abilities of his unarmored DS with saving his life – the car was peppered with bullets, and the shots had punctured the tires, but the car could still escape at full speed.

 

From October 4, 1955 to April 24, 1975 a total of 1,456,115 cars of the D-Series were built.

 

In late 1967 another new nose design with directional headlights came, now called the Series 3. That 1968 model of the ID/DS series had four headlights under a glass canopy. The inner lights swiveled with the steering wheel. For the US market this feature was not allowed, so a version with four exposed headlights was made for the US market.

In 1970 the ID was replaced by the D Spécial and the D Super. The D Super 5 was a D Super with the DS21 engine and a 5 speed gearbox. It was produced from 1970-1975.

 

The most collectable and rare variants are the convertibles produced from 1958-1973. They were built by the French Carrossier Henri Chapron for the Citroën dealer network. Only 1,365 Convertibles were sold, due to the high price of that variant. On these, a special frame was used, which was similar but not identical to the frame of the Break variants.

 

Various variants

 

Before the war, Chapron built some custom made bodies for Talbot-Lago, Delage and Delahaye. In 1955 he turned his attention to Citroën, and he was commissioned to build a Décapotable for the French President based on a 15CV Traction. At the Paris Salon in 1958, he showed his first DS based creation, known as the Cabriolet DS19 Henri Chapron.

 

 

In addition to the range of special Citroëns, Chapron also built the Prestige and the “Usine Cabriolets” for Citroën. Chapron also built a special elongated DS for the President de Gaulle.

 

The Michelin Citroën DS PLR Break, “Fast Truck” or nicknamed “Mille Pattes,” was a tire evaluation car. It was based on a DS Break and was built in 1972 by the French tire manufacturer Michelin, who was a shareholder of Citroën. It was used on the Ladoux test-track in Clermont-Ferrand.

 

Here a DS19 from Vitesse for the 40 Anniversary of the DS (1955-1995)

 

The DS was successful in motorsports and won the Rally Monte-Carlo in 1959. The 1000 Lakes Rally was also won by a DS in 1962. In 1966, the DS won the Monte Carlo Rally again. The DS was still competitive in the 1974 London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally where it beat over 70 other cars, only five of which even completed the entire event.

Comments (1 Comment)
Karl

A great blog post - a fantastic car and history.  Thanks for posting it!!!  Did you know that DS is a play on words - it is pronounced D S or Déesse in French, which mean goddess!

I think all the models in the post are 1/43 - the best scale for this Citroen (but I am biased)!  :-)

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A Brief History of Matchbox in Germany

A Guest Blog Post from Christopher Leon Gaas, a collector of Matchbox and other 1/64 scale diecast with an interest in the history of the hobby.

Beside its huge history in the United Kingdom, the Matchbox brand also has something to talk about in German-speaking countries. With its rich history, some very nice special models and today’s fast-growing collector’s scene, there are great reasons to bring this turbulent story of Matchbox in Germany closer to the rest of the world.

The LondonerMB 17-B

It begins in 1959: Jakob Prins, the founder of the Dutch toy company Edor, notices that the former dairy farm of the small town Rees in Northrhine-Westfalia was abandoned and buys the huge building as a new German branch of Lesney Products. Shortly thereafter, he purchased the distribution rights for Matchbox toys in the German area and expanded the company in 1964, 1966 and 1971 with three huge new storage halls.

The Airport CoachMB 65-B

The huge expansion notwithstanding, the main subject of the new factory in Rees was mainly packaging: the Matchbox products were produced in England and a lot of female workers from Rees and surrounding villages were responsible for packing these into boxes for sending to German toy stores. Only the game ‘Cascade’, made in 1971 without any car content, was ‘Made in Western-Germany’.

As Jakob Prins became too old to watch over the complete factory, he named another Rees resident, Theo Wissing, as the new manager. Wissing received his own flat in the main building and became head of nearly 70 employees. Everyday, two huge overseas containers from Rotterdam port arrived in Rees. After a check from the customs office they were re-packaged and were distributed across West Germany.

In 1980, after a few successful years in Rees and after the retirement of Prins, workers received a difficult message: The new managing director, Paulhans Handrick, told workers about a planned move to Hösbach in Bavaria and the closing of the Rees factory. Even a visit of the former Rees mayor Josef Tasch at the Matchbox headquarters in London wasn’t enough to keep this important taxpayer in Rees. As a native inhabitant of Rees, Theo Wissing, one of the most important men of the early years, stayed in his hometown and left the company in 1980.

Mercedes-Benz Container Truck MB 42-C

Everything started new in Hösbach. Handrick, the new manager, remained in his position until the 10th December, 1980 and was then succeeded by Ernst Zillig who held this job until the 16th of April, 1983. His successor was the well-known Ludwig Darmstädter who led the company until 1994. The work in Hösbach remained nearly the same as in Rees: the models shipped from the United Kingdom were now unpacked by Bavarian ladies and went to the many shops and department stores in the West-German area. One very remarkable feature in the new company was special-designed red and yellow boxes with an unusual version of blisters in a cardbox. Today, they are named ‘Hösbach boxes’ after the new location of the Matchbox factory.

Following a few management changes in the years between 1980 and 1993 the German branch was sold in 1994 to the American company Tyco and the budget raised from 1 Million DM to 17 Million DM in November 1995. In 1998 Mattel bought the company and the German Matchbox history was over.

Matchbox in East Germany

A very rare sight compared to  models from the Soviet Union, Matchbox was also present in communist East Germany. It was very difficult to obtain new models and they were more or less only sold in the ‘Intershops’ in bigger cities. Due to the issues between capitalist and communist countries at the time, some of these models were visually changed in East Germany because brands like BP and Esso were companies from the enemy behind the Iron Curtain. On the cover of the 1979/1980 catalogue for example, the American Space Shuttle was removed.

Leyland Petrol Tanker MB 32C

Special Models

Besides many British and American special models, Germany is one of the countries with the most issues of German commercial models.

The first German model was the Aral variation of the 23C Petrol Tanker in 1963, the first unofficial modified Superfast model followed in 1970: a ‘Bank von Klasse – Girokasse’ version of the No. 74 Londoner was used a a giveaway for customers of the German Savings Bank ‘Sparkasse’. During the course of the 1970s the numbers of commercial models increased every year. For example, Matchbox used the famous brands and clubs ADAC, Esso, Aral and Lufthansa for their models and even made a few German versions of the Mercedes Container Truck No. 42: A ‘Deutsche Bundespost’ (German Federal Mail), a ‘Confern Möbeltransporte’ (furniture transport) and a ‘Karstadt’ version that was only available at Karstadt warehouses and is hard to find today.

The only special edition made for East Germany was a K-15 Londoner variation for the 750th anniversary of Berlin, the ‘capital of East Germany’ in 1987.

 

Some other models for the German market

Matchbox in Switzerland and Austria

The two other German language countries, Switzerland and Austria, have a unique history of Matchbox which is even older than in Germany. From as far back as 1956 (!) the Waldmeier AG in Basel was the distribution partner for Lesney products in Switzerland. They held this position until 1979 when Matchbox looked for a new partner.

Waldmeier successor was the Joker Group from Zurich, which was founded exclusively for this purpose. With the end for Matchbox in Germany in 1994, the history of the Swiss branch also ended.

Comments (2 Comments)
Karl S

Very nice!  It's great to see such unusual versions of the old Matchbox.

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To Collect and Preserve: Why is Toy Packaging Worth so Much?

Toy Story Stinky Pete

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

In Pixar’s “Toy Story 2,” much of the movie’s plot was driven by the fact that the Stinky Pete action figure was priceless because he was mint in the package, as well as being rare to begin with. On the other hand, Mr. Pete (or is that Mr. Stinky?), led a bitter existence of resentment from being unplayed with, as well as for being the least desirable figure (hence his low production numbers and maybe why he never made it out of the box). So if he was going to live out the rest of his life like that on a museum shelf, he might as well make some other toys miserable as well.

Toy packaging has become a huge variable in the value of many collectibles. Some collectors don’t care all that much, but for many, the difference between “MIP” and “loose” is so big that opened toys may as well not exist. There’s even an industry catering to collectors who want to protect their packaging from the kinds of horrors the packaging was designed to protect the toy from.

So why did toy packaging become such a big deal to collectors? Here are some thoughts:

toy packaging kenner ssp mod mercer

Here’s a rare, mint Kenner SSP Mod Mercer in a less than perfect box. Well done, box!

Packaging protects the contents, obviously.

That’s kind of the point of packaging, right? Even the nicest loose Topper Johnny Lightning car is likely to have a few minor imperfections from handling and environment compared to one that has sat in a blister card untouched for almost 50 years. And yet, sometimes the ravages of time manage to reach inside that cocoon and cause paint to fade, chrome to rub off, and parts to come loose.

Ironically, in some cases, that perfectly preserved toy is hidden in a smoky, discolored blister with shelf worn cardboard, making collectors scratch their heads regarding the value of the packaging. The box or blister did its job, and now you want to criticize it for being less than perfect?

toy packaging kenner star wars jawa

The proof is in the packaging.

Packaging can be proof of authenticity.

The Jawa with the vinyl cape is the classic example: Kenner’s earliest “Star Wars” action figures included a Jawa sand creature with a stiff, ugly vinyl cape. They decided to replace it with a cloth cape that was better in every way, making the early ones rarer. But today, they’re only really valuable in the package, because the vinyl cape is so easy to fake on a loose figure. Same thing with stickers for early Hot Wheels cars, which are easily reproduced. Find one sealed in its blister, and you know it’s the real McCoy.

Packaging can be as cool as the actual toy sometimes.

Just look at the early history of Hot Wheels, and that’s all you need to know. As if the cars weren’t awesome enough, the imagery on those cards made them stand out from all the competitors. For something that was just a by-product of buying a toy, some companies really went all out in their package designs.

toy packaging johnny lightning

One letter makes a big difference for these Topper Johnny Lightnings.

Packaging can provide extra rarity via variations or mistakes.

Errors are fun to collect for many people, and often the only mistake is the wrong toy on the wrong card. Rip that open, and it’s worth no more or less than any identical model. As for variations, it’s neat to find multilingual packaging, or later/earlier versions of a toy that might include different information such as expanded checklists or different small print on the back. Another variation might be for legal reasons, such as Johnny Lightning having to modify “Beats Them All” to “Beat Them All.” Only one letter changed, but the early ones with the bold claim are much rarer.

toy packaging hot wheels riviera

Variants and Errors are part of the package for collectors.

Packaging can be incredibly rare for older, classic toys.

There was a time when not every single thing in the world was preordained as “limited edition,” “collectible,” or “exculsive offering.” Toys were just toys. If you were a kid in 1968, you couldn’t wait to rip open that new Hot Wheels car and send it down the track and into the sandbox. Which is why they are so beloved. And the blister card was a disposable afterthought.

toy packaging hot wheels protecto paks

The original Hot Wheels packaging is a treasure to be preserved in its own right.

Sure, the words “Collector’s Button” was on the package, hinting at the future of such toys, but very few kids probably made a conscious decision to collect every car to keep mint on the card.

So where did these pristine examples of that era come from? Maybe someone got a duplicate for their birthday and decided to hang onto it for later. Perhaps they bought it bit misplaced it before they could open it. Maybe there was some lost store inventory that sold years later when the value was becoming apparent.

toy packaging hot wheels mongoose

The fun factor is increased out of the package.

toy packaging matchbox hi ho silver

The value of this Matchbox car is only slightly increased by the blister card. Should I open it?

Flash forward to the era of Beanie Babies, which were explicitly marketed as things to collect and preserve (but not to play with). Never mind that before those came along, most toys were designed to bring joy accrued during playtime. In fact, it’s almost rarer to find certain Beanies that have been played with. The point of these older toys was that they were fun, and finding one in the package today is an unexpected treat.

Ironically, the Toy Story franchise has given birth to many classic toys, including characters designed for the movie, as well as new life for some of the old classics that show up onscreen. The power of imagination in the movies made them fun for kids to play with. And yet, in many cases, collectors would buy them all, including the less popular characters, and preserve them in their original boxes, bags, and blisters, never to be played with.

Did we not learn anything from Stinky Pete?

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Deep Discounts During Diecast Deal Days

spring diecast sale headerAs Summer rapidly approaches, several stores on hobbyDB are doing some last minute Spring Cleaning. From Thursday, May 24 through Sunday, May 27, these sellers are offering some nifty discounts on all kinds of diecast products, vintage and new! There are a lot of rare and one of a kind items, so shop early!


KMJ Diecast – 50% Off

One of the biggest online diecast dealers, KMJ Diecast has over 12,000 Hot Wheels and other items at half price! Check out this Saturday Evening Post van and this Franken Berry Dairy Delivery! 

kmj diecast hot wheelsSee everything on sale at KMJ Diecast!


Today’s Sale Store – 27% Off

Today’s Sale is actually “This Weekend’s Sale” with everything marked down 27%, including this super rare Hot Wheels Nationals Bluebird or the Cars & Donuts Camaro

today's sale hot wheelsSee everything from Today’s Sale!


Elite Diecast – 50% Off

Elite Diecast has all miniature vehicles on sale at half off! They also sell automotive magazines, books, and advertising, so check that out, too! Here’s a Convoy Custom  Convention Car and a Redline Club Baja Bruiser.

elite diecast hot wheelsCheck out the entire inventory at Elite Diecast!


Jayhow’s Hot Wheels & Collectibles – 20% Off

Jayhow’s Hot Wheels and Collectibles has all the latest Hot Wheels in stock as well as Matchbox, Jada and other brands at 20% off this weekend. Check out this Speed Chargers set or the Mad Magazine Spy Vs. Spy Dodge Van

jayhow's collectibles hot wheelsSee everything from Jayhow’s Hot Wheels and Collectibles!

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