Matchbox Posts

One of my heroes is backing us & that made my day

I’ve known of the other Christian since the mid-Nineties as nobody, really nobody has taken documenting collectibles (in his case Matchbox) more seriously.  We then met at one of the Nuremberg Toy Fairs maybe 10 years ago.  He was there with a number of big folders and to understand the depth that he goes into I am sharing the 3 pages that Christian Falkensteiner maintains on just one model, the Mot Rod  –

One of the greatest parts about Christian is that he has always been willing to share the wealth.  You can find it all on his website www.cfalkensteiner.com.  Early on he decided that he would share his knowledge with us and has already made more than 6,000 entries on hobbyDB. And not just models, Chriistan for example added 400 Matchbox period ads.  Or this Matchbox themed card game, which not only shows its title cover but also every single card!

Christian is also on the hobbyDB Advisory Council.

Besides being an incredible expert Christian is one of the most humble people that I know.  When he was inducted into the Model Car Hall of Fame in 2018 I contacted him for images for an article (I am the Hall’s Chair).  He just said it was not necessary.  He certainly did not want us to make a big deal about it and would have preferred that we kept the trophy. And do try to find a photo online of the guy! Here is the best I could find.

Christian on a German Matchbox meetup no doubts studying a new variant…  Lastly, how can you not like a guy whose favorite car brand is Citroën!  Thanks for backing us up, Christian!

If you like to join Christian and 750 others that are already owning a part of hobbyDB you can do that on our crowdfunding portal here –  wefunder.com/hobbydb.

Another Visit to the Jang Birsens Matchbox Mecca!

In the last few months, I visited my friend’s Jang Birsens Matchbox Museum as many times as I could.

There is so much stuff to see and it got me back to buy some Matchbox models, for me a kind of a back to the roots moment!  Therefore I decided to write a second report about the Museum focusing on Regular Wheels and Superfast models.  The first one was on the Model Car Hall of Fame site (find it here).

Here are some of my highlights  –

MB46 Blue Color Standard Edition

 


MB46 Transition Model

 


MB46 Standard with opening doors and trunk

 

MB5 Pre-Serial Model

 


MB5 Standard Model with White Interior

 

MB12 Land-Rover Blue Transition Model

 

MB33 Standard Model

 

MB33 Yellow with Red Interior | very rare version

 

MB33 Yellow with White Interior | another very rare version

 

MB8 Ford Mustang White Standard Model, Red very rare color variations and interior variations

 

MB25 Bedford Petrol Tanker Aral with Black Wheels

 

MB25 Bedford Petrol Tanker BP with Gray Wheels

MB 13 Dodge Wrecker with Yellow Cab | nice but common

 

MB 13 Dodge Wrecker with Green Cab | not so common, recently sold for $8,500

And that despite the Green Cab version being in the 1965 catalogue!

MB58 AEC BEA Coach with its very rare D- Type Box

 


MB12 Land-Rover with gray wheels for the US-Market

 


Variations of the SF Ford Wreck Truck

 


Superfast Ferrari Berlinetta | Very rare green color

 


Pontiac GTO in a rare red color as well as in the more common mauve

I found also some interesting models from different other series in the Museum, here an example.

Mechanised Tractor Plant with Winch Transporter

This set was based on the K-20 Tractor Transporter with three tractors. Originally all painted in red they were painted for the set in a metallic blue cab and a silver trailer with Superfast Wheels. It was also modified to incorporate a working winch behind the cab and a two-section tailgate and a pulley on the trailer. The tractors on the trailer were painted in an orange color and some sets can also be found with blue tractors. Tractors are No39 of the MBX miniature series Ford Tractors based on a Ford Power Major. The orange tractor is one of the rarest MBX 1-75 Models as it was used exclusively for this set. The set contained also a factory building with a conveyer belt inside it and two lenghts of road and a road ramp.

A Matchbox King Size, Speed Kings, Super Kings Dealer Display

 

and its original outer packaging (how cool is that!)

 


Some Pre-Serial Models

Matchbox Models as Eraser’s

 

Now please ask lots of questions (giving me an excuse to go back…).  The Museum does not yet have its own website but you can find contact details here  –  www.mullerthal.lu/en/fiche/museum/matchbox-museum

For Halloween, You’re Gonna Need an Ambulance or Hearse

1/64 scale ambualnce

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Halloween is a holiday associated with walking, specifically around the neighborhood seeking candy from neighbors. But if you need to drive on that date, there’s only one choice. Well, two actually: ambulance or hearse.

Both vehicles connote a kind of morbidity… one posthumously, one, umm… pre-posthumously? Humously? The point is, death, gore, all kinds of spooky stuff are easily associated with those vehicles, and even though they aren’t technically Halloween oriented, they fit right in.

johnny lightning surf hearseLet’s be more specific, though… we’re talking about car-based versions of these transports, not vans or other bespoke vehicles. Back in the day, coach building companies took standard sedans, stretched the wheelbase, extended the windshield upward, and added a long roof to create the basis for hearses and ambulances. There’s something kind of, well, ostentatious about a Cadillac hauling you to the hospital when a Chevrolet would do just fine. On the other hand, a Caddy hearse exudes a necessary touch of dignity and class to your final ride to the grave.

matchbox ambulance hearseSo, something about a vintage Caddy with curtains in the back just speaks to this holiday. There have been numerous models of these car-based body haulers built over the years, but let’s focus on 1/64 versions.

matchbox ambulance hearseMatchbox has offered a number of ambulances of all types in all their scales, often with removable stretchers and other goodies. When the early Benz “Binz” cars upgraded to SuperFast wheels, it was righteous fun. In the U.S., Caddy is far and away the leader in the hearse business. And they have been for a really long time. The long wheelbase helps, but really, any car can be modified into a hearse. Matchbox has since gone on to create various other models, mostly mid 1960s Cadillac based cars.

hot wheels 59 cadillac funny carHot Wheels has gotten into the Hot Hearse business as well, with the understatedly named ’59 Cadillac Funny Car casting. This thing is heavy, has a flip up body, and that’s all you need to know. And the 100% Hot Wheels Line also included a less souped-up 1963 Caddy hearse in several colors.

hot wheels 53 cadillac flower carOn a side note, there is also a Hot Wheels Custom ’53 Cadillac that looks like an El Camino’d coupe with a soap box derby car in the back. This is actually based on the old flower cars that used to be part of a funeral procession, so, yeah, that kinda counts.

hot wheels ecto 1Oh, did you think we forgot about Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters? Fun fact: The car used for the Ecto-1 was not a hearse, but an ambulance. In the original movie you actually get to see it briefly in gray primer, and honestly… it might be more awesome in that livery. The recent remake used a 1980s Caddy, which worked a lot better than it sounds on paper. Hot Wheels has them covered in multiple scales, even.

harold and maude hearseOf course, the greatest movie hearse of all time is Harold Chasen’s custom E-Type Jaguar hearse from Harold and Maude. There are a few larger scale models available, but 1/64-ish cars are hard to come by. Many folks have customized them over the years, like the Aurora ThunderJet slot car above. It’s the way Harold would do it, of course.

johnny lightning surf hearseJohnny Lightning has had some fun with hot rod hearses based on larger scale models. The dual engine Haulin’ Hearse dragster and the stately (even in lavender with flowers) Heavenly Hearse surf wagon were both based on kits made by Jo-Han.

johnny lightning meat wagonEven more fun was the Meat Wagon, a customized 1937 Packard Ambulance, based on a plastic kit by Aurora. This model also came decorated in honor of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and a few other schemes. All of the smaller JL models were available in other livery (or should that be dead-ery?).

johnny lightning 57 chevy hearseOf course, they did a version of the Ecto-1 and repurposed that casting with surf boards. Heck, the folks at Playing Mantis would stick surfboards on just about anything given the chance. And there was even a 1957 Chevy Bel Air  hearse. Remember what I said earlier about being driven to the grave in a Chevy? I take it back, that would be pretty cool.

zylmex mash ambulanceZylmex had an interesting ambulance model in the late 1970s. Detail is crude, but it appears to be a 1953 Chevy. It came decorated in olive drab with M*A*S*H decals. It was part of a series of toys and playsets from the TV show. What’s not to like there?

There are also a lot of sedan delivery or panel wagon models of all kinds that would make excellent hearses and ambulances, with or without surfboards, but let’s not beat this topic to death. Can you think of any 1/64 models we didn’t include here? Let us know in the comments six feet below.

Mini Matchbox Models Create a Big Mystery

mini matchbox prototypes

Compared to a standard 1/64 Matchbox truck, these mystery models are tiny.

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

While digging through our latest stash of Matchbox prototype cars, we discovered models of a couple of tiny vehicles. They were much smaller than the usual Matchbox offerings. Unsure of what they were, we started sleuthing around. We asked our trio of former Matchbox designers for insight: Rob Romash, Matchbox Master Model Maker; Steve Moye, Matchbox Designer; and Glenn Hubing, Matchbox Model Painter.

As it turns out, these were two concepts for a Mini Matchbox sub-brand. Galoob’s Micro Machines were immensely popular throughout the ‘90s, spawning playsets and carrying cases. In fact for a few years, they outsold Hot Wheels, Matchbox and Majorette… combined. So it made sense for Mattel to tap into the tiny car market. In the early 2000s, Matchbox explored the idea, commissioning some unlicensed, futuristic tiny vehicles. The two designs you see here are among the few they worked on but ultimately never produced.

mini matchbox prototypes

There are painted and unpainted castings of the fire engine.

The two vehicles are a police car and a fire engine, a pair of can’t-miss tropes for toy cars. Each one appears in two stages of the prototype process: A plain, early resin casting, and a highly detailed painted version. In all likelihood, due to the scale, the cars were designed to be molded as a single piece body with the windows painted instead of being separate clear pieces.

mini matchbox prototypes

The collection features painted and unpainted castings of the police car, too.

A couple of things stand out on these designs. First, while much smaller than a typical 1/64 vehicle, they are bigger than the standard Micro Machines car (2.75 inches long vs. 2 inches). The fire engine actually comes close to the Micros trucks size, but the police car is huge by comparison to their cars. Second, they sit up pretty high. The mounts for the axles are below the rest of the chassis, so the finished cars would ride like a monster truck or a donk. Also, there are no cutouts in the fenders to allow the wheels to recess into the body, so they would sit completely outside or the body work.

mini matchbox prototypes

Compared to Micro Machines cars, the Mini Matchbox cars were sort of big.

It’s possible the final designs were supposed to have the wheels situated a bit closer to the mass of the car, but since these are painted prototypes, it seems the shape is close to the what was intended for production. Sadly, we may never know the full intent of the designs.

hot wheels atomix

Hot Wheels briefly offered the Atomix line including teeny models of popular 1/64 designs.

Meanwhile, Hot Wheels produced the Atomix series of cars, close in size to the Micro Machines. The first ones came packaged as a bonus vehicle on some 2002 mainline cars. The early designs were based on existing Hot Wheels cars such as the Deora II and the Snake and Mongoose funny cars (which even featured flip up bodies!) They were eventually released in sets, of usually five or so vehicles.

speedeez mini cooper

Playmates’ Speedeez cars were Micro Machine sized but had ball bearings for speed. They also had large scale models that folded out into crazy playsets.

For some reason, when Hasbro acquired the Micro Machines brand, they dropped the ball on it, allowing it to more or less disappear (aside from licensed sets such as the Star Wars sets). In fact, all the brands of micro sized cars (such as Speedeez by Playmates Toys) pretty much vanished by the mid 2000s. But why?

The cars sold well, but displaying a collection was tricky. The cars themselves were tiny, but the packaging was huge by comparison, since they usually sold in sets of 5 or 10 cars. But the most obvious answer is that the cars were tiny enough to be considered choking hazards. It doesn’t seem like there was an epidemic of kids eating tiny cars, but it probably wasn’t worth the potential legal headache. For Matchbox, it was over before it began.

Whatever the reason for the quick end of the Micro cars, if you’re a serious collector, you might want to grab these very rare examples. Yep, they’re for sale in the hobbyDB Marketplace! They might fill a big hole you never knew was in your collection.

More Matchbox Prototypes With More Working Details

matchbox prototype lead

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

A few months ago, we shared a treasure trove of Matchbox prototypes and preproduction versions of later production models from the collection of Rob Romash. Romash was a Master Modelmaker at Mattel, working primarily on 1/64 scale Matchbox vehicles in the early 2000s, but also on a surprising range of other toys. We also had the pleasure of meeting Steve Moye, who was one of the artists creating illustrated concepts for inspiration, and Glenn Hubing, who hand painted many of those prototypes and designed graphics for Matchbox cars.

The skill and precision required to turn a block of acetate into a finely rendered, highly detailed first rendering of a model car is beyond the comprehension of most collectors. Which is what makes these models so freaking cool. The ones you see here are early test shots made from the molds made from the original carvings, so only a couple of each one may have ever existed. Know what else is cool? These are all for sale on the hobbyDB Marketplace!

matchbox prototype ford explorerQuite a few of the cars in this batch feature moving parts, some with intricate detail. Take the Ford Explorer Sport Trac model. It’s a pleasant surprise for the tailgate on a truck like this to function, but in this case, the separate bed extender gate also works. That’s a pretty fine detail for a toy truck that sold for under a dollar! It’s incredible to see it in gray resin to see how much tiny detail is there.

matchbox prototype ramp trucksThere are two different ramp trucks in this batch. The first is a fantasy design, with a ramp extension that slides down from the main structure. The other flatbed tow is a little more restrained in design, not based on any particular real truck, but plausible enough to fit in with other licensed designs. The ramp on that one slides back flat before dropping down. The cab and chassis on the second truck are shared with another vehicle, a box truck with opening rear doors.

matchbox prototype cement truckThere’s also a cement truck with a spinning container on the back, complete with gear teeth to mesh with the rear axles. At this stage of development, the rest of mechanism wasn’t in place yet, so on the prototype, it just spins easily on its own. It doesn’t appear that this one ever made it into production.

matchbox prototype corvetteAnother car in the batch might not be recognizable to collectors. Sure, it’s a 1997 Corvette, the first year of the C5 chassis, but this particular model was never produced by Mattel. It features a very thin opening hood and more detail underneath that isn’t usually expected on a basic Matchbox car. The interior is also much better detailed than their usual offerings. Unlike most preproduction models, this one has a completely finished chassis complete with the text identifying the car, copyright dates, and country of origin. Also, this one has a clear windshield with graphics, not common on such models.

matchbox prototype tvrAnother car you really might not recognize is the TVR Tuscan, an oddball design from an oddball company (and as car enthusiats, we mean that sincerely). As rare as Tuscans are in real life, there are actually a pair of resin bodies in the collection.

matchbox prototype vw taxiThere’s also a Volkswagen Bug that feels like it’s’ actually made of metal. In fact, it’s a repurposed production body, but in this case, a tiny “TAXI” sign is fixed to the roof. It might not look like much, but that kind of detail had to be mocked up for production, too. On the finished car, the taxi sign was part of the main body casting.

matchbox prototype golf cartFinally, there’s a golf cart. While it doesn’t have removable accessories, it does have some remarkably finished golf bags in the back. It’s the kind of detail that usually gets simplified in the final process for cost or durability issues. On this one, you almost feel like you could pull out the driver and give a golf ball a ride.

And as we mentioned… All of these prototypes and more are for sale on the hobbyDB Marketplace. They’re one of a kind (well, except for the TVRs), so grab them while you can.