|The passenger cars of 1982
||Just a cursory glance at the 1982/3 Matchbox catalogue indicates
something major was going on that year.
The front cover
shows three Kenworth and Peterbilt vehicles, and upon further
inspection it is clear Lesney had spent a lot of money creating new
moulds to revamp their miniatures range.
Gone were many of
the Two Packs, and in their place was the new Convoy range of
models. Within the 1-75 miniatures range no fewer than 22 models had
been deleted and replaced with a variety of new vehicles including
those shown on the front cover. This was all money well spent, as
the miniatures had always maintained healthy sales.
|It was reckless spending in other, less well tested
areas over three or four years that created the financial chasm into
which Lesney would fall halfway through that year.
display shows the models shown in the pocket catalogue at the
beginning of the year. Of those 22 new models for 1982, six were
passenger cars, of which two, the #42 Ford Thunderbird and #47
Jaguar SS100, were akin to Models of Yesteryear creations.
|The four contemporary editions included
This was also the year where the range diverged, so that many models
available in the UK were not so in the USA, and vice versa.
- #25 Audi Quattro
- #37 Matra Rancho
- #51 Pontiac SE
- #74 Fiat Abarth
Also the models did not necessarily have the same number, which is
why the new releases had no base numbers, which upset or at least
inconvenienced many collectors. C
|Catalogues and boxes had to be relied upon in that
regard. In the USA the Audi was #23, the Matra was not released, the
Pontiac was #12 and the Fiat #9.
In place of the Matra in
the US was the Sunburner, which was in fact the 1972 #32
Maserati Bora re-released in black with flame tampo print.
Many other 70s models were re-released in the USA that year, in
favour of genuine new releases as was the case in the rest of the
world. Most USA die-cast collectors still favoured Hot Wheels models
over Matchbox and so it was felt the Hot Wheels inspired 70s
Matchbox models would sell better than the standard Matchbox fare
which was now planted firmly in the world of reality and
Ironically of course the Maserati was based on
a genuine vehicle, so it was a curious choice of re-release!
Audi Quattro was a very well known vehicle by 1982, as it had
been winning many rally events around the world since its
introduction in 1980 with four wheel drive.
|By 1984 in fact it had won twenty two international rally
Also it was during 1982 that the famous Vorsprung durch Technik Audi Quattro road car advertisements first
appeared on British commercial television, as voiced in inimitable fashion by BBC TV acting stalwart, Geoffrey Palmer.
the rally connection in mind, the Quattro was released in white with
Audi Sport side tampo print and a black and brown
stripe effect to the sides and across the top, with 20 on the roof and
Audi on the bonnet.
|It was clear from the pictures in
the 1982 catalogue that this model was still in the early stages of
production when photographed, as it is a resin mould with wheels
|In fact the 1983 catalogue
unfortunately utilises the same picture!
The production model has
clear glass, a black interior, 5 arch wheels and a gloss black metal
base. The base could also be found in matt black or matt grey, and
are far less common than gloss black.
A small run must have been
produced with the side tampo print missing as examples occasionally
During 1983 the mould was transferred to Macau where the model was produced unaltered for a year
before the design was changed to one not totally dissimilar, but now with a
Duckhams/Pirelli tampo design.
Colour trials and Pre-production
models only came with gloss black bases, but can also be found with amber windows. Curiously some models with
this design and clear windows are missing the name Pirelli. In 1986 the body was changed to a burgundy colour,
now with minimal tampo print in the form of Audi and the four ring insignia in white to the sides. This was
a very good look for this classic model, which could now also be found with the 8 dot design wheels.
In January 1986 BP planning big UK promotion for 1987
whereby tokens could be collected to exchange for Matchbox models.
There were to be 12 cars which were to be exclusively recoloured.
However, BP pulled out last minute as they wanted the promotion to
be specifically British and when they realised that Matchbox toys
were no longer manufactured in the UK and were now foreign owned
they decided instead to give the business to UK based company,
though all 12 production samples had been approved by BP.
||Production had started to meet a tight deadline and six had been produced. These were
numbers 3, 39, 25, 43, 37 & 55. At that time six had not been released. These were numbers 11, 48, 15, 56, 33 & 70.
Thus the Audi, as one of these 12 models selected for the promotion,
was produced in blue with the original side tampo, with the 8 dot
wheel, and with either clear or amber windows. The blue Audi had
been designed with a BP emblem on the bonnet.
|Once BP pulled out, the decision was taken to
overprint the BP emblem with the Audi name in a red oval, large
enough to obscure the print underneath, and ship these models to the
USA. This seemed a far more sensible option than scrapping the blue
Audi altogether. The other five other models which had started to be
produced for the aborted BP promotion were also subject to
over-printing. Five models were sent to US and but interestingly the
BMW was sent to Europe.
Production of the Audi then moved to China where the burgundy model was produced, with
5 arch wheels, but in a darker shade than the Macau issue and is often described as
plum. Finally in 1989 the colour was altered to a medium grey
colour, with a similar but larger tampo design than before and the 5
arch wheels. This was yet another attractive colour choice. Yet
despite this, out of nowhere in 1990 the Audi simply vanishes, being
replaced by the old #41 Ambulance, re-released at #25 in white with
orange tampo print. However the Audi was also released as one of the
exclusive China issues in the yellow window boxes, again in the rare
blue colour and with 5 arch wheels.
|But now with Chinese lettering to the sides, and this issue is
not easy to find.
Several versions of this model can be found
as a Brazilian issue, initially with the 8 dot wheel, later with the
very unattractive 4 arch wheel which appear only to have ever been
fitted to later Brazilian issues.
The Matra Rancho was a rest of the world
issue as it was not a well known vehicle in the USA. Certainly in
the UK the real vehicle was quite popular in the early 1980s but
this popularity appeared very short lived as the real vehicle
suffered from several mechanical problems.
||A well known pre-production model is in a very attractive red
with a grey metal base.
This red model was considered for release
but in the end a blue version was chosen instead.
The Lesney issue was released in medium blue which included the
metal base, and the shade can vary to a turquoise colour.
|The interior was black, and like the Ferrari 308GTB
the year before, this interior extended outward to form a black
stripe around the body, although in this case it was a far wider
|The glass was clear and models were fitted with narrow 5 arch
wheels. A short run were made with dot dash wheels and these look
just as suitable on this miniature. This was, like the Cougar
Villager and Renault 5 before it, a model fitted with a plastic
tailgate moulded in the same colour as the body.
By 1983 the
body colour was changed by Matchbox International, however this was
one of the models chosen to continue to be manufactured in England
until 1985, and thus retained the “Lesney” base.
|The model was now all over yellow including the
tailgate, with narrow 5 arch wheels. Very rare examples are plain
yellow, but the vast majority have a red stripe along the sides just
above the black plastic stripe. On pre-production examples this red
stripe is much thicker, as per the 1983 catalogue.
| Another well known pre-production model is in
a very attractive red with a grey metal base. The production model
remained yellow into 1984, but the wheels fitted, whilst still of
the 5 arch variety, were now wide and could be found with the hubs
chromed as standard or in very rare gold!
deleted during 1985 in favour of the Ford Escort Cabriolet, the
Matra had been introduced into the Two Pack range in 1984.
This model was in dark blue with matching tailgate,
but had a white metal base, and a yellow Surf Rescue tampo to
the bonnet and roof, white side stripes, and narrow or wide 5 arch
wheels. This model could also be found fitted with a black plastic tailgate, and also with a yellow metal base!
||A hard to find variation was made in relatively small numbers in
the dark blue shade, with the white base, blue tailgate, wide 5 arch
wheels, and the white stripe to the sides, but missing the yellow
Surf Rescue tampo.
Another interesting Two Pack variant
comes in the original medium blue, with a yellow painted base and
yellow tailgate, and wide 5 arch wheels.
On closer inspection
however, it appears these are in fact yellow bodies over-sprayed
| medium blue, or it may be that the
undercoat is glaring through due to a poor quality blue top coat, but either way such examples are relatively easy to
locate. This version can also be found with a black metal base, blue tailgate and wide 5 arch wheels. Due to
the various parts used to make up this model, it is quite likely that there are other permutations to be found in
addition to those noted above.
By 1986 the moulds had been shipped to Macau, where Two Pack model continued to be produced. All the Matra
TP issues came with a plastic inflatable dinghy made specifically for this Two Pack, and again they come in a
number of colours and with varying tampo print. The trailer however was the old faithful used to transport
the #24 Team Matchbox and #5 Seafire in previous Two Pack sets. The Macau produced Matra Rancho models
were now only available with narrow 5 arch wheels. The first was in black with a white base and black
hatch, still using the Surf Rescue tampo, the next, released in 1987 and shown again in 1988,
was in bright orange, with a black base, orange tailgate, and Surf 2 side tampo. It was then
released in neon yellow, with a yellow base and neon yellow tailgate, now with a
Marine Rescue tampo. This yellow
model was not found in a Two Pack, but in an Emergency Pack, which does not seem to appear in any catalogue.
However in 1992 the Matra was produced again, now in China, as part of the
Graffic Traffic range of plain white models
including a white base, interior and tailgate, and for the only time, amber windows. Finally came a China released multi
pack issue with the Marine Rescue tampo, but in blue, with a yellow base and blue tailgate. The mould was also
made available to Bulgaria who wasted no time in producing a dazzling array of different coloured variants!
The Pontiac SE is illustrated in the 1982
catalogue in blue, with a beige or perhaps gold metal base. In fact
the picture box has the same colour bodywork, indicating that the
decision not to release it in blue must have come quite late.
||As 1982 picture boxes were the last made before blue
window boxes took over, (upsetting just about every collector in the
world whilst pleasing shopkeepers) the picture box was never updated
to show the actual release colours of bright red with a silver
painted metal base.
The wheels were 5 arch, the interior
beige, and the windows clear. However it could also be found with
amber windows, or with a lemon yellow interior which could be found
with either type of window. The yellow interiors are the rarer
variant. An extremely rare piece is that with dot dash wheels. The
two red pre-production models must have been successfully chosen as
the issued colour though the shades are different.
two red pre-production models
|By 1983 the mould had been transferred to Macau for future production, and white tampo print was
added: Firebird with a stripe to the sides, and an eagle to the bonnet, very similar in fact to the
#16 Pontiac. The base was now the pearly silver shade peculiar to Macau production and only clear windows and
tan interiors were used.
In 1984 the colour changed to black, with the same tampo design
but now in white and red. An interesting variation can be found with gold hubs, and another variant
is that with opaque white windows.
|In 1987 Superfast Lasers were introduced, and the Pontiac in blue with blue windows and a white
base was included in the range. These Laser models had solid iridescent chrome hubs.
|In 1988 Matchbox introduced Super Colour Changers, and again the Pontiac was chosen for inclusion in the range.
It came purple and sky blue with a red interior, still maintaining the same Firebird and eagle tampo print.
Also during 1988 Matchbox acquired the Dinky name, and in order not to lose the rights to this trademark, they released some miniatures with the name Dinky tampo printed in white to the base, on red Dinky blister cards.
|Again the Pontiac was one of the six models chosen for inclusion, in powder blue, with the red interior, and a multicolour striped pattern.
This model reverted back to 5 arch wheels. However in the
USA 24 models were introduced as new Superfast models, with
this name having been absent from model bases commencing in 1981.
They were given a starburst design of wheel and which had
very defined edges rather than smooth rounded edges like a real
tyre, and therefore were a not very flattering addition to the
|The body was again blue, with blue windows, a white interior and
a multicolour striped pattern. The same starburst wheels were also
used on a set of three models called Haley’s Comet and yet
again the Pontiac was included as one of this trio. The model came
in black with a black base and grey interior, with “Haley’s Comet”
tampo print to the bonnet and sides.
|This would have been a very attractive piece if not
for the unfortunate choice of wheels. In 1987 the Maaco Paint
Company in USA had 20,000 red Firebird produced as a promotional.
| However, the logo was complicated in design and the logo
was impossible to apply with painting techniques and labels were not
satisfactory and so clear vinyl labels were used instead.
As there was no desire for a surround as with paper labels, the clear
vinyl labels were used instead, although they did not always sit flush with the body and are often slightly raised
or found with small air pockets underneath, which explains why vinyl labels were never used as a rule by Matchbox.
models were given away in US to anyone asking for an estimate for body repairs or paint jobs. (Anyone who
has driven through NY or LA would know these Matchbox cars would disappear quickly!!).
This casting in the miniatures range had been replaced by the Ford Ltd Police Car during 1987, where just prior to deletion
the base was altered to be made in dark grey plastic instead of metal, naturally for cost reasons. However it continued to be
manufactured in so many different guises, that it was still being made when production shifted to China. Here it was produced
for multipacks, in black with a red interior and Firebird tampo, but now with dot dash or starburst wheels.
Finally it was released in the Knight Rider guise that this Pontiac was so famous for, especially back in 1982 when
it was first released, and the well known and highly popular TV series was at its zenith. At that time the licence was too
expensive, but now as one of the Star Car range in 1998 it was affordable by Mattel, who had only recently acquired
Matchbox. Made in black (of course) the model had a tan interior, black plastic base, 8 dot wheels for the
first and only time, and Knight Rider tampo print.
|Pre-production examples of the Fiat came in a very dark brown colour with a black or red interior, and whilst the brown
colour was quickly dismissed, it appears at first that the black interior was chosen to be used, as a larger quantity
than would be required for pre-production models were produced, and thus ended up in a small number of white production
This is a desirable variation.
The Fiat Abarth was a model released with a black (or occasionally dark
grey) plastic base from the start, although this base could only be seen from the front forming the lights and grille, as this
casting had a very deep skirt all round the metal body.
Produced in white with clear windows, 5 arch wheels and a red interior,
the model featured red and orange tampo stripes and Matchbox in black, as well as chromed front lights and FIAT on the
grille. Very rarely this chrome was left off so that the front was plain black.
|Even more unusual are models with the Matchbox
name omitted from the sides.
The red tampo print could vary in
shade and was sometimes very dark.
|Another rare piece, with the red interior, is one with a plain
white body. At the end of 1983 production moved to Macau, and the model was sometimes fitted with amber windows
instead of the clear variety. In 1984 the design on the white body was changed to a red and green
Al Italia livery
which was an attractive look. This also came with clear or amber windows and a black or dark grey plastic base. However by
1986 Matchbox seemed, rather strangely, to have run out of ideas, and the model was deleted in favour of the Toyota MR2.
|The mould was shipped to Brazil where the model was
fitted with 8 spoke wheels and also those 4 spoke wheels exclusive
to Brazil, although one model was released in blue rather than
standard white, which made for a welcome change.
|These later Brazilian releases normally featured in 4 packs
rather than as single releases.
Bulgaria were also given the
rights to produce this model.
Despite it not having any
opening parts as Bulgaria had stipulated, yet despite this as usual
they made the most of the time they were allowed to manufacture this
model, with many different colour bodies being made available.
|The Fiat marked the end of an era, as the last ever
passenger car originally released with the Lesney name.
This the final report involving the history of Matchbox and I would like to take the opportunity to thank
Graham Tomlinson for his major contribution.