MATCHBOX 1964 to 1966: EXPANSION YEARS
For this entry, I will present a nice bundle of Matchbox cars made in the year 1965, plus the Lincoln Continental that was released at the end of 1964.
This years are important in the Matchbox history, because at this point, Matchbox was selling more than half of their production outside the United Kingdom: mostly in the United States, and also in Europe. This fact was observed by Matchbox, and then, they decided to manufacture the first American cars in the 1-75 series ever. The new approach would bring slightly bigger toys, plastic interiors and plastic windows. By 1968, the whole 75 references had been replaced.
The politics of reproducing foreign cars was a great success, and by 1965, the company was producing over 2 million cars per week, and employing more than 3000 people. It is very interesting to note, that this year, Matchbox started working with more than one cast for each model. Each cast has a lifespan of around 5 million units, and that wasn’t enough, so it is not rare to find some cast variants in several 1-75 models.
In 1966, nothing changed much, each time more and more foreign vehicles, replaced the older references… up to 20 references this year. A nice model from this year was the Greyhound Bus, the first American bus model in the British die-cast company. Although most of these new 20 were American models, there were also new British (MG 1100) and German models (Opel Diplomat, Mercedes-Benz 230SL)
Nr. 20: Chevrolet Impala taxi was one of the very few models including the driver in the plastic interiors of the car.
Nr. 30: 8-Wheel Crane is an undetermined truck model, which replaced in 1965 a similar Magirus-Deutz crane. It was discontinued in 1970, so there are versions with superfast wheels too.
Nr. 31: The Lincoln Continental was probably one of the most beautiful models from that year (1964). The real model, however became famous for the assassination of the U.S. President J. F. Kennedy. Early Matchbox models were released in dark metallic blue, since they were planned before that tragedy. Later models were released in a turquoise (see pictures above), that were much different to the presidential car. This model survived a few years, and in 1970 it was released with superfast wheels in metallic gold color.
Nr. 54: The Cadillac S&S Ambulance was the first American Ambulance released by Matchbox. In the 1-75 catalogue, coexisted with a Bedford ambulance, that sold better in Europe.
Nr. 56: The Fiat 1500 is a extremely nice model, a sample of the first foreign (not-american) cars ever made: this model plus a Ferrari Berlinetta, both Italian.
Nr. 68: The Mercedes Coach appeared relatively late. The real bus (O 319) was in production between 1955 to 1965 approximately. The bus however looks great (and looked modern in 1965) with all those windows. The lower body is die-cast metal, while the upper body is made of plastic.
Most information for this article has been taken from the chapter 5 of the book “Matchbox Cars: the first 50 years” by Mac Ragan. Although the book is out of print now, this chapter can be read for free in Google Books.
To finish, I’d like to recommend the following website, which is the only one that clearly indicates the years of release and discontinuation of the Matchbox 1-75 series, as well as many interesting catalogues (British, American and German editions) for free: http://www.hgm-matchbox.de/default.htm
FACTS AND FIGURES:
- Name: CHEVROLET IMPALA TAXI, 8-WHEEL CRANE, LINCOLN CONTINENTAL, CADILLAC S&S AMBULANCE, FIAT 1500 and MERCEDES COACH (Ref. 20C, 30C, 31C, 54B, 56B, 68B)
- Scale: 1:64, 1:100 the Bus and the 8-wheeled truck (approx.)
- Year: 1964 (Lincoln) and 1965 (rest)
- Company: Matchbox-Lesney (United Kingdom)
- Size: 6 to 7 cm (approx.)