Posted in Matchbox

Matchbox Land Rover 5-Pack

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All I have to say is: It is about time!

It must be almost a year since I remember telling Mr. Dino – seeing the latest online claim by that Lamley guy – that Mattel was bringing out an homage to the humble Land Rover with a Matchbox exclusive.

Well, can you imagine my face, when there was no mention of when it would be coming to the UK?

This is a serious problem folks.

Matchbox is the epitome of the diecast car. It was Leslie and Rodney Smith (not related, I don’t believe) and John Odell that brought this fantastic joy to millions. It was a UK based company that revolutionised toys.

Land Rover, on the other hand,ย is a car manufacturer that represents everything British. It represents shoddy build quality, horrific reliability, atrociously overpriced products. It also represents more personality than pretty much anything on the road. More presence than a looming Caliphate army on the borders of Christendom. And the Land Rover is more loveable than a puppy crawling into a box of baby ducks.

Matchbox and Land Rover are British icons. They’re symbols of everything we can be proud of.

So why has it taken so long for me to find this set of cars?

Mattel does an excellent job when they put their mind to it. But Matchbox design and distribution has fallen from its pedestal, it has to be said.

Hot Wheels had the monopoly on the wacky garbage truck franchise, so why have they made Matchbox compete with it?

Matchbox cars have almost exclusively been accurate representations over the years, with the odd modified Mercury or Mustang. When Mattel sticks to their heritage and produces accurate diecast models, they look superb. I mean, just look at the VW Karmann Ghia, the Mack fire trucks, Land Cruiser, police cars, and now these Land Rovers. It’s hard to imagine these models wouldn’t shift in such a toy-crazed country like the UK – which happens to be the largest toy market in Europe.

It’s not just that the Matchbox pegs at Poundland, Asda and WHSmith are clogged with nothing but construction and farm vehicles, either. The ones at poundland are months, even years out of date, and the cars at the other stores are often low in number and variety. All the ones I have found I have loved, but I just wish there were more. What about those twenty-packs, with the VW Beetle, Toyota Land Cruiser, and Lamborghini Miura. I can’t ever recall seeing them in stores. Then again, I wasn’t looking so hard as I am now.

Mattel need to up their game with this brand, if only for the sake of those of us who played with the Lesney era products. I’ve seen some amazing new models appearing, including the Chevy Brookwood wagon and Hudson Hornet police car, Toyota Tacoma and Ford Panel delivery van. And if that black bonnet, lime green Mini (that looks suspiciously like the one used in one of Britain’s most famous comedy shows) doesn’t appear in the stores soon, I am going to blow a gasket. Seriously – the thought a Matchbox Mr. Bean Mini Cooper wouldn’t appear in Britain?? Scandalous!

I’ve had my rant, I just hope Mattel start to listen. I shouldn’t have to rely on a subsidiary of a major American supermarket to get one of Britain’s most beloved toys. It should be everywhere. I shouldn’t be able to stop seeing them. My childhood, like my mother’s, was made great by my love of these toy cars. I’m scared my own children are going to lose touch with them if they keep disappearing.

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Left to right: The new Land Rover 110, which replaces the previous casting in favour of a lower profile and a higher ride height, and some modifications to the plastic roof. The Freelander isn’t a new casting, nor is the Land Rover 90, but the 90 has endured some changes, not necessarily for the better. The Discovery is my second, with the other being a National Parks livery, and the Land Rover SVX is a new casting for me – a special edition version of the iconic new Defender. The round logo indicates it’s not new.
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It is great to see decals on the front and rear of some of the cars. I always felt it made them look so much more realistic.
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I am absolutely in love with the Battenburg markings and the silver paint. These cars were a common sight in the 1990s and 2000s, since I grew up in the British countryside.
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The 90 is a re-used casting with some cost cutting applied. I still love it, but I do miss the working suspension.
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All the same car, more or less, with different scales. Not sure which is my favourite size. I like the middle most in that regard.
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I’m not sure how old the Freelander tooling is, but it looks fairly modern with its plastic headlights. I never had one of the earlier castings, so I can’t compare.

I will eventually be writing features on the cars individually. So stay tuned. And thanks for reading!

 

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Author:

Graphic designer, writer for Classic American auto magazine, journalist.

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