In 2010 I visited New York and experienced for the first time the madness and extravagance of a true American city. And if someone was to ask me how I would sum up New York, I’d find it pretty difficult, because there’s just so much diversity there – what one thing can be used to generalise it? But just recently I discovered this Matchbox model, and now I know exactly which car I’d attach to the place – and no, it’s not the yellow cab!
Ten years ago I’d have gone with the view that a curbside food-truck was a “roach coach”. I picture it parked by a construction site, or in the rough side of town, serving tacos and greasy hot dogs to folks who perhaps couldn’t afford a table and chair indoors. Now, cities like NY and LA are swarming with post-recession food trucks, all pottering around and searching for a purpose, driven by laid-off chefs and seeking other venues than building sites.
The colourful array of food trucks, with their ethnic cuisine and niche gourmet dishes, is complemented by a colourful history stretching back to the 18th Century, when covered wagons were first used to serve food on-the-go.
I love them, because they represent everything that is diverse about life and the food industry. It’s also great to see the resourcefulness of the people who use them to launch careers into the food industry. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of a burger van at a country fair (apart from vegetarians)?
When it comes to my own city, there isn’t much in the way of food trucks, but there is one of those Citroën HY vans near the train station, serving pastries and such.
2014 Matchbox “Food Truck”
As far as I am aware, there are not too many collectors who would be too interested in this Food Truck, but I want to offer my rebuttal to those with strong negative opinions about it.
I know I’ve added to the dialogue on Matchbox casting choices, which normally follows the rhetoric of “plastic is bad, die-cast is good. Original is bad, licensed is good,” and so on, and so forth.
However! There are exceptions to every rule. Certainly, those nay-sayers should be a little more grateful to the Food Truck for taking a hit for the team when it comes to sacrificing its die-castiness. I bet they’d be a little more cross if the latest iteration of the ’55 Ford Delivery Truck was all plastic instead of an unlicensed casting, or if more licensed models had sacrificed interior pieces.
I’ll be perfectly honest. The first few liveries did not appeal to me. Not that I even think I saw them – this Sushi truck has been sitting on the pegs for over a year, and I only now picked it up. (They might shift faster if the store stopped pricing the damn things at £1.99 – £2.50 for an all-plastic car? Absurd and downright appalling, considering the precious $1 price tag by which North America must abide. I think the English are masochists when it comes to being ripped off.
Well according to the Matchbox Wiki, this is the third iteration of the Food Truck, MB889, and the first to have its casting modified from the original. “fun-fun! sushi”, the side reads. Namely, the food shelves on the side of the van are now part of the exterior, rather than being part of the interior. I think this is good, as the previous models had an anarchic miscellany of colours, and this needed rectifying. It looks a little more restrained now.
I’m actually disappointed at all the criticism leveled at this casting. First, it’s based off the original die-cast Express Delivery (now also in plastic body with metal base), which, whether people say so or not, is still cool in my eyes. Thing is, even though they aren’t licensed, these two models are what Matchbox is still about – realism. Food trucks have exploded across America, and those bizarre UPS delivery trucks are almost universally recognised.
Okay, okay, you’re saying “hold on, Jas.. I’ve never seen a food truck with green rims and all-terrain tyres”. Okay, you have me there. But I think it looks appropriate. It differentiates it enough from the Express Delivery so as not to risk replacing it, and it makes the van look really CUTE.
Anyway, take a look back at 1959, when the Lesney Mobile Refreshments Bar was unveiled. Was that an official licensed casting? I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest so. Matchbox has moved with the times, and apart from its exaggeration (which I think is fun) what really makes this contemporary offering so different to the mobile canteen of yore?
So let’s take a look at the canvas from which this model was born. My copy of the Express Delivery is the 15th livery, the 2016 “Elite ROBO MECHANICS“, and comes in the now closed-doors version MB813 that came about in 2011.
Take a look at these side profiles, and tell me they’re not related.
There are plenty of differences, with some being more obvious than others. Primarily, we notice the different wheels. The Express Delivery used a very grown up wheel arrangement of black hubs and gold rims (rd-bkgdbk) while the Food Truck has gone for crazy cog wheels, ringed gear and green hubs (rg-bkmg). I’ve considered doing a wheel swap on the Food Truck to make it more road-friendly.
We also notice the larger, flared wheel arches on the Food Truck, the wilder “mohawk” style skylight, front bull bar, additional roof lights at the front and back, and a rearranged rear light cluster.
A lot of people have taken issue with the bull bars at the front of the Food Truck. Personally, I don’t mind them all that much, because the front of the Express Delivery doesn’t look particularly inspiring. Yes, they cover up the lights and indicators, which seems a bit strange, but there looks to be some fog lights on the face lifted bumper just in case.
Looking at the front, we also notice the windshield wipers are attached at the top on the Food Truck, as opposed to the bottom.
The reworked rear on the Food Truck is markedly less interesting than on the Express Delivery. I only noticed recently that the hatch opens:
Isn’t that cool? I’ve had this model for months not realising it did that! The rear door is part of the interior piece. As far as I can tell, there is no hinge. When it is opened, you are bending the plastic, in a similar fashion to the Hot Wheels® Time Attaxi. It does clip back and forth, but I can imagine after a long period of time the plastic would become distressed and potentially break. It’s a nice feature that adds play value though!
The Express Delivery Skylight is cool. Upon opening the truck rear, you can take a look at the interior, which is well lit thanks to the ceiling skylight (I’m sure Mattel also appreciate the extra plastic). The Food Truck has a shark-fin skylight indicative of the ventilation hatches used on real Food Trucks, which is really great attention to detail on the design team’s part.
The Food truck features a revised interior piece, with food preparation areas, cabinets and what appear to be fryers – I couldn’t get a great shot of it though.
The truck is still a cluster of colours – two shades of blue, green, yellow, white, red, black… but it all looks charming, and as we saw from the food truck at the top of the page, these vehicles are meant to look wacky and vibrant.
Slogans to be found around this livery include We Cater, “This is how we roll!” (nice pun there) “Voted #1 Sushi Truck!” and a nice little addition, a license number: “Lic. 071569” .
The menus are not visible to the naked eye. Maybe if you had a microscope, they’d reveal something?
Something that did not initially occur to me, but which no doubt many people who drive on the right side of the road did – is that the food shelves are on the driver’s side. Strange for some, but not a big issue for me. I suppose they wanted the most exciting side to face out of the blister, like some have said.
I know there will be lots of people who disagree with me on this one. After all, we can’t possibly like everything. But I like original models, when done properly. People act like Matchbox never did originals in their past, but they did. Look how many construction vehicles were produced in the Lesney era, too. Times have simply moved on, and these are toys primarily. Frankly, this is the least worrisome “original” casting ever produced. Matchbox cars are here to educate, and the Food Truck is doing that – with its fun and diverse liveries, children can learn about lots of different foods. They can identify with it in certain regions, because they’ll see trucks like this out on the streets of the cities they visit.
Yes, it would have been nice as a die-cast metal truck. But to call this a heap of plastic rubbish is just unfair. It’s fun, it’s cute, and despite its exaggerations, it’s realistic – so it’s time we were all less beastly to the Food Truck. Truly, my only complaint is the price… but $2.50 for Matchbox cars seems to be a problem restricted only to the place that invented them.
Thanks for reading!