With the Lamley Group indulging in “TLV Week” recently, the masters of Japanese scale diecast have enjoyed plenty of exposure and discussion amongst collectors. Before I get onto the latest Tomicarama (which you can pre-order here at Ami Ami or here from Japan Booster) indulge me as I editorialise about my favourite premium diecast brand.
I’m not one to follow hype, which is why I can safely claim it’s pure coincidence that I only recently made my first TLV purchases. I had been like a lot of collectors; reluctant to dive into a model brand which commanded prices regularly in excess of $20 per car, yet repeatedly drawn back to scale replicas apparently made using a shrink ray.
With enough forlorn yearning, though, and nudged by some quality photography by Instagram collectors, I finally dedicated my budget to accommodate Tomica Limited Vintage. (TLV) How does one justify it? Well, you have to hold them in your hand to truly appreciate the old adage – “quality is better than quantity”.
Anyone who has studied Tomica Limited Vintage in any depth will know there is now a legendary narrative surrounding the way they approach diecast models. There is sometimes a little confusion about the Tomica range and its hierarchical structure. Tomica Limited Vintage is, as one soon discovers, quite the departure from standard Tomica – the company’s child-oriented range of toy cars. Sitting between them and TLV are Tomica Limited, which are standard Tomica models with added details. Then there are Tomica Premium models, which would satisfy most collectors with their superior attention to detail.
Finally, there’s Tomica Limited Vintage, which perches itself firmly atop the Tomica ladder, producing the company’s most exhaustively detailed models possible. It is not only the attention to detail that is remarkable, but their commitment to scale accuracy. All TLV models are 1:64, owing in part to the legend that no car will be made unless the design team can wheel the lifesize counterpart into their studio to be measured (no, apparently, they won’t work from blueprints).
To counter any scurrilous claims that I might be shilling for Takara-Tomy, it is also worth noting they are not the only Japanese diecast maker showing the West how it should be done. Kyosho make remarkably detailed models (including fender mirrors) and unlikely contender Konami has made some delightful models – one of my favourites being their Toyota Starlet.
After watching some retro Japanese commercials for the Nissan Cedric, and seeing a video by YouTuber Warm Tires, I could finally resist no more. Within a week I had two TLV models – the Nissan Cedric and the Mitsubishi Galant seen above. Upon showing them to colleagues and friends, I was met with such reactions as “It’s like they used a shrink ray!” and “If you sized it up, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference with the real thing.” I would hate to disagree. All Tomica Limited Vintage cars come packaged in their own box, rather than a blister, adding to their collector quality and reminiscent of the good old “Matchbox” days.
It wasn’t long before I’d ordered my second, then third set from Japan Booster (the combined postage makes it one of the best sites to order them). While TLV focuses primarily on Japanese classics (and Tomica Limited Vintage Neo focusing on newer classics) they’ve also delved into European marques with the likes of Fiat, BMW, Lancia, Volkswagen, and Alfa Romeo. Tomica’s recent acquisition of the Ferrari license has had some collectors excited for the unlikely prospect of a TLV Ferrari, too.
Now, it’s worth noting that TLV does not produce only cars. In a similar fashion to Greenlight’s recent Mechanic’s Corner series (no doubt inspired by the popularity of the following) Tomica Limited Vintage produce what they call “Tomicaramas” (a portmanteau of Tomica and diorama, of course). Sadly, these adult playsets have been on the back burner for a while, so aftermarket prices have been a little out of hand…
But that is all about to end, with the September release of Tomica Limited Vintage. I have no doubt that the old sets – in particular the Bayside Motors Tomicarama – will continue to swell in value as they are displaced by newer models, but the latest release is particularly interesting for to me, and the moment I saw it, I had no hesitation about pre-ordering.
Vava over in Serbia was incredulous about me ordering a plastic diorama kit when I had demonstrated skill in making my own. “I think its always better to create your own diorama. Yes, you spend time and material but you can create whatever you want,” he said.
I agree to an extent, and that is the beneficial side of having the patience the create dioramas, such as my recent “Funabashi Motors” model.
However, followers of the blog will also note how much I adore the vintage BP service station by Matchbox, which I acquired back in 2017. That has a charm that cannot be replicated by any hand-built diorama, because it carries us back to England circa 1963 – nothing can replicate that. It’s a strange and different era. Any attempt would be recognised as a mere imitation. The box even has 10/6 scratched onto it by a shopkeeper’s pencil. “That would have definitely been a Christmas present for anyone lucky enough to get it,” says Lesley, a friend of mine who was around to remember those days.
As soon as I saw the blue and yellow Accelerator 426 Tomicarama, I got the exact same sensations upon seeing it as I did when I saw the BP station by Matchbox. It’s a snapshot of a time and place, and with it being Tomica, it’s a statement of quality – just as Matchbox was a standard of quality back in 1963. Without that benchmark, we might never have seen Hot Wheels, or Tomica, or any of the other 1:64 scale brands that exist today. So I had to have it. But why did the Accelerator 426 diorama entice me so much, while the Bayside Motors diorama hadn’t?
Here’s the promotional poster for the Tomicarama, sourced from HobbySearch:
Since this is at least the third (perhaps fourth) iteration of this exact playset, it’s often easy to assume it’s a simple recolour. But the name “Accelerator 426” seemed far too peculiar for this to be the case, and knowing TLV, I had my suspicions there was a story behind it. With a little digging, I discovered the website of Axel 426. I dumped myself onto street level on Google Maps with the address, and checked it out.
Accelerator 426 is a rather interesting auto dealership comprising a blue and yellow building (uncannily similar to the recreation by TLV) located at a cross-road in a relatively modest part of the Aichi Prefecture, with narrow streets and low urban sprawl. The cars on display are what sets it apart from the surroundings, there being an eccentric mix of classic cars in the two lots occupying opposing sides of the street. Their recent advertisements include, for example, plenty of classic American muscle and hot rod fodder, retro Japanese street cars, and even European thoroughbreds like a Jaguar E-Type and a Mercedes Benz saloon. That will certainly please any collectors who are sticklers for accuracy – here’s a Japanese diorama that won’t clash with the American diecast brands!
With this in mind, it leads me to believe that TLV won’t have only just started this trend. I’m sure that their previous Tomicaramas must have been inspired by real life garages. That’s why I believe that what I said about the BP garage in relation to this model holds true. This Tomicarama will be worth a great deal in the future, just as the others have done – not just monetarily, but as a means of capturing a moment. I have no doubts that Japan will look mostly as it does now within the next hundred years, which is why I might have different views of this playset if I was, in fact, native Japanese. The same couldn’t be said of Britain, though – there have been areas of the country changed beyond recognition. Even BP exists now only in name. But with the Lesney service station, we have a slice of Britain from another time in our hands, much in the same way that owning the Accelerator 426 diorama allows us a slice of Japan we can hold in our hands.
I’ll place it on my coffee table at home, and I’ll know that, just as the BP service station has saturated within it all those memories of 1960s Britain, of a time that is long gone and that will never be replicated – the Tomicarama, with its unique charm and simple design, comes from a place that is far away, unique, and impossible to replicate. And why would you want to anyway? We probably wouldn’t deserve it.
A thread came up on an online forum regarding perspective and photography of diecast cars.
It’s an interesting thing to think about, right? Why do so many people take ugly shots of their cars – just all scattered on a carpet, or in a dark room with grainy light, or on a creepy looking shelf in a basement?
Okay, I’ll stop being mean. A lot of people want to take a quick snapshot to catalogue their collection. But not me – I love my little cars and want to bring them to life in their own little scaled down world. Here’s a few shots from the last year that highlight my style of things.
Hope you enjoyed! And sorry to any of my IG followers who have not had an original photos in this post. Sadly life gets in the way sometimes.
If you’ve checked out the section of my blog where I show off my diorama, you’ll deduce that making displays and layouts for my model cars is one of the most fun parts of collecting!
So far all the buildings I have on my diorama have been my own, made using Adobe Indesign, some card, and a home printer. The reason being I want my layout to be unique, not something you could buy from a store and find in any diorama. This has, I think, given it an individual flare and character you don’t find on many dioramas.
There are exceptions to any rule though, and I now have a branded building to add to my diorama – the 1963 MG1-c Matchbox BP Sales and Service Station. This vintage playset was common in many households in the sixties, and replaced a single story garage
“Matchbox” MG-1 Service Station
I wanted this building for a long time – I discovered it some time last year and have been keeping an eye on the prices of online auction sites. These items retail very high – many of the sellers ask over £200, while even the poor condition ones go for over £100 (one model went for £100+, even though it was missing parts!)
Undeterred, I stayed patient, and eventually came across this example at a total steal. The garage itself is a little bit rough around the edges – the stickers were slightly damaged and there is a piece of the base missing – but the price made it totally worth it, being half of what I expected it to sell for – plus who doesn’t like a bit of character? The sticker issue I soon remedied with a temporary modern “Matchbox” logo, taken from a five-pack.
After winning the auction for the garage I decided I needed the pumps to go with it. It should be noted that originally these garages were sold without the pumps or sign. The pumps and sign came as the accessory pack “A1b” sold separately (you could also buy the G1 gift set, I believe, which included the pumps, sign, garage, and a number of vehicles).
The pumps I bought were very cheap at only a few pounds, and the reproduction parts (lamps and gas attendant) are virtually indistinguishable from the original pieces thanks to identical manufacturing methods. If you buy the garage these pumps are an essential. Unfortunately I have yet to find the diecast metal “BP” sign to go on the forecourt in a condition and price I’m happy with.
The pumps are diecast metal, while the gas attendant and two lamp standards are clearly green plastic. The stickers on the front of the pumps show the BP logo and an old-fashioned clock meter gauge. The lamp standards fit nicely into the metal bases while the gas attendant sits on those metal legs, and he comes off quite easily.
The rear of the pumps show only the BP logos. The pumps sit on a rim on the base of the garage, and for some reason I’ve found they stay better when the pumps face towards the garage and not outward – though it could just be my imagination!
These pumps arrived and had me very excited for the arrival of the rest of the garage. The detail for the time is always something to be admired with the old Lesney products, like the nozzle and hose, and the paving design on the base. Sticker application is sometimes a bit wonky, but these were put together by hand, after all! They are 3¾ inches long by ¾ wide. The total height from base to the top of the lamps is around 1¾ inch.
The main building comprises four pieces. The base, which also includes the ground floor garage and shop, a doorway, and the staircase to the upper floor. The upper floor comprises showroom, the ramp, and the roof signage. The base is 9¼ inches by 6½ inches. The ramp adds 1¼ inch to the back of the garage, which stands 3¼ inches high. The sign at its peak adds just under 1½ inches to the total height of the garage. The lower floor is 7 inches by 3½ inches and just over 1½ inches high, while the upper floor is 6¾ by 3⅛ inches, 1½ inches high. The roof sign uses two tabs to sit into a pair of slots in the top, the ramp clips onto the base and slots into the rear of the building with two tabs also, and the upper showroom is detachable.
These dimensions may come across as small compared to modern day garage playsets. I suppose children were satisfied with more modest toys back in the sixties. The whole thing manages to fit on my mouse pad! But once you get used to the size (this thing, I imagine, will be dwarfed by the Hot Wheels “Ultimate Garage”, but I know which one is more charming and characterful) it’s really a nice display for cars up to 1:64 scale and you can fit a fair number of them on it.
The first thing to note is that, despite the small scale (the garage is listed as OO scale on advertisements) modern Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars do seem to sit quite comfortably on it – two cars, so long as they have quite a narrow track, can fit side-by-side in the forecourt, although it’s a good thing Mattel don’t have opening doors on their cars anymore, since there’s no chance of them opening in this situation…
And if you’re not convinced by that, I managed to fit one of my full loaded Matchbox Majors Guy Warrior car transporters in the forecourt with no problems at all.
Hot Wheels seem to fit in quite nicely with the playset too. I think the bright colours work well with the garage, and since Matchbox and Hot Wheels are pretty much the same size, it probably comes as no surprise that Hot Wheels causes little offence – so long as the designs of the cars aren’t too wacky.
I stuck some Majorette models onto the garage, and they do look incredibly attractive. However Majorettes, old and young, are very bloated in size, so they do begin to make the garage look quite small. Perspective matters a lot here.
Moving on to the different sections of the main building, the first section to observe is the workshop. In here you’ll find space for two vehicles, one of which will be parked on the ramp to the right. Don’t bother trying to get any of your newer cars on here unless they’re Oxford diecast or similar scale… this ramp was designed for early 60s Lesneys. The rest of the workshop can accomodate almost any vehicle, however, and I tend to enjoy parking my Dunlop van in there!
Oh, and don’t forget to grab your BP Dodge wrecker – that’s an essential for this garage.
The little staircase that leads up to the first floor is a nice touch of realism, but the garage starts getting cool next door – 3/4 of the building is dedicated to showing off your awesome cars through showroom floors and those big art-deco windows. The curved plastic means there’s lots of visibility into the showrooms. The first one is on the ground floor and isn’t as great as the upper floors due to the green base; some colours don’t show up well here, and the light doesn’t get in as easily thanks to the ramp at the back giving more shadows. Nonetheless it’s a cosy little place for a couple of cars to sit side-by-side. I don’t know whether this is a dedicated showroom or is meant to be part of the workshop – the garage is a ’30s design and I’m not too familiar with how it would work.
Much more awesome is the upstairs showroom, where you have a bit more creative freedom when it comes to arranging your cars. Bear in mind that there’s a hole in the floor where the staircase comes up! Two cars works really well up here for the minimalist, luxury car look, or if you want to put more on display, you can fit two cars side-by-side on each side of the showroom quite easily.
At this point it’s worth demonstrating how the rear of the showroom looks, with the ramp providing access. It’s a nice layout! But good luck getting anything other than a vintage lesney or a very narrow car up that ramp – it’s only an inch or so wide.
When you fill all three showrooms with vintage Lesneys, they sit comfortably side-by-side without any issue. The garage was designed after them, of course, so it’s to be expected that they’re accommodated with no problem. This makes it a perfect way to display the models.
Having said that, placing your modern Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars in there looks equally as good. The garage feels a little more crowded, but the fact is you can still fit eight cars in this display quite comfortably (nine if you’re not worried about one being hidden behind that central wall) and it makes just as good a display for modern cars as it does for vintage, since the model is so timeless, and the vintage look is so cool.
If you hadn’t already guessed, this garage gets a 10/10 from me. Even in its slightly ratty condition, it doesn’t disappoint, and I think a perfect example would just make me more reluctant to play with it. It’s a fantastic way to display your cars and the vintage factor is beyond cool. It’s also a relic of many childhoods, so you feel an immediate attachment to it for that reason. It’s a must for any serious Matchbox collector, and a great display for any diecast brand that fits. The Art-Deco design is more attractive than nearly every other model garage that comes to mind, too.
I also would imagine it’s totally fun to customise, and I have plans already for how this garage will sit on my diorama. In a few months time I hope it will have a place in the Dinorama, surrounded by palm trees and highways and with some signs outside – I will preserve the garage as it is, of course, making no permanent cosmetic changes, but make it unique and fit in with the rest of my diorama in a way that I can really make it my own. Oh, and I need to get that BP sign!
I have had a rather miserable weekend, thanks to a very painful neck injury. Doing all the housework is less fun when you can’t move your neck, left arm, or bend down, or breathe without there being a nasty grinding pain at the back of your head! Fortunately, the new Best of World series by Matchbox has come to cheer me up. Although, to be honest, I’m a bit nervous…
I never collected the first BoTW series, and don’t particularly feel a desperation to have those models in my collection (though they were beautiful models) although I am expecting to have the Lamborghini LM002, Foxbody Mustang and Cadillac at some point from a friend. When I saw the 2017 set revealed, I fell in love. It was an excellent choice of castings. I hope it is a reflection of Matchbox’s future. I also love the boxes, very much. The retro feeling is worth as much as the cars.
I also hope you enjoy the photos in this feature review as much as I enjoyed taking them! Here is a set that any true Matchbox collector needs to have, and I can’t wait for the third BoTW series, which is supposedly coming this Autumn. This Spring’s set contained the Range Rover Sport, Lamborghini Miura P400s, Mercedes-Benz CLS 500, Volkswagen T2 Bus, BMW M5 Police, and the Porsche 911 GT3.
1968 Lamborghini Miura P400S. Groovy!
No teasers here, and no suspense – this is what most people will have been looking forward to. The Lamborghini Miura is one of Mattel’s best offerings, being both an homage to and improvement on the original Lesney Lamborghini Miura.
It is probably what most people know designer Ryu Asada for. My other favourite of his would be the Hot Wheels Fiat 500 – super cute! And what a great job he did with this one – it captures the story perfectly… the marque that was created because a Ferrari just wasn’t good enough!
And, yes… while the Lesney Matchbox Lamborghini Miura is great, and I love it, Ryu Asada’s design manages to capture the car perfectly. The stance is low, the lower portion of the grille is the right shape, and the two-tone side rocker panels are enforced. Other than that, the shape is overall better – a natural consequence of modern tools, of course. There is little to say, since the photos speak for themselves.
The colour of this car is certainly something to behold, and reminds me something of the Yakuza “Miara”, the parody of the Miura, that appeared in the GTA2 game a long time ago. The blue is gorgeous and adds another to the “Beautiful in Blue” theme I was inspired to start from the return of the Ford Panel Delivery truck. What is better, is that it is offset by stunning gold trim, and especially those gold lace wheels. I learned that to counter the complaints of last year’s BoTW series regarding the chunky off-road tyres, Matchbox has this time used Real Riders from their sister division, Hot Wheels. It works. But is it reason for concern? Hmm, maybe I will wait until I review the Porsche to decide.
The front and back tampo application looks beautiful on the Matchbox Miura, however, I would have preferred if they had made the license plate a more contrasting background colour, such as yellow or white. Oh well. The car branding looks great though, and even the rather simple rear light tampos work well. The hips of the car reflect the light superbly. Plastic works well at times, for example here, where it was used to make more accurate exhausts. The blue doesn’t exactly match up, but that is a non-issue for me.
Naturally I had to take some photos with the last release of the Lamborghini Miura, the gold/grey 5-pack release. Both are stunning, but I think I’d drive the blue one.
I hope to see a very long and successful run of this casting. It is simply too gorgeous for us not to have it!
2005 Land Rover Range Rover Sport – Quite!
I say! I don’t think Her Majesty the Queen would deign to drive the Range Rover Sport, but she might have to take a second glance at this one before coming to that conclusion. The Range Rover Sport has had a long and successful run in the Mattelbox line since its 2006 debut, and goodness me, isn’t it nice to see it again after a dreary few years? Olive green wouldn’t have been my first choice, but… I guess it works.
Have you been attentive? No? Well, that’s okay. I only have two other versions of the Range Rover Sport in my collection, both very recent too. Since I wasn’t collecting around the time they came out, the only place I can really get the casting is eBay, and my gosh, the prices for these in their blister is immense. I’ve snatched up the other two I have for quite a reasonable price. I think the yellow one looks great. I’ll also grab the orange Superfast release, if I ever see it, or can work out a trade – which is highly unlikely.
This Range Rover will enter as one of my favourites though. The colour is growing on me by the minute. It pops. I think the tail light tampos are kind of weird, because they’re missing their silver bits (it all went on the roof, for some reason – I think they already used too many colours with the black license plate and details).
However, looking at the back of the car, everything else is there – the Range Rover logos and branding and the license plate looks sharp. I get the BestOTW thing, but realistic license plates, like the ones on the Porsche and the Volkswagen, look better.
I know not everybody came to like this casting. I don’t know why. Some said its shape was a little “off”. But I disagree. I think, apart from the coloured roof pillars, it looks very accurate to the real cars (and I see so many of them, I ought to know!). Also, having coloured roof pillars isn’t a big deal, as the people who drive the RR Sport are the kind of people who would have them the same colour as the car. I once had a landlord who had chrome roof pillars…
Also, check out those wheels! Super awesome! Black 6-spokes with off-road tread make this Chelsea Tractor look like a mountaineer’s dream ride. Also, the little splash of green helps to break them up, which is a cool feature.
I wasn’t so keen on the Matchbox logo on the rear panel of the car at first, but, I don’t mind it now. I just wouldn’t expect it on a real car is all. I like the fact they coloured in the side vents though – but why not remove the Matchbox logo, and colour in the door handles?
The first issue of the Range Rover Sport casting was this gloss black one, with the saw-blade wheels. It was a great colour for the car’s debut. I believe the last version was also a metalflake black.
You’ll notice that the newest model doesn’t have silver on the grille. I think that’s a little disappointing, but the rest of the tampo application is spot on. Also, I think with the colour, adding silver might have made it look very fussy. I noted most of the colourful models in the run didn’t have silver on the grille.
At the rear, the Best of the World model looks better. That’s my opinion. But the colour might be a little controversial on this model. Personally I love it… but I’ve been known to love the unloveable! Which also kind of goes for the Range Rover Evoque, which has been something of a love-hate affair since its release. Thank goodness Matchbox have also got that one out, to further encourage more Range Rovers. I hope they get to do the LR3 or LR4… that one would make a great Matchbox car.
BMW M5 Police. Gerechtigkeit!
This one is a relatively new casting, having been released in 2015 in Polizei livery. Who on earth in their right mind could complain about a BMW M car being released? Not me. Just look at the BMW 1M M series 1 M1. That little car is adorable! There is no Matchbox BMW M3, just a 3 series coupe from a long time ago. Hot Wheels have the lovely M4, but they just can’t seem to get the tampos spot-on with that one. And now we have an M5… in police livery! What! Well, I wasn’t too crazy about it, actually, because we all know it debuted in Polizei livery, and lacked front and rear lights. That was a turn off. However the livery was otherwise cool.
But then… BAM! This was just what we needed. A full-tampo version! I hope Matchbox regret making this a dedicated police casting. Look at that front – absolutely gorgeous! The personality of the car is important, and it’s usually in the headlights – Matchbox headlight tampos are by far the best on the market, and with the BMW M cars, they work brilliantly. Gosh… imagine this in flat blue, or metalflake red, or forest green… ah, so many missed opportunities. Oh well… back to having no headlights it is after this.
The car does not cease to look amazing round the back. This has to be one of the coolest Matchbox police cars ever produced. Shame it is so hard to come across.
But it would be too easy to fall into the trap of complaining about Matchbox distribution. Hot Wheels are in every store, Matchbox aren’t. Funny how the same company can’t sort that. Maybe they don’t want to.
Ah well. For UK collectors like me, you just have to get to them by other means. Now I’m coming to rely on American collectors for trading.
This BMW M5 has to have rapidly jumped into the list of my favourite all-time models, thanks to this livery. I keep looking at it, thinking how stunning it is. I love that they made Battenburg markings, very European!
I’ve put it with the first release of the M5 in 2015. It was still a gorgeous model, and look at those wheels! But… when a model car doesn’t have his headlights, it makes him look asleep, to me. A police car needs to be awake, and alert! Perhaps it is one for customisers. I have not yet been able to advance past a simple slab of silver.
Another beautiful new casting from the Matchbox team though, and hope for the future that things are bright – that is, if they can address their glaring distribution problem.
1970 Volkswagen T2 Bus – Radical!
Everybody loves Volkswagens. Everybody! Classic Volkswagens, that is. New ones have kind of gotten a bad reputation. But classic ones are beloved and timeless – look at the Beetle, look how long that ran for. 65 years! A design from 1938 that lasted into the 21st century with over 21 million units built. But as much as I love the story of the ugly little success, I think I love VW buses even more.
Especially this 1970 T2, which debuted in the Matchbox line in orange back in 2008 – a time when 78 out of the 100 released were fully licensed castings (Last year in 2016, there were 50 licensed models, out of a total of 125 vehicles… there are still some issues). I don’t have any of the first three series models – the red, green, and orange – they just get snatched up online. But I do have the Lesney Edition blue/white with metal base. Drat! I don’t have it with me. I promise you a photoshoot with it by next week.
That, unfortunately, means there won’t be as many photos of this model as some of the others. But that doesn’t matter, because this version of the T2 is so cool, you don’t need as many photos to appreciate it. It just looks that good.
The side tampos are a total blast from the past. Super retro with the checks and stripes, and the Volkswagen livery. The Matchbox logo actually works well on this model, too. And those wheels are fantastic. The clear glass and simple colour scheme really make this model stand out as something gorgeous.
And the full tampo treatment means this van gets an awesome rear license plate and tail lights. That always makes a model look better.
And what is it that makes the Volkswagen Bus so cool? It’s the original veritable home on wheels. Even the interior piece makes a superb reference to the fact these camper vans can be driven out into the wild and lived in. I’m sure most of us have at some point imagined leaving everything behind to go adventuring in one of these vans, watching the sun set over a new landscape every night. Matchbox captured the spirit of the van perfectly, and their production of many Volkswagens over the years – especially the recent 1990 Transporter crew-cab – shows dedication to one of motoring’s coolest legacies.
2005 Mercedes-Benz CLS 500 – Klasse!
The return of the Mercedes-Benz license to Matchbox is one of the most welcome events in recent Matchbox history, and Matchbox look to be celebrating in style, with the return of the McLaren Mercedes SLR, the highly anticipated 6×6 and now the return of one of my favourite models, the CLS 500.
One of the worst periods of car design for me was the period which spanned around 1990-2005. So many cars from that period are just drab and shapeless. Even supposedly exciting cars like the Oldsmobile Aurora, Toyota Supra, and Lotus Esprit just look sort of… bad. Not to mention all those miserable blob-sedans like the Buick LeSabre, Ford Crown Victoria, and the Vauxhall Cavalier. I can appreciate the good parts of the cars, but 90s styling cues are just not in my good books.
Then, in 2004, things started to look up. The daylight running LED wasn’t in the market yet, but I think Mercedes-Benz were spearheading great design after a very dreary period of lacklustre design and patchy reliability – which is weird, because Bruno Sacco was still working for Daimler-Benz up until 1999, and he’s one of the world’s greatest car designers. He did better work in the 70s and 80s.
It was Michael Fink who set Mercedes on the sort-of-right track in the noughties, with designs like the CLK (also covered by Matchbox). With the CLS class, he really worked out the design cues that would make this car work. Fortunately, Matchbox has also captured these design cues well – especially in this Best of World version.
It starts with those teardrop headlights, beautifully captured by Matchbox’s tampo design. Following them, the eye is drawn along that sumptuous bone-line to the car’s rear-end, emphasising its long, low roofline. Like the Citroëns of the days gone, Mercedes used a duck-billed rear end to create a swift looking cut-off look. And the shape is captured wonderfully here in this model. And those gold six spoke rims just look amazing – almost as nice as the Miura’s lace wheels.
The CLS 500 debuted in the MBX Metal line in 2006 in metalflake brown/maroon with a tan interior, and it looked great. The casting went through ten colours before now, and it’s good to see it is still in good shape. I hope we see a new model of it each year from now. I especially want to see it return in gunmetal grey and silver – very German colours, although this metalflake green pops just wonderfully.
The best part of the CLS? The side profile, where you get to see that sensual body-line from head to tail. The gold wheels off set that green perfectly. Full headlight and tail light tampos are the only acceptable livery on this Mercedes. Thank goodness they did lose the Mercedes license – imagine this car plastered with tasteless graphics. Yeah, I didn’t think so.
My thinking is Mercedes-Benz saw that Matchbox was moving back to “craptacular” around 2010/2011, decided to pull their license, and now that the new Matchbox team are pushing for realism, Benz has decided they’ll risk giving Mattel some opportunity with their image again. Let’s pray they make the best of it – I want some more of these models.
tampo application on this 2017 release is fairly identical to the original 2006 debut (with the exception of the BoTW license plate).
The casting looks as good today as it did over ten years ago… surely one of Matchbox’s finest hours!
Porsche 911 GT3 – Schnell!
I mentioned at the start of this very, very long blog post, that I was a little bit nervous. Hopefully you will understand after I talk a little about this model. It’s rather a missed opportunity for me… there’s just something about it that, I think, is… too much.
First, I want to start off with the elephant in the room. That “Spectraflame” paint. Yes, it pops beautifully, and yes, it looks great on photos, and yes, it’s a Matchbox orange. But it’s way too… Hot Wheels, for me anyway. This looks too much like a Hot Wheels.
I guess the license plate does a little to assuage that fear, but I have this prejudice in my mind that keeps telling me: Porsches are Hot Wheels territory. Ferraris are Hot Wheels territory. If Matchbox is going to do a Porsche, I expect something like the 914 – something unexpected, a car which has a more interesting story. The 911 GT3 is hip, modern, and everybody has done it. Which is why Matchbox shouldn’t.
Not that there aren’t some great Matchboxy features to this car – the high detail and retro Porsche motifs are now traditional Matchbox touches.
But this is where I come back to the wheel choices, this time without praise. Suddenly, we are seeing Hot Wheels wheels on Matchbox cars. Now, it may work for some of the models here – the Miura and CLS spring to mind. But, despite all the good news coming from El Segundo California, we have seen two periods under Mattel rule where Matchbox has become craptacular – what is to stop a third time? We saw what happened with the Corgi brand in the 1990s – Mattel bought it out, and placed all the old Corgi moulds into Hot Wheels blisters sporting Hot Wheels paint and wheels. If Matchbox are sporting Hot Wheels wheels today – what is to stop them sporting Hot Wheels paint in a few years? What about Hot Wheels packaging? The reason this Porsche worries me so much, is that it looks like it came out of a Hot Matchbox Wheels blister pack. No thanks – keep it Matchbox. I sure hope they do.
I guess my distrust and dislike of this model isn’t helped by the fact I am just not that into Porsches. I don’t know – they strike me as a mid-life crisis kind of car that your husband gets into. The Mazda Mx5 Convertible is the other mid-life crisis car, but that at least has its cuteness going for it. The Porsche just looks like… well, a Porsche.
Still, it’s hard not to admire the execution of the model. It’s all very well done. But the paint is still a bit of a miss for me. Too brash. Something a bit more tasteful, like a flat blue or yellow like the debut, would have worked better for my eyes.
I didn’t have any other versions of this Matchbox casting, so I’ve put it next to the Majorette Porsche 911 GT3 that came in a Racing 3-pack from last year. I think the execution on the Matchbox is nicer, but the Majorette happens to be a more fun model, thanks to the bouncy suspension. Go figure.
I am sorry to end on a downer about the Porsche, so let me claw this back: this is a fantastic set, and improves massively on last year’s BoTW series. The boxes are an amazing throwback, and I wish more Matchbox series came with boxes (and that they were available in the UK, gosh darn it!)
The model choices are superb (well, 83% of them are superb) and I love the colours, for the most part. The premium lines are great – I wish I had access to more of them. And with what we’re hearing from the USA, this is the new direction for Matchbox. An end to the crappy generics that don’t interest anyone – not even the kids.
Any serious Matchbox collector should get their hands on these models – snatch up that Lamborghini Miura. It is superb. The jewel in this crown. I can’t wait for Autumn’s set.
In continuing with the previous post’s theme of “very old models I got for a very reasonable price because the person selling it wasn’t exploiting collectors online/didn’t know very much about Matchbox cars”, the next model I get to showcase is the original Matchbox “American Ford Station Wagon”.
Once again, here is a model I picked up for only £1. I could not believe the prices of this vehicle when I checked online later – as much as £50 for one loose, and well into the hundreds if you want the very old cardboard to go with it. As a car collector over a cardboard collector, I have to argue that my own find is probably better value for money! Then again, no price is too high for some collectors.
No. 31 American Ford Station Wagon by Lesney
There have been at least two “American Ford” station wagons by Lesney, and this yellow version sans glass seems to be the earliest, produced between 1957 and 1959. The later version came in a kind of teal/green colour with a white roof, and had glass windows.
It seems that the “American Ford Station Wagon” (the pertinence of indicating this was American was necessitated by the fact Ford of Europe produced very different kinds of Fords to Ford of America) is based off of a 1956 Ford Country Sedan wagon, although the grille looks more akin to what was on the 1956 Ford Ranch wagon (methinks the folks at Lesney took a somewhat permissive approach to the model).
Being a model from 1957, the representation is, as you might expect, crude. There is discrepancy in the design cues. The scale is small, being the same as other Matchbox of the era, being closer to 1:75 (as most were intended to fit the popular model railways, I believe).
However, even if the car was not branded as such, the design cues are clear enough to identify this car as being a 1956 Ford, thanks to the side trim, headlight, and tail light/fin design.
And even though these models are not as sophisticated as the modern offerings of Mattel, they have a charm all of their own that takes you back to a time when that didn’t matter. They’re beautiful little models, and they’re from a simpler time.
This model comes with painted grille and headlights, but no tail lights. I have seen the car online with red painted tail lights too. I am wondering if that came on some of the later releases.
See how much this model appeals, and it doesn’t even have windows! Now maybe people can stop abusing the poor Chevrolet Brookwood for having no interior, eh?
The Ford Station Wagon is super, if only because of how awesome all things vintage are. I adore the old Matchbox cars. And it’s even better when Mattel release something that sits nicely alongside them, like the Chevrolet here. Keep them coming…