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     Fun: Matchbox Superfast 35th Anniversary Die Cast Toys
    Matchbox Die Cast Cars
    In 1969, Lesney Corporation, manufacturers of the Matchbox 1-75 die cast toy cars, needed to compete with the Mattel Hot Wheels line. Hot Wheels had burst onto the toy car scene with thin wire axles and wide free-rolling wheels. At the same time, Mattel also came out with their orange Hot Wheels track to give their cars something on which to roll. The thicker axles on the Matchbox cars did not let them roll very far without constant pushing. Lesney responded by reworking the whole 1-75 line and replacing the wheels, axles, and wheel castings. Newer wilder "70's" color schemes were introduced as well in the Matchbox line.

    In commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the introduction of Superfast models in 1969, Mattel is offering a new series of distinctive models. The toys are packaged in a special blister card that holds the model and a box with a photo of the model appearing on both the card and box. The box is a replica of the original Matchbox Superfast packaging and uses the original Superfast logo.

    Three waves of 12 models have been released so far. There will be only 10,000 castings of each model. They were to be available at Kmart and other retailers. However, I have only seen three freely available at any store for a retail price of $2.29. Looking around now, I consider myself lucky to have grabbed those.

    Some were issued at the Hershey, PA toy show August 7-8, 2004 as a convention model.

    Steve Beckett has a nice photo gallery of the series on his web page. Shabbir Malik has more news and information on his web site.

    More information can also be found at the Matchbox Forum web site

    Four of the models, Ford Mustang, VW beetle, Ford GT40, and Mercury Cougar appear identical to original Matchbox Superfast models. I examined one that I purchased, the Ford GT40. It is clearly a new casting and it is slightly larger than the original GT40 that I own.

    As an adult collector, this is great news for me, as I really enjoy the more realistic looking vehicles. The boxes are also a nice touch too. It would be nice to have color catalog to make the collecting circle complete.

    My favorite models in the Matchbox line were the trucks, more so than the cars. It would appear that all of the releases are passenger cars so far. It sure would be nice to get a few trucks or tractors. I sure would like to see the #48 Dodge Dumper released again. But I do understand the current promotion idea. The Superfast cars were going against the hot-rod style Southern California cruisers from Mattel. Mattel now owns the line and the current Superfast trademark. So they can make whatever they want. I am speculating too, that it may be important to protect the Superfast trademark by releasing a line of toys.

    I will have to look to Lledo, Corgi, and Siku for the cool truck models. Although, Matchbox collectibles has released a few interesting models.

    1969 was really a year of bold change for Lesney with the release of the Superfast line. Many matchbox collectors arrogantly believe that only the regular wheels are worth collecting. The first conversion from regular wheels to Superfast models are probably the most interesting castings and possibly rarer. For those, the casting was changed so that the axle was attached by a plastic plate. The Superfast cars had dramatically increased play value. Certiain models like the Field Car and Hay Wagon had hubs with tires that fell off easily. Superfast wheels are one piece, with silvered hub caps. They rolled better. It could even be argued that they looked better with hub caps instead of rounded rivet ends. Moms every where liked the fact that Superfast cars could be run on wooden tables and furniture without scratching them.

    The really amazing part of the Lesney story was that their models did so well in the United States. Nearly half of the models represented vehicles that could only be seen in the United Kingdom. The appeal came from the collectible aspect (with catalogs and numbering), the packaging, and the ability to purchase another model within the budget afforded by typical middle class weekly allowance. In the end, a dump truck was still useful, even though it had eight wheels and was a Leyland. And a Rolls Royce was a symbol of wealth, even though most had never seen one, much less ridden in one. But you could imagine yourself driving a Rolls Royce, or having it be crushed by a dump truck in a horrible accident. Ahh the possibilities.

    Lesney continued to release many great models after 1969. Even Universal and later Tyco brought out some eminently collectible vehicles. It is great to see Mattel continuing the trend instead of killing off the line, which they could easily do.
      
    Posted on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 @ 11:04:07 UTC by BB
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