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Matchbox turns 65, celebrates its Sapphire Anniversary with 46 new car and truck tools for 2018

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Photos courtesy of theLamleyGroup.

To celebrate Matchbox’s 65th Anniversary in 2018, no fewer than 46 new castings are coming across the basic range and in a couple of new premium lines that will recall the brand’s ’60s heyday. The announcement, made at Albuquerque’s annual Matchbox Gathering event last month, reverses what seemed like a systematic starvation of funds at Brand Orange; suddenly faucets of cash are being splashed upon the three-inch diecast line. Forty-six new castings don’t come cheap.

The basic $1 range, available at your local big-box store (or websites like that will sell you a subscription for full cases of anything that Matchbox sells stateside) will contain a variety of new and new-ish cars, trucks, and SUVs, including: the latest Honda Civic Hatchback; 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe; the 2018 Nissan Leaf, the second-generation of the world’s best-selling electric car and that has not yet been shown publicly; BMW i8; the 2016 Chevy Colorado Extreme concept truck; Skyjacker Ford F350 Super Duty; the latest Cadillac Escalade; and the current Mazda CX-5.

A passel of classics will also join the basic-car roster: 1933 Plymouth sedan (possibly as a police car); 1948 Diamond T pickup; a ’54 Jaguar XK140 roadster, possibly based on the coupe done in the last decade or so and previously done (when it was contemporary!) by Matchbox; the GMC Scenicruiser bus, another vehicle famously done by Matchbox in the ’60s; ’64 Ford Fairlane wagon; MGB GT; and a Jeep Wagoneer of yet-to-be-determined vintage, though we’re hoping for one from the round-headlight era.

There will also be four new basic-range models sneaking into a variety of other series. The ’33 Ford Coupe, a Tyco-era favorite, will return; a four-door Jeep Rubicon will be part of the plastic-bodied Color Changers line; a ’47 Chevy pickup will be part of a Wal-Mart-exclusive GM 100th Anniversary of Trucks six-car set; a late-model Mercedes-Benz G550 G-Wagon will be part of the Wal-Mart-exclusive Mercedes six-vehicle set.

More commercial and non-traditional (though still licensed) castings include: Man TGS Dump Truck; Modec Delivery Truck; the NASA Space Chariot; the Yamaha Bolt Scrambler ATV; and a pair of fire trucks–a Volvo and a Scania. Oh, and there will be a couple of “designer original” castings, none of which hold a candle to the list of vehicles above.

That’s just the basic line! There will also be a “basics plus” series, which will feature opening appendages and good old-fashioned play value, just like Matchboxes of old. They’ll cost more than a standard $1 Matchbox, but not as much as some of the competition. Some of these models have been done before, some decades ago, but will return with all-new tooling: the Mercedes-Benz 220SE (the first Matchbox car to have opening doors), a ’64 Pontiac Grand Prix, VW Type 3 fastback, VW 23-window bus, Nissan XTerra, the ’80s-era Nissan 300ZX, and a Ford Crown Vic that can be decorated in police or taxi liveries. Some are classic vehicles not done before by Matchbox: a Willys Jeep station wagon, a ’63 Chevy camper, a Chevy gasser, a ’71 Ford Torino funny car, and an “’80s Buick convertible” (no details given, but a photo of an ’84 Riviera ragtop was shown on screen to depict the model). Newer models in the upcoming Basics Plus lineup include a 2016 Camaro hardtop (recall a basic-line convertible is still due later this year), Tesla Model X SUV, BMW i8, the latest GMC Sierra pickup, and the Renault Trezer concept.

On top of that, there’s also a Premium Plus line, details of which are still sketchy, but if we were the guessing sort we’d say they would be all-diecast with opening features. Announced models include the latest Range Rover, the Corvette Stingray, a Honda S2000, and a Dodge Charger funny car (the photo they showed suggested a ’66-67 fastback, but as always this is subject to change).

Our big question is this: Why so much new product? We would guess two things: first, that with the dissolution of larger plastic Matchbox toys on store shelves (we’re looking at you, Stinky the Garbage Truck), that some budget money has been freed up for the traditional 3-inch diecast line. Second, it feels as if Matchbox wants to position itself as a premium brand, a step above Hot Wheels in price point–and the Basic Plus, Premium and Premium Plus models are a testbed to make that happen. In the void between $1 Hot Wheels and $6 Johnny Lightning/M2/Auto World, there’s a gap filled almost entirely by premium-line Hot Wheels models. Will Matchbox fill that niche with realistic-looking product that drives collectors to the shelves?

Keep in mind … most of these items are due in stores and distributors’ hands by the spring of 2018, half a year from now, and lots can happen between now and then. Next year is an anniversary year for Matchbox, but it’s also an anniversary year for Hot Wheels … and half a century of Mattel’s own home-grown brand, handily outselling Matchbox for decades now, will surely demand its own celebration. We wouldn’t be surprised if Matchbox production quantities were managed in order to highlight Brand Blue’s half-century of existence.