Skip to content

MATCHWHEELS, Diecast Collectors & Online Store

Site Tools
Increase font size Decrease font size Default font size default color blue color green color
You are here: Home Articles
Matchwheels Articles


CORGI



Corgi Toys
(trademark)
is the name of a range of die-cast toy vehicles produced by Mettoy Playcraft Ltd. in the United Kingdom. The Mettoy company was founded in 1933 by German émigré Philip Ullmann in Northampton, England, where he was later joined by South African-born German Arthur Katz. They decided to market a range of toy vehicles as competition to Meccano's Dinky Toys model vehicles which had dominated the British market for many years. Corgi Toys were introduced in the UK in July 1956 and were manufactured in Swansea, Wales, for 27 years before closure of the company in 1983.

The range was exported worldwide and sold in large numbers. Some of the best known and most popular models were of cars made famous in film and television such as the Batmobile, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 – which remains the largest selling toy car ever produced. Although the largest single vehicle type featured in the Corgi Toys range were models of cars from manufacturers around the world, this article sub-divides vehicles into genres, wherever possible, to allow a more detailed look at the variety of models produced by the company.


Early History

A production plant was built at Fforest-fach in Swansea to manufacture the new range of Corgi Toys providing many new jobs in an area of high unemployment following the scaling down of local coal mining operations. The name 'Corgi Toys' was chosen by Philip Ullmann in honour of the company's new home, taken from the Welsh breed of dog, the Corgi and the iconic Corgi logo branded the new range. Corgi Toys' initial sales gimmick was to include plastic glazing which lent the models a greater authenticity, and they carried the advertising slogan 'the ones with windows'.

The 1956 releases were all familiar British vehicles. Six family saloon cars – Ford Consul (200/200M), Austin A50 Cambridge (201/201M), Morris Cowley (202/202M), Vauxhall Velox (203/203M), Rover 90 (204/204M), Riley Pathfinder (205/205M) and Hillman Husky (206/206M), and two sports cars – Austin Healey 100 (300) and Triumph TR2 (301). Initially, all models were issued in free-rolling form, or with friction drive motors, with the exception of the heavy commercials which would have been too bulky and the sports cars whose low slung bodies would not be able to accommodate the motors. The Mechanical versions, as they were known, were indicated by an 'M' suffix to the model number and were available in different colour schemes. They were issued with tougher die-cast bases to support the extra weight of the motor, and in far fewer numbers. Mechanical versions did not sell particularly well, partly due to a significantly higher purchase price, and were phased out in 1960 with Ford Thunderbird (214M) the last of the line. The die-cast baseplates were expanded across the range to replace the original tin plate at the same time. Today they are considered more collectable because of their relative rarity.


Expansion and Innovation

British cars dominated the releases over the next few years reflecting the company's concentration on the home market, but by December 1957 new markets were being explored and the first European car to be modelled was the Citroen DS19 (210) issued in December 1957. The first American car, the Studebaker Golden Hawk (211/211M), was released in February 1958 and by the early 1960s the Corgi range was being exported widely, finding particular popularity in Europe, Australia and the United States of America, and gradually more foreign vehicles were included to appeal to these new markets.

Models were issued on a monthly basis and the range grew quickly to include vehicles of all types. Gradually the models became more sophisticated with the addition of such features as 'Glideamatic' spring suspension and a detailed interior on the Renault Floride (222) in October 1959, and the fibre-optic style 'Trans-o-Lite' illuminating lights system first seen on the Superior Ambulance on Cadillac Chassis (437) in October 1962. The early type of interior which was known as 'vac-formed', was produced by stretching a thin sheet of acetate over a mould by means of a vacuum, and lasted for three years until being replaced by the crisper, more detailed injection-moulded type first seen in the Thames 'Airborne' caravan (420) in February 1962.


The Corgi design team came up with the first model with an opening feature in February 1960, the Aston Martin DB4 (218) which had an opening bonnet. Steerable front wheels, jewelled headlights and rear lights and an opening boot complete with spare wheel were added on the Bentley Continental Sports Saloon (224) in April 1961, and by October 1963 with the release of the Ghia L6.4 (241) new levels of authenticity were reached. This model featured a number of 'firsts' with not only an opening bonnet, but also opening doors and boot, and a detailed interior with a rear view mirror, folding front seats, and a model Corgi dog sitting on the rear parcel shelf.


At introduction, the Ghia sold for 8 shillings and sixpence, and even at this relatively high price around 1.7 million were sold before being withdrawn in 1969. Ironically, only twenty five examples of the real car were completed.


Models following themes were released over the years. In January 1964, Corgi updated the existing
Citroën DS Safari to become a promotional vehicle for the 1964 Winter Olympics (475), complete with a skier figure, four model skis and two model ski poles. Painted white and with a decal of the Olympic rings logo on the bonnet, this model then reverted to a 'Corgi Ski Club' version the following year. It was revamped again in November 1967 for the 1968 Winter Olympics (499), this time painted white with a blue roof, and with a model toboggan on the roof rack along with a figure of a tobogganist and a pair of skis and poles, and a stylish 'Grenoble Olympiade 1968' decal on the bonnet. The final version introduced in 1970 was an Alpine Rescue vehicle (510), painted white with a red roof and which came complete with figures of a St Bernard dog and rescuer, and today is the rarest of the versions.


In 1964, Mettoy introduced a range of smaller scale vehicles called
Husky Toys which retailed at a lower retail price than the larger Corgi Toys.


Corgi Classics

Also in 1964 Corgi diversified into the adult collector market and released a range of highly detailed models of vintage cars called 'Corgi Classics'. Although superior to Lesney's Matchbox 'Models of Yesteryear', they were comparatively expensive and met with mixed success. Initial releases were a 1927 Bentley finished in green (9001) or red (9002), an open 1915 Model T Ford coloured black (9011) and a version finished in blue with the hood raised (9013), a 1910 Daimler 38 finished in red (9021) and a 1911 Renault 12/16 finished in lavender (9031) or pale yellow (9032). Two years later a 1912 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost coloured silver (9041) was added to the range, which was updated in 1970 to feature American TV stars The Hardy Boys, discussed later in this article. A Model T Ford van in Lyons Tea livery (9014) appeared in the 1967 Corgi catalogue but was never released. The Corgi Classics range was dropped by 1969, although the name was later revived for a range of adult collectable models in the 1980s.

Source: Wikipedia


 
MATCHBOX

Matchbox is a die cast toy brand introduced by Lesney Products in 1953 and currently owned by Mattel, Inc. Matchbox toys were so named because the original models were packed in boxes similar in size and style to boxes of matches. The series became so popular that the Matchbox name was once widely used by the public as a generic trademark for all die cast toy cars measuring approximately 2.5 inches (6.5 cm) in length, regardless of brand. In the 1970s, Matchbox switched to the more conventional, plastic and cardboard "blister packs" used for other die cast cars such as Hot Wheels, although the box style packaging was re-introduced for the collector market in recent years, particularly successfully with the release of the "35th Anniversary of Superfast" series in 2004.

The Matchbox/Lesney factory was a major employer in Homerton, East London, before the company relocated to Rugby in Warwickshire in 1990.

The early years: Lesney, the origins of the Matchbox name and the 1-75 series


HISTORY


The Matchbox name started in 1953 as a brand name of the now-defunct
British toy company Lesney Products (named after its co-founders Leslie and Rodney Smith). Their first major sales success was the million-selling model of Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Coach.

Shortly thereafter, Lesney co-owner Jack Odell (b. 1920 or 1921 – d. 2007) created a toy that effectively provided the final, missing link to the company's future. It was designed for his daughter: her school only allowed children to bring toys that could fit inside a matchbox, so Mr. Odell crafted a scaled-down version of the Lesney green and red road roller. This toy ultimately became the first of the 1-75 miniature range; a dump truck and a cement mixer completed the original three-model release that marked the starting point of the mass-market success story of the Matchbox series. As mentioned above, because the one defining factor for the toys was that each model had to fit in a match-box, the idea was born to sell the models in replica matchboxes — thus yielding the name of the series. It also resulted in the description (either derogatory or admiring) of the models' scales being "1:box" (as opposed to more "serious" scales such as 1:87, 1:64, or 1:43).


Additional models — mostly British at first — continued to be added to the range throughout the decade, including cars such as an MG Midget TD, a Vauxhall Cresta, a Ford Zodiac, and many others. As the line grew, it also gradually became more international, including models of VWs, a Citroën, and American makes. To make such miniatures, the designers took detailed photographs of the real models, even obtaining some original blueprints. This enabled them to make models with surprisingly high levels of detail, despite the small scale. The size of the models (and their clever packaging) allowed Matchbox to occupy a market niche barely touched by the competition (and certainly not by Dinky); the associated price advantage made Matchbox models affordable for every child, and helped establish Matchbox as a household word for small model toy cars — whatever the brand. Although used generically, "MATCHBOX" (in capital letters and quotation marks) was registered as a worldwide  trademark to protect the Matchbox brand from competition.


Moko; growth & development of the 1-75 and other core series

In the earliest years of the regular, or 1-75 series — well before the series actually numbered 75 models — Lesney was marketed/distributed by Moko (itself named after its founder, Moses Kohnstam). Boxes in that era mentioned this, with the text "A Moko Lesney" appearing on each. Lesney gained its independence from Moko in the '50s by buying the company, leading into a period of growth, both in sales and in size. Early models did not feature windows or interiors, were made entirely of metal, and were often about 2" (5 cm) in length. By 1968, Matchbox was the biggest-selling brand of small diecast model cars worldwide. By this time, the average model featured plastic windows, interiors, tyres (often with separate disc wheels), and occasional accessories; spring suspensions; opening parts; and was about 3" (7 cm) long. Some even featured steering, including the pressure-based AutoSteer system debuting in 1969. The line was very diverse, including many trucks/lorries, tractors, motorcycles, and trailers as well as standard passenger cars.


This was what could be called the "Golden Era" of British die-cast. The three dominant brands in the world at the time, all British-made (
Dinky, Matchbox, and Corgi), could seemingly do no wrong. Each had its own market niche and its own strong reputation, while innovations and advances by one were adopted by the others within a matter of a few years. Each also expanded to some extent into each other's territory, though this never seemed to seriously affect the sales of any brand's core series.


As part of Lesney's expansion activities, three (four) further model ranges were introduced in addition to the 1-75 series. The Models of Yesteryear were renditions of classic vehicles from the steam and early automotive eras. These were often about 3½-4" in length. Accessories included gas/petrol pumps, garages, and the like. Finally, Major Packs were larger-scale models, often of construction vehicles. This series was effectively folded into the King Size series, which was then diversified to include passenger car models in a scale similar to that used by Corgi and Dinky.

Source: Wikipedia


 
HOT WHEELS

Hot Wheels is a brand of die cast toy car, introduced by American toymaker Mattel in 1968. It was the primary competitor of Matchbox until 1996, when Mattel acquired rights to the Matchbox brand from Tyco.


Models


Hot Wheels are die-cast model vehicles manufactured by Mattel and were introduced on September 7, 1968. Originally the cars and trucks were manufactured to approximately 1:64 scale and designed to be used on associated Hot Wheels track sets. By 1970, however, a series of 1:43 scale "Gran Toros" made by
Mebetoys in Milan, Italy, were introduced. More recently, a range of highly detailed adult collector vehicles, including replicas of NASCAR and Formula One cars, have found success. Despite the forays into larger scales, the brand remains most famous for the small scale free-rolling models of custom hot rods and muscle cars it has produced since the range first appeared. Roughly 10,000 different models of Hot Wheel Cars have been produced over the years.


Hot Wheel Vehicles are authorized by the car makers
General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler Motors. Other car makers like Ferrari, Mazda, and Toyota have licensed Hot Wheels to make a scale model of their cars.


To make a Hot Wheels version of a current-model car, Mattel looks at design blueprints of the full-sized car. An example of this is the Chrysler 300
Hot Wheel car. First, the Hot Wheel Team and Mattel went to Chrysler to look at the design of the 300 and an actual car. Chrysler licensed the blueprints to Mattel and the Hot Wheel Team for the purpose of producing the model car. Chrysler then required Mattel to return the blueprints after the Hot Wheel team was finished studying them.


At Mattel's Hot Wheel design center, the blueprint's design measurements and dimensions were scaled down to conform to a model car that is 1/64 the size of a real car. Then a mock-up of the car was produced in plastic and evaluated. After this process, the mock-up became a die cast metal mock up, which was evaluated again. After these processes were complete, the final version of the car was then manufactured.


For older scale models, the 1968
Chevy Nova for example, the model maker uses blueprints from General Motors and also studies car brochures of that model year.


Larry Wood
, the head of the Hot Wheels division (now retired), had been with the Mattel/Hot Wheels team since 1969. He originally worked for
General Motors as a designer.


The Hot Wheels product line has also included various tracks, accessories, and other kinds of vehicles such as "Sizzlers" rechargeable
electric cars, "Hot Line" trains, "R-R-Rumblers" motorcycles, "Hot Birds" airplanes and the comical half-human/half-machine "Farbs".
Source: Wikipedia

 

TREASURE HUNT

Treasure Hunt
(sometimes T-Hunt) is a line of Hot Wheels
cars which were introduced by Mattel in 1995. It consists of 12 cars every year; one released per month. The original production run started at 10,000 pieces worldwide, and has since grown due to the demand and increasing popularity of Hot Wheels collecting. As of 2007, 157 Treasure Hunts have been released.


Treasure Hunt Vehicles are identifiable by a label on the package. The blister card will say "Treasure Hunt" or "T-Hunt" on a green bar with an illustration of a treasure chest. The cars are decorated with flashy designs. They have a high secondary market price tag when they are first released. The value typically stabilizes when more of the cars are available on the market. Sometimes collectors will see this as the car dropping in price, but empirical data strongly states otherwise. Instead, the high prices that are initially seen are the result of the "Internet boom". When there are only a few new cars available on the market and hundreds of collectors are after them the price will skyrocket. Data collected over the past twelve years actually indicated the price on Treasure Hunts is rising quite well generally. Prices off the Internet are generally much higher because often when collectors quote a value they do not take into account shipping charges, risk, and inconvenience as all negative factors on the online market.


In 2007, Mattel
introduced a two-tiered Treasure Hunt system. A regular Treasure Hunt would feature normal enamel paint and normal wheels compared to other Hot Wheels cars. The production of these is rumored to be greater than Treasure Hunts of the past. The Super Treasure Hunts is much rarer and is like Treasure Hunts of the past, featuring Real Riders wheels and Spectraflame paint. All 12 Treasure Hunt cars are planned to be released in both regular and super versions.

Source: Hot Wheels Wikia

 

 
JOHNNY LIGHTNING

Johnny Lightning is a brand of model cars originally produced by Topper Toys in 1969, similar to the hugely successful Mattel Hot Wheels die cast racing cars. They were not quite as successful, one major reason was that the styling, casting and finish was not as of high quality as Mattel's Hot Wheels. Their claim to fame at that time was that they were extremely fast compared to other brands of die-cast cars. Their most important technology was to mold in a small hook under the front axle so that they could be propelled by a lever-driven catapult, far faster than could be obtained by either gravity, or battery powered "supercharger" devices.


Johnny Lightning sponsored 5
Parnelli Jones cars including Al Unser in the 1970 and 1971 Indy 500 races. Unser was able to capture those victories in his blue lightning bolt decorated Johnny Lightning Special. After the initial 500 victory, sales of the Johnny Lightning cars increased dramatically, from initially having sales falling far behind that of Mattel to selling one Johnny Lightning to every 3 Hot Wheels car.


By the end of 1971
Topper Toys was forced to close due to business fraud which brought an end to the Johnny Lightning cars.


Tom Lowe and his
Playing Mantis company acquired the rights to the Johnny Lightning trademark and started producing reproductions of the original cars in 1994. About the same time that Hot Wheels introduced a "Vintage" line of cars that were reproductions of original 1960s designs. Sales were moderately successful. Interest soon faded as most collectors weren't that passionate about the cars even when they were new. They also revived the "Sizzlers" name with electric cars similar to the original Mattel cars. Currently, they sell a line of 1/64 scale adult die cast cars with more detail. Jeff Koch, formerly of Hot Rod Magazine, briefly acted as Brand Manager for Johnny Lightning, bringing his unique real automotive expertise to the line from 2001 through 2004.


Nowadays Johnny Lightning has a good following by a loyal group of collectors. JL makes cars which haven't been done before, or are quite rare, like the Citroën DS. Also they make a lot film-inspired cars, like the Ghostbusters Cadillac, the James Bond Aston Martin, Dukes Of Hazzard-related models, etc.


In 2005, Playing Mantis was bought by RC2 Corporation
and Playing Mantis disappeared. Johnny Lightning products are now produced and distributed by the RC2 corporation in Chicago. RC2 was previously known as Racing Champions and produced NASCAR die cast models. Carrying over from the Playing Mantis era was Mac Ragan who was responsible for many of the popular models. Ragan wrote the definitive guide to Johnny Lightning cars in the Johnny Lightning Tomart Guide. Also in 2005 RC2 brought in a popular automotive and die cast designer, Eric Tscherne of Hot Wheels and Jada Toys fame.


Johnny Lightning received a major overhaul of its image in 2006. A new clamshell style package arrived stores in January 2007 with the release of the new Johnny Retro series. A new logo treatment was also introduced and the logo and package design were products of a partnership with Design Force and directed by Tscherne among others. Additional overhauling of the brand included updating many of the long-time collector favorite series like Classic Gold and Musclecars which received new graphic treatments developed in the West Coast office by Jeremy Cox and Tscherne. A large price increase coincided with the new package, leaving many collectors upset with RC2's management and decision making associated with the beloved Johnny Lightning brand. in September 2007 Mac Ragan left the RC2 and Johnny Lightning. Tom Zahorsky is currently the Design Manager associated with the brand today as is responsible for picking castings, themes and developing paint schemes and decorations on the little cars. Tom is also a member of the Diecast Hall of Fame.


Johnny Lightning vehicles are today sold by Learning Curve Inc., formerly known as RC2. In 2007 Johnny Lightning expanded to offer more than just adult collectibles by introducing Battle Wheels. Battle Wheels is a line of remote controlled robots that battle one another. They also introduced the world's first transforming RC vehicle the V_BOT.

Source: Wikipedia





What is a White Lightning car?
White Lightning cars are variations-made in small quantities-of regular production models. For 1:64-scale cars, RC2 produces White Lightning versions for 1% to 2% of any production run. We randomly insert these cars into cases at the factory.

To give you an idea of how scarce these cars are, consider this: If RC2 produces 10,000 Pontiac GTO models for its Musclecars series, and makes 1% of those cars White Lightning versions, we only make 100 White Lightning versions of the GTO. That's 100 White Lightning models for the entire world.

What makes a White Lightning car?
With early White Lightning cars, the company almost always painted the body white or pearl white. It didn't take long for people-collectors and non-collectors-to realize these cars were special, and easy to spot.

The Johnny Lightning Team has always wanted as many White Lightning cars to get into the hands of collectors as possible. To achieve that goal, they began changing the characteristics of the White Lightning car. It wasn't always white any more. That made the cars easier to hide on the pegs…waiting for a collector's keen eye.

Below is a list of White Lightning characteristics. In most cases, any given White Lightning car will have two features that are different from the regular version.

  1. White body

  2. Pearl-White body

  3. White chassis

  4. Pearl-White chassis

  5. White engine

  6. Tinted glass

  7. White rims (injected white…not painted)

  8. White tires

  9. White interior (injected white…not painted)

  10. The words "White Lightning" on the tires

  11. Metallic gold body (always paired with a white characteristic)

  12. Whitewall tires instead of red stripes

Common Combinations:

  1. White interior and white rims
  2. White tires and white chassis
  3. Pearl-White body and white interior
  4. Tinted glass and white interior
  5. White rims and white tires

Important Facts to Remember:

  • Not every white model is a White Lightning car.
  • Not every pearl-white model is a White Lightning car.
  • Not every car with a white interior is a White Lightning version.
  • White Lightning cars aren't always white.
  • White Lightning characteristics change with most every release.
Source: johnnylightning.com

 

 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 Next > End >>

Page 4 of 4