An early staple in many children’s lives is Matchbox cars. These tiny, die casted toys have served as the foundation of automotive passion in car lovers, vehicle designers, collectors and mechanics alike. Matchbox cars are now over 60 years old and are still being manufactured across the world. It is truly amazing that despite over six decades of industrial manufacturing advancements, these small vehicles have lasted so long and held so dearly in the hearts of today’s children, as well as those that played with them so many years ago.
Today’s die casted matchbox cars are still incredibly similar to the original brainchild Jack Odell had back in the early 1950’s. Mr. Odell, a family man and Royal Army Service Corps veteran, began at the Lesney Products die casting company after being a school dropout himself. While working at the manufacturer, which specializes in die casted children’s toys, his young daughter asked him about her internal dilemma of how to bring a toy to school. The school’s official policy on toys only allowed them as long as they would fit inside a standard size matchbox. Inspiration hit Odell. Scaling down an already existing Lesney manufactured toy, he was able to create a small replica road roller that was small enough to be packaged inside a matchbox case. The new die casted toys clearly meet the school’s policy and satisfied his daughter’s desire of bringing one to school. Once introduced to the eyes of young schooling children, there was no stopping it.
Revving Up Innovation
Within two years Matchbox released three different flagship vehicle models: Aveling Barford road roller, Muir Hill dump truck and a cement mixer. By the 1960’s, Odell’s new toy had launched Lesney Products to become the 4th largest toy company in Europe. They had 14 die casting manufacturing plants producing up to 250,000 models a week. As the manufacturing industry continued to develop so did the features of Matchbox cars. Die casting innovations created moving parts such as the vehicle drivers that would move up and down along with working doors, plastic windows and vehicle decals or graphics!
Today there have been over 12,000 individual models released with an astounding 3 billion of die casted matchbox cars manufactured worldwide. The famous Matchbox brand has transferred ownership four times over the past 60+ years, currently being maintained and manufactured by Mattel. New die casting manufacturing plants have been setup throughout the world including Germany, England, China and Brazil.
Who would have thought that such an iconic little die casted toy, manufactured throughout the world would have remained so popular for over 60 years.