Matchbox Monday has a happy time with the H batch

So, here I am at the two-thirds point of the 2023 basic range.  But, we are not quite at that figure in terms of models released.  I have noticed this is a bit of a trend.  At the start of the year, we often see slightly smaller batches, with some slightly larger ones coming later.  The reason, as far as I am aware, is all down to when things get signed off.  As is often the case, and we tend to notice it more if a model misses the year's deadline, sometimes a model might be a little late in getting signed off.  Particularly when it comes to new castings, where there is an extra layer in getting the casting itself signed off before getting the livery signed off, they will have deadlines for each batch.  A model doesn't get signed before the deadline, it has to be moved back.  You don't notice this during the year in a way, because you don't usually know what is scheduled for a batch.  Occasionally, something might get caught.  Like a certain Volvo that was due in an earlier batch, added to the artwork in some Power Grab boxes, but then had to be moved back half a year.  We saw that.  But most models slip by under the net. Only when that delay pushes them to the following model year (or sometimes dropped), do we then notice. This means that batch H is the biggest batch of the year so far, yet will not be the biggest yet.    Spoiler alert, the last 2 batches are bigger.  

So let us dive in with a brand new casting.  The MB1365 '92 Mazda Autozam AZ-1 taking the MB3 slot in the range.  

The what?  Autozam?  Okay, was I the only person who actually had to Google this when Matchbox announced at the 2022 Gathering that it was coming in 2023?  I admit.  I did not know about the sub-brands of Mazda.  Autozam (1989-1998), Eunos (1989-1996), M2 (1991-1995), ɛ̃fini (1991-1997) and the stillborn Amati (due to start in 1992, cancelled before it got going).  Mazda did not have a lot of success with these, and it appears Autozam was their biggest success at the time.  

So the Autozam AZ-1 was a Kei car.  Matchbox has delved into this category before.  Not often.  In fact, have there been Kei “cars”.  We saw a Subaru Sambar and a Honda T-360 before.  These are small pickup trucks.  I am currently racking my brain to see if we have had a car in the past. I don't think so.  This is quite a surprising one to dip their toes in with.  Mazda only managed to sell 4,392 AZ-1s.  It launched in October 1992, just as a recession hit Japan.  It was priced a little higher than the Honda Beat and Suzuki Cappuccino.  Those were its major competitors.  They gave up after a year, but it took another year to sell off the remainder of the production.  But, when checking out the Honda Beat and Suzuki Cappuccino, they were definitely a little more safe with their styling.  This one had a bit of a radical look to it, which I think is the reason Matchbox went for it.  

Which I think translates well to the casting.  Yes, this rear end does look a lot like the real one.  In fact, the real one also sports this high break between components.  I think the Matchbox team has got this spot on.  The way the bumper runs around the sides, and way up the rear, fits in perfectly well with the way they did the base section.  

The real vehicle does have a roofline that isn't a part of the body.  So, yes, this being part of the window section makes sense.  And I love that they have also included those headlights into the window section.  An instant colour break, and I think this often looks better than trying to tampo print.  The air intake appears well crafted in the front as well. 

They have debuted this in blue, which looks great.  I am sure that red and white versions will be joining it very soon. In all the pictures I was looking at, red and white appeared to be the most common colour choices.  I love when they come up with left field choices for the range.  It reminds me of when I was a child.  Sometimes I would have to visit a library to discover just what it was they were making.  Monteverdi Hai?  Still a favourite from my childhood, but I was a teenager before I knew what it was.  In this day and age, doing a quick internet search is much faster than heading down to a library.  Do libraries still exist?  Ha ha!  Yes, I know they do.  But I enjoy the challenge of having to find out about a model, and not just see everything that I could see out on the street.  So, yes, I am giving this a triple 10 out of 10.  One, for their thinking outside the box for including. Two, for how the casting has been created. And three, the final blue article. 

I finish with a base shot, because, new casting.  It's what I do.  

So I move on to the second model, and this is the other new casting in the batch.  And, it's a Kei car.  Actually, no, this one is not.  Honda created the N360 as a Kei car in 1966, and after a facelift in 1970, it continued on until 1972. But, they wanted to try and sell it outside of Japan as well.  The Kei car system is a Japan only system, where certain tax breaks are given to cars under a certain size and engine size.  But, to sell it outside of Japan, the size itself wasn't a big issue.  But the thrifty little engine underneath was never going to be popular in Europe or the USA.  So, they created a larger engine variant for export markets.  They called it the N600.  Why?  The N360 had a 360cc engine.  The N600 had a 600cc engine.  Very simple.  You could buy it in Japan, but it didn't sell well.  The engine was too big for the tax breaks.  But, daft fact, the Honda N600 was the first Honda car to be sold in the USA.  So, this is quite significant for the US market.  

Although, just to be a little different again, Matchbox has not gone with the stock version.  Nope, what we have here is the MB1347 ‘70 Honda N600 Off Road.  It takes the MB7 slot in the range.  You may be wondering what this is all about?  Well, back in 1970, Bill Robertson Jr and Dave Ekins attempted to run the Baja 1000 in this.  They had done the Baja 1000 previously on Honda bikes, but with Honda now selling a car in the USA, they thought they would attempt a run on 4 wheels, instead of 2. It didn’t last.  They did retire. But, the N600 was given a proper off-road tweak.  

Raise the suspension, add lights to the roof, a bit more protection around the front of the model, and deck the inside out with more safety and less furniture than you would expect on a family runaround.  Yes, Matchbox has recreated this brilliantly.  

Sure, they might not have gone the whole hog be replicating the blue look of the real one, and the number 278 on the side.  Maybe there is a plan for that down the line.  Maybe they are unable to secure rights to it.  I don't know.  What they have done is given us a simple white look, with blue and red striping, a large Honda badge and a 55 on the sides.  

We did manage to achieve front detailing as well, which I am very impressed with.  This looks stunning, and is a remarkable debut look for the model. 

This is a terrific addition to the range, and one that has a lot of potential for some great designs in future years.  I can't wait to see what they come out with.  Yeah, another 10 out of 10.  Originality, casting and final look.  The trifecta again.  They are on a roll here.  

Another base shot as it is another new casting. I am not sure what that disc is between the rear wheels.  Is it denoting a spare wheel?  I think that may be.  I did notice there isn't one on the roof.  

We next move to the MB1288 '36 Ford Coupe.  It takes the MB19 slot in the 2023 basic range, for what is currently its second outing.  

From what I can make out, this appears to be possibly what Ford referred to as Poppy Red at the time.  It does look very period correct anyway.  A very nice colour choice.  Again, as we saw with the debut, this is a simple all-over paint.

With just a simple headlight and grille detailing at the front.  Nothing too much.  Clean and simple, just like the model is.  We do have a number of vintage vehicles in the line now.  Matchbox are doing their best to really spread their wings, across all sub-genres of vehicle, and through many ages of car manufacture. I have been noticing, though, that all of the stuff from before the 1950s appear to be USA vehicles.  I do think we could do with a vintage Euro or UK vehicle.  Maybe an Australian one.  Examples off the top of my head.  1934 Renault Celtaquatre.  1937 BMW 327 Coupe. 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster. 1946 Daimler DE36 (with spare wheel).  1948 Holden 48-215. All coming from manufacturers that Matchbox already have dealings with.  

But, for now, let us remind ourselves of this car's history in the Matchbox range.  Ah, yes.  This is it.  It was MB48 in the 2022 range in black.  It features the exact same tampo printing as the new one, so I am happy with the way these 2 look together.  

Honestly, I am not opposed to seeing more of these.  I do like this casting.  I am just hoping that we do get to see a bit more of a non-USA feel to the vintage area of the Matchbox brand. I am giving this a 9 out of 10.  

Next up, we have the MB1178 International TerraStar Ambulance.  It is in the MB38 slot for the 2023 series, and I am happy to see this continue for a second year.  It debuted in 2019, but was not in the basic range again until last year.  So this is just its third outing.  

It comes in yellow, with red striping, gold Fire District logo on the door, and MBX County EMS name emblazoned on the sides. I like it.  Nice and simple, and nothing too gawdy for the eyes.  

Now, I said I really like it.  But, I like finding a but, there is a little something I would like to point out. 

A certain MB994 '63 Cadillac Ambulance sported an MBX County EMS livery in the 2015 EMS 5-pack. It, too, was in yellow. 

Sadly, it is not the same yellow, and they clearly do not have the same design.  Some could argue that this is just a case of a classic look vs a modern look.  But, to me, this was a small case of a chance to revisit a look missed.  I would have loved to have seen this in a look that more resembled the Caddy.  So, for that, I am giving this a 9 as well. So close.  

The MB1199 '19 Jeep Renegade is up next.  It takes the MB40 slot in the basic range, and comes in white this year.

This is one of the longer lasting Jeep castings in the basic range.  It debuted in the 2020 range, and is still going strong in the 2023 range.  Much like the Jeep Gladiator that arrived at the same time. They came up with a few castings in the 2010s that only had 2-year stints.  Jeep Wrangler JL 4-door, Jeep Wagoneer, Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.  The Jeep Willys 4x4 Pickup had 2 lots of 2-year stints, but the older Jeep Willys and Jeep Wrangler Superlift just keep rolling along.  There is a good pool of Jeep castings out there, and I feel they should look at rotating things a bit more.  

That's not to say I don't like this casting.  There are some Jeep purists who are not fans.  It was based on a Fiat, and is a little different to the average Jeep out there.  But, I always thought it was a cute vehicle.  And I do like seeing it.  This white is another fantastic look.  Every release has followed the exact same formula.  Simple front and rear detailing, which you cannot go wrong with.  I love the consistency.  I love the model.

And I do love that if you were to look around, you might find this white coming out a bit more creamy.  I do enjoy a shade variation.  But, as I pointed out, I do wish there was a little more rotation of the fine Jeep castings.  So, again, I am going to score this a 9 out of 10.  I think there was a chance for them to use one of the other fine castings in its place.  

So, as I haven't been doing a lot of dives, lets' head back on this one.  The 2020 MB1 debut. This model did pop back up in the 2021 Best of Italy and in the 2022 Best of France series.  

MB26 in 2021 was a red example of the same model.

And in 2022, the model turned blue as MB6.

With this being the 4th yearly outing for the model.  It has not been put in any other range in an alternate colour as yet.  I wonder if it will be in the 2024 range.  It was not showing as moving into anything else as yet.  Although things do change.  

I was a bit of a fan of the MB1303 ‘21 Ford Mustang Mach-E, even before Matchbox announced it as coming.  At the real vehicle’s launch, I thought it would make for a great model.  I was soon happy to see it coming true.  It was late to arrive, as it was in a late 2022 batch for its debut, but in 2023, it is getting 2 outings in the basic range.  Another will be seen later.  For now, we get a grey MB44 issue.

It comes in a solid grey look, which, as far as I can tell, isn't one of the options of the real one.  But, they don't always have to follow exact colours.  I like this one anyway.  I think the regular Mustang used to be sold like this in recent years, but not the Mach-E.  

It gets simple front and rear tampo printing, which is about what I would expect.  I like this slightly out of the box thinking.  I sometimes worry, when they stick to original manufacturer colours, things may get a little boring.  Most tend to be varieties of grey, black and white.  A little red, a little blue.  Nothing major.  Still, this is a grey.  I know.  But, this is a pre-cursor to them being given a little more free reign to come up with unique looks.  I am giving this a 10 out of 10.  I love it.

A quick dive back again.  It arrived late in the 2022 range in Rapid Red.  An official Ford colour. It was MB65. 

We very quickly saw a second release, as the model was included in the 2023 MBX Electric Drivers, which arrived at the very start of the 2023 model year, just after the red did.  It was in Cyber Orange.  Another official colour.

Batch D of the 9-packs this year has also seen an exclusive Mach-E.  This time, it was in Grabber Blue.  Yet another official colour. 

Which does mean that this is the first non-official colour release of the model.  Yet, I think it fits in absolutely perfect with the others.  

Now we move on to the MB778 Ice Cream King.  It was originally just “Ice Cream Van” but when it was modified, the name got an upgrade too. It takes the MB59 slot in the 2023 range.  

Finally, an ice cream livery.  About googly time!  When the model returned in 2019, it was given an ice cream theme, but since then has had a variety of alternate looks.  I have been waiting for a proper ice cream look to return.  So, I am very happy with this.  And, I have a very good feeling where the inspiration might have come from with this.  Abe Lugo is the main person we deal with at the Matchbox brand within Mattel.  As is often the case, when he appears at conventions, his wife Melissa will be in attendance with him.  She is a bit of a car nut.  She owns a classic Morris Minor Convertible and a Plymouth PC Sedan.  Anyway, at the 2022 Albuquerque Convention, she was there alongside Abe, and had a box full of googly eyes.  Many of us had googly eyes added to our convention badges.  Myself included.  And now we get a “Good Googly Cones” look to the Ice Cream King.  Coincidence?  I think not.  And I love it!  

Both sides of the model are fairly close to each other.  Just a few minor changes to the writing under the “Cones, Shakes, Cold Treats!” line. But the best part is the footnote.  This vehicle is NOT APPROVED for human consumption! That really made me smile.  They have put a lot of effort, and a lot of fun, into this model.  I think, even going back to the start of it, this is the best look for this casting.  At least on a core range  level.  An easy 10 out of 10 from me.  I guess I should dive back and clarify. 

So, this model started out all the way back in 2009.  It was when they originally created it with a metal bonnet and plastic “rest of the body”.  It looks a little weird.  There was quite a gap between the 2 parts, which nobody was entirely happy with.  Yet, they kept it going for quite a while. It was MB43 in the basic range, and started off in a Cosmic theme. 

But, this was back when we used to have a yearly Dream Halloween promotional item.  And the 2009 promo was on the Ice Cream van, which was re-named I-Scream van!  This is still my favourite look for the casting.  This was absolutely amazing.  So much effort went into all aspects of this one.  I do miss the Dream Halloween era. Googly Cones is good, just not quite this good.  But, this was a special-limited edition.  Not something that can be found easily.  As they go, Googly is number 1!

During the model's early years, they did know it was an ice cream vehicle, so it was getting ice cream liveries.  The 2010 MB63 in blue and the City Action 5-pack in cream both had a logical theme. 

2011 saw 2 different MB63 basic range releases.  Pale green and mid pink.  A lighter pink was also in the City Life 5-pack.  All with the ice cream look.  

2012 saw the model in an Action 10-pack in orange, with an ice cream livery, and the first non-ice cream look, as it was also in the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse 5-pack.  It was a bit of an odd choice for the set, and the livery didn't really suit it that well.  But, it was a 1-off.

2013 saw it return for a swansong in the basic range in its original incarnation.  This purple MB32 was again back to the ice cream look.  

The model went on hiatus after that, during which time it was finally given the alteration to make the body include the front bonnet part.  Honestly, this is the better way for it.  It also means tampos can stretch all the way to the front.  Although, I never knew why this also necessitated moving the cones on the roof from forward leaning to sideways hanging. The 2019 MB98 cream model was again with a traditional ice cream livery.    

And then we saw them experiment a little.  2020 saw this blue model as MB43 with a Dave's Salt Water Taffy livery. At the time, I was liking it.  A little out of the box.  Sure, we don't only have to have ice cream livery.  I know it is an ice cream van, and there are cones built in to the casting itself.  But, they will occasionally be re-purposed for something else.  But, only on occasion.  The majority will still be ice cream styled.  

So when the 2021 MB99 appeared in green with a Lemon & Lime Time livery, promoting soft drinks, not ice creams, I was a little less impressed.  Sure, this was a nice livery, but 2 years in a row of non-traditional looks.  

And then we got another one last year.  This MB94 in chocolate brown was very nice.  But, again, it was on an ice cream van.  I was, by now, longing for the return of a simple ice cream look. 

Which is why, to me, this year's offering has been an absolute breath of fresh air.  I do love the occasional thinking outside the box, but since its return, only 40% have been traditional.  60% have been outside the box. That is too high a percentage for me.  I think you can see why I gave this a 10.  

The MB1203 Polaris RZR is next up.  It takes the MB76 slot in the basic range, and comes in…. black!

The thing is, this has now been in the basic range for 4 years.  It has not exactly been the best of sellers.  Not the worst either.  But, every single release has been black.  I don't know if this is an issue with Polaris.  I see images of orange ones, red ones, grey ones. Maybe Matchbox can't make it in any other colour than black.  Which is a shame, as it means that this just feels like the same thing over and over again.  There is only so many ways they can release a black model.

The biggest change seen for this year's model is that it is now a glossy black.  Previous ones had always been matte.  But, I don't feel that really makes it exciting.  I do feel, if they are unable to change the colour, this model has run its course in the basic range.  It is not a bad look.  It looks basically like a RZR should. It is just not doing it for me.  This really needs to be moved into multipack releases now.  I really don't want another black basic range.  2 out of 10.   

I really should back this up with another rundown.  The 2020 debut.  MB59 with grey and red detailing on the side. 

And, yeah, the new one is also a red and grey printed side design.  It is a different design, but is does feel like trading the same ground.  

2021 saw MB41 sporting a touch of blue, both in the side detail, and around the wheels.  At this point, I was okay with the black model 2 years in a row. 

As you can see, the 2022 MB39 used the same tampo design as the new one, this time in white and green.  As much as I like the use of the same tampo design, it's always on a black model.

I am just not enjoying the lack of colour variety.  A few tweaks with the odd black wheel, or odd black roof is not enough.  I am really starting to get bored of this one now.  A new Polaris Ranger has now debuted in the range.  It also debuted in black, but I am hoping that this gets more variety.  You can check the Polaris website and they get sold in green, grey or in a camouflage design.  Variety!  I am keeping my fingers crossed.

This is the last of the 9 regular models in the bacth, and therefore, the last that was supplied to me by Wheel Collectors.  The MB1286 Tesla Model X.  It takes the MB90 slot in the range and comes in grey.  

You can't fault the tampo design.  Front and rear detailing.  What else would you expect?  I don't think we have ever seen a Matchbox Tesla that has not followed the same formula.  

The problem with Teslas are the lack of original colour choices.  Their palette is not very wide, although I have noticed that Matchbox has been able to get a few slightly different looks in.  This does stick to the traditional palette though.  Tesla calls this Midnight Silver.  It's fine.  You cannot fault it, but with so many Teslas in the range, I am giving this an 8. The reason?

I am finding myself having to look pretty closely to distinguish whether I am looking at the MB1280 Model Y or MB1286 Model X in miniature.  In real life, you can see the difference well.  But, once shrunk down, it is not as obvious, until you literally put them side by side.  The Model Y being on the right here.  It came from the MBX Electric Drivers 5-pack this year.

Again, this feels a bit “same-y”, which is why I am not giving it full marks. I think it is good they put some Teslas in the range.  I just feel that as we start building up an inventory of Tesla castings, are we now just a little overboard?  Especially as the Model X appears in both Moving Parts and basic configurations. Good, but not wow good.

So that was all we had for the regular assortment.  But, if you were to visit a Target store in the USA, you might (he says that with a wink, as they go very fast) find a Target Red.  Every second batch has one, and this being the 8th batch of the year, meant it was due another.  This time the model is the MB1220 '62 Mercedes-Benz 220SE Sedan.  It is number 4 of 6 for the year.

It comes in red.  Well, what were you expecting?  It sports a simple side design, with s checkered pattern and some logos and a German flag.  Plus, there is a little pin striping going on.  A nice little touch with the “Built By Matchbox” logo on the rear door.  I think this is a lovely look.

It had no other tampo on the model.  It is a shame they couldn't squeeze the tampo around to include a touch of white to the headlights.  But, that is a minor thing.  It does not take away from this model.  

I did notice that this is the most colourful Target Red to date.  Only the Bugatti had eked a second colour beyond white detailing before this one arrived.  Not that it matters.  I am enjoying these.  The hunt?  Maybe not so much. Made even worse because I do not live in the right country to begin with.  But, I am giving this a 10.  Even with that headlight remark.  I am finishing on a high.  I have been a little harder on a few things lately.  It is not because they are getting worse.  On the contrary, I think the series is as good now as it has been for a while.  This is how I want Matchbox to be.  But, I have to try and pull up the smaller points more, or otherwise it will be rather boring. Me praising them about every little thing, and telling them all models are just wonderful.  I hope it is making the reports more interesting, and possibly thought provoking?

Because that is the end of another report.  2 new little castings looked at.  

Along with 3 models now on their second year in the range.

And another 5 models that have been around just a little longer.  

Well, as I prepare to “Move” on to another batch of models next week, and these de-"part" (I think that is enough hinting of what is coming next week), I hope you all have a safe and happy week.  See you next time. 

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