Matchbox Monday has a little fun hauling a few playsets

This is a little different to the norm.  You might remember that I did something a little similar last year (if you have been following that long).  My friends at Wheel Collectors sell a variety of Matchbox products.  You get the regular vehicles, but they will randomly sell a few other items.  Recently, they added some more playsets to their database, and sent me over an example of each one to have a look at.  It was like a belated Christmas present, opening and building these.  And then having some fun with them. But, I know many will want regular models as well, so I also had a look at the first 2024 batch of the Hitch & Haul series, as it was quite small.  But, first, let's have some fun.

Now, this set has been around for a while now.  As you can see, it does state on it that it is new for 2022.  I am enjoying this Action Drivers series of playsets, especially as you are able to click them together to make a larger play area.  This set is called Police Station Dispatch, and I learned something as I tried to open the box.

There I was, trying my best to rip the sides off the package, when I noticed a little hand pointer on the back.  A closer inspection showed that there are dotted lines across the back of the box. The hand pointer is where you pop in to rip the box open.  You see, being used to 5-packs and 9-packs, I have become so used to ripping the sides off to pull everything out, I naturally started doing that.  But, these boxes are thick, and they are very well glued down.  

Pushing where the hand points pops open the dotted line, and then you just follow it around and voilà!  One open box. I can't believe it is that simple.  I must try and remember to do this in future with playsets.   

These are the contents of the box.  Well, most of it.

As the set comes with a model and a talking piece, which you can try out before you buy.  Well, if you buy in a store.  Buying online sort of negates the need for that part.  So, let me tell you, when you press the blue box, it provides you with one of a number of phrases.  I don't actually know how many.  I didn't count.  I tried a bunch of times, and each one gave me a different response.  

The box also comes with an instruction manual about how to build the set, as well as a sticker sheet, with a guide as to where to put them. Now, I could elongate this report out by doing a step-by-step guide to putting the set together.  I'm not!  It's easy to follow.  The parts click in to place very easily, and feel solid when clicked in.  That's all you need to know.

When completed, it looks like this.  

The set comes with the MB821 Ford Taurus Police Interceptor.  Sadly, for me, this is a repeat of the 2020 basic range issue.  I would have really loved for them to have dug deep into the history of this model.  Just imagine if they have repeated the 2012 5-pack release.  The casting had been updated between then and now (well, 2022), and there would have been more sales from those collectors who had to buy it to get the updated casting variant.  That was a bit of a home goal from Mattel.  They could have got more sales by digging deeper into the history.  Mind you, I would still enjoy the set.  I am loving these sets, and the fact that you can link things.  I think you can also link to some other brand.  I don't know.  I don't check out other brands.  

The set comes with added play value, as there are parts to it that move.  There is an officer along with a diversion sign that can pop out from the side on the road.  

There is an entrance barrier to lift.

When pressed to open, it will stay up until you pop it back down.

There are lock-ups around the back, and some gates that can be opened and closed.

Both inner and outer gates slide very easily.  

The set also contains a plastic helicopter that sits on the roof.  The blades do rotate.

And you do get the interactive blue box attached to the side of the command tower.  

There are gates under the control tower that can be opened to allow the vehicle to come back out. Now, talking of the vehicle, let's get a little closer view. (just so you know, the playset shots were done outside in the garden, the model in my photo setup inside, hence the different lighting).

As I said, this model first arrived in the 2020 basic range, so let's bring that one in.  Or....

I should say those ones.  This model sported a few variations during production.  

The one that most people will remember is that this model was usually found with disk wheels, but there was a batch where some 6-spokes were substituted.  

But for those a little more nerdy, if you were to look closely, you might notice that the blue tampo shade varied quite a lot.  From a fairly medium shade to a very dark navy blue.  

When comparing the new one to those I had before, I saw that the shade of silver matched.  The blue tine to the window matched.  Black bases and interior are obviously the same.  The blue tampo is dark on the new one, pretty close to a shade I had before.  However, do you see the Police Interceptor writing on the rear doors?  The new one is on the top here.  The writing appears to be a thinner font than any I had in 2020.  It's a small thing, but enough for me to keep this as a new addition to the collection.  Excellent.  

That was the only 2022 set I received.  They also sent me 2 different 2023 sets.  The first, I would guess, is the replacement for the 2022 one.  The Super Clean Car Wash set is the same size and also features the "light and sound" function with a part that flashes and talks to you when pressed.

No trying to rip the sides off from me.  I know how to open these properly now.  

Having just opened the 2022 set, I know what to expect here.  One set of parts inside.

Which I proceed to empty out on to the table.

Of course, you don't want to forget the 2 parts that are not technically in the box.  They are in windows at the top.  

Again, I am not messing about with a step-by-step guide to building it.  I am just here to check how it works once built.  

The entrance to the car wash itself has these little pink strips hanging down.  They were covered in the box, but when I popped the cover off, I did notice that a couple of the pink strips were a little bent.  It's fine.  It's not a dealbreaker.  

The blue section to the side slides back and forth to allow the model to roll through the car wash.  It is quite a clever little piece.  They definitely thought this through.  

It slides easily.  I am seeing plenty of play action with this facility without worry of breaking it.  

Once "cleaned", the model rolls out the side of the car wash easily, and around to the front section of the playset.  

There is a slot for the vacuum.  The black part does rotate around, with both sides linked.  So you move one side, the other will follow suit.  

There is also an area up the corner for drying and polishing the model.  This is a little interactive.  When you roll the model on to the yellow section....

This activates the employee, who will slide around to dry and polish the vehicle.  

There are some additional parking spaces on the set, and I do notice that they work hard to ensure they are inclusive.  One of the spaces is disabled.  I wonder if they will ever release a model specifically for these bays?  A Nissan e-NV200 with wheelchair accessible ramp in the rear?  An opening rear part with a ramp that can be popped down. Something to think about for a future Moving Parts release.  

Now, before I get to the model itself, there is one small thing I want to point out.  This model is rolling off the 2023 Action Drivers set....

And rolls nicely on to the connected 2022 set.  Why am I pointing this out?  Well, when I spoke about these before, I was showing off some 2021 and 2022 sets.  The Action Drivers series launched in 2021, and I had a couple of those sets (hospital and fuel station), which I connected together.  But, when I got the first 2022 set, I discovered that they had changed the connections.  They were incompatible.  2021 sets do not mix with 2022s.  But, they haven't done the same.  The 2023 connections are still the same as 2022.  I think they should reissue the 2021s with new connections to allow you to mix them in with the newer stuff.  I am hearing 2024 sets are still compatible.  

Again, the model included is a repeat of one that was used in the basic range 2 years prior.  In this case, it is the 2021 basic range release of the MB1221 '20 Chevy Corvette.  

I know I often state that a carry forward should be at least 5 years old.  I do feel carrying forward something so recent is not as good.  Just imagine if they dug out a classic 2008 release of the older Chevy Corvette ZR1 to throw in the set in metallic blue or metallic dark red.  That could have been much cooler.  And, it would have still been a Corvette. The 2011 release was carried forward in 2021, so it is totally feasible it could have happened.  

Well, I did notice that the newer run is a slightly darker shade of red.  The original looks a little bit orangey compared to the newer run.  So, again, I am keeping this one.  I would still have preferred something older.

The last of the 3 sets that they sent me is a smaller set.  Not the smallest that they do.  I would say, next size up. Or, in other words, about half the size of those first 2.  It is called Ferry Port Playset, and is also a 2023 issue.

Yes, it appears that the same is true for this size of box. I can't believe I was attempting to open playsets by ripping off the side strip when it was so simple to open.

For a smaller set, this has a lot of parts inside.  

Well, outside now.  You know the drill. Give me a minute (or 2, 3, 10) to put it together....

And another set is ready to go.  It may have been a smaller set, but this took me just as long to put together as the 2 larger ones.  It has quite a bit to it.  

And because this has water around some of the edges, this means this set can only be used as an end/corner piece when clicking things together.  Which is pretty obvious. It is a harbour. It has a lot of functionality.

There is a bridge section that models can roll over.

But, if the ferry was ready to depart, the bridge would go up, and a ramp can be dropped to stop vehicles approaching it.  It's fun!

There is another barrier at the entrance to the ferry itself.

When the vehicle rolls onto the clickable yellow part, the barrier will raise, and a port authority worker will pop out to deal with you.

The ferry itself has ramps on either end that lower down to allow vehicles on, and you can pop them up to hold them in place while rolling off.  I say rolling off, as the ferry does have little plastic wheels under it to allow it to roll on a hard surface.  I don't think there would be a scenario where you would actually play with this set on a river/pond/stream.  

The ferry itself is sturdy, and has the capability to hold up to 4 vehicles for travel at a time.

I think this is a really cool little set, and provides a lot of play value.  I am impressed with it, and I think it is a cooler set than the other 2.

But enough of playing with the set.  I know for many, is it worth finding it for a model?

This one is an even quicker turnaround.  They carried forward the 2022 basic range release of the MB1237 '20 Land Rover Defender 90.  I have no idea why they chose that.  Not because it is a Land Rover Defender.  I mean, this is a ferry set. You could literally add in any car to the set, to be honest.  Which, to me, is the point.  You could have put anything in.  So why choose one that has only just been available.  To me, it was a waste of an included vehicle.  If it had been me, I would have looked at, say the 2018 basic range.  Picked one of the models from there.  It was 5 years ago.  They are still pretty recent, but I think a 5-year turnaround is good for the average child to phase in and out of playing with this stuff.  A perfect candidate would have been the debut of the Mazda CX-5.  For those who remember last week's article, the debut in 2018 was the only one made before the small tweak to the casting to add a front licence plate.  Just imagine if they had popped that as a model in this set.  It would have had the updated casting, and nutty collectors would be buying these sets to get the variation.  Added sales.  More money.  Is that not logical to others?

So, let's bring in what I found in 2022.  I noticed that during production, the shade of blue did vary in shade from a light blue to a very pale blue.  The date codes were P48 (darker) and P50 (lighter), but I know not all collectors are really that fussed about it.  I am a bit nerdy that way.  The new one is dated R26.  So, this means it was produced 28 weeks later. Well, we had a shade in 2 weeks.  

But, that is not the end of the report.  I didn't want to just talk about the playsets.  2024 has begun, and Wheel Collectors also sent me over the first batch of 2024 Hitch & Haul. There are 4 sets in the batch, but sadly, 3 of them were carry forwards.  However, I always want to know.  Are any of these worthwhile? First up is the MBX Farm Life set.  This was originally a part of the last batch of 2023. This means that it has simply continued on.  However, there are 2 things I immediately notice when I look at the pack.  First off, for 2024, it appears that Mattel has dropped the numbering system.  Since the Hitch & Haul series has returned, they have never managed to release all the sets that they planned to.  So, each year we end up with missing numbers.  So, I see this making sense.  Sure, I prefer to know how many sets there are, and I bet many others do.  But, I came up with an alternate idea.  Why didn't they number these as 2024 no.1. The other sets in the batch 2024 no.2, 2024 no. 3 and 2024 no.4.  If you get another batch out, they would be 2024 no.5, 2024 no. 6 etc.  If you get a 3rd batch out?  Continue.  If not, 2025 rolls around, and you have 2025 no.1, 2025 no.2 and so on.  Does that make sense?  They are numbered.  But, you get as far as you get. Problem solved.  The other thing I notice is the name.  MBX Farm LIFE.  When this debuted, I remember making a note of the MBX Farm Trailer name for the set being a little weird, as that was also the name of the trailer unit.  I am happy to see they have rectified that.  Much better. But, is there anything of note inside?

I bring in the 2023 release to compare.  Short answer, no!  As far as I can see, these are identical.  If you like packaging variations then this set is for you.  If you are here for the models inside, then this will be as it was in 2023, so not of interest.  I do see a reason behind this being carried forward.  A 2024 Farm playset has been launched with the same scheme on the tractor that was included.  I wonder if Wheel Collectors will get that set in?  It does look a lot of fun.  

We also get this MBX Fire Rescue set carried forward from the last batch.  However, there is no tie-in playset, so this is literally just rolling over in a new package.  

So, is this one worth paying attention to?  Yes.  It is. Tear, rip....

One 2024 release vs 2023 release shot.  The accessories are the same.  In fact, the MB996 Hazard Squad is also the same. The 2 Hazard Squads were totally identical.  But, there is another.

The MB1398 MBX Mobile Light Truck.  And no, the base still has the old MAN number on it.  They haven't updated it.  But, there is a small change that has been made for 2024.

Do you notice a small 23 above the yellow line on the left of the model?  That wasn't there in 2023.  I checked.  Just in case it was just mine that had an error or something.  But, every picture of a 2023 release didn't have that number, and every picture of a 2024 release did.  Yes, this appears to have been added between production runs.  Luckily, this number is on the side that points out in the package.  So, for those who like tampo variations, this one is for you.  Definitely for me. I am very happy with this one. I do enjoy a variation, don't I!

The final carry forward is actually a double carry forward.  Yes, this MBX Ocean Rescue set appeared in 2022, got rolled over into 2023, and again rolled over into 2024.  I don't know why this one keeps getting thrown in.  I wouldn't have thought it was the most popular, and I know there were a few from 2022 that were quite tough to find.  The Dodge Durango and Pop Up Camper pack was popular, but not easy to obtain.  They should have brought that back, and not one that was already brought back once already.  

Now, when they launched the set in 2022, the MB1261 MBX Hitch & Haul trailer was given 2 looks.  A white jet ski on an orange trailer, or orange jet ski on a white trailer.  It appears that they are now just continuing with the latter.  When this rolled over into 2023, I could not see a variation anywhere.  But, another year on, and is there something?

Yes, I have spotted something with the MB909 Rapids Rescue, so out the package this all comes.

Now, when it comes to the colour, and the tampo, there is a fractional difference.  It is very minor.  But, that wasn't the part that I noticed.

This is about the raft.  It is now a darker orange.  I often notice orange plastics vary, and it was the first thing I checked for when the 2023 release arrived.  I expected it then, but it was not to be. So in a funny sort of way, I got my wish a year later.  

So, this does mean that I have 2 Rapid rescues to tow the 2 MBX Hitch & Hauls.  I would still have preferred another 2022 set to carry forward here.  

What's the old saying?  Save the best 'til last. I finish up my report by showcasing the only new models I am looking at in this report.  The final set of 2024's first batch is the MBX Construction Zone pack.  Funnily enough, the pack name was also a part of the last batch, and the livery for the models is the same as that batch.  But the 2 models are different.  

We are getting the MB954 Highway Maintenance Truck (which they are referring to as Plowverizer) alongside the Road Stripe King.

They have done this before.  Although the Highway Maintenance Truck does have a tow hook, the Road Stripe Kings is not a trailer unit.  So, it cannot be towed.  Isn't that the point of Hitch & Haul? It features vehicles and trailers.  So, although these are really cool, sporting a continued theme which launched in 2023 in force, I do think putting them in this set is a little wrong.  If it is called Hitch & Haul, one vehicle should be able to haul the other.  If they are doing this, they should be coming up with a different name for the series.  Maybe just bring back the Action Pack name.  After all, the playsets are being known as Action Drivers.  2 models in a set with some accessories.  Action Pack.  Using the Action wording again.  We had Action Packs in the late 1990s.  Sure, some could be vehicles with trailers (after all, I do love those).  But, some packs can just be 2 vehicles that work together well, along with associated accessories for them.  I think it opens up more potential for the range.  

I also noticed that the accessories in this set were identical to the last set.  So, we almost got a carry forward.  Same set name, same accessories, same livery, but new castings featuring that livery.

Now, I did not score any of the models in this report out of 10 like I have been doing lately.  That was deliberate.  Technically, none of them were new.  They all carried forward.  I felt it was a little weird to rate them.  But, this set, being new, I thought I would.  Although I wish I didn't.  Because, this is tough.  When you take these 2 models as they are.  Shown in this picture are 2 random models sporting a recurring theme.  I love recurring themes!  So, yes, I am extremely happy with 2 more in that theme.  Plus, have you noticed that each of these has 3 sides of tampo?  Bonus!  The Highway Maintenance Truck has the hood detailed as well as the sides.  The Road Stripe king is so cool with the additional front end detailing.  This is the best it has looked. I love it.  So, if I was to rate these 2 models on their own, I would be scoring them both a 10.  But, I just don't like they are in a pack called Hitch & Haul, when you can't do what it says with them.  If these sets were under a different name, like Action Packs, it would not be an issue.  Even with the accessories being the same as last year's set, I would still have called this a 10.  I am literally knocking points off for the name of the series.  Hitch & Haul should be able to hitch one model to the other and haul it.  That is my opinion.  So, I am knocking this down to half points.  Yes, cruel.  But, I just feel it is wrong.  

I prefer the 2 models in this year's set to the 2 that were in last year's in general.  But, the MB1318 MBX Utility Trailer hitched up to the MB1008 Tilt 'n Tip beautifully, allowing it to be hauled around. A perfect Hitch & Haul addition.  This is not a perfect addition.  It is just wrong.  Change the name of the series.  That's my takeaway from this.  

All that is left now is to have a little fun.  I put the 3 playsets together and add the models.  Hmm! Looks a little sparse.  

That's more like it.  I added in the other 2022/23 playsets that I have picked up, and added in the Hitch & Haul stuff, as well as those featured in my last few bog reports.  Now, this is how you build a city.  I just wish I could have added the 2021 playsets to this as well.  

A few close-up shots.  I do enjoy these sets and their ability to click together to make a large area to play with.  I hope these continue for years to come, and we can build up a massive scene.  Yes, I feel like a big kid messing about with these, but I love it. I don't want to grow up.  Ha ha!

But, for now, I am done having fun.  After a simple run of playsets with non-exclusives that still ended up in my collection.

And adding one Hitch & Haul set, but also a couple of bonus models, I am done for this week.  Next week will be a regular week.  The first batch of the 2024 is about ready for me to fawn over.  

Until then, I hope you still enjoyed my ramblings this week.  Have a safe and happy week, and catch you again next week.  

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