For most gearheads, the obsession with cars took root in their childhood. Whether the spark was created by a father’s beloved muscle car or a day at the race track, one of the surest outlets of the young car-buff’s passion was model cars. Lining window sills, scattered across bedroom floors, filling school lunch boxes- these miniature models are often where it all begins. One of the oldest and most well-known names in the model car game is Matchbox.
The company was formed in 1953 as a name-brand of a British die-casting company called Lesney Products. The name ‘Matchbox’ was derived from the packaging that the cars used to be sold in, which were like in size and style to actual matchboxes. Though other brands like Hot Wheels would gain a great deal of popularity as well, Matchbox remained a staple for collectors and children alike.
The company’s main approach was to stick as true as possible to the actual scale and styling of the cars they modeled. They covered a wide variety of vehicles and machines, ranging from cement mixers to milk vans to American and European models. The above video shows us how all the molds were sketched out and carved by hand, and then each individual model painted by hand.
The video below (albeit directed at a slightly younger audience) gives us a look inside how it’s done today- and not much has changed. The full-scale cars are still sketched out by hand, and then molds are carved and manually machined. A lot of real, human skill goes into the creation of these replicas; not many modern companies can say the same about their products.
Nowadays, there’s as a large a collector market for Matchbox cars as there is for the real cars. As with any collectors item, the value of the cars is based on rarity, popularity of the model, and condition. Collectors often spend a pretty penny to get their hands on the rare ones, with many being priced on eBay and other auctions at hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
For us average car enthusiasts, however, the few we might have left over from when we were kids, or simply the memories of our very first ‘car collection’, are enough. Maybe you had a hefty Matchbox collection in your younger days, or maybe you still have one now. We’d love to hear about it, share your collections or memories in the comments below.