Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Mat Irvine reviews:
The well-known French modeller, Jean-Christophe Carbonel (otherwise known to all as ‘JC’), has produced another book for the French publisher, Histoire & Collections.

The Story of Matchbox Kits homes in on a very British subject, and those whose French may not be up to scratch can breath a sigh of relief right now, as the edition I am talking about here is printed in English!

JC at the UK IPMS Scale Model World, Telford.

History of kits
The Story of Matchbox Kits is dated ‘1973-2000’ which takes in the formation of Matchbox Kits out of Matchbox Toys, up until the name more or less ceased to exist. By then, the ‘kits’ part had been acquired by Revell-Germany, which continued to use the Matchbox name for while, though eventually the original kits were assimilated into the general Revell catalog. But the quarter-century plus during which Matchbox Kits were produced is well covered in the paperback book’s 84 full-colour pages, supported by 300 photographs. The book takes you right from the start in 1973, when the first Matchbox Kit range was shown at the 1973 UK Brighton Toy Fair, until the new millennium, when the name - for kits at least - had been virtually abandoned.

Different colours
In between these dates however, there is a vast amount of information and JC details each year’s releases, many of them illustrated with photos of the box-art. The book shows the arrival of the first AFVs in the mid-1970s, soon followed by the first 1:32 scale cars.  This was a time when Matchbox moulded its kits in multi-coloured plastic - two, sometimes three, colours. This feature brought disapproving grunts from some who thought it purely a gimmick, but it meant junior modellers could start the hobby without necessarily resorting to paint, and anyway, experienced modellers would paint them regardless, so it hardly mattered!  

Book spread with the ‘Tony James’ advertisement.

Original box-art for the Matchbox Heyford kit. It was later reboxed as a Revell kit.

Later years
The years when Matchbox’s owner Lesney bought AMT are also covered, with the incorporation of much of the latter’s range - somewhat unsuccessfully it has to be said - into the Matchbox list. Also included are some of the several double-page ads that Matchbox placed in the modelling press, including one that featured a certain Aircraftsman Anthony James - at that point serving in the UK Royal Air Force - extolling the virtues of the 1:72 scale Matchbox Handley-Page Heyford. Tony James is now better known as the owner of Comet Miniatures, the specialist sci-fi and fantasy model establishment in South London.

Built-up model of the Heyford.

The book is available at a good discount here, where it earns a 5-star reader review.

Visit Comet Miniatures here.