Matchbox Models by Lesney
Continuing my series of the great hardware and trade catalogues of the East End, it is my pleasure to publish the Matchbox 1966 Collector’s Guide & International Catalogue by Lesney Products & Co Ltd of Hackney Wick (courtesy of Libby Hall). The company was founded by Leslie & Rodney Smith in 1947 , closed in 1982 and the Lesney factory was demolished in 2010.
It all began in 1953, with a miniature diecast model of the Coronation Coach with its team of eight horses. In Coronation year, over a million were sold and this tremendous success was followed by the introduction of the first miniature vehicle models packed in matchboxes. And so the famous Matchbox Series was born.
More than five hundred million Matchbox models have been made since the series was first introduced during 1953, and today over two million Matchbox models are made every week. The life of a new model begins at a design meeting attended by Lesney senior executives. The suitability of a particular vehicle as a Matchbox model is discussed and the manufacturer of the full-sized car is approached for photographs, drawings and other information. Enthusiastic support is received from manufacturers throughout the world and many top secret, exciting new cars are on the Matchbox drawings boards long before they are launched to the world markets.
1. Once the details of the full-size vehicle have been obtained, many hours of careful work are required in the main drawing office in Hackney.
2. In the pattern shop, highly specialised craftsmen carve large wooden models which form the basic shape from which the miniature will eventually be diecast in millions.
3. Over a hundred skilled toolmakers are employed making the moulds for Matchbox models from the finest grade of chrome-vinadium steel.
4. There are more than one hundred and fifty automatic diecasting machines at Hackney and all have been designed, built and installed by Lesney engineers.
5. The spray shop uses nearly two thousand gallons of lead-free paint every week, and over two and a half million parts can be stove-enamelled every day.
6. Final assembly takes place over twenty lines, and sometimes several different models and their components come down each line at the same time.
7. Ingenious packing machines pick up the flat boxes, shape them and seal the model at the rate of more than one hundred and twenty items per minute.
8. Ultra-modern, automatic handling and automatic conveyor systems speed the finished models to the transit stores where electronic selection equipment routes each package.
From the highly individual, skilled worker or the enthusiast who produces hand-made samples of new ideas, to the multi-million mass assembly of the finished models by hundreds of workers, this is the remarkable story of Matchbox models. Over three thousand six hundred people play their part in a great team with the highest score in the world – over a hundred million models made and sold per year. Enthusiasts of all ages throughout the world collect and enjoy Matchbox models today and it is a true but amazing fact that if all the models from a year’s work in the Lesney factories were placed nose to tail they would stretch from London to Mexico City – a distance of over six thousand miles!
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