Skip to content

Matchbox Models By Lesney

January 16, 2024
by the gentle author

It is my pleasure to publish the Matchbox 1966 Collector’s Guide & International Catalogue by Lesney Products & Co Ltd of Hackney Wick, courtesy of the late 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!

You may also like to take a look at these other magnificent catalogues

Crowden & Keeves Hardware

Nicholls & Clarke’s Hardware

Allen & Hanburys’ Surgical Appliances

10 Responses leave one →
  1. January 16, 2024

    In small proportions, we just beauty see.
    And in short measures, life may perfect be.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it

  2. January 16, 2024

    This is a wonderful account of Matchbox. I think there may still be a few in my cellar but although I was interested in cars, alas I wasn’t a collector. ( It was unusual enough for a girl to be interested in cars when I was a child!).
    They certainly are tough though and my own children were given second hand and third hand ones to play with with only a little of the paint chipped off.
    Sadly, like a lot of manufacturing, production, apparently, has moved overseas and this Hackney employer is no more.

  3. Andy permalink
    January 16, 2024

    This truly brought joy to me and made me remember all the fun of having “Matchbox “ toys .
    Thank you Gentle Author for dispelling winter blues and darkness with such an article .
    Bless you .
    Andy

  4. Greg T permalink
    January 16, 2024

    Before them were “Dinky Toys” from the makers of Meccano & Hornby railways …
    But – they used to live in Liverpool!

  5. January 16, 2024

    Thank you. Brought back so many childhood memories.

  6. Ron Wilkinson permalink
    January 16, 2024

    I loved these and had a collection as a kid. They were in the department store toy isle and model shops here in CA, USA.

  7. January 16, 2024

    My childhood returns: that was exactly my MATCHBOX time! Oh, how I loved these little cars. I had (and have!) so many of them. One of the oldest and my favourite was the Morris pick-up truck (No. 60). It’s still in my collection!

    Very nice the catalogues: when the 1966 edition was published, I was 10 years old …

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  8. Cherub permalink
    January 16, 2024

    My husband has an old biscuit tin filled with old Matchbox cars he played with as a little boy in the 60s, West Ham programmes and old newspaper cuttings from when they won the FA Cup, a coin commemorating the death of Churchill and assorted other bits and pieces of old tat. It’s a link to his childhood and teens and goes everywhere with him, it’s currently residing in the basement storage area of our apartment in Switzerland, he shipped it when we moved here with his job. Thankfully his ancient fishing wellies that moved from house to house with us went west years ago 🙂

  9. Stephanie Mascis permalink
    January 17, 2024

    I live in the US, and I had a lot of these, cannot remember where I bought them, but they were purchased new and in their boxes, in 67 and 68. I am sure I purchased them with my allowance and some maternal help. I was very keen on scale models and how they were made, and eight year old me would have lost her mind reading this piece. 65 year old me is very grateful.

  10. January 31, 2024

    Can you please help me finding some matchbox highway maintenance trucks for me I need some for my collection as I am missing some of them I am a snow plow driver and I would like to have to have them for my collection thank you very much 😊

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS