How can a manufacturer sell the same product for twice or three times the price? Automakers have long known that a deluxe edition car can command a deluxe price, with minimal increases in production cost. At the same time, deluxe editions are usually slower to sell than their standard siblings and economies of scale can make or break the bottom line.
Small scale automakers have been slow to capitalize on the diecast carriage trade by producing fancier editions of their regular offerings. In 1989, Matchbox, then owned by Matchbox International Ltd., introduced 'Matchbox World Class' diecast cars in their three-inch scale range. Eight cars were offered, all examples currently available in their 1-75 range, but now at three times the price. For about $2.50, Matchbox offered realistic paint colors and authentic styling, real rubber tires, fully detailed tail lights and license plates and metalized windows. The Matchbox catalogue stated: "Our World Class vehicles are the ultimate in miniature diecast vehicles." Special packaging for the World Class cars featured display boxes with full-color automotive insignias and reflective high-rise backdrops. To emphasize the 'World Class' concept, different national flags were displayed on the blister-card, with the catch-phrase "The Elite of Diecast Vehicles!"
Series I cars offered in 1989 were all sports cars and included a heavy German contingent with three Porsches, a 982S, 944 Turbo and a 959, and a Mercedes AMG 500 SEC. Three Italians, a Lamborghini Countach and two Ferraris, a 308 GTB and Testarossa, were offset by one American car, a Corvette Roadster. (A full list of all World Class cars with colors, numbers and values accompanies this article.)
Auto experts predict that the future of urban transportation lies with mini or microcars. Usually with less than 1,000 cc engines and weighing no more than 2,000 pounds, these smallest of cars offer economy, reduced parking or storage requirements and reasonable price. The Ford Ka and Mercedes sponsored Swatch are some of the latest examples of tiny forms of transport.
Microcars are not new. The Volkswagon Beetle and Citroen 2CV were designed before WWII to provide the masses with small efficient automobiles. With the variety of microcars over the past 50 years it would seem natural for 1:64 scale diecast car producers to have reproduced these minicars in miniature. With the exception of the Beetle, this is not the case. Few microcars have been offered in the popular 3-inch toy scale. From my collection of several thousand 1:55-1:64th scale toy cars, I've selected an baker's dozen that qualify.
The Volkswagon 1200/1300 or 'Beetle' as it is popularly known, is both the earliest and most common microcar reproduced in diecast. While earlier examples exist, a stock, oval windowed model, circa 1960 is currently available in the Hot Wheels line (1988 #293). Offered in a variety of colors, the only one without wild graphics is the metallic rose example shown here. Hot Wheels did include the Beetle in their 1968 releases but far from stock with a hot-rod front engine. Later examples of the Beetle are prolific however, two of my favorites are Siku's model 1200 (1964 #230) and 1300 (1975 #1022) both in blue and Tomica's delightful 1300 Cabriolet (1977 #F20) in red. Best of all, the new Volkswagon Beetle Concept 1 has been released by Matchbox (1995 #49) in red, purple, green and orange.
In 1998, Ferrari is again rising to the top of Formula 1 racing. Thanks
to Michael Schumacher and new levels of reliability, Ferrari has regained
the winners circle after spending most of the 1990's with the back-markers.
Ferrari racecars have always been favorites with toy car makers. Today's
F1 drivers were very likely racing these toy cars on the table-top as children.
Do you suppose they dreamed they would be where they are today?
In the collector scales of 1:43 and 1:24, almost every Ferrari racecar
has been produced over the years. In the 3-inch toy car scale (1:55-1:64),
Grand Prix Ferrari racecars are far less common. Matchbox, Majorette, Corgi,
Tomica, and Polistil are some of the few that have offered toy Ferrari racecars
for the Grand Prix circuit.
The Lone Star story is one of what might of been. In 1966 the small-scale diecast car market was very active in Great Britain and Europe. Toy cars of 1:55-1:70 scale were being produced in great numbers. Matchbox and Corgi's Husky label cars led the way in Britain. Majorette and Norev were active in France. Siku and Schuco were providing for the German market and Polistil's Penny cars were popular in Italy. No one had heard of Hot Wheels, still several years from birth.
Lone Star was the brand name used by Die Casting Machine Tools (D.C.M.T.) for their toy lines. They had been producing a Road-master series of 1:35-1:43 scale vehicles since the early 1950s. In 1966, Lone Star introduced the "Roadmaster Impy Super Cars" series. These cars and trucks were roughly 3 inches long, running about 1:57-1:60 scale. Like the Siku diecast, Impys had jeweled headlamps. They also had opening doors, bonnets and boots (English you know). Engines were detailed and 'axial' steering was offered like some of the contemporary Matchbox models. By 1968, 35 vehicles and several accessories had been produced.
1961 Ferrari 156 F1 120, Lesney 1962 mint-in-box - $50.001969 Ferrari 312 F1 V12, Lesney 1970 mint - $10.001982 Ferrari 126 C2/3, Matchbox International 1984 mint - $ 3.001987 Ferrari F1, Matchbox International 1988 mint - $ 3.001989 Ferrari Racing Car Transporter, w/2 race cars - $15.001989 DAF Ferrari Transporter (1:87 scale) - $ 5.00
left - Ferrari Racing Transportet by Majorette, right - Ferrari Racing Transporter by Matchbox