Matchbox and the Mercedes-Benz Sedan
by Doug Breithaupt

1962 Mercedes-Benz 220SE #53

1967 Mercedes-Benz 300SE #46

1967 Mercedes-Benz 300SE #46 (Superfast)

1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL #56

1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL taxi #56

1985 Mercedes-Benz 300E #58

1985 Mercedes-Benz 300E polizie #58

1991 Mercedes-Benz 600SEL #38

1995 AMG Mercedes-Benz C-Class #35

1996 Mercedes-Benz E-Class #53

1999 Mercedes-Benz S500 #32
While Matchbox may have strong British roots, over the years, it is actually a German marque has been the best represented in the model line. Mercedes-Benz has not only received attention for it's sports and racing cars, Matchbox has also reproduced toy versions of many different sedan models. Sedans, especially the four-door variety are seldom considered sexy enough for reproduction as toys. Matchbox has only done three Jaguar sedans, two from BMW and Lincoln and none from Cadillac. Even Rolls Royce, the grand dame of British motorcars has seen only six different models represented in the Matchbox line over the past 50 years. In that same period, eight Mercedes-Benz sedans have joined the 14 other models representing the marque, for a total of 22.

It is the sedans that are the focus of this profile. Beginning in 1963, Matchbox produced the 220SE model, identified as a 1963. I always assume, allowing no evidence to the contrary, that the model's production year is one year prior to it's release as a toy as that would be when the model was prepared. The 220SE is a two-door sedan that fortunately missed the curious fins seen on the four-door model of the same car. Impy Lone Star did the four-door sedan, fins and all. The story is that the fins were added to make the car more attractive to the American market. The 220SE is a smaller-scale Matchbox model, closer to 1:66 scale.

In 1968, Matchbox replaced the 220SE with the 300SE model, still sporting regular wheels. Again, the two-door sedan was selected, with opening doors and trunk. At the same time, Hot Wheels were released and their success forced Matchbox to respond with Superfast wheels on their models. The 300SE was fitted with the new wheels and actually it looked rather well. The opening doors were dropped but the trunk still allowed for miniature luggage to be loaded.

Matchbox waited ten years to offer the next sedan. This time the powerful 450SEL was selected. With four doors, two of which opened, the 450 sported wider Superfast wheels. It was also produced as a taxi and police car. Several years ago I had the opportunity to use a '74 450SEL for a weekend. It was almost the same blue color as the Matchbox version shown here. I remember how impressed I was with the amazing torque and power. Remember, in the 1970's, owning a Mercedes-Benz automobile was considered a sure sign of serious wealth and the 450SEL was second to none, at least in America. In Europe, Mercedes sedans were used for taxi and police duty although usually lesser models that the 450SEL were employed for these duties. The 450SEL was one of the last matchbox models 'Made in England', as are the two versions shown here.

By the mid-1980's, it was time for a new Mercedes-Benz sedan from Matchbox and the 300E was selected. Matchbox was owned by Universal at this time. The quality of this model is good with opening doors and new dish-style wheels. Again, a police version was offered but without any light-bar.

In the early 1990's, both BMW and Mercedes-Benz produced new V12 motors for their high-end models. The Mercedes model was the 600SEL and Matchbox produced the 1991 model in 1992. Once again, the doors open and the colors were quite realistic. This model was also offered in the Premier Edition series in white, black and blue, with rubber tires and chromed wheels. At a price of $125,000 U.S., the 600SEL was not a car for the masses and Matchbox showed discretion in not offering it as a taxi or police car. The production life of this model seems to have been rather short and it may prove a rare piece in future.

Sedan or touring car racing in Europe has been popular for many years and the 1995 AMG C-Class model represents the competition cars produced by Mercedes-Benz. Offered in at least three colors ( I have yellow, blue and silver), it was also produced in the Premier Edition series in silver and orange 'Team Matchbox' livery. Matchbox was by this time part of Tyco although the base reads 'Matchbox International'. It appears that opening doors were no longer a priority. The interior is in single-seat, racing form and includes a racing bucket. Several wheel variations were available including the new 5-star pattern shown. Opel and Alfa Romeo sedan racers were also produced by Matchbox in this same period to allow for the staging of a decent touring car grid on the front-room floor. Add the BMW 5-series of 1989, offered in racing paint, and the two touring cars from down-under, 1996 Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore, and a six car race could be staged.

On the heels of the AMG C-Class came the 1996 E-Class model from Matchbox. Featuring the new round-headlight look, this provided for a stock Mercedes-Benz sedan in the Matchbox line. While I have not seen a police or taxi version, a rather curious 'Intergalactic Research' model was offered. No doubt owing to the success of TV shows like the 'X Files', this version proved to be a slow-seller and may still be found on store shelves. One might be forgiven for buying an extra and stripping off the tampos, leaving the model in appropriate German Racing Silver. This model still notes 'Matchbox Int'l LTD' on the base.

The most recent Mercedes-Benz sedan is clearly stamped a Mattel product on it's base. it is the S500 and was first offered in 2000. It is not offered in the U.S.,1-75 line for 2001 but is available in the ROW models. it has appeared in a 5-car gift set. The scale is slightly smaller than usual at 1:65 and it does not offer any opening features. Like the E-Class, it has a chrome grill and painted headlights, but is otherwise rather plain.

Will the Matchbox line in the U.S. be provided with a Mercedes-Benz sedan model in future. It is hard to believe that Mattel will not see the value of including this car for everyone to enjoy. Then again, to include it they might have to toss out the 'Wave King' or 'Herocopter' models. That decision should keep the Mattel marketing guru awake at night.

The popularity of Mercedes-Benz is as steady as ever. Racing success in Formula-1 and other levels of competition, combined with a rich tradition dating back over 100 years, guarantee that we will continue to see toy versions of their cars for many years to come. It would be great to see some of the classic Mercedes sedans of the past, offered along with the new models. Outside of the SL models, few Mercedes-Benz from prior to 1960 have ever been done in 1:64 scale.