Volume VI, Number 12

The Mercedes TV News Truck: A long journey into the die-cast world
by Nadi Mobarak

The first Mercedes TV news truck model was released in 1989 by Matchbox. Who knew at the time that the dark blue "75 News MBTV" truck would be the first of about forty different variations ever produced of the same model!

The idea to produce a television truck model was not a new one. Dinky Toys, Corgi Toys, Tomica and many others had already released some models. But it was about time to produce a small-scaled TV truck with a camera and an antenna - in order to be even more realistic. Of course, who else would cover a Formula 1 racing event, a road accident or a hold-up at the local bank. A TV broadcast truck was needed urgently to go on the 1/64 scene!

Matchbox's bid to create an original model in the 1-75 range was so successful that it released soon after its MBTV truck a version with the famous British news network SKY logo. The TV vehicle with its lifting antenna and rotating roof camera was starting its long journey into the die-cast world...

Matchbox began to integrate its popular TV truck model to different series. In the early 90's, the same model (all white) was produced in the Graffic Traffic collection. It was then introduced in the Motorcity line with the 3-piece Intercom City public service set.

The Matchbox TV truck could cover musical events (Rock TV variation) as well as Sports events. For that matter, the World Cup Federation agreed with Matchbox to have a Special World Cup Television truck produced for the France 98 Soccer tournament. Two variations were then released (red roof units and white roof units).

As Matchbox was cashing in with its variety of TV truck models, Realtoy started to build its market by producing a copy of the Matchbox Broadcasting van. The same mold was used by Realtoy but with different colors and designs, increasing the variation number of the same model. The first three of the known twelve Realtoy TV trucks had the same Matchbox camera and antenna : the white STV Mobile 1 TV network, the yellow Exciting! Television Broadcast and the white TV Broadcast versions.

Then, maybe for legal reasons, Realtoy changed the vertical antenna to a much more modern satellite dish. It also added a cameraman to the traditional unmanned Matchbox roof camera. This change is noticeable on the BC News version, the Worldwide Communication truck and the very rare dark brown TV World version.

Realtoy used also the TV truck mold for other purposes: the traditional TV van became a S.W.A.T. Police Communication Center truck, a U.S. NASA Communication Center truck and even a Japanese Police truck (issued for Japan's market), all of which having the usual dish and camera units!

To show Realtoy's constant "inspiration" to Matchbox products, the Hong Kong based company even released an ATV World Soccer preschool multicolored truck (with yellow wheels!) similar to its "My First Matchbox" cousin-models. Pioneer followed Realtoy by producing its own copy of the Mercedes TV van adding a window on the side of the vehicle to create the Mobile News Report version.

The wide range of Chinese TV truck copies did not discourage Matchbox creators who produced even more TV truck variations in the past ten years. A black spy TV truck was released in the Star collection for the Mission Impossible series. The TV truck was then designed with a TV6 logo and green roof units. Let's not also forget the yellow Matchbox Cable TV version as well as the black / yellow Channel 4 truck, both of which were only available in different 5 packs.

Germany had 2 Special issues of the Mercedes TV truck model. The most popular one being the Super RTL Live version with German slogan. But that was one of the few attempts of Matchbox to Europeanize its American models. The black Action TV truck with a Football design was changed into a rare Soccer version for European collectors.

Later on the now famous MB67/MB73 Truck became a Storm Watch vehicle (green and blue-purple versions) as well as a Sci-Fi truck (red version)! In 2002, the model was re-released by Matchbox Collectibles to commemorate the 25 years of the famous Weekend Update segment from the SNL Saturday Night Live show.

It seemed logical to associate a TV truck to a TV show so why not do the same with TV networks? And that's what happened the past few years. The 14-year-old TV truck is now used for promotional purposes and a few ASAP models have been produced. The most valuable one is undoubtedly the very limited NBC The Today Show 50th anniversary TV truck. It was given to staff members as well as a few audience members who attended one of the show last year. Other ASAP models were produced for local stations : FOX 8 (2 versions), PBS Thirteen, ABC 6 Action News and famous electronic companies (SONY and RCA).

Of course, for a TV truck collector like me, the dream is to have even more versions of the model. So let's keep our fingers crossed for more creativeness! Back to you in studio.