Matchbox Muscle
By Doug Breithaupt

In 1996, I wrote an article for Collecting Toys magazine (published in October 1997) entitled Miniature Muscle. This review of 1:64 scale American muscle cars gave readers a look at these mean machines in miniature and at the end I predicted that the future was bright for many more models in this scale. While that prediction required no great insight, I have been pleasently surprised how quickly toy diecast car makers have responded.

In the article, I mentioned that Matchbox had produced six muscle cars as part of their 1-75 line in the early 1970s. These were the 1965 Mustang 350GT #23-F, the 1971 AMC Javelin #9-E, the 1974 Pontiac Firebird #4-G, the 1971 Ford Mustang #44-B and the 1967 Mercury Cougar 'Rat Rod' # 62-B. I lamented that only one, the 1974 Dodge Challenger, #1-D was still being produced. In the past several years, Matchbox has made up for the lack of classic muscle in their annual line-up by introducing five new models.

The first new/old muscle car released was in 1996, #70-H, the 1970 Pontiac GTO 'Judge.' This was followed in 1997 by the 1968 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet and the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS396 Convertible. For 1998, three more are being offered; the 1971 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28, the 1970 Ford Mustang Boss and a muscle truck, the 1970 Chevrolet El Camino. The old and new classic muscle cars now total an even dozen. For those of you wondering why the classic Corvettes are not included here, they are sports cars (two-seaters), not muscle cars.

With all this classic muscle available, Matchbox could do some great boxed sets. The obvious five-pack would be simple enough and could be done for classic muscle cars or Mustang, Camaro, Pontiac or Dodge muscle cars (at least five examples of each car have now been produced). New vs. old muscle car twin-packs would be fun. How about using the 'Show Stoppers' display packs for the '68 or '70 vs. '94 Mustang, '69 or '71 vs. '94 Camaro, '70 GTO vs. '96 Firebird or the '74 Challenger vs. '94 Viper or '96 Viper GTS? The '69 Dodge Charger body could also be used from the funny car version to add another muscle car with minimal effort. Mustang, Camaro, Pontiac and Dodge muscle cars were active in Trans-Am racing in the late '60s, early '70s so how about some vintage racing examples of these cars?

Since Mattel owns both Matchbox and Hot Wheels, how about some head-to-head twin-packs. Hot Wheels has also been producing muscle cars again in their annual line-up. Of corse the problem here is that the Hot Wheels castings would be shown up as inferior were they to be set side-by-side with those of Matchbox so this will never happen. We can do our own comparisons however. Throw in Johnny Lightning and Racing Champions (all have now done a 1968 Mustang) and decide who wins the 'best muscle ' award. My money is on Matchbox.

One other request, can we have some muscle cars that have not been done by everyone else? Matchbox deserves credit for doing the '71 Camaro. Only Zee Toys had done this model before. Johnny Lightning leads the way here with unique Mopar and GM muscle car offerings. How about the AMC Rebel Machine or the 1967 Olds 442? The '70 or '71 Firebird have not been done and the 1969 Ford Torino Talladega has not been overdone. For a variation on the theme, the '69 Mercury Marauder X-100, '70 Chrysler 300-Hurst or '70 Olds Toronado GT would be interesting luxury-muscle offerings. With 10-20 new/classic muscle cars being offered by diecast manufacturers in 1998, perhaps I'll get my wish. Regardless, collectors can enjoy the fun of diecast muscle car mania.