My favourite era for Matchbox was 1969-1970, (see Matchbox 1969) the transitional phase from regular wheels to Superfast, I was a child aged 4 to 6 at the time and I can remember it happening. The cars and trucks in the range were based on real cars and trucks and I wanted just about every model in the catalogue. By 1975 that had changed, I was older and the changes in the models in response to the Hot Wheels challenge (with a few exceptions) didn’t interest me. There were new gimmicks like Rolamatics where a part on the vehicle moved as you pushed it or released it down the track (Turbo Fury Video Clip) and “Streakers” some fancy paintwork and some revamped track sets. Here is a look at the 1-75 range from the catalogue of that year.
#2 Hot Rod Jeep. They turned the Jeep into a dragster, I preferred a normal Jeep and being a boy I wasn’t keen on pink cars.
#3 Monterverdi Hai. Based on a real supercar. I ve never seen the car in real life, I like the Matchbox super cars like Lamborghini Miura and Iso Grifo but this model looks a bit chunkier than the pictures I’ve seen of real Monterverdi Hais.
#5 Lotus Europa This model was in the 1970 range, one of the first Superfast models. I preferred the earlier dark blue colouring. Matchbox did bring out a Lotus Europa again in the Heritage Classics series (2009-2013)
#6 Mercedes Tourer I prefer the earlier Mercedes 220 Coupe or Mercedes 230SL from the 1970 range. They had opening parts, this one doesn’t.
#10 Piston Popper. A Ford Mustang base with a rolamatic feature, the engine has these red pieces of plastic that go up and down when the car moves.
#11 Flying Bug A silly fantasy car based loosely on a Beetle, there were plans for a few of these but the only other model like this produced was the Mini Ha Ha…I wasn’t laughing it really wasn’t my scene
#12 Big Bull A bulldozer dragster cross to my mind this was just silly, too.
#17 The Londoner Matchbox have had many London Buses over the years this was probably based on a Leyland Titan.
#18 Hondarora Motorcycles are a problem as you can’t race them across the floor unless they have really fat wheels. In the sixties Matchbox had some motorcycle and sidecar combinations. This was based on a Honda CB750.
#8 De Tomaso Pantera An Italian supercar. I like it but the paint scheme is a little unrealistic.
#9 AMX Javelin I like this model, I have two of them.
#13 Baja Buggy When it comes to beach buggies I like the simple lines of the original Meyers Manx.
#14 Iso Grifo This was a transitional model and one of my favourite castings, I prefer the earlier darker blue model.
# 15 Fork Lift Truck A functional fork lift which can be used with flat-bed trucks for taking off or putting on loads. I don’t think it needs Superfast wheels.
#19 Road Dragster If you want a dragster this looks the part.
#20 Police Patrol Looks like a Range Rover, this seems to be the time they started making unlicensed products.
#21 Rod Roller Like Big Bull, seems bit pointless having a custom road roller.
This page has a couple of racing cars but without brands like McLaren or Ferrari. A futuristic Freeman Intercity Car. The highlight of this page for me would be the Volkswagen Camper #23. The Racing Mini is okay but the recent Hot Wheels racing Mini looks more realistic. I don’t like the Beach Buggy, I had one recently but swapped it. Fandango is a Rolamatics fanstasy car and Draguar looks like it was inspired by Hot Wheels Silhouette.
This page has a mix of dragsters (Mod Tractor, Big Banger, Volks-Dragon and Stingeroo), fantasy cars (Clipper and Scoopa Coopa), a prototype (Datsun 126X) and a pair of Italian supercars (Lamborghini Countach and Maserati Bora). No trucks, this could almost be a selection of Hot Wheels, clearly many of these models were put out in an attempt to compete with Hot Wheels. The highlights for me are the Maserati and Lamborghini.
This page is more interesting to me than the previous one. Whilst not a fan of most dragsters, I do like the “funny cars” like Dragon Wheels where the shell of the car lifts up to reveal the engine and interior. The Ford Mustang is similar to Piston Popper without the popping Rolamatic pistons, the Ford Group Six was one of the first Superfast models again I prefer the earlier green colour. Chop Suey looks silly and the Articulated Truck looks unrealistic. The Citroen SM is one of my favourites from the catalogue. I do have one but in a rather rough condition. The Mercury Police Car would be a welcome addition to my collection of police cars, if I should find one. Hi Tailer looks like a Le Mans racing car. The Rolamatic Wild Life Truck is reminiscent of the earlier Kennel Truck, the four dogs having been changed for a lion that rotates as the car moves.
An odd mix here. The Mazda RX 500 and Saab Sonnet are prototypes, I would have preferred a Mazda RX7 or a Saab 99 Turbo, cars we could see on the roads. Whoosh-N-Push is a fantasy car and Jumbo Jet looks even sillier than Chop Suey. The Fire Chief Car (Mercury) looks fine, I like fire chief cars more than police cars. The Lotus Seven would get the streaker treatment. The Slingshot Dragster is fine if you like dragsters. The Hovercraft has wheels hidden in its cushion and it doesn’t float…I wonder how many ended up at the bottom of fish ponds. The Dodge Dragster is another funny car like Dragon Wheels.
The final page of the 1-75 range has three more dragsters (Blue Shark, the Capri based Hot Rocker and Turbo Fury).The two trucks Toe Joe and the Freeway Gas Tanker look unrealistic. The Porsche 910 was one of the first Superfast cars, the Alfa Carabo, another prototype model (I wish they had made an Alfa Montreal instead). I do like the Renault 17TL.
Streakers were a big thing in 1975, a fresh paint job on some of the models and some fancy track.
The catalogue also had King Size models now named Super Kings and Speed Kings. My focus for collecting was always the 1-75 range.
There were also some Yesteryear models, Skybusters and some action figures called “Fighting Furies”, I was rather a conservative boy and saw dolls as girl’s toys. Although, I don’t imagine Barbie having a peg leg with a treasure map hidden inside.
The full catalogue can be seen here: Matchbox Catalogue 1975
I have a few models now from the 1975 Catalogue, Some are in rather poor condition: the Formula 1 Racer has buckled wheels and a poor post production paint job, the Mazda RX500 is missing its engine cover and the Safari Truck is missing its lion its canopy and the Rola-matic function has ceased.