1983 Matchbox Convoy NASA Rocket Transporter

In 1982 Matchbox introduced the Convoy series of vehicles, interchangeable tractor-trailer combinations that used the same wheels and sizes of mainline vehicles. The Convoy page of the online Matchbox wiki (which, by the way, is actually a really thorough but concise history of Matchbox tractor-trailers) lists 13 tractors – most based on actual vehicles – and about 20 different trailers in the range. See the photo at the bottom of the page for some of the various combinations pictured on the back of the card.

This 1983 Matchbox Convoy NASA Rocket Transporter is another of the NASA-themed item I recently scored on eBay. The item had been shipped wrapped in bubble wrap in a soft envelope, and when I opened it up the vehicle came spilling out of the blister, which had separated from the card en route. Fortunately, I was able to take a little bit of Elmer’s white glue and seal the model back inside the blister card.

This Convoy NASA Rocket Transporter features a white Macau-cast Kenworth Aerodyne (COE) cab. The NASA Kenworth cab can also be found with gray paint, cast in either England or Macau.

The trailer is the Low Bed Trailer, which has holes in the base to accommodate different plastic brackets for either a boat trailer or, in this case, the rocket. The Low Bed base was also used for other box trailers, such as the Horse Box and the Mobile Workshop in the Convoy series. The rocket on mine is white, but there is also a variation that features a chrome plastic rocket.

Matchbox | 1983 | Convoy CY-2 Rocket Transporter | white Kenworth cab with red and blue NASA trim, gray Low Bed Trailer with white plastic NASA rocket | Macau | 1:90 | chrome hub 8-spoke concave treaded

1993 Matchbox NASA Rocket Transporter

The Matchbox Rocket Transporter, first released in 1985, was produced in close to two dozen variations – many of them with military liveries – up until 2007. There is also an Airplane Transporter (identical vehicle, different cargo) and there are another 10 versions of that model. I have been wanting the NASA Rocket Transporter for my collection of NASA-themed models, and I finally bought one recently on eBay.

I could tell in the photos on eBay that the rubber band holding the rockets to the bed had snapped, which was okay with me for the price. The card is straight and clean, but by the time the package arrived, the left side of the blister had been shattered. Not wanting to mess with a return, I decided to shore it up with a little bit of packaging tape and call it good. (You can’t even see it in the photos, can you?)

There is an earlier version of the Matchbox NASA Rocket Transporter that is cast in Macau and has an American flag on the rear corners of the bed. My version (package copyright 1993) is China cast and has checkerboards at the rear corners.

Matchbox | 1993 | #60 NASA Rocket Transporter | white with NASA logo and checkerboards, white rockets | China | 1:150 | chrome hub 8-spoke concave treaded

1972 Matchbox London Bus, The Londoner

A few years back, my brother, Tim, sent me a few toy cars that he had kept since we were kids. His own children had played with them too, so by the time they got to me, they were no longer in the best condition. One of them is a Matchbox Berger Paints London Bus that I clearly remember playing with as a child. Only now, it is missing the entire upper seating deck.
One of the last antique shops that my friend, Chris, took me to in the St. Louis area was the Time Machine Antique Mall in St. Peters, Missouri. It was there that I found a Berger Paints London Bus, and though the stickers on the sides are yellowed, it still has an intact upper deck. It’s interesting to note that the wheels are not exactly the same: the bus from my childhood has Superfast 5-spokes, while the recent find has Superfast open dot dash wheels.
The 1972 Matchbox London Bus, The Londoner (not to be confused with the 1965 London Routemaster Bus) was a very popular casting with over 50 variations in a whole range of colors and liveries.
Matchbox | 1972 | 17 | London Bus, The Londoner | red, Burger Paints | Superfast open dot dash

1968 Mercury Commuter Wagon

In the back of Centuries Past Antiques in St. Charles, Missouri, there was a box full of worn-out loose cars, models that were too shabby to put in the glass case up front. I picked through them out of curiosity, and found one that I just couldn’t pass up. Even with a badly scraped top and a missing tire, I had to rescue this Matchbox Mercury Commuter Wagon. This was the first-release from 1968, with black plastic tires on chrome hubs; three later variations all wear Superfast wheels.

The Mercury Commuter Wagon has some really nice detailing, and also a pair of plastic dogs peering out of the rear tailgate window.

Matchbox | 1968 | 73 | Mercury Commuter Wagon | metallic lime green | England | black plastic tires on chrome hubs

In my collection, I also happen to have an example of the Kingsize version of the Mercury Commuter Wagon.

1965 Matchbox Trailer Caravan and Fiat 1500

Of the many antique stores we hit in the St. Louis area, my favorite was Centuries Past Antiques, just off Main Street in the Historic District of St. Charles. Tucked into the basement of a building, with the entrance off the back alley, this is one place I never would have found if not for my good friend, Chris, showing me the way. Two of my finds were inside this glass case that was packed full of goodies. Play “I Spy” and see if you can pick out the 1965 Matchbox Trailer Caravan and Fiat 1500.

I had seen a Caravan with a missing top at a different antique store we visited, and had commented to Chris that I’d been wanting one. So when I saw this complete model in the case, I decided to take it with me. The Trailer Caravan can also be found in yellow paint with a white top.

This is the second Matchbox camping trailer that I’ve picked up this year, the first being the Superfast Caravan Travel Trailer from 1977.

The interior is spacious, but could use a good cleaning before I take it on any travel adventures.

Matchbox | 1965 | #23 Trailer Caravan | pink | England | black plastic wheels

Well, a nice trailer needs a good tow vehicle, and this 1965 Matchbox Fiat 1500 was sitting right next to the Caravan on the shelf in the glass case. When I picked it up to have a closer look and saw that it had a tow hook, (despite the missing windshield) I decided they were a good match.

Like the Trailer Caravan, the Fiat 1500 can be found in one other paint color; a much more valuable red version was included in the G-1 Service Station Set.

Matchbox | 1965 | #56 Fiat 1500 | turquoise with luggage on roof, missing windshield | England | black plastic wheels

In reality, the Fiat 1500 might be a bit undersized for such a large trailer, but I still think they make a handsome pair.

1975 Matchbox Pontiac Firebird

It’s interesting that two of my recent garage sale finds were identical to cars that I still have from my childhood. My childhood cars are both in better shape than these, which makes sense if you think about it. The toys I’ve had since I was a kid have been in storage or on display for the past 40-some years, while any cars that are still floating around out there in the world may have been played with by multiple generations of kids for all I know.

Still, this Matchbox Pontiac Firebird, first released in 1975, is in reasonably good condition for its age. (Click here to compare it to the car from my childhood.) My copy of Matchbox Toys 1947 to 2007 lists only one variation of this casting, but the Matchbox wiki also shows a dark blue metallic variation that could be found in the 1978 MP-1 5-Pack.

A similar but different Matchbox Firebird I have in my collection is the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. I also have a much newer Matchbox Firebird casting, the Pontiac Firebird Formula (with a wheel error), that I happened to find at a Target store several years ago.

Matchbox | 1975 | 4 | Pontiac Firebird | metallic blue with dual chrome hood scoops | Superfast open dot dash

1978 Matchbox Renault 5TL Le Car

The supermini Renault 5 was manufactured over two generations from 1972-1985 and from 1986-1996. It was the best-selling car in France from 1972-1986 and was marketed in the U.S. as the Le Car from 1976 to 1984.

The Matchbox Renault 5TL Le Car first showed up in 1978 and has been produced in nearly 50 variations. This white model with the Koni rally graphics from the early ’80s is an eBay find from a few years ago.

If my diecast collection held a Rally, this Le Car would go up against the Matchbox Ford Escort RS2000 from my childhood and my Hot Wheels Hare Splitter.

The Matchbox Renault 5TL features a tow hook – in 1985 it could be found in a two-pack pulling a motorcycle trailer – and an opening rear hatch.

Matchbox | 1982 | 21 | Renault 5TL Le Car | white with tan interior, black base | England | Superfast open dot dash