The Matchbox Classic Thunderbird

The Matchbox

Classic Thunderbird --------- From my point of viiew!

          February 1999       
by Dot

   If you don't care to read the following, I've put basically the same information in  list form.
Click on pictures below for larger views

For as long as Matchbox has been making model cars, it's surprising that their first model of the classic Thunderbird didn't appear on the market until 1982.  This first model is of the 1957, in the topless style, which is often referred to as a "convertible" though the word convertible actually means that the top is removeable, not absent.  This model also sports an extended bumper with a continental kit - not original equipment for the '57 t-bird but quite popular with model manufacturers.   The chrome wheels are a Matchbox standard five-spoke style.

   The first model, #42, is painted in the very popular red and is sort of a trademark for this model as they still make the model in that color with a white interior.  It also has a clear plastic windshield.  The chassis is metal with a bright finish that tarnishes with age & exposure.  The markings on the chassis are:  Matchbox - ©1982 - 1/63 - 1957 Thunderbird - Lesney - England.  This is the only t-bird moodel you will find marked with Lesney & England.

   Next in the series is kind of ugly in my opinion.  It is cream colored on the top half and the lower half of the model is painted red.  The interior is red.  There is a black Thunderbird emblem on the front half of the hood and the word "Thunder Bird" scripted in black across the trunk.  The windshield is clear with a yellow tint and the chassis w/cont'l kit is painted gray (eliminates the tarnishing observed in the first model). Chassis is marked as "made in Macau" and "Matchbox Toys, Lt'd."  This model was on the market for  1983 and available in a blisterpak or box with the same #42.


In 1986, a black model appeared with the red interior and yellow tint windshield and grey painted chassis.  This model was made in China.  Also  found is a black version that came with another car and "launcher," made in Macau  - the "Free Wheeling Bonus" - "Automotive Superstars."
From what I can gather Mattel acquired the Matchbox company in 1988 and these small models became few and far between on the market.

They finally started appearing on the  shelves in 1995.  At that time Chubby's Diner releases a special edition promoting their restaurant - with a turquoise '57, white interior, clear windshield, and grey painted chassis.  The chassis now has a ©1988 date.  "Chubby's Diner" is written in yellow and black across the trunk.


Sometime during 1995, a Matchbox HO Railroad set was offered that included two cars on a flatbed railcar -  one a '57 Chevy and the other the ''57  t-bird.  This model is detailed like the Premiere models that came out the next year  - wide white wall tires, two-tone interior,, styled wheels, and trim detailed.  The set is #MT 2489.

The following year, Matchbox releases a limited edition of 10,000 commemorating country western singer Patsy Cline's life from 1932 to 1963 and portions of sales were used to help finance a museum about her in Winchester, VA.  This car is painted red with the white interior, chrome chassis, clear windshield, standard Matchbox wheels and the words, in white, "Patsy Cline" on door, "Always Patsy" on hood, & "celebrating Patsy 1996" on trunk.  Model comes on a blister-pak with a B&W picture of Patsy and serial number stamped at top of card.  Card is also marked "premiere edition."

The next model to appear came out in a 5-pak and is painted a pearl white with red interior.    It's really a beautiful color - has a pale blue glow to the pearl paint.  Also has a yellow tinted windshield.  It was a 1996 introduction.

Not too sure of the 1996  introductions but these are as near correct as possible.

Matchbox started releasing a series called the Premiere Collection.   The t-bird models are more detailed than the previous models. The wheels have been changed and white-wall tires are used.  The interior seats are "two-toned," trim has been painted silver, head lights and tail lights are detailed with silver, front parking lights are painted orange, and rear license plate has the word "7-BIRD" except as noted.
The t-bird first appeared in Series 3 & called the "World Class" edition - 1996.  It is a black model with red interior.  License plate is yellow with black letters.  Seats are red with "pink" inserts - pink because the white paint didn't cover up the red plastic very well!  The black box # is 34362-1 on a blister pak.  Windshield is clear plastic. 
These were on the market for a long time and by the start of 1997, there was a change.  Series #3 came out with a "Select Class" edition and black box # of 34368-1.  This edition contained a red t-bird with white interior and red seat inserts.  The license plate is blue with white letters.

In 1997, two more colors came out.  Series #6 has a beautiful metallic red with a white license plate and black letters.  The interior is white with red seat inserts.  It is call the "world class series 6." and is with a black box on a blister pak. Series #11 then came out with a dark blue tbird with orange and yellow flames printed on the sides, white interior with blue seat inserts & red license plate with white letters.  The box is pink, called the "hot rod collection" and is again in the "world class series 11." and on a blister pak.
Inserted within 1997 was a special Series called the Gold Collection.  Models in this series came in triangular shaped display boxes with a "gold" medallion and "certificate of authenticity."  The t-bird was included.  It came in the pearl white with a red interior and "pink" seat inserts (again, pink because the white paint was too thin).  The car is detailed like the Premiere collection, license plate is red with white letters but too small for me to read
For 1998, another two colors were issued.  The first is from series #17 and is yellow with a black interior and white seat inserts.  License plate is green with white letters and says "HOT 57."  The box is a medium blue, called the Classic Muscle Collection" and is in the "world class series 17." The last color to come out so far is in series #20.  It's a grey metallic with a blue "eagle head" and two lines streaking to the rear, blue interior with white seat inserts.  License plate is yellow with black letters and says "CRUZIN."
Newest on the market is a 1999 special edition for White's Guide "Collecting Figures" magazine.  In fact, their latest magazine - March - has the model on the cover.  It's the same color as the Patsy Cline car - red with white interior.  Comes packaged only in a semi-hard clear plastic box, limited to 2500.  It is marked with white letters - "February 1999" on the trunk and "White's Guide Car of the Month #3" on the hood, standard wheels, black wall tires, clear windshield, & chromed chassis.   No extra detailing as on the Premieres.
Star Car - Happy Days Pink w/pink & white interior; "Pinky" on door& "Happy Days" on hood; Avon exclusive.

A Line of Dot's
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A Line of Dot's

Lists:  1955 A-H 1955 I-M 1955 N-Z ?? 1956 A-F 1956G-N 1956 O-Z + ?? 1957 A-H 1957 I-R 1957 S-Z ??
released in:  1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
AVON Battle Bird,
Hot Wheels
Micro Models
 Racing Champions

I'm always looking for more information on the Thunderbird model.
Reach me here

©1999-2004 Dot Lang

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