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The Matchbox MB:
Is It Really a CJ-3B?


 

Many people, including me, have always assumed that the Matchbox flat-fender toy Jeep (see The Matchbox Jeep Story) was based on the 1942-45 Willys MB. And if I suggest that it is in fact based on the CJ-3B, many people might dismiss the claim as just another example of CJ3B.info trying to exaggerate the importance of the high-hood Jeep. But there are a number of features of the Matchbox which suggest its designers may have been looking at the final flat-fender when they crafted the toy's mold in 1970.

The Matchbox MB
The 1/60-scale Matchbox "Jeep 4x4", produced in many variations since 1971.
The Real 3B
The full-size Willys "Jeep Universal CJ-3B", produced from 1953-1968.

On the versions of this model released by Matchbox in the 1980's and 90's, the front clip is obscured by a large plastic grille guard (missing in the photo above). On earlier versions such as the 1978 U.S. Mail Jeep (below) the details of the casting were clearly visible.

Ed Freniere remarks that the toy's hood is higher than it should be for an MB (or CJ-2A or 3A) although perhaps not quite as high as the prototype 3B. I decided to take a closer look and found the hood is indeed high, and I also noticed an unusual protruding ridge at the front of the hood, a feature I haven't been able to explain.

The Matchbox MB
The Matchbox Superfast "Sleet-n-Snow" U.S. Mail Jeep.
The Real 3B
George Steele's 1962 CJ-3B, in Seattle, Washington.

The grille has 9 slots like the MB, but the headlights are protruding rather than recessed, and they do not extend into the grille area as on the 2A and 3A. The windshield is split into two sections, like the MB or 2A, but that is also true of the Matchbox and Majorette CJ-5s, and can be easily explained as a practical way of reinforcing a damage-prone area of toy Jeeps. Similarly the lumps at the bottom of the windshield, which look like CJ-5 wiper motors, are probably there for strength. (As for the notch cut out of the top of the windshield, see The Matchbox Jeep Story for the explanation of that.)

The dash instrumentation is accurate for the pre-1956 CJ-3B or for earlier Jeeps, but there is also a glove box, which was not found on the flat-fender CJ's. The details on the rear of the body are non-prototypical, although the lack of a tailgate or a side-mounted spare tire suggests the MB more than the 3B. Likewise the shovel mounted below the door on each side suggests the MB's tools, although those were found only on the driver's side.

Like the classic Tonka Jeep (see New Study Reveals Tonka Jeeps Are CJ-3Bs), the Matchbox does have a certain mixture of features found on different Jeep prototypes (or on none), but it seems clear the CJ-3B was at least one influence on the design.

Additions and corrections always welcome. -- Derek Redmond

See Matchbox 1960 Jeep Surrey for the 2001 version of this casting, which looks even more like a CJ-3B.


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Last updated 19 November 2001 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
http://cj3b.info/Toys/MatchboxCJ3B.html
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond