The story goes that back in 1986 Matchbox in the U.K. licensed ten of the molds for their diecast toys, and the use of the Matchbox name, to a firm in Hungary called Metalbox GMK. Different sources report different dates for the end of the production run, but the most likely scenario seems to be that licenced production ended by 1988, with all tooling being returned to the U.K. Assembly apparently continued until 1990 using stockpiled and non-original parts. After the collapse of the Eastern European economy around 1990, production was closed totally and all stock sold.
One of the ten models was the Jeep CJ-6 (Matchbox No. 53). Gabor Berki in Finland came across some old factory stock while in Hungary, and sent these photos.
The plastic interior molding on many of the toys is different from the original Matchbox Superfast No. 53 (30K JPEG). It has four seats instead of two, and no tow hook, so it may be a local replacement. Unfortunately the rather top-heavy plastic roof, which has always been the subject of criticism on the original model, is identical on the Hungarian version.
A variety of color combinations were produced. It appears that during the post-licence period, the parts were randomly selected from a choice of three paint colors and two colors each of: plastic interior, plastic roof, and bumper/winch casting. In addition, there were two wheel types used -- 4-spoke and 6-spoke -- and the two different interiors.
Apparently during licenced production in 1987-88 there were also other paint colors used, with original Matchbox interiors and wheels. This single toy could be a long-term collecting project...
In addition, there are two different card designs, and in fact the toy can be found mounted in two directions on the card (see below).
Gabor reports that Metalbox also had a contract to produce a number of Corgi Juniors models, so the four-spoke wheels likely came from the Corgis.
The cars were apparently intended to be sold only in Hungary, but the text on the back of the card (80K JPEG) including "Made in Hungary" is in English. The nine other Hungarian Matchbox models are mostly cars, including a Rolls Royce and a police car, and there is also a Volkswagen camper van.
The text on the base of the Jeeps reads:
The original six-spoke wheels (below) are a little more realistic than the four-spoke.
Christian Falkensteiner in Austria writes, "I believe that during normal production only genuine Matchbox castings were used for all parts of those models. Those examples which you found were probably produced at a later date from leftover parts, and when they ran out of original wheels and interiors, they used replacement parts of non-Matchbox origin to complete those final models. It seems that the Jeep is the only Hungarian Matchbox model to which this happened, as I am not aware of any others with non-Matchbox parts fitted."
I don't know whether there is any connection between the Hungarian Matchbox and the Majorette CJ-5 knockoff which was apparently made in Hungary but not licenced.
Gabor mentions, "I also found some years ago in Hungary this hand made tin Jeep" (80K JPEG.)
Thanks to Gabor Berki (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the photos. He has many of the variations for sale. Thanks also to Nick & Debbie's Lesney Matchbox Toy collection for the original Matchbox photo. -- Derek Redmond
See more Matchbox Jeeps in the Toy Jeeps Pages.
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