ONE of the most recognisable pieces of royal memorabilia has been recreated to mark both King Charles' Coronation and the 70thanniversary of Matchbox.
Strictly made to order, a 1:64 scale model of the Gold State Coach has been announced by the toy car brand, which owes its foundation to the coach used in the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Seventy years ago, London-based diecasting business Lesneysold over one million of its 11.8cm Coronation Coach produced to mark Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne.
Its sales success enabled Lesney to fund the launch of the newly conceived Matchbox brand. Today the iconic diecast brand has produced over three billion cars and counting.
The 2023 Matchbox diecast set measures 23cm long and perfectly captures the majestic presence of the 261-year-old, four-tonne Gold State Coach. This specific coach has been a prominent feature in every Coronation since King George IV in 1821.
"Not only is 2023 a pivotal moment in UK history, but it also marks an important one for Matchbox. Celebrating 70 years of rich design heritage, Matchbox is launching an exclusive Coronation Coach that evolves the brand's signature craftsmanship while drawing on innovation and cutting-edge technology to write a new and exciting chapter in our history," says Roberto Stanichi, global head of vehicles, Mattel. "Being built to order, we expect this coach to be one of the most exclusive models Matchbox has ever created."
With the goal to create a model ‘fit for a king', Matchbox creators set out to produce its most detailed version of the coach to date. Its designers pored over hundreds of images taken by Julian Payne, senior manager of Matchbox Product Design during a visit to the Royal Mews, together with hours of footage of the most important royal celebrations in recent times to faithfully reproduce the giltwood coach, eight ‘Windsor Grey' horses and four coachmen.
The intensive four-month design process was a blend of old design practices and some of the most innovative techniques used today. The team used the latest 3D scanners to capture the incredibly detailed sculpted form of the horses and riders from the original Lesney model. Prototype parts were then created in real time using 3D printing.
Packed with features, it is the most comprehensive edition of the four iterations to date, including ‘tampo printed' reins on the diecast horses, rolling wheels with a front turning axle, windows - a first for a Matchbox Coronation Coach - and, inside the detailed red interior, metal figures of King Charles III and the Queen.
The designers also seized the opportunity to correct elements of the original 1952 model.
The tritons on the front of the coach are now accurately depicted as blowing horns, while the painted side panels are represented for the first time with additional printed decoration.
Collectors searching for more detail will be pleased to find that the designers of Matchbox have, for the first time, incorporated three cherubs, representing England, Scotland and Ireland, on the roof.
Ideal for display, the coach can be removed from its custom display box and textured plinth; the latter is modelled to reflect the surface of The Mall. As a nod to the very first model, the 2023 Gold State Coach features the draw chains between the four pairs of horses and comes in a red presentation box.
"The original State Coach is a pivotal piece of Matchbox heritage, and crucial to the brand's destiny," comments Giles Chapman, author of Britain's Toy Car Wars.
"Lesney's design genius Jack Odell already had a terrific reputation for accurate detail but this gleaming horse-drawn vehicle - often used as a cake decoration at parties to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's coronation - opened his eyes to ultra-miniaturisation. It was the forerunner to the phenomenally successful Matchbox 1-75 series launched in 1953 that put toy cars and trucks into the eager hands of all children, not just those lucky enough to have wealthy parents. The little coach was the blockbuster product that started it all."
The story of the first Matchbox Coronation Coach is now part of the brand's folklore.
For the 1951 Festival of Britain, Lesney had plans to produce a scale model of the Gold State Coach.
Shortages of zinc meant very few of the 40cm coach were produced but the casting was resurrected when King George VI died and Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation was imminent.
Just a few hundred were produced when the makers noted the casting still included the figures of the now late king and heir to the throne, Elizabeth.
Subsequent models saw the late king's figure being cut off at the knees. After some 33,000 had been produced, a new, smaller version, measuring 11.8cm, was created in 1953. Over one million would be sold to fans to mark that Coronation and it was instrumental in the ensuing success of Matchbox.
The 2023 Matchbox Gold State Coach is available to order until May 18, priced at £60.
1.The original 40cm coach was first planned for the 1951 Festival of Britain but was cancelled due to zinc shortages brought on by the Korean War. The model was revived for the Coronation of Elizabeth II, with the late king's figure removed after a few hundred units had been produced. In the end, over 33,000 were sold. In good condition and with their box, these are collectible.
2. In 1953, an 11.8cm long version was launched and went on to sell over one million units. Its success funded the creation of the Matchbox brand. It was silver plated that can tarnish to look gold.
3. In 1992, Matchbox created a Models of Yesteryear version.
4. The 2023 version, made from Zamac with gold metallic finish, is the most detailed Matchbox Gold State Coach model.
1. The State Coach was designed by William Chambers and manufactured by coachmaker Samuel Butler in 1762.
2. It has been used at every Coronation since King George IV's in 1821, as well as other prominent royal celebrations.
3. The coach is made of giltwood, which is a thin layer of gold leaf over wood.
4. The coach is seven metres long and over three and half metres tall. It weighs four tonnes and needs eight horses to pull it at walking pace.