MatchBox History

English Version

Page 3

an earmark event in Lesney history. Lesney Product scrambled to create their own frictionless axles for their cars and in the second edition of the 1969 pocket catalog, they introduced “Superfast” models. By 1970, and into 1971, the entire miniature range was converted over into Superfast style wheels. Even the King-Size range was redesigned and called “Superking.”

By 1973 Jack Odell decided to resign as a joint managing director, leaving Leslie Smith the sole director.

In 1973, many innovative items were developed, including “Rolomatics.” These models featured moving parts when their wheels rotated. But 1973 was not a good year for Lasnye Product. An eight-week nationwide power strike, followed by a strike at Lesney’s fettling shop, shut the company down. This was followed by further disasters – a fire and then a flood at the Rochford facility destroyed much of the plastic components division. It was at this time that Yesteryear ceased to be produced, not reentering the collector’s market until 1975.

In 1974, Lesney Products diversified into the doll market with “Fighting Furies” and “Disco Girls.” By 1977, Lesney’s world workforce was six thousand person. In 1977 and 1978, surrounding building were purchased to house the design area, as well as an expanded tool room area.

In 1977 and 1978, Lesney Product made acquistions of the Vogue Doll Company and AMT, respectively. AMT was a U.S. company that manufactured plastic kits. The AMT division suffered several setbacks including a move from Detroit, Michigan, to Baltimore, Maryland. AMT was sold to Ertl toys early in 1982.

In 1980, Jack Odell came out of retirement to assist Lesney Product, which was beginning to feel the crunch of the recession. The company acquired bank loan to stay afloat.

It was also in 1980 that David Yeh of Universal Toys approached Smith and Odell to manufacture their products in his Far East facilities. The Disney series was one of the first from Asia. Some miniature models were also made in Japan, but the costs were too high there to continue further manufacturing.

In early 1982, Lesney Product had an operating loss of $15 million. The creditors were starting to pressure the company and negotiations for the sale of company were taking place, but then came that dreadful day – June 11, 1982. Lesney Products was now bankrupt and put into receivership. It was the end of era, R.D. Agutter and G.T.E. Red became joint receivers. The company was reformed as “Matchbox Toys Ltd.” and was looking for a buyer. Both Fisher Price and Mattel were interested, but Universal Toys, owned by David Yeh, was the buyer on September 24, 1982. It took several years before the word “Lesney Products” were removed from all existing dies. Some miniatures and Yesteryears continued to carry the Lesney name right up until 1985!

Jack Odell, one of the Lesney founders, bought much of the Lesney tooling and machinery and started his own die cast company called “Lledo” (Odell spelled backwards).