Matchbox Planes – Sunset Boxes

As you know from the Matchbox Armour collection page, I have a real thing for Matchbox kits. Now, granted, their aircraft weren’t as well detailed or as finely crafted as their armour, but they are still pretty cool. Just like with armour, Matchbox excelled at making kits of interesting, oddball and sometimes completely unique subjects. Even now, there are some planes that are still only available as a Matchbox, or at least as a Matchbox mould. Other subjects have only recently been made as short-run kits in many cases, so it’s still a viable option to seek out the older kit, even for comparison’s sake!

Some examples of completely oddball subjects include the Lightning T.55 (that oh-so-loveably-awkward side-by-side trainer Lightning, and in the foreign sales version to boot!) and the Sk-37 Viggen two-seater. The Twin Otter is still available as a Revell Germany, but it’s just the Matchbox mould, and the big A-1E has been reissued as a Revell. I believe it’s still the only way to get the “wide body” Spad in mainstream injection moulded plastic.

Just like the armour ktis, too, the Matchbox aircraft kits have great box art. It might not be as gritty and “action packed” as the armour box art, but it is still several cuts above the boring “picture of a plane in flight” crud that some high-end companies insist on using. Hey, Hasegawa, I’m talking to you…  The art is very much a product of its time; it’s heavy and almost palpably thick, but it conveys the subject matter very well, and in many cases in more detail than the kit does.  The nice thing is that there is usually a different background that accompanies each plane, so even if the art’s not that dramatic, it is still interesting.

The Matchbox airplanes went through a lot of different box styles that clearly mimicked what was “cool” at the time. They started out as just plain white boxes, with a nice, full-front artwork. As time went on and the ’70s rolled into the ’80s, they added “sunset stripes” to the box. These stripes, in red/orange/yellow, were intended to make the kits more attactive to younger buyers, I think. That kind, style and colour of paint was a big deal in the customizing scene at the time (check out the MPC cars to see what I mean), and everything that was “cool” had used that approach. Heck, I even have an old Tonka street van from 1984 with those kinds of stripes! The third kind of box keeps the sunset feel, but uses a lot of finer “laser” stripes, more in tune with the late ’80s.

Below, you’ll see two sets of photos that are of the “sunset” boxes that are in my collection. Like the kits themselves and their quirky nature, I hope they brighten your day!

This first set contains some real oddballs, like the T.55 and wide-body Spad. Gotta dig the stripes!

Here’s the back of all but the Skyraider’s box. I do like the full colour painting plans on the back; it makes up for the side-opening boxes.

Another set of sunset stripers – weirdos in this batch include the Twin Otter and Mystere IV.

More awesome paint plans. Note the Marines decals on the AH-1G. The Corps didn’t use the single-engined Cobra for long, so this a neat option; it’s also waaay cheaper than the AZ model of the same bird!

Moulded in colour! Check out the rainbow that Matchbox moulded their kits in. It doesn’t make a practical difference to a real modeller, since we’ll prime the whole thing anyway, but it adds a lot of “fun” to the kits!

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