Big things with little cars
Big things with little cars

Lesney Matchbox time is here again. Today we look at a mellow charming model that exemplifies the early Lesney ethos of making castings of everyday cars. This is Lesney Matchbox 36a, the Austin A50 (Cambridge). This casting entered the range in 1957, remaining until 1961. It is definitely a piece of the era, and shows where in some ways, it all began:

Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50
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Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50

This is a simple casting, as all were in 1957 - no glazing, no interior, no two toning, no opening parts - it never would have any of these futuristic luxuries. I estimate scale to be in the lower 1:60 range. The casting has numerous technical variations, but only two axle wheel variants (metal vs plastic), and a couple of paint variants that seem more shade than color. This casting also has a tow hook, which no doubt was a big source of play value back in the day - and on this casting, is bent up just a little, showing it has survived out of the box. From all angles, this is what you expect from the era when the brand wasn’t yet the runaway mainstream success it would be by the mid 60s:

Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50
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Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50
Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50
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Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50

The front and rear have similar qualities. The silver trim has held up well:

Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50
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Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50

The base is basic as expected for the year, and this is one of the earlier models to have so much identifying data cast-in to the baseplate. With these plastic wheels, I estimate it was made around 1959-60:

Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50
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I am definitely glad to have this model, it is a charming period piece and although loose, still presents well. I found this at an estate sale a couple years ago, and paid $4 for it. It’s not a huge rarity and I have a few others, so it wasn’t the find of a lifetime, but I couldn’t leave it there. Somehow it survived relatively intact, and still looks good today:

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This casting lives in one of my service station displays, sharing room with some VWs and others:

Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50
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And a few images of a quite similar looking 1:1 from classicandsportscarltd.uk:

Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50
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Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50
Illustration for article titled [REVIEW] Lesney Matchbox Austin A50

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