For whatever reason, Matchbox never received the same level of notoriety as Hot Wheels cars did in the 80's (at least not in the USA). The main reason for this is because it originated in the UK, and by the early 80's, the company ran into financial problems. Still, we owned plenty of them, and they seemed to be a tad bit better quality than Hot Wheels. The Matchbox brand was created by Lesney Products in 1953, and is now owned by Mattel. In the early days, the die cast toys came in boxes shaped like match boxes, thus the name.
By the mid 70's, Matchbox was not only releasing die cast cars and trucks, but a slew of other types of vehicles and airplanes under names like Sky Busters, Battle Kings, Sea Kings, Adventure 2000, Convoy, and the Two Pack series (each vehicle came with a trailer). By the mid 80's, after a re-tooling, the Matchbox brand teamed up with the Dinky brand, and an entire new line of cars was released. Even though Mattel currently owns the brand, there are still strong opinions between Matchbox and Hot Wheels fans on which brand was (or is) better.