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.