06 December 2010
Eric Bryan takes at look at the history of the Matchbox Weatherill Hydraulic. ...
The Matchbox Weatherill Hydraulic
One of the greatest things about the Matchbox, Corgi and Dinky glory days was how the toy shops would have stacks of the latest catalogues from each maker sitting on the glass cases or countertops, free for the taking. Now even these catalogues themselves are collector’s items.
I was always especially interested in tractors and I would scour the catalogue pages for new releases and models I was interested in but which, for some reason, the toy and hobby stores in the San Francisco Bay area never carried. One of these models was the Matchbox Weatherill Hydraulic Excavator, one of the 1-75 series. This was an industrial tractor with a front loader. I’d seen it in Matchbox catalogues, but never once did one appear in any of the stores in the area.
Then, several years ago, I went to a toy show held in a neighbouring city. At one table an affable man had an array of vintage Matchbox 1-75 series on display. I instantly recognised the Weatherill, and asked to see it. It was in good shape with some fairly minor paint loss and general wear. At that time I had no idea what it was worth, so asked how much he was selling it for. When he told me “Oh, how about two dollars?” I looked at him startled, laid my money down and walked away with the tractor.
Referring to several published Matchbox guides and websites, I pieced together a history of the Matchbox 1-75 series Weatherills. The first version of the Matchbox Weatherill Hydraulic appeared in 1956, as No 24 (now referred to as 24A) in the 1-75 range. The model came in an orange paint job, with a variant in yellow, the latter being the rarer of the two.
The front loader system hinged on an axle pin and could be raised and lowered, there was mechanical detail in the casting, and a ‘Weatherill Hydraulic’ transfer attached to the rear of the tractor. There was also some hand-painted detail, with the hydraulic rams or cylinders and exhaust system done in silver. All of these facets added to the realism of this model.
This incarnation of the Weatherill was fitted with grey metal wheels. The earlier editions of this model had flat head axles, and later ones had dome head axles – both types with crimped ends. The Weatherill No 24A was produced until 1959.
The 24A came packaged in B type boxes, with box illustrations varying from blurry to crisp, small to large, to none.
Lesney’s new rendering of the Weatherill tractor, still issued as No 24 (now referred to as No 24B), was slightly larger than the original, and started manufacture in 1959. It was painted in a yellow-orange, and the earlier versions had grey plastic wheels.
This model went through several variations regarding axles and wheels. The first versions had domed axles with crimped ends, the second of these with larger front wheels. The next editions had domed axles with rounded ends, the second and third issues of these again with increasing front wheel sizes. The last two varieties of this model switched to black plastic wheels, still with domed axles with rounded ends. Though the front wheels remained the same size as the last grey-wheeled version, one edition of the black-wheeled version had larger rear wheels.
*This is an excerpt of the article 'The Matchbox Weatherill Hydraulic' first published in Diecast Collector's January issue. To see which issues of Diecast Collector are available to buy online, click here.
*Diecast Collector is a monthly magazine which focuses on all types of diecast models from Dinky Toys to Oxford Diecast.