Spotlight: The 1960s Matchbox/Lesney Snow-Trac

02 December 2011
imports_CCGB_matchbox-snow-trac-with-cas_90564.jpg Spotlight: The 1960s Matchbox/Lesney Snow-Trac
Eric Bryan takes us on a snowy journey with a detailed and in-depth look at the 1960s Matchbox/Lesney Snow-Trac. ...
Spotlight: The 1960s Matchbox/Lesney Snow-Trac Images

Although many of us had our favourite toys when we were kids, sometimes something special a friend or relative owned held a particular allure for us. Often this was simply the fact that the object didn’t belong to us, putting it just out of reach, which made it all the more tantalising. Sometimes it was the rarity or unusualness of the toy which further fired our interest.

So it was for me with the Matchbox Snow-Trac, a beautiful example of which belonged to my older brother. The deep red paint job, the arrangement of the rollers and rubber tracks, the sturdy towing-hook, the Snow-Trac transfers on the side, the green-tinted window glass and the general shape and feel of it – I loved all those things about it. It was simply a superbly-made and attractive model. And no, I didn’t have one, and I never saw a Snow-Trac in the local shops. My brother had the only one I’d ever come across, so naturally I wanted one too!

The Matchbox Snow-Trac
This Matchbox toy was a classic 1960s model, appearing in 1964 as a replacement for the ERF Horsebox No 35, and remaining until the Merryweather Fire Engine took its place in 1969. The Snow-Trac, now noted as No 35B, was only made in the rich-red paint scheme and silver baseplate. Originally with white rubber tracks, I remember my brother’s with light green tracks as some others have reported, but don’t know if these were factory-issued or not.

Though the paint colours of the Snow-Trac didn’t change, there were a few variations as the model evolved slightly:

• 35B-1: These early editions had white ‘Snow-Trac’ transfers on the smooth sides of the cab. On some of the 35B-1s, the transfer used had letters of a slightly smaller font.

• 35B-2: This version had no transfers, but still had the smooth-sided cab on which the transfers were formerly applied.

• 35B-3: This variation had the Snow-Trac name cast right into the sides of the cab in raised lettering.

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• 35B-4: This was the same cast-name version but with grey instead of white treads.

A few casting changes occurred along the way as well. On the very first version of the model, where the axles ran through the chassis, there was no extra reinforcing around the axle holes. On all subsequent models, a raised area of extra metal was cast on the inside edges of the chassis around the axle holes in order to buttress them.

Another casting alteration came with a small change to the mudguard area. On the earlier models, a ridge along the inside line of the mudguards which abutted the chassis extended all the way down to the front edge of the body of the Snow-Trac. On later editions, this ridge was shortened, and it stopped before it made the downward curve to the front of the vehicle. Perhaps this was an economical move to save a little metal with each casting without affecting the structural integrity of the model.

This lovely model was issued in E Type boxes, with the usual several variations thereof. It also appeared in blister packs which included the E Type boxes within the blister...

PICTURED ABOVE Three variations of the Matchbox Snow-Trac: smooth sides with transfers, smooth sides without transfers, and sides with cast lettering.

PICTURED TOP RIGHT Snow-Trac with cast lettering on the sides, just one of the miniature variations produced by Matchbox.

*This is an excerpt of the article 'In the bleak mid winter...' first published in Diecast Collector's January 2012 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