1947 – 1982 : Lesney Products

19 June 1947, was the date in history that two old school friends (Leslie Smith & Rodney Smith) officially formed the company “Lesney Products”. They derived the company name by joining the first three letters of Leslies name to the last three of Rodney’s.
With about 600 British pounds in money, the pair purchased the “Rifleman”, an old unused hotel (pub) at Edmonton in London, and some government surplus die-casting machinery. They were soon joined by Jack Odell (John W Odell), a gentleman that worked along side Rodney at “Diecast & Machine Tools” in London.
In 1948, they started with just the one toy, an Aveling Barford diesel road roller, by 1953 the range had extended to 18 toys; in 1953 Jack Odell began designing small scaled toys, these became so successful that they formed the basis of the 1-75 series, a series that still continues today over 50 years later. By 1959, sales of the small cars now spread from the United Kingdom to the United States, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and countless other places around the world.
So successful was this venture that they branched out into other ranges and related products such as the larger scaled “Kingsize” & “Models of Yesteryear” range. The ‘Models of Yesteryear’ range was first produced in 1956, produced in a much larger scale than previously made models; this meant that they could display a lot finer detail on each model.
1969 saw the arrival of the biggest threat to Lesney Products domination of the diecast toy industry, this was the arrival of the “Hot Wheels” cars from Mattel Inc. Lesney Products were forced to quickly redesign their cars for a friction less axle, so by the end of the year “Superfast” cars had been introduced to the market, and by 1971, all of the Matchbox 1-75 Series had been converted to “Superfast” wheels, the impact was so great that the “King Size” was now labelled as “Super Kings”,.
By early 1982, Lesney was now suffering from the effects of a recession in the United Kingdom and had posted an operating loss of $15 million US dollars. The creditors were hounding the company for months, and then on June 11th, they declared Lesney Products bankrupt and sent in the receivers. The receivers “R D Agutter & G T E Red” reformed the company as “Matchbox Toys Ltd” and started looking for a buyer.

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