Preproduction Models

These are models which are basically pre-release trial versions. Preproduction models were used for testing the fit in jigs or to show various colour combinations to the board for selection. Some castings were changed to make a model look better or as a cost saving in production. It is a fascinating aspect of the hobby as on most of these models there are many modifications which changed before the model was issued. Perhaps a part was to weak for the assembly process, so it was strengthened. others just didn't fit the jig due to measurements being slightly out. The strange thing that almost all agree on is that some of these models always look better than the released model and why the colour scheme wasn't used is open to discussion. I consider preproduction models to have a base with no Y number on and an incomplete date such as '197', all other models I consider to be colour trials although really they should still be classed as preproduction versions. This is a short selection to show these fascinating models.

If you have any you wish to add photos of then please contact me as it is a fascinating insight into the development of various models.


Y1-2 Model 'T'Ford  

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A very early prepro on the Y1 Ford 'T' and these are hard to find. This one was kindly sent in by Martin Stamp of the UK and shows the small sump plug fitted which was omitted on production. Note also the absence of any bracing visible under the radiator front or behind it in the second pic. The rear light has also been picked out in gold paint. A very interesting model and very rare.


 This was a colour trial in yellow and pure white. The roof is the textured black version



A recent auction offering from Vectis UK. A brightly coloured trial model.


Y1-3 1936 SS100 Jaguar


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Well known preproduction with small sidelights and different sump casting.


Now 2 preproduction Jaguars from a very good friend. Both have black bodies and the same base with one in yellow and one in red. 


The chassis shows a number of casting cahnges and all 3 models here share the same base features


The area around the sump is different as is the centre bar section going to the front and goes without saying that they all have the small sidelights.

Y2 Prince Henry Vauxhall  

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An early Y2 in the well known colour scheme.
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From Roger North in the UK comes these excellent pictures of the plastic Bentley's. These were produced as trials before the metal version. Note the lack of door casting and the smooth plain grilles before the 'mesh' effect was added. Roger was lucky enough to be a part of the development of this model when he worked for Matchbox.
Y3-3 Riley MPH  

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This early version has a whole different front end where the headlamp assembly sits with no rivet to attach them


This colour trial also has a casting change to the small lugs either side of the headlamp rivet. It is however strange that both these models have a Y number and complete date on both bases.

Y3-4 Ford Model T Tanker Copy of IMG_0005.jpg (25982 bytes) This model was trialed in many colours, most noticeable were red, green and black. This version has no groove's cut into the roof yet or hole let into the base to save metal.
Y4-   Duesenberg  

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The latest acquisition. A very early casting on the Deusenberg model - the roof does not sit to well, has the regular casting flaw in front of the windscreen but also has many metal flow problems to the model's sides. There is a hole in the sump and an incomplete date but the Y4 number is there so was to be designated Y4 from the start.



A model in brown and black with all the usual preproduction features, small 2mm body lug, no Y4 on the bumpers and the longer lugs, X shaped section on the roof with the rounded corners on the rear window



This is the well known issued model but in another form. Roof and seats in yellow with the smaller window. Clear plastic wheels, large 4mm body lug, X shaped roof and Y4 on the bumpers.

Y5- Peugeot  

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A recent acquisition. I can see no body changes to the model but the chassis is in matt black as per the catalogue picture of the day. The front windscreen frame does not have the lower centre support bar fitted and it does however have those extremely rare crystal clear windows! Main changes on this model are to the internal side of the roof and the baseplate inscription which has 'Y.5.' instead of the more normal 'Y-5'
Y5-4 Talbot Van  

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A well know prepro in white and black without the Y number on and incomplete date.



This was a trial run for the 25th. anniversary model. The second picture has it's  label missing

Y-6 Rolls Fire Engine  

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A highly reworked model with the chassis off the Y7 Rolls and the windscreen component from the Y2 PHV. It also has the matt black chassis which was a feature on the last run model but in gloss this time.
Y7 Rolls Royce  

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A nice example and almost the same colour scheme as the Y16 further down the list
Y8-2 Sunbeam  

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A proposal put forward for the 25th. anniversary was to issue this model in a painted form. Some of the colours used were red, white, green and the blue shown here. Plastic seats came in many different colours but not the all rare black.

Here is a beautiful prepro Sunbeam from Mike Thomas' collection

Y8- MG TC  

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A very well know model in these colours and shown in the Yesteryear book. Has an incomplete Y number and date on base.


Nice looking version with white base trial and now has complete date on base. Funny the red on the first model and the white on the second are the same as that used on the rare red/white/yellow Y4 Duesenberg

Y9 Simplex  

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This version is not really preproduction but does sport some trial plastic white tyres. Probably made due to problems Lesney was having with plastic shrinking over time and the bits falling off the model like seats and grilles. My thanks to Bob Tutt for this photo.
Y10 Roll  

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As far as I can see this is a normal model but in all over cream colour



Another couple of fine recent offerings from Vectis UK





New addition in a metallic grey colour scheme. Some interesting variations on this one mainly the raised bar across the base is omitted.

Y11- Lagonda  

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Another well known preproduction model with incomplete date and Y number. This model has the strange larger bumper locating rivet same as the purple model as coded 1 in the book.


Trials and prepros are hard to find on this model but from Bob Tutt here is another excellent photo of a recent acquisition, a plated body version.

Well known colour trial model in gold with peacock blue chassis

Y12 Thomas Flyabout  

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Just how many colour trials do you need to prove a model? Apparently loads! These are some colour variants that have appeared in auctions over time and the amount is mind boggling. I do not know if this is the largest number of colour trials on a model or not, but it certainly competes with the Y24 Bugatti.
Y12- Ford 'T' Van  

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The yellow van is a true preproduction in that it has an incomplete date and Y number.


This silver chassis version is a colour trial.


This model is very special to me as it has been sprayed in a silver metallic that actually sparkles  ( like the metallic Birds Custard model). It has one side only mocked up with card and a hand drawn layout for the 25th anniversary on it and then glued to the side. Truly a wonderful original designer's mock up model.




From Mike Thomas again, this lovely prepro Colman's van and looks so much better than what came out and the fabled white Colman's van which was based on the Coca Cola van and given to sales reps to show the customer what was coming out


Finally the original prepro with a smooth roof instead of the lined one.

Y13 RAF tender

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This has to be one model with the most casting changes I have ever seen. There are so many - 5 cleats on the tray side, no roof locating lugs in the rear tray, different chassis makeup and many more - try and spot them!

Many thanks to Bob Tutt once again.



Now this is a strange one, still incomplete date, but with twin rear wheels - why none issued like this as so much better looking. Later than Bob's one above as it now has cast bolt details on the windscreen. Still has 5 cleats etc.


The famous yellow prepro, which I'm sure came before the previous version as the rear canopy locating tags are half the length of the normal version. Still has all the above variants plus more.


This red version was kindly supplied by Mike Thomas and is a far later version as it only has 2 cleats on the body side. It has the trial twin rear wheels again but this time the 2 axle lugs have been removed so the wheels fit under the body, if you look at the blue version above, mine stick out past the body on the earlier one.

Y14- Stutz Bearcat  

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Well known colour trial but with the 1973 date and open ended luggage rack
Y15- Packard  

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Basically a standard model but in all over red with a label stating 'plastics trial' on it.
Y16- Mercedes  

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Well know preproduction model as in the Yesteryear book. Has the cast diff in place as well as some small changes to it.
Y17-1 Hispano  

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The yellow / metallic green version has no small lugs to fit the roof to so it is a poor fit. On the yellow / blue version this has been corrected but has a slightly smaller window in the roof. The silver / black version is the one shown in the catalogue and was mocked up for showing at the Toyfair that year but was never released in this colour scheme.
Y19-1 Auburn  

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Has an incomplete date and Y number and looks like a very expensive army staff car. I have seen this model with cream body or cream and khaki as well.


New one just acquired is in a metallic blue body similar to the Y17 Hispano and a royal blue chassis and again has an incomplete date and Y number

Y20-1 Mercedes  

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Both well known models, first in metallic red with all yellow plastics. It has a hole cast for the exhaust pipe but this was filled in on release models.


Well known colour trial in metallic blue and grey. It now has the fender hole filled in. There was a big problem with this model and the sagging of the plastic sub frame component.


A beautiful version with a red base, again from Bob Tutt.

Y21-1 Model 'A'  

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Original 'first Shot' trial with many metal flow problems on the body


The roof may seem odd in chrome plating but this method actually shows up all flaws in more detail


A couple of trial runs without date or Y number on. The one with beige bonnet is a very nice model and looked far better than the released version with bright yellow.

Y22-1 Model 'A' Van  

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A trial in beige



The well known trial in metallic green



A beautiful trial version in gold plate with black chassis.

Y23-1 Bus  

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Multi coloured preproduction model. It has  webs under the drivers roof and these were added as the small roof would buckle in the tumbling process.
Y24-1 Bugatti  

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Another model like the Y12 Thomas. It has so many colour variations as to become slightly silly. Original runs had a problem with the front bonnet meeting the grille as there was a gap so it was lengthened. This model was one of 48 to trial the fit of the box design.
Y25-1 Renault  

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A couple of versions with the early 3 sided roof supports. Two more supports were added due to high breakage on this rail part. The black roof version is fairly rare.



This was one logo that almost made it. It was not carried through with though but a beautiful handmade version for American Express.

Y28 Unic Taxi  

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A green trial model auctioned by Vectis UK.
Y29-1 Harrods Van  

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No casting changes but a big difference in the side label. The roof has been hand painted and the front 'Walker' label has the small body locating pin poking through. There are obvious metal flow problems to the lower side panels
Y30-1 Mack Truck  

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This early version has the ridge around the top of the body missing.

A special one off Yesteryear model

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A highly reworked Y5-2 Bentley. Cut and shut , brass sheet and rod as well as resin, to make what appears to be an Aston Martin race car. Made by someone in R&D for presentation to the board as a future model - sadly it never made it but would have been a great companion piece to the Y5-1 Bentley as approximately the same size.


Some Non Yesteryear preproduction Models


K53 Hotrod  

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Beautiful version in all over purple. Has casting differences to the rear number plate area.
K53 Hotrod Fire Engine  

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Very nice preproduction fire engine in silver and gold with a clear ladder on the roof rack.


Some models that were put forward but never made it to production

My thanks to Neil Fraser for these photographs


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A cattle transporter based on the Y13 Crossley

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 A great model, breakdown truck based on a cut down Y5 van and a shame this one never appeared at all.

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Made up model as a bus/coach

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Four variations on the Y3 Tanker that never made it.

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Not sure what scale these are to but would say a mixture of Twin Pack scale and Kingsize

Last photo is obviously the Convoy range.


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This is a very interesting model from Mike Schager as it's based on the Y9 Simplex but mocked up as a delivery van. I have no idea who 'Olen's Garage' is.
  mb_model09.jpg (130695 bytes) mb_model10.jpg (112472 bytes) This is an interesting one as I was contacted by Jim Yates after he saw this model here and here is his story

"I was at the Lesney, Chingford development site until it closed in 1982 and was involved in the development of this particular model, the biggest ever made and the first (and last) of what was to be a new range of models even larger than Super Kings.  The model was close to 300 mm long and around 100 mm high. It had a siren, flashing lights and a functional water pump fed by an internal water tank filled via the cylindrical cap on the roof. The photograph is of the prototype. The body was made from soldered brass sheet and the base from plasticard. The exhausts were made from brass tube and the nozzle from many bits of plastic. The seats were also made from plasticard. The walkways on the roof were made from fine metal mesh fixed in place with double sided tape.  The wheels had substantial suspension to carry the weight. On the side facing the camera is a statement in German - on the other side was a similar statement in English.
Diecast tooling was made for this model in early 1982 and a few hundred shots were produced. I still have one somewhere in my loft.  I do not believe any other tooling was produced as the development was discontinued due to Lesney Products ceasing trading shortly after"
Regards, Jim Yates

And to a further enquiry Jim kindly replied

"Do you mean the prototype Airport Crash Tender in the picture or other pre-production models - I was only aware of the one, the one in the picture, which is definitely the brass and plasticard prototype - I can even see my fingerprints on it. 

Then - I remembered seeing a picture of one in a book - but I could not remember which book it was - so I did a bit of digging and found it on page 32 of "Matchbox Toys" by Bruce and Diane Stoneback. Sure enough, there it was, not the brass and plasticard prototype but one made from a diecast body and what appears to be an injection moulded roof, windows, and other fittings. I was not aware that this much tooling had been completed.  The book suggests that 50 were completed. See attached and compare the detail with the one on your site.

I was with Lesney UK Operations Ltd. from late 1979 to early 1984 as Senior Control Systems Engineer, initially at the machinery and toy development site in Waterden Road.  When that closed most of my engineering team and most of the toy development group moved to the Chingford site - which is where I became involved with the Crash Tender.  I also became heavily involved with the sad work of decommissioning and closure of the Lee Conservancy Road site and then the Chingford site. In early 1983 I moved to the Matchbox site at Rochford for almost a year and then left Matchbox "

A fascinating piece of Lesney history again and many thanks for this information Jim. I will try and show the finished version in the book but do not want to broach copyright laws so will try and find out before I post it here.