On this day in auto history - July 7th

Wed 7th Jul 2021

It was on this day in 2007 that English inventor Jack Odell - the inspiration behind Matchbox Cars - passed away at the age of 87. 

Odell’s big break came in 1947 when he became a partner in Lesney Products, then a small industrial die-casting company which conducted operations from a derelict North London pub.

Under Odell’s stewardship, the company gradually began to specialise in making die-cast model toys from new premises in Hackney and gained its major breakthrough when producing a model replica of a Royal State Coach used in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 which went on to sell over a million units.

Branding their toy output as ‘Matchbox’, Lesney expanded its range dramatically but remained most synonymous with producing (mainly British) miniature cars which quickly became a ‘must-have’ Christmas president for many children throughout the 1960’s. By 1966, Leseny were selling over 100 million Matchbox toys per year.

Odell retired in 1973 and, facing increased competition - most notably from American toy giants Mattel - Lesney spiralled into financial decline and was sold to Universal Toys in 1982.