Lesney Products of England released their first diecast toy in 1953, Queen Elizabeth's Coronation Coach, which was a resounding success selling over a million units. They followed the initial success with a road roller which fit in to a matchbox. The toy was designed in such a small format because one of the firms' owners, Jack Odell, wanted something his daughter could take to school to play with. It seems his daughter's teacher would only allow toys to be brought to school if they could fit into a matchbox! The road roller would be followed by a dump truck and cement mixer. The ensuing product line would be a resounding success. There was no other company at that time making such small diecast toys and the smaller size meant lower cost meaning nearly every child could afford them. During the 1980's hard financial times fell in England and Meccano (Dinky) and Mettoy (Corgi) had declared bankruptcy followed by Lesney in 1982. The company did go on under different ownerships until 1997 when Mattel finally purchased it. Matchbox was now a sister line to its biggest competitor - Hot Wheels!
Matchbox City is a natural outcome for a small brand of diecast vehicles. There are a number of small playsets which feature buildings of various types and sizes and of course they can be combined to form larger scenes. I can't find out when Lesney first introduced its Matchbox City playsets but the earliest catalog entry I've seen for them is in 1968. I've also not seen any other Batmobile being offered for the Matchbox City line. The Batmobile is a natural to have tooling around a miniature city but here too I simply can find no reference to a Matchbox City Batmobile prior to the one seen here today. I'll have to keep looking because, even though Mattel makes many Hot Wheels Batmobile's, it would just seem 'right' for them to offer a Batmobile specifically for the Matchbox City line.
Today's featured car has all the distinct features we've come to identify the Batmobile with: a bubble canopy (although this one has a pretty small profile), fins at the rear, what appears to be jet turbo-assist power plant, and Bat-shield up front. It's a snazzy little thing that will look great zipping through the streets of Matchbox City. Enjoy!