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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Who Made the Best Vintage Studebaker Lark Wagonaire? Lesney's Matchbox vs. Corgi's Husky

...And we are back with a true vintage post...  

...doing a comparison that must have been done many times back 40 years ago, when both these models were fresh off the pegs (or more accurately - fresh in their paperboard boxes). 

The blue Lesney Matchbox Studebaker Lark Wagonaire is a model that I've had in my childhood collection since before I can remember memories - at least back to when I was 3-4 years old.  Given that I was born in 1974, and Matchbox took their line to Superfast around 1969 (though of course it took a year or more for the stock to trickle down to the stores), this car is older than me.  I'm *guessing* that it was originally one of my oldest sisters' cars - that I exercised my little brother rights on and stole...   (not that they cared - they didn't care about Matchbox cars at all - and if I asked them now, I can guarantee that they wouldn't remember this model).  But it is probably equally likely that I got it as a new car when I was an infant, or that I stole/inherited it from some older kids collection when I visited their house.  Regardless, the model has been in my collection back to my earliest memories. 

However, the model pictured is not the ACTUAL model from my childhood collection.  While I still have that original model, it is even more beat up than the pictured model, with a broken front windshield and a missing retractable roof.   Therefore I chose to photograph this (marginally) nicer model. 

Its interesting that it was modeled at all, since in true 1:1 scale, the Studebaker Lark Station wagon was far from a volume seller in the USA.  Studebaker was in its last throws before bankruptcy, and while the retractable roof on the wagon was a nice gimmick, it didn't enable the car to set any sales records.  Why Lesney chose to model it, vs. other Detroit choices, is a bit of a mystery.

The interesting thing, but one that we often see in the toy world, is that Corgi chose to copy Lesney, and themselves model the same car.  Why we couldn't have had any other Ford/Chevy/Dodge wagon (beyond the full size Mercury wagon that Lesney came out with soon after) is again a mystery.  But regardless, Corgi brought the Lark Wagonaire to their 1:64 Husky line - in very similar size - and again with a retractable roof - which gives us a great opportunity for a comparison...!  Which toymaker made the best retractable roof wagon? 

Before I begin with the actual comparison, I'd better set the record straight about my biases...   Regular readers of this blog know that I'm a hard-core Matchbox guy - though I definitely prefer the later higher and softer-sprung superfast cars to the hard regular wheels cars (can you imagine how cool this Lark would be if Matchbox had converted it to Superfast spec...?).  And regular readers also know that, while I consider Corgi Juniors/Husky to be a legitimate and long term competitor to Matchbox, I generally don't prefer them over Matchbox/Tomica/Siku/Majorette/etc.  Will these biases impact my decision?  Read on! 

Size-wise, the 2 models are very close, but the Husky is a tad bigger - both slightly longer and slightly higher.  While the Husky is still very much in scale, it gives the Husky a bit more presence than the Matchbox.  Note that in real life, the Lark was not considered a full size car - so it SHOULD be slightly smaller than Lesney's (full size) Mercury wagon.  Anyway - Advantage - HUSKY! 

Detail-wise, both models have nice cast metal detail.  The Husky has a bit more, and deeper, detail in the metal, with more crease lines.  Both cars have "Studebaker" written out on the tailgate - but the Husky's lettering is slightly more pronounced and so easier to read.  I'll give the slight edge to the Husky on the metal-work, though the trim on either car would make any modern die-cast envious. 

Base-plate-wise, the Lesney has a metal baseplate, while the Husky's is plastic (Husky/Corgi was one of the first to go with plastic baseplates, though it took Matchbox 25 years to copy them).  Neither have any detail/trim on it, but the metal vs. the plastic feel makes it easy to give the advantage to the Matchbox...

Both models have nice detail on the grill and bumpers.  The Husky has a cross-hatched grill, the Lesney a straight slat grill.  Again, a close competition in looks, but the fact that the Matchbox's is metal vs. plastic again gives it the advantage. 

From a rolling perspective, neither car has any suspension, but somehow the Husky just rolls slightly nicer than the Lesney. 

Paint-wise, both cars are done in a flat paint.  But I've never liked the superman blue Matchbox color, so I'll give the advantage to the flat eggshell white of the Husky. 

Both cars have full interiors, with very equal detail in them.  The Husky is in ambulance trim which is kind of cool, but the Matchbox has a fully reasonable interior on its own.  I call this one a tie. 

Now we get to the most unique element of the competition - the sliding roof...  The Matchbox's is made of metal, while the Husky's is the same plastic "glass" as the rest of the glass on the car.  They both slide easily and cleanly.  Both are very nice and cool.  In either case, if the other car DIDN'T have it it would be a major point of differentiation.  I'll give the (very slight) advantage to the Matchbox. 

Which take us to the 2nd to last element of the competition - ie - other features.  The Lesney comes with a tow-hook - broken off in this car (and I think in EVERY one of my 3-4 examples).  But here the Husky shines - since while it doesn't have a tow hook - it DOES have a movable tail gate.  The addition of the dropping tailgate really adds to the appeal created by the already cool retractable roof, to create an undeniable win in the "other features" category for the Husky. 

Regarding other non-attached features, there should be a stretcher (similar to the one that Lesney included with their Mercedes ambulance) that is missing from this Husky model.  But the Lesney model is also missing IT'S other features - that being a (somewhat random choice of a) hunter and 1-2 dogs (some examples came with 1 dog, some with 2).  I actually have one of the dogs someplace, but of course couldn't locate it for the photo shoot...  I declare this category a tie.

So who wins the competition?  Well, the Husky wins 5 categories, the Lesney wins 3, with 2 categories ending in a tie.  And I think its very appropriate that the points work out in the Husky's favor, since I can't help but feel that its just a slightly nicer model...  Overall winner - HUSKY! 

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