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Matchbox 9a Dennis Fire Engine

Is this Matchbox Diecast Original or is it a Re-paint? What do you think?

Collecting diecast model cars is a fantastic hobby and just one of its many benefits is its ability to create a discussion.

Well here is one you can participate in with relish.

I picked up a few early Matchbox 1-75 recently at an auction. Tucked away in the corner of the old Bells Whisky box the lot was housed in, I came across this little curio.

Now I use the word ‘curio’ loosely as to some avid Matchbox diecast collectors it may not be so, but to me wearing intermediate Matchbox Moko misted specs, it is a bit unusual.

The Matchbox Regular Wheels No.9a Dennis Fire Engine was first released in 1955 and believe it or not was issued in the colour red – after all, it is a fire engine!

But this little thing is……. BROWN! Well, to be honest it’s more of a reddish brown. Baz Allen described it as “tomato soup red!” 

When I first saw it in the box, I thought it was a nice, tidy example that had just faded a bit. Probably on a shelf in the sun, I thought. But, on closer inspection I noticed it wasn’t faded but painted in a reddish brown. Why would you paint a fire engine brown? Instantly I concluded that it must be a re-paint.

On even closer inspection, several questions kept running to and fro in my minuscule Matchbox mind!

  1. If it is a repaint – it was not done recently. How do I know? Well, the paint is thick and is showing signs of flaking and age in a few places. Also, the underside is the same colour as the body, which I think rules fading out (unless it was displayed upside down pointing to the sun – and who’d do that??)
  2. On the underside there are faint traces of red in between the LESNEY ENGLAND lettering – so it must be a repaint someone has simply painted over the red in brown.

But hold your horses a bit longer my friend …

  1.  The fact that it is playworn to such an extent suggests that this little model has been well loved at some point, leaning towards the fact it’s original.
  2. There is no evidence of other colours on the surface of the model where paint is missing. If it was overpainted, where is the original red? Surely, there would be remnants to the hard to reach places.
  3. The gold paint looks original and is where it should be – radiator, hat, hose.
  4. If it was repainted years ago, how come there is no paint on the metal wheels? The only way this could be done is by taking the axles off. But – they appear to be fine – they dont look new and don’t look as though they’ve been removed. With the technology available to todays restorers it would not be a problem to do such a thing – but the model has an aged patina.
  5. The ladder wheel axles are the same – look original – no signs of paint where the axles are seen
  6. If it is faded – why is it the same colour underneath.
  7. The wheel arches are the same colour as the body – to do this, the axles must have been removed – but there are no signs of this and there is no paint on the wheels therefore could suggest that it was factory painted?
  8. The bit of red underneath proves it has not been stripped – which would make point 9 more concrete evidence! But this is blown away by the fact that there is some red, so it must be a repaint!!!!!!

Conclusion: It is not faded as it’s the same colour underneath, so it must be a repaint albeit an old one. Furthermore, the colour – why paint a fire engine reddish brown – it’s a bit far out. It must be a repaint.

Could it be a factory experiment, or could it have been done by a bored employee on their lunch break?

Baz reckons its an original! He thinks it could be painted from a batch of “dodgy paint” – in other words, it could be from the beginning of a production run!

I’d like to think that I could spot a restoration / repaint after all these years of collecting, but I am totally bamboozled by this…. someone put me out of my misery please??????????????

What do you think about this Matchbox Dennis Fire Engine? Please let us know! Leave a reply in the box at the bottom of the page. We’d love to hear from you!

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Michaela

    This is interesting indeed! My fire engine came as part of a job lot, (A.E.C Osram Truck, Sentinel Steam lorry. ‘B type bus, tram, traction engine & a pick fords lorry and tiger coach) all for a tenner. Now my fire engine does have the gold painted hose detail, but not the fireman helmet or radiator and one of the prongs at the back of the ladder is bent and one is missing. I love it because it’s a moko with metal wheels, but it’s all a bit strange, isn’t it?

    1. Si Kelly

      Thanks for your comments Michaela! It is unusual – the more I look at it the more I agree with Baz thats its been painted with a bad batch of paint – dont forget, paint back then was not produced in the same way as nowadays.

  2. Michaela Nightingale

    I’ve got one of these fire engines, but interstingly, it does not have a gold painted fireman helmet or radiator. Hose-yes. It came as part of a job lot including A.E.C Osram Truck, Sentinel Steam wagon, traction engine x 2, Showman’s engine, ‘B’ type bus & tram plus a Pickfords van and a Tiger coach – all for a tenner. These models must have been on somebody’s shelf since they were new as all the paint is immaculate, but it makes me wonder why there is gold paint missing on mine & why yours is brown. Thanks for this great site.

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