The X-ploratrons were Corgi’s short-lived (and ill-named) answer to Matchbox’s Adventure 2000 line. They seem to have been produced for one year only, and there were four vehicles in total, each featuring specialized equipment: Lasertron (reflector), Magnetron (magnet), Rocketron (firing rocket, working compass), and Scanotron (magnifying lens).
The X-ploratrons, according to the backstory, were created to combat a nature that’s gone wild in a 21st century post-apocalyptic world. While the the actual product doesn’t match the quality and imagination of the Adventure 2000 line, the art is superior: all of the package illustrations were done by Carlos Ezquerra, a longtime 2000 AD alum and the co-creator of Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog. Interestingly, Adventure 2000’s Raider Command vehicle appears in a 1978 Judge Dredd story arc called The Cursed Earth.
More views below, and more on the X-ploratrons later.
(Images via The Saleroom, Vectis Auctions, and The Toy Cabin)
Published April 8, 2015
Not to be confused with Matchbox’s earlier Adventure 2000 line. The caps were a bad idea, but the design is pretty smooth. Seems to me that Kenner’s M.A.S.K. franchise owes something to Flash Force.
See more pics at Parry Game Preserve. Like M.A.S.K., some of the toys came with a Flash Force comic (published by DC).
(Images via Etsy)
Published March 16, 2015
Adventure 2000 , Matchbox
The last two weeks have been pretty heavy around here. This week I’m doing toys, games, and kitsch.
Raider Command (K-2001), the signature vehicle of Adventure 2000, was used in a famous early Judge Dredd story for 2000 AD called The Cursed Earth. Dredd and his unit must travel across the radioactive desert of the former U.S. to deliver an antidote to Mega-City Two, and they need a kick-ass super-tank to do it in.
In the story, inspired by Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley (1967) and its boring 1977 film adaptation, the “Land Raider” and the “Killdozer”combine to form a “modular fighting unit” that crushes the irradiated “muties” and scares off a T. rex named Satanus. (Interesting note: After finding and extracting his DNA, scientists cloned Satanus for the opening of a Dinosaur National Park, an original concept that was ripped off by Michael Crichton for a 1990 novel I don’t need to name.)
I don’t know how the cross-promotion came about, but Adventure 2000 was being developed in and has a copyright date of 1976, and the Dredd story ran in 2000 AD from May to October, 1978. There were ads for Adventure 2000 in 2000 AD, but I haven’t been able to track any down yet.
(2000 AD images via the 2000 AD Tumblr and Dredd Alert)
Adventure 2000 debuted in 1977 and the die-cast “ultra-modern vehicles designed for the world of the future” were produced through about 1980. The slim backstory:
The year is 2000 – The planets prepare for battle. Re-enact the excitement of inter-planetary conflict with the action-packed vehicles from Adventure 2000.
A new wrinkle was added in the 1979/1980 catalog—“The interplanetary commission prepares for an expedition to planet ZETO”—and all the vehicles were recast in a deep blue.
The beautifully detailed line was developed and made in the UK. Matchbox was a longtime British brand, in fact—owned by Lesney Products—until the early ’80s. I found a choice 1977 ad (via combomphotos/Flickr) featuring some great art. Not sure how “Zorgon the Creepy Monster” fits in, but they can have my 75p.
I’ll do separate posts on each vehicle, because they’re that cool. (There’s a nifty tie-in with the 2000 AD comic and Judge Dredd.)
Here’s a close-up of the Command Force (K-2005) set, introduced in 1978.
UPDATE (3/4/14): Jason at Contra Dextra Avenue discovered that the three smaller vehicles in Command Force—the Hovercraft (1972), the Planet Scout (1975), and the Cosmobile (1975)—had been previously issued. They were part of Matchbox’s Superfast line, which you can check out at Dan’s Matchbox Picture Pages. I don’t know if the latter two are Matchbox’s first produced futuristic vehicles (doubtful), but they predate the Adventure 2000 line.
(Top image via Vectis Auctions; catalog images via Moonbase Central; Command Force images via eBay)
The kid is really stoked about his Spider-Man Race and Chase set, part of Matchbox’s Speedtrack/Powertrack line. Here it is set up and ready to go. Photo is via the comprehensive Powertrack blog.
In the photos below, from the same blog, Spidey and the Hulk (the Green Guy had his own set) promote their products at the New York Toy Fair in the late ’70s. Pat Dennis, the designer and developer of Matchbox’s new racing system, lends a hand with the technical details.
In the next photo, we’re joined by another happy kid, and a happy (but tired) dad. I love that the first kid’s expression hasn’t changed. The Christmas morning photos come from Melissa Wilkins/Flickr.
There’s an Empire Strikes Back figure on the couch, a Microscope Lab Set, Mouse Trap, and LJN’s programmable (like the Big Trak) 255 Computer Command Corvette. I remembered it when I saw the box.
Published November 30, 2012
Catalogs , Hot Wheels , Matchbox
The Matchbox Combat Zone was a play case only. You had to buy all the vehicles separately. I guess it’s a riff on the Marx war sets, but not a very good one.
I don’t think I had the Thundershift 500, but I remember playing with one. “Control vehicle speed with the shifter—a strong stroke sends your car through the tunnel and on to victory.”
If that doesn’t sound familiar, take a look at this video.
It’s a lot more fun when you’re racing someone.
(Catalog images via WishbookWeb)
(Video via cozythunder1/YouTube)