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Five Fun Matchbox Toys From Back in the Day

Growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s, Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars were a big part of my play time.  Both lines produced a lot of really fun cars and play sets, and here are just five of my favorites from the Matchbox side of things through the years.  Don’t worry, I’ll cover the Hot Wheels side of things at another time.

Matchbox Super Spin Car Wash

Super Spin Car Wash

After a long day of play in the dirt and mud of the hills around our house, a good car wash was just what the cars and trucks needed.  This car wash was kind of automatic…as in you had to get the car in the wash and then turn a crank and it would go all the way through.  It featured real water jets, a foam roller “scrub” brush, and a spin dry feature.  The perfect play set for getting all of your cars clean before packing them away for another day.

Matchbox Days of Thunder Cars From Hardees

Days of Thunder

In 1990, Jerry Bruckheimer’s Days of Thunder movie starring Tom Cruise hit theaters to a great reaction, and merchandise based on the movie started to flow.  One of the better pieces of merchandise to come along were the replica cars from Hardees based on the stock cars from the movie.  The five main cars featured in the movie were in the set, which allowed us younger viewers of the film to recreate all the action at home.

Matchbox Cars Based on the Code Red Television Show

Code Red

In 1981, CBS debuted the little remembered Code Red TV Show.  It featured Lorne Green as the Father of a firefighting family in Los Angeles, and the Chief of the one of the many stations in the city.  The show only lasted one season, but Matchbox produced a series of cars featuring the iconic vehicles from the show.  There were two fire trucks, the Chief’s car, motorcycle, fire boat, helicopter, ambulance, and police car.  As a kid whose Dad was a fireman, this set was one of my absolute favorite toys to play with in the 80’s.

Matchbox Connectables

Matchbox Connectables

One of the cooler concepts that came along in the 80’s toy landscape were these Connectables cars from Matchbox.  Each car was in at least two pieces, and connected in the middle.  This allowed you to interchange parts of different vehicles to create all new cars and trucks to play with.  There were also packs of other car parts available so you could even extend the new cars into total monstrosities if you wanted to!  You could make a big rig limo, or a drag car with tank treads!  With these cars, you could take your imagination and play to a whole other level.

Matchbox Trains

Matchbox Trains

Matchbox released a series of train cars in the early 80’s to go along with all of their already awesome car collection. There were various engines in different colors, along with box cars, passenger cars, flat cars, and cabooses.  The really fun aspect of this series was you could hook any of the cars to any of the other cars, meaning you could make many different configurations with varying train cars.  They weren’t exactly in scale with the rest of the line, as they were each about the size of one of their normal cars.  I used to love these things!  My brother and I would hook all of ours together and make an imaginary track all through the house.  We could get hours and hours of fun out of these trains.

So what about you?  Did you have any of these awesome Matchbox toys?  Did we leave out your favorite Matchbox toy?  Tell us in the comments!

Tag Team TV Series

Do You Remember the TV Show Tag Team?

In the mid – late 80’s, professional wrestling, and the WWF in particular, was big business. A lot of the WWF superstars were becoming household names thanks to Vince McMahon and his traveling circus. Two of the better known superstars were “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Piper had spent years as the biggest bad guy wrestler on the roster, while Ventura was well-known as one of the voices of the shows as color commentator. Each broke out of the WWF world to become moderate successes in Hollywood. Piper had starring roles in B – Movies like Body Slam, Hell Comes to Frogtown, and They Live. Meanwhile, Jesse was becoming a solid back up man in action flicks with Running Man and Predator.  In 1991, they teamed up on the small screen in the pilot episode of Tag Team.

The shows premise was simple. These two wrestlers couldn’t wrestle for a living anymore, so they decide to become cops. That decision was made after they used their wrestling moves to stop a robbery at a grocery store. It was a simple idea, but one that a television series could conceivably be based around.

 

As the air date for the pilot episode drew closer, Vince McMahon was hyping the debut of the show on his wrestling shows, and as a 13-year-old wrestling fan, I was salivating. I marked the date and time on my calendar so I wouldn’t miss it. Here was another chance to inject more wrestling into my world, and I wasn’t going to miss it. Although I can’t recall what night of the week that this premiered on, I DO remember getting everything set up in my room for it. My chair was at the right angle, I had a frosty beverage at my side, and some sort of snack at the ready. I was pumped.

As I remember it, the episode was pretty good, and I thought it was really cool that these two wrestlers were going to be in a television show every week. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of just how exactly television worked at that time, and was quite disappointed when the show never aired again. The series wasn’t picked up, and the show was thrown into the huge pile of “could have been’s” with hundreds of other series that were never picked up.

Tag Team TV Pilot

I listened to a podcast featuring Ventura and Piper a while back just before Piper passed away, and Ventura explained why the series wasn’t picked up. The two companies who were producing the show together, Disney and Corelco, got into a lawsuit with each other over something not even remotely related to the Tag Team series, and while in litigation, the show was left in limbo since neither side was doing business with each other at the time. When the lawsuit dust settled, too much time had passed and the Tag Team series was abandoned.

It’s a real shame, because the two had great chemistry together in the pilot, the premise was solid for an action/comedy show, and would have probably drawn decent enough ratings to keep the 13 – episode first season on the air. Whether it would have been picked up beyond that is anyone’s guess, but I know one 13 year old who would have watched religiously.

Check out the pilot and see what YOU think.

Retro Comic Book Ads

Old comic books often act as a time capsule.  They’re full of advertisements of products from long ago.  Some are still with us, while others are not.  I often like to crack open the pages of a long forgotten comic book and just browse the advertisements found inside with which to take a trip back in time to another era.  Let’s open one of those time capsules here today.

The “time capsule” for this trip back in time is a copy of Iceman #1, from Marvel Comics in 1984.  It was the first issue of his first mini-series, and I imagine this mini-series was created to capitalize on the character’s popularity from the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends cartoon.

The first ad we come across is a real eye opener.  It’s for the Mario Bothers home video game for the Atari 2600 system.  It’s hard to think of a Mario game being on any system besides one from Nintendo, but this is from before Nintendo was launched in the USA and Mario took over the video gaming world.  This version of the game for Atari was an arcade port to the home system.

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McPasta

The Time McDonald’s Tried to Sell McPasta

McDonald’s has tried a lot of off the wall menu items in their time. Some are fondly remembered like the McD.L.T., and others are still scorned to this day (I’m looking at you here Arch Deluxe). But a few products have come along that most of the population totally missed out on, and McPasta was one of them.

In 1990, McDonald’s decided they would try to add some entrees to their menu that weren’t hamburgers or Chicken McNuggets. They dreamed up this concept of McPasta dishes and roasted chicken legs, and felt sure it would be a big hit. Before they released it to the masses though, they went the test market route.

A small area in New York was selected, as well as chain of franchise stores in Northeast Tennessee for this new line of McPasta products. Fortunately, I lived in a part of southern Virginia where that franchisee had two locations, and they put the product in those two stores as well.

You can check out the New York Post story on this test from 1991 here.

What they offered was a selection of Spaghetti, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Lasagna, and Fettuccine Alfredo. Each dish came with a garlic bread stick as well. They also decided to offer roasted chicken legs as a side item, as well as mashed potatoes. How those last two items fit in to the McPasta lineup I’ve yet to figure out.

To be honest, the only one I ever tried was the Fettuccine…..and I thought it was awesome! For the six month period they were testing the line, it’s what I ordered on every trip to the golden arches. My Mom loved it too, and since my Dad was out-of-town a lot, she felt it was easier to just run to McDonald’s and pick up a couple of Fettuccine platters for the two of us instead of cooking, so I got to have the pasta goodness a lot.

Imagine my sadness one day when I went to order my favorite McPasta dish only to be told it was no longer available. I listened in horror as the lady at the counter relayed the info to my Mom and I that it had been a test product, and she had no way of knowing if it would be added back to the menu or not.

As the weeks and months passed by, I would continue to inquire about it on every trip to Happy Meal land. And every time I was disappointed. After a while, I came to the sad conclusion that McPasta wasn’t coming back at all.

For years I reminisced about it, only to find it strange when other people had no idea what the heck I was talking about. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why no one had even heard of McDonald’s McPasta. Then one day it popped into my brain and I searched it out on the internet. It was there that I discovered that it had been a test product with just a very limited release, and that’s why everyone thought I was crazy when I would bring it up.

To this day I miss that McPasta Fettuccine. But now I look back and realize that the stars were aligned perfectly for me to even have gotten to experience it in the first place. Some say, it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all. But for those people who say that, to them I say they never loved McDonald’s Fettuccine Alfredo.

(Sadly, there is virtually no pictures or video of this stuff available to share with this article.)