Matchbox Skybusters – Introduction

Simple and Snazzy

Matchbox Aircraft

In 1973, Matchbox introduced two new ranges of aircraft to the market. The first has already been covered in these pages – plastic construction kits. The second was a range of diecast models, the Skybusters.

The Skybusters logo as used in 1973.

The Skybusters were simple but basically accurate castings, painted in bright, sometimes jazzy colours, and scaled individually so that the resulting models were all of comparable size. Produced by Matchbox between 1973 and 1992, the subject matter was a variety of warplanes and civil aircraft from the 1930s-1980s. The range continues to be produced and expanded by Mattel, but with plastic parts and increasingly ‘impressionistic’ subjects.

16 models were advertised in the new range in the 1973 catalogue.

One of the first models was SB2, the A-7D Corsair II.

The A-7 Corsair II

The A-7 (‘A’ denoting attack) Corsair II was built by a consortium headed by Vought. It was named after the famous carrier-borne naval fighter-bomber of World War Two, a sturdy and powerful aircraft that also saw service in the 1950s during the Korean War and the Suez Crisis. The new Corsair II entered service in 1967, replacing the smaller A-4 Skyhawk. It was a subsonic attack aircraft capable of 690mph at sea level, and delivering a variety of ammunition over a good range. It was armed with cannon and could carry up to 15,000lbs of missiles, bombs, drop tanks and rockets on attachments on the fuselage and under the wings.

The Corsair II in flight. Note the underwing drop tanks.

Although mainly a naval aircraft, the A-7D variant was designed for use from land bases by the USAF, and became operational in 1970. Overall, more than 1,500 Corsairs were built. It was a reliable and capable aircraft, seeing action through the later years of the Vietnam War, and was last deployed in 1991 during the 1st Gulf War.

Skybusters SB2 Corsair A-7D

Matchbox Skybusters SB2 Corsair A7D

Year first produced:1973

L102xW84xH42, Metal 66g, Scale 1:140, Features: 1

The model consists of two main castings. The upper fuselage, tailfin and wings form one, while the lower fuselage and horizontal stabilisers (rear wings) form the other. They are joined in the usual manner for diecast toys, by passing spigots cast in the upper moulding through holes in the lower, and then flattening the projecting spigots so that they grip the two parts tightly together.

Our model was originally sold in the bubblepack shown. Over the years, the packaging was redesigned several times, and varied between bubble packs and window boxes.

A clear plastic cockpit canopy is fixed to the upper casting. Into the underside of the lower casting are the two undercarriage fittings. Each consists of a plastic holder into which a metal axle is secured (the forward being much narrower than the rear one), with two plastic wheels. These undercarriage parts are standard across the range.

The undercarriage, connecting spigots, and identification markings.

Under the wings are is a verbose set of identification markings:


Note that Skybusters were initially given ‘SP’ numbers but these were changed to ‘SB’ quite quickly. “PAT APP FOR” indicates that Matchbox had applied for a patent relevant to the Skybusters models, though I have no idea what the invention to be patented was (sorry!).

The Skybuster range was sized so that all models were of approximately the same dimensions. Thus, the scale of each model varied. In this instance, the Corsair scales out at roughly 1:140 (close to the 1:144 scale widely used in plastic kits), though it sits quite high owing to the bulky undercarriage.

The finish on the model is fairly simple. The lower casting is painted gloss white overall, while the upper is gloss green. Stars and bars stickers have been applied to the upper wing surfaces, and ‘LA 282’ aircraft code stickers to the tailfin. This scheme roughly matches that used by the USAF for their A-7Ds in Vietnam, the main difference being that the upper surfaces sported a three-colour camouflage rather than the single colour applied here.

As we can see, the model is fairly simple. There isn’t much surface detail (though the ailerons, flaps and elevators are marked), but the dimensions and shape seem pretty accurate, except for the intake under the nose and the exhaust at the rear which should be round rather than the squashed shape given.

A 1973 advertisement for the new Skybusters, emphasising the action features including the low-friction ‘Superfast’ wheels attached to the first releases.

Unsurprisingly, the undercarriage does not retract (and even if it did, there is no pilot in the cockpit to fly the aircraft). In fact, the underside is the biggest problem for the model. Not only is it defaced by the identification markings under the wings and the joins between the castings, but the undercarriage is overscale and inaccurate. Also, the underwing pylons and the munitions carried on them are not modelled, which is a shame because they were a big part of how the aircraft looked on operations – heavily-laden and bristling with threats!

So, there you have it. Skybusters can be picked up these days for a pittance. They are easy to dismiss as cheap toys, but I think they are better than that because they are basically accurate renditions of their subjects. Except, that is, when the range veered into fantasy-land (see future stories)!


Matchbox were not the only company to model the Corsair II. Zee Toys of the USA produced a series of models of comparable size and style, called Super Dyna-Flites, which included A216, a Corsair II. A future story will explore the competition to Skybusters…

Note how the Dyna-Flite includes an underwing payload.

The Skybusters range included several other jet warplanes used by the United States Navy:

  • SB12 A-4 Skyhawk
  • SB15 F4 Phantom F4
  • SB30 F14 Tomcat

Author: hexeres

Amateur photographer, military toy enthusiast, footslogger, dog lover, history buff and ebay trader to mention just a few...

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