PLEASE NOTE: I will no longer be altering the variation codes. All new discoveries will be inserted in to their correct place in the timeline and given a suffix.
So a new variation that would be nearest to variation 4 would become the new 4a, etc.

Matchbox Superfast MB23-e Volkswagen Camper



The #23 Volkswagon T2 camper was a brand new casting introduced in 1970 to replace the #34 Volkswagon T1 camper. It was always packaged in ´G´ boxes or any blisterpack with copyright dates between 1969 and 1974.
Pre-production body shells featured a petrol tank flap cast just behind the sliding side door which was deleted from the moulds either just before or just after volume production of this casting began. Some thousands rather than tens of thousands of these petrol tank flap body shells were part of the first normal production run and are very hard to find desirable toys today. The first run bodyshells without the flap have a very noticeable dimple where the flap was crudely filled in on the mould although the vast majority of all VW Campers show no traces of where the flap was removed because a permenant elegant alteration was made to the tool. Off white seats were also fitted to pre-pro and colour trial examples before the first soon to be standard orange seats appeared.

The first shipments to stores were painted in the same bright blue clearcoat over white primer that had just been deleted from the #12 Land Rover Safari. This colour fades very easily when exposed to strong light and can also vary in shade depending on the relative thickness of the blue clearcoat over the white undercoat, and as with the #42b, some can look distinctly turquoise alongside the most blue examples.
When examining the rear window frame on these it can be seen that there is a minor casting difference between the bodyshells produced from the left and right hand sides of the tool. Half have a visible demarkation line between the roof and the rear door while the other 40% have an almost seamless join between rear roof and lower body.

All #23e issues featured bright orange opening roof sections, and all of the blue production featured yellow seats. This casting as made in the first couple of years featured tiny rivits and rather large holes in the baseplate, so of all the 1970 1-75 series the #23e baseplates are most prone to falling off. As a consequence, in the recent ebay decade a proliferation of blue #23e with bright white seats swapped over from the orange recolours have appeared, but only penny numbers WITH the petrol tank flap, solid tyres and off white seats are genuine, being Lesney colour trials from 1970.

Vectis have sold a #23e VW painted in #23d trailer caravan pink as a genuine colour trial although the fact that this clearly doesnt have the petrol flap or even off white seats does point to the more likely conclusion that this is a lunchbox special painted alongside baseplates being sprayed with leftover pink paint in 1971-72. However it is worth mentioning Lesney R&D did have a habit of making new model colour trials in the same colour specified for the previous toy carrying the same catalogue number with some colours remaining unchanged when going into mass production of a new casting, for example metallic green 23b & 23c; metallic gold 12c &12d; yellow 31a &31b.

In 1972 sailboat paper labels were fitted to the last run of blue VW Campers ahead of a recolour to single coat enamel orange which took place by early 1973 and featured these sailboat labels and white seats once the remaining leftover orange seats had been used up.
Two shades of orange were used in the last two years of UK production, the common dull orange and the less common bright orange more easily found on the #56 BMC Pinninfarina.
Early blue issues of the VW Camper featured solid 11x2mm or 10.5x2mm 5 slot SuperFast wheels with the largest size being in the majority. Later blue issues and all orange issues featured hollow 11x2mm or 10.5x2mm 5 slot SuperFast wheels with the smaller size being in the majority.

From 1973 Lesney supplied #23e components to Roly toys of Brazil including sailboat labels, orange roofs and white seats to enable the Brazilians to paint castings in colours of their choice before assembling these toys. Smart survivors still exist today in at least metallic red, deep blue and emerald green.

In 1976 the large scale 23e master model was dusted off and a new solid roof and rear section were made for the #23e tooling , with a change of numberplate from the camper´s VMV252H to DGT833H. The baseplate was also substantially changed, perhaps even completely retooled, to accept thick 10.5x4mm dot dash wheels without suspension. It also gained an exhaust pipe and was renamed `Dormobile´ with no traces or mention of any catalogue number because this new casting was for exclusive use in the military two-pack series. The two pack issues were always painted standard Lesney olive army green with black baseplates and very dark blue glazing. These were fitted with large red crosses on white squares on both sides.A small quantity received hot foiled wheels by mistake.

In the early 1980s Lesney issued the Dormobile in white with ´Pizza Delivery´ tampos primarily for the USA.These came with hot foiled or plain black 10.5x4mm dot-dash or arch pattern wheels and satin or glossy black baseplates and specially made dark bottle green windows.
In October 1986 on a one year lease, the #23e tooling complete with its original opening roof & rear panel segments, clear windows, seat moulds, Dormobile baseplate and Pizza delivery tampo template was leased to Metalbox of Hungary and this toy was put into volume production in various colours. These sought after items fetch excellent prices when they come to auction.


Above: Probably the most desirable is the first version with the fuel filler flap outline cast into the side of the body, It was in production for a very short time.

Above: The casting was very soon modified when the fuel filler flap outline was removed from the side of the body to enable labels to be fitted.

Above: All blue blue VW's had a yellowy-orange plastic interior,
The last version had sailboat labels fitted to the sides.


Above: The dark or dull orange VW, This one is fitted with the yellowy-orange interior but is more commonly found with a white interior.

Above: The orange VW, this one has a white plastic interior but may also be found with a yellowy-orange interior. Note that both the orange and the dull orange can vary in shade,

Above: The military ambulance from the TP-12 twinpack had a black baseplate without a model number cast, blue windows, red cross labels and black or rarely chrome wheels. the pop up roof was removed and the opening filled and its possible that this may actually be a completely new casting.
Note: It would not have been sold in this type of box.

Above: All 4 colour schemes including the white "Pizza Van" which was only available in the USA. It had a black baseplate and dark green windows but did not have a plastic interior.

Above: The Volkswagen was also released as part of the 1978 'Car Ferry Set'.

Above: The VW was included in the USA release 'Rescue Carry Case'...

Above: ... and the 'Cross Country Carry Case' although the contents of the carry case sets may have varied somewhat.

Above: There are variations in the casting of the rear end of this model. 23e's can be found with or without a thick body line at the top of the rear door and with or without a body line cast in which is just above the rear bumper, This is due to variations in the body castings which are all equally common.
photo courtesy George Marshall.

Above: A colour trial model with fuel filler flap cast in, painted green with a black baseplate and an off-white interior.

code
number
body
colour
fuel filler
flap cast/
windows
baseplate
number &
colour
roof
type
wheels
interior
colour
labels
code 1
blue
yes/clear
23, unpainted
orange pop up
10.5 or 11x2mm 5 slot
orange
none
code 2
blue
no/clear
23, unpainted
orange pop up
10.5 or 11x2mm 5 slot
orange
none
code 3
blue
no/clear
23, unpainted
orange pop up
10.5 or 11x2mm 5 slot
orange
sailboat
code 4
dark orange
no/clear
23, unpainted
orange pop up
10.5 or 11x2mm 5 slot
orange
sailboat
code 5
orange
no/clear
23, unpainted
orange pop up
10.5 or 11x2mm 5 slot
orange
sailboat
code 6
dark orange
no/clear
23, unpainted
orange pop up
10.5 or 11x2mm 5 slot
white
none
code 7
orange
no/clear
23, unpainted
orange pop up
10.5 or 11x2mm 5 slot
white
none
code 8
dark orange
no/clear
23, unpainted
orange pop up
10.5 or 11x2mm 5 slot
white
sailboat
code 9
orange
no/clear
23, unpainted
orange pop up
10.5 or 11x2mm 5 slot
white
sailboat
code 10
olive green
no/blue
TP-12 flat black
smooth
10.5x4mm dot-dash black
none
red X
code 11
olive green
no/blue
TP-12 flat black
smooth
10.5x4mm dot-dash chrome
none
red X
code 12
white
no/green
USA, flat black
smooth
10.5x4mm dot-dash chrome
none
pizza van
code 13
white
no/green
USA, gloss black
smooth
10.5x4mm dot-dash chrome
none
pizza van
code 14
white
no/green
USA, flat black
smooth
11x3.5mm chrome
none
pizza van
code 15
white
no/green
USA, flat black
smooth
10.5x4mm dot-dash black
none
pizza van
code 16
white
no/green
USA, flat black
smooth
10.5x4mm dot-dash chrome
none
none

Values based on Vectis actual selling prices.
blue body, with fuel filler cast - £150-£175
blue body, no filler - £25-£35
blue body, sailboat label - £30-£40
orange body, white interior - £30-£40
orange body, orange interior - £110-£130
olive green body, red X labels, black wheels - £15-£20
olive green body, red X labels, chrome wheels - £100-£120
white body, pizza labels - £30-£40