In 1954 Lesney introduced the fifth model to the Matchbox 1-75 series,
Like the 1a road roller the new model was a scaled down copy of a Dinky toy,
This time it was the 29c Leyland bus that was copied and when you compare the two models side by side it is easy to see the Lesney is a copy of the Dinky which was a pre world war two casting that was reissued post war.
Like the real London bus the Lesney bus was painted red all over including the baseplate and shades can vary from bright orange-red to deep red, It had gold trim to the radiator grille and unlike most models the bus did not have headlights to trim.
The wheels were 7.5 x 18 grey metal on flat head axles with crimped ends, The model was deleted before dome head axles were in use.
The sides of the bus were adorned with yellow paper labels with rounded ends and "Buy 'Matchbox' series" in black lettering but it is not unusual to find buses without the labels, I know a London toy dealer that had a dozen mint in box buses which were all without labels.
There were two minor casting variations to the bus and both can be found on the rear end, The first was a modification to the top of the rear window, On early buses the window had a square top edge, Later the window was given an angled top edge.
Some time later the recess for the rear number plate was filled in but it should be noted that as the bus had no wheel or other variations to give us a timeline the order these modifications were done in is pure guesswork.
Surprisingly the 5a casting was used as the very first promotional issue when the model was recoloured to green for an Australian bus company and a mint and boxed example of the very rare green bus was sold at Vectis auctions in 2006 for a world record price of £7500 (an incredible £9000 with commission!) and I believe only two examples of the Australian issue are known to exist.
The bus was packaged in 'A' and 'B' type boxes and apart from the super rare green version there are no other rare versions, It was replaced by a scaled up version of the bus in 1957 which was also based on the Dinky Leyland bus. The new bus was a slight improvement on the earlier issue as it had a detailed radiator grille but for some reason Lesney never saw fit to add headlights to the new bus either.