Lledo was a brand of die cast toys, founded in 1982 by Matchbox co-founder Jack Odell and Burt Russell (see Co-founder 2007). The factory produced diecast vehicles in Enfield, England from 1983 to 1999. Models were later made in China. Lledo was a reversal of Odell's own surname, a mnemonic device from war days in the African desert so as not to forget his wireless call sign.
Lledo set out to specialize in replicating early Matchbox series styles, particularly the Models of Yesteryear range. Odell and Russell bought machinery from the Universal company, which had purchased the Matchbox plant and shipped it to Macau. The tooling they purchased was re-shipped back to the Enfield, England where in April 1983 the new Days Gone range was launched. The name was obviously meant to hark back to the Matchbox "Models of Yesteryear" line.
The first Lledo models appeared on the market in early 1983. These were a horse-drawn tram, a horse-drawn milk float, a horse-drawn delivery van, a stagecoach-like omnibus, and a horse-drawn fire engine. One of the more popular models was the Ford Model T van introduced later in the year.
The Model T, especially, became the basis for a series of limited edition models for gifts and promotions. Different from the original Matchbox Models of Yesteryear line, there were only a selection of basic castings which were commonly produced in limited edition promotion runs of 500 or 1000 models. For example, the basic Model T delivery van was produced in more than 170 different liveries. Meanwhile, the horse-drawn vehicles were produced less and less, the last one appearing in 1984. Another popular model was the London Double Decker bus which appeared in many forms like "Vimto-Keeps you Fit", "Madame Tassaud's Wax Museum", or the "Boys Brigade" model whose intent was to raise funds to provide safe drinking water for third world countries.
To distinguish between traditional "Days Gone" series models, the baseplates of models were differentiated. Either "Days Gone" or "Lledo Promotional Model" began to appear on the chassis. Most models were produced by Lledo, but several 'Code Two' models were manufactured and sold to second parties for label and logo application previously agreed to by Lledo.
Some Lledos were sold in the U.S. under the Hartoys name, headquartered in Florida, and mainly selling a series of trucks to be sold in supermarkets and drug stores. One of these Hartoys lines was called the "Fantastic Set o' Wheels". Perhaps because of the diecast expense, these did not last long and did not become popular, despite fine craftsmanship and notable brand liveries. By the early 1990s, Hartoys was using Chinese diecasters to continue to make quality models, now called the "American Highway Legends" (AHL). One example was the 1939 International A&P truck. Other Lledos were marketed in the Netherlands under the Edocar name.
Land speed record
In 1993, Lledo partnered with Kellogg's cereals in the U.K. to produce a set of four land speed record cars (Haas 2011). Called "Land Speed Legends", the vehicles included the 1935 Sir Malcolm Campbell-Railton Blue Bird (the first car to break 300 miles per hour); the Railton Mobil Special driven by John Cobb; Craig Breedlove's second Spirit of America, and Richard Noble's Thrust 2 which held the Land Speed Record from 1983 to 1997.
These models were a big departure from the multiple-livery classic vehicle fare that Lledo normally made - they were entirely new castings and were not subsequently reproduced in any other promotional form (Rixon 2005, p. 57). The models were in varied scales from 1:80 to 1:100 (the real cars were very large). The promotion packed all four models together and included a foldout poster of specifications and land speed record events Though Lledo also made a fifth land speed record car replica of the record-breaking Thrust SSC piloted by Andy Green, the company did not often return to such deviations from its 'liveried classics' format.
Lledo launched the Vanguards range in 1996, which specialized in replica classic British cars, and later, other European vehicles. The first model was the fourth update of the Ford Anglia (1959-1968). With Hillmans, Jowetts, Wolseleys, Rovers, Triumphs, Vauxhalls, Austins, Morrises and Jaguars, many traditional British marques were represented and the line grew to more than 40 different vehicles.
The Vanguard line, often called the "Fifties and Sixties Classic Collection" was notable for keen attention to detail. For example, the handsome Sunbeam Alpine Mark II featured accurate decals for logos and scripts on the body of the car, chrome gas cap, door handles, and trunk hinges. Body colored rims with whitewall tires added to the sophistication of the finished model. Rear view mirror and accurate windshield wipers were also offered. Like many Lledo models, the Alpine came with rear view mirrors separate that could then be affixed to the car. To put the car back in the box one had to remove the mirrors - so a word of advice - don't glue them on the car.
British trucks were also produced in this line including Ford Transit vans and Ford Thames Trader truck, Commer dropside, Morris commercial van, Dennis F8 fire engine, Bedford S Type trucks, Land Rover LWB and Defender and Karrier boxback, among others. Later, the Volkswagen Transporter van was included in many different liveries - for example in bright yellow with the Bosch Auto Electrical logo. Vanguards were a departure from earlier Lledos, as they were produced in a consistent 1:43 scale.
Although shipping high volumes of product, the company could not compete against low cost producers from Hong Kong and China who also entered the special promotions market with high quality products. As a result, Lledo went bankrupt in 1999, and the naming rights and model range were bought by Corgi which continued producing Lledo models in China until 2005, when the remaining models were merged into the Corgi Classics range.
Jack Odell died on 8 July 2007 at the age of 87. His venerable Lledo range was among the last (if not the last) mass production diecast manufacturer to make its products in the British Isles (or the last within Europe for that matter).
- Corgi Classics Limited
- Diecast Collector Magazine
- Hot Wheels
- RAMI by J.M.K.
- Safir (models)
- Ziss Modell
- (About Lledo 2005-2011; Force 1988, p. 128)
- (Force 1988, pp. 9–12, 128)
- (Force 1988, pp. 13–21)
- (Force 1988, pp. 128–129)
- (Rixon 2005, p. 57)
- (Force 1988, p. 129)
- (Force 1988, p. 129)
- (Haas 2011)
- (Anglia Models 2002-2012)
- (Rixon 2005, p. 81)
- (Co-founder 2007)
- About Lledo webpage. 2005-2011. Website of Lledomodels.com. 
- Anglia Models webpage. 2002-2012. Website of Anglia models produced in miniature. 
- Co-founder of Matchbox Toys dies. 2007. BBC News on-line. One-minute world news. 
- Force, Dr. Edward. 1988. Matchbox and Lledo Toys. West Chester, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
- Haas, D.C. 2011. Lledo Land Speed Legends. Capital Diecast Garage webpage blogsite. 
- Rixon, Peter. 2005. Miller's Collecting Diecast Vehicles. London: Miller's, a division of Mitchell Beasley.