The History of Lledo

Lesney was founded in 1947 as a die-cast company by Leslie Smith and Rodney Smith. The two men were not related by blood; they had been school friends and served together in the Royal Navy during World War II. Shortly after they founded the company, Rodney Smith introduced to his partner a man named John “Jack” Odell, an engineer he had met in a previous job at D.C.M.T. (another die-casting company). Mr. Odell initially rented a space in the Lesney building to make his own die-casting products, but he joined the company as a partner in that same year.

Lesney began making diecast toys in 1947. The Matchbox company got its name because one of Jacks daughters had a show and tell day at school so he gave her a prototype of a diecast model he had been working on and she took it to school in a matchbox! The popular Matchbox 1-75 series was so named because there were always 75 different vehicles in the line, each packaged in a small box designed to look like those used for matches.

These toys became so popular that “Matchbox” was widely used as a generic term for any diecast toy car, regardless of who the actual manufacturer was.

The popularity of diecast toys developed in the 1950s, as their detail and quality increased.

Following the demise of Matchbox in the early 1980s, Jack Odell created Lledo in 1982 (Jack was a former Matchbox founding partner). The brand name mimicked Jacks call sign during the war, quite simply Odell in reverse. Odell believed that British collectables for British collectors could still be profitably produced in England.

Lledo bought some of the Matchbox production machinery and set up a new factory in Enfield, Essex and introduced their “Days Gone” range of diecast vehicles in 1983. The first series of Days Gone models included re-makes of some of the most popular and respected first and second-generation Matchbox Models of Yesteryear including the Horse Drawn Cart and Model T Ford.

We have over 200 Lledo models in stock, priced from £2.50 each, mainly in Mint & Boxed condition. A number of these models are in North East England related, including Beamish Museum and Ringtons Tea. Please contact us if you are looking for a particular model.