Lledo was a brand of die cast toys, founded in 1982 by Matchbox co-founder Jack Odell and Burt Russell. 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 specialise 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 Enfield, England where in April 1983 the new Days Gone range was launched. The name is a nice continuation of Matchbox’s nostalgic “Yesteryear” theme.
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 promotional market became Lledo’s bread and butter, and the aim was to provide variations to be offered for different businesses. Of the hundreds of Lledo variations appearing in the first six years of production, all were based on only thirty basic castings.
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. The London Double Decker bus was a popular promotional; it 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. Another promotional example was the VW Transporter van which appeared in Pepsi, 7 Up and Bosch spark plugs liveries, amongst many others.
To distinguish promos from traditional “Days Gone” series models, model baseplates were differentiated. Either “Days Gone” or “Lledo Promotional Model” began to appear on the chassis, according to need. 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.