Category:ESSO Series

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ESSO Series box artwork.jpg

ESSO Series

1956 -     

Morestone's ESSO Series of diecast cars were supplied in boxes disguised as ESSO (originally after the initials of "Standard Oil") petrol pumps, and were introduced through 1956-1957.

There seems to have been a range of twenty: we're missing the box for number 17.

The Esso Series and marketing

The "ESSO Series" (the name used with ESSO's permission) was arguably Morestone's first real success in producing a marketable range, and was inspired by the success of Lesney's "Matchbox" range, and the Benbros "TV" range, both of which used "gimmick" card packaging that looked like an object (a matchbox, or an upright TV set) – The ESSO Series can be seen as a continuation of this style of packaging and the result of a desire to reproduce those earlier series' success.

What Lesney and Benbros had realised by 1956 (but Morestone still hadn't) was that the success of the "gimmick" packaging was not entirely down to the gimmickry: Dinky Toys had enjoyed great success without gimmicks, simply by using distinctive uniform packaging, having a range with its own strong brandname and identity, and using a numbering system so that collectors could keep track of which pieces they still needed to buy. What the "gimmick" ranges did was to enforce these marketing rules incidentally, and almost accidentally: the "theme" styling imposed a distinctive uniform colour scheme and design, and a strong brand or sub-brand, and the limited space on the rest of the packaging made the use of a numbering system almost essential. Gimmickry also risked giving a product range a limited lifespan (hih initial sales due to the novelty factor followed by a slump), so when sales of the TV Series started dropping off, Benbros rebranded the range as "Mighty Midget". Lesney's "Matchbox" as a brand was a distinctive enough name that it worked as an abstract brandname even if the buyer had n idea where the name came from.

Morestone eventually learned these lessons and implemented them with their "Budgie" brandname (1959), but even so, model numbers didn't appear until Budgie's second year.


Morestone produced a promotional cardboard garage scaled to go with the standard-size "petrol pump" boxes, but since the cars were necessarily all smaller than the pump boxes they came in, any attempt to put the cars with the garage ended up looking quite absurdly out of scale.


  • No.1 – A.A. Motorcycle Patrol
  • No.2 – R.A.C. Motorcycle Patrol
  • No.3 – A.A. Road Service Jeep
  • No.4 – A.A. Bedford Service Van
  • No.5 – Mobile Police Car
  • No.6 – Cooper-Bristol Racing Car
  • No.7 – Mercedes-Benz Racing Car
  • No.8 – Volkswagen Saloon Car
  • No.9 – Horse Box
  • No.10 – G.P.O. Repair Van
  • No.11 – Royal Mail Van
  • No.10 – Volkswagen Micro Bus
  • No.13 – Austin Taxi
  • No.14 – Packard Convertible
  • No.15 – Austin Countryman
  • No.16 – Austin Healey

  • No.18 – Foden Dumper Lorry
  • No.19 – Rover "105"
  • No.20 – Plymouth Belvedere Convertible

External links

Media in category ‘ESSO Series’

The following 4 files are in this category, out of 4 total.