Superfast has had at least two distinct meanings for Matchbox cars. Originally, it was Lesney's (the original producers of Matchbox cars) response to Hot Wheels. Later, the term came to be used for special editions of cars, given extra detail and fancier packaging.
Lesney responds to Hot WheelsEdit
BackgroundEditThe original Matchbox cars possessed thin, solid, disc-like wheels on heavy axles. These wheels were durable and (fairly) realistically proportioned to the vehicles, and were simple to make, but they generated a lot of friction and the cars were not very fast.
When Hot Wheels (then a separate company) were introduced in 1968, they featured wider wheels on a thinner axle. The wheels were a made from a low friction plastic, and the axles were polished to further reduce friction; a much faster wheel set that created a much faster car. Sensing the play value of these faster, albeit less realistic cars, Lesney created the Superfast series, using the same types of wheels as Hot Wheels had.
Early SuperfastEditLesney had essentially been caught with their pants down, however, and in a rush to get their new wheels to market, they reused their old castings with their newly developed wheels. Early Superfast cars were thus a compromise between their castings, which had been designed around their older wheels (now called "regular wheels") and the faster wheels of Hot Wheels. The castings simply didn't allow enough room for a full-sized Hot Wheels type wheel, so early Superfast wheels were about half of the width of today's wheels.
As Lesney developed new castings, however, they designed them around new, full-width Superfast wheels, and the old regular wheels were all but abandoned. Through attrition, all of the old regular wheel castings were replaced, and all Matchbox cars bore Superfast wheels. Other manufacturers (Corgi, Majorette, etc.) had also released their cars on Superfast-like wheels, and the term, which had once indicated the speed of the wheels in relation to their competitors, became meaningless. Superfast was eventually quietly retired.
Special edition SuperfastEditmainline vehicles, typically given extra-detailed paint schemes for added realism (e.g. painting of headlights, riding lights, license plates). These Superfast vehicles are packaged on a blister card, like other Matchbox vehicels, but also include a box, reminicent of the boxes Matchbox toys used to be sold in.
Additional series further divide the Superfast series, such as Superfast America; Superfast Tin Collector 2004, which featured Spectraflame colors; Best of British; Euro Edition; Lesney Edition and others. In 2009, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original Superfast, a special edition of the Volkswagen T2 Bus was offered by mail-in.