Jack Odell, who died on Saturday, July 7, in London, was an engineer when he joined a British die-casting company in the late 1940's that had begun producing toys. Odell was inspired to create a tiny toy car when, in 1952, his daughter stated her school allowed only personal items that would fit into a matchbox. The tiny steamroller he created for his daughter would be the forerunner of the Matchbox Toy
empire. With business partner and fellow World War II veteran Leslie Smith, Odell created a line of miniature vehicles in 1953, with Queen Elizabeth
's coronation coach an early favorite with over one million copies sold. At its peak, Matchbox sold more than one million cars a day, more than the number of real ones the world's automakers were producing. "We produce more Rolls-Royces
in a single day than the Rolls-Royce company has made in its entire history," Odell told the New York Times
in 1962. In the late 1960's, Mattel Incorporated began their own line of miniature toy cars called Hot Wheels
. In 1982, Matchbox was sold to Universal Toys, then later to Tyco Toys, which was acquired by Mattel in 1997. Matchbox cars are still sold today through Mattel
. Odell was 87.
Sources: BBC News, NYTimes.com