Lledo was started in 1982. It was the end of era Lesney Products (Matchbox Toys Ltd.), this company had gone bankrupt on June 11, 1982. Universal Toys , owned by David Yeh, came up as the buyer on September 24, 1982 and move factory to Hong Kong. During a few years ˝Lesney Products“ was removed from all molds. Jack Odell (who was the ex-president of Matchbox) along with Bert Russel created a new diecast model company which they named “Lledo“ ( Odell spelled bacwards). Odell believed that British models for British collectors could still be profitably produced in England. In the summer of 1982 Jack and Bert bought up much of the Lesney tooling and machinery from Matchbox factory in Enfield, Essex and and they set about an eight month tooling-up programme for six models which became known as the 'Days Gone' series.
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. The first six models, five of them horsedrawn, were made in April 1983. In order to further support the range required by the hard-and-fast collectors the company turned to the promotions market and offered the models to companies as a top quality, British-made vehicle to carry their logos for special promotions, product launches, conference gifts etc. The DG6 Model 'T' was an instant hit, and fifteen years and over six million models later it remains a top seller.
DG6 Ford 'T'
With a rather limited range of just six models the company decided to broaden the appeal to both the collector and promotional markets. The impact of the DG6 Model 'T' Ford Van upon the promotional market simply could not be ignored and further commercial vehicles of the 1920's and 1930's period with a reasonably large area for printing, were considered a must if this market were to be further developed.
By the end of 1984, and after considerable investment in new tooling, Lledo was able to launch a further seven 'Days Gone' models into the range and now the range was substantial and the toy trade started to take a real interest. Year by year further models were introduced and the collector following grew and grew, whilst at the same time more and more companies saw the potential for commissioning their own promotional models.
1987 saw the launch of the first of Lledo's 3 piece themed sets. It commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the Royal Flying Corps and was presented in a special full-colour pack, with the 3 models representing early airfield support vehicles. Only 10,000 of these sets were produced, each with a numbered certificate of authenticity. They proved hugely popular with Lledo enthusiasts and set a new trend in Days Gone collecting. Today this set has already appreciated in value and a good example is worth around £50.
Following the early success of the limited edition sets, Lledo went a stage further in 1989, the year of the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Two commemorative sets were produced, one a limited edition of 10,000 pieces and the second an open, or unlimited set. Both contained different models representing airfield support vehicles from the early days of the Battle of Britain and for each set sold Lledo made a donation to the RAF Benevolent Fund. The open set was a phenomenal success and created a new milestone in the company's history. In just 12 months it generated, as a single model, a turnover of over £1 million.
By the end of 1992 the 'Days Gone' Range numbered no fewer than fifty-seven different model types, all based on vehicles from the 1920's and 1930's period. 1993 saw probably the biggest and most exciting change in direction since the range was first conceived; the launch of the 'Days Gone Vanguards'. This range was specially created to capture the classic vehicle designs of the 1950's and 1960's, two decades that, for many people, still evoke a host of nostalgic memories. The first four models were carefully researched to reflect a representative cross-section of vehicle designs from the early fifties, but 1994 and 1995 releases expanded this range into the 1960's.
The 'Days Gone Vanguards' broke new ground for Lledo in 1994 with the launch of the 1960 Morris Minor Traveller. This was the first model produced to the recognised collector scale of 1:43. It features a host of fine detail including a fully detailed interior, together with all-round window glazing, realistic woodwork effect, separate chrome-plated headlights and bumpers, and fully authentic, colour matched paint work.
Although the reaction to 'Days Gone Vanguards' was extremely good, extensive market research unveiled a new sector of the collector market wanting more exact, precision engineered models. Hence, in March 1996, a completely new range of authentic, highly detailed, scale models was launched under the 'Vanguards' branding. The range is predominantly based on the 1950's and 1960's period with 1:43rd scale selected for cars and light commercials and 1:64th scale for the large commercial trucks and was deemed for the serious collector. This new range was enthusiastically accepted by collectors, finding a new audience wanting precision scale models at an acceptable price, and made in England.
In the year 1998 Lledo was the largest die-cast model making company still manufacturing in Great Britain employing around 300 people, and producing over 6 million models per year
On November 16, 1999, Corgi purchased certain assets from Lledo PLC ("Lledo"), a
leading brand in the United Kingdom collectibles industry, including the right
to the brand name of Lledo and certain tooling, for GBP1.95 million in cash.