Station Wagons Make Great Ambulances, Sometimes

An In-Depth Review of the Matchbox Super Kings Volvo Ambulance
By Frank Koh

The Matchbox Super Kings K-96 Volvo Ambulance was made by Lesney, England, starting in 1982.  With this ambulance, one would be responding to medical emergencies in style.

When Matchbox released its Super Kings K-74 Volvo Estate casting in 1979, coming out with a meat wagon variant was a logical consequence. Raise the roof by way of a plastic hump fitted with a light bar, antenna and even a diecast horn/loudspeaker, spray on some eye-catching ambulance graphics and throw in a pair of vinyl paramedics carrying a sick/injured bloke lying on a stretcher for maximum play value.

Don’t forget to modify the interior by ditching the rear seats and fitting a lengthwise platform where the patient on the stretcher can be secured. Even though this model features tinted windows presumably to ensure privacy, the overall effect is like that of a well-stocked sushi display chiller in a Japanese restaurant. Looking at the contents is free, but doing something about it will cost you money.

Very imposing, exceptionally convincing, ambulance graphics are on this Volvo Super Kings model by Lesney. It is joined in the photos by a dark red civilian Volvo Estate, reportedly the most common variant in the K-74 lineup, and the very, very rare K-69 Volvo and Caravan set. The latter brings forth the questionable logic of a Volvo station wagon packing just a little more than a hundred horsepower pulling a camper trailer that weighs several thousand pounds. Well, that’s the nice thing about toy cars… a great deal of the fun is derived from letting the imagination reach its outer limits. Now, would the glacial acceleration of the Volvo 240 series enable the ambulance crew to get the unfortunate patient to the hospital in time?

My research yielded two variants for the poor patient on the stretcher. The first one featured a patient who was secured in the supine position by what looked like a thick blanket. That version was nicely detail painted. Then there’s this unpainted, molded-in-white version of what appears to be a severely injured accident victim, complete with a makeshift cast on the left leg, a head bandage, a thick pillow that serves as a neck support and a tourniquet on the right arm. It’s difficult to see it in the pic, but the figure’s facial expression is that of agony, perhaps even abject fear of leaving the physical world too soon. And if you allow your imagination to go to the next level, then it wouldn’t be difficult to convert your take on this meaningful accessory from “emergency patient” to “mummified remains”. Macabre indeed, but in a cool, almost comical, way.

Aside from the tinted glass which appears to have been exclusive to the K-96 Volvo Ambulance, the plastic interior casting was different from all other K-74 Volvo Estate variants. The patient-on-the-stretcher figure fit nicely into the platform on the left of the vehicle, which means that diners could view the smorgasbord delights that lay behind the left-hand side windows, in traditional “turo-turo” fashion.

Two other features defy logic and prudence as well: (1) An all-orange interior (color last seen on the actual 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Indianapolis 500 Pace Car) that would have caused severe eyestrain to all those on board; (2) A sunroof/skylight on the roof extension of the model would have been more appropriate on a camper van than on an ambulance.

While the real Volvo 240/245 Estate was a roomy, comfortable conveyance, its adaptation to ambulance duties was questionable without substantial modifications to the internal/external dimensions of the vehicle, not to mention its anemic four cylinder inline engine.

Despite the evident lack of wisdom in planning and producing a real Volvo 240/245 Ambulance in this particular iteration, this Lesney Super Kings model has become a favorite of mine. Heartfelt thanks go out to my good friends Alexander and Kit for procuring this lovely piece from the Netherlands and sending it to me.

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