Matsushiro The Winch

“The Winch”, by Matsushiro (1984)

Matsushiro The Winch“The Winch” by Matsushiro was a versatile, toy-grade 4WD Toyota Landcruiser of high quality and with some unique features. It was a very cool little off-roader with just about everything a kid could want in an R/C 4×4, back in the 1980s.

It’s interesting to see how off-road R/C toys evolved during the early 1980s. Prior to the explosion of open-wheeled off-road buggies, virtually every “off road” R/C toy either looked like a classic beach buggy, or it was based on one of the popular 4×4 vehicles of the day.

Matsushiro’s “The Winch” was a highly competent little 4×4 based on a Toyota Land Cruiser, that turned out to be quite a hit for the Japanese brand, and is quite sought after to this day by many of those who owned one as children.

Without any doubt, anyone who was lucky enough to have owned this car when they were growing up, would have adored it.

Matsushiro – or more specifically “K.K. Matsushiro” – was a brand making very high quality ready-to-run R/C toys from about 1980 onwards, and trying to get a foothold in the quickly expanding market. They often used the brand label “Radio Tron” on their products as well.

The company actually made a bit of a name for themselves by releasing a few R/C models with ties to some popular TV shows of the day – such as an R/C version of “KITT” from Knight Rider, along with a Ferrari Testarossa from Miami Vice, and a Ferrari from Magnum P.I. The Knight Rider model was fairly decent, while the other two were quite basic. But for sheer play value, none of them could really match an off-road model like “The Winch”.

Like most Japanese toys in the 1980s, this little Land Cruiser is made from noticably good quality plastics and rubber, and has a really nice attention to detail. It’s clearly based on a 40 series Toyota Landcruiser, but adapted somewhat for toy scale – with altered proportions. But it comes off looking pretty authentic.

Matsushiro The Winch

Matsushiro The Winch

But what really sets The Winch apart is it’s range of fun abilities, as well as cute scale-model looks. It’s not particularly designed for speed, but was instead an exotic toy for it’s time due it’s various functions.

Matsushiro The Winch

Most obviously, it has a working winch built into the front bumper that you can activate via a switch at the front – just select “L” (Low), “H” (High), or “W” (Winch). In Winch mode, the car stands still and the forward/reverse lever on the transmitter will pull or release the winch cable. Low and High mode are obviously the regular driving modes.

Matsushiro The Winch

There’s also a release button on the side of the bumper than can be used to quickly pull the winch cable out – handy when you’re out adventuring, and need to quickly hook up to another vehicle that’s sinking in sand or water (!). If your

As for the winch itself – it’s pretty strong. Strong enough to lift the weight of the car itself, or pull a Barbie Bus out of trouble!

Matsushiro The Winch

Perhaps the next most significant feature of this car is it’s 4WD ability. Rather than just giving the impression of a 4WD by being a modeled on one, this is a true 4WD. And it came out at a time when 4WD R/C cars were few and far between.

The gearbox has a differential at the front, with a fixed drivetrain at the rear. The 4WD transmission is full-time as well (not optional).

Matsushiro The Winch

Matsushiro The Winch

One area that’s lacking is suspension – there isn’t any, apart from the tyres themselves. But the tyres are great – soft and good quality. And the rear axle does have a “rolling” ability to allow the rear wheels to tuck into the wheel arches, one at a time, while climbing over terrain.

In addition, you can even choose to “lock” that rolling rear axle if you want, and stop the roll altogether, thanks to a couple of little switches underneath the car. It’s little touches like this that really make The Winch awesome. You can tell that here is an R/C toy that harks from the 1980s, when companies made a real effort to keep R/C cars realistic, interesting and fun to play with – all at the same time.

Speaking of realism, The Winch has really cute scale looks. How could you go wrong with a compact little Toyota Landcruiser with paddle-tyres (with “Sand Tires Unlimited” written on them), and lots of little realistic bits – seats, dashboard, jerry can, spare tyre, headlights, grill etc?

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest they copied the legendary Tamiya Wild Willy jeep based kit model in this regard. And these kinds of toys always look like they’re packed with ‘character’ – and just begging to be taken on safaris and jungle adventures, perhaps with an action figure or two on board.

Matsushiro The Winch

Matsushiro The Winch

Another feature is working headlights. These operate when the car is moving, and really add to the fun of seeing this car trundle along.

Note also the perfect Toyota branding on the front grill.

The box actually has some cool photos showing some of the features I’ve described so far. So here I’ve scanned them properly…

Matsushiro The Winch

Matsushiro The Winch

Matsushiro The Winch

The decals are great as well, and I particularly the “4WD” on the (pretend) spare tyre.

Matsushiro The Winch

Matsushiro The Winch

The rear tray is where you’ll find the on/off switch, plus the usual recharging jack for charging the batteries on board.

Matsushiro The Winch

Overall, this is definitely one of the nicest looking 4×4 toys of the 1980s.

Matsushiro The Winch

Matsushiro The Winch

The transmitter was also a little unusual in that the antenna initially comes with just a metal stump, to which you need to attached the springy extension aerial piece yourself. So it’s not a telescopic antenna. But it works well enough.

The car is also Digital Proportional, which again was still a pretty exotic feature in toy R/C models, when this model was released. Performance is excellent too – the car operates very smoothly, with little interference, and is a complete pleasure to drive.

I ran some straight line speed tests on it too, and the fastest speed I’ve recorded so far is 11.2km/h. Which is pretty respectable. The Winch scoots along quite nicely, although one thing I noticed was that the speed drops off whenever you flick the steering – suggesting that it draws from the same batteries for both steering and acceleration (whereas a lot of other old R/C toys use a separate battery just for steering so that acceleration isn’t affected)

These days, The Winch does come up on eBay a few times each year and as always brand new ones are near impossible to find. There is some demand out there, for this model, by both those who are looking to relive their childhood, and fans of Toyota Landcruisers.

If you like classic R/C toys, this is definitely a little piece of history that you’ll be impressed with – and even more so if you’re a Toyota Landcruiser fan.

On this page: "The Winch", by Matsushiro (1984)

Motor(to be confirmed)
Gearbox2-speed (plus Winch ability)
DifferentialYes (Front only)
Digital ProportionalYes
Batteries4 x C, 1 x 9 volt (Car). 1 x 9 volt (Transmitter).

Model History: "The Winch", by Matsushiro (1984)

The original model was the "The Winch", by Matsushiro. Over time, there may have been different releases around the world with different distributor branding and so forth. The table below lists all releases of this model that we know of. If you think you have found another not shown here, feel free to contact me. To learn more, please also visit the Models, Releases and Variants page.
ReleaseNameDescriptionSold in...YearImage
Matsushiro"The Winch"Original release of the car by Matsushiro. It came in red or green.Worldwide1984Matsushiro The Winch
Gama/Matsushiro"Power Winder"Gama/Matsushiro release in Europe, where it was called "Power Winder".Europe1984
Bandai"The Winch"I think it was rebranded in later years, to Bandai (possibly after Matsushiro was gone)Japan?


  1. I’ve revised the date of this car, in this article, to 1984 (instead of 1985), after I realized that Matsushiro released a variant model in 1984. So it’s safer to assume The Winch also dates from that year. But if anyone has any conflicting info – of course, let me know.

    1. I’ve actually re-revised this article yet again, to display “The Winch” box, and moved the “Gama Power Winder” box image into the summary box area. This is to make this article a lot simpler to understand as most people will know this model as “The Winch”.

  2. This is the one I had thanks for the read I had some fun with this as a kid the winch switch at the front was a pain on your fingers I think its still in the loft at my mums house but it will not be a good example it was run off the top of the steps in mud and more the winch was very strong and would make a loud rattle if it could not pull

  3. i still have mine, decided to pull it out the box for my son to play with and there is no power:( cant figure out what went wrong:(
    any1 has any ideas?

  4. one of the most nice Matsushiro 4wd RC ready run RC toy, with LC40 and Hilux body, early one got other colour such as Green.very reliable, i got near 10, 9 unit still in top good condition, both Hi,Low gear and winch working, head light working, rear seesaw suspension working, still fun play at indoor with my grand son. Hilux blue body are more rare.Be very careful, one looks same Toyota LC40 and hilux made in Japan rear axle no seesaw suspension! and RC not reliable, my one after play 2 time not work any more. just e mail me ,If you want one and not easy to buy a good one with box.

  5. Hi I’ve just got my hands on one wasn’t working so got it cheapish but got it back to its full glory and wow what an amazing little bit of rc history I’ve a few feom the 80/90’s now and the nostalgia hits home my boys love seeing what I used as a child

    1. Peter- I could do with some ideas to get mine working. My original has corroded battery connections but I got another cheap one on ebay that mostly has no power but occasionally suddenly gets a burst and will suddenly start running in reverse but doesn’t respond to the remote.the fact something starts running gives me hope it’s repairable but I have no idea where to start

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.