Leslie Smith and Rodney Smith (no relation) started the Lesney company in 1947 in a hotel which had been bombed during World War II. They had a third person named Jack Odell who was the engineering genius and the model maker. Odell selected what the price range would be and how the production of the vehicles would be. Odell worked the machines and also monitored the quality of the cars.
Collectors attribute Matchbox cars to Jack Odell. He started making toys during the Christmas season during his down time. The toys were originally bigger, up to eight inches long. Odell made a tractor, and a road roller. The company also engineered a large coronation coach pulled by horses that was 12-14 inches long and had the Queen of England sitting in the coach. When the King of England died, and Queen Elizabeth was crowned, Odell made a model g. If you look at the toy/model you can still see the legs of the King, and Odell sold that to all of the tourists who were attending the coronation. He took the same large toy and shrunk it to only four inches long. The figures are made out of dye cast metal, and it looks absolutely beautiful. They sold a million of them, which gave them the idea to shrink the other toys. Around Christmas time Odell took the large road roller and made a tiny brass version of it and put it in a matchbox. He then sent it to school with his daughter and it became a huge hit with the kids. 
- http://beta.essortment.com/31085-history-matchbox-cars.html (gathered on April 13th, 2010)