Land Rover in Miniature - part 2
by Brian Willoughby
Images provided by Doug Breithaupt

During the 1970s, Land-Rover liked to boast that there was not a single country on the face of the earth that it had not delivered at least one of its vehicles in civilian form. This was a feat that perhaps only Volkswagen could rival and, consequently, it should come as no surprise to diecast collectors that models of Land-Rovers have proven nearly as popular with diecast manufacturers located outside of Great Britain as with those headquartered in the Land-Rover's home country. Since this article is a companion to an earlier piece that covered the Land-Rover's history yet concerned itself only with British-made Land-Rover miniatures, the author's usual introduction has been forgone. For the complete 1:64 scale Land-Rover story, please refer to the back issues of this publication. Furthermore, to keep the scope of this article constrained within manageable limits, the author has excluded miniatures produced entirely in plastic (i.e. no metal componentry whatsoever) from this discussion.

With one exception, Germany has proven itself to be quite immune to the Land-Rover's seemingly universal appeal. Only Siku has offered a small scale model of a Land-Rover product; making its debut during the late 1970s, Siku's Range Rover featured the brand's customary high build quality and opening doors. Included in the Siku lineup for several seasons, the Range Rover did not exit from production until the mid-1980s by which time it had appeared in various color variations, sets and even as a fire response vehicle.

Similarly to Husky's name switch to Corgi Juniors, the Dutch firm of Best Box changed its name to Efsi sometime around its introduction of speed-style wheels to its models. Where the Best Box brand had predominately favored the inclusion of passenger cars in its range, Efsi began to place more emphasis upon commercial vehicles that could carry any number of a bewildering array of logos and decorations and thus be used as promotional items. To complement its Mercedes trucks and Citroen and Fiat vans, Efsi unveiled one of the most accurate small-scale Land-Rovers ever produced with its model of the Series III 109" Regular. As with Corgi Juniors' 1:64 scale late Series IIA Land-Rover, Efsi's model was cast as a pickup to which a full-length plastic "canvas" tilt or "metal" hardtop could be added for variety. Ruggedly handsome, this quality miniature deserves a place of honor among toy Land-Rovers.

Of the French toy makers, Majorette has been, by far, the most prolific producer of miniature Land-Rovers and Range Rovers in 1:64 scale. First to make its appearance was a Range Rover Fire Truck; over the years, this model was altered and modified repeatedly and several variations of the earliest, "high roof/open back" casting exist including a decidedly peculiar "hot rod". Reworked heavily enough to qualify it as a separate casting rather than a mere variation of the earlier model, the Range Rover Fire Truck later received a new van-type body with an enclosed rear and a conventional roof line. During the mid-1980s, Majorette introduced its third Land-Rover casting with its model of the new 90. Fitted with an opening rear door that sports a stylish Land-Rover logo on the spare tire it carries, this model has appeared in countless versions including police, construction and "safari" types with the appropriate roof lights or rack and even small plastic figures. Early safari versions included the words 'Camel Trophy' on the roof-rack, later removed. Stalwarts of Majorette's 200-series of models, both the Land-Rover 90 and the Range Rover Fire Truck remain in production at this writing.

Although residing on the fringes of what defines a diecast model, Safir's Land-Rover Series III 109" Regular represents another finely detailed miniature of which several variations exist. Comprised of a plastic pickup-style body attached to a diecast base, this model is quite rare and accordingly priced on today's antique toy market. As with other 109" Regular models, this miniature was fitted with various roofs to create a number of variants.

As they were once manufactured under license by Santana in the Northern city of Burgos, Land-Rovers have long been viewed as something of a home-grown product in Spain. Since they differed in several detail ways from their British counterparts, Santana Land-Rovers were a popular subject among Spain's many diecast producers and many, at some point, responded by including a miniature Land-Rover vehicle within their catalogues.

Now absorbed into Solido which is itself a division of Majorette, the Spanish firm of Mira has recently gained some time in the toy car spotlight for its 1:18 scale miniatures of less commonly modeled American classic cars and trucks. Since the Solido takeover, production has been relocated to China; however, all small scale models were apparently discontinued several years ago. During the 1970s, Mira manufactured a wide range of 1:64 scale miniatures that included a healthy number of prototypes that no one else ever bothered with such as a number of Seats and a Land-Rover that was probably based on the license-built Santanas. A relatively accurate miniature of a Series III 109" Station Wagon, the model is spoiled by clumsy wheels that are far too small and poorly fitting opening front doors.

Once manufacturing the most extensive line of 1:64 scale miniatures in Spain, Guisval still exists and introduces new models from time to time; however, its current range pales in comparison to the brand's glory days of the 1970s. Alongside countless European cars and a fair scattering of trucks, Guisval produced a 1:64 scale Land-Rover Series III 109" in a couple of interesting variations including a missile carrier and a tow truck. A collector of toy Land-Rovers should not dismiss these models as yet more copies of the well-known Corgi Junior casting: early versions had an opening bonnet and doors (later deleted and cast shut) and accurate two-piece wheels that were replaced with "speed wheels" in later years.

Ambiguity is the hallmark of some diecast brands and although supposedly related to Guisval, it is difficult to ascertain what relationship, if any, exists between this company and the similarly named Guiloy. Of Guiloy's varied offerings, only 1:64 scale Range Rover carries the banner for Land-Rover. Apparently acquired from Pilen (the casting is exactly the same), Guiloy's Range Rover presents something of a challenge for completists who want one of everything.

One of several competing brands from Spain, Pilen is probably best known to collectors for having been hired out to supply a range of 1:43 scale models to the French branch of Mecanno for sale under the legendary Dinky trademark. Pilen also offered a nicely designed range of 1:64 scale miniatures that included one of the best Range Rover models of its time period. More abundant than some of the other models discussed in this article, Pilen 1:64 (and 1:43) scale Range Rover can still be found occasionally on today's antique toy market at fair prices.

Using tools and dies acquired from and retired by Corgi, the Brazilian firm of Kiko produced a range of 1:64 scale diecast miniatures during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Of lesser quality than their Welsh-made counterparts, the Kiko models offered new color variations as well as intriguing paper decals that frequently had the appearance of having been run off on a photocopier. Rare today, these models provide nothing that the earlier and higher quality British versions did not already do and, therefore, are of interest only to completists.

With the Jeep, International Scout and Ford Bronco vying for market share at in the United States, Chicago-based Tootsie chose to offer a somewhat unlikely miniature of Britain's Land-Rover. Appearing rather stylized and heavily free-lanced, Tootsie's Land-Rover was patterned after a 109" Station Wagon. With blanked-off rear windows and a nose profile more reminiscent of an obscure competitor produced by the British Motor Corporation called the Austin Gipsy, the Tootsie miniature is clearly a toy; nevertheless, it possesses a certain charm that will compel collectors to seek it out.

Over the years, Mattel's Hot Wheels has offered many miniatures of English cars; however, each of their models invariably has at least one fatal flaw that relegates it to being a toy rather than scale model. Nonetheless, the Hot Wheels brand has remained perennially popular since its introduction during the late 1960s and today is the best selling line of diecast cars in the world. Now retired, Hot Wheels' Range Rover came onto the scene in the aftermath of the vehicle's introduction to the North American market during the late 1980s. Decorated in a variety of paint schemes that spanned from sedate to tasteless, this miniature was always equipped with oversized tires that added little to its overall appearance or appeal. Becoming a Hot Wheels car by default, Corgi Juniors' old Land-Rover 110 made a brief entrance and quick exit from the line a few years ago after Mattel assumed control of Corgi. Sprayed in loud orange paint with "Smith Electric" logos, this model was erroneous labeled as a "Land-Rover Mk. II."

Yet another model with a peculiar background is Ertl's Land-Rover 110" Regular. Apparently intended for distribution outside of the United States, Ertl's 1:64 scale miniature was made available in couple of different variations and followed the time-honored tradition of producing a basic pickup casting and installing various roofs over the bed to conjure up varying models. Equipped with particularly accurate wheels, this model can be a challenge to locate in Ertl's home country.

New Zealand
One of the few members of the British Commonwealth to have its own diecasting industry, New Zealand could proudly lay claim to being the home of both Underwood Engineering's Fun Ho! line of miniature vehicles as well as the lesser known toy products of Lincoln Industries Ltd. Although both companies featured many original castings, neither of them looked any further for inspiration for their Land-Rover models than England's Lesney Products Ltd. Although they were both copied from #12-A in Lesney's Matchbox series, Lincoln's extremely rare diecast Land-Rover apparently made its debut and was retired earlier than the more abundant Fun Ho! which had a considerably longer production run. Nevertheless, either model is a rare find today as neither brand saw much, if any, distribution outside of their home country.

In spite of heavily documenting the Land-Rover's competition from Toyota and Mitsubishi, Tomica did not produce a miniature of a Land-Rover product until the mid-1990s when its "Range Rover Type" debuted. A high quality model that is perhaps the best 1:64 scale model of the Range Rover ever sold by anyone, Tomica's miniature features opening front doors, a prototypically correct ride height and even arrives packaged in a delightful box with the real vehicle pictured. The "Type" after the name apparently makes the model generic under either British or Japanese laws and, consequently, Tomica slyly manages to bypass licensing fees and arrangements.

As with the New Zealand miniatures, Japan's AHI also "generated" a Land-Rover miniature that appeared suspiciously similar to Lesney's Matchbox #12-A. Keys to identification are the model's extremely weighty feel (they are so heavy and soft that must have been cast in a lead alloy) and the lack any information on the base save for "Japan". Equipped with a driver who is forever at the steering wheel, these toys are extremely difficult to locate today, especially with their original packaging.

Also originating in Japan at the same time as the AHIs were many look-alike models that whose manufacturers remain unknown. Always of poor quality, such models were sold in dime stores throughout the world during the 1950s and 1960s and frequently included stamped steel componentry in addition to diecast bodies.

Hong Kong
Still part of the British Empire during the 1970s, Hong Kong was home to Playart, a company closely associated with "house brand" diecast models sold through a number of mass merchandisers during the very late 1960s and up to the mid-1980s. As might be expected, Playart tooled up several unique models that reflected its intriguing position as a British possession in the Far East and included miniatures of Toyotas, Isuzus, Nissans, Mazdas and Hondas in its catalogue alongside Jensens, Ford Cortinas and Range Rovers. Fitted with operating doors and typically sprayed in loud colors that were fashionable during the 1970s, Playart's Range Rover was a good-looking model of high quality construction. As with all Playart models, the Range Rover is now in high demand and can be somewhat difficult to find at a reasonable price.

During the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Hong Kong was a hotbed of diecast pirating and the most vulnerable line of miniatures prone to forgery was Corgi's Junior range. During the mid-1970s, a mysterious company named Larami sold a pirate of Corgi Junior's Land-Rover 109" Pickup that was almost identical to the Welsh original except for its wheels and diecast base. Not as abundant on the antique toy market as the Corgi Junior model, the Larami Land-Rover does occasionally make appearances on toy show tables.

A relatively new entrant in the diecast toy field, China's Real Toy has been attracting a deserved amount of attention lately with several recently introduced miniatures. Previously known for pirated and/or generic castings based the products of a number of other manufacturers, Real Toy has apparently entered into a licensing agreement with Ford Motor Company and now offers quality models of several of their vehicles. Becoming Ford products somewhat by default through Ford's takeover of Land-Rover from BMW, Real Toy produces 1:64 scale models of the current generation Range Rover (the only miniature available of this vehicle in this scale) as well as the Land-Rover Discovery. While both models are of high quality and well detailed, the paint color choices on the Range Rover are, at best, questionable and the blanked-off and silver-painted Alpine Lights in the Discovery's roof are areas begging for attention and improvement.

Another company with a history similar to Real Toy is Welly, a firm familiar to most collectors as the maker of those two-for-a-dollar toy cars sold at the Walgreens drug store chain. As with Real Toy, Welly began acquiring the proper licenses to manufacture officially sanctioned scale models of various car maker's vehicles a couple of years ago. The results were remarkable and gone were the old Tomica rip-offs, replaced with some of the most accurate and well-made models available for $1 or less. A stand-out among Welly's 1:64 scale offerings is its Land-Rover Freelander with its laser-printed logos, two-piece wheels and painfully accurate rear roof and interior moldings.

Seemingly arriving out of nowhere, Hongwell burst onto the diecast scene a few years ago with a line of amazingly accurate models scaled at 1:72. Sporting incredibly detailed interiors, as many separate parts as some 1:43 and larger scale models and complicated paint schemes, Hongwell's competitively priced miniatures have pleased collectors throughout the world. Currently, the range consists exclusively of European prototypes with a strong emphasis on German vehicles; however, Great Britain is represented by the best small-scale Land-Rover Freelander available. Also marketed under the Schuco brand name, this line of models is definitely worth searching for.

To end our review of 1:64 scale Land-Rovers, we return to England's Matchbox whose new model of the Discovery has recently appeared in the diecast aisles. A static model with no operating features, Matchbox's Disco features a very accurate profile that could be greatly improved by removing the childish tampo printed logos the model is seemingly always festooned with. Now included in Matchbox's 50 States series and representing Vermont, this miniature is sure to be fertile ground for future variations; nevertheless, it is doubtful that it will ever surpass the number different paint schemes that have been sprayed the company's Land-Rover 90 over the past decade and a half.

It was once said that in some parts of the world, the first motorized vehicle a person would ever see was a Land-Rover. Although competition from Japan has eroded Land-Rover's stranglehold on Third World markets since the late 1960s, both old and new products from this British four-wheel-drive maker still maintain a strong following and continue to be immensely popular throughout the world. Perhaps this explains why so many Land-Rover toys have been conjured up by diecast makers located in every corner of the globe.

Land Rovers - Larami

Range Rover - Siku #1338/1341

Land Rover - Efsi

Land Rover 90 - Majorette #266

Range Rover Fire - Majorette #248

Land Rover Ambulance - Mira #165

Land Rover - Guisval

Range Rover - Guiloy

Range Rover - Pilen

Range Rover - Kiko

Land Rover - Tootsietoy

Range Rover - Hot Wheels

Land Rover - Ertl

Land Rover - Fun Ho!

Range Rover - Tomica #54

Land Rover - AHI

Range Rover -Playart

Land Rover - Real Toy

Freelander - Welly #2055

Freelander - Hongwell