Matchbox Land Rovers of the 1950's and 1990's

Matchbox Range Rover #20 & Land Rover #12

Corgi Range Rover & Land Rover

Majorette Land Rover & Hot Wheels Range Rover

Range Rovers by Playart and Impy Lone Star

International Scouts by Matchbox and Ertl

Chevy Blazers by Kenner and Yat Ming

Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango by Maisto

Majorette's Land Cruiser & Tomica's Mitsu Pajero

 Contradiction in Terms? The Small-Scale SUV
story by Doug Breithaupt

Americans have a long-standing love affair with big cars and trucks. In the 1930's, the ideal car was an elegant V16 Cadillac or a V12 Packard. In the 1950's an enormous be-finned Buick or chromed Chrysler were the symbols of success. For the perfect '60's or '70's family, the second car for the wife and kiddies was the biggest simulated wood-grained station wagon on the cul-de-sac. By the '80's, Americans had finally seen their own domestic cars for the land yachts they were and embraced the smaller cars of Europe and Japan as proof of conspicous consumption. While the BMW or Lexus in the drive made the right sort of statement, something was still missing, bulk. With the mid-1990's came a new trend, back to the big cars that Americans truly love. A curious twist occured here since by 1995, few big American cars were still being produced and those were looked on as being rather blue-collar. Americans re-found their lost automotive loves in the form of big trucks and the curiously named 'sport utility vehicle' or SUV.

Toy car makers follow in the footsteps of their bigger brothers and in the scale most closely associated with toys, 1:64, SUV models are being introduced every year. Children want what their parents drive and companies like Maisto, Majorette and Matchbox are happy to oblidge. You should not assume that the SUV is a new concept, it decidedly is not. Only the name has changed. In fact , both full-scale and small-scale sport-utility vehicles have been around for a long time. It may help to define the key elements of an SUV. It is neither car nor truck, rather a mix of a truck and station wagon, often offereing 4-wheel drive. It does not have an open bed like a truck, instead providing a hard or soft cover for the 'utility' space in the rear. It may come with two or four doors and usually seats four or more. The word sport may be mis-leading as it is not ment in the sports car defination. The all-wheel drive, off-road characteristics do have a sporting connection but most SUV owners today stay securely on the pavement. Make no mistake, the SUV is all about image with any sport or utility, simply a bonus.

Several SUV models have been around since the 1950's. The most famous is the Land Rover. Small-scale examples have been popular since first offered by Matchbox and Corgi in Britain. Since the '60's, almost every diecast toy maker has had a Land Rover in their line-up. The Land Rover or Range Rover is still offered in some for by most. Perhaps the best known have been the Matchbox versions. The 12th Matchbox made was a Land Rover and in the early 1990's, It was re-released with an original style box. The Land Rover Safari, #12 is an early Matchbox icon. Complete with roof luggage and trailer hitch, this model actually looks better with realistic scratches. The Range Rover #20, shown in Paris-Dakar Rally form, provided an update in 1975. In 1987, the Land Rover 90 was offered.This great British racing green example was offered in Canada. The Corgi Land Rover allowed for the top to be removed (and often lost as with my example). It was followed in the 1980's with a completely topless Range Rover model. Another British toy car maker, Impy Lone-Star did the mid-'70's Range Rover as well. Playart of Hong Kong and Pilen of Spain (#814), did the Range Rover in the '70's, and Hot Wheels did a the newer model in 1989. Majorette offers an excellent Land Rover in their current range, #266. It is a rally version with a full roof-rack, opening rear door and 'Camel Rally' plate that must have slipped by the no-cigarette ad inspectors.when first introduced. The offensive name has no been purged from the model. Majorette also offers the Range Rover as #246.

After the Land Rover, the another popular early SUV has been the Chevrolet Blazer. Examples include #1064 by Yatming of Hong Kong and Kenner's Fast Wheel police version of 1981. Matchbox did the Blazer in 1983, #59, often in Police guise, and it is still in production. In 1998, the Chevy Tahoe joined the Blazer in the Matchbox line-up, #46. Majorette now offers a GMC Jimmy. The Jeep Cherokee has also ben offered in several versions. Majorette has two. The earlier Cherokee Sport, #236 is in the body style that dates back to the 1960's. The newer Cherokee, #224 comes in Jeeps stylish 'Limited' colors of black and gold, but with twin surf-boards on the roof. Matchbox also did the Cherokee, #27 in 1986. Real Toy of China has an unlabled model of the new Cherokee. Both Matchbox and Ertl did International's early SUV, the Scout Field Car, (#18, 1969 Matchbox) and the Scout Traveler (Ertl). The Ford Bronco has been done by Hot Wheels and Matchbox, #35. Maisto currently offers the Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango.

Japan has offered a vareity of SUV models and quite a few are available in miniature. Toyota's Land Cruiser has been done by Majorette, #277 and by Tomica, #2. Tomica has also done the Mitsubishi Pajero, #69. Real Toy currently offers what appears to be a Mitsubishi Montero but it is not labeled. Majorette has done the new Toyota 4-Runner, #276. Matchbox also offers the Isuzu Rodeo (1994) as #56.

Mercedes has offered the 280 GE as their SUV for many years. Siku did it as #1046. Matchbox did the GE in 1984 as #30. Real Toy also has a 280 GE, again without labeling it as such. Maisto currently offers the Mercedes ML 320, including a nice green and tan 'Tonka" version. An Opel SUV model is currently available from Siku, the Frontera, #1027. Matchbox also offers the Frontera but as a Vauxhall, #55. This is the same as the Isuzu Rodeo, simply re-labeled. One of the most interesting SUV models was done in the 1980's by Matra of France. The Matra Simca Rancho was a bit ahead of it's time but Siku (#1340, Matchbox and Corgi all did models.

Of course there are more SUV models, new and old in 1:64 scale but this provides a good overview of the major models to date. Over the next several years, many new models can be expected. Certainly the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade are prime targets for 1:64 scale toys. Oldsmobile and Lexus could also offer inspiration. Is the SUV a passing fad? It seems likely that sales will drop in time. There will always be a place for this type of vehicle, even if surburban driveways move on to another favorite vehicle. Until then, soccer moms and soccer kids can find plenty of SUV's to choose from.