Contradiction in Terms? The Small-Scale 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
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.