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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mini Campers: Matchbox 1979 Ford Courier Camper and 2016 Toyota Tacoma



Talk about some interesting timing!  Just as Matchbox came out with their second Toyota Tacoma complete with a camper in the back I also got a vintage Camper from 1979.  Despite the nearly forty year difference there are some similarities: both are Japan-based compact trucks and both have campers over the bed, and unfortunately for cost-effective reasons no interiors as well.  With both in hand its time to see how these two stack up differently.


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1979 Ford Courier Camper

The Ford Courier was Ford's way of getting into the small pickup segment and combat high fuel prices of the 1970's, and like the other Big 3 American automakers outsourcing from Japan was better than starting from scratch.  Until the Big 3 developed their own small trucks the rebadged versions from Japan was the best that you can get.  The Courier was also sold as the Mazda B-series pickup sharing the same styling and engine powerplants.  However, the Ford went for a more familiar Ford Truck look up front which was revised in 1979 with round headlights and integrated signal lights in the grille.  The engine was the Pinto's 2.3L I-4 that produced an estimated 90 hp. through a 4-speed manual transmission.  The interior was simple and bare, typical of Japan's compact trucks at the time.






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Despite the weight campers were outfitted to the small trucks like the Courier.  This example in orange managed to fit inside the original Matchbox boxes despite the height.  In the classy Lesney design the base is metal and the outfit is clean with no gawdy graphics.  For those who don't know what truck this is you have a few clues up front: FORD on the grille and Courier plate just below.  The base does not show much in details, nor does it indicate the Ford truck's name.  Out back the large plastic camper is solid with detailed siding, rear door, ladder, and spare tire that dead on matches the actual wheels on size and details.  The bed is useable, but unfortunately it is not removable and if you do you'll encounter an ugly metal post over the roof.  Not a very practical truck when not in camping mode.  The camper was short-lived as it quickly transformed into a Baja 4x4 race truck where the rear camper is removed and replaced with a rollbar and full-size spare tire in the bed.








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2016 Toyota Tacoma

For 2017 Matchbox hoped to reverse an error with the first Tacoma back in 2014.  When it was announced and previewed I was excited to see Matchbox finally do the modern Tacoma; then the final result came out: just a lifeguard truck with gear in the bed, no interior, and worse the front surfboard mount chewed through the back half of the roof!  Plus detailing was not as sharp as the initial resin model showed.  For 2017 the all-new 2016 Tacoma was provided as a relieve with some differences: for starters it is now an access cab instead of the crew cab, now with a bed that is longer and now open.  The roof has no ill cut-outs and the body has more crisp details than before.  Yes the chassis and no interior still carry-over but at least it looks better.  Outfitted in quicksand color with blacked-out wheels the Taco looks aggressive and ready for action.  The front and rear bumpers are part of the base much like the non-body colored bumpers base model.  The front has a larger grille with detailed Toyota logo, larger headlights, and a larger front bumper.  At some angles the front does not look right.







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The hood has the optional hood scoop, while the sides have flared fenders and nice Tacoma graphics.  The rear has larger and more pronounced taillights with a tailgate that finally has a tailgate handle and TACOMA on the lower edge of the tailgate.  The interior of the new Tacoma is improved with a more upright dash that has a center touch screen and all models have a center console with shifter.  Tacoma power is provided by an I-4 or the upgraded 4.0L DOHC V6 with direct fuel injection for 278 hp. and 265 Ib-ft of torque though a six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.  What transmission or if it has four-wheel drive is undecided thanks to the improper base detailing.  The coolest part about this casting, and this is why the interior is not there, is the removable camper in the bed.  It is a solid piece like the Courier, but here the piece is removable to gain greater access to the bed and not have a gigantic air drag over the truck; in the real truck the camper is a folding unit that collapses when not in use, allowing for access to the bed and less drag.








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Clearly time and technology have caught up with us as the Japan compacts of today bare more power and less camper drag thanks to innovative folding camper designs.  Even more cool is the then and now presented here by Matchbox.








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