Saturday, July 29, 2017
The Land Cruiser is one of Toyota's most iconic models for off-road vehicles. The name started on the line of FJ cruisers sold throughout the world and takes cues from the Jeep in the U.S. for a rugged off-road machine. By the 1980's times were changing and luxury SUV's like the Jeep Grand Wagoneer and Range Rover were starting to arrive on the scene so Toyota decided to split the Land Cruiser line up: the rugged FJ platform for the basic Land Cruiser offered in various cab configurations, and the luxurious Land Cruiser that was the only model sold in the U.S. to take on the Wagoneer and Range Rover. Even times have changed as more and more SUV's get the luxurious treatment: even Lexus got SUV's of their own including the Land Cruiser. Once again another Land Cruiser spin-off, this time a smaller SUV called the Prado, or the GX series by Lexus in the U.S.
Siku 2012 Land Cruiser
The current Land Cruiser went for a major redesign in the 1991 model year for a large SUV that offered top luxury at the time and impeccable off-road durability. In this generation a Lexus LX SUV was adopted by 1996. In 1998 another major redesign introduced the first V8 to the Land Cruiser based on the one in the Lexus LS sedan revised for truck duty and in the process finally gave Toyota a more proper full-size truck as the Tundra in 2000. This recent redesign in 2009 was just an evolution of the current model that still enhanced more on luxury while still retaining it's off road credibility. The interior offers seating for five with an optional third row and lots of luxury features not even found on any Toyota product. The powertrain has been upgraded as well now using the new 5.7L DOHC V8 from the Tundra producing 381 horsepower through a six-speed automatic transmission. It features a two-speed transfer case with automatic locking hubs and locking front and rear differentials and plenty of ground clearance. After the ill-faced rebadge of 1996 the Lexus LX has finally adopted styling of its own and related to the Lexus family.
This Siku version is a nice surprise and very well done. The silver on this tester looks much better than the wild yellow colors that were offered when I got mine. The front has large headlights with a large grille with detailed silver fins and Toyota logo. The lower bumper has detailed foglights and a typicak Siku European license plate. This SUV is wide and tall almost in size to 1:55 than 1:64! The sides have a smooth profile with a slight flare to the fenders, 5-spoke wheels with rubber tires, and running boards. The rear has large square taillights, Land Cruiser badging, parking sensors in the rear bumper, and it still retains the split hatch design where it has a separate opening lower tailgate. The doors open up to a gray interior with plenty of nice touches. The door panels have the proper design details, while the 4-spoke steering wheel and gauge cluster is deep and well-detailed. The center stack has the large screen for the infortainment with controls for it and the HVAC controls mounted just below. The center console has additional buttons located near the shifter. There is seating for five with the third row not in use and the cargo area covered up, and up front is a nice large sunroof. The base underneath shows off the beefy exhaust and drivetrain that suits the Land Cruiser nature. This is one big SUV and quite nicely done by Siku.
Welly 1:43 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado
On the other side is a smaller version of the Land Cruiser that is actually based more on the 4runner/Hilux Surf SUV, the Prado. The Prado started life as a smaller Land Cruiser in 1980 with two and four door models offered. By 1996 that Prado started to use a platform of its own and also started to diverge styling-wise from the Land Cruiser line. In 2004 the Prado was offered in the U.S. for the first time as the Lexus GX model and still continues today. This 2009 model has more flare in the styling department aligning well with both the 4runner and Lexus GX. On some models, such as the diverse Austrailan Outback, Prado models can have the spare tire mounted on the side-opening rear gate to allow an auxiliary fuel tank to take up the previous spare tire location for long journeys into the unknown land. The engine is a 4.0L DOHC V6 that produces 278 horsepower through a 5-speed automatic transmission and offers a two-speed transfer case to the front independent and rear live axle suspension setup.
Welly did this 2009 version and it looks quite well for a rugged SUV with street cred. This black version also looks high-end along with the chrome front grille with vertical bars. Next to it is large headlights with quad reflectors, while a lower bumper has foglights and a slight ribbed pattern. The sides show a typical SUV look with interesting flared rear fenders, running boards, and split 5-spoke wheels. The rear has taillights mounted high on the D-pillar with the signal and reverse lamps flaring out to the rear fenders. The rear gate has a chrome plate surround with Land Cruiser Prado badging. The base has detailed drivetrain, transmission pan, exhaust, suspension, and even the spare tire at the rear of the vehicle despite the pullback motor starting to cover up most of those details. The interior is nicely detailed of an otherwise odd layout: the center stack has the radio on top, HVAC controls in the middle, and just below more controls on an otherwise boxy dash layout. The 4-spoke steering wheel is very familiar to 4runner and Tacoma trucks, as are the gauges. There is seating for five more in the rear with the third row seat, but as usual with pullback vehicles the motor takes up most of the seating space in the two rows. This is one interesting and unique way to go off-roading in a Toyota bearing the Land Cruiser name without the extra luxuries that makes the Land Cruiser the most expensive truck in the Toyota line.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter's: Maisto (M.C. Toys) Mercedes TN van, Greenlight Mercedes Sprinter van, and Siku Mercedes Sprinter pickup
Another formidable player in the European van category, and one of the best-known, is the Sprinter van. Even before adopting the Sprinter name in 1995 the Mercedes large van has had a long history in commercial van sales in Europe and now in the U.S. Here are three different versions from Maisto in the pre-Maisto MC Toys version, the Greenlight version used from the defunct Malibu International brand, and the Siku version with a pickup bed.
Maisto Mercedes TN van
As Europe was starting to grow back from the devastation of World War II there was a market for a home-grown van without having to go the expensive route of importing U.S. made vans that were not designed for narrow European streets. Mercedes, a company most recognized for the prestige luxury cars, somehow got into that calling with the TN van line. While it shared some styling elements with the car line this was a model of its own with a more boxy look and using a ladder frame that allowed for chassis cab models with dual rear wheels. Even more interesting is four-wheel drive models using components from the G-wagen SUV's. The famous Mercedes diesel motors proved quite well for van duty with a 2.4L SOHC turbocharged I-4 that produced 95 horsepower through a 4-speed manual transmission. Even the interior despite the basic look has that Mercedes car-like look.
Many have made the famous TN van, including the Matchbox TV News Truck, but this Maisto version is nice and clean and even offers an interior that cannot be said of current Maisto 1:64 castings. I found this nice and simple yellow version with Marine Club along the sides and it looks really good. The front has a black band grille with three-pointed star and adjoining headlights and signal lights. The hood has cowl vents and additional vents detailed just below the front grille. The sides show a panel truck look with basic wheels that look good here (with a working suspension) and oddly a door handle for the sliding rear door placed at the rear-side of the door for soem odd reason. The rear looks almost generic with dual panel doors, detailed hinges, and square taillights. The interior has seating for two with the basic steering wheel and dashboard layout with not much detail. The dashboard layout looks very familiar with controls from the Mercedes car-line and the shifter placed on the floor between the front seats. The rear cargo area is a blank space, as is the plastic base. Other than the body roll typical from the van it handles quite well.
Greenlight Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
In 1995 it was time for Mercedes to upgrade the van and by that time the smaller Vito van line appeared, so Mercedes redesigned the van from top to bottom and called it the Sprinter. This was epic as it is the most iconic van worldwide even in the U.S. where it was sold as Dodge, Freightliner, and now Mercedes products. The van now features a more aerodynamic look shared with the car line and even features styling elements seen with the Mercedes AAV SUV concept that previewed the ML class SUV in 1997. The van also offered a tall roof for the first time allowing humans to stand up inside the rear cargo area of the van. The dashboard layout still has the car-like look with upgraded controls, HVAC, and dual airbags. The powertrain is a 2.7L SOHC I-5 turbodiesel that produces 120 horsepower through a 5-speed manual transmission to the rear wheels. The vans still continue today and pushed companies like Renault, Ford, and Nissan to make tall vans of their own.
This Greenlight version appeared in the first releases of the Motor World line and it was the elephant in the room of sports cars with plastic bases and details a bit on the lower par with other Greenlight models. The reason for this is that Greenlight purchased the castings from the defunct Malibu Internationals line, and with that they managed to reuse most of the 1:64 castings and transform them into the Motor World line. Now the Sprinter van is highly popular with collectors. The version shown here features the Goodyear tires deco with blue, yellow, and white three-tone and a nice steel wheel imprint behind the logo. The front has flow-back headlights with round lamps not necessarly needed, grille with three-pointed star, and a lower gray bumper. The sides feature a nice panel truck look with tall roof that also has a stamped ribbed pattern. The door handles are properly done and the steel wheels are nicley done and the tires are just big enough to handle the weight of the vehicle. Did I mention this van has a lot of metal in it! The rear has dual panel doors and simple taillight design. The interior has seating for two with a nicely-detailed dashboard that has all of the right controls in a simple design. As in the Maisto TN van the rear cargo area is empty, but unlike the TN van you can see the cargo area from behind the rear seats. The base shows off the drivetrain, frame, exhaust, and even the fuel tank and spare tire. After a few tire and an ambulance versions the Sprinter disappered from the Greenlight Motor World line.
Siku Mercedes-Benz Sprinter pickup
Now to the next-generation where even more replica's of the Sprinter van appeared, and no one had more fun making variants out of the chassis cab model is Siku. The second-generation model is more of an evolution from the first Sprinter with more flowing headlight design and larger taillights at the rear. The dashboard now has a more upright look to it and still features familiar Mercedes controls. The powertrain is a new 3.0L SOHC turbodiesel V6 that produces 187 horsepower through a six-speed manual transmission. A 4x4 model was also offered for the first-time as an option.
Siku has made plenty of Sprinter models so I went for the pickup version. It uses a blue single cab design with seating for three inside with plenty of visibility outside. The dashboard is nicely done with correct control layout and 4-spoke steering wheel. Even the roof uses the high-roof setup for this chassis cab model. The front has silver headlights, black grille with three-pointed star, and lower black bumper, while the steel wheels are just as nicely done as the Greenlight version. The difference here is the rear section where a small gray bed resides; not as deep as a traditional pickup bed or dump truck, but it allows for dumping ability as the bed tilts up and back and has a tailgate that swings up instead of down. Again a weird bed layout, but I guess it works for some. Also note the additional details below the bed and just ahead of the rear wheels for the hydraulic bed lift controls and other features. While not as exciting as other Sprinter variations it has a nice simplistic charm to it and works well in a city or farm layout.