Name: Land Rover Defender
Year of release: 2012
Those of you who heard of the company Bruder probably just thought to themselves What?! Does he mean the Bruder that makes toys for small kids, toys meant to be played with in a friggin sandbox?? Ok, I gave this Jon-Sohn dude the benefit of the doubt before but now I’m outta here! Wait up, guys! Yes, Bruder is a German company (whose name means ‘brother’, by the way) which makes toys for younger children and yes, surprisingly this thing here IS meant to be played out in the backyard, driving through sand and grass and transporting pebbles and hit’n’running Barbies strolling back from a dolls tea party. But bear in mind the company’s slogan: ‘just like the real thing’ and trust me on this one, it’s worth at least looking into.
So take a look at this sweet ride, bros, and tell me: now ain’t she a beaut?!
Marvel at all those delicious details and tell me: did your childhood sandbox toys looked anything like that?! Coz mine sure as hell didn’t and I bet neither did yours! Bruder has this whole philosophy laid out at their website about how kids learn best by playing with things that resemble the reality as close as possible but all a collector sees is a diorama/photo-shoot eye-candy.
And what a treat it is! Outside the SUV has every detail one would expect from a high-class model: headlights, indicators, a grill with a hint of an engine behind, even a sticker depicting the Land Rover logo in the very shape and at the exact spot where it can be found on the real life Defender. And a license plate is there too, you bet ya!
I could gush over the silhouette of the SUV but I’d be complementing the designers of Land Rover rather than those of Bruder because this toy is almost identical to the real thing in terms of shape, details, proportions and even the trademark color. Notice how the polished plastic actually resembles a real life car’s metallic surface. Also check the cool fumes funnel raising this baby to the extreme outdoor level – just what it needs to be crossing those streams and creeks left after the last rain that flooded your backyard. Safety first!
Thought the rear has less details? Think again! There’s another plate, taillights, indicator lights, mudflaps and even a spare tire featuring some serial number and a cleverly placed Bruder’s logo disguised as a tire producer’s name. And don’t even get me started on the side windows: larger ones being accompanied by those awesome thin stripes of transparent plastic. The back door window is missing but I think that’s intended to make opening of the door easier. You know, for clumsy tiny kids’ fingers? As opposed to clumsy large collectors’ fingers heh heh
And on to the opening doors, then. First let’s peek inside the front seats area. There are all kinds of interior details present here that you might want (well unless you actually expect a super-expensive exclusive high-grade-class model): a steering wheel, foot pedals, a gear lever and a hint of various gauges, clocks and buttons sculpted accurately enough to provide content and perhaps guidelines for customizers.
Here’s another shot of the interior. The seats and floor have satisfying details as well. There is also this thingie in the middle that looks like a holder for a KFC bucket, more on that later. As you can see the door can be swung wide open, wider than an actual car’s door but the purpose is again the ease of use, which also means no ‘glass’ in the front side windows. This photo reveals two more facts about the Bruder Defender. First, the mirrors are there but their reflecting surface is a mere piece of polished plastic so go, customizers, go! Second, all the transparent plastic functioning as glass is a terrible fingerprints magnet. I swear I wiped all those a number of times between shots but there you go – messy!
A shot of the rear interior space and just like the real Defender it IS all about space. The floor begs to be cluttered with some heavy payload and the side seats, though visibly uncomfortable, offer sitting places for passengers.
Speaking of passengers… Many of you probably think Ok, all this is nice and neat but we are figures collectors. Sure, a scaled-down car can come in handy as part of a diorama or as a background detail in a photograph aimed at realism but we got Bburago, Welly, Maisto and other die-cast car models that can do the trick and have even more details. True, but if you already explored that territory then you do know what I have learned: the 1:18-scaled figures do not fit into those, even though the scale is theoretically a match.
You see, I was looking for a realistic automobile design that could hold four modern G.I. Joe figures for the sake of dio-photography. I explored a number of gorgeous models that even had cute tiny gauges, speedometers and car radio displays. But so what if an average Hasbro’s Joe can’t even fit into hard top ones and convertibles at best offer very limited space for an awkward crouching pose which in no way can add quality to the scene in a picture. Sure, I did manage to get a hold of a BBI’s Hummer and as far as Hummers go I also have the Steel Crusher, a really nice Cobra SUV which I think is the most realistic non-military vehicle design done by Hasbro up to this day. At least on the outside. You know what I mean, right? Yeah, the infamous back space… or lack of thereof. And there goes a four-figure-holding car idea!
Anyway, I finally stumbled upon Bruder’s toys. Having seen the pictures and videos I was ecstatic in terms of the looks but what about the scale? The data clearly says ‘1:16’ so even the modern G.I. Joe that are slightly taller than your average 1:18 figures are bound to have Bruder cars towering over them, right? Well… yes and no. The thing is Bruder, even though so great in translating real life details and designs into toy form, sometimes fails when it comes down to size. I was considering getting a Jeep Wrangler aiming at a versatile use or a Mercedes Benz Sprinter to turn it into a stick-up van but those tuned out to be just… huge! On the other hand I found online pictures depicting a Bruder Man truck that looked great with a team of Joes inside (try googling ‘Bruder G.I. Joe’ under Images or search for ‘Bruder’ at Hiss Tank to find the images yourselves). So the scale is a tad different when comparing various models of the same toy line. You can’t really estimate it looking at photos or the promo clips that don’t show figures you know next to a certain vehicle. I recommend taking a Joe figure with you to the store and doing a size comparison yourself. That is, if Bruder toys can be found around your place – I read those are hard to come by in retail stateside. In such a case – you’ve always got me! Well at least as long as I manage to succeed myself since I haven’t been able to for example locate one of the gorgeous Mack trucks anywhere around. [UPDATE: Me and rehael checked the local TRU’s stock of Bruder vehicles and had the opportunity to compare the size of a MAN truck (that we know is suitable for modern G.I. Joe figures) and a Scania truck. Unfortunately the Scania mold, even though similar in overall shape of cab, is visually larger than MAN, so it will be significantly overscaled for you Joes. That means another Bruder model that doesn’t match Hasbro’s 1:18 scale.]
Ok, so you already know which two Bruder vehicle models to avoid if you want your 1:18-ers to go along with them. And how about the Defender? To properly establish this we’re going to need some help from professionals.
I proudly present to you members of the Multi Objective OverKill Squad, a team of high-class specialists that only Cobra can afford to employ and dare to deploy for action! The M.O.O.K.S are: Steve Kubowski, Marvin Jones and Lee Hochenbauer.
Steve is the explosives specialist and the specialist title means that he can make it go boom, no matter what it is.
Marvin is the bad-ass marksmanship expert who makes sure that this time the black guy does not go down first.
Lee is the fearless military stunt driver, always there to provide means of transport or pre-planned retreat for the squad.
All right, let’s get down to business…
The figures look… not bad next to the Defender. You don’t get the feeling that they are seriously underscaled, yet there is an odd discomfort here, hard to pinpoint at the moment.
The feeling is gone once we start putting figures inside. Lee fits in there perfectly, sitting in a natural position, with both hands on the wheel holding it firmly if you so choose. Which is cool considering turning the wheel makes the SUV’s wheels turn.
His feet rest on the floor – to be honest I couldn’t be bothered to place them on the pedals but I think it could be done if someone wants THAT level of accuracy. Time to add some ebony coolness to the equation.
The passenger also fits in comfortably in no way bothering or being bothered by the driver.
You can place two modern Joes in this 80s-cop-buddies-movie pose to have them exchange smart-ass remarks or, like Marvin and Lee, being the real MEN they are, sit there enjoying tough manly silence.
That looks pretty natural, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t seem like they have too much space inside. If the car was two scales smaller so to speak (so 1:18 instead of 1:16) it would surely at least make them uncomfortably crammed inside or most probably they wouldn’t fit in at all. So what’s the deal here? Why did we get this feeling of slightly mismatched scales at the beginning and it looks just fine now?
There are two factors at work here, at least I see it that way. First, plastic figures are… made of plastic (you can quote me there!) and not flesh, which makes them much less posable – not in terms of articulation but in terms of adjusting the whole body’s shape to the immediate surroundings. What I mean by that is that a human body ‘fills gaps’ to an extent, sits comfortably, relaxing and thus taking less space, especially in terms of height. Plastic figures are condemned to unnatural upright poses, even if you work those chest joints of modern Joes. They won’t loosen up their muscle tension – always ready for action, just as action figures should be. So if you took a tiny 31/4” human and put him inside this toy he would probably seem a bit too small for it. Not much though, as the Defender seems to be in fact more of 1:17 scale than of 1:16 one. The result is the Bruder’s SUV is a bit overscaled here, but it works to the advantage of not-so-flexible plastic people.
The second thing is… the wheels. As long as you keep your figures inside they look ok. But when you take them out and stand next to the car they seem to fall a bit short. I browsed through a number of real life Defender pictures and I came to the conclusion that, even apart from the scale, Bruder’s model’s wheels are too large. And I get it why they did it that way: larger wheels mean easier maneuvering and better offroad performance when the vehicle is pushed using a far-from-sophisticated child’s hand. That is also the reason why both axes have working suspension – pure play value. Yes, remember this is still a TOY, a young kid’s toy – keep that in mind while speed-browsing through this review already planning e-bay shopping-spree when your wife goes to sleep, all fellow mature collectors! But back to the wheels. Is it very bad that they are that way? Naah, it can be easily dealt with if you’re willing to lower your realism-based standards a notch: establish your Defender as a heavy-duty offroad custom version of the SUV if you use it for a dio-story or cover up parts of the wheels with mud, sand, bushes or whatever your diorama set has in store if their size bothers you too much. Other than that – this is THE most perfect 1:18-ish representation of a Land Rover Defender which can comfortably hold figures inside that you’re gonna get, so I say: let it go, stop over-analyzing and just enjoy what you get.
With that out of the way we can continue the review. Moving on to more practical uses of the SUV. Remember the back area?
Let’s explore the load out capabilities with a little help from Steve.
The figure can fit in there but there is again the factor of plastic body flexibility. Yes, you can bend his knees 90 degrees or more so that his feet won’t take so much space and maybe, MAYBE you could fit three or even four non-armored figures inside, as the benches are long enough, but it’s a pain. I decided to give it a rest after a number of frustrating attempts, especially seeing how natural and relaxed Steve looks sitting there like that.
For the sake of this review the M.O.O.K.S have been assigned a special advisor, no other than the best of the best among Cobra lines: the spectacular white ninja himself, Storm Shadow! He will help us assess the amount of room in the back with TWO passengers on board.
And again, I am a fan of the resting your feet comfortably solution here. It looks fine and doesn’t really require much fiddling to get both the figures seated.
That way you can also have both figures visible even from a longer distance in your dio-pictures. Of course I could’ve made this shot better plot-wise by seating the figures facing the same side but…
…this one should make up for it. Moving on to some extra features now.
You may have noticed the sunroof in previous photos. Yes, it’s there and it provides, well, sun or more important: LIGHT around the front seats area inside but it sadly doesn’t do much more. It does slide open but only to form a tiny opening with extra pieces of clear plastic blocking the rest. So it’s up to customizers again to provide means for emergency abandoning the vehicle or action-packed emptying your uzi while half-sitting inside. The reason for that is…
…an extra steering wheel on a column?? Yes, it’s a play feature (a kid’s toy, remember?) that enables you to turn the wheels comfortably from up here instead of having to stick your fingers inside via the driver’s door and working it from there. You put the column through the sun roof and insert it into the ‘KFC bucket holder’ between the front seats. Not much use for collectors who are not into ‘driving’ their scaled cars around the table so we can easily discard that object. Or put it back in place.
Which is here, underneath the Defender. See it stuck in the middle? Notice also the quite not bad set of details in this area which allows for some workshop-repairs-seen-from-underneath photo themes if that’s your thing. And in such a case you might also wanna consider…
…popping the hood open to take a look at…
…the engine. It is not an accurate representation of all the mechanisms there but it’s far from a bland block of plastic either – some paint applications here and there should work wonders. Notice a functional holder that swings out and latches onto the hood to keep it open. Safety first, remember?
Let’s go back to the rear section for a while. We already tested the personnel transport capability but how about goods? Steve, could you please demonstrate?
I’m afraid we’re going to run out of crates and Steve’s stamina before we run out of Defender’s loading space.
The benches can be removed to make even more room for whatever you wanna put in there. And you can put there a lot.
But if even that doesn’t exhaust your hunger for mobile storage…
…using this hook you can attach a trailer of your choice from the wide range of Bruder’s accessories, many of them coming in sets and combinations with specific vehicles. I don’t have anything to attach here yet but due to choosing the right Defender set I got…
…a roof rack. And sure, you can stack up your figures’ luggage here or even more boxes and crates but wouldn’t it be more fun to use it in a creative way?
Just think of the possibilities! The M.O.O.K.S. return from a recon trip to Joes base unaware of a little souvenir that they are bringing back home…
Now only the special advisor can rescue out team from the terrible fate of not having enough storage space up on their roof!
The duel rages on! Ok, this shot doesn’t add anything useful to the roof rack subject but you gotta admit it’s distantly cool so just imagine where you can go with your own Defender roof experience.
Anyway, to further elaborate on the size matter a comparison shot or two.
Defender next to a 1:18-scaled bike model made by one of the major companies (Welly, I believe). As a person who had the opportunity to actually ride this very bike (Yamaha Virago) in real life I confirm that it has a really low construction so this comparison works pretty good in my opinion.
Ok, this is worse. The large truck comes from Indiana Jones line (with extra customization done by my friend, rehael) and yeah… look at what I wrote just now: ‘large’. It should be larger than an SUV, even one fitted with super-outdoor-bump-munching wheels but here it’s the other way around.
The Indy truck is an old WWII design so it’s no huge Mack but it’s obvious that the Defender shouldn’t overshadow it with size like that.
On the other hand the guys look just perfect inside and I can hardly imagine a smaller scale vehicle that would fit modern Joes so comfortably inside – without any need for customizations, cutting off pieces to gain additional space or figures pressing tops of their heads against the car’s inner ceiling.
And I think this is going to be my final conclusion: you have to decide what’s your priority. You can choose a Hasbro vehicle that was designed as a toy to carry that type of figures – which usually involves some cleverly shaped inside to accommodate just the amount of room needed, but is seriously lacking in terms of realism and details and usually doesn’t look like anything you might actually encounter in the streets. You can go with the very opposite and get an incredibly accurate beautiful model that oozes sweet tiny details and resembles the original as close as it gets in such scale – but you just won’t fit your figures there any way that doesn’t look extremely awkward (and in most cases you won’t do even that). So if you are looking for a realistically designed vehicle for your Joes that is nicely detailed but remains a toy and can easily fit figures but is slightly over-scaled – look into Bruder. I am not saying there are no other toy lines like that out there but I myself found none (I mean a non-military design, mind you, as BBI delivers quite nicely in the army transport department). Also be aware of the randomly varying scale inside Bruder’s own assortment – and always make sure prior to purchase that the specific Bruder vehicle matches your figures’ size as good as the Defender does.
Strong and weak points:
+ incredibly accurate outside design, details and paintjob
+ decent inside detailing viewable via opening doors and accessible engine compartment
+ comfortably fits 4 figures with a number of accessories or a truckful of payload inside
+ sturdy and solid construction, designed to be played with by kids in an outdoor environment
+ play features: turning front wheels, working suspension on both axes
+ can be upgraded using other Bruder accessories (trailers or the roof rack)
– slightly overscaled for 31/4” figures
– wheels are a bit too big, even for the SUV’s own scale
– inside details are not at high-class 1:18 scale models’ level of design
Who will like it:
practically everybody who wants both a realistic-looking and fully usable non-military vehicle for their modern Joes and can look past (or find a way to justify) the slight scale mismatch
Who won’t like it:
I’d say either those who expect insane expensive-die-cast-model-class level of details inside or those bent on strictly matching the scale willing to sacrifice the ability to actually have their figures use the vehicle