The Christmas 2005 Special Edition of the Schuco Piccolo 1/90-scale Willys Jeep was the second edition of the little toy which is one of the best (and in fact one of the few) examples of a high-quality diecast model of the CJ-3B. It was originally released in the year 2000 in an edition of 4,000.
The simple but well-designed toy is a single, solid casting, with the exception of the steering wheel, axles, wheels and tires. The heavy zinc casting incorporates correct details including 7-slot grille, hood blocks, side steps, taillights and trailer hitch. It runs beautifully on the soft rubber tires.
The hood is tall enough to make it clear that the prototype is the high-hood CJ-3B, although the exact proportions look like they could have been based on early Willys illustrations such as The Vehicle of Ten Thousand Abilities. Those were likely CJ-3A artwork revised with a slightly higher hood, but on the actual production CJ-3B the hood was higher; the bottom of the headlight rings should be higher than the top of the flat fenders.
Schuco is a German toy company which originally marketed their tiny "Piccolo" series of mostly European prototypes from 1957-69, and those original models are very much in demand by collectors. The Schuco brand is now owned by the Simba-Dickie Group in Germany, and the Piccolo line was re-launched in 1995 with some reissues of the original models as well as many new vehicles such as the Willys.
On the Schuco website it was illustrated with a matching green Bantam trailer in a set they refer to as the U.S. Version (50K JPEG), but Schuco models in general are not well-known in North America. As of late 2006 the Jeep is still available from dealers online for about US$20, and the Christmas set sells for approximately double that price.
Schuco also markets a number of other, mostly larger series of models, including a highly detailed 1/43-scale Willys MB in their Military Series.
Thanks to Peter Wörthmüller for the Christmas photo. -- Derek Redmond
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