Opinion

It’s Time To Evaluate The Accuracy Of Playmobil Air-Cooled VW Engines

Illustration for article titled It's Time To Evaluate The Accuracy Of Playmobil Air-Cooled VW Engines

Screenshot: Playmobil

Playmobil, those toys that had the same sort of smart-kid, vaguely European parents feeling, have recently introduced a whole line of Volkswagen toys, and they’re quite charming and remarkably accurate in look. To really get a sense of just how accurate they are, let’s take a careful look at how much attention Plamobil has given to the famous air-cooled flat-four engines that powered both the Bus and Beetle.

Illustration for article titled It's Time To Evaluate The Accuracy Of Playmobil Air-Cooled VW Engines

Screenshot: Playmobil

As you can see, the overall look of the Beetle and Bus are excellent. They’re detailed enough that I can make pretty good estimations on the years of the cars represented here:

Illustration for article titled It's Time To Evaluate The Accuracy Of Playmobil Air-Cooled VW Engines

Screenshot: Playmobil

The Beetle looks like a 1962, the last year that little Wolfsburg crest badge would have appeared above the hood handle, though those turn signal lenses would have been clear. The amber lenses didn’t appear until 1964, but I know it’s not a ‘64 because of the hood crest and the fact that it has a ragtop sunroof, and 1964 was the first year of the smaller, all-steel sunroof.

So, maybe it’s a ‘62 that had its indicators upgraded by its little noseless owner there.

The Bus I think is a 1963, and it would have had clear lenses (with amber bulbs) for its indicators, too, so maybe the use of amber front indicators is just a Playmobil corporate policy.

But to really get painfully geeky here, let’s look at these engines.

First, the Beetle:

Illustration for article titled It's Time To Evaluate The Accuracy Of Playmobil Air-Cooled VW Engines

Screenshot: Playmobil

Overall, for a toy, it’s really excellent. The fun part here is obsessive over-scrutiny, though, so I’m going to complain that the taillight lenses heinously aren’t divided into three chambers first, then get into the engine issues.

Now, some of these I think have to do with the plastic casting process used; for one, the rear decklid hinges are cast into the engine unit, so let’s ignore those. But the bigger issue is that the molding doesn’t appear to allow for any undercut detailing.

What I mean is that it looks like the head-on view of the engine has all the detail, and then everything is just extruded back, which turns things like the round oil filler cap into a U-shaped cover, and limits detail on the generator pulley belt, distributor, and turns the fresh-air hoses for the heater (something that would only be on a ‘63-and-up engine) into kinda strange arc-shaped things.

Illustration for article titled It's Time To Evaluate The Accuracy Of Playmobil Air-Cooled VW Engines

Screenshot: Playmobil

The general layout is very recognizable, of course, but, remember, I’m here to nitpick.

So, it’s very good, but not great. Now, to Plamobil’s credit, they didn’t just use the same casting for the Bus engine, which they certainly could have. No, instead, the Bus gets a part all its own:

Illustration for article titled It's Time To Evaluate The Accuracy Of Playmobil Air-Cooled VW Engines

Screenshot: Playmobil

You know what? The bus engine is much better! I’m not sure if they used a different sort of casting or molding here, but the detail is much better, which you can really see on the generator pulley and belt, the distributor, oil filler, and carb.

Also impressive is that they accounted for the Bus engine’s different air cleaner setup, which used a hose to the top-and-center carb which led to a large air cleaner mounted on the driver’s side of the little engine room there.

Illustration for article titled It's Time To Evaluate The Accuracy Of Playmobil Air-Cooled VW Engines

Screenshot: Playmobil

Really, for a plastic kid’s toy, this engine is extremely impressive. I can see the coil there, the fan shroud, part of the intake manifold, the heater hoses—fantastic.

Sure, those taillight lenses should really be divided in half and not thirds, but the way they made that dirty hippie look like you can almost sense the funk coming off him makes up for that, I guess.

So, overall, I’m really impressed with Plamobil’s toy engine accuracy. Both Beetle and Bus are impressive for toys, but if engine fidelity is your primary focus, go for the Bus.


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