Blog reader Rocket Punch has kindly sent in these fabulous images from a largely unknown but spectacular Japanese magazine called Character Age. Besides tons of amazing pics of craft like the BEETLE (below) it also contains a full chronology of all original SF kits and their release and re-issue dates from 1960 - 1969.
More importantly for us Rocket Punch (RP) has, incredibly, found what would appear to be the original design for what we know as the MOON RANGER! To date this has proven to be one of the most stubbornly elusive of all SWORD beginnings. RP reports that it was originally released in April 1963 by Nichimo without the bulldozer blades and titled the STYLE PIONEER TANK. It was then re-issued in December 1964 as the more recognisable LUNAR RANGER TANK (the NASA B-5 pictured below on the page and in close-up). This is a good 3 years before Century 21 released the PROJECT SWORD MOON RANGER (pictured below) and is quite clearly its predecessor, as various features, namely the dome, antenna and overall shape are virtually the same.
Character Age BEETLE II (left) and ECHO Car (bottom right)
Character Age red and grey Style Pioneer Tank (left centre)
and yellow Lunar Ranger Tank (bottom left)
Character Age Lunar Ranger Tank close-up
Century 21 Project Sword Moon Ranger
Blog reader Terry Harle has also sent in this photograph of the actual assembled kit of the LUNAR RANGER TANK! The similarities between this and the Century 21 version are clearly visible! Awesome awesome! All we need now is to see the Nichimo RANGER box it came in and we can compare the box art! Anyone?
As a footnote to Rocket Punch's discovery I have recently spotted this Rangeresque space vehicle from Russia on Ebay! Alas no date but very interesting!