Several years ago our good friend and co-blogger Will Schwarz introduced us to the delights of Japan's Character Age magazine and, in so doing, the origin of the Project SWORD Moon Ranger in the Carboat models of Nichimo.
Since then we have discovered many things about Nichimo's Carboat line and I have blogged about them many times, most recently in the New Origins of Project SWORD in 2014 from which this picture is taken.
We know the name of all the Nichimo Carboats including the important Pioneer shown above from 1963. However, I have never been able to find a name for the middle Nichimo vehicle above, the obvious forerunner of SWORD's Moon Ranger.
That is, until now. I have located a Japanese article online, 水ものオフ会毎年恒例の俺ＳＦメカコンテスト、２００６年のテーマは… 俺キングシャーク だ！, which not only dates the model but also names it - and in a twist I didn't see coming, it's also called the Ranger in Japanese - レインジャー.
The core sentence is:
"the upper structure of the "pioneer" but was also used as space exploration bulldozer "Ranger".
Reading the flow of the article I would say that the Ranger's year of manufacture was 1966, although I would appreciate your take on that readers.
See the article's pictures below with the Japanese names and English translations:
So. it would appear that we can safely say that Century 21 Toys got both the design AND the name [or at least half of it] from Nichimo of Japan for their Project SWORD Moon Ranger.