It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. In fact, the BV RLBB is a great compliment to the un-released prototype efforts of the Mattel designers and engineers. It was critical that the BV buses not be confused with the originals. To achieve this, many unique distinguishing design and structural features were built into the BV bus. Here is a small sampling of the many:
- Alpha version
- Large “X” pattern on roof, noticeable from top view. This feature was dropped from the Omega version
- Steering wheel upside down on first 100 Alphas and the blank base Omegas. This feature was dropped from the Text Base Omega version
- Interior has 5 support posts instead of 3 (can be seen through rear wheel wells) – this is also true for the first 100 blank base Omegas. This feature was dropped from the Text Base Omega version
- Sunroof is rectangular instead of square – this feature was dropped from the Omega version
Even though about 12 key distinguishing features were dropped on the Omega to make it more accurate to the original design, there are plenty of retained differences in the Omega to keep it easily detectable.
Not The Only Replica
At the time of the BV launch in 2001, two other reproduction of the RLBB became available. One was a plastic version from Mike Grove, and the other was an artisan’s creation by Jon Shedeck. Prior to that, a restoration pioneer named Jeff Schlicht offered a service where he would take your SLBB and modify it to resemble a RLBB for $275!
Here is one of Mike Grove’s plastic replicas. Pretty amazing considering it’s hand created out of plastic!
Here is arguably the best artisan piece – Jon Shedeck’s hand sculpted RLBB. It is a real work of art!
After the success of the BV bus, others got the age old idea of leveraging the work of others for their own personal gain. A noteworthy RL collector purchased a BV bus on the day of the launch in Chicago, and began his quest to reproduce the reproduction! He hooked up with a restoration guy in Arizona to fence the goods, and the “Stealth” RLBB was born. This short lived item was ultimately shunned by collectors. Due to its “cartoonish” modifications, which were certainly added to be viewed as improvements! You know you are looking at one of these when you see headlamps bugging out of the front end! Overall, the fit and finish was so sub-standard that no one wanted them. They were painted in groups and sold to unsuspecting collectors on eBay over a one year period. They are all put together with fake rivets and epoxy.
Then came someone that was not a collector, but only looking to profit on the interests of the die cast hobby. He knew the BV buses were no longer available and that BV was no longer operating, so he had a plan. He procured BV kits on the open market and sent them to Asiafor recreation. The geometry was digitally reproduced by a Chinese factory, but the execution was not well planned out. The bodies were left raw without any plating, and the text on the base was added undoubtedly to make it more “valuable”. The only problem is that the Chinese misspelled the FOREIGN with a “D” instead of an “O” (look for “FDREIGN”), and the abbreviation “INC” was spelled with a “G” instead of a “C” (look for “ING”). Since there was no collector authority managing the project, the gross errors went into production. The windshields were also crystal clear and low-quality unlike the originals or the BV parts. Ultimately, this person in California marketed his buses as BV buses and fooled many collectors. He has sold many times more buses than BV ever sold, and continues to misrepresent them as BV to this day. He also knocked off the Olds 442! Caveat Emptor!! More information on how to spot a non-BV bus can be found under the “How To Spot A Non-BV” tab on this site.
Here’s the most famous and well-done BV knock-off ever, which is also the only known copy of the Omega! Omega on the right. Gone are the side-markers and the rear windows are filled in.