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Mattel Disney Pixar Diecast CARS: Variant Versus Version

What is the difference between a “version” and a “variant?”

Part of the confusion comes in that there are dictionary definitions of the two words and there is a definition that only pertains to collecting “mass produced” collector items.

Which one here is the variant and which one here is another version of Acer?


In the “real world,” you could certainly argue that Acer with Torch is a variation of Acer so he is a “variant.” True but toys/CARS collecting is not the real world – in this world, the dictionary meaning holds no meaning.

acer with torch

ACER WITH TORCH is another VERSION of ACER since he has a different name. He is NOT Acer so he is a different version.

Acer (Single)

This is ACER since this is the single version of him. Note carefully the position of his eyes, eyebrows and mouth expression. Now look carefully at the 2-pack version of ACER, note the eyebrows design, mouth and eye position – he too is called ACER so … he is of course, a variant. Minor, subtle or pointless – depending on your viewpoint and purchasing decision but nevertheless, a VARIANT. acer eye

In this case, Acer (2-pack) is a purposeful “Design Variant” as an inducement for completist collectors to spend a few extra dollars. Whether you call this greed or a fun half-hidden chase-like added-element for hardcore collectors is your call and your point of view. For instance, some openers might consider it a time saver as they don’t have to go hunt down the single version … or for instance, the last batch of re-releases for CARS 2 have featured a lot of UPGRADES as the 2-piece plastic mouth/expression piece was replaced with a unibody all-metal diecast body – so while it is an inducement for you to buy another one, getting a cleaner looking diecast (without unsightly lines and plastic color mismatches) is certainly an nice upgrade and for most collectors, a necessary upgrade purchase. So a variant may be the first release – only to be replaced by a better one later on but sometimes it can be the other way around.

Then there are “Production Variants,” in this case, when three different factories are cranking these out, of course, as with any inexpensive mass produced item, there are going to be production differences especially in a tiny toy – as long as the wheels roll, the detailing is not too sloppy and nothing falls off immediately, it’s “good enough,” Especially when you have “dirt” elements, you can always find some differences but in this case, these are both Acer (2-packs) and sure, you can spot some dirt-wash differences, the big difference that makes these “Production Variants,” is the left one has a dark gray chassis (underneath) and dark gray tires while the other one has a black chassis and black wheels. Very subtle but it is a variant. Whether you want to collect it or go out of your way to collect it is entirely your call but variant.

acer (gray tires chassis)

Sure, you can also argue that this is an “Error Variant,” also as there are no autos driving around with dark gray tires but in some cases, “Production Variants” are just that such as this Snot Rod license plate design change …

snot rod

Though I suppose one is correct and one is not but a minor “Production Variant” as the license plate look does not play a significant part in either CARS films. Probably the best example of a “Error Variant” is Charlie Checker. He was fine as a race official but strangely, his red tail lights was replaced with yellow tail-lights. Why? Who knows. He has subsequently always been re-released with yellow tail-lights.


There are also “Error-Correction Variants” to fix an obvious incorrect design element or to make it more canon-accurate … one example is the first Darrell Cartrip (right below) where the factory was a little confused and placed the white paint op on his lips instead of inside the mouth … later fixed.

The bottom line is that a variant is not necessarily valuable as some are so subtle that most people never really notice or even if it’s large like the Darrell Cartrip, it doesn’t really affect the pricing very much.

Strangely enough, an “error” in production might not be a variant if the quantity is so low, it’s just an error.

“Design Variant”

A purposely variant from the main/normal design – generally to entice you to buy another one. Some toy companies use this as a CHASE-like element to this (Hot Wheels, McFarlane action figures*) but for Mattel’s Disney Pixar CARS, in most instances, it appears to be more of simply trying to sell a new/different version. For instance, the 2-packs of Acer all have the same expression, expression and eye position.

Or the more recent all-metal unibody upgrades on many diecasts – you can’t really can’t call it greed to give us more metal and a better looking diecast.

*Generally, they will make a certain % of a run with this running change – announce it, repeat this chase-like element everytime or not deny it.

“Production Variants”

This is the more common variant changes for Mattel’s Disney Pixar CARS line. Whether it’s the fact it’s from a different plant, poor communications or poor quality control – resulting in “Error Variants” or fixing “Error-Correcting Variants,” issues – most CARS variants fall under this umbrella.

For CARS 1, there was only a very small percentage of variants and most so subtle, most collectors and especially openers did not care much.

For CARS 2, almost every diecast that was released more than in one case assortment featured some sort of variant – most of it simply stemming from the fact there were three different factories cranking away but also, almost unheard of – upgrading the CARS to MORE metal and to unibody shells … so, that’s how a version becomes a variant.

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