Page added 11th November 2006
Page edited April 29th 2007
Newly 'released' for 2006 was the Zippo BLU. Provisionally released only in certain European countries and in limited numbers. Zippo appeared to be initially testing the waters to see if the idea would take off. These unusual (for Zippo) lighters were briefly seen on eBay before being withdrawn due to Zippo doing a recall.
Regardless of this, the BLU was still advertised on numerous sites in Germany and Holland.
The level of fuel in the lighter is shown by a small window cut into the side of the case and can be seen in the first picture shown above this text.
The Zippo BLU is a butane item. Something that Zippo briefly dallied with in the mid 1980's with the Contempo range of lighters. The flame is using a Jet flame approach, much like many of the lighters you can buy on the market today. Jet flames are something that not all people like to use. Ignoring the noise a Jet flame makes during use, the flame itself can be deadly when lighting a cigarette, and most people who have used them have invariably cut into a cigarette at least once by being less than accurate when lighting up. That said, the technology used in creating a fast burning flame does lend itself to being wind proof. Obviously this is also reflected in the amount of fuel used to create the flame.
The lighters themselves are fairly distinctive, Zippo having made the effort to keep the almost legendary opening and closing noises of a regular Zippo, along with the flint wheel approach to ignition. The action of releasing the gas being taken care of by the button below the wheel (shown above on the 2nd picture where the lighter is open and lit).
In a further throwback to the originals, they also sport the usual date stamp codes showing both month and year of manufacture.
The patent images for the BLU are on the Patents page of this site, they have been moved around to get them to fit on one image, but they are all there to see in better detail. Zippo have also (unsurprisingly) patented the 'Z' pattern of the chimney'.
As I write this, I can't help but think it is all a bit cheap and nasty to look at, the patterned versions being even less attractive. Yes, they are a Zippo, in as much as Zippo are responsible for them, but are they something you would want to collect? I would probably buy one at the right price, but as a collector you would expect me to do so. The key word in that statement was one. I couldn't see me buying a set of these, even if they weren't so expensive. Nothing in this design is really inspiring to me, and the extortionate costs only serve to further put me off.
When the Contempo (made in Japan under licence) was manufactured and released to the public, it was a complete departure from the usual Zippo design. It had a certain amount of class in it's appearance and wouldn't be out of place at an expensive dinner venue. Like the Zippo oil burners, the Contempo was available in two main shapes, a tall slim model, and a stubbier short version. During it's short production run it had numerous colour choices applied, along with a couple of different thumbwheel designs being available. However, the BLU looks like it really doesn't know where it should be or who it is aimed at. It is too expensive for normal every day use, and yet it is not really classy enough to go to the formal dinner venue. I'm all for trying to keep the spirit of the design in an updated style, but in the same way that a Ford GT is a good looking car, parking one next to an original GT40 suddenly makes you appreciate the older model that bit more.
In a replication of the Contempo story, the price of the BLU in relation to the regular Zippo oil burner was significantly more expensive to buy at the time of it's release. Admittedly some of this premium is likely to be down to the cost of producing a lighter that is considerably more complicated to manufacture. The fact it was new and would be likely be carrying a levy for it's development costs is also a factor. At initial release the Blu range were priced anywhere from the 40 pounds sterling they were offered at on eBay, up to the higher 80-90 Euros that they were shown at with international sellers.
How many cheap nasty market type gas lighters made in a Zippo shape have you seen over the years? Cheap tat jet flames with a relatively short life span. You could probably buy a box of them for the cost of one BLU.
I said once before on the site that there is a place in the range for a gas/butane alternative. I don't really believe this is it. I recently showed my father a Contempo, just to see what he thought of it, he passed it back almost instantly saying 'It's not a real Zippo'. How often do you think that would be likely to happen with the BLU?.
A couple of months prior to initially writing this page, I bought a cheap insert for one of my Zippo's. I always carry a spare lighter, which until this insert was bought, used to be a cheap plastic thing. The insert is a TriStar item. It looks like a Zippo insert on first glance, it doesn't hold up to close inspection, but it is in a genuine Zippo case and I personally prefer it to the BLU approach.
The act of opening the lid flips the cam back just like a normal Zippo insert, but in the case of this cheap gas item, it also opens the gas valve at the same time. Spinning the flint wheel (in the same way as a regular Zippo) ignites the flame, and as can be seen from the above image, the flame is just a conventional flame. While the Zippo'esque chimney affords the lighter some of the windproof properties expected of a Zippo. Personally, I wish Zippo had done something similar. Add the fact that TriStar also make an insert for the slim, while yet another manufacturer also makes the Z-Plus insert (all designed to fit in the Zippo cases, although advertised as fitting 'flip top petrol lighters'), and suddenly the BLU doesn't seem like such a good idea. More so when you realise the Z-plus is also a jet flame type insert.
I am not advocating anybody buy Rippo Butane inserts, but the fact Zippo have now re-entered the butane lighter market does beg the question why Zippo didn't follow the lead made by the cheap insert manufacturers. The Zippo lighter shape is what makes it a pleasure to use, and the deviation from the shape we have all grown up with isn't likely to engender the same desire to own and use a BLU.
Maybe I am wrong, maybe the whole issue is really an attempt to update an old design for the current millennium. For me personally? It just hasn't worked.
Oh, and it won't fit in the cutout slots of my new collector case, and that can't be good.
I have edited the page today in response to the Blu having reappeared on eBay in limited numbers. The prices are significantly lower than those at the time of it's release. many going on a 'Buy it Now' for around 50 dollars, while some Click members have bought them for as low as 15 dollars including postage. Many of these current Blu's appear to be from a Marlboro promotional deal.