The Safari is a quintessential school pen: materials that can take a ton of punishment, cartridge-fed, a porthole to keep an eye on ink level, and looks that tend to limit appeal outside the target age group. It is also very much a German school pen, being of extremely high quality in its engineering, and have a section that suggests to the point of insistence that one’s grip be just so. Unlike the Pelikano, this shaping is not hand-specific; Lamy had the sense to make the pen ambidextrous, saving themselves a certain amount of trouble and money. The shape of the Safari was predicated not merely on the notions of industrial designers, but on studies of youth psychology; when I say “target age group” in the first sentence, I am in the case of the Safari being extremly specific as it was consciously made for kids 10 to 15.
The Safari might almost be considered an entry-drug for fountain pen addicts. “You’re thinking of getting a fountain pen? Try this, it’s not too expensive and you’ll probably like it….” While the looks are not quite to the tastes of all, and some people are a little put off by the insistence upon a specific grip, it is otherwise a hard pen to fault. The points are generally smooth, and can actually be replaced with some ease if damaged, saving the cost of a whole new pen. The clip does look rather funny in an adult pocket, but it is capable of allowing the pen to be put into trousers without much worry (something I don’t recommend, but which is seems lots of people do). Overall, the pen gives the impression of being so robust it may well be the only identifiable item in the effects of a traffic-accident victim.
There are four rough eras of Safari. The initial run appeared only in three colours (orange, green and black) and had textured bodies. The second generation came in rather more colours, could be had with smooth bodies, and with apparent interest sen from foreign markets, began to have an imprint on the tail showing nation of origin; still West Germany, at the time. The third generation lost the “W.” on its tail imprint when Germany reunified, and was rigged to accept a new style of plastic snap-in converter. The current generation of Safari has a somewhat simplified parts set; the barrel becomes a single piece casting, and the cap ceases to unscrew for disassembly, despite the keeping of the big suggestive cross-slot in the top.
The last few years have seen Safaris released in limited-run colours, the limit being the model year. I’m sure that some enterprising soul somewhere has catalogued these colours; I certainly don’t have the information in hand. I generally deride limited edition pens, but I find this practice a little less risible than the usual form of it, because there are still vast numbers produced, and it doesn’t appear to be a crass money grab on the part of the maker.
Variant 1: The Vista
Starting in the 1990s, Lamy released a clear-bodied version of the Safari, in the long-standing tradition of all makers of making “demonstrator” pens (similar in sensibility to the “Visible Man” model kits, allowing the works to be seen without removing the outside). This sub-set of Safari eventually got its own model name, Vista. Apart from the outer shell being made of clear plastic, there is no difference otherwise between the Vista and regular Safaris, and the porthole for checking ink-level is a little ridiculous in the Vista.
Variant 2: The AL-Star
In essence, a Safari with an aluminum overlay. I perhaps should say a Vista with an overlay, as the section is transparent. The AL-Star appeared in 1997, and it seems to be little more than a means to offer a wider assortment of interesting finishes; the AL-Star costs slightly more than the Safari, but not a lot more.
Variant 3: The Safari Lx
An upgrade on the AL-Star, the Lx line was introduced in fall of 2016. The aluminum overlay in this model is coated with gold, palladium, or ruthenium, and the points have a black coating etched with a design similar to the two-tone masking on the gold point of the Lamy Accent. There are also metal rather than plastic inserts at the ends. The price of this line is almost double the base Safari’s.
Production Run: 1980 – present.
Cost When New: $35, MSRP for 2011 (AL-Star $45). 2016 prices are $37, $47 for the AL-Star, and $70 for the Lx.
Size: 13.9 cm long capped, 16.5 cm posted, 12.8 cm uncapped (AL-stay may be slightly longer, I’ve not had one to check).
If you are relying on the preceding information to win a bet or impress a teacher, you should read the site’s scholarly caveat. Remember, this is the internet, and it’s full of bad information.