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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mini Campers: Matchbox 1979 Ford Courier Camper and 2016 Toyota Tacoma



Talk about some interesting timing!  Just as Matchbox came out with their second Toyota Tacoma complete with a camper in the back I also got a vintage Camper from 1979.  Despite the nearly forty year difference there are some similarities: both are Japan-based compact trucks and both have campers over the bed, and unfortunately for cost-effective reasons no interiors as well.  With both in hand its time to see how these two stack up differently.


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1979 Ford Courier Camper

The Ford Courier was Ford's way of getting into the small pickup segment and combat high fuel prices of the 1970's, and like the other Big 3 American automakers outsourcing from Japan was better than starting from scratch.  Until the Big 3 developed their own small trucks the rebadged versions from Japan was the best that you can get.  The Courier was also sold as the Mazda B-series pickup sharing the same styling and engine powerplants.  However, the Ford went for a more familiar Ford Truck look up front which was revised in 1979 with round headlights and integrated signal lights in the grille.  The engine was the Pinto's 2.3L I-4 that produced an estimated 90 hp. through a 4-speed manual transmission.  The interior was simple and bare, typical of Japan's compact trucks at the time.






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Despite the weight campers were outfitted to the small trucks like the Courier.  This example in orange managed to fit inside the original Matchbox boxes despite the height.  In the classy Lesney design the base is metal and the outfit is clean with no gawdy graphics.  For those who don't know what truck this is you have a few clues up front: FORD on the grille and Courier plate just below.  The base does not show much in details, nor does it indicate the Ford truck's name.  Out back the large plastic camper is solid with detailed siding, rear door, ladder, and spare tire that dead on matches the actual wheels on size and details.  The bed is useable, but unfortunately it is not removable and if you do you'll encounter an ugly metal post over the roof.  Not a very practical truck when not in camping mode.  The camper was short-lived as it quickly transformed into a Baja 4x4 race truck where the rear camper is removed and replaced with a rollbar and full-size spare tire in the bed.








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2016 Toyota Tacoma

For 2017 Matchbox hoped to reverse an error with the first Tacoma back in 2014.  When it was announced and previewed I was excited to see Matchbox finally do the modern Tacoma; then the final result came out: just a lifeguard truck with gear in the bed, no interior, and worse the front surfboard mount chewed through the back half of the roof!  Plus detailing was not as sharp as the initial resin model showed.  For 2017 the all-new 2016 Tacoma was provided as a relieve with some differences: for starters it is now an access cab instead of the crew cab, now with a bed that is longer and now open.  The roof has no ill cut-outs and the body has more crisp details than before.  Yes the chassis and no interior still carry-over but at least it looks better.  Outfitted in quicksand color with blacked-out wheels the Taco looks aggressive and ready for action.  The front and rear bumpers are part of the base much like the non-body colored bumpers base model.  The front has a larger grille with detailed Toyota logo, larger headlights, and a larger front bumper.  At some angles the front does not look right.







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The hood has the optional hood scoop, while the sides have flared fenders and nice Tacoma graphics.  The rear has larger and more pronounced taillights with a tailgate that finally has a tailgate handle and TACOMA on the lower edge of the tailgate.  The interior of the new Tacoma is improved with a more upright dash that has a center touch screen and all models have a center console with shifter.  Tacoma power is provided by an I-4 or the upgraded 4.0L DOHC V6 with direct fuel injection for 278 hp. and 265 Ib-ft of torque though a six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.  What transmission or if it has four-wheel drive is undecided thanks to the improper base detailing.  The coolest part about this casting, and this is why the interior is not there, is the removable camper in the bed.  It is a solid piece like the Courier, but here the piece is removable to gain greater access to the bed and not have a gigantic air drag over the truck; in the real truck the camper is a folding unit that collapses when not in use, allowing for access to the bed and less drag.








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Clearly time and technology have caught up with us as the Japan compacts of today bare more power and less camper drag thanks to innovative folding camper designs.  Even more cool is the then and now presented here by Matchbox.








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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Hot Wheels 1970 and Greenlight 2017 Dodge Ram Power Wagon's




At long last my Holy Grail of a few castings has finally been obtained: the Hot Wheels 1970 Dodge Power Wagon.  The casting was introduced in the 2011 Garage line and was very limited and popular, so hard-to-find and since then it's been used as a convention model, driving the value and prices higher.  The more common model was one that I used to saw when it was out and couldn't get it: this orange version from the Garage series.  Why?  Because you have to buy the whole entire set of Garage cars just to get that Power Wagon.  Finally I found one that was under $20 bucks on Ebay (a rarety for this model), and not only that proper timing also led this truck to join its newest successor from Greenlight: the 2017 Ram Power Wagon.



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When you hear the name Power Wagon you instantly recognize the World War II 4x4 pickups that helped allies carry them and their gear through many different terrains.  After the war, and like the Jeep, the Power Wagon was very popular with G.I.'s and that prompt Dodge to sell the truck to customers.  This truck ran unchanged until 1963 when the Power Wagon was replaced with a more refined version based on the Dodge D-series pickups.  By then standard pickups have finally adopted 4x4 as standard right out of the factory, so it was obvious the Power Wagon would shift to the D-series trucks.  Still, the Power Wagon was versatile with live front and rear axles, locking differentials, two-speed transfer case, large knobby tires, and a 383 CID Hemi V8 producing est. 350 horsepower through a 4-speed manual transmission.  The Power Wagon line continued until 1980 when the Ram line replaced the Power Wagon as the 4x4 models became the same line as the two-wheel drive versions.  In 2005 Dodge revived the Power Wagon name as a more capable version of the 2500 Quad Cab 4x4 trucks.  For 2017 the Power Wagon receives an update with styling borrowed from the Ram Rebel trim.  The ground clearance is 2.3 inches higher than the standard 2500 crew cab Ram with electronically-disconnecting sway bars, Bilstein shocks, locking front and rear differentials, 33 inch Goodyear Wrangler tires, skid plates, and a front-mounted winch integrated into the front bumper.  Powertrain is the 6.4L Hemi V8 from the SRT line that produces 410 horsepower and 429 Ib-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission.








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First is the Hot Wheels 1970 Power Wagon looking aggressive with the lift kit and knobby rubber tires on orange 5-spoke wheels.  The base shows off the front and rear axles, driveshafts, and dual exhaust that exit out to the sides.  The orange paint is joined with black side decals, HEMI badges, and a flat black hood scoop.  The front is standard D-series with round headlights along a grille with center gate grille and foglights mounted on the bumper.  The sides show the v-shaped character line along the sides, door handles, gas cap, and the slight upkick on the doors.  The rear has oval taillights, lower reverse lamps, smooth rollpan where the bumper used to be, and HEMI on the tailgate.  The bed area is mostly metal, capable for any cargo, and the front part has a rollbar with driving lamps.  The interior has the typical dashboard layout with controls mounted toward the driver.  The dual bucket seats have racing harness in them and the shifter is mounted on the floor.  It''s simple, but effective and it looks cool anywhere it goes.










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The new Greenlight Power Wagon deserves some special attention as it introduces the new and first Heavy Duty pickup to the Greenlight truck line.  The Ram 2500 looks like the same crew cab truck as the Ram 1500, but there are some major differences between the two.  The interior with the dashboard layout, five passenger seating is the same as the 1500 save for a column shifter for the transmission over the 1500's knob for the eight-speed.  The base is also the same as the 1500 with the dual exhaust and drivetrain layout; the Power Wagon adds the lifted axles from the All-Terrain series to give the Power Wagon the much needed lift, sitting on those awesome black multi-spoke wheels with deep-treaded Goodyear tires.  The look of the Power Wagon in red with black Power Wagon graphics is too cool and really makes this Ram pop out at you.  The front-end is changed with the hood now one-piece (the same vented hood bulge for all 2500 Ram's) with Power Wagon flat black hood decal, headlights that are now better fitted to the uniform hood, and a new grille in black with the RAM letters in the middle (that grille is part of the bumper, allowing future 2500 with gate grille and winchless front bumper).  Oh, and don't forget about the detailed cable and hook for the integrated winch in the bumper!








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The sides are similar to the 1500 with a slightly larger cab and roof-mounted antenna and clearance lights.  The lower black stripe, Ram door badges, and vertical Power Wagon graphics complete the look.  At the rear the taillights and rear bumper carry-over from the 1500, with added RAM Power Wagon tailgate decals, and a versatile bed area that is now narrower.  The reason lies between the RamBox storage areas now integrated along the bedsides.  They are thick and have RamBox stamped on them, though the stamped RamBox name is a bit too small to the larger stamped in metal name.  The performance with the new V8 is quicker despite two less gears in the transmission, the truck feels  more stronger, and the added lift makes the Ram more capable off-road.  Also in future variants the new 2500 will also be offered with the Cummins turbodiesel I-6 along with the new 6.4 V8.








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If the hobby-only red Power Wagon isn't enough then take a look at the blue MOPAR version from the all-terrain series.  While not labeled as a Power Wagon it has the look.  It has the same wheels and lower black trim as the Power Wagon, but removes the vertical bed stripe for MOPAR along the lower doors.  The hood is completely painted in flat black, while the winch in the front bumper still remains.  The silly Ram Box silver name stamp is removed so you can see the stamped in Ram Box letters better, while the tailgate gets the Mopar badge and typical Ram and 4x4 badges.  A new feature in the bed area is a new tonneau cover designed for the narrower Ram Box bed.  It has the Mopar badge on the cover and it is removable.  It looks good, but the tonneau cover can come off easily (it is packaged with a piece of tape that holds the tonneau down in the package.)   It's another sleek look for the Power Wagon model!







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While the Hot Wheels 1970 Power Wagon is cool, nothing can beat the all-new 2017 Power Wagon from Greenlight, and even future versions of the Greenlight 2500 Ram casting can never live up to the awesomeness-level of the Power Wagon and MOPAR versions.





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