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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bburago Alfa Romeo 159 Sport Wagon and Maisto Dodge Magnum R/T



Earlier this year I profiled the Hot Wheels Alfa Romeo 8C Competitzone, along with past Hot Wheels and Matchbox Alfa Romeo's, to preview the re-entrance of Alfa Romeo in the U.S. later this year with the mid-engine 4C (which Matchbox will also release later this year).  As much as that sound cool, what about a family version of an Alfa Romeo?  How would that work?  Well here's one answer I found from my online retailer one day from the Bburago Street Fire 1:43 line, the Alfa Romeo 159 Sport Wagon.


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The coolest wagon available???

Produced from 2005-2011, the 159 was the predecessor to the 158, this time sharing the sharp edgy styling with the Brera and Spider, both based on a 2003 concept car.  The front-end has a sharper look with tri-headlights like the 1989 SZ coupe, but rounder and features a chrome bar and the Alfa shield in the center.  The square front fenders then move to the smooth side ending in taillights that feature the same tri-bulb arrangement as the front with quad exhaust tips at the bottom.  The Sport Wagon was introduced in 2006 to add more versatility to the sedan body style.  The biggest change is the addition of a d-pillar and a slightly-sloping roof with rear spoiler above the rear glass.  The interior is nicely laid out with an emphasis on sport with three-spoke wheel ahead of dual gauges, with auxiliary gauges in the center stack below the round air vents and above the stereo an A/C controls.  Seats are nice and supportive with rear seats offering more room in the wagon, just as long as you remember to duck your head when you get in.  Nothing beats a wagon to carry all your gear and that's what this Sport Wagon offers.

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Now the downside is that the platform was designed alongside General Motors ownership, which planned to bring Alfa Romeo back to the U.S. with the 159 in 2004, but when G.M. dropped ownership of Alfa, the platform had to be changed at the last minute from the original Eplision (Chevy Malibu, Buick Lacrosse) to one of Alfa's own FWD platform, so what you got was a car that was too big for European roads but was perfect for the American roads.  The engine is a 3.2L DOHC V6 producing 260 hp. and 322 Ib-ft. torque through a six-speed manual to the front wheels; a Turbo I-4, six-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive was also offered.  The 159 will be replaced by the new Giulia in 2015, which may likely come to the U.S. as well.

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BBurago's cool wagon

Probably one of the best Bburago Street Fire wagon's I've ever seen, decked out in the metallic red color.  My favorite part is the front with the aggressive headlight look and shield grille.  The rest of the car look superb as well.  The interior is nicely done though I would like to see more door panel details.  The base looks underwhelming, but what do you expect with today's vehicle undershielding!  Note the way Bburago attaches the base to the body:  It uses plastic clips instead of screws or rivets.  The front shield and rear plate are the clips; while the front grille is flush, the rear plate seems to stick out a little bit.  Even the wheels are just snap onto the base, and the 5-spoke wheels look great with this car.

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But then again this Alfa is not the only cool wagon from the Street Fire series.

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The Dodge Magnum R/T

Ok a little discrepancy: This is actually one of the Maisto castings shared when Maisto purchased Bburago in 2006, so don't be surprised to see Maisto castings in the Street Fire series.  Then again, I was surprised by finding this series for the first time, briefly, at a K-mart six years ago.  The black look is stealthy.  The front end has detailed headlights and foglights, but not as clean as the Alfa.  The sides feature a chopped roofline that looks cool, while the 6-spoke wheels look ok, but not as best as the 5-spokes on the Alfa.  The rear features taillights and badging, and two cool features: silver exhaust tips and black plate with red DODGE logo.  The interior is not the greatest as the dash lacks further detailing, as does the door panels, but then again the actual car's interior wasn't the best-looking either!  The base features more detail than the Alfa, but Maisto's way of slamming their vehicles has a bit of a side-effect to the Magnum as it doesn't look as proportionally correct to the real car compared to the Alfa's correct stance.


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The Magnum was produced from 2005-2009 after the 2003 concept car, bringing back the cool of station wagon's to the U.S. as a hot-rodded look based on the 300C/Charger platform with a 5.7L HEMI V8 producing 340 hp. through a 5-speed automatic to the rear wheels; V6, SRT V8, and all-wheel drive was also offered.  On it's last year the Magnum revised it's front-end with a more square look before getting cancelled by year's end.  Right now Chrysler-Fiat is looking for a way to revive the Magnum on the next Charger/300C platform.  Hey, maybe you'll see these two finally come together as one someday!

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The history of U.S. Military Personnel Vehicles by Matchbox



As much as we Americans praise our troops for their hard work and celebrate with replica's from Jeep's to G.I. Joe, the Military vehicles are not as often featured by diecast makers.  Aside from Jeep and Hummer, the military versions come and go every so often, but thanks to Matchbox we now have a full history of the U.S. Military Personnel vehicles from the Jeep to the Oshkosh, and when I mean personnel I mean the vehicles used to transport troops and light materials around; the heavier stuff is reserved for the larger trucks and for heavy battle that would be for tanks.  So let's take a look at the history.


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Jeep: Revolutionizing the military and civil life

After World War I, the U.S. military needed a better way to transport troops and gear to their destination that would be swift and safe from enemy fire than horse or a big, slow truck.  So after the U.S. government sent out the contract to see who can develop a vehicle that can carry four troops, their gear, can go anywhere, and fit anywhere, Willys won the contract to build the so-called Jeep, a small four-wheel drive truck that was light, can carry four troops, and go anywhere it pleases without failure.  Now the story about the creation of the Jeep is longer than I have the room to put on this blog, and there's been countless versions made by other manufacturers to support the amount of Jeep's needed during World War II, so be sure to check that out.  The Willys-Jeep featured round headlights with the famous seven-slot grille, exposed latches for hood, fold-down windshield, top, and mounting places for axe, shovel, shotgun, and in the rear for the gas can and spare tire, all painted in olive green.


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Inside it's spare bones with bucket seats in the front, bench seat in rear, and simple dash with central gauges, 3-spoke wheel, and two shift levers for transmission and transfer case.  Some models were converted for special occasions, like the Ambulance with the deletion of passenger and rear seat to place a gurney for wounded solder's.  The power comes from the 2.2L Go Devil I-4 producing 60 hp. and 105 Ib-ft. torque through a three-speed manual and a two-speed transfer case to front and rear live axles.  The Jeep was successful for its ability to go anywhere, forge hills and streams, and carry all troops safely to their destination, while being light enough to be carried by two people!  Matchbox has made the Jeep in several variations, but this 2009 version is the most accurate and best.  It was a surprise for me to find it as the first new casting for 2010 and I must say it looks great and lots of fun.  One interesting touch is a moveable suspension that allows articulation but firm enough to keep the Jeep stable without the body roll found in previous Matchbox suspension systems.


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Humvee: The Next Stage

In the 1970's it was apparent the Jeep was not as secure or durable to carry even heavier equipment, so a new larger Jeep replacement was created, this time under AM General name.  The only thing the HMMWV (hence 'Humvee') shared was the seven-slot grille.  The new Humvee is larger, wider, with a hood-mounted radiator with hooks for air-lift, larger, sealed cabin with four doors (some with open roof), hood-mounted air vent for engine to forge deep streams, an access door on the roof to access the roof-mounted gun, on some models a fastback rear with opening trunk and fold-down tailgate.  The interior seats four, but is less roomy since the engine and drivetrain is placed high in the chassis to protect the chassis from roadside bombs, oh and it's Spartan and all the switches and controls are placed toward the driver.  Then again, the center allows for storage of gear and a stand for the roof-top gunner.  The engine is now a 6.2L Diesel V8 producing 190 hp. and 380 Ib-ft. torque through a three-speed automatic; much needed since the Humvee is bigger and much heavier thanks to the new body armor.  The two-speed transfer case delivers power to the central-placed front and rear differentials with integrated disc brakes (instead of behind the wheels), to a four wheel independent suspension and out to tires that feature a central tire inflation system on all four wheels.  Approach and Departure angles are steeper, allowing a climb up hills.


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The Humvee was unbeatable in the Gulf War, and after the war, just like the Jeep, gained civilian honors and clothes for personal use.  Matchbox released this casting in 1994 to celebrate the honor with an opening rear trunk and integrated roof gun (not shown) and working suspension, but no interior.  In 2001 the casting was modified without the roof gun and featured a civilian look and new wheels; this was introduced in replacement for the Hummer H2 SUV concept that was delayed until 2003.  Since then the Hummer gained more powerful diesel motor from General Motors, along with the adoption of the more civilian H2 based on the Chevy Tahoe platform.  Sadly the armor wasn't standing up to the demands of the Iraq war, and even after adding stronger armor it wasn't enough, plus it was taxing the suspension and speed of the Humvee.  So a new military vehicle was in order.


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Oshkosh M-ATV: Bigger and Brawnier

Oshkosh corporation, the Wisconsin-based truck manufacturer of snow-plows and larger military vehicles, introduced the smaller M-ATV to replace the Humvee, but it's not small:  It's as big as a 10-wheel highway dump truck, yet still manage to fit in an aircraft carrier!  The larger M-ATV features a forward-leaning front with twin grille slots (thanks to Jeep, no one can use the seven-slot grille anymore), headlights and turn signals inside coves to give the aggressive look, and the bumper with hooks integrated.  The hood has a long rake back to the smaller split windshield and smaller, but thick side windows for armor, joined by roof-mounted intake snorkel and lights.  The side doors are smaller and the rear doors open backward, while steps allow easy access to the interior, while the front has aggressive fender curves and the rear has fenders that look like add-on's.  The roof gunner position now has a taller shield to protect the gunner, the gas tanks are inside the open cargo area with frame mount that can be covered with a top and contains a spare tire rather highly-mounted.  The rear looks like a typical big rig look with fender flaps and three taillights.  Again, just like the Humvee the Matchbox version lacks an interior but from what I've seen the interior is much more roomy with seating for five and a dash layout similar to today's passenger trucks.


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The power comes from 7.2L Turbodiesel Caterpillar I-6 producing 370 hp. and 925 Ib-ft. torque through a 6-speed automatic with manumatic shifting, through the same two-speed transfer case, center differential's as the Humvee, but with some slight differences.  The biggest is larger ground clearance and better chassis protection, and should the damage be severe enough the cabin is specially designed to protect occupants.  The first release of this Matchbox version in 2012 was not so special, but this 2014 release is the best in tan color with headlight and grille details and Oshkosh logo on the rear doors.


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International MXT-MVA: the second option

Though not as widely used, the International MXT-MVA gives a second option over the Oshkosh for troops to ride in.  Based on the big MXT, itself based on the International Durastar series, the MVA  is actually a different version being lower and smaller and specifically designed for military use even though it was initially designed for civilian use at first as a competitor to one-ton light-duty pickups.  The MVA features the International grille in the front with larger headlights and bumper-less look for better approach angles.  The windshield offers a better view than the M-ATV, but features the smaller thicker side windows and doors for protection with steps to get into the interior.  The roof also has a gunner access with a shield to protect the gunner, while the rear features larger tri-taillights, no bumper, and a shelf to hold six gas cans.  This leaves the bed open to carry almost anything.  Again, no interior, but just like the M-ATV it features a more roomier interior with seating for five and a dash similar to the International MXT.


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The power comes from the 6.4L Turbodiesel V8 producing 350 hp. and 650 Ib-ft. torque through a six-speed automatic and through a two-speed transfer case to differentials different from the M-ATV.  Even though the suspension is setup different from the M-ATV, it features the same ground clearance and protection.  This Matchbox version introduced in 2013 has been doing a superb job keeping the profile clean from wild graphics, the best is this 2013 version in tan that perfectly matches the 2014 M-ATV version.


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Greenlight 1968 and 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS



One of my most favorite GM cars, along with the 1969 Camaro, is the 1968-1969 Chevelle.  It is beautiful to look and a very fast one in SS trim.  Out of the variations from different manufacturers, these Greenlights are the best, so let's take a look at the uniqueness of these versions.



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1968-1969 Chevelle: Style meets Substance

The Chevelle was introduced in 1964 as the sportier trim to the Malibu SS line.  The styling was contemporary with boxy surfaces, regular interior, and steel wheels.  However, under the hood lurked a 283 c.c. V8 producing 230 hp. through a four-speed manual.  This was a sleeper street racer!  Over the years the Chevelle gained more power from several additional V8 motors and eventually sleeker styling (and a name of it's own).  The climax was 1968 when the Chevelle arrived with sleeker styling that featured a pointed front with quad headlights (and it's own trim) spanning a grille with SS logo in the center of SS trims.  A hood with dual bulges ending in vents, along with a stripe that starts over the front of the hood, then rides down the sides of the front fender to run along the lower sides of the car.  The rear featured a fastback roofline with horizontal taillights and trunk panel with reverse lights integrated into the rear bumper and those eminent dual exhaust at the bottom.  The styling was no doubt eye-catching!


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Inside the interior has a flat dash like the 1967 Camaro featuring long-overdue dual gauges with integrated tachometer, two-spoke steering wheel, stereo controls in the center, and glovebox on the passenger side.  The front has bucket seats with center console and floor shifter for the 4-speed manual.  The rear sets and door panels on the Greenlight version accurately depicts the 1:1 version.  As does the base with the correct drivetrain components featured underneath in metal.  Of course, the wheels are finished off in Rallye trim with white-lettered rubber tires.  Under the hood features a detailed 396 c.c. V8 with a hugger orange block producing 350 hp. through a 4-speed manual.


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1969 featured a few changes:  The rear now featured stacked taillights with integrated reverse lights, federal-mandated side marker lights, the wrap-around stripe from the 1968 version was dropped, the grille is larger and now incorporates a center bar, and the turn signals in the front bumper move inside the two center scoops in the bumper.  Elsewhere the interior and base carry-over from the 1968 version.  As does the 396 c.c. V8 and 4-speed manual.  One special note is the Yenko Chevelle, featuring white stripes on hood and sides and Yenko badges on the sides.  The front grille has a blue bowtie in the center since Yenko's started out as base Chevelle coupes, modified to feature the largest motor in the 1969 Chevelle: a 427 c.c. V8 from the Corvette featuring 425 hp. through a four-speed automatic with the needed suspension and drivetrain modifications.  Retired race driver Ryan Howell found a way to get around the restrictions around the big motors in small cars by ordering through the Central Office Production Order (COPO) fleet system to get the 427 V8 into regular-trim Chevelle's, to be sent to his dealer who added special badging and sold them as Yenko's.  Today these Yenko's are highly prized by collectors.


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Greenlight 1968 variations

The first release came in 2008 in the Greenlight Muscle Car Garage Stock and Custom series.  A brief history behind the series:  The stock's were ALWAYS POPULAR, while the custom's were ALWAYS LEFT BEHIND!  However that was not the case in the first release of the 1968 Chevelle SS:  Stock was the dark blue with the correct trim details and Rallye wheels.  The Custom was a gorgeous Candy Apple Red Metallic version, clean-slate, with custom chrome Mag wheels that I think was borrowed from the 2008 Shelby GT Mustang's.  Luckily I found both at the same time and boy are they beautiful!  The 1968 has been hiding out for a long time to the 1969, until 2014 in the recent Muscle release it reappears in Grobo Blue Metallic with vinyl top in flat black.  The details carry-over, as does the Rallye wheels, but the rear seems to be more raked on my version, plus it lacks the extra details of the early versions, including the special U.S. state license plate!


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Greenlight's 1969 wayward variations

When I mean wayward, I mean way out there.  The first 1969 Coupe I found was in the revised Muscle Car Garage series (sans the unsuccessful Custom segment) in jet black with Yenko badges.  Say What!!!!  Talk about a unique casting in the group, and equally looks home with the Johnny Lightning 1969 Yenko Nova from 'The Italian Job' movie (not shown, but I do have one).  Now there's been a few 1969 coupe's that eluded me (no thanks to slim retail store selection), but I was sure not to miss the next one, the sole 1969 Convertible from the Barrett-Jackson line.  Decked in metallic blue, it shows off the interior details in all-white.  Note the lack of SS badging in the front suggesting a regular Chevelle convertible modified with a V8 and, strangely, a raked front end (not sure why, but the actual car represented in the B-J auction had the same look as well).  The convertible also gets a white side stripe and Mag wheels from the usual Rallye wheels.  Finally a regular coupe arrived in 2011 in Hugger Orange with black vinyl top and featured an extra set of wheels (the same Mag's on the convertible) along with the standard Rallye wheels on the car.


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*Bonus* 1964 Chevelle SS Malibu


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An even more treat is the very first Chevelle SS released in the Malibu line in 1964.  Check out the sky blue color with matching-colored steel wheels with chrome hubcaps.  The details are top-notch (you can see the CHEVROLET letters on the hood) and look good, plus the dual exhaust in the rear give the plain-Jane Chevelle an aggressive look.  The interior is nicely done in white with the front bucket seats, rear bench, door panels, dash board, and console with floor shifter nicely-detailed.  Just like the 1968-1968, the hood opens to reveal the same engine details as the others (though the hood at least opens easier than the flush-mounted 1968-1969).  The only complaint I have on this casting is the front grille looks a bit too round, but at least looks correct compared to the forward-pointing look of the Hot Wheels 1964 Chevelle.  Unlike the 1968-1969 Chevelle's, the 1964 is my least favorite Chevelle, but this blue sleeper makes an exception.







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