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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Comparison: Hot Wheels Triumph TR6 vs. Matchbox Caterham R500 Superlight

The fun in driving on a sunny day is with a convertible: Just drop the top down and enjoy the day and drive.  Now how about we strip the top, windshield, and maybe even the doors or completely gut out the interior, add a rollcage, and a powerful engine.  You'd get something like these two classic British sports cars modified for racing, a heritage that these two share.  So which one is the best?  To find out I had the two newest examples from each Mattel brand duke it out.

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Both cars stem from a long history: The Caterham started life as the Lotus 7 in the late 1950's as a lightweight sports car for the track.  Since then it's enjoyed status from car kits to being owned by Caterham and their insane variations.  It shows with the narrow hood flanked by outer fenders above the wheels, round headlights at the top, and 7 in the front grille.  The hood has numerous vents to cool the large mill lurking inside, with the exhaust exiting out to the right side, just right next to the driver.  The back seems old-fashion with the square trunk that houses the fuel cell and rollcage.  Matchbox did a nice job with this one, especially in the newest British Racing Green with yellow stripes and chrome (thank goodness) 5-spoke wheels.  The Triumph brand has been legendary for sports cars (and bikes), with the TR6 being the last of the classic British roadster look with a boxier shape that looks kinda plain next to the R500, but the nice details of the front grille and headlights are nicely done, and the orange paint with simple side racing deco looks good.  This version came from the latest Mystery Cars baggies found at Wal-Mart in the US.  The R500 wins here.

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If you're looking for creature comforts here, don't!  Both are bare-bones strippers, with both having a clean dash with only the needed gauges, steering wheel, and racing set appropriately set to the right-side.  Oh, and no windshields either.  The TR6 is billed for racing with only one seat, with the passenger occupied by a fuel cell (?) and battery.  It's interesting to note that there's a lack of 5-point harness for such a race car.  The R500 goes a step further eliminating the doors and using more supportive seats for driver and passenger with 5-point harness.  The R500 also has a slight windscreen, but not by much.  Even though both are Spartan, the Caterham seems the better choice.

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Engine, Acceleration

Both pack engines smaller than a V8, but do it in two different ways.  The Triumph uses the old-fashion carbureted 2.5L I-6 producing 150 hp. through a 4-speed manual that, thankfully, is all-synchromesh in each gear.  Acceleration takes a swift 8.2 seconds.  The Caterham goes much further with a modern Ford-Cosworth, fuel-injected 2.0L DOHC I-4 producing 210 hp. through a six-speed manual.  0-60 takes a staggering 2.6 seconds for a car weighing in at 1,135 Ib's!  Incredible!

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Braking, Handling

Both cars do a very good job on the track as they are flat, stable, nimble thanks to the wider track and wider tires and their compact size.  The Triumph goes for a more gentle approach with smooth and stable maneuvers in a big car-like feel.  The brakes are good, but still weaker than the Caterham.  The R700, on the other hand, is fast, fun, and scary.  As seen on BBC Top Gear, the Caterham is fast and fun-to-drive, but you can get yourself over-the-head as the massive power and light weight can send the rear-end around corners really fast.  Thankfully braking is a strong suit and will haul you down before sending you into immediate danger.  Despite the happy tail, the Caterham is indeed fun to drive over the Triumph.

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Features, Price

Both cars offer the same content, but the Caterham R500 amazes with the niftiest detail touches, color and deco, and just the plain look of the body and stance over the Triumph's ordinary boxy look with simple details.  Pricing for both is about the same theoretically, but remember the R500 Superlight is priced closer to exotics like Porsche 911 or Chevy Corvette, so the advantage goes to the Triumph.

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The result?

Both look like fun cars on the track, but as far as identity goes the Caterham R500 wins for its sharp details, cool look, and fast and fun driving dynamics despite having too much power for the rear wheels own good.

1 comment:

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