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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Matchbox Sunburner, 1994 Dodge Viper RT/10, and 1996 Dodge Viper GTS

One of the best 1:64 Viper castings of the 1990's out there, in my opinion, was the Matchbox version.  Here not only i'll show you a few different variations, but also the almost-was 1989 concept car known as the generic Sunburner.

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New-Age Cobra

Designed with Carol Shelby and Bob Lutz, the Viper was introduced on the 1989 auto show circuit as a modern-day Shelby Cobra.  The snake-like headlights, cross-hair grille, side exhaust, side scoops ahead of the doors, rollbar at the rear, and smooth rear not only resembled the Cobra but also the reptile named after it.  Having the boon of Lamborghini as one of Chrysler's partners allows them to create a new 8.0L all-aluminum V-10 to power the Viper.  After very positive reaction, the Viper was put in production in 1993 with the RT/10.  The shape carried-over aside from a taller windshield and a few small changes.  The styling was eye-catching, and the car was fast and a wild experience.  The interior was, well, spartan with just comprehensive gauges, stereo, and supportive seats to try and forget it doesn't have side windows, a top, door handles, or air conditioning.  You can get side curtains and a top if you must need weather protection.  Nevertheless it was the needed booster-image for Dodge.

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In 1996 the GTS coupe arrived with the same snake-like styling, but with a dual-bubble top, fastback rear glass, and wraparound rear spoiler that flares up in resembalance to the Shelby Daytona Coupe, even the dual white stripes!  The 5-spoke wheels replaced the 3-spoke wheels, as did the exhaust now rerouted to the rear bumper after complaints about how hot the footwells were getting in the RT/10.  The hood also gains hood vents to cool off the new 8.0L V-10 making 450 hp. from the 415 of the RT/10 to a 6-speed manual.  The interior gets dual airbags, door latches, power windows, and air conditioning.  The RT/10 would receive these upgrades of the GTS in 1998.  The second-generation arrived in 2003 to replace the long-standing, and popular, first-generation Viper.

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Sunburner: The almost-was

The story behind this one was that it was initially supposed to be the 1989 Viper RT/10 Concept with approval from Dodge, but after a few ill-advised attempts and then losing the permissions to do the car, Matchbox went for a plan B and created a generic version of the same casting.  The front headlights were eliminated, as was the hood vents, with the grille now a large oval opening, while the rear has narrower slit-taillights.  Otherwise the same basic profile remained from the short windscreen, rollbar, side scallops, and side exhaust remain.  The interior still showed the basic layout of the concept's dash and seats, and even the upcoming production car's interior as well.  The base shows off the drivetrain layout and one feature that the production RT/10 and GTS never show: detailed flowing headers!.  First version of Sunburner started off with blue and white stripes, with this neon yellow with sun logos (how appropriate!) was the second for this short-lived casting (thanks in part to try #2 in 1994).  One final note is the cool Goodyear racing slicks, used often in race car castings in the 1980's and early 1990's, look sick on this car!

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Take two: RT/10 survives another fallout

Again?!?!  Yup, the second one based on the production RT/10 survived yet again another fallout, this time from another source.  Matchbox was teaming up with NBC/Universal Studios to make cars based on the new TV Series 'Viper' that debut in 1994.  Including the RT/10, was the silver Defender coupe (which transformed from the regular RT/10), and a Dodge Stealth R/T.  While examples were made, none of it went into production when the TV series got cancelled.  This meant the Defender and Stealth got the boot, but the RT/10 never did (on a side note, the Stealth came back as the platform-make Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 Spyder in 1995).  As you can see the overall shape remains from Sunburner but with a more cleaner apearance with an upright windshield, elimination of side scallops, revised rear with correct taillights and lower bumper extension, and the front with the cross-hair grille and headlights and foglights in a simple black for a mean appearance.  The hood vents are part of the windshield construction, while the base uses the same details as the Sunburner but without the exposed exhaust headers.  The interior, aside from a few small changes, carries-over from the Sunburner.  Then the gold wheels look out-of-place on this model (which would be changed starting in 1997).

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The red was the first release in 1994, with the white with blue stripes, tan interior, Viper on the sides, and the correct 5-spoke wheels was part of the 1999 5-pack with the blue 1995 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra mentioned in another review.  The RT/10 got less use than what the GTS encountered over it's lifetime.

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The GTS Coupe

Following on the path of the RT/10 is the GTS Coupe introduced in 1997.  The blue with white stripes is appropriate, as is the 1998 release in contrasting white with blue stripes (and a nice match with the 1999 RT/10 version in the same color).  The primary differences, aside from the coupe and rear spoiler styling, is the rerouted exhaust to the rear and the addition of hood vents.  The vents near the windshield are still part of the windshield and the black headlights and foglights remain.  The interior remains the same aside from a new steering wheel and the extended area for the rear glass cover.  The GTS has more variations than the RT/10, leading into 2001 with wacky colors, awful wheels, and a brief touch with a metal base.  In 2005 the plastic base returned, as does those awful wheels, on a nice all-black model with detailed headlights and taillights and silver bumper badges at the rear.  From the base restructuring the rear section seemed to lost some of the contours, leaving the casting to seem rough and aging fast.  Since that release in 2005 the casting never appeared again, if at all.

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These are a great history behind Matchbox and the Viper range, what was and could've been (and this is just a small sample of a broad range of examples out there), and it explains why these Matchbox castings are my most favorite first-generation Viper's in 1:64.

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