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Friday, December 19, 2014

Hot Wheels Datsun 240Z and Matchbox Ford Probe GT

Ok, why on earth do I have a Datsun Z and a Ford Probe in the same post?  They're not even related!  Well the reason I did this is because the recent release of the Hot Wheels Datsun 240Z has the same color scheme as the first release of the Ford Probe GT by Matchbox back in 1994!

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The Fairlady Z

The start with the Z began with the need for the Datsun brand to have a sports car to replace the previous S800 roadster.  By using the Jaguar E-type and Toyota 2000GT as inspiration, they created a long hood, short deck sports car with seating for two inside a cockpit that has three-spoke wheel, dual gauges with auxiliary units in the center of the dashboard and bucket seats.  The interior had a similar resembalance to the C3 Corvette, but was much roomier with a practical cargo area.  The long hood is adorned by recessed headlights (some with covers), center grille with split bumper.  The rear had a flat decklid with rectangular taillights; some models had a lip spoiler as well.  The engine was the 2.4L SOHC I-6 that, according to some rumors, is based on the same I-6 used in Mercedes-Benz's.  It produces 151 hp. and 146 Ib-ft. of torque through a 4-speed manual.  The suspension is 4-wheel independent struts and front disc brakes.  The compact size and sheer power was fun to drive on the track, which is no surprise that the majority of Z's were found on the race track.  After that, the Z started to gain more in size to the point that it was too expensive to own.  In 2003 the Z was reincarnated to follow the same path as the very first 240Z.

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Hot Wheels racing Z

Compared to the earlier Z-whiz in the late 1970's, this 240Z was destined to be a race car.  Introduced in 2006, it features headlight covers, full-width bumper, larger grille, and lower spoiler.  The hood gains some more additional vents, while the wheelwells get flares to accomidate the larger tires.  Out back the rear decklid gains a rear spoiler and dual exhausts exit out at the rear.  The interior has some race modifications like racing seats with 5-point harness, but otherwise remains stock from the dashboard with the three central gauges and center console with shifter.  The base only shows the rear suspension, dual exhaust, and engine block.  The first release was white with racing graphics, that later resulted in a yellow recolor and a gray recolor with red interior only for K-mart.  There was also a plethora of wheel variations with this model as well. In 2008 it earns the Hot Wheels racing colors in blue with the Hot Wheels logo.

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In 2012 a special 240Z was based on the actual car.  Tom Bork of Doc B Racing races this Z on the Watkins Glen track in Watkins Glen, NY.  This variation mimicks the real car with the white paint and blue racing decals.  I like the blue accents that go around the vehicle, and it's nice to see Tom's name printed on the roof as well.  Wearing 5-sp wheels the 240Z looks really impressive.  A Wal-Mart-only ZAMAC was offered later in the year.  The newest is for the JCCS crowd in black with blue and gold racing decals, blue interior, and 5-spoke wheels that are blacked out with a gold outer rim.  It looks stealthy in this format, although there's no proof, unlike the 2012 Mazda RX7 release in black, that this 240Z is based on an actual car.

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The odd-duck Probe by Matchbox

The Ford Probe was originally planned as the FWD replacement for the Mustang, but after major backlash against the idea from Mustang fans, the FWD car was rename the Ford Probe.  It is based on the Mazda MX-6 and shares some parts with the RX-7.  The first-generation was a bit awkward, yet somehow managed to show up in NHRA drag racing (and as a Hot Wheels casting in NHRA suit).  The second-generation was much better with a smooth and sporty look, especially in GT form.  The styling was smooth with shapely front vents and signal lights joining the pop-up headlights.  The GT adds foglights to the lower chin spoiler.  The sides are more rounded and smooth, while the rear adds a new full-width taillight bar.  The interior featured a driver-oriented dash with a similar shape to the 1993 RX-7, with dual airbags, analog gauges, central radio and HVAC controls, and supportive front seats.  The engine is a 2.5L DOHC V-6 from Mazda producing 164 hp. and 156 Ib-ft. of torque through a 5-speed manual.  0-60 comes in 7.0 seconds.  The 4-wheel strut suspension allows the Probe to have a very flexible handling characteristics.  Unfortunately the combination of low sales and the rising cost of the Yen meant the end of the Probe after 1997.  A few years later the Probe returned in the Mercury brand as the all-new FWD Cougar.

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Matchbox released the first Probe in 1994 in black with blue graphics, blue interior, and gold wheels (see the similarity with the Z?).  The front details are fantastic even without the lighting details, while the rear does need some detail to differentiate the taillight bar from the rear plate.  The interior is nicely done with the correct dashboard and seat layout, and I think I can see an in-car cell-phone as well (some may not understand, but this was the only mobile phone at the time!).  The base is rather plain.  In 1995 a red version appeared with new orange to yellow graphics on the sides; this will be the same graphic used up until 1997.  A recolor later arrived with a purple color, green to silver graphic, and gray instead of black interior.  In 1997 an orange version arrived with new 5-spoke wheels, in addition to a 1-75 challenge version in gold paint (the only cleanest Probe offered).  The final version is the odd-duck:  The Premiere Probe GT in blue with silver graphic on the sides, detailed front and rear lights, and 5-spoke wheels with rubber Goodyear tires.  The interior even gets a two-tone detail with a red shifter handle.  The problem?  Who on earth puts a big engine on top of a hood of a front-wheel drive car!!!!  It's one of the upsetting factors in an otherwise sharply-detailed version of the Probe.  Soon after the real car's demise so did the Matchbox Probe's demise.  Still no one offers this body style Probe in scale so its a unique novelty, and it's Japanese origins, 6-cylinders, and handling go right along with the original 240Z.

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