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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Matchbox 2014 Jeep Cherokee Traihawk, 1988 Jeep Cherokee, and 2002 Jeep Liberty



When I first heard that Matchbox was going to do the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee I though it wasn't going to look that great.  Then I noticed it was a Trailhawk, but still against possible gems like the Cayman or the upcoming Jaguar F-type coupe?  Well as it turns out I was surprised how nice of a casting it was and figures why prices for this casting on Ebay are so high right now (I got mines before the prices hiked up).  Even more interesting is the past-generations, both tools still available though one will not be showing up anytime soon, and how they compare to the new version.



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1988 Jeep Cherokee 2-door

It all started back in 1984 when AMC revealed their vision of what the Sport Utility Vehicle would look like in the next decade: the compact Jeep Cherokee.  Unlike other Detroit automakers at that time the Cherokee was a uni-body construction with two-door and four-door models offered.  powertrains included a I-4 or the 4.0L I-6 that produced 173 hp. and 220 Ib-ft. of torque through a 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic.  The 2-speed part-time transfer case sends power to the rear or front solid axles with coil springs front and rear leaf springs.  This Matchbox casting has a lower base for the working suspension, tires with deep treads (and rather noisy on a smooth surface), and the detailed drivetrain on the base.  The rear tow hitch is not for show as it can haul any Matchbox trailer when it was introduced in 1988 line.



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The first deco was a Mr Fix It TV repair man...odd, but at least this silver Sport model is much better.  The truck is big and boxy, no surprise, with the front-end featuring the detailed 7-slot grille with foglights in the front, square headlights, and front and rear bumpers that connect to the side lower cladding with the interior piece.  The front hood and rear hatch have the stamped JEEP logo, with the rear having the detailed square taillights, and the boxy roof with detailed D-pillar pattern.  The interior has seating for four, though the rear passengers have to enter and exit from the front seats.  The dashboard is flat, like the Jeep Wrangler, and has the simple layout of controls and shifters; in fact even during the 1997 refresh the dashboard was redesigned but the basic layout still remained.  The Jeep still continues today in the Matchbox line, sans the working suspension and upgraded wheels, doing both roles as civilian and rescue vehicles.  Still looks great today!




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2002 Jeep Liberty

After years of potential replacements and cancellation with the Grand Cherokee taking over the Cherokee finally hit the end of the road when the new 2002 Jeep Liberty was released.  A far cry from the boxy look the new Liberty has a taller roofline and more rounded corners.  The front has round headlights that peak up into the hood like the 1999 Jeepster concept, 7-slot grille, and the lower bumper now integrated with the body and have the signal lights and foglights (this Matchbox casting does not have the detailed foglights).  As you can see Matchbox did a nice job for a casting that was introduced during the Hero City-era; one reason for this is the side-by-side development with the 1:18 scale casting Matchbox also released.  The sides show a taller roofline, flared fenders, and large exterior mirrors.  The rear has round taillight pattern that also flares out of the sides, spare tire now on the tailgate as standard (with a detailed Matchbox flower pedal wheel, yuck!), license plate relocated to the left, and the gate now swings to the left as well.





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This casting is smaller, but has a wider track than the Cherokee that helps stabilize this SUV in the corners (also helps that it has no working suspension.  The 2001 release was in red, but where did this silver come from?  In 2001 there was a promo by Jeep that resulted in several silver Liberty's made by Matchbox.  Some of the promos were left over so they added the red version's police badges and package them in the 10-packs just before the red single carded one arrived.  I like the silver over the red!  Why is this casting not visible in the forseeable future?  It has opening doors, and that violates the 4-part rule by Mattel so until that rule goes away you'll never see this casting for a while.  The doors open to an interior that seats five, still in a pinch, but in a more modern layout with a detailed 4-spoke steering wheel, round A/C vents, dual shifters for the 5-speed manual and two-speed transfer case.



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Check out the base where the details abound with the frame,  rear live axle with coil springs and track bars, rear fuel tank and tow hook, exhaust system, drivetrain and transfer case, and independent front suspension with half shafts as a big change over the live front axle in the Cherokee.  The powertrain is the 2.4L I-4 from the PT Cruiser, or the 3.7L SOHC V6 that produces 210 hp. and 235 Ib-ft of torque through a 5-speed manual.  Why Matchbox chose a 5-speed manual Liberty with no front foglights is beyond me (and it gets more weird with the 1:18 scale version), but it adds a unique version that no one else has.





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2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

Now the Cherokee name returns, but if you though the Cherokee loyalists backlash against the Liberty was bad, wait until they see their historic name return on an SUV that is rounded and based on a Dodge Dart/Chrysler 200 platform.  Yeah, it's not great!  Still, it looks good and is very practical.  Of course, Jeep has to survive a market where on-road crossover SUV's are more popular than rugged off-road SUV's (save the Wrangler), so Jeep had to adapt their compact SUV to the new car platform.  With the late arrival of the 2015 model in red and the early arrival of the 2016 model in dark blue both castings appeared at the same time, though the red will be less common of the two.




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The front has the same confusing lighting treatment as in the Nissan Juke: the upper detailed eyebrows are the signal and running lights that flank the curved 7-slot grille.  The lower bumper has the detailed headlights and they don't need any further details as they are very visible, as are the foglights and lower grille with tow hooks; about the hooks and rear reflector lights with the red accents on both: they are not stock as I added them on with a red sharpie.  The sides have the traditional SUV look with clear pillars for great visibility, roof rails with rear antenna, exterior mirrors, the round badges on the front fenders for the Trail-rated badges, and the rocker and wheelwell trim tie in with the front and rear bumpers to connect to the interior piece just like the 1988 Cherokee.  The rear has LED taillights that sit high near the rear window, Jeep and Trailhawk badges, rearview camera just below the rear window, and a lower bumper where the plate and release handle for the gate are located.  Also note the dual exhaust that poke out under the rear bumper.



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The new Cherokee is much smaller than the other two, but it looks appropriate for its size and yet the interior looks more roomier than the other two.  In fact, the rear seats look like they have enough legroom!  The dashboard has the center touch screen for the radio and HVAC controls, shifter on the console with the rotary knob nearby for the 4x4 system, 3-spoke steering wheel with gauges that feature a digital center readout.  In a way the dashboard looks just like what is in almost any other current Chrysler product.  Now the powertrains still have four and six cylinders, but now they include the 2.4L Tigershark I-4 or the new 3.2L DOHC V6 based on the Pentastar engine family, producing 271 hp. and 239 Ib-ft. of torque through a 9-speed automatic to the front wheels, or switch the knob to activate the rear wheels.  The front has struts while the rear has an independent link setup.  All of this is a far cry from the original Cherokee or Liberty, so does this mean that the new Cherokee has soften up?  In Trailhawk trim not really.  It has plenty of ground clearance and can go anywhere the other two can go except extreme rock crawling trails, but then again that's a given for any modern 4x4 vehicle save the Jeep Wrangler.




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It may not be the best-looking SUV out there but it looks pretty darn good in Trailhawk trim.  It has the correct details that I longed for in the Jaguar F-type but was not there, and while it is a far cry from the 1988 Cherokee 2-door or the 2001 Liberty the new Cherokee can still play in the rough and dirty stuff with the other two.

Matchbox Jaguar F-type Coupe and Hot Wheels Jaguar F-Type Project 7 vs. Matchbox 1961 Jaguar E-type Coupe and 2006 Jaguar XK



One of the most long-awaited Matchbox castings is finally here for 2015, so is it worth the wait?  Not really, especially when compared to the Hot Wheels Project 7, which is not the best either, and the classic Matchbox 1961 Jaguar E-type and 2006 XK, both introduced almost ten years ago.


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Jaguar F-type Coupe and Project 7 Convertible

The idea for the return of a two-seat sports car for Jaguar has been a work in progress for over a decade.  The original concept was pinned by the Jaguar XK180 Concept in 1999, later renamed the F-type in 2000.  It was supposed to be a mid-engine two-seater to take on the Porsche 911.  However, disagreements abound on how the car should be executed, with many delays before Jaguar settled on a new platform shared with the XF sedan at the end of last decade to create a front-engine F-type that lives up to the original E-type of the 1960's.  The powertrains include a supercharged V6 or supercharged V8, both DOHC and both mated to a 7-speed automatic though a 6-speed manual is offered with the V6.  The 5.0L V8 produces 542 hp. and 502 Ib-ft of torque.  It's a tire scorcher, especially with the V8, and has a lovely sound to boot.




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The Hot Wheels version was first with the Project 7 Convertible in dark green and red.  The Project 7 takes on the similarly-named concept car with the modified front and rear bumpers, rear spoiler, headrest for the driver that goes over the hard tonneau cover and trunklid, and racind stripes and decals.  The front has the large grille with side scoops and Jaguar logo in the center grille to add the aggressive look, while headlights with LED running and signal lights are flanked by a hood stripe with Project 7 name near the left headlight.  The hood and front fenders have detailed vents, while the rear has the thin taillights reminiscent of the original E-type and quad exhaust that hike up the rear bumper for a more aggressive look.  Hot Wheels got controversey for the upchin front spoiler, but in my opinion it does not look as bad as some other Hot Wheels castings with this problem.  The base show off a few more details than the Matchbox version as both overcome excessive copyright information.  The interior has the driver oriented dash layout with shifter and bucket front seats with 5-point racing harness, though the large steering wheel lacks detail.






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On the other end of the spectrum is the Matchbox F-type coupe.  Starting with a black color was a bad start as it hides the details of the front-end, with the large detailed grille and side grille flanks with vertical bar in the middle, oh and the lower bumper is not up-chined!  The sides are nice and flat with correct details and the front fender and hood vents.  The sloping roofline has a panoramic sunroof down to the rear hatch where the Jaguar logo adorns the pop-up rear spoiler.  The back-end has the detailed taillights, F-type logo, and those quad exhaust tips.  Problem is the beltline is a bit too thick, making the car look huge and the proper 10-spoke wheels rather small.






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The interior also has the same driver-oriented dashboard with the shifter and supportive bucket seats.  I sat in a coupe at the Euro Car Show and the seats and driving position is really set up for the track.  As you approach the car the door handle flips out if you have the keyfob with you to open the door, and the rear hatch open and closes automatically with the push of a button.  Once again Matchbox bean counters win here with a steering wheel that comes out of the floor and is angled like a city bus!  At least it has the detailed spoke design.  The performance aspect of the two are similar, but the Project 7 is more fun to drive like the real car; the Matchbox casting suffers from its big size and loose dynamics: blame it on the way the rear section of the base is supported by a tab in the rear plate instead of a rear rivet post.  This setup usually results in a loose feel to the car and sometimes if the rear tab is smaller than the hole a base that moves.  I really hoped the F-type coupe would be just as successful as the Alfa 4C but unfortunately it did not take that route.




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1961 Jaguar E-type Coupe and 2006 Jaguar XK coupe

What a gem it was to get the license to make not one but two Jaguar's in 2006, a true Then and Now set.  Jaguar finally redesignes the XK coupe in 2006 that brings it more inline with the original E-type than the previous-generation with also a look toward the future.  The XK was a four-door grand touring coupe that was still powered by a 4.2L DOHC V8 that produced 300 hp. and 310 Ib-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic.  With the new F-type out making a scene, the XK quietly walks off at the end of 2015 with a future replacement that would still make it a grand touring car in a few years.





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Matchbox did a sharp job with this car.  The front has the round grille with cat logo in center on a silver bar against a black background.  The headlights are larger and curve around the front fenders, with the foglights and lower grille on the front bumper.  The sides have a sleek and low beltline with sweeping roof and exterior mirrors.  Even the wheels look appropriate on this car, with 5-spokes that appeared in 2011 that even enhanced the look more.  The rear has triangular-curved taillights with the circular reverse lamps to recall the original E-type taillights, connect with a chrome trim piece with JAGUAR letters, a rear spoiler lip and third brake light integrated in the rear hatch, and dual exhaust tips.  The base shows off excellent details with the drivetrain and massive dual exhaust system being the star of the show.  Inside the interior has a nice layout with 3-spoke steering wheel, navigation screen in the center, and two rear seats that are pretty much useless.  The rear hatch at least offers ample room to carry gear.  Handling, surprisingly, is better than the F-type coupe despite the longer length, and the lower stance helps in stable handling which the same cannot be said of the E-type.




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Now to the E-type, the classic of the Matchbox line.  The E-type was built on the racing success of the D-type in the 1950's.  Unlike other cars of the time the frame and body were intertwine with each other, adding to the light weight of the car.  The styling was a beautiful masterpiece that is still recognizable today, even copied not only by future Jaguar models but also by other automakers, including Toyota for the 2000GT sports car.  Matchbox nailed this casting as the first release in red is still the best in my opinion.  The front has a chrome oval grille with cat logo in center, connected to the side bumpers and side signal lights next to the detailed headlights.  The long smooth hood has the detailed vents and center bulge, and that roundness continues to the sides as the beltline has a soapbar look that still looks great, and those black wheels with chrome center spinner is a match made in heaven for this casting.





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While other diecast manufacturers would make a roadster, Matchbox decided to make the coupe design with the fastback rear that features a door that swings up to the right, and yet still allows the soapbar sides to wrap around the rear and show off some surface flair to the rear fenders.  The chrome rear bumpers do a full reach from the rear wheelwells to the bumper stops before the plate that reads "61 Jaguar" (its the famous Matchbox coding game here).  And lest not forget the center dual exhaust tips as well.  The exhaust snake pattern continues underneath as it connects to the lower section of the detailed engine to the 3.8L DOHC I-6 that produces 265 hp. and 240 Ib-ft. of torque through a 4-speed manual to the rear wheels.  The height of the car and the smaller width does bother me a bit and makes the car suffer in handling where there is more body lean and rear end movement than the neutral 2006 XK.  The other complaint by many is incorporating the bumpers with the interior piece, hence a chrome interior!  There are two bucket seats, the flat-faced dashboard with the array of gauges and switches, and the shifter for the 4-speed manual.








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Out of these four they are all nice, I like the details and execution of the 2006 XK and the sheer beauty of the 1961 E-type.  Unfortunately today's cost-cutting world at Mattel has resulted in two F-types that come up short compared to the two Jaguar's Matchbox released back in 2006.





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