Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hot Wheels 1979, Maisto 1986, and Matchbox 1993 Mazda RX7

How cool is it to have three generations of RX7's in one post?  You've seen me review the Hot Wheels RX7 before, but now the newest recolor is joined by a second-generation version by Maisto that has almost the same color and deco, and then the fabulous but sorely under-utilized is the Matchbox version of the third-generation RX7.  The successor, the RX-8, was reviewed here before in 1:43 scale; if there was a 1:64 scale model that is clean stock and not a tuner it probably never appeared in the US retail stores.  Let's take a look at three generations of Mazda rotary power.

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The evolution of the RX7

As mentioned before, Mazda has spent many years testing and developing the Rotary engine in various test and production cars.  The Wankel rotary engine uses a three-sided rotating piston to create power to move the vehicle; the three-sides, along with the round housing, allows for three chambers for air and fuel mixture in, combustion with the spark plug, and exhaust release.  The small motor has benefits of being able to sit behind the front axle while allowing a smaller front hood, and the rotating inertia allows for a smoother engine with less vibrations throughout the chassis.  Mazda was all set to place the Wankel motor into a true sports coupe with the release of the RX7 in 1978.  The wedge shape is a love-it-or-hate-it design, but it is a smooth shape that flows with the hatchback body.  The interior is a typical sports car setup with air vents shaped like the motor that powers this car under the hood.  Some models offered a two-plus-two, but a two-seater makes more sense.  The turbocharged 1.3L rotary produces 160 hp through a 4-speed manual.  Continual enhancements to the motor and exterior styling continued throughout the first-generation.

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In 1986 the RX7 grows up to a larger and more advance generation with a 1.3L Wankel, offered with and without a turbo, that produces 25% more horsepower than the previous-generation; in turbo form in produces 182 hp. through a 5-speed manual.  Styling still evolves the wedge-shape, but with a smoother profile with  rounded bumpers and larger taillights at the rear.  The interior is more roomer to allow for a proper, yet still cramped 2 + 2 seating.  The dashboard is now more contemporary yet up-to-date, while the rear hatchback has more room thanks to a rounded rear window.  In 1988 the RX7 goes for a topless look with the convertible version that brings back memories of the original rotary sports car from Mazda, the Cosmos Sport.  Just like the Toyota Supra the most mesmorizing generation of the RX7 is the third-generation model with smooth, shaplier styling that is a far cry from the wedge profile of the past few generations.  The taillight bar is now narrower, the fenders with smooth buldges, and the shape of the rear window has narrowed so much that it looks more like a coupe and less like a hatchback though it still retains the hatchback profile.  High-performance models dubbed Spirit R, featured ground effects, front air splitter, and a rear spoiler to enhance the look.  The interior is now more upscale with a dashboard that wraps around the driver and a driver's airbag.  The engine now features twin turbochargers to the 1.3 that now produces 252 hp through a 5-speed manual.  As much as the third-generation was nice, the growing Yen in the 1990's prompted many imported Japanese sports cars to increase their prices and end their life in this decade.  Only Mazda and Nissan's Z would revive themselves in the 2000's.

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The matching colors of the Hot Wheels and Maisto version's

They're two generations apart, made by two different diecast companies, and are a few inches different in size, but both share the same white color and blue MAZDA racing graphics.  The new Hot Wheels version for 2015 features a flat white color with blue stripes on the hood and sides with the #2 logo and blacked-out wheels with gold outer lip.  The interior is bright white with blue windows to enhance the look, and speaking of enhanced looks the whole setup looks good on the wedge-shape exterior complete with flared fenders, spoilers front and rear for a car truly destined for the racetrack.  This is not one of my favorite deco's on this casting, but I have to admit it still looks good on this car.  The other side is the older Maisto 1:64 second-generation with a metallic white color, blue and red stripe that spans across from the hood to the rear spoiler, with 33 on the doors and MAZDA on the sides.  The exterior details are pretty good from the rectangular signal lights and hood scoop at the front, door handles, lines, and mirrors on the sides; and the pattern of the rear taillights.  Even the wraparound trim is nicely done.  Things go downhill from here:  The interior, a rarity in Maisto's these days, is nothing more than a generic shell with absolutely no dashboard details (this was typical in these older Maisto 1:64 vehicles); a base that has no details, and those cheezy wheels that would benefit from an upgrade.  Also it's a large car compared to the other two castings featured here and has a working suspension.

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The sleek but underutilized Matchbox RX7

The downsides of the Tyco era for Matchbox: excellent castings that have plenty of potential ruined by gawky graphics and sublime body details.  The RX7 here is one of those examples.  You have two choices to finally explore the sleek lines of the RX7 by Matchbox: Get the Matchbox Premiere edition that features detailed front and rear lights, window trim, two-tone interior, and rubber tires, or the latter years of the RX7, like this orange-to-black 1998 or all-black 1999 version with the side silver trim featuring the older Mazda logo right before the wing logo made its appearance.  Both models look good in the 5-spoke wheels introduced in 1997.  The exterior is nice and smooth, faithfully following the real car's lines, right down to the unique shape of the rear spoiler; yet again the rear-end could use some more details in the tooling to better outline the headlights.  The base features a right-hand drive layout with the 3-spoke wheel and seat pattern of the actual car, if the details of the dashboard are a bit light.  The chassis features the detailed exhaust and a few brief drivetrain components.  This casting does have a working suspension, but the wheel travel is so limited that it barely gets any use.  This was the best two versions the RX7 could get in the regular 1-75 (1-100 in 1999) before finally retiring off just as Matchbox was about to put the ultimate clean-detailed version of the RX7 to date.

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I hope Mazda goes back to the classic shape of the RX7 over the awkward RX8 because as it shows the RX7 is one of the best sports cars with one of the most unique engines offered for a production vehicle.

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