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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The other side of the Eclipse: Hot Wheels 1997, 2003; Hot Wheels and Matchbox 2004 concept; and Matchbox 1995 3000GT Spyder





That was a mouthful of a title!  As the Kinsmart Eclipse Spyder shows off the lone diecast version of the last generation of the Mitsubishi Eclipse production model, there has been more Eclipse models in diecast as of recent.  Not counting The Fast and the Furious 1995 Eclipse (i'll look at that one in a separate post in the future), there has been quite a few from the second and third-generation models from Hot Wheels (tuner, of course), the duo of the 2004 Eclipse concept from Hot Wheels and Matchbox, to even an unique one of it's bigger brother from Matchbox the 3000GT Spyder.




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The 1995 3000GT Spyder

What really started the spyder segment at Mitsubishi, before the Eclipse version arrived in 1996, was the 3000GT.  The 3000GT was based on technology shown from the HSC and HSX concept cars in 1989 to make a production version of a sports car for Mitsubishi featuring the 3.0L DOHC twin-turbo V6 to produce 222 hp. and 227 Ib-ft through a 5-speed manual and though all four wheels, with four-wheel steering, and active front and rear spoilers for aerodynamics,  In 1994 the mid-cycle refresh now included a VR4 with a 6-speed manual and a new Spyder with a retractable hardtop that stows into the rear trunk a'la 1955 Ford Sunliner.  The 3000GT continued until 1999 from issues ranging from the rising Yen to the fierce battle with its smaller brother, the Eclipse.




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Interesting to note that this Matchbox casting was also to receive it's platform stablemate, the Dodge Stealth R/T for the "Viper" TV series, but when the series was cancelled so was the Dodge leaving the 3000GT on its own.  The car is flat, but wide with a windshield that doesn't seem to want to sit up straighter than it should be.  The 1997-1998 versions in yellow and blue are the best in a solid color with Spyder logo's on the sides and windshield and the detailed projector beam headlights replacing the pop-up units in 1994, and let's not forget those awesome 5-spoke wheels!  With this clean look you can see the detailed lower front bumper with foglights and side gills, the side scoops just ahead of the rear wheels, and the detailed taillight bar with dual exhaust cutouts and rear spoiler.


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The base underneath has a nice layout of the drivetrain and exhaust system, the latter has the passenger-side rear exhaust tip that comes out from the one-side exhaust layout via the muffler.  What puzzles me is the center holes for each axle: most common on some 1995 and 1996 new castings and really don't seem to serve a purpose???  The interior shows off nice details of the front and rear seat patterns and shape, the dashboard layout with driver's side-angled central layout, round auxiliary gauge pods in the center, and shifter in the center console.  This is one fantastic-looking casting made during the Tyco-era when most other castings at that time were sub-lime at best (although the 3000GT took some heat from the new Supra as well in 1995).






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The 'Tooned 1997 and 2004 Hot Wheels Eclipse's

In 2003 Eric Tschere (sic) was granted the rights to design Hot Wheels, and he has a love for tuner cars, so in that year he wanted to make a replica of his daily driver, a 1997 Eclipse, as a Hot Wheels casting.  Scaled down from the 1:50 Tunerz line, this Eclipse arrived in red with the blocky "tuner" look.  Most diecast makers have passed on the first-generation Eclipse (though some Japan-based manufacturers may have one) to go into the second-generation.  This generation has one of the sharpest-looking styling of the bunch, a new Spyder in 1996, and lots of power from a turbo 2.0L I-4 and 5-speed manual.  The turbo in this Hot Wheels casting is the standout, poking out of the hood in glory.  Despite the tuner look, it has the proper details like the front headlights, lower bumper with chrome intercooler, rear taillight bar and reverse lamps, now join a chopped roof, tall rear spoiler, large 5-spoke wheels, and coffee-can muffler at rear.  The interior, uncommon in these 'Tooned cars, is there with just the basic shape and twin NOs bottles in the rear window.  After a few variations this casting seemed to disappear for good, a good thing for those who hate these 'Tooned cars.




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In 2004, some relief came in a 2000 Eclipse Spyder that thankfully does not have the 'Tooned look, but still does have the tuner look.  Based on the 1999 HSC concept car, the 2000 model sports a radical concept look, while dropping the turbo I-4 for the 3.0L V6 from the 1999 Galant and the deceased 3000GT.  The use of excessive body creases was a love-it-or-hate-it point for Eclipse enthusiats, most preferring the classic lines of the previous-generation.  This radical Hot Wheels version has the stock headlights and front bumper scoops joined by a larger front grille and vented hood.  The sides feature the stock door stamps joined by low ground effects and a windshield that has exterior mirrors and an odd lack of a top metal frame.  The rear has the stock taillights (note the keyhole on the right-side unit), detailed diamond star logo's front and rear, and reverse lamps in the bumper, joined by a larger lower bumper grille with central exhaust tip, and a larger rear spoiler.



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The base shows off the exhaust layout and some drivetrain components, while the interior, like the Matchbox 3000GT, does a good job showing of the goods with the correct dashboard layout, complete with detailed air vents and the separate fuel and temperature gauge pods from the main gauges.  The console has the large shifter and proper details, while the stock seats have the 5-point racing harness.  The rear looks to have seats, but the truth is those are actually amps with a NOs tank in the center.  It is interesting to note that the variations, even with graphics, do not interfere with the sharply-detailed body lines of this casting; a feature that makes me admire this casting.


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Matchbox and Hot Wheels 2004 Eclipse Concept

As the next Eclipse is on the horizon, Mitsubishi showcased a concept car that previewed the new 2006 Eclipse in 2004 as this shapely-looking concept that features the Turbo 2.0L I-4 from the Evolution VII with the rear wheels using an electric motor.  Styling used the same smooth surfaces that the second-generation Eclipse had, but with a new corporate face at the front.  Hot Wheels started off with the orange concept color in 2005 in 5-sp. or 10-sp. variations, then turning it into a police car in 2010.  Matchbox came shortly thereafter with sharper details to show off the new 2005 Matchbox look, but using a yellow-green color instead, and carried off most of the excellent details and graphics for most of the 4th generation car's life.



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The Hot Wheels casting is narrower with blacked-out headlights and detailed silver strut bar on the hood, slightly-higher ground clearance, side exhaust that are part of the base, blacked-out taillights, silver bar and ECLIPSE letters, and no exterior mirrors.  The interior is seen from a full-width glass roof with four supportive seats and a laid-back dashboard with futuristic controls.  The base shows off more of the front engine details and the unique Hot Wheels logo cutout (part of the interior tool) in 2005.


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The Matchbox version has the proper concept car stance that is low and wide with much more flared fenders than the Hot Wheels version.  The headlights and taillights are silver in the first version, but later versions got much more detailed lenses.  The lower grille and front nostrils are more pronounced, the strut bar has actual knobs and not 'stamps', the side exhaust is in the metal body, exterior mirrors are present, and the clear roof is more wider.  The base does not show much, but the interior is the opposite showing off more of the supportive seats, dashboard layout, shifter and console, and even the 4-spoke steering wheel.  Surprisingly the concept transformed into production with minimal changes, though the lack of true performance did not increase sales for the Eclipse and thus Mitsubishi ended production in 2011.

1 comment:

  1. the 3000GT VR4 has 320HP and 315 ft/lb torque....

    ReplyDelete