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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.

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