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Friday, May 6, 2016

Greenlight 2004 Mercury Marauder and Johnny Lightning 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS



It was a sour time for Muscle Car enthusiasts in the 1970's as higher gas prices, emission regulations, and high insurance premiums spelled the end for the Muscle car, and performance in general.  In the 1980's it was slowly coming back, but still it was weak compared to the past, and today's, performance cars.  With the challenges of fuel economy and emissions under control the horsepower wars was returning in the 1990's; however, those big muscle cars with the big power are a thing of the past.  GM and Ford, however, did offer a salute to those good old days in the last of their aging dinosaurs, the big Caprice and Crown Victoria sedans, to relive those glory days for a brief while.  Now they're available in small scale.




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The Chevy Impala SS

The idea was just a show car idea shown at the 1992 Detroit Auto Show: a hyped-up version of the Caprice with the Corvette's LT4 motor called the Impala SS.  The reaction from the public was estatic as high demand prompted for a limited run between 1994 and 1996.  The Impala SS adorns the leaping Impala logo on a blacked-out sedan with little to no chrome on the Caprice body, adorned by 5-spoke wheels with a wider track.  The interior has bucket seats and a shifter for the 4-speed automatic (no manual offered, though a special show car was made by GM with a 6-speed from the Corvette) connected to a 5.7L LT4 V8 from the Corvette making 260 hp and 330 Ib-ft of torque to roast the rear wheels.  The suspension was based on the heavy-duty used on the police package Caprice, dual exhausts, and 4-wheel disc brakes.  In 1995 two more colors were added: dark green and dark cherry red metallic.  The production ended when the full-size Caprice line ended production in 1996; Impala and the SS name would return on a front-wheel drive version starting in 2000.




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Johnny Lightning used their Caprice casting, created specifically for the Law Enforcement series (along with the 1997 Crown Victoria, 1993 Camaro coupe, and 1997 Chevy Tahoe), so things like the flashers on the rear decklid and holes at the front of the base where the front push bumper would secure to still reside, but otherwise this is the sleek Impala SS.  The first one was in 1999 as the Classic Gold Impala SS in black with 5-spoke wheels with rubber tires.  The front has detailed headlights and silver bowtie, while the sides have silver window trim, Impala logo on C-pillar, and Impala SS on the rear fenders.  The rear has detailed taillights on the so-called whale-hump rear-end.  The base shows the excellent details of the frame and the drivetrain, but thanks to the Caprice bones it has only one single exhaust exit at the rear.  Same goes for the interior where the front bench seat still remains, as is the basic dashboard layout with two-spoke steering wheel.


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Haven worked on one Impala SS before the driving position is low and wide, and you have to watch your step as you saddle the hump for the recessed chassis frame as you enter and exit the car.  The SS would later appear in dark green and cherry red metallic, the last the best with the proper invisible body-colored rear fender badges, plastic tires on more-appropriate 5-spoke wheels, and detailed center brake light on the rear decklid.  The green is a nice addition, but seems a bit messy on details in a few areas.  Either way this trio make s a nice addition to the limited run of 1990's Impala's.




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The Mercury Marauder

While there has been quite a few replica's of the Impala SS offered, the same is not true for the Mercury Marauder.  Like the Impala SS in the 1990's the Marauder started life as a show car at the 2002 Chicago Auto Show, a 2-door convertible instead of a four-door sedan.  The production version had a limited run from 2003 to 2004 as sales were not as hot as the Impala SS experienced during its brief run.  Color run started as only black, but then added more colors, but all were basically in the same range: black, dark red (burgundy), or silver.  The chassis uses the Police Interceptor's upgrades, rack and pinion steering to replace the recirculating ball steering, and a 4.6L V8 that uses the DOHC motor that was also used in the 2003-2004 Mustang Mach I; the engine produces 302 hp. through a 4-speed automatic.  Like the Impala SS the exterior was monochromatic with little to no chrome, save the sleek 5-spoke alloy wheels.  Contrary to the Grand Marquis styling, the Marauder used more of the Crown Vic's styling with smoked headlights, blacked out grille, round foglights, smoked rear taillights, and chrome dual-tipped exhaust with a trunklid rear spoiler.  The interior has leather bucket seats, console shifter, white-faced gauges, oil pressure and voltmeter gauges just below the HVAC controls.  Finally almost all of the Mercury badges were replaced with the silhouette of Roman god Mercury.



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Greenlight used the Police Interceptor casting to create the Marauder, and at least this one can hide more of the police gear than the JL Caprice casting could handle.  The front has detailed grille, headlights, and lower foglights, but the front-end seems a bit higher and the side signal lights seem to stretch too far toward the center (a common problem with the Greenlight Crown Vic casting, though the Marauder setup looks much better).  Now if you notice some painted-over areas on the doors you're right: this was a promo model that had white markings on the doors and roof on a stock Muscle Car Garage release.  Using nail polish remover did not work as the logo's were really connected to the paint, so the only remedy was to mask the rest of the car off and paint over the logo's.  Not the best job but at least the logo's are gone!  Also the 5-spoke wheels are the stock Marauder ones as the last release of this casting in metallic red was using the larger 5-spokes from Chrysler (Charger Police and Challenger).  The rear has detailed taillights, reverse lamps with MCG-9 Virginia plate, rear spoiler, and Marauder on the rear bumper just above the dual exhausts.



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Remember when Greenlights have green on the front rivet?  Here's a throwback on this car.  The chassis and drivetrain detailing is nicely done, and hey it's got dual exhausts!  Inside the interior gets the same dashboard layout and front bucket seats with center console; however, the police car roots show as there is no shifter (it's on the column), reserved for laptop space.  At least the rear seat does not face a barrier wall!  Pop the hood open to see an engine bay that I was afraid would still show the 4.6 SOHC Crown Vic unit, but thankfully Greenlight detailed the proper intake and large valve covers for the dual cams of the Marauder motor.



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Both cars are large and not track-ready pedigree: more for the 1/4 mile track.  The Marauder has rather narrow tires and a higher stance offering more body roll and tricky handling maneuvers.  The Impala seems better planted, but again it's a big car to toss around.  In the end the Marauder wins here for superior and accurate details, an opening hood the JL Impala lacks, and one-of-a-kind status as no other diecast manufactuerer has attempted to replicate the new-age Marauder (ironically there's a lot out there making replica's of Police Interceptor police and taxi cabs).  Still, both are a great set for those who like to have a then and now set of classic American muscle cars, and for those who want to relive the big, bad dinosaurs for one last time.



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