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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Greenlight and Road Champs 1987-1995 Jeep Wrangler YJ





When it comes to Jeep in America, it's an icon.  It's no wonder since there's been quite a few Jeep Wrangler's introduced in diecast over the past few years, from the original Military Jeep to the current Wrangler.  However, there a few Jeep models that have yet to be done, like the cab-forward Jeep's, and then there are Jeeps that are lesser known in scale, and that would be the YJ Jeep Wrangler, built between 1987 to 1995.  Part of the reason is the hate from Jeep fans of the use of square headlights over round ones on the Wrangler, or removing some of the ruggedness of the original CJ's, yet still this is the Jeep that moved itself closer to being a daily driver while still retaining that ruggedness appearance.  Today Greenlight has released a version of the YJ in several model years, with varying degree of tops, trims, and wheels.  So while looking at some of the latest, we take a look at the last YJ Wrangler in scale and see how the new Greenlight YJ stacks up against the new Wrangler, a 2010 Mountain Edition.










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In the beginning: Road Champs Jeep Wrangler Sahara

Believe it or not, about twenty years ago not one diecast manufacturer, despite the boom in diecast companies starting up, cared about the then Wrangler; heck most wanted to do the Humvee than the Jeep after its success of the Gulf War.  Road Champs, making a name for itself with various police and unique (mostly Chevrolet) modern trucks at the time, was the lone wolf making this decent 1995 Jeep Wrangler Sahara.  Even though Sahara Wrangler's look natural in the tan color, this one looks sharp in dark green with tan interior.  The wheels are chrome 5-spokes with rubber tires with Goodyear Wrangler white lettering, the front bumper has foglights and hooks (though mines have broken the tips off long ago), exterior mirrors long gone missing on my example, Sahara logo's on the front fenders, and doors that open, including the rear swing-open tailgate to a barely respectable cargo area.










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The front has clear headlights and signal lights with orange transparent color, the back has clear taillights that stand out, spare tire with Sahara logo, and a base that offers respectable ground clearance and details that look good in some areas, awkward in others.  The interior shows seating for four with the front seats offering tilt forward feature to show off the backpacks on the backsides of the front seats.  The dashboard has the correct 3-spoke steering wheel and dashboard where the gauges span almost the width of the dashboard.  However, just like the Greenlight version there is no shifter's like the typical 5-speed manual, yet while Greenlight resides the transfer case shifter and column shifter for the automatic, there's no shifters at all in this Road Champs version.  This truck still looks good despite rough-looking paint, missing parts, fading chrome parts (I used a Sharpie silver to revive most of the chrome), and tape securing the back side of the driver's seat, yet now it doesn't have to be the sole survivor of the YJ now that a new member's in town.













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Greenlight's Jeep YJ Wrangler

After having success with the current Jeep Wrangler in 1:43 and now 1:64 scale, it was time to revive the long-lost YJ, which also apparently has a lot of credit as a movie star based on the amount of recently-released and upcoming Hollywood versions.  Here I have collaborated a few versions, and each one has a unique way of showing the new YJ.  At the same time of the First Cut release is the 1993 Sahara in the typical gold with tan interior and top.  First, more about the YJ: Introduced in 1987 this was the first major redesign for the Jeep since the introduction of the CJ after the original G.I. Jeep was out of service from the military.  AMC focused the new Wrangler on day-to-day drivability as more and more Wrangler owners also drive their Jeeps to and from work, and with the popular Cherokee as a parts donor that was easy.  The ground clearance is lower, the track wider, trackbars and swaybars for better control.  the interior was modified with more comfort in mind and better location of controls, though more still needed to be done and will be in the next two generations.  The grille with square headlights are new, but the rest of the body is the same as the CJ so both bodies can be interchangeable, and this is the only generation with wiper blades that hang down from the windshield.







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The main powertrain's for these trucks is the AMC motors, the prime is the 4.0L I-6 that is durable and a favorite to Jeep fans: it produces 177 hp and 224 Ib-ft of torque through a 3-speed automatic.  The exception here is the 1995 Rio Grande, a trim packaged used to spice up the base model using the 2.5L I-4 producing 120 hp and 139 Ib-ft. of torque through a 5-speed manual only, but since this is a shared Greenlight tooling it uses the three-speed automatic here.  The transfer case is a two-speed unit sending power to the rear or both front and rear live axles mounted on leaf springs.  For a more butchier appearance there's the 1987 YJ from the All-Terrain line complete with its own winch that has enough room on the front bumper, oh and no top is included as well.





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The Sahara is the smoother one of the group with a body-colored front grille with detailed headlights, off-set front plate area, and square foglights on the bumper.  The wheelwell and rocker moldings are body-colored, but can be off-colored on other models for a more rugged appearance.  What gets me is the hood: No it does not open, and no the hood designs, unlike the new Wrangler's, do not change, so I have no idea why the hood is a separate piece.  The rear has separate taillights, detailed plate area, and a spare tire that is slimmer than using the actual rear wheel like the 2010 version.  The most bothersome part, when the top is off, is the rollcage and how it attaches to the windshield, which is also separate from the body.  The latter is a warning as you'll find models that have a removable top, like the Sahara, and those that do not, like the Rio Grande with the hardtop design complete with C-pillar vents in black.  The Rio Grande has a nice bright red color with graphics that are there, but barely visible.  It shares the same square foglights as the Sahare, but without the body-colored lower rocker panel and wheelwells, and using the 5-spoke alloys over the 6-spoke steel wheels on the Sahara.  The 1987, meanwhile, uses 8-dot steel wheels, has round foglights, and some cool vintage Wrangler hood decals.  Greenlight needs to pay attention to the details as all three have the 4.0L badge at the rear below the right taillight, when the Rio Grande can only be had with the I-4.





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The interior is the typical Jeep with the dashboard featuring tach and speedometer behind the 3-spoke steering wheel, with auxiliary gauges spanning the length of the dashboard.  It has a radio and HVAC controls, but the horizontal layout means a far reach for the radio.  There's no glovebox, and the center console is not lockable.  The bucket seats are nice, as is the bench, though none of them are as nice as the upgraded interior of the 2010 with more supportive seats, headrests for the rear bench, speakers in the rollcage, and  a nice dash layout with easy-to-reach radio and HVAC controls.  Oh and it has dual airbags and locking glove box and center console storage area.  The reason why I got this 2010 Mountain Edition Wrangler is not for a comparison but to also find out a feature I though was not there: the top removes.  I didn't remove it from the Hitch and Tow version that I had for fear of breaking something off, but as it turns out it does remove.  Not as airy as the YJ but at least it is more easier to remove that the slightly stubborn YJ top.





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The exterior is more modern with dark blue paint, splattered mud graphics, Mountain decals on the hood, gray grille with round headlights, and lower bumper with central foglights (not the Mountain X -style bumper with removable ends).  The flared fenders are more pronounced than the YJ, the spare tire based on the wheels and a bit big, and the rear-end has the correct details.  Both trucks have a metal base, and both have little room to show off mechanical bits.  The YJ shows off more drivetrain components and the leaf springs on all four wheels, and as an added bonus it uses phillips-head screws over rivets to secure the base to the body.  The powertrain for the 2010 model uses the 3.8L V6 with 202 hp and 237 Ib-ft of torque through a four-speed automatic instead of the 3.6L Pentastar V6 and 5-speed automatic used in the 2012 to current Wrangler's.  The Wrangler still uses a two-speed transfer case, but the suspension now uses coil springs on all four wheels and in this generation the fuel tank is relocated from ahead of the rear bumper to just below the rear seats.  How does the old Jeep compared to the new Jeep?  The YJ is lighter and much more nimbler than the new Wrangler, but if you toss it too hard the side effects of a tall truck with leaf springs tends to take its toll; same for braking.  The problem with the new Wrangler is the size of the wheels, or otherwise it would be right up there with the YJ.  Still, these are off-road toys not track toys and both excel at doing there job nicely.





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The verdict here is the new YJ Wrangler is a nice addition to the Greenlight family: it's unique, has lots of variations, is crude yet simple in today's standards, and has a lot of possibilities in the future.  sure it could use an opening hood and a 5-speed manual, but that is just minor compared at how good of a job Greenlight executed the Wrangler that most Jeep pursuits would rather forget.

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