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Friday, May 6, 2016

Matchbox Freightliner M2 Fire Truck and Zamboni Ice Resurfacer

There are times when the unusual, and not much to talk about, means that I must combine a few vehicle reviews into one, and this is one of them: They are not sports cars, nothing can compare to them, most might likely forget about them as they focus on the next hottest sports car casting, and yet they are two that will never be forgotten with a unique twist of their own.  Call it Fire and Ice.

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Freightliner M2 Fire Truck

Matchbox has yet to get a decent Fire Tanker as their current one is still generic-based from the ill-fated Hero City-era.  At last the Freightliner M2 comes to the rescue to add another completion to the growing licensed fire truck line at Matchbox.  Freightliner is owned by Diamler and produces trucks that squarely challenge the International DuraStar line of trucks.  The front has the similar blocky hood with sloping fenders that have concealed headlights, lower bumper with foglights, flashers in the grille, and side vents on the sides of the hood.  One unique trait of the fire pumpers is the wheelbase: in the case of the M2 the wheels are stretched to the ends of the vehicle with no overhang to speak of.  This gives a fire truck that has better handing than any fire truck that i've tested before.  The metallic red has a bit of an orange hue to it and looks really good, the cab has large exterior mirrors and an extended unit for more room inside.  The details on the pumper in the middle of the truck is incredible and has touches of silver, same goes for the pipe extensions on the sides that are used to connect the pumper to a nearby fire hydrant.  The steel wheels have chrome center caps and look nice on this truck, while the rest of the truck has plastic with the rear fenders that have storage areas, taillights, step pad, and large water tank inside the rear portion of the truck.  Powering the truck is a turbodiesel I-6 from Cummins or Cat that can produce up to 700 Ib-ft of torque through a 8-speed automatic.  The interior is only suitable for three passengers as the extended cab does offer more room it's not enough for more firefighters to fit inside the cab.  The dashboard is nice and clean with 4-spoke steering wheel, readable gauges, and switchgear that is within easy reach, while the strobe lights on the roof do a good job of concealing their notice.  It's a nice fire truck that diverts from the typical fire engine as a much-needed tanker truck.

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Zamboni Ice Resurfacer

If you've ever been to a hockey game, chances are you've seen one of these before on the rink resurfacing the ice layer for the next round of ice skating.  It's called the Zamboni, after the creator Frank Zamboni who created the first machine in 1949.  The reason behind this idea was simple: when the ice needed to be resurfaced at a skating ring a team of people would come together to scrape off the old ice and lay down fresh water to create a new, smoother ice surface.  This process was time-consuming and a lot of hard work.  After seeing the popularity of the Jeep's in World War II Zamboni got the idea of making a contraption to clean off and resurface the ice on a Jeep to speed up the resurfacing process.  The first Zamboni was born.  The Jeep offered tight turning radius and four-wheel drive that no one else could offer, but after a while the Jeep has limitations to what the Zamboni needs, so a new machine was built in the late 1950's that allowed the Zamboni to have more carrying capacity for shavings and water tanks, with the driver positioned for better visibility while resurfacing the ice.  Today that same vehicle design is still in use at various skating rinks.

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The concept behind the Zamboni is simple:  The adjustable device at the rear of the Zamboni is where the adjustable blade resides that scrapes off the old ice.  The shavings are then transferred through a horizontal corkscrew that transports the shavings to a vertical corkscrew which drops off the shavings at a bin towards the front of the vehicle.  At the end of the blade is sprayed water to lay down a new coat of ice and a squeezie that smooths out the water.  The container at the front where the shavings reside can tilt forward and a lid opens up to deposit the shavings (free ice cones!), with the water and fuel tank below.  Power is by an I-4 that produces less that 100 horsepower through a 2-speed automatic and through all four wheels with a single-speed transfer case on a ladder frame that houses the Zamboni components.  Due to pollution concerns in a small area, most Zamboni's are now powered by Natural Gas, and eventually electric power.

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In typical white and blue this Matchbox version is nicely done.  The front has the blocky look with square headlights, black grille with Zamboni name, and a spotlight on the left-side of the front bumper that gives better illumination for the very tight cut along the walls, also aided by a left-side brush that is detailed under the base but does not pop out on this casting.  The ridges on the plastic hood is nice and it tilts up to release the shavings, yet going back down is a challenge as the container wants to come off of the hinges.  Plastic also adorns the blue side skirts, but there is metal inside and at the rear of the casting.  The driver's seat and steering wheel are part of the metal body and next to it in metal is the handles to adjust the angle and lower the blade, though why not continue the details of the rods that connect down to the blade?  The lower blade is wide and long and can smooth out the carpet but nothing else; underneath the horizontal corkscrew is visible as well.  The downside is this can only scrape ice around a rink and nothing more, so it's limitations hurts its usefulness as, say, to a pickup or SUV.  Also one wonders how many variations can you make out of a Zamboni?  Still, its a pretty cool casting that this, and the Freightliner M2 Fire Truck, will leave a lasting impression at Matchbox.

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