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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hot Wheels 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata, 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata, Motormax 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata, and Johnny Lightning 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata



Matchbox made big news this year with the new 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata.  I know because I just recently reviewed the casting and pitted it against the other Matchbox sports cars, the BMW 1M, Alfa Romeo 4C, and Porsche Cayman S, and it won.  The problem that I found on the casting was the suspension allowed more body roll and was focused more for the open road than on a racetrack.  To resolve that answer Hot Wheels introduces their own Miata, and unlike the Matchbox version this is Hot Wheels second Miata casting, so this brought me the opportunity to bring out some past Miata's against the new Hot Wheels version.







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Hot Wheels: 1990 vs. 2015

Hot Wheels was on the scene when the new Miata was introduced in 1989 as the 1990 version.  The idea started with Motor Trend editor Bob Hall reflected to engineer's at Japanese automaker Mazda about the joys of open-top driving in a classic British sports car.  When he became head of product planner at Mazda in 1981 he wanted Mazda to create a modern day equivalent of the essential British roadster that was more durable and reliable.  The "Offline 55" program was created to change the way Mazda developed new vehicles, and the MX-5 was on the list.  When it finally appeared at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show it was met with strong positive reaction from the buying public, with pre-orders lining up at Mazda dealers for the new roadster.  Today, not only is the Miata the most reliable, fun-to-drive roadster on the road it is also the best car to use on the track, creating its own SCCA racing series.  Today automakers try to match, or exceed, the Miata's reputation with their own sports cars but end up missing the mark on the most popular small roadster out there.






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Hot Wheels has made plenty of Miata's, but the one that is the most clean is the burgundy version shown here with a tan interior, 7-spoke wheels, and a lower metal base that is color-matched to the upper body (rarely a few versions have different colors between the upper and lower sections).  The round shape is correct with turn signal lights that are part of the windows, lower round grille opening, and hood bulge.  The rest of the car lacks the finer details like door handles, inner taillight lenses, and the car is rather too rounded; this is the pitfall of Hot Wheels lazy tools that were common in the early 1990's.  The base shows off the exhaust, drivetrain, and a transmission pan that directs to a 4-speed automatic instead of the 5-speed manual transmission (bummer!).  The power comes from a 1.6L DOHC I-4 that produces 115 hp. and 101 Ib-ft of torque through a lightweight body to the rear wheels with front strut and independent rear suspension.  Very fun, and it is for this small casting to toss around in the corners!  The interior needs help as it has a rising center stack (incorrect) and panels that are as flat as Kansas!






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Today's better tooling designs results in a more appropriate-looking MX-5 Miata for 2015.  However, Hot Wheels now has competition from their counterpart, Matchbox, so a stock version will not work.  Instead, Hot Wheels goes for the track version based on a Cup show car shown last year with a few additional features.  The front has the aggressive headlights and LED lights with headlights that look much better than the Matchbox units.  Down below in the large grille opening you can see the visible intercooler and the lower chin spoiler adds downforce and style to the front.  Also note the hood latches on the hood as well.  The sides add blank racing graphics similar to last year's Jaguar F-type with additional lower ground effects to aid in aerodynamics, leading to the blacked-out 5-spoke wheels with white rims (could do without the white lip) and up to the trunk lid-mounted rear spoiler.  The rear has detailed taillights that are not as detailed as the Matchbox version, but adds two enhancements: dual exhaust that pokes out where the reverse lamps used to be, and the lower bumper diffuser.






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The base underneath only shows the exhaust, and for those who are curious the interior and windshield are not shared between the two (unlike the Tesla Model S last year).  The interior is also right-hand drive with nicely-done steering wheel, gauges, shifter, and touch screen details, but without the detailed pedals.  Strangely for a race car it lacks 5-point seatbelts even though it has a rollcage where the top used to be (hope it doesn't rain!)  Now how does the new look handle at the track?  Well it feels just like the Matchbox version with one major improvement: there's no body roll as it takes on the corners like a proper sports car designed for the track.  Having your ice cream and your cake at the same time!





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Motormax 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

There has been quite a bit of large-scale replica's based on the Miata that have mostly been out-of-reach for those on a budget, but Motormax did quite a good job with the 1:24 scale version featuring opening hood, doors, and trunk and offering plenty of details for the price.  Of course, some of those details were downsized to the 1:64 version even though some areas didn't work out too well.  My tester came from a multipack years ago and suffers from a warped windshield frame.  The exterior is nicely done with detailed side marker lights, washer nozzles on the hood, rear antenna mount, and rear mud flaps.  The signal lights up front are detailed and a bit too small, while the taillights are detailed in red but could use more details.  Wheel selection is not the best as the 8-dot wheels that were most common on this casting look rather downgraded basic steel wheels.





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The base shows off the excellent details that include the rear suspension, exhaust system, and the transmission for the 5-speed manual (thanks goodness!)  The interior is even more impressive with plenty of sharp details and Motormax was the leader in detailed side door panels that no one has ever thought of back then.  The dashboard has the correct center stack with detailed buttons and even the two-spoke steering wheels tries its best to show off.  There's even a small cargo area just behind the front seats and just ahead of the tonneau cover.  Very nice, though it could use a few enhancements.





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Johnny Lightning 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Now before I continue you'll notice the lack of the third-generation (2006-2014) Miata.  How come?  Well not that many good replica's were made, and the good ones are hard-to-find.  When I get one later on i'll review it, but for now that's the missing slot in my collection.  Back to generation two where Johnny Lightning offers a big surprise when it introduced their first Japanese sports car.  A Miata, of course, and the second-generation at best.  The new Miata does not stray far from the original with the same styling touches and interior design; the one difference is the signal light ovals now house the headlight units and a 6-speed manual was offered later on.  The engine is now a 1.8L DOHC I-4 that produces 140 hp. and 157 Ib-ft of torque through a 5-speed manual until the 6-speed was offered first in the 10th Anniversary edition and later to all other Miata models.








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Johnny Lightning made lots of nicely-done Miata's and this one is my favorite: just like the Hot Wheels version shown above its burgundy with a two-tone tan/black interior.  The body is sill round, yet its beltline is taller.  The front has detailed headlights, foglights, side marker lights, round grille with mesh pattern, and lower scoops for the front brakes.  The sides show off more  curves with detailed mirrors and windshield frame.  The rear has detailed taillights and Mazda badges on the trunklid.  The base does not show much aside from the exhaust, rear suspension, and front subframe on a metal construction.  The interior is the best for details that include the proper 3-spoke steering wheel, center stack controls, air vents, detailed door panels, bucket seats, and center console.  Too bad this JL casting lacks the opening hood that most other Johnny Lightnings had at the time, but otherwise its a pretty decent casting.



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