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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Matchbox 2016 Jeep Set




Matchbox is finally joining Hot Wheels for providing specialty series outside of the normal mainline assortment.  This can be a good thing and a bad thing as for one it can help move products that retail stores tend not to do often with the mainline unless the shelves are empty and in need (plus stores tend to order the same item in bulk at times), but on the other hand they tend to clog the pegs, especially if the line has unpopular choices.  That was the case for last year's Jeep series by Matchbox as the 10-car set was mostly recolors of the same castings, so they barely moved at all.  This year for the 75th anniversary of the Jeep brand the new eight truck lineup has unique deco's and all are nicely done.  I forgo'd the 1943 Willys Jeep because I have the 2010 mainline version, and the 1998 Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Wrangler Superlift because I don't care much for those two.  The rest was an instant buy.








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Jeep Willys Pickup

The real star of the set is the new Jeep Willys Pickup casting, introduced last year as the long-overdue Jeep pickup that Matchbox has promised for years.  This Jeep has an enclosed cab, long bed that is useable, and a lifted stance with live axles front and rear connected to a part-time two-speed transfer case to transmit power from the I-6 and 3-speed manual transmission.  The red and yellow recolors proved controversial because the 6-spoke wheels look out-of-place, but this Jeep release cures that as the 6-spoke wheels loose the chrome for the white-faced look on the spokes, the fender flares get black treatment, as does the inner panel of the doors, and the classic 4 wheel drive badge on the sides of the hood.   They join the front headlight and grille details on top of a nice metallic teal color.  The lighter tan interior shows off more details inside of the bench and dashboard layout, mostly.  I was afraid of this color choice at first, but after seeing it in person and the added details I now appreciate it and it looks like the best of the bunch!







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2001 Jeep Willys and 2004 Jeep Hurricane Concepts

Sadly, this release also brings out the vehicles that are not popular with collectors and were part of the tri-recolors in last year's Jeep line.  However, these two are the most spot-on realistic detailing when compared to the 1:1 concept truck.  The Jeep Willys concept appeared in 2001 in this open top form, then appeared again later in the year as a hard top Willys 2 concept.  Matchbox made some nice clean versions during the Hero City-era release in 2003, but still it was covered with graphics most of the time.  This Jeep release is, by far, one of the best for the Willys show truck.  The silver paint lacks any details and is accurate to the concept truck, as is the white tires on black rims that the show truck also has.  This joins some impressive details that start at the front with detailed headlight bezels, seven-slot Jeep grille, Jeep logo on the bumper in between two integrated hooks, and a hood with vents over the headlight comets.









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The sides show a short profile in true nature to the original Willys Jeep with with a sharp character line that leads from the front fenders to the upper ribbed pattern just above the rear wheels and black gas cap.  The rear has taillights that are nicely chiseled, the continuing ribbed upper pattern, and similar Jeep and hooks in the rear bumper just like the front.  Under the body you can see dual exhaust pipes that lead from a 2.4L DOHC I-4 from the Neon through a 4-speed automatic transmission and part-time two-speed transfer case.  There is no windshield, but there is a nice pattern on the front of the rollbar.  The interior goes for the basic look and matches the teal color of the actual show truck.  All surfaces are plastic and made from recycable materials.  The dashboard has a simple layout with center gauges, radio, HVAC controls, and shifters on the center console.  There is seating for four with seats that have the detailed swiss cheese pattern and 5-point belt harness, while the rear cargo area has just enough room for your gear.







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The other one has been seen in the black with red interior appearance before, but this one adds more details and chrome trim.  The Hurricane was a wild show truck that featured two 5.7L Hemi V8's that produced 700 horsepower total, though the cylinder deactivation of the engines can be programmed to run on just two cylinders for both motors at highway speeds, which is good considering the lack of a large fuel tank on a short-wheelbase truck.  The transmission is the 5-speed automatic, with both engines connecting at a common differential that transfers power to each wheel with its own driveshaft (think of it as Torsion bars at each wheel), so power transfer can be sent to all or one wheel depending on which one has the best traction.  The base does not show much but you can see the driveshafts extending from the center differential; as for the engine's you can clearly see them behind the mesh covers with the chrome intake peeking out.  That chrome also adds to the rollbars and lower side trim.







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Speaking of which note the lack of doors as there is a side step integrated into the body to allow access to the interior.  The rest of the look is pure Jeep with smaller bumpers that allow large approach and departure angles and allow the quadrasteer steering system to really move the wheels around for tight turning, even with a tank turn mode!  The front has detailed headlights and signal lights adorning the 7-slot grille and lower bumper with integrated winch.  The sides have flared fenders, Hurricane badges, proper blacked-out wheels with chrome outer rim, and exterior mirrors, while the rear has detailed X-shaped taillights and the Jeep logo.  The interior has seating for two with 5-point belt harness.  The dashboard has gauges laid out in the center with two tachometers and split auxiliary gauges for each engine, with switches below to control the accessories and to start each Hemi motor.  The 3-spoke steering wheel is deep and nicely done, while the shifters for each transmission is mounted in the center.  The concept is wild and this Matchbox version finally looks like the real thing!





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2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk vs. 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee

One vehicle that impressed me so much last year in the Matchbox line was the Cherokee Trailhawk.  Despite the car-like platform and controversial styling the Cherokee in Trailhawk trim was unstoppable and very versatile inside as well.  So how does it stack up against the reigning champ that revives itself from a long retirement, the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee.  The Trailhawk looks good in white with the same taillight and rear hatch badging details, 6-spoke wheels, and clean look as the 2015 version, but adds the long-overdue hood graphic on the Trailhawk models.  Still, they missed out on the red tow hooks and rear reflectors so I had to add them myself.  It may be smaller but it looks good with the fender flares, pinched side profile, and round front-end with eyebrow signal and running lights and headlights below.






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The Grand Cherokee is a classic, and a rather large one as well as it's a big truck even without the large raft returning on the roof!  The orange paint looks cool, as does the added Grand Cherokee, Jeep, 4x4, and Matchbox logo's, and topped off by the black fender flares and blacked-out 6-spoke wheels (a first for this casting).  This is the most rugged this casting has ever looked!  Like the Cherokee the Grand has rounded lines with smoother grille, headlight projector beams, and smooth rear taillights.  This mainline casting went for the Laredo package with front and rear bumpers part of the plastic base below.  The raft on the roof adds character to the SUV and is loaded with plenty of details inside with rope, paddles, and flotation devices, though the rear motor tends to interfere with the possible rear hatch opening.  The interior has seating for five that is comfortable with detailed 4-spoke steering wheel, clean center stack layout, and shifters on the console, though the interior is dated and the passenger area is a bit cramped.  The Cherokee Trailhawk has better seating arrangement with larger window surface areas and a modern dashboard layout.





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The chassis layout is different for both as well: the Cherokee Trailhawk is based on a front-wheel drive chassis with 3.2L DOHC V6 and 9-speed automatic connected to a transfer case that connects to the rear wheels, dual exhaust system, and independent suspension.  The Grand Cherokee is old-school with a 4.7L SOHC V8, 4-speed automatic, two-speed transfer case, and live front and rear axles with coil springs.  The Grand Cherokee has more base details than the Trailhawk, but even though the working suspension is gone the base still has that bulge from the suspension relief.  Even though both are different, the new Cherokee faithfully follows the Grand Cherokee and having two of them in the same series is a real treat.

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For those who can't get enough of Matchbox realistic series, wait until the Land Rover series comes out later this year!

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