POWr Multi Slider

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Matchbox 1984 Dodge Caravan and Renault 11 Turbo




Recently I obtained a few vintage 1980's Matchbox vehicles that mark off a list of vintage vehicles to find on my to-do list.  The Dodge Caravan was a big one because I wanted one since I first saw the replica and its sliding door, and the closest that I come to finding one was at a flea market in a box of beat up toys: a while Caravan that was missing a key element: the sliding door.  No go for me.  Now I finally gone one with the door and in good condition, along with a Renault 11 Turbo that joined along, both in black.  What you may not know is that these two share a common relationship.




Click Here for Photo Gallery


1984 Dodge Caravan

It was a revolution in the car business, a love it or hate it depending on your view.  It help save Chrysler and pay off the government loan and relieve it from the dreaded Chapter 11.  The Chrysler Minivan's created a new model segment: a smaller van designed for families who need the space but not the complex size of a full-size vans that were popular in the 1970's.  The idea came from Lee Iaccoca and Hal Sperlich, both who worked together at Ford and came up with an idea for a small van in the Ford line, but when Iacocca was let go from Ford in 1976 both him and Sperlich, who moved to Chrysler, went to Chrysler with the idea for the small van that would be more important for Chrysler than Ford in the state of Chrysler's ill financial state.  After getting the government loan to continue operation, the Chrysler model lines were revamped, including the release of the important Chrysler K-cars.




Click Here for Photo Gallery


In 1983 the new Chrysler Minivans were finally revealed: a van that is a uni-body, front-wheel drive based on a car platform and small enough to fit in a standard garage.  Aside from that it had all of the features found in a van: plenty of room for three rows or cargo in panel van versions and styling that reflects the larger Dodge Van's.  The rear lift-up hatch was similar to the K-series wagon's, while the second-row bench seat was off-set to allow access to the third row for a total of seven passenger seating.  The engine's started off wit I-4's until the V6 arrived in 1987.  Engine's were either Chrysler or Mitsubishi-based with the largest a 2.2L I-4 that produced 96 hp and 119 Ib-ft of torque through a 5-speed manual (yes, minivans once had manual transmissions) or a three-speed automatic.  The S-platform was a larger derivative of the K-car platform, and interestingly enough there's speculations that there was some Renault components within the vans even though AMC would not be bought by Chrysler until 1987.





Click Here for Photo Gallery


Because of the complex sliding door on the side the Dodge Caravan (and Euro-spec Chrysler Voyager variant) mostly lasted during the 1990's with several variations.  A few of them were very clean, like this black with lower silver stripe.  I like this deco because the black hides the plastic sliding door that becomes noticeable in lighter colors, and the silver sides match with the chrome front and rear bumpers; well almost: the bumper ends are not painted silver and look unfinished so I used a silver Sharpie to fill in those bumper ends for a universal look, and while I was at it I touched up some black chips and detailed the front side and rear lamps.  The front has a bold look with stacked headlights, mirrored with side signal lights that look just like the larger Dodge van.  The grille is a large eggrate and the bumper has a lower chin spoiler.  The sides show a traditional wagon-like profile with a taller beltline of a van, and the 8-spoke wheels look nice here though the treaded tires do make a bit of noise.



Click Here for Photo Gallery


At the rear is the liftgate area with tall taillights and detailed Dodge, Caravan, and Plate logo's stamped into the body.  The base is plastic chrome with a lower center hump to provide the working suspension of typical Matchboxes in this era.  The front subframe is detailed and leads to an exhaust system, center fuel tank, and to a beam axle with trailing arms.  The coolest feature is the sliding door that operates seamlessly despite being a bit wobbly at times and when the door is not opened for a while it tends to require a bit of a finger pull to unlatch and start moving.  The only support arm is at the top, sandwiched between the roof and window support piece; this would explain why so many played-with Caravan's are missing the sliding doors because they can easily come off.  The red interior is very nice with seating for seven, though entrance to the third-row is interrupted by the large wheelwell.  The big disappointment is the dashboard that lacks plentyful details and on my tester the steering wheel was bent downward.  Dash layout was pretty simple and similar to the Chrysler K-cars, even though it did not share a lot of parts with the K-cars until later in the 1980's.




Click Here for Photo Gallery


Renault 11 Turbo

I'm not sure what parts are shared with the Renault and Chrysler Minivans, but it was evident that the two did have some sort of connection.  Maybe it was the fact that the Renault Escape, The first European minivan, arrived in the same year as the debut of the Caravan.  Renault was the savior for the AMC brand, who was not too big to fail and needed help from another automaker.  The French automaker stepped up and introduced a line of cars that made more sense than the awkward 4x4 sedan and wagon's that AMC was stuck with.  The Renault Alliance and Encore were based on the Renault 9 and 11 families despite being designed in different continents.  The Renault 11 replaced the 14's controversial styling with a more traditional, modern sedan and hatchback styling with a bit of a sporting flavor.  It was a very popular car for its time and the US version was praised for its excellent quality and reliability despite not doing enough to save AMC.  The hatchback had a coupe/hatch look at the rear with a rear spoiler and stacked taillights, while the front had quad headlights and optional foglights below.  The interior has a nice gauge layout with 4-spoke steering wheel and HVAC controls close-by.  The radio was placed too far down in the dashboard.  The hood opens up forward to a selection of I-4 motors, with the Turbo model gaining a 1.4L SOHC I-4 that produced 113 hp. through a 5-speed manual.  Suspension upgrades control excess bodyroll and provide a more solid feel than the non-Turbo models.




Click Here for Photo Gallery


Unlike the Caravan this Matchbox Renault 11 Turbo looks rather basic:  The plastic base does not show much in the way of details, the styling is basic and does not stand out, the wheels do not look a bit sporty, and it lacks any opening features.  But after some touching up with Sharpie pens and a sharp black with silver side graphics and orange tint windows this Renault 11 Turbo looks pretty neat once you get to know it more.  The front has quad headlights connected to the windshield with Renault diamond badge on the center of the grille and lower chin spoiler with integrated foglights that I detailed.  The sides feature a 4-door layout with hatchback rear and a raked rear end, while the rear has taillights that I detailed to make the rear stand out more and front and rear Euro plates with detailed letters and numbers.  The interior lacks fine detailing of today's modern diecast, but looks pretty good with seating for five in nice plush tan seats, the correct silhouette of the dashboard, and the steering wheel.  The shifter is missing here.  The car features a working suspension and on a brief track test despite the soft suspension feel the Renault was very fun to toss around and was nice and composed with little body roll; ironically the Caravan acted the same way despite being slower, a bit larger, and with grinding tires.




Click Here for Photo Gallery


I still don't know what Renault is in the Caravan, but one thing's for sure both of these castings look good in black with a little bit of added details even if they're not the most exciting or best Matchbox diecast out there.

Click for Photo Gallery


Matchbox 1993 Chrysler Voyager

No one knows why Matchbox attempted this, nor why they didn't start fresh with a new body.  Either way this is one of the odd-ball one-and-done castings that was never issued in the U.S. and only in Europe for one release in blue.  The name gives it away to European roots:  In the U.S. the Voyager vans were badged Plymouth's; in Europe, they were badged Chrysler's.  In 1991 the vans were updated with rounder styling, a longer hood, and a redesigned dashboard with a driver's side airbag.  Still, the boxy shape remains from the first-generation (and pretty evident that Matchbox can get away with using the Caravan body for the Voyager despite being incorrect).  The 3.3L V6 with 162 horsepower and four-speed automatic helped improved acceleration power.  This Matchbox casting is basically the same Dodge Caravan casting as before, right down to the Dodge and Caravan in the rear hatch (though the paint is very thick on my example and hides the badges.  The interior has the same setup in a tan color and still offers that cool sliding door.  The major changes go to the base where it looks very familiar to the Caravan until you see the 1993 Chrysler Voyager name on the base and at the front the larger headlight/with lower signal lights and four-gate grille.  To make the Voyager look more like a Voyager and less like a bad custom of a Dodge Caravan I carried the bumper detailing to wrap around the sides; same for the side marker lights that stretch from the headlights.  While out back the taillights were narrowed by height and uses the central signal and reverse lamps found on the Euro Voyager models.   Now it looks better.  Quite an odd, but rare casting!












Click for Photo Gallery

No comments:

Post a Comment