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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hot Wheels 2016 Car Culture Japan Historics vs. Trucks



One of the most successful lines for 2016 is the Car Culture set.  Unlike the 2015 Redlines/Real Riders series that was so-so, with the Redliners series getting negative feedback judging by store sales.  The Car Culture series has been popular from the start, and despite some distribution issues at the start the cars fly off the pegs with little to no ones left behind.  Just today I got to see the first release for 2017's Car Culture, Redliners, and I got the COPO Camaro in light blue.  Looks good and another winner on hands.  Now out of the four last year which one is the best?  The Euro series was a bit bland on some ends, while the Track Day set was a winner or not depending on your collecting taste's.  The two that are the best is the vastly popular Japan Historics and the Trucks line.  I was fortunate enough to find all five this year, with most of them from Target.  With the two sets side-by-side it was time for me to make a decision on which set was the best.

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Japan Historics

Probably one of the most popular sets to date would have to be the Japan Historics set.  It was this set that started the Car Culture line on a good head start, sells out quickly no matter how many you make, and just further enhanced the popularity of JDM cars that surged ever since the Datsun 510 Wagon started to make waves.  For this 5-car set nothing but the best was selected: Three Datsun's, one Toyota, and a new Mazda casting.  The RX3 was the newbie of the group sporting a dark purple paint job that tends to hide the fine details of the car.  Based on the Savannah platform, the RX3 trades the commuter-car I-4 for a Wankel rotary engine and a 5-speed manual transmission.  Then Hot Wheels adds large front and rear spoilers and flared fenders to secure the rubber tires on new (and specifically for the JDM castings) 4-spoke wheel design.  The front-end has detailed quad headlights with large grille, while the back has quad taillights in rectangular units.  The interior is race-car ready with seating for two, a roll cage, and right-hand drive.  It was a nice car, but I also noticed it was the least popular vehicle of the set as these Mazda's were always the ones left behind.

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Next is the Toyota 2000GT, a car that started life in the brief Racing series in 2012 before getting more attention in the 2013 mainline.  Now it's back with the metal base and real rider tires on multi-spoke wheels (which look right at home on this car).  The clear headlights and grille sandwiched between the base and body, the fender-mounted mirrors, the long hood, the round rear taillights, and the central exhaust tips.  All is good.  The interior is for track-duty with only one seat, yet still retains the stock dashboard.  The yellow and green are nice, but some of them have some smudgy paint applications.  Also I'm surprised that for such a premium variant the lower front bumper is not color-matched to the body.  Surprisingly this one was also tended to be left-behind at stores despite being one of my favorites of the five-car set.

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The last three are the most popular in the set, and of course they're all Datsun's or Nissan GTR's.  The first one is the Nissan Skyline H/T 2000 GTX in white with blue race graphics and blue base, and gray multi-spoke wheels.  This is the norm for the track-only GTX and it looks pretty good, though not as great as the last metal-base GTX, the 2013 Boulevard version in dark gray.  Also note the white color is more of a cream than pure white.  The front-end has an exposed grille with lower intercooler and headlight covers, while the rear has the stock taillights (never ever left undone in any variant so far!) and rear spoiler.  While the track car look is nice, I prefer a stock road car; thankfully Matchbox has that covered with a stock 1971 version for 2016 (more on that car very soon!).  The next one is the stock 1973 Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R in white with black Police deco, which I think is a bit cheesy for a race car, and like a few other cars in the set wears the new 4-spoke wheels in black.  The fastback look is very clean with flared fenders, detailed base, round quad taillights, and a front-end that looks a bit too much like a 1970 Dodge Challenger.  The interior is the four-seat version, though a few very rare one-seat race car variants have appeared.  I like this casting, but this is not one of my favorite deco's of the bunch.

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The final vehicle of the set is the most popular one: the Datsun 510 wagon.  This one is all-black with side and hood graphics for a bit of a racy look.  The wheels are the blacked-out 4-spoke units.  This is the first time the wagon has a metal base since the 2013 Boulevard release that sparked the popularity of this casting.  The front-end is pure 510, but much more cleaner and nicely-detailed than the rather crude 510 sedan that uses a separate headlight and grille piece that is part of the base.  The rear wagon section is the unique piece to this casting and allows for a five-passenger interior with room to spare in the back.  Oh, and you gotta love those fender mirrors.  Now the cars were either great or so-so depending on your view, but all can agree the card artwork is the best with the cars in the foreground with mountains, sunlight, and road basking in the light gray background, and adding color is the cherry blossoms on the trees.  Very nice.  Downsides: early packaging problems with the bubble seal led to many versions secured with tape around the seal, and it was clearly evident in most of the cars in this set.

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Trucks

I'm more of a truck fan, especially when it comes to pickup trucks, tractor trailer's, and medium-duty trucks.  The more stock and work-oriented, the better for me.  This 5-truck set is slightly different than what I would imagine a perfect set, but close enough.  The blister artwork is nicely done, but this time it shows the rear of the truck that is two-times larger than the Japan Historics set.  Also the background changes to reflect the environment for each truck, though one must wonder why the Ranchero is going off-road?  By this time distribution was growing so spotting these at retail was more common, and also the bubble seal debacle was resolved by then so the additional taping is gone.  The set includes two Japan trucks and three American trucks, two from Ford.  Two are based on car platforms.  All are veteran castings, but only the Silverado and Datsun got metal bases for the first time.

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Continuing the trend of Datsun's is the 620 pickup in light blue with lower white stripe and racing graphics.  The wheels are Mooneyes caps on rubber tires.  The casting is one of my favorites with the right amount of details that cross the line between a stock work truck with functioning bed area and a truck also ready for the track with a lower chin spoiler and flared fenders.  The look, on the other hand, is not one of my favorite variants and it looks rather out-of-character for this truck.  Maybe a simplier design would be better?  Maybe the BRE colors on the Wal-Mart Rad Trucks line version would be a better fit here.  The other Japan casting is the Subaru BRAT, and this casting is no stranger to premium lines as it has the metal chassis pretty much 80% of its time so far.  The blacked-out 6-spoke wheels look really good with this casting, who sports a bare metal ZAMAC look that is the cleanest-looking BRAT to date.  Add that superb body detailing and a flat black base and you got one cool looking BRAT.  What does come up short on this casting is the lack of front and rear lighting details, but overall this is probably the best BRAT variant to date!

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On the other side is two American trucks, with the Chevy Silverado making its first debut with a metal base (not to be confused with the Real Riders Silverado last year that was an all-new 4x4 lifted casting).  The motor bike makes a return to the bed area, and that bike is removable from the bed to allow room for other cargo.  The 5-spoke wheels in dark gray look good on this truck, and the large size of this unique Silverado looks good.  However, the paint deco looks familiar before and lacks the good character of this casting; a cleaner or a unique look would prompt more awareness to this casting.  Another casting with similar problems with similar deco's is the 1972  Ford Ranchero.  This is a casting that does not get a lot of attention and most of the time its due to bad deco choices.  This version looks too close to a 2013 Super Treasure Hunt version, right down to the chrome mag wheels (looking good here) and a metal base.  Then you see it in person and it looks amazing: the paint is a metallic orange that shines like a beaut, and the graphics tends to flow with the bodylines instead of disturbing them.  The look is very nice, though I would like to see a bit less tampo on the sides and more on the rear taillights and tailgate badging.  This was a unexpected favorite of the group.

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But not as favorite as the Ford F-250 pickup.  The Retro star last year arrives back in the Trucks line sporting the gorgeous blue paint, light blue mid-two tone color, FORD on tailgate with detailed taillights, and the ladder rack making this the most work-ready truck of the group.  The large Ford truck looks good all-around, with added metal below, and 5-spoke wheels that now sport treaded rubber tires to look more proper on this casting.  I still wish the interior was more detailed, but overall a fantastic effort and one of my favorites of the 5-truck set.

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So which set do I think is the best?  For casting selection and vibrant colors, the Truck set wins.  For card artwork and casting details the Japan Historics set wins.  So while I may lean more towards the Truck set, both of them are hard to beat and are the best of 2016 Car Culture.  The only way to top that is whatever comes out for the 2017 Car Culture line.

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