Saturday, October 7, 2017
1:43 is a very nifty segment for those who want the details of the larger 1:18 and 1:24 scale models without the massive space-grabbing size. Yes there are the low-buck pullbacks for kids that i've reviewed here and surprisingly some of the newer ones are getting just as good on detailing as these higher-end models like this Atlas brand that created Saab models specifically for their museum. Of course I was drawn to this blue 9-3 Viggen.
The new 9-3 was introduced 1998 as the replacement for the 900 and while the styling is familier with a more rounded look, the platform is all-new and based on General Motors GM2900 platform shared with the Opel Vectra and Saturn L-series. The new line is larger and sleeker while still maintaining the Saab hallmarks from the high-mounted dash controls to the fastback profile and even the key on the center console. The engine's are the same I-4 design, but now are mounted in a more traditional transverse layout and the rear suspension is now an independent design. In 1999 the Viggen line was introduced, meaning thunderbolt) and served a more sportier side to the 9-3 while tracing back to the hallmarks of the brand's aviation by refering to the Saab 37 Viggen. The look outside has more aerodynamic body-coloered ground effects, front and rear bumpers, and a rear wing. Inside the interior has bolstered front seats in two-tone black and blue color and only a 5-speed manual was offered with the 2.3L DOHC turbocharged I-4 that produced 225 horsepower. Color pallete was limited to a select colors including this blue color shown here and eventually some features of the Viggen would find its way into the rest of the 9-3 line after the Viggen was discontinued in 2002.
For this Atlas model the box starts first with a nice nod to the Saab museum and around the box you can trace the Saab models of each generation. Open it up to reveal a clear display case with white base and a plastic two-piece cage inside to protect the model (you'll see why in a bit), yet to get to the model requires a three-headed screwdriver!?!?! After some nifty DIY with a flathead screwdriver I finally got the car off the base, and goodbye to that screw since the plastic cage inside does a great job of securing the vehicle anyways. The blue metallic paint is gorgeous and really pops out of this car, joining the silver 5-spoke wheels with blue center caps and inside is the detailed brake calipers and rotors. The front has large flush clear lights with clear side marker lights and even the inside reflector is detailed as well. As a separate component on the lenses are the wiper blades for the headlights. A black dip resides below the chrome grille, separate 9-3 Viggen front plate, and lower bumper with foglights and round mesh lower grille. The exterior mirrors are painted blue and look great with the car, and among the separate components include the front wiper blades and the antenna on the roof, the latter the need for the plastic cage inside the case.
The sides show off the detailed black trim along the doors and windows, flared rear fender lips, and Viggen badges on the front fenders. The rear hatch has detailed third brake light and separate rear wiper, with the rear spoiler just below it. The back has black trim details, silver exhaust tip, and taillights with clear signal lights. It's an overall sporty look. The base shows off the exhaust system in silver and a few suspension component details, but otherwise not much else. The interior is really amazing with all the cool details and that awesome two-tone blue and black combination. The front seats have the bolstered look with the blue inserts and the whiplash head restrant protection. The rear seats also get blue inserts and yet it doesn't stop there with blue inserts on the rear panels and front door panels. The dashboard is nicely laid out with white controls, detailed gauges, and 4-spoke steering wheel with Saab logo. The shifter is also nicely done with the correct knob design and boot.
Clearly this is one impressive casting from Atlas and was really worth it when at the time I got this one for $15 deal I was also considering the Bburago 1:43 2007 Saab 9-3 Convertible that is harder to find and cost twice as much on the secondary market with far fewer details and finesse compared to the level of details found on this Saab 9-3 Viggen.
Saab has, unfortunately, left us thanks to the Great Recession and to no one having the will to save the Swedish automaker. Saab started life making airplanes before turning an odd direction into vehicles, and it would take some time before Saab finally got down its own sharp styling direction, performance mindset, and unique features. These two represent the birth of Saab as a considerate player in the auto business.
Majorette Saab 900 Turbo
In 1978 the Saab 900 was introduced to replace the 99 with more angluar styling that was aerodynamic and pleasing to look at. The front has the flush headlights and grille design, along with the fastback roof with rear spoiler that would be a trademark to Saab designs in the coming generations. Novelty items on the Saab are a deeply-sloped windshield and dashboard with all controls mounted higher up for better visibility and a nod to the aircraft legacy of the brand. The ignition key slot is on the center console next to the parking brake. The engine is longitudionally mounted, yet powers the front wheels. Nothing new except the engine is installed backwards where the drive belts are along the firewall, while the transmission is mounted below the engine along the oil pan and power is transferred from a chain at the front of the engine to the transmission. The engine on this turbo model is a 2.0L DOHC turbo I-4 that produces 143 horsepower through a 5-speed manual transmission. The 900 line would continue for two decades spanning coupes, sedans, and even a convertible.
This Majorette casting looks pretty good in silver with Turbo along the sides. The stance of the car does seem to sit rather hight for a turbo model and with the working suspension contributes to body roll despite some excellent manuvers from this car. The front has flush headlights on a metal base that joints the grille with outer vertical three slots. The signal lights are mounted on the front fenders and the round windshield design is nicely detailed. The side profile shows the four-door look with fastback sloping roofline just like the Simca 1308, right down to the duck tail rear spoiler and taillights on the sides of a trailer hitch that allows this car to tow any Majorette trailer. The interior has seating for five with ribbed seats, shifter on the floor, and three-spoke steering wheel along a dashboard with a slightly-lower dashboard height. A nice feature is in the cargo area in the rear where tennis rackets are ready for leisure play after spooling the turbo in this sporty Saab 900.
Matchbox Saab 9000 Turbo
After a while you start to realize that a brand cannot survive on one car alone, so Saab started to design a larger sedan that is more contemporary than the 900, yet shares the same design and Saab novelty features. Introduced in 1984 the 9000 was a partnership with Fiat that also created the Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema, and Alfa Romeo 164, and interestingly the Fiat and Lancia share the same styling with the 9000 even if the body panels are not interchangeable. The body was more aerodynamic than the 900, the ignition key repositioned back to the dashboard, and a four-door model was offered alongside the five-door hatchback. While a V6 was offered later the prime powertrains were all four-cylinder, with the Turbo gaining a direct fuel injected 2.3L DOHC turbo I-4 that produced 200 horsepower through a 5-speed manual transmission. However, unlike the 900 the 9000 has a typical transverse engine layout.
This metallic red Matchbox example with tan interior fits in just nicely with other 1980's Matchbox luxury cars and I must admit it is one of the best interior and exterior colors to be found on a Matchbox luxury car. The front has flush headlights and grille that are part of the chrome trim, joining signal lights on the front fenders and a lower chin spoiler that wraps around to the front wheelwells. The side profile has a nice clean design with some character lines along the doors and the rear hatch window wraps around to the sides. The rear has conventional square taillights with lower bumper spoiler and SAAB on the license plate that is also part of the metal base. The base shows off the exhaust system and the suspension works even if the wheels do not allow much suspension travel and rub against the body. The doors open up to a beautiful butterscotch interior with seating for five, nicely detailed dashboard that has the traditional high-mounted controls of a Saab with 3-spoke steering wheel and floor shifter. Even the door panels get a few bits of details and up front there's a SAAB name carved into the front bumper. Very nicely done.
Saab may not be with us right now, but these two still carry on the sleek designs of the brand for years to come.