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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Majorette Lexus RX400h, Mitsubishi Outlander, and Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon

As mentioned in the previous article Majorette has made quite a lot of strides in the car-based SUV's in the last decade and here's a few more examples from the first hybrid SUV, the first SUV to spawn three different castings, and a classic throwback to an anti-SUV design by Toyota.

Lexus RX400h

Toyota was probably not one of the first hybrid cars on sale in the U.S., that went to Honda with the Insight, but give credit to Toyota for refining the hybrid into something useful.  In the beginning the Prius used a gas motor that was assisted by the electric motor, meaning the car always had the gas engine on and could never run on electric power.  That changed in the second-generation Prius that used a parallel twin electric motor setup: one that was connected to the engine for charging and assist, while the second motor was the drive motor that could run on battery power alone for short period of time.  This new hybrid was so successful that other companies started to adopt the design, and eventually the motor would grow to larger offerings including the Camry Hybrid and the Lexus RX400h and twin the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.  The second-generation RX400 has carried on the futuristic styling of the previous-generation with a more smoother approach that looks good and still looks modern today.  The interior has a spacious feel with well laid-out controls and shifter still on the dashboard.  The hybrid engine is now a 3.0L DOHC V6 hooked up to the parallel electric motor, and that's not all as a rear electric motor gives the RX an all-wheel drive setup.  The setup produces 268 horsepower.

In dark blue this Majorette casting looks very nicely done despite the lack of any opening parts.  The front has detailed projector beam headlights with circles that look rather big, front grille details with the Lexus badge, and a lower bumper with foglights and a higher lower chin.  The sides show a smooth SUV profile with D-pillar rake and 5-spoke wheels that perfectly match this SUV.  The rear has a rear spoiler, high-mounted taillights, and a license plate in the liftgate that also serves as the rear base support.  The base underneath is well-detailed and shows off the fuel tank, exhaust system, and the wires that send power from the battery to the electric motor.  Check out that proper spare tire cover at the back!  The interior has seating for five with a detailed dashboard that has the shifter just below the center controls and the 3-spoke steering wheel that sits ahead of a rather flat gauge cluster.  A technological SUV that is styled in a simple SUV layout.

Mitsubishi Outlander

Another SUV making leaps and bounds is the Mitsubishi Outlander.  When it first came out in 2002 it was based on the Lancer sedan so it was small and underpowered.  For the second-generation the SUV grows in size, power, and now looks to take a foothold in the popular SUV craze.  Styling is more wedge-shape, angular with flared fenders to give it a larger and distinct look that is less related to the Lancer sedan.  While the 2.4L I-4 continued on with improvements, the 3.0L SOHC V6 was brought in for the needed power to produce an estimated 230 horsepower through a six-speed automatic and through an all-wheel drive system.  One novelty is the rear liftgate that features the lower section in the bumper that folds down like a bench.  Even more interesting is the platforms that the Outlander has shared with, including Peugeot 4007 and Citroen C-Crossover, both of which also made by Majorette!

Yup, Majorette has made a first by doing all three SUV's based on the same platform, and the relation between the three can be identified by the thick D-pillars at back.  This dark blue Outlander really shows the sporty look of the SUV with a rounded front-end that has detailed headlights which interestingly are stickers not tampo print, black grille with Mitsubishi log, and a lower grille with foglights in the bumper.  On the sides you get flared fenders to better accomidate the large 5-spoke wheels and lower silver trim along the doors.  The rear has taillights high on the liftgate like the Lexus and like the Murano has that gigantic trailer hitch to ruin the looks of the SUV.  Also like the Lexus it has no opening parts and a plastic base with detailed driveshaft, exhaust, and rear spare tire cover.  Inside the interior has a surprise seating for seven, though the third row is best suited for children.  The dashboard features a 3-spoke steering wheel, center stack controls, and a center console with floor shifter.  It's a very nicely done SUV that also has two other versions that are just about the same with distinct styling.

Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon

I remember when I was young my neighbor's son was a Toyota technician and so he was able to offer his parents and neighbor next to him Toyota's at discounts.  One of those vehicles that I remember the most was the rather odd Tercel 4WD wagon.  Odd considering that the Tercel, the subcompact of Toyota, had a wagon and offered with with four-wheel drive!  That was the interesting case of Toyota back in the 1980's as the Tercel offered something that Subaru had yet to offer at the time: wagons that could run with the larger SUV's in the rough stuff.  Since the Tercel was still front-wheel drive the application of four-wheel drive was simple as the transfer case was connected to the engine and sent power to the rear wheels to a rear axle based on the Celica.  However, there was no full-time on-demand power as a knob was used to activate the rear wheels and the six-speed manual transmission was actually a five-speed with a very low 1st gear used as the subsitute for low-range four-wheel drive.  Elsewhere this was your basic Tercel wagon with a slightly raised roofline to make the rear seats a bit more spacious, large drop down quarter windows, and a rear liftgate that has a black bezel for the license plate, hatch release, and reverse lamp.  The engine is a 1.5L SOHC I-4 that produced 90 horsepower and was not as fast, nor as confident in the rough stuff as the small wagon with a slight rise in ground clearance could get stuck in deep off-road situations.

Making this casting popular now can be thanked by the AMC series "Breaking Bad" as Jesse's new ride after his lowerider Monte Carlo was shot up in the second season.  While I used to have the fluorescent orange version, I decided to go for a more cool blue approach with 4WD across the doors like on the real car to let you know what you have.  The front has headlights that are part of the metal base, side marker lights, and a lower bumper with signal lights and a grille that is part of the interior piece.  The sides show off the ribbed roof and lower quarter windows with 6-spoke wheels that are a proper fit on this casting.  The rear has the best detailing of the bunch with the license plate retainer featuring European letters and numbers, vertical taillights, TOYOTA stamped on the upper portion of the liftgate, 4WD badge on the gate, and a trailer hitch for towing (light stuff).  The Tercel is also known as the Sprinter Carib in other countries, but only Majorette has gone for the Tercel name.  The interior has seating for five with plenty of room in the accessible cargo area thanks to the opening rear hatch.  The dashboard has a simple layout with 3-spoke steering wheel, center stack gauges, and shifter on the floor with rear wheel switch just ahead of the shifter.  This is a very unique wagon in the Majorette lineup that no one else has made much nor has the real car market made as of late: a subcompact hatchback that offers four-wheel drive.  Today subcompact cars are now turned into small SUV's for urban driving rather than for off-road adventures.

Majorette Honda Prelude and 2003 Nissan Murano

Majorette tends to make a lot of cars and trucks that are focused on what is found in European countries, but every once in a while they will also make vehicles that come from other countries.  One of them is from Japan and here's a few examples that Majorette has done.

Honda Prelude

The Prelude was a sports car introduced in the 1980's that was based on the Honda Accord chassis, but styled on a sleeker coupe body.  Later in the 1980's the Prelude would gain acceptance as the technologically advance Honda in the lineup.  The second-generation went from a previous bodystyle that was very 1970's to a sleeker wedge-shape design that was modern at the time.  Headlights were hidden away in the front, a taillight bar spaned the back, four-wheel independent suspension, and digital instrument cluster.  That was in the third generation, which was an evolutionary design of the second-generation.  The second-generation still retained the basic layout of a sporty Accord coupe.  This Majorette version is a rare misstep from the company as the front-end lacks enough detail to distinguish which generation it is, but after some studying I found this casting to be a second-generation Prelude.  The giveaway?  The black plastic bumpers front and rear.  The front bumper lacks so much detail that I had to add signal lights and foglights to give it some identity.  This red example sports a Honda logo on the hood and Prelude on the sides.

The side profile shows a sleek sporty look with the C-pillar kink mostly found on BMW models, while the rear has a taillight bar with carved-in PRELUDE in the center and all of it is part of the window trim piece.  The doors open which is nice, but inside you'll only find four detailed seats and that's about it.  No dashboard details or even a shifter on the floor!  The suspension works on this car, but during some performance tests it really does not feel sporty with some body roll.  Thankfully the suspension was a bit firmer so the body roll was not too excessive.  The inside of the real Prelude has a sporty dashboard design that is low with 3-spoke steering wheel and seating for four.  The engine up front is a front-wheel drive unit with a 5-speed manual transmission and a 1.8L SOHC I-4 that produced an estimated 105 horsepower.  Later in this generation a 2.0L DOHC I-4 was offered though the hood had to be raised to accomidate the larger engine.  It seemed like a nice casting, but it seems too bare to be a model from Majorette.

2003 Nissan Murano

On the other end of the spectrum the 2000's saw the growth of car-based SUV's.  Pioneered by Toyota with the Lexus RX300, car-based SUV's solved the problem of drivers with bulky, body-on-frame SUV's that guzzled gas and had features buyers used less often.  The platform starts by using a car-based sedan, then raising the ground clearance and adding a wagon body shape.  The end result is an SUV that has more characterists of a car with better handling and fuel efficiency than a traditional SUV at the time.  Now car-based SUV's make up nearly 90% of the total SUV, and also car, population in 2017.  Unfortunately most of these SUV's also suffer from the cookie-cutter styling with that me-too persona that is so close that some companies have SUV's that look identical to one another.  The Nissan Murano takes a different path with a more stylish look.  When Nissan bought Renault in 2000 the styling between the two started to merge together as newer Nissan's adopted the artistic curves and angles found on some Renault products.  The Murano was one of them.  Based on the Altima sedan platform the Murano was rounded  with flowing curves and angles that makes the Murano a really stylish SUV.  The interior even carries the theme over with better materials and designs than other Nissan products at the time.  Powering the Murano was the 3.5L DOHC V6 that produces 245 horsepower through a CVT automatic transmission and available all-wheel drive system.  The tough part about the Murano is continuing the styling in the second and third act, yet Nissan has found ways to keep the Murano stylish and fresh for each generation.

Thanks to limited sales finding one of these Majorette Murano's is nearly impossible, especially if you're looking for the orange version as I have finally found.  This one had some light wear here and there, but nothing that some additional details would not fix.  The front has detailed headlight projectors with upper signal lights that flow into the Nissan grille in silver, while the lower rounded bumper has a grille and foglights.  The opening hood does not flow in well with the rounded front-end as crude edges are often visible.  The side profile has that smooth flow with rising beltline at the D-pillar and those 5-spoke wheels really fit this SUV quite well stylisitically even if they are a bit too wide.  The rear has taillights that conform to the rear fender shape, a rear liftgate with rounded window and center plate area, and a trailer hitch that seems to ruin the smooth looks of the SUV. The base is plastic and shows off the exhaust system leading out to the rear muffler and dual exhaust tips, though the engine layout is incorrectly laid out as a rear-drive unit.  Open the hood and you'll see the V6 motor properly detailed from the hoses to the engine cover and all of it is done as part of the window trim (on the Mitsubishi ASX it is also served as the connection to the headlights up front).  The interior has seating for five with detailed seats, though door panels are missing.  The front dashboard has the proper layout design with 3-spoke steering wheel, three-pod gauge cluster, and center stack design is properly laid out despite lacking andy control details.  This is a very nice SUV that is very unique (only a few diecast manufacturers have made the 1st generation Nissan Murano) and leads the way on how Majorette deals with car-based crossover SUV's leading into the 21st century.