Saturday, April 15, 2017

Hot Wheels Ford Escort and Maserati Quattroporte

Here's a look at two Hot Wheels castings, despite sharing nothing in common, relate because both were offered for a short time in the Hot Wheels line, and both have common roots from Europe.

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Ford Escort

Let's be clear the Ford Focus was not Ford's first world car, the Escort was the first initially.  When I mean intentionally I mean that despite sharing the same name there were two different models with different styling and models.  The Escort arrived in 1980 as the replacement for the rear-wheel drive previous-generation with aero styling that would be made more famous with the Sierra and Taurus, yet the Escort was the first.  The European version went for a more smoother appearance than the U.S. version and also offered the hot XR3 to go after the VW GTI.  The engine is a 1.6L I-4 that produced around 100 horsepower with a carburetor before switching to fuel-injection in 1983 and only comes with a 4-speed manual transmission.  More potent RS versions were also offered as well.  The updated model in 1987 addressed some of the handling criticisms of this Escort generation.

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Originally this version shown here by Hot Wheels was black with red XR3 stripe on the sides, but when I found this car at the flea market it looked really bad with the stripe almost gone, a few paint chips, and bent wheels.  After doing some touch up and fixing the bent wheels the car looks almost good as new.  The front has clear headlights that are part of the windows with a grille and front bumper that is part of the interior trim.  The lower chin spoiler adds a touch of sportiness to a car that sits too high to be a performance model.  The sides show off the fastback look with flared fenders and Hot Wheels basic wheels.  The rear has a rear spoiler that is part of the interior, as is the bumper, metal base tab for the plate and ribbed taillights.  The base shows off the exhaust, spare tire well, and the rear suspension.  Note the recesses for the floor board on the base.  Inside you can see why: detailed floor mats, pedals, and shifter on an otherwise bare interior with just seats, steering wheel, and flat dashboard.  The dashboard looks very similar to the Mustang of the era with simple control layout and HVAC controls to the left of the gauges.  After a few Mexico-only recolors the casting quietly left the Hot Wheels line in the 1980's.

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Hot Wheels Maserati Quattroporte

On the other side is a car that was offered in the U.S. for the first time since Maserati last left the U.S. shores in the early 1990's and one that only appeared in the Hot Wheels line oddly once: the Quattroporte.  Italian for "four doors" the Quattroporte was the practical and largest car in the Maserati line for decades.  This fifth-generation sports Pinninfarina styling and Ferrari power with the Maserati 4.2L DOHC V8 that produces 400 horsepower through a 6-speed rear-mounted automatic transaxle.  The styling is smooth, stylish, and sometimes odd at some angles but it helped Maserati get its foot back into the U.S. with profitable sales and more models including the new smaller Ghibli sedan and Levante SUV.

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This Hot Wheels version has lots of great details and all of that can be owed to the 1:18 scale model that Hot Wheels offered first in 2003.  The blue car with tan interior has multi-spoke wheels that look good though the stance is a bit high on this car.  The front has a large grille with the Trident badge flanked by fenders that carry the headlights across.  The sides continue the sweeping beltline with Maserati's famed portholes on the front fenders, while the rear has triangular taillights with parallel signal and reverse lamps and a rear bumper that hugs the quad exhaust tips.  The chrome base shows off lots of details: the engine, transmission, the exhaust, the structure supports.  It's all there!  The interior is even more inspiring with seats that have the beautiful Italian leather design, dashboard with steering wheel, center stack with analog clock, detailed air vents, and radio and HVAC controls; and center console.  It's one beautiful casting that looks great and, unfortunately, only lasted one year in this one variation!  Even after the MC12 appeared in 2005 Hot Wheels still never offered another recolor.  Now I used to have one but the one I originally had never had the base pressed on properly so the rear-axle would lean the vehicle to the side.  I found this second version after selling the first one at a flea market with more play-work scratches and wheels but at least the base was properly pressed on.

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We might not see these castings return in the forseeable future, so enjoy them while you can and if you can find them.  Good news is that the amount is plenty and the hype is low so you should be able to find one on the cheap.

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