[French moderns] Twingo power!

Remember the article on the Ford Sierra? Here's another important european car designed by Patrick Le Quément : the Renault Twingo. The first generation of this car was produced during an enormous 15 years, without any important changes. Almost 2,500,000 units were produced in total. The name Twingo is a mix of three words : Twist, Swing and Tango.

First generation

Introduced in 1992, the first Twingo has been built until 2007, and is still produced for South American market. What was so revolutionary about the car? Its styling was cute, but nothing astonishing there. The main advantage of the car was its interior space. With an ingenious system of rear seats (that was able to slide to increase rear boot space), it was offering the same amount of space than a compact car. The first engine and transmission were somewhat rough (those were the parts of the old Renault 5), but it has been improved over the years, to become a fully respectable car. The engine was especially replaced with the Clio's older one.

Being a french diecast maker, Majorette was clearly designed to build replicas of french cars. Majorette made a lot of versions of its no.206 Twingo replica, with a variety of colors, even in a racing scheme! The car in itself doesn't have too much details, so it was surely easy to reproduced it. Anyway, Majorette made a perfect job on the diecast, that is really accurate with the real one. It is a somewhat rare casting, mainly because of Majorette's financial problems in the 90s. There's a specific version with a panoramic rooftop produced in a strange shade of blue-green, and this is the one i have. It was one of my favorites cars when i was a child, but unfortunately my original one is destroyed (Majorette's money problems made fabrication quality worser than older castings), so i bought a new one of the exact same variation.

Second generation : a hard challenge

With more than 15 years of career, it was quite a challenge for Renault to replace the Twingo, that became a legend. First showed as a concept car at the Paris Auto Show in 2006, the new Twingo, also called Twingo II, was clearly in another direction than the first one. With more than 13% of weight augmentation, it was way bigger and larger, obligation of market's new tendencies. Clearly less original than the first one, it includes some great ideas such as the sliding back seat. The new Twingo's engines delivers way more though, and it has been declined in a few sporty versions, such as the RS and Twingo RS Gordini, and the Wind roadster. It  received the "best city car" award in 2011, and should be facelifted in 2012. Even though its style is more convential, it remains a pretty nice car in my humble opinion.

Majorette (who else ?) made a new edition of the #206, called 206B, reproducing the new Twingo II. As Majorette's owner changed, the casting is way differently made than the first one. It is very nicely made overall. The blue color suits it well... but not the big glass lights in my opinion. They look quite rough and unrealistic. Also, why is there no interior door panels? Reminds me of the recent Welly castings...The tampos add a nice touch to the overall car. It is really interesting to see the picture of both, because you can really see Majorette's evolution. Still a nice casting, and mandatory in any collection (quite hard to get in Canada, thanks to my french friends i have one :))
Enjoy the pics and the article! :)


[Japanese Moderns] Acura in diecasts, are there some?

Acura is the luxuous division of international Honda japanese maker. Only offered in Canada, USA and Hong Kong, the brand has been introduced in 1986, as well as other similar brands such as Lexus and Infiniti. Originally, all the Acuras were only japanese Honda with another badge, but in the 2000s, a few exclusive models has been introduced. Acura is somewhat a rare brand in diecasts, such as its competitors previously named. Of cource, since it's only offered in America, only american brands reproduced them...

1. Acura NSX : racing version
Last NSX version.

The Acura NSX, known as Honda NSX in every country outside America, has been introduced in 1989 to promote Honda's savoir-faire in technology. The car was using a central V6 engine offering 274 hp, and the body was entirely made in aluminum. The car was somewhat popular in USA, but was lacking of image comparatively to Porsche or Ferrari. Also, lack of motivation from Honda to bring some modifs to the car killed its career, and it disappeared in 2005, with only 18 000 units sold. A lot of variations of the NSX has been produced, such as the NSX-R, easily recognizable with its white and black paint. Also, the NSX was a big player in Japanese`s GT championship. It also won the LM GT2 first place at the 1995 Le Mans.

The Acura NSX has been introduced in Hot Wheels regular line in 2008 as a brand new casting. Unfortunately, it's supposed to be a "tuner version"... i must say some variations are better than others. As usual with HW, some variations of this casting are absolutely horrible, but the one i have is pretty nice, coming from the 2010 Speed Machines serie (a special Hot Wheels line with more detailed cars). Although it's supposed to simply be tuned, it kinda looks like the Japanese GT NSX. The big rear spoiler is well done, as well as the roof scoop. The car is suffering of a lack of tampos, but the colors are pretty realtistic, and wheels are well made too (rare fact in a Hot Wheel replica).

The NSX was also offered by Majorette, as the number 220 in the 200 casting line. It has also been offered as a Majorette Novacar #117 (remember : Novacar was a cheaper Majorette's line, with plastic bodies, and produced in Portugal instead of France). It has been produced in a large variety of colors, some plain ones and also racing ones. First introduced in 1994, this casting quickly became a rare one, mainly because of Majorette's money problems in the late 90s. I personally own two Novacar replicas. The casting is overall well made, but clearly lack details. The plastic body made the car hardly recognizable. In the two versions i own, the red one more looks like the real one, but the purple one is..... "funky", to stay polite?

2. Following the NSX, the HSC
That would have made an awesome new NSX...
After 2005, Honda made a lot of tries to replace the NSX, but never produced a real replacement. The 2008 economic crisis really cut Honda's future projects in this domain. The Acura/Honda HSC (simply standing for Honda Sports Concept) was one of those tries, and has been introduced at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show. Many journalists thought it was a preview of the future NSX, but Honda clearly stated that it was a pure test concept car. Its slick styling was a pleasure for the eye, and the rear window form added a nice touch. As well as the NSX, the HSC was mounted with a V6 VTEC mid-engine, but also had a 6-speed F1 style transmission. On the other hand, the body was made with carbon fiber, making it really light.

Only showed in silver, the original Hot Wheels HSC has been introduced in 2005. Although the car was missing tampos and the windows were black, it was a nice replica of the real version. I love those kind of concepts in my collection.... but not so much the one i have. Why? Because i own the 2007 Honda HSC offered in the Exotics 5-pack of the same year, and well, it's ORANGE! I don't dislike the color in itself, but it's totally unrealistic. Also, the front looks really undetailed in the orange color. I would surely be happy to exchange it for a silver one... At least i bought the 5-pack for other cars, not this one.

3- Acura's most important one : The Integra.
First Acura Integra, 1989 generation.

The Integra has literally been Acura's savior, it was the brand's bread and butter in the 90s. The first generation debuted in 1986 in Japan, under the Honda's badge. The car was offered as a 3 and 5 door hatchback, as well as a 4-door sedan. Also sold as a Rover in Australia, the original one had hidden headlights. It has never been so much popular in Europe, but USA loved the model, and it quickly became a big player in this market, and made Acura known. The 5-door hatchback has quickly been discontinued in 1990, and has never been imported in the US. The new generation introduced in 1989 has been really important in Honda's history, because it came with the first VTEC engine ever. This generation was known for its engine's toughness, that was easily able to reach 500,000 kms on the counter.

The famous third generation Type R.

The third generation introduced in 1994 is certainly the best known one. Offering a much more modern styling, it also became sportier, mainly with the introduction of the Type R version. Only offered in white, the Integra Type R offered surprising performances for a compact car : it was able to do the 0-100 km/h in only 6.2 seconds. This generation lasted until 2001, but the small sport car market was really starting to decline, so the fourth generation has been introduced in 2002. The name Integra has been abandoned in Acura's offer (renamed as the Acura RSX), but still used by Honda in Japan. It was only offered as a sport coupe this time (3-door hatchback), but never encountered success of the previous generations. It has been discontinued in 2006... and sadly, the market restarted a few years after. The gap has been filled by the cheaper Civic Si.

Johnny Lightning introduced an awesome diecast of the Integra third generation model in the Import Heat serie, in 2003. The casting has mainly been used as tuners with vinyls and flashy colors, but there's a few nice ones. Originally intended to be a Type R replica, JL also made a normal 3-door hatchback one in the Classic Gold serie, and this is the one i have. Details are simply stunning on this model, and the blue color fits it well. Mirrors are there, and the overall shape is perfectly reproduced... it's one of the best castings i've seen.

There's also a nice replica of the last generation, identified with the "DC5" tag. Reproduced by Welly, it's the Type R version, easily identifiable with its big rear spoiler and body kit (unfortunately, it's the Honda and not the Acura one). Originally offered in white, i have the yellow one that can be found in Welly's Easter Eggs (kind of Kinder Surprise eggs, but no chocolate and cars inside. That's a nice idea, you buy an egg, but you don't know which car is inside...). Welly's older castings are a bit miserable sometimes, but this one is particularly nice, and details are well reproduced. It's suffering from a lack of more detailed tampos, but it's really looking like the real one. Detail i don't like : why are there no interior body panels? It makes the interior looks strange...

Enjoy the pics, throw some comments in here :)


[Japanese Classics] Toyota MR2, the unexpected one

The Toyota MR2 is one of the most legendary models in the japanese maker's history (along with the old 2000GT). Its mid-engine and real wheel drive made a great contrast with usual family cars sold by Toyota when it was introduced in 1984. In fact, it was the first mid-engined mass produced japanese car. It was also introduced in a few races, such as the 24 Le Mans hours, or the GT300 championship.

1984-1989 : Angular lines

The first MR2 was certainly not a practical and family car, and was completely unexpected from Toyota's customers. Its design was more than a marketing product, it introduced a real design philosophy (it was inspired from the japanese origami, aswell as some italian cars such as the Lancia Stratos and the Fiat X 1/9). Some parts of the car were designed in collaboration with Lotus. Its engine was reching upoto 118 hp, but thanks to its super light-weight, the car was able to offer some great performances. In 1987, a Supercharger version was offered, with a 4 cylinders engine delivering 145 hp. The original MR2 is listed eight on Sports Car International's "Top Sports Cars of the 1980s". A rally MR2 version has also been produced.

First offered in 1986 by Matchbox, the first MR2 is an elusive diecast. Matchbox only produced 4 variations of the casting, white, green and two different blue. I have the first one issued in white, with the "Pace Car" decoration. It's one of those fantastic Matchbox Superfast made in the 80's : the car is 100% accurate with the real model. I'm not sure of the color choice (the MR2 was often known as black). but it does fit the car well. Tampos are missing and would have been appreciated especially at the back of the car though. But the overall quality stands up, and it's certainly a must have for any collector. Did i mention i was a fan of the real car too?

1989-1999 : Ferrari's inspiration

The MR2 has been completely redesigned in 1989 (it only reached North America in 1991 though). The first generation was angular, the second was all smooth and silk lines. It was clearly inspirated by the Ferrari F355. It was often refered as the poor man's Ferrari, and many body kits became available to make it look like a Ferrari! Many engines were offered, starting from a 130 hp to the high-performance GT-S, delivering 218 hp. It was only offered until 1995 in America, but lasted till 1999 in Japan. It was mainly recognized to have a sharp oversteer comportement (some loved it, others hated it!). It has also been declined in a rally car and entered the 1995-96-97 24 Le Mans hours.

Hot Wheels introduced the second gen MR2 in its 1991 regular casting line, as a rally car version. It was strangely similar to the first gen Matchbox one, with the colors and the Toyota name on the car. It has been regularly offered until 2002, and also been offered in 2008 in a special pack. The casting is not bad, but clearly lacks tampos. The wheels are also not appropriate for the sporty character of the car. Otherwise, the front rally lights make a great effect, and the overall shape is well reproduced. I own the 1993 one, and clearly the later versions are better made (tampos are really improved).

1999-2007 : Body change

The third generation of MR2 was supposed to be a big part of Toyota's plan to attract younger customers, as a result of a drastically change of mind in the car : it was now a roadster. Even more, its name changed : MR-S in Japan, MR2 Spyder in USA and MR2 Roadster in Europe. This new generation hasn't been offered in Canada though. Its style was clearly inspirated from the Porsche Boxster of these years. The 138 hp engine was a huge drop from the precedent one, but the weight also dropped, so it was still a powerful car (Lotus inspiration again ?). All customers agreed that the car nearly had a perfect handling. Problem was, the marked was cleary down for this kind of small sports car, and sales dropped to only 901 units sold in the US in 2005. Therefore, the model was discontinued in the US after this year, and completely abandoned after 2007.

Very few third generation models are offered in the 1/64 diecast scale, and the best is certainly done by the obscure maker Malibu International.... Malibu International? It seems that this maker is actually a chinese maker, but only offering models in the US (Wal-Marts).... It has only few diecasts, but very interesting ones, such as this 2004 Toyota MR2 Spyder. It has a lot of details, and one of the most accuratly reproduced diecast i've seen for a long time. Lights and interior are just perfect, such as the wheels and the overall shape... Even the scale is really well done, as it is way smaller than other same scale cars (remember that the MR2 is a really small car). Only problem is overall quality, it's somewhat cheaply made. I must say this is a must-have and quite rare addition to any collection. The white color fits perfect.

Enjoy the pics!


[Diecast] Those generic fire trucks...

Since my blog is supposed to be about diecasts, i think that i'm talking a bit too much about real cars... I'll try to focus more about diecasts, but hey, it's always interesting to read about car stories. Generics are often necessary in a casting line, and even if they're not that much praised by collectors, there's a lot of interesting stuff there. Of all my diecasts, i have exactly 87 generics, often trucks or busses. Although i don't like them as much as others, they make a great completion for any collection, and some are really well made!

In the world of generics, there's some categories that i don't collect. Actually, some cheaper brands like Motor Max or Maisto and all the chinese brands are doing generic cars, a think that i don't like. Usually, it's because they don't have the money to buy real licenses. On the other way, Hot Wheels is known to make a lot of crazy generic cars (sometimes, they can't even be called as "cars"), a thing that i'm not fond of too. It's more for kids, but it's mandatory in any diecast brand! Kids make sales, and sales make money.

On the other hand, Matchbox make a lot of generics, but they look like real, they just don't have any brand. That's what i like here, it's often nice adds to a collection, without getting ugly or completely unrealistic. For example here, the fire trucks (for me) don't need to have real brands, but you NEED fire trucks in any respectable car collection!

1. Hot Wheels Classic : the Fire Eater

The "Fire Eater" is well known by any Hot Wheels maniac.This casting, representing a old school Fire Truck, has been used for years : introduced in 1977 in the special Flying Colors serie, it is still used in 2011 regular casting line! It has an immortal style, and has been produced in a variety of colors : different shades of red of course, but also silver, yellow, green, white... It has only been used in specific years : 1977, 1982, 1988, and then every year from 1995 to 2011. I own two 1982 ones, and for me, these are the best. For a generic, it includes a lot of details, even if it's cheaper than a real casting.

You can see that one of them isn't in a so good shape... i have this one since i'm a kid, and i tried to repaint it when i was like... 7 or 8 years old... and the result wasn't that good. The other one has been given to me by a coworker, but i had to unscrew it because front wheels were broken. To resume... both aren't in their original shape! Will i buy another one? Maybe... but this isn't my priority for now.

2. Matchbox "Fire Engines"

In Matchbox's history, there's two castings referenced as a simple "Fire Engine" name. There's an old Superfast Fire Engine released in 1982, often called Oshkosh Fire Engine. It has also been issued in a variety of liveries until 1999. Its color was usually red, but a few yellow and white ones were released, as well as a gold one. This Matchbox #134 is a nice casting, and the working ladder is a real nice bonus. Only disappointing thing : no interior, you can only see a big pillar when looking inside the windows. I own the fluorescent red edition, and i remember finding it at the flea market a few years ago.

The other Fire Engine has been released in 2006, and is mainly used in the 5 or 10 packs. I never bought that one directly, being part of a 2010 ten-pack i needed. In my humble opinion, it's an average casting. Fire tampos and ladder are great, but it's missing lights tampos, and that fluorescent yellow color is absolutely awful. Also, the ladder isn't even working, and could easily be broken. Also, the model isn't THAT realistic... it's obviously for kids.

3. Matchox "Hazard Squad"

The Hazard Squad was a highly anticipated new 2010 casting by Matchbox collectors. And it has a reason : it's one of the best generic made ever by matchbox (in fire trucks enthusiasts's opinion). The mold in itself is great, but the tampos are simply so much detailed that it makes it awesome. The front is awesomely detailed, but there's unfortunately no interior. It has originally been released in a 5-pack as a yellow color, but i own the first regular line edition, with a red color. I don't think this casting is "fantastic", but it's well-made and deserves a place in my collection.

4. Majorette "Pompier"

Another interesting one is the "Camion de Pompier" #207 in the old Majorette's 200 casting line. Of course, "Camion de Pompier" simply means fire engine. It has a basic design, but is rather well made, such as any Majorette of those years. The 2-step ladder is an awesome feature, and it can move in any direction. It has been only produced in the same red over the years, but there's a few variations in the ladder color. I own two units with a silver ladder, but one of them is missing the second ladder. There's also another Pompier slightly modified that has been produced in the Sonic Flashers serie, meaning that the car was doing noise and making lights when you were pushing on the top. Those features aren't working anymore on the one i have though. As you can see, the model is larger, and the ladder support is different.

Sonic Flasher one.
5. Hot Wheels "Rescue Ranger"

Finally, there's another legendary fire truck in the Hot Wheels range : the Rescue Ranger. It has been originally introduced in 1975 with the name "Ranger Rig" aswell as "Emergency Squad". Those were the same casting, but with different liveries. The Rescue Rig only lasted for this year, and the Emergency Squad has been produced until 1988. The name changed in 1986 for Rescue Ranger, and it's in the regular line since then (there's still 2011 units!). The original 1975 one is green, but it has been also produced in a variety of colors, such as red, yellow, white, silver and orange. There's also some Hot Rod versions. Originally all in metal diecast, it's now unfortunately made of plastic, and it looks more like a kid toy. I own the 1988 last Emergence Squad produced. Such as the Fire Eater, i tried to put some red paint on it as a kid, and it's not really well made. At least, it's a nice casting, and i prefer this old one than the new plastic ones (that also have some funky tampos, and the hot rod versions are simply horrible).

Enjoy the pics and the read!


[Euro-American Classics] European Ford Taurus : the Sierra

Euro-American? That's starting to sound weird... but a lot of models of american brands have been specially produced for European countries. Ford is a big adept of this kind of work, and the well known Fords in Europe aren't the same as USA... for example, Mustang, Focus, Taurus, F-150 are all unknown cars for Europeans. Let's talk about the Taurus's european cousin, the Ford Sierra (don't mix with the GMC Sierra sold here!)

An european Taurus

The original 1982 one.

When you first see the pic of a Sierra, it's hard to believe that the model was introduced in 1982. Designed by Patrick Le Quément, it was intended to replace the more classics Ford Cortina and Taunus, but is shocked a lot of people, mainly because of its futuristic style (futuristic for the 80's, you understand :)). Its styling was called the "aero" Ford design, but a lot of people nicknamed the car "Jellymould" or "Salesman's Spaceship" because of it. Sales were effectively low at the beginning, but it paid off around 86-87, and the car became really popular.

1991 Sierra Sapphire.

Initially, the car was sold as a 5-door sedan and 5-door wagon, as well as a 3-door hatchback. Strangely, even if it was intended to be a large family car, no 4-door saloon was offered, and this was another reason of the lack of the popularity of the beginning. Ford addressed this mistake in 1987 by introducing the 4-door Sierra, along with a facelift of the car. The 4-door was named Sierra Sapphire. The Sierra is registered as the tenth most popular car sold in Britain's history, with a total of nearly 1,300,000 units! In the beginning of the 90's, it was clear though that the car has fallen out of step against more modern Japanese rivals, and it was replace by the Mondeo in 1993.

Majorette, the mighty european maker, introduced the Sierra as the number 272 in its regular casting line. As you can see with the pictures, it is the 5 door original sedan, before the facelift. As always with old Majorettes like this, it's an awesome casting, really accurate, with opening doors and working suspensions. Unfortunately, i tried to repaint the one i have when i was a kid.... and well it didnt give a sooo good result. I saved the car recently, but before i bought a drill, so it's still average. The original had red decorations everywhere though.

Sportier versions

Sierra XR4i.

In 1983, Ford introduced a sportier version called the XR4i. The car was easily distinguable with its huge rear spoiler and strange multiple rear pillars. It was equipped with the same 2.8L as the Ford Capri. Unfortunately, it was recognized as over-stylized, and never been so much popular in its time. It was also sold in the USA as a Merkur, a special brand created by Ford to sell european cars. The XR4i appeared in a lot of races, noticably in the BTCC racing league. Further sporty versions were introduced after 1985, such as the XR4x4 (four wheel drive with a V6) and the famous Sierra Cosworth (famous for its rally success). Turbocharged versions were also availabe, reaching up to 280 hp. Those were real killers!

Matchbox produced a nice version of the XR4i from 1982 to 1997 in its regular line. It was produced in a variety of colors, from flower "kid-version" to a fire department one! The one i own is the yellow with black interior one. Strangely, it's written XR4x4 on the sides, even if it's a XR4i... This Matchbox #120 is really well made (i must admit, i'm a huge fan of those 80's Matchbox). It lacks the side mirrors, but the spoiler is really well made, and the sunroof is a nice addition!

I also own an intriguing white Welly Ford Sierra XR4i. Welly earned a reputation of copying other diecast brands (not with their recent diecasts though), and this one is a clear rip-off of the Matchbox one. Although it's nowhere identified as a Ford Sierra, you can easily recognize the model, and the blue oval on the hood screams Ford. Cheapier than the Matchbox, it's still a nice diecast in my humble opinion, and the rear spoiler is admirably well done. Offered in the Speed Wheels serie, it was one of my favorite as a child (why? i don't remember that :)), and i still keep it carefully.
Enjoy the pics! Don't be afraid to leave comments!