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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Battle of the Full Size SUVs - Part 2: Who makes the best Chevrolet Suburban?!?

This post carries on my theme from a few weeks ago, when I compared 2 Matchbox castings of full-size SUVs - the Expedition from the late '90s with the Lincoln Navigator from the late '00s.  While the Navigator was the ultimate winner, I was thrilled to have both castings - both since they are great castings - and since I love (correctly scaled) models of full size SUVs. 
I'm a sports car guy in real life (RX7s, Miatas, 911s, etc.), but there is something naughtily enticing about these tough looking land yachts for the road...  And since the SUV revolution that started in about 1990 with the launch of the original Ford Explorer, Toyota 4-Runner, Nissan Pathfinder, Isuzu Trooper, etc., the toy makers have finally started to model these beasts in some nice detail... 
The modeling took a long time to come about...  Sure, in the '80s Hot Wheels had done the full size Ford Bronco, Matchbox the full size Blazer with off-road wheels in police guise and the '80s Cherokee (arguably the original contender in the '90s SUV craze) and Majorette the Cherokee with off-road wheels and a dog in the back (a favorite casting that I actually DON'T have), but they took a long time to respond to the next wave of SUVs... 
Majorette was the first to model one of them - with a nice casting of the 2nd generation 4-runner - most typically found in red.  Maisto produced a CRAPPY casting of the original Explorer (although it is so awful it doesn't really deserve mention).  But it was a long wait - until the Expedition and the Tahoe came out from Matchbox.  Some time in this range Matchbox also brought out a nice Jeep Grand Cherokee.  But then in Matchbox' mid '00s Renaissance they suddenly opened the floodgates and started producing some great models, like the Hummer H3, the Volvo XC90, the Jeep Liberty and the Nissan XTerra. 
But I digress.  This article is about the FULL-SIZE SUVs known as the Suburban.  Do we have any models of it - and if so - which is best? 
Ironically, Hot Wheels stepped into the scene as one of the first, with a non-regular-line-up Suburban that was too long to fit into a normal storage tray.  But since the Suburban is indeed a long vehicle in real life, it was right in scale.  I first saw this vehicle as a companion to their NASCAR race car series, frequently emblazoned with some race team's name on the side.  And this is the first model of it that I had - mine the blue one with the Square D electrical name on it.  But for this comparison, I showed my later one - a red "Team Bartwell" one done up with extra paint detail and rubber tires as part of their "Whips" series. 
This is a seriously nice casting.  As mentioned, the length is spot-on and gives it a lot of presence when compared to ordinary 1/64th scale vehicles.  Its a late '90s model, so its big and squared off - the way I like my SUVs.  The rubber tire, glossy paint and paint detail really finish off a beautiful casting.  The rims are BEAUTIFUL - MAGNIFICENT - EXQUISITE!    The only improvements I might make would be a metal base and opening doors or tailgate. 
Next up, and bought at roughly the same time, is a Code 3 collectibles fire chief suburban, a model of the same late '90s generation Suburban as the Hot Wheels. The size is right in line with the Hot Wheels, again too long for an ordinary storage case.  If anything, this model feels even more squared off than the Hot Wheels model.  This one is aimed at adults and again has great detail, with rubber tires, nice rims that are accurate replicas of the real Suburban rims, wipers, non-cast but attached mirrors, and excellent paint.  I would have loved to find this model in a normal consumer (non fire or police) version, but I don't think that one was ever made.  Interestingly, while the detail is more accurate on this one vs. the Hot Wheels, the Hot Wheels just feels more enticing...  The Code 3 is the one you want to have in your display case, while the Hot Wheels is the one you want to pull down and play with on the floor.   Advantage, Hot Wheels!
Next up is a JADA toys Dub version of the next generation newer Suburban.  I've never been a fan of JADA, since they often sacrifice realism in the name of crazy/fantasy customization, but this one was accurate and nice enough that I had to buy it.  It is in tan/bronze and looks much more rounded (too rounded for my tastes - though that generation of Suburban was more rounded - it wasn't as rounded as JADA made it).  This one has twin rear doors rather than a tailgate - a nice differentiating touch.  This is also the only version with a roof rack - though the body color paint that was applied to it makes it less appealing than the flat roofs of the others.  Typical of JADA it has big oversize rims and rubber tires.  The casting itself has a lot of detail, but little in the way of paint detail.  Overall, it comes off as a solid contender and a surprisingly nice casting, but is just not as nice as the first two... 
Finally, I have 2 Matchbox castings of the Suburban as a Police vehicle.  I talk about these last, since their size automatically relegates them to last place.  As an adult, correct scale is important - and these are scaled too small - smaller even than the Expedition/Navigator reviewed earlier - and smaller than Matchbox' own Tahoe that the Suburban is based off of (the 2 toys are roughly the same length - and since the Sub is longer in real life, the height and width of it has to be lower and narrower than the Tahoe to maintain consistency).  The scale issue is a killer... 
...but aside from the scale issue - it is an OK casting - and a NICE casting when in premium guise.  Matchbox had this odd run of premium cars where they would add opening doors to the premiums when they weren't available on the base model - meaning that the premium cars were no longer just nicer paint and rubber wheels - but were almost separate models.  I have an Impala police car with an opening trunk, and a Grand Cherokee, BMW X5 and this Suburban all with opening doors.  In the case of this Suburban, the detail really shines up the casting - meaning that it displays REALLY nicely!  Just don't put it beside something else that should have been smaller than it in real life! 

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