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Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Final Battle of the Full Size SUVs, Part III: Chevy Tahoe Throwdown, Matchbox vs. Hot Wheels vs. a mystery contender!

For my third installment of this blog trilogy, I focused on the Chevy Tahoe.  The Tahoe is an interesting vehicle in that it is shorter than the Suburban but based on the same platform, creating a challenge for toy makers who want to model both of them.  As discussed in my last post, Matchbox screwed up by first making this well-scaled version of the Tahoe (in green to the right), and then following it up with an undersized and equal length Suburban (when the Sub is a foot or so longer in real life). 
Matchbox was first to the party with this Tahoe.  The first one was a pretty red with yellow stripes version (prettier and brighter paint than the alternate variation in the far right of this photo).  This green version is from the late '90s, when they brought out "Premier" 2 packs, with a painted and an unpainted model.  I never understood the appeal of the unpainted model (other than that you didn't need to strip the paint if you wanted to custom paint it), but the painted model here is a nice toy. 
It has nice rubber wheels, alloys, and really nicely detailed paint-trim.  But more importantly, it is a nice model in itself, nicely sized, a full, square model of a full, square SUV.  It doesn't have a metal baseplate (one of my pet peeves), but admittedly the plastic baseplate is easy to deal with when you want to drill out the rivets and strip/re-paint the casting. 
In the photo above, you can see 2 more color variations of this model - a black and white police version (no light bar), and a maroon/red version with an ugly black grill.  I've got a few additional colors (the red/maroon version mentioned previously), but wasn't able to lay my hands on them for this photo shoot.  I chose to focus on the green version, since it's easily the nicest of the 3. 
The next contestant who came to the party with this blue casting, without a name on the base.  I bought it at a store (vs. an EBAY/toy show find), but I can't remember exactly who made it.  Probably Motor Max, or Malibu, or another Wal-Mart brand that is there for a while and then disappears. 
The model is actually a pretty OK model.  It is a model of the next generation newer Tahoe, but sized almost exactly to the Matchbox model - so in scale.  It has a full interior, but is in black with dark windows so it is hard to see.  The paint is fine but boring, with little additional paint detail.  The wheels feel a bit cheapy, though width-wise they are more in scale than Matchbox' wheels.  Overall, it is a solid effort and a solid model, a nice one to have in the collection, but not an outstanding "must-have" model. 
That brings us to the final model - a Hot Wheels model of a newer Tahoe that is only available in emergency guise - in this case - a fire chief's car.  This one IS a nice model.  I'm not usually a fan of emergency models that don't come in civilian versions, but this is such a nice model that I don't mind it.  Size wise it stacks up again exactly in line with the first 2, so the scale is great.  Its suspension is slightly cut down, so its a little lower, but not so much as to be terribly unrealistic. 
I don't know what Hot Wheels did to make it such a nice model - but this is the one you want to play with and zoom around.  The tires are plastic but the wheels just look cool - why can't Matchbox regularly make wheels this cool?  The push bar in the front looks super tough.   Unlike the other 2 it has no rear mirrors - but you don't really notice their absence.  For a $.99 car - its a bargain!  If you don't have this model and happen to see it on the pegs - you should DEFINITELY pick it up.  Just writing about it makes me want to buy a 2nd one and repaint it in police colors! 
So, which one wins this throw-down...?  Well, the blue generic model is easy to eliminate - it's a nice model - but somehow lacking in overall appeal against the other 2.  I immediately relegate it to 3rd place. 

But the battle for first is a tough one.  Its the classic Hot Wheels vs. Matchbox battle - a battle run as often as the V8 Mustang vs. V8 Camaro battle in real life (which incidentally - is a battle I've always followed closely - loving the Fox body Mustangs of the '80s, being under-whelmed by the ugly Mustangs of the '90s, liking but somehow not loving the retro Mustangs of the '00s (and loving the contemporary retro Camaro - especially in ZL1 form), but then being utterly smitten by last year's redesign of the Mustang - and the new GT350....).  The Hot Wheels has a strange appeal - similar to the appeal of the Hot Wheels Suburban in the last article.  I want to put my hands on it and play with it.  It easily wins the battle of the $.99 basic cars - running circles around the red and black basic Matchbox's...   But compared with the more expensive premier version of the Matchbox...? 
Yes, the rubber tires, alloys and paint detail of the Premier Matchbox give it the edge to push the Hot Wheels back to 2nd place.  But just imagine if Hot Wheels ever made a "Whips", or other adult collectible, version of this casting - with glossier paint, more detail, a metal base and rubber tires...?  Then I think we'd have to do a re-match - and I bet the Matchbox would lose. 
But today we're not dealing in what-ifs.  Today we are dealing with the cars that came to the comparison test.  All correctly scaled - all contenders.  And out of that grouping, the Premier Matchbox wins the gold metal! 


  1. The blue generic model is from a little known brand called Colunbia Telecommunications Group. They did a series of 6 vehicles:the blue Tahoe Z71 you have, a red Yukon Denali, a silver Chrysler 300, a black Cadillac XLR convertible a white F150 mud truck, and a yellow C6 Corvette, the Vette was made to narrow tho, and it looks super distorted/deformed.

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