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Old 11-17-2004, 12:23 AM   #49
Layla's Keeper
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Review - 1:24th scale Tamiya Jaguar XJR-9LM

With the Le Mans Contest in full swing, I figured it'd be a good time to take a look at some Le Mans subject matter, and few cars capture the imagination quite as well as the classic Group C cars of the 80's. Blindingly fast, stunningly handsome (even downright pretty sometimes), and packed to the gills with individuality and creativity, Group C (and its American and Japanese counterparts - IMSA GTP and JSPC) became the Can Am of a generation.

One of the most successful and memorable series of cars from this era were out of the Tom Walkinshaw Racing stables - the Jaguar XJR's. Though the Group C/GTP Jaguars started in the Group 44 stable as built by Fabcar, the thundering V12 Jags from TWR in their bright purple, gold and white Silk Cut livery became more than just fast pretty race cars - they became icons.

It didn't hurt that the Silk Cut Jags also won Le Mans twice.

The Tamiya kit represents the XJR-9LM as it competed in 1988, taking the illustrious Le Mans win back to Jaguar, and it does it well. When looking over the parts trees, you notice a distinct lack of flash and very crisp molding. Good points, especially in a re-issue of an older kit. If there's any detractors at first glance, it has to be the fact that Tamiya continues the practice of molding parts trees in different colors. All white is preferable for painting, and I'm fairly sure anyone who can remember this car will be painting as opposed to leaving parts either white or grey.

Now, onto the kit itself. The gem of the kit, and I do mean gem, is the rear drivetrain. The intricate header layout and the precise interplay between the coil-overs and control arms at the rear-suspension really pop and give a good reason for that massive bit of removable rear bodywork. This is one to display with the deck off.

However, there are still some faults. The coil-overs are very weakly attached to their bracket and can break off if carelessly handled. Also, the engine's mounting point to the chassis plate is a little vague. But all in all the engine and rear-suspension are really the shining stars in this kit.

The front suspension is simplified in typical Tamiya Group C fashion. Only the control arms, tie rod, spindles, and pushrods of the front suspension are represented. It's servicable, but hardly note-worthy.

In the interior is a very well-detailed dashboard with decals for every imaginable gauge. Pay close attention to the intstructions during this step otherwise it's easy to get confused as there are six gauge decals. The dashboard mounts to the inside of the body. The rest of the interior isn't quite as stellar. There's a typical bulkhead assembly, an unidentified "black box", and a seat that unfortunately has the harness molded in place. Detail painting can make it look okay, but careful sanding and an aftermarket harness will look better.

I'd also like to point out that, even though the pedals can't be seen very well through the Jag's tiny windows, it's still a shame they weren't included in the kit.

The bodywork in the kit, against all my resources, checks out beautifully. The flush sides of the Jaguar bodywork are well rendered and the two piece wing very well represents the prototype. The minor qualm I have is in the vague fit of the "glass". Molding the window separate from the windshield is a big benefit to anyone wanting to cut open the dramatic butterfly doors of the Jag, but without positive locators for the kit glass the less adventurous amongst us have to put up with a decent headache.

Not a headache, however, are the excellent - if incomplete, but I'm getting to that - Cartograf decals. Past complaints about Tamiya kits, in particular the race cars with complex liveries, were most centered around thick and difficult to apply decals. No more. The Cartografs are great and make giving the Tamiya Jag its distinctive scheme a joy instead of a pain. Be careful, though, the Cartografs get very soft and fragile if you use a setting solution. I found this out the hard way with one of the front corner decals.

Now, here's one thorn in my side about the Tamiya kit, and it isn't Tamiya's fault. There are no Silk Cut decals in the kit, as Silk Cut is a tobacco company. Instead, there are large white and purple blank panels that mimic the car's paint scheme at races that had tobacco sponsership legislation. That's all well and good, but the Le Mans cars wore Silk Cut markings, and with Revell making the jump to put Coors and Budweiser on their stock car kits as "Adult Collectibles" it may be time for Tamiya to do the same.

However, props to Tamiya for including the correct numbering and lettering decals for each of the 3 TWR cars at Le Mans in 1988.

Also, fair warning about Tamiya's painting instructions for the car. In the instructions, it's implied that the line across the nose to mask between the white and the purple is straight. Umm, no. It dips down in a little curve around the fenders to the inner nose. If you don't notice this on photos of the car or on the decal sheet, be prepared for a huge error. Again, I found out the hard way.

But, the qualms I have about the kit all can be chalked up to the experience level of the builder. This is a well-detailed kit of a historically important and incredibly beautiful race car. It's very accurate, excepting the Silk Cut decal fiasco, and when finished in its purple, gold, and white livery it's sure to grab eyes on your shelf.

So long as you're ready for a little work, and have access to Studio 27's Silk Cut decals, the Tamiya Jaguar XJR-9LM is a fantastic and easily recommendable build, and perfect starting material for your own Le Mans build-up.

Accuracy: 2/3
Fit&Finish: 1.75/2
Detail: 1.25/1.5
Options: 1/1.5
Value: 2/2
Final Verdict: 8/10

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