Back in the early nineties, Tamiya was on a hell of a roll with their variety and among the Volvo 850 estates, Ford Mustangs and Alfa Romeo 155’s & GTV’s, they released a kit based on the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee. Which, deep down, was just a Cherokee(XJ platform) but… rounder. It’s pretty freaking epic as far as model kits go for three semi-rare reasons: 1) It’s a full detail kit, from Tamiya. It has a engine! That rarely happens in Japanese model kits! 2) It’s a full detail kit of a pretty down to earth, simple, ordinary SUV. 3) It’s molded in color, which normally isn’t always the best but here, it’s really good. It’s the one color that would’ve been a nightmare to mix and is even harder to get spray paints of; Hunter green metallic.
From the looks and sound of it, the model kit was made in part to celebrate the Grand Cherokee model being introduced, or well, “released”, as its concept of the thing was already beginning to form in 1985, hell as early as 1983, by Larry Shinoda(Corvette & Boss Mustang designer guy), Giorgetto Giugiaro(“Car Designer of the Century” man, yeah no big deal) and Alain Clenet being contracted by AMC to each build the follow up for the ’83 Cherokee and the one with the winning design would be awarded massive payouts, a good designer challenge one might say. So, turns out, it wasn’t much of a contest as much as a thanks-for-the-inspiration-and-data-byeeee according to Shinoda as not long before the Chrysler Corp. take-over of AMC(AMC was the owner of the Jeep brand until 1987), they kicked him off the project. And fast-foward to 1989, where the all new Grand Cherokee concept “Concept 1” was presented and well… Shinoda saw what was pretty much his own design, just in the shape of an actual car.
So the origins of the Grand Cherokee, which debuted much like the model kit in 1993, is dubious at best. However, it carried on to be one of the most successful SUVs on the planet and is a nice long lasting stamp on history that AMC did matter. It wasn’t oficially part of the “Big Three” in Detroit, Ford, GM and Chrysler but boy did they get their heels clawed at by AMC for the better part of four decades and the Jeep brand albeit owned by one of the big three today is still a high mark of all that history. While the Cherokee maintained its ultra square, more typical Jeep boxy style until 2001, the Grand Cherokee was more round, more luxurious and more… well, more Jeep. I doubt anyone who’s into cars is unaware of the Cherokee’s existence, so I suppose it getting a model kit isn’t totally out of the ordinary.
But… it still really kind of is. Tamiya is known for making really great, great model kits and they’re not against making kits of regular cars, whether they’re five decades old or a car ready to be shown at say, the Geneva Motor Show or the North American International Auto Show but why the Jeep? It’s still visually so close to its predecessor and while that doesn’t necessarily warrant no model kit take on it, why make this one with a engine and all that? Whatever reason may have been behind it, it doesn’t even matter – the quality is so supremely high, which is default Tamiya level, we’ll never know if the kit was desired by Chrysler as a companion piece or if Tamiya just likes Jeeps. Hell, speaking of supreme quality…
Everything about this kit is superb. To start it off, the body detail is just unheard of, and we gotta include Revell’s kits of the era, Monogram, AMT Ertl, MPC, all of them, it stands above it with ease. Its crisp, the fine details of the trim moldings, the small grille meshes, the depths of the ridges, so on. Yeah, normally I already drool over accuracy but there’s something special going here. The decal sheet has all the gold stripes of the “Limited” version, which was at the time the fanciest version of the vehicle, with gold trim a plenty, wooden panels, bigger 5.2L Magnum V8 engine, so forth. But back to orgasming over the quality; the cast quality is also something to behold. For instance, the headlights, which would’ve been a nightmare to re-create given that they’re rather unique and multi-segmented – it couldn’t have been easier. It has really, really fine mold quality that allow the black lines to be filled and the indicator reflector to be colored in, all without any hassle.
Even the roof got extra attention, go friggin’ figure. There’s four decals for the ribs on the roof and the rack is a separate piece, so if you don’t like it you can skip over it. Hell the only thing I don’t quite like about the body is because of how the car sits rather high, as a SUV should, you can quite easily look into the wheel wells and there you’ll quite easily spot the ridges of the interior bucket and the hollow bits of the frame. But… nitpicking? Nitpicking. Once more, back to drooling. Something that’s always been uniquely high quality, even higher than what they already offer, is the wheels. Especially on older Tamiya kits, where the tires and the wheels come in a separate baggie in the box with branding and such, proof that they weren’t just one size fits all piles of wank(looking at you, Round 2) – high quality, vinyl tires with proper licensed branding printed on there to signify they are Goodyear Eagle GA tires. Which I explicitly turned into Eagle GTs cause I am lazy and my plan to use the “A” from left-over Eagle GT decals(of the lovely Joseph Osborn’s Fireball Modelworks) fell apart once I realized I actually didnt have enough to fix all four up.
The interior is a bit more simplistic but given the nature of early nineties interiors in cars, it’s plastic. A ton of plastic with faux wood paneling to make it seem like it is higher quality than it really is, but it isn’t. There’s a set of decals for all the door panels and the dashboard that mimic the faux wood, and it does for some reason look like chocolate speckled bread but seeing as the model’s interior is enclosed by slightly matted by age windows, it’s hard to see from a distance. But again, it’s all high quality, the creases in the seats that mimic the leather, the texture of the floor, the spare wheel in the back, the teeny-tiny dials on the dash… it all marks up to one hell of a lot of detail work done by Tamiya. And I should point out, like the body, which I only detailed and nothing else(not even added a clear coat), the interior’s largely untouched too by paint. Only the darker areas that had either trim or buttons I painted, the rest is just the color of the mold and… it’s perfect. And the engine bay is no different, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I mean, if I had to complain, it’s that some of the parts that were molded in onto the body are slightly blocky but… y’know, nitpicky nitpicking.
The 5.2L V8 is molded wonderfully, albeit in a very simplistic manner. The whole engine is five pieces; two main pieces that contain the transmission, oil pan, intake manifold and such, two valve covers and the air cleaner unit and that’s it. I mean, they’re very well cast and detailed, it’s just somewhat a shame that all the challenge and extra effort was taken out by having it all be one giant chunk. I would’ve wired it up but I skipped on it, mostly cause I figured out halfway through building it that I had run out of it and even if I did, given the engine’s simplicity, I doubt I would’ve gone through with it all. Where Tamiya did put a lot of focus on is the chassis. I absolutely love the way they handled the ride height; it has you screwing the suspension tighter and tighter onto a set of springs, so you could have it sit nice and high while maintaining some realistic bounce if you press on it, or you could tighten it down and have it sit more like a common Cherokee and still look the part. It’s such a great, fantastic kit and God damn do I love building these every now and then as they’re nice, simple and absolutely frickin’ gorgeous once they’re done and Tamiya never disappoints – what does disappoint is that once Tamiya is done with a kit, they’re generally truly done with it, they hardly ever re-release a old kit… Would love to see the early nineties kits be given another spin in the factory.
’93 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8 specifications:
Kit: “Sports Car” Series #127
Skill Level: N/A
Molded in: Metallic Green(Hunter Green), Gray, Dark Gray & Black