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Review: Maisto Bugatti EB110 GT and Jaguar XJ220


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#1 Guest_mac47_*

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 02:47 PM

There was once a company called Maisto, which made models of supercars. Nowadays, they don't do any supercars except Lambos and the Porsche Carrera GT. But back in the early 90's, Maisto was on top of its game, and was getting the rights to do all the best supercars at a time when supercars were flourishing. They produced models of the McLaren F1, the Diablo, the Ferrari F50, and the two cars you see here in this review: the Jaguar XJ220 and the Bugatti EB110. They were cheap, affordable, and fairly well done for their day. They're also just about the only cars left in my collection that I haven't reviewed for DX.   :wavetowel2:

Maisto is still a fine company, perhaps even the best of the budget diecast makers. But while they've raised their game on detail and fit & finish, they no longer make supercars. These days when a new supercar comes out -- be it Pagani Zonda, Reventon, or Koenigsegg -- it is more likely to be produced by Mondo Motors, Motormax, or AutoArt than it is by Maisto.

I miss the days of Maisto's "Special Edition" series. It would be wonderful to have Maisto versions of things like the Gumpert Apollo, the Zonda R, the Koenigsegg CCR, Ariel Atom, etc, etc.  :giggle:

But at the same time, model-making has moved on quite a bit since those days. There is a greater demand for detail: not even budget makers would put out cars with no brakes, as Maisto did here.

You can get these models for $10 to $20.

In the real world, not diecast, the XJ220 and the EB110 are rolling symbols of supercar failure. Both were financial disasters for their respective manufacturers.

Italian businessman Romano Artioli bought the rights to the Bugatti name, and assembled an all-star cast of supercar engineers outside Modena. The assumption seemed to be that Lamborghini's cars were the gold standard of what a supercar should be, and on this assumption, Artioli hired the men most responsible for the Countach and Miura: Loris Bicocchi for the suspension (Lamborghini 1974-89, helped with chassis of Miura and Countach; since involved in chassis development for the Pagani Zonda, Koenigsegg, Veyron, and KTM X-bow); Paolo Stanzani (former Lamborghini, engine work for Miura and Countach); and of course, Marcello Gandini to do the styling.

The choice of Gandini seemed natural at the time. He was also behind the Diablo and the Cizeta V16T, and in high demand. The car magazines showed us many titillating spy shots of the new Bugatti's prototypes, and I must confess that I find them fascinating in shape:

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You can see some definite echoes of Countach, though somewhat more subdued. I liked the front end with its aggressive edges. But Artioli apparently wanted to incorporate more Bugatti heritage into the design. It was a reasonable request. VWAG's Bugatti did an admirable job with the Veyron by placing the famous horseshoe grill front and center, then designing the body to be rounded as a tribute to the Atlantic and two-tone like the most famous Royales. The whole is harmonious and aggressive. But Artioli's Bugatti was not. It came out looking like a Gandini folded-paper wedge, but softened on the edges of the nose. Above all, the Bugatti horseshoe shape was stamped into the nose and looks like the afterthought that it was.

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That said, the design has aged fairly gracefully, and from many angles, the EB110 is actually good-looking today. But at the time, it had a polarizing effect on journalists.

The EB110 came with a 60-valve quad-turbo V-12, prompting Jeremy Clarkson to smile, "Italians! Don't you just love 'em?" The engine produced 553 hp in the EB110 GT, but was bumped up to 603 for the EB110 SS. The latter car was so potent and polished that Michael Schumacher bought a bright yellow one:

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Unfortunately, bad business decisions -- including the purchase of Lotus -- resulted in the bankruptcy and liquidation of Artioli's Bugatti SpA. The all-star team of engineers formed their own company, B Engineering, and produced the bizarre-looking Edonis supercar, which is apparently a very fearsome machine, but not blessed with even the EB110's decent looks.

Loris Bicocchi piloted the EB110 SS to 213 mph at the Nardo Ring in 1994. At the time it was the fastest top speed ever recorded by a production car. The Jaguar XJ220 broke that record a few months later, tripping 217 mph (just shy of its namesake speed), and then was quickly eclipsed by the McLaren F1, which held the record for 10 years until the Koenigsegg CCR finally broke it.

The EB110 still has the goods to run with the supercar elite today. Here it is lighting a fart in the general direction of a certain modern supercar:

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The XJ220's story is similarly chequered. The car was an after-hours secret project of "the Saturday Club" -- a group of Jaguar employees who worked on their own ideas outside of company time. Chief engineer Jim Randle conceived of the car as a V-12 powered competitor to the Ferrari F40 and Porsche 959, which were then the supercar elite. It was to have Lambo-style doors, and photos of the prototype show the door seams for them:

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(I wasn't able to find a shot of the doors up.)

On the basis of this show-car, buyers put down deposits, only to be nonplussed by the production version, which ditch the promised all-wheel drive, had conventionally-opening doors, and a twin-turbo V-6 derived by Tom Walkinshaw Racing from Jaguar's competition engines instead of the promised V-12.

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On top of all that, the supercar bubble burst, and speculators found that they would not be able to flip the car as they had hoped. The result was a nasty lawsuit.

It's hard to fault the styling of the car, though. The most famous British car stylist, Peter Stevens (Lotus Elan M100, McLaren F1, Jaguar XJR-15) penned the bodywork, and it effectively translates into the present the curvy lines of past Jags like the XKE and the D-type. I love it in British Racing Green, and that's the color I bought my model in. Some pics cribbed from the net:

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I still recall the Top Gear drag race between the XJ220 and a state-of-the-art Pagani Zonda that kicked off TG's "Supercars Old and New" episode:



(Worth a watch. The video is full of great lines like "The cars from the Blair era are inferior to the cars from the reign of Mrs. Thatcher.")

OK, enough history. Let's talk about diecasts.

There is no alternative to the Maisto XJ220. You can get it in 1:12 or 1:18, but it'll have to be Maisto.

Bburago did make the EB110. I have owned it before, and am thinking of getting another one. I have in mind this yellow example:

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And maybe I'll get a little Schuey figure to stick in it.

But for now, I went for the Maisto rather than the Bburago because it has an articulated spoiler. There's also the old Anson EB110 which pops its spoiler up when you press the license plate.

Strictly speaking, this isn't a comparison test, because the two models aren't in competition with each other. But I'm lumping them together because their virtues and flaws are similar, as they came out at the same time, from the same maker.

EXTERIOR AND CASTING

Both models suffer from mediocre molds. The lines and corners are not as fine as we would see on a premium diecast, or even on a budget piece of 2010. But these came out in 1993, if I recall correctly. So we must lower our expectations accordingly.

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Shutlines are large on both. The left side top corner of my XJ220's boot doesn't quite shut flush:

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It can be pressed down, but something isn't aligned quite right. You can also see in this picture that I took some black paint -- not as neatly as I should have -- to the little triangle at the corner where the A-pillar meets the beltline. This was left body color by Maisto.

The Jaguar's rear wing, front splitter, mirrors, and the scallops on the front boot are all made of plastic. The color match is fairly exact.

The EB110 has plastic mirrors which wobble slightly because they are attached with pegs. I tore mine off and glued them. To Maisto's credit, the mirrors are correctly positioned on the outer edges of the doors rather than the inner edges as on the Bburago EB110.

The engine cover is also plastic, and it is an abomination. Its color does not quite match the body's paint, and it has horrible-looking stubs holding the glass onto the plastic frame:

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As you can see, it is held up by a black plastic prop similar to the one on the old Bburago Ferrari F40.

The front splitter and rear wing, as well as the rear bumper are also plastic on the EB110.

The EB110 has NACA ducts just behind the top edge of each door. They are not perforated, nor is there any black paint on what should be the holes. The rear grill, a series of oval holes on the 1:1, has not been perforated either, and it looks like crap. Oddly, the vents behind the rear wheel are perforated. Who knows why this one, and not the others?

The Jaguar has a very nice perforated intake hole ahead of each rear wheel, with some rather chromey radiators visible in each.

Both cars have opening front boots. The Jag displays fans; the EB110 has a battery:

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There are some holes on the Jaguar's boot interior that make me wonder if Maisto had planned to attach something else to it.

The Jag has a nice roof window that displays the interior.

The stance on the Jaguar is OK, but the EB110 originally had the worst wheels in my collection. They were too far inset, and the car was too high at the front end. The latter problem remains, but I was able to pull off the wheels and reseat them closer to the end of the axles, so that they are closer to flush with the side of the car.

The glass on the front headlights of the EB110 seems too thick, and the lights themselves are just three chromed trays, with no real detail. The indicator lights are transparent orange paint on the clear headlight covers, rather than a separate piece.

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To Maisto's credit, they did include the tiny black grilles as separate pieces on the inside edges of the headlights.

The Jaguar's headlights are pop-ups on the 1:1 street version, and the pop-ups are sealed on the 1:18. There is a very nice indicator light made of two separate pieces:

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As you can see, the front grille is fairly thick plastic, not the sort of photo-etched delicacy that we've been spoiled by on our AUTOart's and Kyoshos.

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Neither 1:1 has interesting taillights: the EB110's are ugly and the Jag's are largely hidden under its rear grille. But Maisto did a decent job on the Jag's, with separate clear and red pieces:

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The EB110's taillights are atrocious, with unconvincing orange and pink behind clear, ridged covers with huge and visible attachment stubs:

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The EB110 and XJ220 are both lacking side windows. As discussed on another thread, I've fabricated makeshift windows for the EB110 (thin plastic with black electrical tape for trim). I wish the XJ220 had some too, and maybe I'll get around to it sometime. It would really complete the futuristic greenhouse on that car.

The XJ220's front end isn't quite the right shape, as a comparison of the side view with the 1:1 above reveals. Its nose is a bit too bulbous. But it's only noticeable when you're looking at the model from a low-angle and directly from the side.

Overall, not a horrible job of casting for 1993-era budget models, but it would be judged utterly unacceptable today.

Jaguar XJ220: 4
Bugatti EB110: 3



PAINT

The Bugatti has fairly clean paint except for one spot on the boot lid that appear to have a couple specks of dirt underneath the paint. I'm pretty sure it's not "diecast cancer" (zamac decay). There's no orange peel, but there are undersprayed areas in the corners of the doors. The Bugatti "bubblegum blue" isn't my favorite color, but it is fairly accurate to the 1:1, it seems.

The Jaguar has a fabulous color: a deep green with tiny metallic flecks that show up in sunlight. I wouldn't be surprised if it is actually the genuine 1:1's paint color, though I have no way of knowing. There is orange peel visible in several places, and the underspay is egregious on the bottom of the boot lid.

Jaguar XJ220: 3
Bugatti EB110: 3



TAMPOS, DECALS, AND DECORATIONS

The Jag has tampoed "Jaguar" lettering across the rear of the car, and "XJ220" printed ahead of the rear wheels. All quite nicely done.

The front badge is a relief sculpture on the grille, and is simply painted silver. Not terribly convincing. If they were going to use silver paint on something, why not the keyholes? (I did those later.)

The EB110 has a decal for the Bugatti badge on the nose, and mine is threatening to peel off again. A tampo was used for the "110EB" lettering on the three-quarter windows.

The roof antenna is a sore spot with me. Maisto made one, but it was flimsy and broke off when I had my car flipped upside down to remove its wheels from their axles for repositioning.

The number plates are stickers, and they aren't long for this world. There is also a sticker posing as a center brake light below the number plate on the EB110.

Jag: 4
Bug: 2



WHEELS, TIRES, AND ...BRAKES? HELLO, BRAKES?

Brakes? You know, to slow the car down? Neither model has 'em. But that's actually somewhat OK, because they also have wheels that wouldn't let you see their brakes if they had 'em.

I'm actually fairly impressed with Maisto's work on the wheels and tires of both models. They both have valve stems, accurate logos, branded Michelin (EB110) and Goodyear (XJ220) tires, and correct tread patterns. Why the devil can't AUTOart and Kyosho go to the trouble of doing these things?

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(Notice the light shining through the door shutline on this last pic of the Jag!)

Can't give 'em higher than a 4 without any brakes. But everything else looks good, so that's what they get.

Jag: 4
Bug: 4



INTERIOR
Oh my... early 90's diecast interiors. We've come a long way. These models have stickers for all instrument panels and controls. The shifters seem fairly accurate. The Jag's door trim is so incomplete that it allows you a good look at the dogleg door hinge. The seatbelts are plastic and stick out in unrealistic arches as though they had been sprayed with starch or reinforced with wires. There is no carpet, nor even any real attempt to replicate the texture.

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The Bug's steering wheel is upside down now, but that might be my fault from when I operated on the wheels.

I actually like the pale cream color of the Jaguar's interior, and the contrast with the gray instrument binnacle. But the overall execution is pretty abysmal. If you like interiors, you have reason to be thankful it's not 1993 anymore.

Jag: 2
Bug: 1



ENGINE
I've long credited Maisto with the best engines for the dollar in the diecast business. The Jaguar especially has a beautiful one right out of the box, with red wiring and lots of different metallic colors:

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I haven't even bothered to mod this engine. Nice job, Maisto!

By contrast, the EB110's engine was in need of some paint. In this picture, everything copper-colored was originally silver, and the Bugatti-blue hose ends with silver clamps are also painted by me on the black hoses.

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The engine did come with some nice tampoed "Bugatti" lettering and stripes on the manifold. Overall, not too bad, and a nice starting point for a fun and satisfying project of painting details. More could be done with wiring and cables.

Both exhaust systems are chrome, and the insides of the pipes are not blacked out.

Jag: 6.5
Bug: 5

Both models are equipped with Maisto's spring-and-piston suspension, which makes modifying the ride hide easy enough. The Jaguar also has a beautiful replication of the 1:1's venturi tunnels, complete with suspension poking out of the undertray:

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(And get a load of that beefy rear tire on the Jag, fatter than a Murcielago's, and almost as big as the Veyron's!)

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Here's the EB110's undertray:

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THE VERDICT

Bugatti EB110: 3 points average (18 points in 6 categories)
Jaguar XJ220: 4 points average (24 points in 6 categories)

Yes, these are the lowest-scoring diecasts I've reviewed. The Jag tied with the Mondo Zonda F. The EB110 was a full point worse. But they are also the cheapest models I own, and for a supercar collector, they represent historically important cars; I couldn't omit them from my collection.

They afford satisfaction for the enterprising modder, and the mods are easy to do: at least 3 DXers have done the EB110 window mod, and I know of at least one other who has touched up the detail on the engine.

The cars look good when posed with each other or with other rivals. They don't bear poking around and opening up, and they're basically toy-quality. I'd like to see Maisto refurbish their molds and re-release these models with more modern details.

These old budgets are cheap and cheerful. I'm glad to have them in my collection. And they don't mind being photographed with much more expensive models:

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#2 Guest_[KRAFTIG]_*

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 02:56 PM

Fantastic review!  Two great models that really deserve representation from the likes of AUTOart, Kyosho or Minichamps

#3 OFFLINE   Out of Gear

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    They look better in real life.

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 03:43 PM

Excellent review , Mac47! These models definitely show their age, but they are a breeze to modify though thank goodness. You should do a review of the Maisto McLaren F1, it definitely belongs in this group!
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#4 OFFLINE   Florin

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 04:57 PM

Thanks for the review. I had a yellow Bburago EB110, but it's gone now... I still have to get a Maisto after seeing this
But...but...but the Chinese labor rates!

#5 OFFLINE   initiald

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 11:42 AM

Finally finished reading this one. Glad I did. It is excellent indeed and provided very good knowledge and entertainment for me.

I like the way you started this review "There was once a company called Maisto..."   :wavetowel2:

Bravo. :giggle:

#6 OFFLINE   Matthew

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 04:46 PM

Great review! I remember the good ol' days of Maisto and Bburago... I believe I once owned both of the models featured in this review. These two die-cast replicas bring back some fond memories of my childhood. The reason I no longer have these two die-casts today is because I played with them as a kid... in fact, I played with all of my die-casts as a kid.  :giggle:

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#7 OFFLINE   sind3ntoyscar

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 09:23 PM

Thanks for the review... i enjoyed reading the history LOL :D
And now i know that the XJ220 Concept had lambo style doors, WOW!!! I can see the door line is so cool :) I didn't realize that before.
For the EB110 Maisto, what do you mean it has articulated spoiler? could it pop up like the Anson one? thx :D

Oh btw, i found this pic... LOL

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