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"Die Cast X", October 1, 2012

Return of the Jadi

PARAGON 1968 ROLLS-ROYCE SILVER SHADOW COUPE

BY JOE KELLY JR

1:18 | $150

A while back, a company called Jadi (not to be confused with Jada, or, for that matter, “Jedi”) came into the U.S. with a solid, if mildly detailed, line of British sports cars like the Triumph TR4, Triumph Stag, Lotus Elise, and even a TVR or two. The models were cleanly built, and nice for the price, but most collectors were left wondering what would happen if Jadi bumped up its game a bit.

Well, we can stop wondering ... and start grinning. Jadi’s opened up a new division — Paragon — and the upmarket models it’s putting forth not only match that lofty moniker, they represent a lot more than just a bump in detail or overall appeal. As if to prove its mettle with metal, Paragon has pursued, and obtained, a license to make replicas of the big kahuna — The Finest Motorcar In The World — the Rolls-Royce. It has also picked a pretty hip Roller to start the party. This 1968 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Mulliner-Park Ward (MPW) LHD coupe is an image taken from a pivotal era in Rolls-Royce history.

SHADOW BOXING

In 1966, Crewe had shucked off body-on-frame car building in favor of unit construction. This meant that the core of the car would become lighter and stronger. It also meant that the days of custom-bodied, coachbuilt Rollers were all but over. This caused some rattling of the umbrellas amongst purists who remembered climbing up into their giant old custom-built Wraiths, Clouds and Ghosts. This same crowd had gnashed their dentures when Rolls-Royce started installing V8 engines in the late 1950s.

But the upside to the progression was that the cars were fresh-looking; lower, sleeker and tighter on the road, the new Rolls-Royce had an athleticism and solidity that was all new, even though the cars were marginally slower than their immediate predecessor. The bodies may have been lighter, but the understressed, over-muffled 380cid V8 was built more for grace than pace. The good news was that a Rolls wasn’t bought to outgun the neighbor’s Mustang. Pounds of sound-deadening, electronic gadgetry (like an all-new self-leveling suspension, acting on the equally new IRS out back) and the usual R-R amenities (and commensurate price) made driving the Silver Shadow MPW coupe a pleasure that very few — 571, to be exact — could afford to enjoy. The Rolls-Royce name was known and appreciated around the world, but the opportunity to watch that little winged lady atop the radiator shell from the driver’s seat wasn’t in the cards for everyone.

ON WINGS

That little lady (officially deemed “The Spirit of Ecstasy”) looks pretty happy to be sitting on the nose of this debut release from Paragon. We’re happy to see her. This is a stunning piece of manufactured modeling, and few cars that we’ve seen this year emerge from their boxes with such knockout appeal. Yes, we’d agree that most of that is due to the MPW coupe’s beautiful shape and countenance, but Paragon has finessed that mix of formality and uncluttered, mid-1960s style into a casting with perfect shut lines, piano-smooth paint, and an overall feeling of quality.

It’s a relatively heavy piece, too, and it goes hands-on straight away; once pulled from its tissue-lined clamshell and unscrewed from the lower base, it’s up to the new owner to attach the SOE on the nose, and the side-view mirrors to each door. Don’t be scared — it’s a painless exercise, thanks to the precision of the mounting pegs and holes. You can use a spot of white glue (or not), and if something goes wrong, don’t sweat it; there’s a full set of spares in the box. Thoughtful chaps, these Paragon fellows.

Like the real car, the model has some subtleties that take a few minutes to sink in. The fitment of the windows and trim bits is remarkable; the seams between the body and glazing are perfect, and the areas where the doors meet the fixed quarter windows is nearly so. But what really grabbed us was the precision of the panel fit: the opening doors, hood, and trunk operate on seams that are scale correct. No, really: when everything’s closed, this car, with its flawless lensing and chrome, perfectly mounted trim pieces, and utterly smooth paint finish, could pass for a hi-buck resin-bodied shelf queen (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

This is royalty you can shake hands with, and you’ll want to use the included tool to get under the car’s skin. Our sample’s doors were well-loaded with spring resistance — pop them open enough to get a finger in, and the reward is a vista of faux burl wood, an elegant carpeted floor, and soft vinyl castings for the seats. Delicate-looking handles and power window switches (standard, starting in ‘66) are on the doors and on top of the little wood-topped cubbies in each rear seat arm rest. Let the doors go, and they click back home with a nice thunk.

BONNET BLISS

Getting the front-hinged hood open is a little more stressful, because the shut lines are so tight. But once it’s sent skyward (on a pair of the coolest spring and scissor hinges we’ve ever seen), the fully realized 6230cc L410B V8 comes out to play. Done in hard plastic, flex vinyl, and metal, every bit of detailing is here — we’ve checked — and some of it, like the legible label on the brake booster and the partially hidden “Rolls-Royce” callouts atop the valve covers, is truly neat. The unique, forward-firing exhaust manifolds lead to a well turned-out chassis; rolling on soft rubber Avon “Turbosteel” narrow whitewall radials, the plastic frame is host to layered castings for the suspension, drive train, and independent rear suspension. The two-into-one exhaust weaves back along the belly, and it’s been metallized, alongside a cool, but unusual, feature of these cars: an exposed, hanging spare beneath the rear, on display here with a full wheel cover. While we’re not sure the wheel disc is a proper add-on, that arrangement gave the real car added space in its boot, and that area’s been replicated here in cavernous, blue-carpeted style below a lined deck lid mounted with scale-correct hinges.

“CROWN” JEWEL

1:18 collectors have waited a long time for quality models of classic Rolls-Royces, and that wait is finally over. There was one gaffe, and it got us chuckling because we didn’t see it until we pointed a macro lens at the model: the double-R plates on the radiator and on the rear bumper read “Rolls-Rolls”. But that’s the only “whoops” moment we had in several hours of simply enjoying this piece on the table, and in hand. Paragon — technically known as “Jadi-Paragon” — also has a Mulliner-Park Ward Silver Chalice in its catalog, as well as the Oxford Blue car that starred in the original Thomas Crown Affair.

Given the doors that the new name, the new level of quality, and these new releases might open for the company, we’re all too happy to celebrate the return of Jadi.

SOURCES

Jadi Modelcraft jadi-modelcraft.com

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