2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Collector Edition – Revell

2002FirebirdCE (1)For Pontiac, the early 2000s were a time of change and adaptation. Gently guided by the revamp of their lineup and the broadening of their market by General Motors in 2004, which saw legendary names like the Firebird getting axed in 2002(which had less to do with the revamp and more to do with the beyond terrible sales numbers for it and the Camaro brother), the Bonneville getting axed in 2004, the Grand Am in 2005, the GTO came back badge-engineered from an Australian badass that still lives today(as the HSV Commodore); the Holden Monaro and the last decade also saw the introduction of a few new ones like the Solstice, a fun and quite killer looking little two door, the G6 and G8 saloons and the… Aztek, which got replaced by a more sensible albeit a slightly fatter looking Dodge Caliber.

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And then… in 2008, GM finally ended their drunken stagger in financial misfortune by falling face first into their own puke puddle and realized it was time to either sell their puppies off of tell someone to get shotgun from the shed, either for themselves or the pups in question. Hell, Pontiac wasn’t the only one to go in that decade… Oldsmobile got shuttered in 2004 already even though their kill shot occurred in 2000. But anyhow, in mid-2009, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, GMC and Hummer were led in front of the wall and blindfolded as the GM execs debated and fought on which they could keep, sell or shutter, like some demented game of fuck-marry-kill. GMC got saved, likely cause American pick ups just sell like hotcakes regardless of brand. Saab got sold off, again, only this time to one of my country’s finest; Spyker Automobiles, a sale that legit got laughed off the stage here in the Netherlands and dragged Spyker to its knees in debt, shuttering Saab in 2012. Saturn got… well, I kind of liked Saturn’s brief 20-something year existence but that was a shot hardly heard around the world. Hummer too got shot down in flames in 2010 and Pontiac? Well Pontiac got shuttered all together, all operations ceased, the dealerships would sell their stock and get closed or rebranded and the only thing that remains today is the Pontiac trademark that has been updated every ten years, set to expire in July 2027 – and based on the somewhat melancholy attitude around Pontiac’s death, they’re likely to keep renewing the trademark every decade.

2002FirebirdCE_sunny (3)So, y’know, long story, but the last decade of Pontiac’s life was actually kind of depressing and the Firebird being killed off in 2002 didn’t help. But it got a nice little last hurrah if you will, being granted a “Collector Edition”, originally intended as a 35th anniversary which turned more into a final salute. Less than 2000 were offered, with options like a convertible or a T-top and by default the nice WS6 package which comes with the LS1 5.7L V8 that churned out a solid 325 horsepower, embroidered Collector Edition emblems into the seats and a number badge on the center console showing the build number of the car, two metal CE badges on the doors and a series of black, gray and silver stripes running along the rear quarter and across the hood. In kit form however, the ’98 Firebird wasn’t a Trans Am model but a mere Ram Air with the same engine block, mostly cause, I’m just assuming here, they didn’t get the rights for the Trans Am name as they didn’t manage to get them either for the ’77 Firebird. It also has the single exhaust set-up, so there’s that.

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Anyhow, last year I got the ’98 Firebird built and was quite pleasantly surprised. It’s like its real counterpart based mostly on the Camaro, with a fair amount of Camaro parts still being on the sprues, like the LT1 engine parts and the little stamper to get the fog-lights into the bumper, but it does have the benefit of its build quality which is quite awesome! It’s one of those nineties kits that was designed to be versatile and really, really detailed. It started with the ’93 Camaro Pace Car kit, followed up by the ’93 Firebird very shortly after and those eventually became the ’98 and ’02 Camaro and the ’98 Firebird, as the Firebird never got a final salute by Revell. This kit, is the one I suggested folks should get in the ’98 Firebird post, which is infinitely better! Well, I was wrong it turns out, it’s just somewhat better due to the choice of wheels, given the decals are still prone to being milky and will get ugly borders if the box has been opened before.

2002FirebirdCE_sunny (6)But that’s besides the point, the plastic is also of a somewhat increased quality, the T-top decals were once kind of matted glass-textured and now turned into literal black slabs, which in some cases can be seen as a improvement or considered to be a lot cheaper and worse, up to the builder I suppose, but y’know – it’s still a bit better. The only problem I ran into is that given the previous owner of this delightful little kit had opened it and somehow let it get squashed. The body warped outwards which I stupidly over corrected by squeezing it too far back inwards, causing the bumpers to no longer fit and the hood to no longer shut properly. This exaggerated the panel gaps on the bumpers quite a friggin’ bit… But oh well. That’s just how life goes whilst trying to be a cheapskate.

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Initially, I made a decal sheet for the whole thing that includes some interior things I didn’t get around to using like a pair of floor mats cause I tried to flock the interior flooring however the decals for the engine bay I did use to great effect cause Goddamn I am happy with how crisply they came out, especially the text. The tail light masks which in my opinion should’ve been a part of the kit in the first place given how weird it looks without make a hell of a difference too. Other than that, I genuinely wish the kit came with dual exhausts cause… the bumper has the two holes for it, it’s so strange to see the open exhaust port and just have nothing there. I genuinely don’t know if its because of the type of Firebird or if its just something they did to avoid Trans Am related bits and bobs.

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So, in the end, it’s really just another kit I built to try and test fit some decals onto, bit similar to the AMC Gremlin and Pacer of late and I dunno, it’s quite a success! The stripes look fantastic, the text based decals look sharp as hell and the whole thing kind of came out looking quite alright besides the fact that obviously, it was warped a fair amount. Not to mention I do friggin’ love me some special edition GM material, like the whole Camaro anniversary line up and sooner or later all the Firebird ones! Revell has made a 25th Anniversary edition Firebird and I’m in the process of making a version of the 30th – so at least there’s that.

’98 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Collector Edition specifications:
Kit: #85-2159
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 102
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

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1977 AMC Pacer X – MPC

1977PacerX (1)The fishbowl! The aquarium! The girthy-midget! The pregnant guppy! The Ass-tastrophy! The terrarium! The monstrosity! The Mirth-Mobile! The Malaise Egg! The nicknames for the AMC Pacer just go on and on and on… The Pacer was introduced in 1974 as a companion to the supremely successful AMC Gremlin but the designing of the thing already started in 1971 with the first-time-for-everything approach of: designing the car from the inside out. I mean, that’s clever but it also has a weird by effect that it made the car’s ass freaking enormous. I mean, Jesus wept, that thing got a wide, wide ass. But that giant bubble glass butt allows for giant storage compartments in the trunk. It also has wide as sin passenger and drivers compartments, leg room so big that Delta Airlines spontaneously detonates at the sheer concept of it and weird but neat little things like the rain gutters being removed for a sleeker design(which did allow for some wet front seats when it rains but… well, that’s kinda our norm now), the passenger door being around four inches longer for easier entry and a built in B-pillar roll-over bar – all quite awesome features.

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And while it had the width of a full size 1970 Chevrolet Impala SS, it had the mileage of a Datsun. And that right there, for a 1974 car that was designed just before the fuel crisis ground the United States to a damn halt, was one excellent choice of theirs. What was also one excellent choice was the styling. It’s… quite something, ain’t it. I mean, it’s on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to utterly cool and absolutely Goddamn hideous. Christ on a bike, the thing had more ugly on it than a Rolling Stones album cover but at the same time, it was just as awesome as a Rolling Stones album.

1977PacerX (14)So… yeah, it’s a Pacer. Made by MPC, first in 1976 and onwards until 1978 where they made yet another Pacer X model but totally forgot that the X version was scrapped by the end of ’77 in favor of a ehem, “Sport” model which by the end of ’78 was also axed. Hell, the whole thing was axed by 1979 for various reasons, not before turning the grille into something heinous but… y’know, swings and roundabouts. The legit MPC release from ’77 featured a 1976 Pacer X with some new parts. Yeah I also don’t know what the hell the new parts are but the legacy pieces are there; the odd off-road tires of the ’76 and the fog lights and some new decals that will never ever get used, so yep. But one thing that was stupidly awesome at the time and in utter contrast to other MPC kits of the same year; the detail on it is friggin’ crisp as hell. I mean, holy friggin’ shit it’s something special – the Pacer X script on the side is so well done that you really wouldn’t need any decals to get the script looking like it’s legit. Same goes for the AMC/Pacer badges on the trunk and hood and everything else. I don’t say this quickly, hell I hardly ever say it it at all but… Good job, MPC!

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I should say though, this kit was brand spanking new from 1977 all the way until now but it still carries the non-separate baggie curse of ye olde modeling days. All the parts were crammed into a single bag(but the tires were separate, thank God) and it squished the body outward for, well, for years at the least. So it’s horribly warped and the hood never, ever is gonna sit flush like it should, the front bumper and front lip were so warped it now has this weird uplift to it(can’t bend it any way without snapping it) and the tire rubber had gone rock solid but not before shrinking so the rims wouldn’t fit any longer. Oh and the chassis warped inwards giving the front tires a lovely wobbly looking inwards stance… but I am perfectly content with it. I was so stoked that I made a decal sheet for it in anticipation of it and wanted to make a bog standard, nothing special about it Pacer X in metallic silver with a boring gray interior. I also flocked in a carpet…-ish, which I’ll get back to later and I also wired up the whole damn engine. Every last bit of it that I could.

1977PacerX (12)Like I said, the whole thing got warped something fierce, as you’ve been able to see in the pictures. But lemme just go down the list of parts that ended up warping; the front bumper, the front valance, the front grille(snapped in two), the fenders on the body, the chassis frame, the glass and the interior bucket. So on a kit of roughly fifty pieces with well over half being “custom”, that’s damn near all the parts having a defect one way or the other. But to hell with it, I built it and I like it. It’s such a weird little model just like the car, it’s got a strange blend of high quality parts and low quality parts, the body and such being crisp as all hell but the glass and most of the interior being low quality as hell. I mean, the seats are nice and they got the denim pattern on there nailed down but the rest like the doors and the dash… Not so much. The engine bay is quite detailed for a MPC kit, especially the engine block which gets half hidden under the firewall/dashboard regardless and there’s no place for the hood to connect to other than just lying awkwardly on the glass which is connected to the dashboard. It’s odd to see such a high quality/low quality mix.

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Speaking of engine bays, AMC’s straight six 258ci engine is definitely the highlight, as I mentioned before. MPC has notoriously shitty engine casts, the 305 and 350ci V8s from Chevrolet models are just so damn dull, the 440, 426 and 340 blocks are quite honestly terrible but then there’s some winners here and there like MPC’s late entry Volare Super Six engines aren’t casted too terribly and have the correct air cleaners. Then of course you got their 1980s entries like the Omni, Charger, Daytona and such which pack incredible renditions of their small I4 and I6 blocks. But to get back to the point, it’s such a detailed little engine block in this AMC, it’s… quite staggering.

1977PacerX (7)The decals I made are on the decal sheet page and I made a little addition in the form of the semi-existent 258 engine marking decal. The rest is the stripes, the tail light stripe, the emblems, the Pacer X for the side, so forth, just to make the whole thing a whole lot easier to detail without giving my damn shaky hand a chance at ruining it. I’d say they came out quite well! Not to mention, unlike having accidented my way through the ’84 Oldsmobile Cutlass H/O build, this one actually finished up quite nicely! Just a shame about the warped-ass body.

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Welcome to the collection, you bubble assed beauty, you. This kicked off a whole parade of AMC love on my part, I am already invested in the Gremlin X from ’74 by AMT Ertl which isn’t even close to being half the kit this is but screw it, I’m going for it. And sooner or later, a ’77 Pacer Wagon will join the festival of madness. Oh yeah, y’know what these seventies models could use that MPC just glossed over time and time again? Some Goddamn door mirrors.

’77 AMC Pacer X specifications:
Kit: MPC 1-7701
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 62
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1974 AMC Gremlin X – AMT Ertl

1974GremlinX (1)Oh Jesus H. Christ, what have I gotten myself into. Recently I bought a ’77 Pacer X kit from MPC, at the time of purchasing not quite realizing just how unbelievably freaking lucky I had been getting it in the first place, let alone brand new for next to nothing. So what did I decide to do immediately? I bought the 1974 AMC Gremlin X kit from AMT Ertl. When I built up the Pacer, it kind of struck me that the kit unlike any of MPC’s schlock from the 1970s… it was good. It was really, really good, in fact. So I had laid my expectations somewhat higher than “it’ll be that non-detail-shitfest that AMT and MPC did from 1971 through 1983.” – y’know, as low as bars go, that’s… I mean, it’s a promotion.

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Plot twist, it was horrible. But I’ll get to it in a moment, when I bought the Pacer I right away decided that I wanted the Gremlin too as a companion piece. Both cars were notorious to say the least, the Pacer had so many nicknames that weren’t exactly flattering that there’s a whole page dedicated to it on the internet and the Gremlin… well, it was once described by Jay Leno as the “homeless man’s Corvette” to Jeff Dunham who attempted to refer to it as the “poor man’s Corvette”. Either of ’em, not exactly held in high regard by the public. And while the Pacer has gotten a cult following over the last thirty years, the Gremlin’s more or less fallen behind as the chopped in half Javelin that never quite could. That being said, the Gremlin was the more subdued more down-to-American-earth subcompact that did several things very right, that the Pacer did so very wrong to many. Richard Teague, the designer, whom is also responsible for the Pacer, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Javelin, AMX and more, claimed that fellow designer Bob Nixon designed the Gremlin on a puke bag on a flight. It originally was to be a ’68 Javelin on the front and chopped down and short, called the AMC AMX-GT, which I will admit; looked a hell of a lot more sexy than any of the Gremlins did eventually. It kept the Javelin front, albeit the less sexy ’70-’74 one and the roof was raised quite a bit cause, as it turned out – no human over four foot ten could sit in the damn prototype.

1974GremlinX (4)The things that the Gremlin did right was making standard options small and affordable(yet also kept bigger engines and trim options on the sheet), as the economy shat itself and the oil embargos were dished out. It also looked less alien and odd than some would’ve expected, especially knowing the Pacer was around the corner and the styling was soon made normal by things like the Pinto, Vega, Chevette and so on. It was also, unlike many of its vehicle brethren, quite solidly built. It didn’t rust quite as easily, it didn’t fall to bits after ten thousand miles, the engines were low maintenance and often crossplatform so if it did need maintenance, parts were plenty. The smaller V6s that were on offer were also really fuel efficient, especially during those days.

1974GremlinX (6)If only the AMT Ertl kit was on a similar level… which it isn’t. You see, the 1970s for AMT and MPC were simply put; quotas. Get the new Gremlin on the market, get the new Camaro on the market, get the new dealership promos out the door, get that Dodge Fury promo, who gives a flying ratsass about detail or even getting a reasonable kit out there, just get it out. And in a way, this allowed for market saturation which now is sort of beneficial in the way that there’s 1970s promos literally everywhere you look but this also allowed for AMT Ertl and MPC to lower the bar so damn low that South Park’s James Cameron is still looking for it to this day. But despite! I figured I’d at least try and get a nice little model out of it.

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So I first designed a decal sheet for it, knowing full well AMT Ertl and MPC just cannot do a decent one for the life of ’em. Well, mostly at least – the ’74 Roadrunner and ’70 Coronet Super Bee have really nice sheets but in that case the model itself ended up being awful. It’s just how it goes, huh. Anyhow, I’m into the decal business these days so no half assing it this time around and I may as well get a reasonable model out of it all. Initially I wanted to make a black one with red stripes but then I thought… Purple can be really, really pretty. So I bought a can of the Plum Crazy purple metallic from a new ’16 Dodge Challenger and laid into it and I gotta admit; it doesn’t look bad! It sort of comes close to the real AMC metallic purple which is a tad brighter with a more lighter purple hue underneath but y’know, it’s not bad.

1974GremlinX (5)What is bad, though, is how unbelievably half-assed this kit is. Normally I wouldn’t call out the “exaggerated” pictures and drawings on the side of a kit cause they’re always prettier than anything most of us can make. However, this time I can and I am – it’s a fucking lie. For instance, the seats on the side are what they would’ve looked like… This is what they actually look like. (Photo credit: Sportabout @MCM). Seriously, nearly everything on this kit is an afterthought to the degree that it’s irredeemable, the seats are narrow and weird, the rear bench is so low that even garden gnomes are too tall for it, the steering wheel is gargantuan in comparison to the rest, the gear stick is around five times too big(like, really, it’s the size of the steering column). The little ribs on the side where the side marker lights go aren’t scaled properly and are just off looking, neither of the two bumpers go where they should go, the hood is a solid quarter inch too small, the wheels are attached to metal rods that are a solid two inches too long so I spent the better part of half an hour drilling part by part into the rims to get a somewhat better stance going. The whole chassis is a disappointment that was obviously still a relic from the 1974 AMC Gremlin Drag Racer kit cause it sits a fair inch out of the body.

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So I knew going in the seats were just stupid toothpicks, so I stole a pair of seats from a ’70 Torino GT kit which look somewhat more appropriate and I spend a fair amount of time sanding down the leaf springs and such to get the ride height better suited. Like, it upsets me for real knowing this kit RRP’s for around twenty dollars. I mean, it’s fine to say and assume model kit enthusiasts should just take their shit and adjust, which is what we do and are known for; but this is just stupid. This is a unchanged release with a very minor upgrade(hooray, there’s MT branded drag slicks, thanks AMT Ertl, thank you.) that was awful in 1975 and it’s no different in 2018. Like I said, it’s just so damn painful to know that the 1977 MPC AMC Pacer X kit is just worlds, worlds apart. And that one they didn’t re-release, go figure. I’m willing to overlook the sheer braindead decision that they still don’t do clear headlight lenses after forty years, but the interior of this kit is just so, so cheap. Apologies if I come across upset, I’m genuinely disappointed in Round 2’s modus operandi these days of just repackaging kits from the seventies damn near untouched.

I paid less for a genuine, brand new 1977 AMC Pacer X kit that is infinitely better than a 2017 re-imagination of a 1974 kit.

’74 AMC Gremlin X specifications:
Kit: AMT1077/12
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 77
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT – AMT

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (1)The mid to late sixties were a period of aggressive advances and what one could call a sort of coming of age. The fifties had the United States booming left, right and center with opulence, slapping chrome on every inch of the house, fancy leather and bright colors everywhere, music getting wilder and wilder, cinema getting better and better, the golden age of TV kicked off and the cars, while they don’t really appeal to me, but late fifties is Americana to its Miss Belvedere burying heart. And as the sixties came around, the United States began living less like the wild party apartment and honed in on all of its specific parts and began improving on ’em something fierce, in most cases for better, in some for worse.

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One thing that was for the better was the introduction of the ’64-½ Mustang, the literal introduction of the pony car. A car so damn desirable that it kickstarted nearly ten years of the toughest brawling for number one among car manufacturers, it had every big company doing their own take on the pony car to get a slice of the pie. The semi-official checklist is: affordable entry, long front and short rear, focused on being sporty all around, mainly equipped with small block V8s and aggressively aimed at younger buyers. Before you know it, Chrysler chucked the Barracuda at the world two weeks before the Mustang hit the market but it got adapted over the years into its magnum opus; the ’70-’74 ‘Cuda(and the Challenger on the same platform), AMC brought the Javelin in ’67, GM pushed the Camaro and Firebird on the market in ’67 too and it even spread globally; Ford Europe making the now equally legendary Ford Capri, Toyota bringing the Celica and Nissan the Fairlady 240Z, whats the one omission here? Well, Ford, just like GM and Chrysler had more than one name under their umbrella and had Mercury design their own more luxurious version based on the new ’67 Mustang platform.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (5)And what came out of it is in my opinion, arguably one of the prettiest muscle cars ever designed. Ford had it be designed as such that it would eye more European to the American customers, with more ‘alien’ design cues to things like the giant “electric razor” grille and the sharp fender angles. How it looks more European is way the balls beyond me as a European but I suppose its nicer to say its “European” instead of “less bulbous than what we’re used to“. It was twinned to the Mustang from its inception to about 1973 when Mercury was turning their entire lineup into luxury cars, which was, y’know, fair point, the Cougar was a luxurious pony car that could be optioned to be a roaring beast with bare bones everything else but deep down it was… well, luxurious. But never mind its ill fated thirty year voyage beyond muscle car kingdom, the 1967 and 1968 were prime years for the cars and while Semon Knudsen took over the design of the Mustang, he had them turned into heavier, slower, clunkier and generally just fat versions of what they once were(I should add here though that I do really like the ’69-’73 Mustangs, but yeah they are just… unnecessarily huge), the Cougar kept being what it was until the fuel crisis in 1973.

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And AMT back in the day was responsible for fashioning kits out of the newly arrived Cougar until 1970, in which MPC took over but before that happened, AMT pushed out these kits which were three in one kits with a plethora of options(which thankfully included stock, yeah believe it or not, sometimes you didn’t get a stock version) and quite crisp detailing. And boy I had been looking for a 1967 or 1968 Cougar since I started building kits again and after that disappointment known as the ’69 Cougar, and I just never found one for less than 120 bucks. Until I found one while randomly browsing eBay looking for the newly released ’85 Olds from Revell… It was on offer for thirty bucks, nearly brand new with all bits still in plastic from a French seller. Of all places, I found one of the most elusive kits just 230 miles away from me. Now I found out the kit was purchased in 1972 or so by someone as a gift, it got transported to Europe with a family moving at one point or another and sat around for a long, long time. So bidding wars erupted, paid 80 euros for it in the end but… worth it. So damn worth it. Immediately hit up Keith Marks for the ’68 Cougar sheet he has on offer and bought some metallic blue after seeing this particular picture of a Cougar(a design I’ll be mimicking on the upcoming ’92 Cougar) – what color blue is it that I procured for this build? Well, you’re quite wrong – it’s a Goddamn Skoda color of all things. It’s their “Race Blue Metallic” color and boy oh boy does it pop.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (9)So right away upon seeing the kit in my hands, two thoughts entered my mind. One; holy shit detail is crisp, what the hell kind of magic did they use in 1968 and why can’t AMT Ertl even reach similar heights in friggin’ 2018. Two; Jesus, Mary and Joseph Stalin the detail is so crisp, is this kit really from 1968 or was the seller just full of shit!? The body is so unbelievably good and the fit of the body parts is also stellar, it’s only in the engine bay where the detail takes a fairly colossal hit. The engine is either a 302ci V8 or a 390ci V8 I can’t tell, it’s rather hard to tell, the radiator is just a single piece, no shroud or anything, the fan blades are huge, as are the other parts besides the battery, which is a tiny little cube. Oh and no reservoirs, nothing. It’s really, really bare bones in there. So I opted to take another Mustang engine but quickly ran into the problem that I didn’t really wanted to sacrifice any kits I was still going to complete… Until I found the old spare of a 1970 Ford Torino GT I once purchased for the chassis, engine and interior to slap into the ’71 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler I got coming up sooner or later. I thought, y’know what, this is a worthwhile thing, the basic engine/transmission seemed to fit the engine bay exactly and even fit the mounts perfectly(just had to drill a hole in the oil pan, that’s it). The only problem was, the ’68 Cougar did not have the type of engine the ’70 Torino GT had… A 429 Cobra Jet. Oooohhh weeell, it sits in there, it looks much better than the original and it might even just look good.

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The interior has quite nice detail to it as well, even a weird addition I’ve never seen before: seat belts on the stock seats. Molded in there, in decent quality. I mean, it’s a bit odd but… nice at the same time. The chassis on the other hand is quite mediocre, but it’s just something all of the model kit designers from the sixties through the eighties did, the thought of “no-one looks at the bottom” reigned supreme for long. The ridiculous age of the kit, fifty years old in a few months, has had some downsides on a few parts… One was the rubber wheels, which had gone rock hard and shrunk to the point that none of the wheels still fit them, so I tried to solve that particular problem via AMT Ertl’s one-size-fits-fuck-all tires and they actually fit for the first time, ever. Though the tires aren’t the right size for the model and it sits… weird, but it sorta works. At least it’s got the friggin’ wheels on, that was a fight in its own right.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (16)The other problem is that back in those times, they shoved the whole kit in one plastic bag. This nowadays isn’t done anymore for one simple reason; it wrecked the damn kit. Parts interconnected, the tires can rot and melt to a piece and be conjoined forever. And last but not least, the thing that happened to this kit; the clear piece got scratched to high heaven in the baggie. But whatever, time and decay go hand in hand. At the end of it all, the kit went together so unbelievably well, even with the whole replacement engine in mind. Keith Marks’ decals topped off an incredible package and was worth every penny, not to mention it really brings the detail out, especially on the grille.

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Worth the 100 euro or so investment? Hell yes. Worth investing if you ever stumble upon one for not a whole lot of money? Oh hell yes. Wishing along with me for a re-release or a new tool of the ’67-’68 and ’70 Cougars? Hell. Yes.

’68 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT specifications:
Kit: AMT5328-200
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 109
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE – AMT Ertl

2017CamaroSS1LE (1)AMT’s the proud license owner of the latest Camaro molds and tools, as of 2016 they’ve been responsible for getting the newest Camaro models to the market in all shapes and forms, some are full kits, few others are pre-painted snap-tite kits, but in general they’ve all been quite remarkably nice kits with supremely detailed suspension and interior parts. That’s pretty much the gist of it. Last year it was the 2016 SS and a early release of the 2017 SS “FIFTY” along with two snap-tite versions of the ’16 SS, this year it was a 2017 Pace Car version of the FIFTY, a snap-tite version of the SS 1LE and to close the year off; a full kit version of said SS 1LE.

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And they’ve been “listening” to the builders across the world and they actually learned, albeit at a step-by-step speed. Though by the time this kit came around, I’d say they had fixed most of the problems but at the cost of introducing some significantly worse ones. For instance, some quality of life improvers were made like including side marker light decals and making the tail light lens dark gray instead of chrome which made it a ton easier to detail the lights and get the stark contrast of black-to-chrome/white looking right, they included some decals for the interior and so forth.

2017CamaroSS1LE (4)That’s great and all and honestly, it’s a good feeling that manufacturers listen to their customers to some extend, however, boy oh boy this is one cheap-as-shit kit. You see, the wheels are quality additions, they’re accurate, they’re solid, the tires are good rubber but oh man did they take cheap shortcuts on just about everything else. Again, it’s got the same pre-detailed glass and pre-colored tail lights, which is also amazing and I’m happy that they’re a thing but… I cannot stress the point enough that they literally cut corners on everything else. Though to go back to the tail lights, while it’s supremely nice that they’re pre-detailed, they also look somewhat… odd. It’s possible because you can see into the red through the clear, making it look “soft” on the inside, I would argue it would’ve been a thousand times better if the reverse/indicator lights were separate(think Tamiya’s Nissan Skyline R34, with separate lenses for the inner and outer lights).

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But to go back to the point I keep talking past; this is a cheaply manufactured kit. There’s no beating around the bush on that one, there’s no making up for it, it’s just one fricking awful showing on AMT’s part. The plastic comes pre-colored in the injection process, which is fine I suppose, this is the status quo for most of Asian manufacturers and it’s beginning to bleed into US and European kit makers as well, totally okay. What isn’t okay is the sheer crap quality of the plastic. It’s this cheap, flaky, thin-as-fucking-sin plastic that is somewhat flexible but just… It’s so thin, that even with a coat of primer, light shines through the other side. The yellow its colored in is also this weird, dirty yellow instead of the intense yellow featured on the real deal, it’s just… cheap. What doesn’t help matters is, given that most folks will just primer the hell out of it and do the coloring themselves so that’s not a giant problem, but as I said, what doesn’t help matters is the giant, hideous, crisp mold lines that run over the roof, over the rear quarter, over the fender, over the bumpers, it’s just immense how rough the body is.

2017CamaroSS1LE (11)So I kind of went in with a semi-defeated attitude, having come to terms with the trade-offs with the quality, to just build it and have one last kit finished before the turn of the year into 2018. I mean, despite the rough body, cheap-ass quality plastic and shortcomings in total, it’s still mostly the epic new tool from AMT from 2016. Like I said, the suspension build on this kit is nothing short of legendary, it’s well over forty parts for the rear suspension alone(and weirdly enough, just 8 or so for the front) and while most modern cars sadly hide their engines under some synthetic engine cover, AMT Ertl’s tried to maximize the detail under the hood despite it all. The 6.2L LT1 V8(shared with a Corvette these days!) is detailed supremely well and the whole engine bay just… looks good. I mean, for the sake of modeling, nothing beats the raw engine bay of a late sixties/early seventies engine block but, y’know, given how well engines are hidden under plastic these days, they did pretty good on that part.

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The hood on the SS 1LE is completely blacked out, bit like the old Dodges and Plymouths, which they provide a decal for but hoooo-boy, it just doesn’t A) fit, B) look right and C) sit correctly without rippling like crazy. I mean, they tried. But you’re just better off spraying the thing semi-gloss black. For the rest, they got rid of the chrome parts all together when they made the swap to gray headlight lenses so you get these dull medium gray exhaust pipes which were… disappointing looking to say the least. But luckily there’s things like chrome spray paint that make it look pretty damn close to the real deal, so thank goodness for that.

2017CamaroSS1LE (15)For a last 2017 build, it was semi disappointing. I mean, it’s still a perfectly fine kit but given the standards they achieved in 2016 with this kit, it’s odd to see them take the cheap-as-chips plastic route with the weird half-metallic half translucent yellow paint and sprues with so much flash on them that you spend a third of the time chipping bits of plastic of the parts so they frickin’ fit. I mean, Monogram nailed the process in 1983 for Christs sake, it shouldn’t be so hard to get a decent quality plastic for your kits. But ah well, it’s just all that, still a fine kit all in all.

’17 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE specifications:
Kit: AMT1074
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 112
Molded in: Yellow, Black & Gray
Scale: 1/25

Blog Update #005 – Year in Review II

It’s been my second year here on this website, something that kinda still is just my on the side hobby combined with some showing off and writing about it, it’s still fantastic to find out that there’s actually quite some folks out there that are interested in this!

Being able to spread the love for the detail this year was a good highlight, with the “Modeling Supplies” page getting a ton of views and the storefronts of the folks I adore for making the model world a little more unique with every item sold, they’ve been getting a fair few extra clicks! The variety of models I’ve been capable of doing this year was nothing short of tremendous, from getting all the Anniversary Camaros, to a handful of Malaise era victims, to some Japanese domestic market vehicles like the Hilux and the Silvia S13, and of course a ton of good ol’ American powerhouses.

Another thing is that since a month or so I’d been making and selling my own decal sheets, something that I’d wanted for over a year and finally managed to dive into and whaddya know; it friggin’ well worked out! Goddamn do I love this hobby and I hope that my love and desire for this hobby helps you out, whether it is creatively or through the assets of what I created, either way keep on building!

Jesus… It just hit me as I’m editing the image table that I built 59 just this year alone. Well, holy hell. Anyhow! Here’s hoping the third year will be just as eventful, fun and good for us all. God knows I’ve got well over thirty kits sitting around ready to be built and five of which are being worked on as we speak.

 

92pontiacfirebirdformula-2 68elcaminoss396-5 90cougarxr7-6 76camaronew-1
92camaronew-2 1997camaroz2830thanniversary (4) 2002camaro35th (7) 2012camaro45th (21)
2016camarossfifty (8) 1987camaroirocz (15) 1981camaro (1) 84oldsmobilelsx442-10
2003nissangtrr34 (10) 69oldscutlass442w30 (13) ralliartlancerx-11 1979camaroz28black (11)
1973cougarxr7 (8) gmcsierra1977 (4) 1968dodgechargerRT440_daytime_cloudy (19) 92tbirdsc (3)
gmcvandura (10) 1970cuda440_6 (23) 1970mustangboss302 (20) 1980dodgeramcharger (14)
1987buickregalgrandnational (16) 69dodgesuperbee-10 1980chevycitationx11 (11) 1980plymouthvolareroadrunner (2)
1981dodgeomni024 (9) 1970AAR_Cuda (18) 1993chevrolets10 (13) 1976spiritof76_dodgedart (4)
1970GSX_raised (4) 1980firebirdtransam (4) 1991silviaS13 (5) 1971superbee (23)
1979novacustom (18) 69novayenko-5 1987MonteCarloAerocoperedux (22) 1971plymouthduster340 (14)
2005cadillacescalade (7) 69chargerdaytonahemi-4 2012chevycruzeturbo (17) 1977montecarlolandau (5)
1987ElCaminoSS (8) 1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (18) 1990mercedesbenz190E_2-3_16v (15) 1990chevyberettaGTZ (18)
1994toyotahiluxdcab_4wd (16) 2009fordf350SD4x4 (27) 1970dodgechargert426hemi (11) 1980montecarlo (13)
1983chevycitationx11 (25) 1970plymouthGTX440_6 (10) 1974ChargerRallye (18) 2007dodgechargersrt8SuperBee (20)
1991GMCSycloneMarlboro (19) 1993JeepGrandCherokee (19) 1984oldshurstolds (15) 2017CamaroSS1LE (8)

Merry Christmas and a happy new year y’all!

1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Hurst/Olds – Revell

83olds_2The Hurst nameplate is one of those you immediately associate with muscle cars, without a doubt. A lesser known fact is that George Hurst’s company invented the jaws of life system in 1961 and gave away the patent for free, but a better known fact is that if your muscle car in the mid to late sixties or early seventies had a steering column shifter or just a plain and rough floor shifter, you were doing it wrong. The Hurst shifter was nothing short of legendary throughout that decade, you needed one to stay with the pack and you know what, that’s fine. And it quickly became a realization within the Pontiac division of GM that slapping the Hurst brand on your car might actually help improve sales!

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By the turn of the 1970s, Hurst Engineering had their name and their iconic logos or gold-white paint and/or stripe set up on well over a dozen types of cars, the ’69 AMC SC/Rambler, ’72 Pontiac SSJ Grand Prix, ’70 Hurst Jeepster and of course the ’68 through the early eighties; Hurst/Olds. AMT Ertl made a kit of the ’69 Hurst/Olds back in the nineties, based on a even older W-30 Cutlass 442 kit and I’ll say, they weren’t half bad. Not superb, but pretty damn good in their own right. Revell still has a 1972 Hurst/Olds pace car kit on the market today, which is nothing short of amazing, I personally made it into a 442 but I wish I had made it the pace car, still. Jo-Han is the only model kit maker to have bridged the gap between 1973 and 1983 by issuing a simple snap kit of the ’75 Cutlass Supreme and a few promo models of that one and a ’73 Cutlass, but nothing truly spectacular. In somewhat sadder news, or well, it was news once, there were plans to revive some Jo-Han kits including the ’75 Cutlass back in 2011 but legal hurdles quickly killed those plans off.

1984oldshurstolds (4)So we’re left with 1969, 1972 and 1983 for the time being. And Revell is a month away from unleashing the ’85 Oldsmobile 442 with a second option in there to turn it into a FE3-X “Darth Vader” show car, they haven’t yet blessed us with a 1984 Cutlass kit. Which is… understandable, it’s just a swapped paint job and decal scheme of the ’83 version and some minor differences in the grille, rear axle and tail lights and I doubt its worth the effort of boxing one for that. I built the ’83 version last year and a ’84 LSX-442 version earlier this year, with a LSX-454 engine designed by Clearly Scale in there to boot and I have to admit, it’s easily one of my favorite model kits. Not necessarily cause it builds like the best, cause believe me, it’s still a 7 outta 10 at best, especially with how the wheels are attached and how you’re meant to manhandle the chassis into the body but.. Still, I love 1980s cars and the last dying wail of one farted into the annals of history in 1984 as the very last proper stripe-ridden specialty version on the market. And no, not counting the ’87-’88 Monte Carlo SS, dammit. Well, I should, but nah.

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You see, the thing of muscle cars is always the sheer un-subtleness of it, and yeah that isn’t a word but bear with me here. Take for instance the 1969 AMC Rebel Machine, also known simply as “The Machine”. It literally had AMC’s colors all over the cars and seriously made some striped vehicles like namely a ’69 Mustang look subtle besides it. Muscle cars are cheap, powerful, uncomfortable powerhouses that do the supercar appeal of “look at me” but got the anger and growl of a rabid dog and the 1984 Hurst/Olds is literally one of the last to have that with the two toned paint job, the bright red stripes, the aggressive stance and red-lined wheels. Underneath, it’s literally the same car, as I said earlier. It has the same LG8 307ci V8(5.0L) under the hood, which given the 1980s standards for power output versus size, actually had a very reasonable amount of horsepower going through it(around the 180HP, to compare it to a similarly equipped car; the ’84 Z/28 with a 305ci V8 block achieved 150) and the interior luxury was… well, Oldsmobile-ey. It had kept a lot of interior options of the Cutlass Supreme that got crossed over that were translated into kit form veeeery nicely and besides the fact that my dumbass once again used a gloss paint for the color; the detail is crisp as sin.

1984oldshurstolds (10)I mean, for the most part I’m gonna be regurgitating information that you could read over in either the ’83 Hurst/Olds article of the ’84 LSX-442(minus engine details, given it’s got a Clearly Scale engine swap in there), but for the sake of it I’ll just go over it one more time. The interior detail as I just mentioned is really, really good. I mean, it could use some slightly more raised details but 99% of it is there and perfectly fine to work with, vents, dials, all of it. The engine bay is really, really pretty but it does have some downsides; the A/C unit is molded into fender and so is the battery and… it can look really, really strange when you look down besides the engine and see that the A/C unit goes all the way to the frame, kind of the same blocky “bleed” from old Monogram kits, it’s just not exactly pretty.

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The body has some significant mold lines along the rear windows and fitting the nose cone can be a right pain in the ass at times given plastic’s nature to very sometimes expand and/or warp, and even with a kit from a year old, the fenders can bend inwards in the package so sometimes the front end just won’t fit without some severe bending and warping with warm water, but y’know what, it’s something we deal with as modelers, ain’t it. The thing that makes this build stand out, or unique rather, is the decal sheet which I crafted up for it. I’d been pining to get all the Hurst/Olds and 442’s done from ’83 through ’87 and y’know, the ’84 Hurst/Olds is part of it. So when I began with the little decal sheet crafting adventure, number two on my list was the ’84 stripes. Which, I am gonna shamelessly plug right here, yeah, right here, it’s a link to eBay. I have some regrets which I am gonna change on the sheet, number one; the color is off. It’s too far away from bright red, it isn’t helped by the fact that it’s not entirely opaque(printing error by Rothko & Frost) and number two; the top fender/door stripe is too thick. Gotta change that up to perfect it, but as it is, it’s perfectly acceptable.

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I mean, if I’m gonna plug shit, whether it’s mine or someone elses, it’s only fair I’m honest. I did a better job on the air cleaner decals and the Syclone decals, undoubtedly and it’s not helped that the red stripes aren’t printed properly so… y’know, swings and roundabouts. I put some Fireball Modelworks Goodyear Eagle GTII tire decals on the wheels to wrap the whole thing up looking spiffy and that was about it, the rest it’s all the same Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds kit underneath. In the end, it’s part of a series and I’m totally happy its among ’em, it’s all a learning experience, right! Now just to await Revell’s unleashing of the FE3-X/442 Cutlass kit!

’84 Oldsmobile Cutlass Hurst/Olds specifications:
Kit: #85-4317
Skill Level: 4
Parts: 93
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

 

1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8 – Tamiya

1993JeepGrandCherokee (1)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.

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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.

1993JeepGrandCherokee (7)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.

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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…

1993JeepGrandCherokee (14)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.

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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.

1993JeepGrandCherokee (16)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.

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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
Parts: 99
Molded in: Metallic Green(Hunter Green), Gray, Dark Gray & Black
Scale: 1/24

1991 GMC Syclone Marlboro Edition – Revell

1991GMCSycloneMarlboro (1)GMC’s never really been a name you’d associate performance with, right? Generally it’s trucks, light trucks, pick up trucks and… shit, that’s just about it. For the most part, especially recently, GMC’s been the alternative to Chevrolet for the supposed “professional“. It’s a confusing thing, yet it’s simple as sin at the origin – they’re the same car with small cosmetic differences but according to GM, the Chevrolet’s the daily driver(therefor cheaper) meant to be worn down to just bolts as it racks up 500K miles, while the GMC is the work truck(for some reason more expensive) that is meant to be dented to the heavens and filthy as can be, but it’ll last the model’s lifespan and can be pawned off in favor for a newer model once it comes around. (Excuse the sun-kissed as hell photos, they were taken on a foggy day with sun beaming through it like a ball of hellfire, once Spring rolls around they’ll be updated!)

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But in 1991, they changed their image significantly. Albeit very briefly, given the image swap lasted to about 1993. September ’91, Car & Driver magazine did an article on the newly spawned, all jet black, sleeked down and bodykitted out GMC truck and pitted its merit against a Ferrari 348TS from the same year. Now, you might think, yeah but the Ferrari isn’t the fastest they could’ve offered, the thing was a brick even with the 5.6 second 0-60 time, so on. But let’s not skimp over this detail – it’s a damn pick up truck. It still looks like that little bastard you’d see driven in middle of nowhere Idaho, ferrying stuff from A to B. Though granted, it no longer was a pick-up truck by definition given it had a weight-holding capacity of a songbird thanks to the tech-up it had received, GMC had a little sticker on the inside of the tailgate that advised you shouldn’t put more than 500 pounds of weight in the back(that’s 226kg). This meant it no longer was a pick-up truck, it was more a short car with lots of useless space attached to it.

1991GMCSycloneMarlboro (17)Granted, all it had going for it was short term speed. While it ran to the 60 mile an hour mark in 4.6 seconds, it did only have a top speed of 126MPH(202KM/h). So while it has all of the merits of a true sports… truck, it also came with the downside of not being able to keep up with actual sports cars. But it’s not a big deal, the little Syclone had proven something and it had made its mark on the map. It out-dragged just about anything, Chevrolet Corvettes, Ferrari’s, Audi’s, BMW’s, it had the off-the-light speed boost that would allow you to be the badass around town. It was a good ride, it stopped well, it also lasted pretty long even though the turbocharger and liquid cooler had shorter lifespans(as they always do), it was a fun little truck. Which I suppose is the reason why people like Jay Leno own one and drive one still, just for funsies. People see a black pick up truck, think “typical American truck, all stickers, no speed” and then bolt away from said person at friggin’ light speed. A year later, GMC introduced the Typhoon, a closed bed with rear seats version of the Syclone. Came in different colors and slightly less power due to the weight re-distribution and such, but still a lightning bolt.

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So yes! Long, long, long story short, it was a pretty impressive, albeit underappreciated little truck. Revell designed a kit around the truck back in 1991 and it was friggin’ stellar. It was a kit I accidentally stumbled upon after popping on eBay, just back in the hobby, literally after I made my first model kit in over a decade, thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if there was a Syclone kit, I saw a S-10 Monogram ad once so…“. And holy shit, there it was. It was the ’92 release, in all black, kind of milky dated decals but man I loved putting it together. It was complicated, it was pretty and dammit it gave me a little Syclone of my own. Looking back at it, I almost wish I hadn’t found it until now cause I really did try my best with it at the time and still I feel like I could do a ton better these days.

1991GMCSycloneMarlboro (8)That being said, I bought a second one. Specifically for one reason; to make the Marlboro edition of the Syclone. In 1992, Marlboro, or rather Phillip Morris, Inc(whom are evil as sin, but y’know, car/kit blog, no bullshit) had a reward for the ten winners of the Marlboro Racing Contest ’92. Ten Syclones were given to the designer of the Corvette and Boss Mustangs, Larry Shinoda and he did the following: gave ’em T-tops with special holders in the bed, rear window that could slide down, special Boyd Coddington Cobra chrome-black wheels, Recaro seats and a MOMO sports steering wheel and of course, the “Hot Lick” bright red-as-sin paint job and Marlboro chevron-style stripes on the doors and hood. Now I should say right off the bat, the kit didn’t pack any Marlboro brand decals for a very simple reason: advertising cigarette brands is somewhere along the same line as putting tits on a billboard. I don’t give a damn myself, but folks, even for historical subjects(like say, a race literally called the Marlboro Racing Contest) say “nope”.

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So I had to improvise and improvise I friggin’ well did. I had this decal sheet sitting in .PSD format for the better part of a year now, a semi-abandoned plan to turn a S-10 into a Baja S-10 and a GMC Syclone into a Sonoma GT. It wasn’t until I figured out that the newer release, the 2010 re-release of the kit packs all the stripes and white Syclone logos to make effectively a cigarette-brand-free version, but I didn’t wanna half-ass it and I had already gone full bore with the decal printing plan so I cooked up some extras on that sheet for the Marlboro version(which go for 8.50$ on eBay, gotta plug my own stuff somehow eh). All-in-all, that part was a reasonable success. Some of the other “additions” I had to figure out were, for instance, the black wheels with the chrome lip.

20171116_125009That was slightly more difficult as, A) the Boyd Coddington wheels are a rare one in their own right, as they were designed by the guy himself and he sadly passed away in 2008, so getting something even remotely similar in 1/25th scale… Yeah, no. B) the early nineties Revell wheel adapters were slightly… well, one size fits barely. So it had to be something from a similar era and luck would have it that some old Chevrolet Impala SS wheels from 1994 would be exact fits, I mean like perfect flush fit. I mean, unfortunate that I gutted a Impala SS model for parts but y’know, circle of a models life. Built, kept, torn asunder, re-built. The wheels just took a lick of semi-gloss black and wham, semi-good looking replacement of the custom Coddington wheels. The real version also has targa-tops which uhh… Yeah, I love them and American Sunroof Corp. did an ace job at making ’em look okay on the Syclone but, really, I did not want to ravage two T-top panels onto the already rather frail body and just painting them on seemed too much of a cop-out.

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Some other differences between the original and the Marlboro version are also found under the hood. For instance, the intake plenum and the Garrett liquid-cooler housing were donned in red and chrome along with the rest, and y’know, had to go along with it. I will say this, the kit is spectacular and nothing short of epic but holy shit did they go all in on the engine bay. It is so, so well detailed. The cross-over air filter tubing, the way the turbo hooks up, the separate and ultra detailed A/C units, the liquid cooler and all the extras… This is a pick-up truck kit, by heart. It isn’t a best-seller, it’s not a hot topic, yet it gets so much love that it boggles my mind. They put so, so much effort into the engine block and engine bay, and it’s only been used three times. In ’92 for the Syclone, in ’93 for the S-10 versions and one last time in ’10 for this re-release and that’s it. Not to mention, the interior detail is crisp as all hell and all it would need to be utterly friggin’ fantastic would’ve been a dashboard decal. Something I unfortunately couldn’t craft up myself, it was too difficult to find a good dashboard picture to base it off alone.

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The first of two downsides I encountered wasn’t necessarily the fault of Revell, but more by the package itself. It was packaged in a bigger, flatter box(think Aoshima sized boxes), however it had the unfortunate problem of it having been crammed in there tightly – most of the bodykit had warped to half a C-shape by the time I got my hands on ’em.

Which y’know… Sucks. It truly, truly sucks. It’s made putting the bodykit on the thing hard and it kept tearing itself loose from the glue even after being taped together and the rear side was a total loss as it just didn’t have the surface to be strongly glued together enough for the shape to hold – so there’s some severe panel gaps there.

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Whats the second downside? Well that’s a legacy thing of old. Like I said earlier, the wheel adapters are of the old Monogram kits of the late eighties that basically just… fit one type of tire. Usually, Monogram either had Goodyear GS-C tires(branded for this kit, even), Goodyear GT Radials(usually for muscle-cars) and Polysteel Radials for older kits. This meant that they had to roll with the old wheel adapters too and boy are they a wobbly pile of wank. Both front wheels sit at a hideous angle and the rear wheels wobble all over the place and there’s no fixing it now given they’re the click-to-forever-connect type. But y’know what, fine – it can’t all be perfect and I’m happy as a clam nonetheless.

1991GMCSycloneMarlboro (10)It always feels good to tinker on these old pick-up kits and both Revell-Monogram and AMT Ertl have shown up to the stage with stellar kits, whether it is the S-15 types from GMC or the S-10 types from Chevrolet, they’ve both been on top of their game with the releases. Chassis, body, engine, interior, it all gets an equal amount of love from the companies and it’s even a bit strange that some of their more well-desired car kits come with less detail in some cases. But y’know, lamenting blah-blah and all. Ah well, onwards to the Sonoma SLS soon!

’91 GMC Syclone Marlboro Edition specifications:
Kit: #85-7213
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 132
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

2007 Dodge Charger SRT8 Super Bee – Revell

2007dodgechargersrt8SuperBee (1)Back in 2005, the Dodge Charger came back from its 20 year hiatus, or 32 year hiatus if you don’t count the dressed up Dodge Omni from ’81-’87 or the Chrysler Cordoba badge-swap from ’75-’78. And it was quite a success, hell it still is. It became a very proficient police car for a lot of townships, it’s a solid four door semi-luxury car that sort of echoes the original days of the Charger plus it’s actually… pretty damn sexy looking. And speaking of echoing its past, Chrysler was on top of it something fierce – just a year later, at the North American International Auto Show they showed off a SRT8 with a Super Bee livery(on which this kit is based), a while later it turned out the production model would be a little different but we’ll get back to that in a moment.

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The same year, a very similar looking Charger Daytona R/T was announced at the Chicago Auto Show, also for a limited production run(though it would return a bit later in 2013, as would the Super Bee in 2012), it was basically one big giant nostalgic orgasm for car lovers around the globe and Revell leapt on this hype train like it was gonna miss its one last chance at life in 2005. First coming on the market, weirdly enough, as a “Uptown” series lowrider… custom… thing? I mean, fair play, the DUB Magazine crowd just about pissed their trousers with happiness that there was another contender for the transmogrification crowd.

2007dodgechargersrt8SuperBee (12)I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I despise the way it looks. The giant wheels? Fine, after all, I am a fan of the “Dubbed out” ’05 Escalade. Hell, I can even appreciate them some on the Charger with the right stance. If the top of the rubber is still visible, it’ll likely look okay. What I am not okay with is the weird, silly, stupid scissor doors that were a freakish hype item in the mid 2000s and are a relic of the lowrider days. It just looks fucking idiotic, pardon my français. And the main reason why I don’t like the way it looks on model kits especially, is something you can see above: the extra moving parts, inner door parts and the whole mechanism of it going up require a lot of space and the door won’t ever properly look shut anymore.

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The 2008 re-release of the kit as the Super Bee prototype, it didn’t see much of a fix. I would’ve much preferred just molded shut doors but… yeah, that would require editing the whole model for what came down to just a set of new wheels, a wing and a new decal sheet. All I would’ve asked for is some damn door handles. It looks so alien, so weird, without ’em. I know, it’s a nitpick worthy of a slap but Jesus Christ, why does it look so odd without them? I’m getting the same vibes here from the lack of door handles as I would seeing pictures of folks with their eyebrows Photoshopped out. It’s just unnatural! But I digress, holy shit do I digress. Actually, to quickly go back to the original 2005 release – you get all the pieces besides the wheels in this kit too. The decals are there, the Xzibit Approved™ TV screen and sound system interior accessories, chrome interior panels and plaque for the rear deck. So you got that going for ya’ in this version.

2007dodgechargersrt8SuperBee (11)Earlier I said that this isn’t actually the right Super Bee that people actually ended up getting on their driveways to gawk at. No, sadly, or actually, impressively enough, this was based on the 2006 announcement prototype with the solid stripe and all black hood with yellow HEMI logos. The one that went into production had segmented horizontal stripes and merely a black logo on the hood, turns out either way – the car(not the kit. Thouuuugghhh…) was… unconventional, at best.

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Most of the complaints went to the car’s usability. For instance, the damn thing didn’t turn normally if you even as much as touched the gas pedal(or rather, it only turned when you did that). The whole interior is made of a plastic that shatters if you as much as sneeze in the car and it did the convenient thing that turns out being inconvenient on any road outside of long highways of putting a ton of useful stuff on the steering wheel. But ironically, while they really wanted to improve the car while keeping the spirit of the original car – they literally made the original car. A 440 Magnum powered 1971 Super Bee was unbearable to drive apparently, with today’s standards in mind of course, you’d be able to turn left or right by merely hitting the gas pedal, the decals were often matte or low quality, the brakes being made of tin cans and hope and the interior quality was usually dubious at best. And why were those cars so… absurdly difficult?

2007dodgechargersrt8SuperBee (10)Cause they were fun! Fun fun fun! Purpose built for the child like of heart(yours truly included), burning rubber for no reason whatsoever until the steel belts came flying off, annoyingly bright paint job with decals that got the attention of everyone and the sighs of “ugh, friggin’ douche” quickly followed. The big 6.1L V8, also known as the Street & Racing Technologies’ V8 HEMI – it pumped 425 horse power into a car that (curb)weighs as much as a loaded up ’06 Dodge Ram Van 1500. That does explain why the car has a tendency of going all over the damn place besides forwards, it’s a ton of power nestled onto the wheels and the immense amount of torque that giant V8 shoves out is just too much for the car, but holy hell does it make for a fun little toy. A toy that costs close to fifty grand new, but… y’know. Yeah okay, that makes for a rather shit toy, but the sentiment stands, dammit. In 2007, the Camaro was still two years away and the Challenger was just announced so this trip down the lane of memories was all you could get if you wanted that itch scratched.

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So why is this such a mediocre kit that has such a extreme duality in quality? Well, it goes back to the problem that it is a custom. They obviously wanted to get rid of the custom part by giving normal tires(well, as normal as they could get, the real thing sat on 20 inch wheels) and the parts to make a regular interior out of it. They just never truly pushed through on it, keeping the scissor doors, lowered ride height and more Snap-Tite build quality. For instance, nearly all the moving parts and chunks are screwed together, something I am a fan of – it works a lot better than glue and it won’t ever fall apart unless you physically unscrew ’em. The build itself is also immensely simplistic, the engine bay is two pieces. Just two. The interior goes up to about twelve. The trunk is two pieces. Stuff like that. Though that doesn’t mean its bad, in fact the simplistic nature of the kit is wonderful, it goes together so friggin’ well thanks to it.

2007dodgechargersrt8SuperBee (18)For instance, parts where it ain’t all simple or where it benefits of the simplistic approach: the headlights are literally just the chrome lamps and indicators, which makes it a thousand times easier to get that blacked out headlight effect the real thing has. The bumpers are all already part of the body and just the grille needs to be fitted, which makes for a more smooth body – which of course is utterly negated by the stupid doors. The simplicity of it all hasn’t affected the mold detail at all, the whole engine detail is there, it just isn’t there to be build by you. Same goes for the interior, it’s all high quality – just hardly any building required. Decals enhance the whole ordeal a ton too, but I would’ve liked a full bore 120 plus piece kit instead of this.

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The really, really nice things of this kit though is something that was sort of a trend during this period of Revell. Tinted rear windows, superb quality almost puzzle like pieces that fit together so well. Actually, all but the trunk which uses a mechanism that would imply it could go open without any issue but in fact it’s just properly permanently shut due to it. Lots of little structural improvements that enhance the build even more, like the headlamps having little pins that go through the headlight bezel and can be glued stuck from behind, the tail-lights have a similar thing, all windows have special slots and prongs that allow for extra strength. Little things that help a ton, something that could be found on the ’05 Escalade too as well as the ’06 Dodge Magnum I got coming up sooner or later still.

In the end, it’s just such a weird cross-over. It’s not custom enough to make it truly custom like the original 2005 release, yet it’s also not stock enough to truly make it a ’07 Super Bee prototype. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for the proper decals instead of the NAIA show version, Keith Marks has a set of ’em for fifteen bucks. I would’ve done it proper but… when I figured out how “custom” this kit still is despite it all, I just didn’t want to invest any more. It ain’t bad as it is, but boy did it leave me wanting more.

’07 Dodge Charger SRT8 Super Bee specifications:
Kit: #85-4225
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 93
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25