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

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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

1974 Dodge Charger Rallye – MPC

1974ChargerRallye (1)1973 and 1974 were not exactly great periods for the world, especially for the United States. The economy was already in the shitter for a few years due to the Bretton Woods system falling apart in 1971 and things weren’t helped when Richard Nixon kicked off a series of rapid economic changes in mid 1971(also called the “Nixon Shock“) who was running a presidency that was still dumping money in a at-that-point already lost Vietnam war. So cue October 1973 coming around and Egypt and Syria started the Yom Kippur war by surprise attacking Israeli territories and Nixon requested direct aid to be supplied to Israel six days after the conflict kicked off. OPEC responded by directly putting an strict oil embargo on the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Japan.

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This changed everything and especially the automotive market given, well, y’know, cars kinda require the stuff to even… do something useful. While European countries were a tiny bit less harshly affected, as for instance, the Netherlands had begun building a domestic natural gas network in the mid sixties and European cars had already been shaped a lot smaller and had better fuel mileage due to restrictions set shortly after the second World War. Still, though, it crippled just about every country involved and it demanded drastic changes on every field, daylight savings kicked in, “don’t be fuelish” campaigns to avoid power waste, a choke hold on the heating oil market, but what especially needed change was the American automotive market – a common car you’d see like the very popular Chevrolet Impala and Caprice with a standard 400 cubic inch V8 did a lovely 14 miles to the gallon on highways and around 9 on common roads at best, that’s not great.

1974ChargerRallye (2)I gotta admit, part of what has me enjoying this hobby so much is the research involved with the kit subject, so forgive the book of text here, cause what intrigues me equally is to understand what went so wrong. I mean, having worked on big block V8’s before at my workplace gave me a thorough journey through what made Detroit tick in those days(a mentality from the post-war fifties’ Golden Age of Capitalism that carried on through the sixties) but it never really dawned on me just how drastic it suddenly all had to change until I began doing this whole ordeal for funsies. That a type of car which was already long past its peak suddenly got stranded in the desert without food or water and was forced to adapt, quick, or wither away. With the great power of hindsight, the big three of Detroit didn’t learn whatsoever in 1973 though, as they kept looking at the short term gain instead of a permanent fix – by 1975, the larger vehicles began to start selling rather well once more, despite restrictions and having their power neutered to the point of embarrassment. So when the second fuel crisis came about in 1979, they were literally repeating history.

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So, the third generation Dodge Charger stood against some terrible, terrible odds. By 1974, the muscle car era had just about reached its closing stage, the economic crisis began to seriously affect US buying power and while in 1973, it did reach peak sales but well over 60% of ’em were non-performance oriented versions, hell Dodge had already replaced the R/T with the Rallye in 1972. And if you’d ask me, I honestly think it’s a damn shame – I really love the ’71-’74 Charger’s shape. They truly stand out to me, even with the weird mandatory US regulation overbite bumpers and/or 5-MPH-bumperettes that look like buckteeth on the thing.

1974ChargerRallye (17)MPC did annual releases of the Chargers from 1967 all the way through 1974 and of the third generation, only one got a re-release later on. AMT Ertl meanwhile took the 1971 subject and totally overhauled it to great success, making it one of their best kits hands down, no questions asked. MPC on the other hand, didn’t improve all that much, sadly. In 1980, they re-popped their 1974 Charger annual kit in their hyper typical 1980s fashion – make it appear tuned with a huge hood scoop and a engine with giant exhaust headers, deep dish wheels, thick rear tires, big over the top silver decals and of course, weird optional parts no sane man would use. Granted, I love extra choice but the quality of the extra parts are such an afterthought that it’s just one spurt of flash away from being insulting.

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So I first decided I would buy a decal set from Keith Marks and roll with it. Then when I finally got the kit in my possession, I figured out it was also molded entirely in the off-red as it was on the box. Wasn’t expecting that! It’s sort of nice if you wanted it to be that color anyway but… even then, it’s poorly made. It’s the kind of color injected plastic where it doesn’t settle well in edges, so you get this weird half translucent color most of the time. I painted it with a few coats of BMW’s titanium silver metallic and glossed the hell out of it, which came out nice! What didn’t though, was my dumbass fault – I put the decals a solid inch too low and it didn’t occur to me that they were positioned wrong long after they dried… So I kind of had to roll with it or spend another 23 dollar at Keith’s for another set.

1974ChargerRallye (16)Roll with it I shall and rolled with I did. The wheels, as I said earlier, were deep dish Centerline Drags and I just can’t stand the look of ’em so I quickly got rid of ’em. Instead I used a set of Magnum 500 wheels I fortunately had spare from the 1970 GTX kit I built not too long ago, albeit in the wrong scale, they kind of look like they fit. Sort of, right? Sort of. Slapped some BF Goodrich Radial T/A’s on there to make them stand out a bit more and tada, the car sits on better wheels. The only downside here is that it was obviously designed for the smaller wheels so now it has a humongous ride height, but… ah well, screw it. Even at the wrong scale, I much prefer the Magnums.

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The kit as a whole is reeking of MPC shortcuts. While the body is nice(the Charger scripts are still off kilter and gigantic even if I had positioned the damn decals straight, yay) and the details on the grille and tail end are superb, the kit does come with some incredible low points. For instance, the engine is based on the 340 with a two barrel carb of the day and somehow also on the 400 Four Barrel. So it’s living in this weird off-sized limbo where it’s actually neither. The engine also floats on the chassis on two non existent points, half on the front suspension(well, actually only the water pump sits on it) and just the transmission’s very tip sits on the support in the chassis. The interior on the other hand is really nice, chunky but nice. The wood grain is detailed rather nicely and you could even make out the details on the dial if you look hard enough and the seats, while having huge excess amounts of flash, there’s actual fabric patterns running on them.

1974ChargerRallye (19)So it’s a mixed bag, for every up there is a down. For instance, another cop out on MPC’s part is using generic one-size-fits-all components like the air cleaner which isn’t a Dodge part, the generic wrong shaped door mirrors that were found on just about every MPC kit of the era regardless of the car’s make, the same plain chassis that they use over and over, that sort of stuff. Still though, the front and tail end valances are stupidly well detailed(even without proper headlight lenses) and the body minus the script is really, really nice. Many of MPC’s tools were destroyed some time ago and it is likely that the 1974 Charger mold was a victim too of it so it’s actually unfortunate that these kits never see the light of day again. I love Malaise era victims, I love Charger’s and I love MPC’s determination of putting out a model kit to just about every new American car in the 1970s and at this point I am actively going through eBay’s listings for anything 1973-1979 related in order to manhandle together into something coherent, just cause I love the era so much. Despite MPC’s terrible casting jobs of many of the parts, despite generic pieces, despite the recycled use of the same chassis for a decade.

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1975 Plymouth Road Runner, 1980 Dodge Aspen R/T, 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier, 1977 Chevrolet Monza 2+2, they’re all coming sooner or later.

’74 Dodge Charger Rallye specifications:
Kit: #0-6333
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 95
Molded in: Wine Red
Scale: 1/25

1970 Plymouth GTX 440-6 – Monogram

1970plymouthGTX440_6 (1)The Gentleman’s Muscle Car“, that’s how the GTX got described as it came to exist back in 1967. Just like the Road Runner of the time, it was based on the baseline Plymouth Belvedere, a car with a long lineage of being a big hunk of metal with a lot of style. Coming to think of it, with that descriptor you could likely sum up ninety five percent of cars back then. The GTX itself only existed for a grand total of four years, though. From ’67 through ’71, all as expensive versions of the Road Runner, which itself was marketed as the “budget muscle car“.

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The whole reason for the GTX to exist as a separate version is also the reason for why it only existed for a short four years; the Road Runner did all the GTX did and it did it for a hell of a lot less. In 1969, the GTX got hamstrung by the Road Runner when Plymouth offered a convertible version of it. Hell, by 1970, the year in question of the kit here, the Road Runner and GTX were so similar, most people couldn’t tell them apart. The ’70 GTX had the same stripes, engine options and trim and in the end – less choice. Granted, it defaulted with a 440 Six Barrel engine, with a possible upgrade to a 426 HEMI and the interior was a lot nicer and fancier than the Road Runner innards, but despite that – it just didn’t stand apart enough for it to sell anywhere as well as they had hoped.

1970plymouthGTX440_6 (6)In 1971, the last year of the GTX as a separate model, they finally differentiated the model some more than the years before but in this year, sadly the thing that brought sales down wasn’t the fact that a GTX was a more expensive Road Runner, it was the insurance rates on muscle cars spiking. And with that, the GTX became nothing more than a name plate for two more years, before being shelved for good in favor of just the Road Runner and the base version it was based on(Satellite from ’72 to ’74, Fury in ’75 and Volaré from ’76 through it’s getting Ol Yeller’d in 1980).

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So back in 1982, Monogram put out their first version of this kit. Total new tool, as many of their kits were at the time. And just like literally any other kit of theirs, it was… superb. Granted, it has the typical ups and downs, like very plain engine bay but a stellar engine quality to counter or a basic as sin interior and chassis detail, but body detail that rivals die-casts of this very day. At the time, the GTX kit came out with a stock version only which was really nicely made. It missed some decals that would’ve improved quality of life but y’know, couldn’t complain.

1970plymouthGTX440_6 (23)For instance, you gotta manually do the big stripe over the hood as all you’ll get is the two smaller stripes that run along them. While you do get the 440-6 decals for next to the air intake, no 440 Six Barrel engine decal, GTX decals(even though they’re very well defined so a silver/chrome pen works wonders) and such. What you do get is a very accurate representation of the now highly desirable and rare car. So four years later, they added a bunch of extras and turned it into a “Street Machine”. Also known as, let’s make this car hideous as sin by adding stovepipes that require the hood to be cut open, for fun y’know.

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But my opinion’s aside, the “upgrade” involves a new set of wheels and with that wider, patterned Goodyear GT Radial tires(which I enhanced with some Fireball Modelworks decals, fit like a charm!), raised suspension, a ’71 GTX/’70 ‘Cuda wing and a choice between closed and open ram air hood options. It’s a basic set of extras but it makes a difference if you ask me, even though the wider profile tires don’t actually physically fit in the wheel wells in the front – whoops, right. Still though, the raised rear end and the wing, I totally love. I wanted to make it all stock but decided against it given I got a 1970 Road Runner kit coming(based on this kit, but very much improved by Revell in 2000) up and definitely giving that one the stock spin and allow this one to look more badass.

1970plymouthGTX440_6 (19)And I just wanna point something out here – I didn’t paint the body. That’s the way it looked straight from the box, that shade of metallic blue. It’s a similar finish to the sister model, the 1969 Dodge Super Bee. This kit is from 1986, sat in a smokey storage room for decades and somehow, the paint and the glossy coat of the paint are still better than the stuff I can produce today. It’s really impressive how well it’s done, even today, kit manufacturers don’t quite know how to avoid paint splodges in the injection process but Monogram nailed back in the mid friggin’ eighties.

1970plymouthGTX440_6 (8)I had been looking for this kit for a year and a half and now I found both the Road Runner and GTX, I’m feelin’ quote fortunate and it truly helps that the kit is stellar even after 31 years. As I said earlier, the typical Monogram pluses and minuses come into effect but it’s still one of those kits that always feels pleasant to make and put together. The suspension and exhaust system are one piece, most of the engine block is one piece besides the headers, rocker covers and waterpump, the engine bay has the typical “block” like structure going on where for instance the battery goes down to the axle, but even despite it all, it’s still one of those kits that screams quality through and through.

’70 Plymouth GTX 440-6 specifications:
Kit: #85-2730
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 89
Molded in: Metallic Dark Blue
Scale: 1/24

1983 Chevrolet Citation X-11 – Revell

1983chevycitationx11 (1)Okay, so, bear with me here. We’re going back to 1979 for a moment. The Nova was on its last legs and it was being pushed aside in favor of a newly engineered X-body car for the 1980 model year. The second fuel crisis of 1977 had proven fatal for car consumerism in the United States and it required some swift changes and the big three in Detroit had no friggin’ idea how to cope with it. So one of the first big kickers that ushered in the “new era” was the Chevrolet Citation, a roomy hatchback that easily outsized the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon, or a “club coupe” which is just sales-speak for weird-looking-two-door, both of which came per standard a dingy, outdated Pontiac Iron Duke OHV four cylinder engine or a newly updated 2.8L V6 that was largely designed for use in the new X-body cars. And it worked for out Chevrolet, the Citation initially was a giant success!

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I discussed this whole ordeal in the 1980 Citation X-11 article, so thank you for reading this whole shebang all over again if you already saw that one, but for those who haven’t I’mma carry on. Given, this is about the 1983 version so may as well go deeper! Chevrolet sold 811,000 Citations in the 1980 alone, making it one of the best selling new models in GM history but it was gonna take a dark turn just a year later. By 1981, the truth of the Citation had already sunk in with the American consumers, it was a car best summed up by a quote, by a friend of mine whose father had a brand new 1982 Citation;

The guttural groan of the transmission, the loud burble of the engine as it kicks into life, the heater knobs coming off as I’m trying to warm the cabin and trying to cool off the car as it is somehow overheating in early morning traffic even though it was a frigid November morning, the rear view mirror dropping off the windshield, the trim popping off the door once I shut them, the insulation on the windows just flopping loose after two months, the erratic veer to the left when I gently brake, the paint chips lying on the tarmac next to my car while its parked as it was showing its ripe age of eighteen months, but rusting as if it were eighteen years.

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Clearly, the man wasn’t pleased. And neither was the public, as by 1982, the Citation was only selling a fifth of what it did in 1980 and even less in 1984 before it was reinvigorated as the “Citation II”. Equally as terrible as GM had learned nothing of the consumer feedback and it was quietly put down in 1985. And GM wasn’t gonna learn anything until 1987, when GM did a drastic make-over of the entire structure, but the damage of the Citation had already been done. The 1983 Toyota Camry was already a improvement over anything and somehow looked exactly like a Citation, just Asian. Even Chrysler had a better thing going for them, even though the K-type vehicles were no less terrible, they at least had more variety.

1983chevycitationx11 (14)But the eighties have had this weird “everything needs publicity” vibe to it, even the terrible things were hyped up and to great effect. For instance, MPC, AMT and Revell Monogram all had a stake in being the next annual model car kit maker, something that effectively allowed MPC and AMT to coast through the seventies on a cloud. And while MPC got the slightly longer stick by getting kits for the Dodge Omni, Chevrolet Cavalier, Plymouth Horizon and so on, Monogram got to take on the all new, hyped to the moon, the usher of all things better, the Chevrolet Citation and they went all in. They produced two kits for the 1981 model year, one as the somewhat regular yet pumped up Citation Turbo. The other was this odd semi-tuner weirdness called the Citation X. And they were some great kits, too! They gave ’em the typical Monogram treatment with a nice engine block, very good body and the detail on it, good set of tires with good wheels and a solid interior, but of course with that also comes low chassis detail and a blocky engine bay but y’know, compared to what MPC was producing at the time, they were doing an amazing job.

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Though in 2002, as Revell was going through its “turn everything into a lowrider” phase, they put out some extremely weird choices like a ’92 Mustang lowrider, a ’91 Chevrolet S-10 lowrider, a ’78 El Camino lowrider, I mean what the hell. But the strangest choice by a hell of a stretch – this one. Seriously, no shit, someone thought “let’s turn that failure from 1980 into even more of a failure by making it even uglier” and someone reacted to that with “Yes!“, holy hell right!? But it also benefited the kit greatly as the 1981 tooling got a bit of a polish, decided that it was worthwhile to put both versions from 1981 in one box and someone went to town on the decal sheet as a extra to also allow both “versions” of the ’80-’84 Citation X-11 to be made and thanks to that this kit is an amazing time piece. A solid look back at how the car could’ve been, as just like the real one, the X-11 wasn’t all bad. Even though it shared the rust issues and reliability problems, the engine was a nice little power plant that could out-pull some V8’s of the time.

1983chevycitationx11 (10)The 2.8L V6 Turbo from the Citation Turbo kit is the one we’ve gotten, so no proper air cleaner or anything, just a giant turbo charger on top of the manifold. But that’s no problem, really, as the engine is fine with it as is. It’s the outside where it truly matters, this is likely to be the only way to get a mint Citation in front of you that isn’t either on a junkyard or stripped clean of paint and decals due to… well, literally, weather.

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So unlike the 1980 Citation I did before, which I built to be like the one on the side of the box which was a silver X-11 with the 1980 graphics package of black stripes and serif font style X-11, I ran with a bit of a inspired look. Someone did a wallpaper take on a brochure photo of a ’83 Citation, which was slightly different to mine. Like, it doesn’t have a tail spoiler and it has a High Output V6 badge on the hood, but I liked the look of it – an all white X-11 with the golden graphics, blacked out grille and tail light frame, Goodyear Eagle GTII tire decals(courtesy of Fireball), black between the spokes of the wheels, so on. I went with that to the best of my ability and luckily the kit’s epic quality does allow for some improvisation here and there. Not to mention, some decals lifted from other kits helped out to complete the thing some more, like the Cowl Induction decals from a ’70 Chevelle, the front plate too, so on. Though I should say, the Goodyear Polysteel Radial tire decals(which are a rarity to find in kits themselves, so kudos to Revell) are perfectly adequate and look great, I just wanted a set of white outlines instead.

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The build quality is still staggering, just like any Monogram kit of old. It goes together no problemo, though the side-ways mounted engine does make for some awkward positioning and gluing, but it’s just a bit of a fiddle no more. In the end, it still truly shines as a very, very good kit. I mean, weird way for them to spend money back in 2002, to re-incarnate the Citation kit from 20 years before that and slap some lowrider bits on there, but I’m genuinely happy that they did. Like I said, it is a time piece. A car that was known to literally disintegrate in years time, and Revell Monogram allowed it to live forever albeit at a 1/24th scale.

’83 Chevrolet Citation X-11 specifications:
Kit: #85-2378
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 110
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/24

1980 Chevrolet Monte Carlo – MPC

1980montecarlo (1)The very brief third generation of the Monte Carlo, or rather the ’78-’79 front end of most Chevrolet models, is one of my favorite cars of all time. Especially when they’re completely de-chromed. I used to play this game called “Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition” and one of the starter cars was a ’78 Monte Carlo and I just fell in love. In reality, it’s a subdued car with hardly anything left related to it’s incarnation in 1970 besides the idea of having a big engine doesn’t mean you can’t have big luxuries in the car. But despite it being a bit of a shadow of its former self, I loved it. The fact that Denzel Washington’s character in Training Day has a ’79 Monte Carlo only upped my adoration factor for the car.

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The third generation kicked off right after the 1977 oil crisis, which more or less forced rationality in GM’s business plan that relying on outside oil sources and having cars do a solid 9MpG(3.8km/L) wasn’t quite… smart. So the ’78 Monte Carlo was shortened by fifteen inches, that’s a whole engine block shorter. It also got lighter by 800lbs(362kg), for reference; an adult brown bear weighs 350kg, they basically yanked a zoo out of the trunk worth of weight. But while the luxury boat of the early seventies died with the third generation, this did allow for something else to happen – the fourth generation of Monte Carlos, once more a contender at the NASCAR track and the badass beauties we know as the Monte Carlo SS. The luxurious sunday driver was still there as the Landau version, it just got shortened by a fair bit, and even then, for the days, it was basically a midget Cadillac with a more sporty look about it.

1980montecarlo (4)MPC made several versions of the Monte Carlo, starting with the 1978 release of the car which already came with something extra; a small trailer with a Harley Davidson(or at least, a copy of a H.D.). And it was… surprisingly subdued for the era. It had the typical MPC “custom” version where it has horrendously designed and in some senses, even stupid decals and over the top additions, however while it had the decals, the actual custom parts were wire wheels, luggage rack and landau roof. Go figure, it was sort of subdued! Then in 1979, the same kit was re-released as the “Wheeler Dealer”, just with a updated decal sheet. And I have to say, for a kit of the old days – it’s not awful! The chrome inserts for the bumpers are a brilliant idea to get the trim to really pop.

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So in 1980 the Monte Carlo received a small face-lift, it got new double headlamps with the indicator underneath and the grille got a larger mesh instead, nothing big but it did require a small adjustment to the tooling of MPC. And boy, did they screw it up fairly badly. The headlamps were simply recast, however they didn’t remove the slant of the ’78/’79 lamps so they look… wrong, they just look wrong. The rest? 100% the same. To be fair, so was the real car but still, it’s a bit of a cheap upgrade. But y’know what, it’s fine, most of the seventies and eighties for MPC were putting out basic kits alongside dealership promo cars.

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However, the kit I got here is a re-release from 2009. A very traditional Round 2 re-release, with nothing fixed and just a new decal sheet. Though, fair enough to them, they at least used some decent tires instead of the janky ill-fitting ones they force into every kit these days. The kit still has the generic, almost meh-quality 350 cubic inch V8 they put in nearly every single late seventies GM car kit for the sake of ease, the interior on the other hand isn’t awful but y’know, it’s like five pieces in total. The quality is nice and with some effort the interior can shine at least, which I suppose is almost required given that one big selling point of the kit is the optional ability of making it a T-top Monte Carlo without any hassle.

1980montecarlo (8)They give you this H-frame to re-stabilize the roof once you cut the panels out which is something I can really appreciate, I didn’t make mine a T-top but I should say that this kit is one of the few T-top Round 2 kits(MPC and AMT) where it isn’t a mess of no structural strength or a thing where you literally replace the roof panels with glass tops and have nothing there to hold them in place.

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The rest? The rest is generic MPC schlock. Like I said, none of it is terrible but it is all just one giant afterthought. The whole chassis is one piece, no suspension, no exhaust pipes(besides the exhaust headers and catalytic converter), no axles, all one piece and just a matter of attaching the wheels. The sad thing is, MPC’s notorious for having used one or two chassis plates during the seventies and eighties and once again, this is that one. Problem is though, the damn thing doesn’t fit the car. The tail end of the chassis is half stuck to the body and doesn’t wanna sit in place. Speaking of which, another bad thing of the generic chassis is that the engine block awkwardly floats on the chassis, you’re just meant to glue it stuck to the frame on two points, but no guiding spots, no prongs, no slots, just two flat surfaces for the engine block and where it’s supposed to go on the chassis.

1980montecarlo (16)Door mirrors are the generic type they slap in there that literally do not fit the body style, nor do they actually manage to fit anywhere on the doors without looking awkward. I figured screw it, it looks half assed as it is, I’m just gonna put ’em on there and roll with it. I wanted to do the blacked out theme I got going on with several late seventies GM cars, like the ’77 Monte Carlo, ’79 El Camino and sooner or later the ’78 Monte Carlo by Trumpeter. So instead of chrome, I did the badges and such in gloss black and the rest in slightly dulled out black(learned a thing or two from the ’80 Ramcharger, which was too matte). It came out alright and I have to admit, while the headlamps are awful, the tail lights are great and the body is even better! It’s just a shame that MPC skirted by on such half-assery back then. But, well, y’know, who else would make ordinary cars? AMT maybe, in some cases Revell, but only MPC truly brought most of the normal cars to the model kit market. So… I suppose I’m still thankful that they exist.

It’s nice to have it added to the whole collection here, but still, like so many MPC kits – it just leaves me wishing that they tried harder and got a better kit out of it.

’80 Chevrolet Monte Carlo specifications:
Kit: MPC-702
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 72
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1970 Dodge Charger R/T 426 HEMI – Revell

1970dodgechargert426hemi (1)Christ, we’ve all been awaiting this one since it’s nephew kit, a kit I’ve had half-finished since late 2016, appeared on the market. Which in reality was a ’69 Charger with the 1970 front end(the non-R/T and 500 version in 1970 kept the same tail lights as the 1969 Charger), based on Fast & Furious’ Dominic Toretto’s ’70 Charger – which too was a 1970 Charger in some scenes, a 1969 in others, a ’69 500 edition in some movies, a open-grilled ’70 in others – it was a shapeshifter car that was a nightmare to pin down by toy manufacturers for the simple reason that Vin Diesel’s car changed more often than the tone of the series itself. So Revell stuck with the first movie, in which the car generally had the 1970 grille with the headlight doors stuck open and the non-R/T trim the car genuinely had, therefor a ’69 tail end.

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So eagerly we all awaited a true, proper updated version of the Revell Charger tooling, which debuted in 1997 under the Pro Modeler line, with to put it mildly, friggin’ epic detail. The engines(it came with a 440 Magnum and 426 HEMI) in all three versions of their kits(’68, ’69 and ’69 Daytona) were seriously, right there and still today, the highest quality Mopar engine cast out there. It’s seen use in all of the Charger re-releases as well as the spectacular 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda kit and it’s back yet again in this kit, though sadly only with the 426 HEMI. The whole kit is centered around the sole engine choice, the proper black hood stripes have white HEMI print on ’em and the tooling’s been updated to only fit the HEMI engine for the time being(you’d have to do a tiny bit of tinkering to allow the transmission to fit the slightly updated chassis).

1970dodgechargert426hemi (7)The whole kit is a welcome upgrade on the tooling of twenty years ago, the unnecessary turnable wheels have been taken out in favor of one-piece front suspension, which was probably done to fix the common issue of the structural integrity of the whole front being horrible at best due to the wheels being attached to two little tiny arms and the weight would bend ’em in a second. The rear suspension’s been fixed up to better show the ride height and wheel depth, which was a bit too deep on the ’69 and ’68 Charger kits. The whole front end was updated to fit better, which was also a problem source on the other Charger kits, here it fits together a lot better due to… well, the front valance no longer is forced into the sway bar and now connects directly to the body. The decal sheet’s been updated a ton, giving full dashboard decals and arm rest wood decals instead of having us paint a mediocre copy of wood, the wheels come with optional red line tires(which actually weren’t available on a 1970 Charger at the time, unless you special ordered them at a dealership, go figure) but I substituted them for BF Goodrich Radial T/A’s from Fireball Modelworks.

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The one thing they went backwards on? All four wheels are attached by little metal pins to the axles. Revell has this weird obsession with metal pin wheel set-ups and just like my complaint with Round 2/AMT/MPC who force the same two tire sets on every single kit they re-release: It. Doesn’t. Friggin’. Work. God. Dammit. A good example is the 2010 Camaro SS kit, which I transformed into the 2012 Camaro RS 45th Anniversary edition; the wheels on that kit are also attached by the metal pins and I physically can’t touch the model today or the wheels pop off at high speed like they’re trying to escape Hell. And here’s no different, the fuckers won’t stay on and metal and plastic don’t mix when it comes to staying connected so I’m always forced to fill ’em with epoxy in hopes of giving it enough strength to stay together for a change.

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But y’know what, so be it. While I wish there was no friggin’ metal pins for the wheels but the old functional system of plastic pins, my true wish would’ve been that the kit also packed or instead packed the at the time new engine option for the Charger, one that became highly popular – the 440 Six Pack. They gave us the right air cleaner already, all they’d needed to do was update the 440 Magnum from previous years slightly and wham, done and done. But alas, suppose it would be too much to ask. Maybe in the future, who knows?

1970dodgechargert426hemi (15)The 1970 Charger was the last of the Coke bottle shaped Chargers, before it got slightly fatter and slightly slower. I mean, I love the ’71-’74 Charger and I wish AMT would update the ancient-as-sin ’72-’74 kits from MPC using their ’71 Charger tool so I can complete this series at last, but man I am still utterly happy that Revell finally has given us the perfect, or well, near-perfect ’70 Charger. MPC has had one on the market since 1970 and it… wasn’t amazing. It was the only source of a ’70 grille, which most people just manhandled onto a Revell ’69 Charger kit to somewhat moderate success. But to get back to the point, the ’70 Charger didn’t go out without a colorful bang.

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Like I said, it finally too got the 440 Six Pack engine option on top of the already powerful powerhouses available at the time(340, 383, 426, etc), another first for the Charger series was that it also got access to the high impact colors that were a lot more common on Chrysler vehicles from 1970 onwards, like the crazy lime, orange, yellow, pink and purples. At first I wanted to do it in the bright pink like the one on the box, as not only is it a unique color, it actually… suits it. There’s something amazingly alluring about a totally wild pink Charger, or hell any sporty Dodge product of the time. But I eventually went with the “sublime” hi-impact color, which is basically just a mix of the “yellow-green” RAL color and Duplicolor’s fluorescent lime green spray paint. Used it before on the 1971 Plymouth Duster 340 kit and it actually really looks good so I rolled with it once more!

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It goes together so much better than it ever did before and I’m glad the now twenty year old tooling has gotten a well deserved upgrade and I genuinely hope they keep on using this tool to great effect, maybe a Charger 500 some day? Who knows! All we need now is more engine options, a 1/25th 383ci V8 or 340ci V8 from Revell would be friggin’ amazing.

’70 Dodge Charger R/T 426 HEMI specifications:
Kit: #85-4381
Skill Level: 5
Parts: 117
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

2009 Ford F-350 Super Duty Crew Cab 4×4 – MENG

2009fordf350SD4x4 (1)One can say I’m on a bit of a pick-up streak as of late, starting with the I-wish-I-was-a-pickup ’87 El Camino SS, then Aoshima’s wonderful raised ’94 Toyota Hilux, got a ’91 Syclone kit underway ready to turn into the Marlboro version and now MENG’s first endeavor into model car kits, the 2009 Ford F-350. And it ain’t just any F-350, it’s the elongated Super Duty 4×4 with the crewcab… so it’s a nice and gentle 10 inches long. That, for the record, is easily one of the largest 1/24th scale car/pickup truck kits you can get. Hell later on in the article, I put it side-by-side with the ’05 Escalade kit from Revell which is also a 1/24th scale car. For real, it’s friggin’ gargantuan and I honestly came to the dilemma of “what the hell am I gonna do with this thing, it’s too big for any damn shelf!“, so now it’s awkwardly perched on a stack of books due to its ridiculous size.

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Right from the start I knew this was gonna be a fun one, mostly due to the hype that was built up by fellow model kit enthusiasts who hold this as a semi holy grail. Why? Well, by nature we’re a bunch of nit-picky pricks who scream for detail over functionality/build quality and fair, that’s what we strive for but while this kit has some errors here and there, it’s held up so high above all others for three reasons: 1), it’s a very unusual subject, especially for a company that literally never made model car kits before(in 2014, this was released, in ’15 they produced their second, the Hummer H1 and coming up in late ’17 – the 2017 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon) and it’s that exact seemingly random subject matter choice that related to so many of us who love building just… cars, regular old fashioned “you see this truck parked by Denny’s all the time” kind of car. Car, truck, you know what I mean. Ain’t nothing wrong with something slightly dreary or oh help me God, “regular” for a subject.

2009fordf350SD4x4 (5)2), it’s a super well thought out kit. Like, raise the bar some more why dontcha, MENG. Really, even Tamiya has hit a ceiling quality-wise and it’s still under what MENG has pulled out of their sleeves. The tooling is superb, it’s crisp, the planning is brilliant so that everything connects beautifully and best of all? Structurally sound. Once it fits, it sits. And lastly, 3), it’s riddled with detail. The engine bay is honestly the closest thing I’ve seen compared to the real stuff on any kit, the interior is crisp and done in such a manner that from a-far you couldn’t tell the difference, not until you see that none of the knobs have icons, the lines, the door handles, the little simulated light bulbs in the headlights, it’s all there and it’s all done perfectly.

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But about the truck itself, weirdly enough this is a truck we see quite commonly here in the Netherlands. Together with the ’11-’13 and ’15 Dodge Ram 1500, the ’08-’11 Ford F-150 and F-250 are quite common here, mostly driven by contractors as one would expect but for once other than the muscle cars I’ve worked on at the work place, I actually have seen this type of truck! Though boy, we only have the more recent F-series around here all the while the series has been around since 1948, for Christ’s sake. And even then, they’re kinda responsible(along with Chevrolet/GMC) for the shape that we know our pick-ups for today: square, boxy and long.

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The F-series truck is pretty much as American as it could possibly be, it’s been the best selling vehicle(yes, of all cars) since 1981 without any changes and the best selling pick-up truck since 1977, it’s always looked similar to the one that came before and for some reason, they just… kind of decided to last. Well, until the late eighties at least where they kind of ceased to last but, you know, at least if you had a ’78 F-series and it broke down somewhere, odds were you were gonna be lifted home by a F-series towtruck and the truck would be repaired in a jiffy, cause let’s be fair, parts for literally any generation of Ford F-series truck were about as common as grains of sand. Not to mention, while the trucks were hilariously unsafe(well, “unsafe” isn’t the right term, like most cars of the era, they were prone to being utterly fucked in case of a crash). They’re American culture through and through, and I can’t discredit its GM competitor brother, the Chevy C/K, for it too is just as much a icon.

2009fordf350SD4x4 (15)Though recently, and I don’t say this begrudgingly or anything, the pick-ups of GM and Ford have gotten… chunky. They weren’t ever the slim, nippy little trucks, oh no. Thats why we have the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado, the so called “compact trucks”, or under a tonne in weight, and to an extend the Dodge Ram but even at their respective sizes, the compact pick-up of the olden days is long gone. The Ranger is still mostly car with a bed attached but look at the smallest F-series, the F-150 and Jesus Christ that thing is frickin’ giant. They’re very imposing, like miniature Mack trucks with a giant, high slanted grille-hood, high seating compartment and just a ton of metal in between you and the world. But I’m just rambling on about unrelated stuff here, the article is about a train of a pick-up truck that also somehow can double as a nimble off-roader if the situation requires it so.

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Though, this kit is made to exact factory spec. It has OEM Continental Contitrac tires for ordinary highway use that, funnily enough, were all recalled in 2011 cause the tires would just fall apart after certain amounts of driving. Though in this kit, they’re awesomely produced and they are gorgeous quality. Nice, soft bouncy rubber, don’t get that too often. On top of that, it comes with two sets of wheels, the factory default ones and a set of 7-spoke rims that you could order on ’em at a Ford dealership, a very nice and optional choice that I adore. It also comes with a series of bed accessories(and a for now unreleased brush-guard and rollover-bar set from MENG, which is set to be released in November 2017) like a bed extender that reminds me way too much of an animal pen, it all goes to show that even for a very ordinary pick up truck kit, you can throw in extras that make sense.

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The real show, the true unique thing to the kit, is the absolutely massive 6.4L V8, the Power Stroke diesel engine, that has been replicated to a scary degree of accuracy. It’s huge, for starters, but the thing I appreciate most is that it’s like a 100% clone to the real deal, with perfect positions for the ignition wires and all, so I figured screw it, I’mma wire this sucker up and make it look… well, even more accurate. The only downside to the engine is the instructions(which are in a nice little colored-print booklet instead of a leaflet, thanks MENG!), which are vague as sin at best. There’s a intricate puzzle happening under the hood and boy it’s a shambles to figure it all out. For instance, the radiator coolant is meant to sit on the front radiator under the hood latch bar, I didn’t know this until long after I put it together.

2009fordf350SD4x4 (17)But you know what, screw it. While raggedy-ass, it looks pretty damn good still. Though I should point out a few more flaws, for one the connecting of the body to the frame is impossible due to the nature of the interior bucket and the windows, there was some trimming required to make it all meet and I didn’t know of this until long after I glued the damn things in place. The second thing is, the front bumper droops down and is already too low as it is. There’s also some missing bits that kind of stand out due to the immense detail, like there’s no steering box or the front suspension is missing the track bar, or that the decals incorrectly show “6.8L Triton V10” on the fender emblems instead of “6.4L Powerstroke V8“, that sort of stuff. I don’t particularly care though, as this kit is such a masterpiece despite that the flaws are just at worst some annoyances.

The kit’s pre-painted in dark, kind of a slate gray and that’s the color I decided to go with for two reasons, one is that dark colors are notoriously hard to primer away and two, I kind of dig the plainclothes look the truck still has with the semi-dull color, y’know, despite the 4×4 decal and the stupendous length. For the most part, the kit’s default color isn’t badly cast, some splotches here and there in the paint which were mostly on the inside of the fenders and the underside of the bed so they’re not obvious whatsoever luckily, but I reckon that can differ from kit to kit. The decal sheet, I should mention, is tiny but legendarily high quality. There’s no visible backing once they’re set plus they’re tough as hell and don’t rip apart easily.

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The whole kit screams superb quality, from the cast all the way to the box and the instruction booklet. Not to mention, it’s fun to have this ten inch tank sitting half-crooked on a stack of books due to lack of display space. Having finally built this kit, which by the way, quality increase means price increase as the RRP was over forty bucks even back when it came out, I can’t wait to see how the upcoming Jeep Wrangler kit of theirs will look like and come together. There’s a first time for anything, for me trying a new brand and for MENG trying out a new world of products after having only made tanks, figurines, planes and… dinosaurs, and holy hell, man it all worked perfectly.

’09 Ford F-350 Super Duty Crew Cab 4×4 specifications:
Kit: “Car Series”, CS-001
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 122
Molded in: Dark Gray, Gray, Black and Chrome
Scale: 1/24

1994 Toyota Hilux SSR-X Double Cab – Aoshima

1994toyotahiluxdcab_4wd (1)The vehicular equivalent of the AK-47“, that’s what terrorism analyst Andrew Exum called the Toyota Hilux to Newsweek back in 2014 and ho-boy is that the truth. And ho-boy does that make for one killer opening sentence. Cause in it’s simplistic nature, it’s the same deal – a highly efficient, cheap and unbreakable piece of technology. And such a unkillable icon has such… simple origins. The Hilux first came to be in 1965 as the Toyota Briska, a small, compact pick-up based on the Renault 4CV which eventually got turned into its own line of pickups as the Hilux in 1968. And at the time, it was pretty much exactly the same as its competitor Datsun; both had similar size beds, similar small 1.6L engine, and so on.

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Hell, Nissan/Datsun was already selling the Datsun 520 since the mid-sixties in the United States and it was doing quite well at home too. So, what did the Hilux have that the 520/620/720 series didn’t? Well, as it turns out… it had the future. Yeah, I know, what an ambiguous sentence! But really, it did. As the Datsun truck changed its scope and turned into the Nissan Pathfinder/Navara through the eighties and nineties, it remained the same similar cut of bread and butter that it had been known for since the sixties just increased in size and luxury, which isn’t bad! However, somewhere along the lines, Toyota did achieve greatness. The fourth generation of the Hilux, which kicked off in 1984 started a bit of a streak.

1994toyotahiluxdcab_4wd (6)For instance, it’s virtually indestructible(as seen on Top Gear, just Googling it will get you a ton of results). The engine(which were a series of 1.8L through 2.8L I4 engines and a single 3.2L V6) seemed to work at any given time no matter the circumstance and the whole thing screamed workhorse. Simple interior with basic luxuries, decent chugging engine, good ride and like the Ford Transit; plenty of options for your consumer desire. This lasted all the way through today, where the Hilux still is known as a indestructible workhorse that can be set on fire, rolled over and wrecked and still start and deliver the rubble that was used to destroy it in the first place. And of course, I guess that’s why insurgents love using it so much.

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But enough about that, Aoshima has had Hilux kits since the mid-nineties, from lowriders, to the Surf model(a Hilux with closed bed and a hatch), SSR-X 4WD and so on. And sometime in the early naughties, they released a single cab lift-up version of the Hilux – and so the origins of this kit were born. They transformed the frame of the SSR-X Double Cab and combined it with the lift-up to create this beast and boy, it’s huge. And it still contains all of the parts of the previous version, like the roll bars, shorter drivetrain and transfer case, but the important addition is the whole shebang plated in chrome. The idea is that it’s… flashy, I suppose. The whole undercarriage is meant to be silver, chrome or both.

1994toyotahiluxdcab_4wd (17)And the whole thing is glorious, the complexity of the chassis is immense yet it all functions. It’s this frame detail that made me wish they gave it a engine, no matter how meh it would be. The SSR-X could have a 2.4L I4 diesel, which is boring yes, but who cares! It’s just such a damn shame that this is one of the many curbside models of Aoshima with so much undercarriage detail that it seriously deserve a tooled up engine for a change. Hell, shit now I look at the pictures I realize the rear rims are crooked from forcing them straight(well, that worked out beautifully) for the photo taking.

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Speaking of which, the sole downside to the kit is sadly enough the wheels. They have been designed to fit on something that clearly once was meant to just hold the basic 4×4 wheels of the normal Hilux. It’s got replacement discs that the wheels attach onto which is just, well it just doesn’t hold the weight of the gargantuan high quality tires well. The downside does come with an upside as the tires are frickin’ amazing. They’re properly licensed Interco Super Swamper Radial/TSL tires and woof, I love ’em. Unfortunately the rim doesn’t quite fit, I mean it fits just enough but the littlest movement and you get what happened to my rear-right tire as you can tell.

1994toyotahiluxdcab_4wd (20)The whole kit is friggin’ epic. It goes together supremely well(other than a bad case of crooked-ass wheels) and the end result is huge, I mean. Truly, truly huge. I took a picture of the Hilux alongside a 1/24th scale Chevrolet Camaro, and a ’79 Camaro itself ain’t a small car either but holy hell, it looks compact compared to the workhorse rifle of the pickup trucks. It literally is as tall as the tires on the truck, and the truck sits a whole quarter inch higher than the tires.

Aoshima’s kits are such a nice relaxing change of pace for me, as I said before on the Silvia S13 article. These and the Tamiya kits are excellently crafted and thoroughly thought out kits that you can’t really screw up unless you manhandle ’em. Fujimi kits aren’t quite there, but even they are better build quality than most of MPC’s catalog. It’s kits like these that really make me look forward to building the Subaru BRZ and R32 Skyline which are underway as I type this!

’94 Toyota Hilux SSR-X Double Cab specifications:
Kit: “The Tuned Car” series, No.5
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 107
Molded in: White, Gray and Chrome
Scale: 1/24

1990 Chevrolet Beretta GTZ – AMT Ertl

1990chevyberettaGTZ (1)Remember GM’s Chevrolet Citation from the early eighties? Luckily a model kit of it exists and I built it this year and uh, boy does that car have some royal history to it. Firstly, it originated as replacement for the rear wheel drive barrel of joy Chevrolet Nova in 1979, changing platforms to deal with the ever growing need for an affordable car that didn’t require fuel stops every 20 miles, but also one that had some European smarts about it while remaining American to the bone. This… kind of proved to be true, turning it into a small engine front wheel drive two or four door that had excellent mileage, though the American heritage reared its head just as badly by also inheriting some ridiculous rust issues, parts snapping clear off left, right and center and of course a maintenance bill the length of the Pan-American Highway. And the rear brakes locking up and sending you into a death swerve obviously didn’t help anything either.

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So GM let the Citation die, gently, in 1985. Over the last two years of its bleeding to death, GM revitalized it once last time and it went over about as well as a fart in a crowded elevator. The jipped consumer wanted nothing to do anymore with the Citation and sales, which were legendary at first, barely broke hundred thousand in 1985 and was replaced, albeit non-officially by the Beretta in 1987. Hell, before I go into that, wanna know a fun little tid-bit? In 1988, Beretta Firearms(Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta) in Italy filed a lawsuit over the name – which got settled in ’89 out of court and they exchanged Berettas symbolically afterwards. Literally. No shit, really, read the LA Times story! The then chairman of Beretta handed GM chairman Roger Smith a Beretta shotgun and rifle, and Smith handed Guiseppe Beretta a 1989 Beretta GTU!

1990chevyberettaGTZ (19)Anyway, to move on from that interesting piece o’ history. It was a nice, popular little car that wasn’t all bad. In fact, from the heydays of yore, it was arguably one of the better ones around. It quickly got a reputation as a “high-schooler’s car”, which was… fair, I suppose. Designed by the same folks responsible for the 1983 Camaro and Corvette updates, it looked sporty and it was a comfortable little 2 door with a simple, front wheel drive and nice quaint little inline four engine that got enough power to do the littlest burnouts with but it also came with comfort and safety for the most part. I mean, it was definitely, one hundred percent, GM’s first true success with a front wheel drive car. Well, since the X-platform program at least. And no counting the ’66 Oldsmobile Toronado, that thing may have been FWD, but frickin’ look at it. But the success carried on and soon GM introduced the Corsica half a year after the two-door Beretta, effectively covering the whole market’s worth of appeal. It was a pretty unique look all around, small yet dominating space, blacked out tail end with obscured tail and reverse lights, door handles in the B-pillars, body colored everything, so on.

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Though yet, it missed something, something sporty. And GM jumped on top of it in 1988 with a GTU edition, which was a normal Beretta GT but with a sporty suspension package and special wheels, it just didn’t stand out enough yet apparently. So in 1990, the edition of which this kit I’m discussing here in a moment came to be – the Beretta GTZ. Special for three reasons; one, it was fast as hell for a little cutesy 2 door. It had a Oldsmobile 2.3L I4 engine, known as the “Quad 4” that produced more horsepower than a 305ci(5.0L) V8 Camaro of the era, which was… very impressive. Plus it got a nice little body kit and a theme of dark colors(or white, if you desired) with similarly colored wheels.

1990chevyberettaGTZ (3)It’s a shame that the Beretta/Corsica line died off after just little under a decade(replaced by the small-bodied continuation of the Chevrolet Malibu in 1996), given its pedigree in speed as well as its pedigree in being an all around decent generic little car. Replaced largely cause it began to be too good at its job, it got GM worried the Beretta Z/26 started to encroach upon the Camaro and Cavalier Z/24 too much and leech away sales from the “flagship models”, which in my opinion is utter bullshit – if a car is as good as it can be that fat and out of shape muscle cars lose sales cause of it, fix the fat and out of shape muscle car. But y’know, sales define a car’s lifespan and by proxy, others too.

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So, thankfully, as the car now grows ever more rare and enthusiasts finally now begin seeing the little champion for what it is and was, at least AMT Ertl made it a mission in the late eighties and nineties to tool up and kit the Beretta for a few years. Starting with a ’88 GT, then a ’89 GTU, followed by this one, the ’90 GTZ and finally the updated ’91 GTZ that coincided with Chevrolet’s decision to overhaul the interior and AMT Ertl diligently followed the changes. And boy, it is a nice, nice kit. I don’t know quite who was responsible, or whom were, for the tooling in the late eighties, but holy Christ it is a nicely crafted and complicated kit.

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It rounds out to about 100 pieces, but every detail is there. The engine bay is crowded as sin, the front and tail end piece together perfectly into the smooth shape of the car itself but most importantly – the pieces work together. A lot of it is forcing plastic lips into strong structural supports like slotting the interior bucket into a slot above the engine bay and one above the tail lights – which works. It works fantastically. It keeps stuff in place, and unlike the floaty crap we’ve come to expect from MPC and in some cases AMT itself, it works magnificently.

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The cast quality is excellent too, detail on the body and interior is super crisp, and the engine block which is a simple inline four, the Oldsmobile 2.3L I4 called the “Quad 4” which usually deems it to be a crappy cast due to no buyer interest(or so they allege) is cast like something you’d see on a modern day Revell kit. It is of such good quality that I’m staggered, not to mention it literally only exists in a handful of kits so someone went out of their way to get it to the quality level we got here. Not to mention, the engine bay itself is pretty nifty too. It’s just missing a bit of structural support for the Quad 4 so the engine is leaning forward too far(the cast wasn’t updated for the Quad 4, it still has the GT/GTU mounts which had a 2.8L Multi Port V6 engine) so it’s a bit empty on the back side of the engine bay but that’s fine.

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I spend a lifetime on the tail end, trying to replicate the real blackened out lights and such to the best of my ability and I didn’t quite get it right, given that the piece is one big transparent red one, so getting the reverse lights in was a no-go. But at least I managed to get the Beretta lettering and the semi-transparent tail lights in there so I’m happy with that at the very least. On top of that, I spotted the red Beretta on Google whilst researching this kit a bit deeper and fell in love with it right away, though it forced me to break away from the color-matched wheels and body cause I so, so much prefer the black wheels.

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Speaking of which, one of the very few downsides to this kit are the wheels I’d say. The simple BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires it comes with are the uniform 15 inch or so wheels of the era, found on any kit that AMT Ertl produced at the time and kits would have their wheels tooled in accordance to these specs. Which is fine, I suppose, at least unlike modern AMT Ertl or rather Round 2 kits, the wheels at least fuckin’ fit in there and don’t awkwardly float outside the tire. But the wheels themselves are separated into two parts, the colored five spoke and the chrome rim backing – you’re meant to force the spokes into the chrome, insert it so-to-speak and come out with a set of really good looking wheels.

1990chevyberettaGTZ (16)In theory, that is. You see, they don’t fit. And trimming them wasn’t an option cause, were I to screw it up, that meant the end for a set of GTZ wheels right there. So I just ran with it, and it’s not that much of an eye sore by the end of it, right? I mean, given how good the kit is overall, who gives a damn that the spokes don’t quite fit the rims, it’s fine! To close this whole rambling-session off, the red paint’s the same one I used on the ’12 Chevrolet Cruze kit and I love it, it’s quite close to the real somewhat wine red the ’90 Beretta could be gotten in plus it’s a nice metallic shade all in all. Went with a somewhat generic gray/dark-gray/black interior color choice, it matches the dreariness of the 1990s quite okay, plus it’s actually what it could’ve come in to start with. Ahh the olden days of friggin’ carpeted dashboards…

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Closing summary? I wish AMT Ertl made more of these kits… They were so damn good, holy hell.

’90 Chevrolet Beretta GTZ specifications:
Kit: #6068
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 96
Molded in: Off-White
Scale: 1/25