Blog Update #008 – The State of the Decal Business(Updated April 12th)

So as you may have read; the decal business is gonna grind to a halt for around three months. There’s a variety of reasons for this but the two biggest ones I’ll go into further detail about as to the why’s and hows. What I can definitely assure you and promise you is that both the outstanding orders, the (possibly) lost orders and basically anything up to now will still be handled as if nothing has changed, worry not. Also I’m not gonna stop designing them either, that’s the part I truly love doing to the bitter end so even though the selling stops for a eight to ten weeks, the designing and ever growing catalog will not.

 

Setbacks

That’s the gist of why I’m calling onto a break for a bit; I don’t earn a lot doing this, in fact I regularly just break even and sometimes earn a little more than breaking even, but never so much that this is a self-funding operation, I always have to dig into my own funds to be able to pay for it(or get just enough orders to be able to pay and print the requested decals), if as much as one thing ends up being lost in the mail or is printed with less than desired quality; I’m losing money. That’s basically it, for the most part I’m a glorified middle man with a good instinct for whipping up decal designs – and I’d love to earn more but at the same time, I don’t wanna be peddling the most overpriced bunch of stuff. The downside is the risk and I got pretty lucky across the board until recently.

Either way, from the last batch of orders it seems a fair few of ’em got lost in the mail. Whether or not they actually are as of writing this is still up in the air(here’s hoping, right!) but it’s pretty much gotten to the contingency stage where it’s printing more or money back, either way I’m gonna end up diving into my own pocket to help folks out. Which I don’t mind, of course, people paying for a product should get the product, that’s Business 101 – but it’s not a thing I can maintain for long.

That’s enough reason for me to take a prolonged break from selling stuff, mostly so I can recuperate my funds enough and save up a bit for these kind of circumstances.

Brexit

Reason two is the phenomenon known as “Brexit”, it’s, if you’re unaware, the United Kingdom stepping out of the European Union and with that likely the EU free market. Now I won’t delve too deep into the politics(summary is; it’s a utter shitshow for all parties involved and has no reasonable good outcome in sight) but the general point of it is, as a Dutch person using a company from the United Kingdom(England in specific), there’s a solid chance that with any outcome other than no Brexit at all, I’m paying massive import tariffs on the decal sheets and as I said in the previous paragraph, my profits are so low, even the best case scenario on the imports would make me lose around 20 dollar on every 100 invested. So while I’m still pondering the ideas of for instance raising the prices or something, it’s such a unknown at the moment with the Brexit that there’s no guarantee anything will even happen.

So it’s that uncertainty of whatever the hell they’ll do that’s also a pretty solid reason to lay off the selling for a short while, so I can get my act together on potential future plans as how to manage this and see what time brings for Brexit. It’s planned to occur on March 30th, though as of writing they voted in a possible two month delay so… Yeah, there’s a solid example for “no-one knows what the hell is happening”.

Either way, anyway!

So forgive this absolute rambling and shambles of an article that explains the state of it all, I just wanna assure you that I am not going anywhere and whatever’s already outgoing, ongoing or still going to be done still will be taken care of. Those that got lost will get replaced or refunded, those that still ordered will definitely get their turn still – just closing up for anything new coming in on top, just to give me that bit of breathing room.

On top of that, I do wanna thank everyone who’s stuck with me so far – thanks for actually liking my products and wanting ’em! And thanks for the ever lasting patience, I know I can be a bumblefuck at times with the pressing issues but by God I am getting it done one way or another.

Do keep an eye out as the designs will keep on coming, as mentioned before and if you desperately need something, I do have some stuff on hand(albeit not a whole lot) that might fill the need you got; just email ray@rayskits.com and I’ll see what I can do for ya’.

Update – April 12th ’19

Hooray, good news! The Brexit, half of the source of these problems has been delayed ’til the 31st of October. That’s a heckuvalot of breathing time and in itself brings its own issues, one being the price of the printing(which is dependent on how strong/weak the Pound is opposed to the Euro) which is now more expensive than ever but still manageable as it stands so I won’t be adjusting any prices as of yet. But at least this means unless the shitshow remains a shit, uh, show – business as usual ’til November.

I am on the other hand staying on the break, handing the last handful of orders has rolled well into April already and the time is used on expanding the decal library, finding alternatives and extras to the decals I supply as it stands like getting a plotter to cut out the stuff known as “metal transfers”, which given the process is largely the same from my design end of the spectrum; definitely a neat addition and many, many people would really like metal transfer emblems, trim and logos more so than anything. Another idea I’m actively going to be jumping on is producing license plates on high quality photo paper instead of decals as people prefer the “thickness” of the plates over a decal.

So right now if you’d order a decal set, you’d get a full color print and a second print with blacks, whites, metallic silver and golds. In the future, or near future even I’d like to supply decal sheets with to take the ’77 Pontiac LeMans Can Am set as an example, all the stripes, white letter tire decals and optional interior stuffs as waterslide decals, the emblems, locks, door handles and trim as metal transfers(with decals supplementing those that have colors/blacks on them) and the license plates on high quality photo paper.

Future stuff!

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1983 Volkswagen Caddy Mk.I – Revell/C1 Models

vwcaddy83 (18).jpgFor me, this whole car or pick-up if you will is one of the strangest amalgamations of the strengths and weaknesses of both the United States and Europe car industries packed into one, small and in some senses even adorable little pick up. The Volkswagen Golf has been and still is one of the world’s most popular cars, it’s the hatchback version of the utterly unstoppable Toyota Hi-Lux – it’s dominated popular culture, it’s dominated the world and in some ways it’s even dominated history. And it’s because of that, that’s why I’m sitting here thinking “oh boy this Euro-toy is one of the defining cars of the people” and then it struck me; while the Golf Mk.1 is definitely European, hell, extremely German even – the Caddy isn’t.

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But quick history lesson before I drone on about how the Caddy is as American as the M16 rifle and… some other stuff and if you don’t even wanna read this rambling just skip uh, the following six paragraphs, the Golf came to be in 1974 – at the exact moment North America shat itself at the economy bricking, fuel becoming equal to gold in price and rarity, the Vietnam war was still happening despite a withdrawal of US troops, it just really wasn’t a great time for North America, or for Europe and Asia… Or even the Middle-East… Y’know what, it was a pretty terrible fucking time for everyone involved – but! Some good news too, at least on the car world front, a small affordable little fighter was about to be introduced to the world.

vwcaddy83 (2)In May 1974, the Golf was available to be sold around most of western Europe and it may have literally saved an ailing Volkswagen Group from dying out. Volkswagen was barely clinging to life and had been since the early sixties, building over 1.5 million vehicles and only selling a few hundred thousand a year across the decade, competitors like Opel and Ford were killing VW quite effectively by simply playing their own game; building affordable small vehicles. VW held national market shares of nearly half in Germany in 1962, to only 26% in 1972 – hell, the company sat in debt up to the wazoo that would make GM of today piss its pants; in ’74 VW had a 850 million DM loss alone, which is the 1974 dollar equivalent of 314 million, which is a pretty startling amount of money that’s just kind of going away(though plot twist, they’d break this record in 2016 where they’d lose 1.8 billion euro due to the Dieselgate scandal). So it’s pretty damn sufficient to say that Volkswagen could use a spot of good news.

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And it did turn out to be good news, to be fair, it really did; from ’74 ’til ’13, the Golf is the third best selling car in the world. Styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s company Italdesign, a company more famously known for drafting up some of the prettiest and downright sexiest cars in the history of man, hell you should gave the list of beauties they’re responsible for a looksee. It’s pretty evident that the Scirocco and Jetta of the same years were designed by them too as it shares most of the body styling and components, but for the Golf one thing was absolutely key; keep it small. Small hatchbacks were already a thing in Europe, with the ever so popular Renault 5 and Fiat 127 to name a couple and the US had also taken its baby steps with the AMC Gremlin and quietly Japan had been stomping out small, affordable vehicles since the fifties but exporting them en masse would take a bit longer still.

vwcaddy83 (4)The Golf very quickly became a top seller across most of Europe in just about every Western European country for every year across multiple decades, and the United States got its first chomp of the Golf cake in 1975 when Volkswagen effectively said; export these, do it. It was essentially the same car, just with mandated side marker lights, higher ride height and those ever so delightful beauty ruiners known as the “5 MPH Bumper”, it also got a MPH dash and of course the most important thing, a proper export name. In the US, for some reason or another, it got the name “Rabbit”. Why? Well, nobody seems to really know – there’s plenty of theories among marketers, one being Rabbit just having a nicer ring to it and summons images of cute little fuzzy roadkills and the other being that you really couldn’t fit a bag of golf clubs in the back, so there’s that. In ’78 Volkswagen allowed the Americans to effectively produce their own Rabbit Golfs and “Americanize” them, which was famously dubbed by then VW CEO Werner Schmidt as “Malibu-ing”, softening the springs, cheapening the plastic and those square headlights cause that was a trend in those days.

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But back to the Golf-being-a-Rabbit thing, someone said you couldn’t fit golf clubs in the back of the thing? Well worry no more! PICK UP TIME! Volkswagen had been testing out a variety of Golf versions for half a decade by 1978, among them were a fully electric Golf, a station wagon version which never made it to life cause of the Passat/Dasher already filling that corner and of course, a wee little pick-up. And guess who was interested in that whole shebang? James McLernon, acting executive over at VW America in ’75 through ’82, known for Malibu-ing the Golf and being hated for it. Greenlighting the Volkswagen Rabbit Pick-up for 1978, it very much was the perfect blend of American ideas(or Australian, even) and European efficiency(to emphasize the American part, it even got a ridiculous decal package in 1981). The whole Caddy nameplate didn’t even exist back then, it only came to be in 1982 when Volkswagen wanted the thing over in Europe and started making them locally and boy did it get a following. I grew up with Caddys everywhere, they were less common than the Golf true but they still had a giant, giant presence – they were effectively perfect for small business owners who were fed up with shoving shit onto their backseats or be forced to buy a more expensive Toyota or Mitsubishi pick-up. It had everything going for it that Europeans were into, it was quite nippy for a small 1.6L powered car cause it hardly pulled any weight(which could be a deal-breaker for people) and one of the really, really popular things to do was to swap parts with a Golf GTI. The GTI seats and grille especially were common swaps, cause it took little to no effort to do so and plenty of spare parts littering most of Europe to work with.

vwcaddy83 (8)So that’s precisely what I did with this VW Caddy model I bought from C1 Models over in the UK. It’s a cheap little conversion kit especially knowing now what you’re gonna get with it, it’s all cast in quite tough solid resin that’s also still a tiny bit flexible instead of the tough hunks of plastic resin that are covered in eight acres worth of dust by the time it makes it your way. It also, awesomely enough, came entirely with the flash removed. Literally found two tiny flakes around the inserts of the headlamps, that was it. The detail is so ungodly crisp and the quality is so immensely good that I honestly can’t even find a single thing to whine about. I’d rag off anything I’d spend up to sixty bucks on normally but in this case, I can’t even begin to argue the value I got for my money.

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The whole set has the crisply cast body, the tail lights, door mounts, rear window, the rear axle and suspension set up and a spare tire, plus a whole set of brass stuff to replicate the spare wheel mount, the tailgate hinge, the axle braces, so forth. Plus a spare tail-gate netting and a smooth bumper for those inclined to use it. Seriously, the thing was 48 British pounds, or the equivalent of 55EUR/61USD and it’s worth it. If you like me, like the VW Caddy, it’s simply worth it. It’s a little hassle, all together crisp piece of work that honestly builds together no less well than the Revell kit you’d have to use as a donor. Speaking of Revell kits, there’s three choices you can work with now to use as a filler-kit; the Revell Golf Mk.1 Cabrio, the Golf GTI and the all new Golf GTI Pirelli kit. The difference in the end kind of comes down to three things, the wheels, if you’d like to use non-GTI interior bits and if you’d wanna use the GTI engine.

vwcaddy83 (11)I opted for the GTI Pirelli cause I kind of prefer the whole get up, not to mention it was the most recently released kit and was cheapest score. Yay me. When I unpacked the Golf kit, I was absolutely flabbergasted by the detail on this puppy, holy shit. I don’t think I have ever seen this much eye to detail in a kit without resorting to P.E. parts, hell even better, I have never ever seen this much detail in a kit that also still goes together damn near flawlessly. It’s just staggering, the whole thing goes together like a LEGO build, I shit you not. The tiniest little details like engine hoses, the seatbelt and hand-holders in the interior, the perfect little puzzle around the slanted 1.8L inline four engine, it’s such a delightful kit. There’s a ton, and I do mean a ton of little decals to accentuate on every little detail they couldn’t do via casting. I imagine it can’t have been easy to construct the resin kit around this much of a well designed kit, cause any step being taken out in the middle can lead to the absolute ruination of this kit as a whole and they damn well pulled it off.

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Granted, you get no instructions. You get to use the five or so pictures on C1 Models’ website and that’s generally it. You’re just supposed to follow the Golf instructions until you hit the awkward moment that you no longer can, at that point your modeler’s intuition will set in – how much do I have to cut away and exactly how much do I have to repeatedly squeeze and fit to try and complete this. The answer is quite easy actually, the bed length ends at roughly the exact part where the interior plate gets raised for the rear bench making a nice easily followed cutting line. The same goes for the chassis underneath and once they’re cut away it’s easy going from there on out, heck you could even simply use the length of the door panels for the Caddy and cut from there on and get just as much a flush fit, no problemo. In fact, the only issue I had with the whole kit(and resin kit) was that I missed the little axle arms and it took me give or take twenty minutes of desperate fitting and hoping to find out which tail light was which. The rest was just kind of going “oh yeah, that’d work” by drilling some holes for the seatbelts roughly where they’d be on the Golf kit, cutting the roof piece in there which wasn’t even required, so forth.

vwcaddy83 (12)I am so most definitely buying the GTI Pirelli kit again to build that one proper cause my Lord is it a fantastic kit that I had to butcher for the most part to build this Caddy with, had I known that this kit was this good, I’d have bought two. It’s rare to see two separate entities doing such great work at the same time, I always wanted to buy a C1 Models kit but unfortunately missed out on the ’10 Camaro ALMS transkit they had, but then when I spotted that Caddy I knew I had to have it, even though I knew literally nothing of their quality other than seeing one of their Ferrari transkits being built, once. Now, I honestly can say as far as transkits go, these guys are pretty much the peak of it all, first and best experience all at once go figure. And the same I can say of Revell of Germany with the Golf Mk.1 kit, holy shit, it’s something special. It’s dramatically detailed yet such a simple, stress free experience to slap together and it’s… one hell of a good looking build by the end of it.

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Feels good to start this year with a build that only went well, for a change. Especially with the decal business being busy and overworked to a extreme level, this was a neat little break to have.

 

’83 Volkswagen Caddy Mk.1 specifications:
Kit: #80-5694
Skill Level: 4
Parts: 118(+ 24 in the C1 kit)
Molded in: Gray
Scale: 1/25

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor – Revell

2017_F150Raptor (1)So this will be a short one, I reckon – SnapTite kits are a blast. That’s roughly the gist of it! Revell has done a lot of these types of little kits and generally they’ve been rather decent, especially if folks put in a lot of extra work on some of the lesser regions like the headlights/taillights, the interior, so forth. To name a few examples of Revell SnapTite kits that are beautifully done and are actually really, really solid kits even while they pack… only a handful of parts or so at best – the ’77 Monte Carlo, the ’70 Chevelle and what matters to this kit in general; the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor kit. It’s essentially the forerunner to this one, it was really neatly detailed, contained nice, clear parts, was actually kind of fun to put together and all in all made for one neatly detailed model by the end of it.

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It’s been a few years since I built it though and lost the model along the way, but not before utterly annihilating it via crushing it under a big ol’ box. But it was honestly a great little kit, it reminds me of a full kit just without the glue. This kit on the other hand, is… not super great. I mean, it’s good but it’s literally half as good as the 2010 F-150 kit, and why? Well it’s simple, actually. The first big sinner is that everything is extremely simplified, the headlights already have a silver backing to it, the tail lights are no longer clear plastic, the whole interior is already assembled and so forth. I mean, it’s obviously a kit for the younger modeler or someone who doesn’t feel like turning their house into a glue sniffing den, but so were the other SnapTite kits.

2017_F150Raptor (13)But then again, we got a goddamn pickup truck kit in 2017. We got one. That’s basically all that matters. Back in the nineties, pick-up truck kits were everywhere, the Ford F-150s and Rangers, the Chevrolet S-10 and C-1500s, GMC Sierras, Syclones and Jimmys and so forth. They were everywhere and AMT as well as Revell were on their game back then, and prior to that MPC and AMT did just about every Ford, Dodge, GMC and Chevy truck for every year. Since the early 2000s, we’ve slowed down to a crawl and across the 2010s we’ve gotten literally around three modern ones, all in all. The wonderful 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, the MENG ’09 F-350 Super Duty and well, this one. And it’s weird that we’ve gotten so few of them, given the pick-up popularity in the real world has gotten quite insane as of late.

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I’m fairly sure I’m not alone in this one, there’s obvious interest from the consumer to buy those kits up something fierce, as per the MENG kit, there’s some serious desire and love to see a new Dodge Ram kit or a regular F-150 kit, or maybe a Chevy Silverado at last after all this time again. The old kits of the nineties were also supremely detailed, the Chevrolet S-10 kit was absolutely delightful and the GMC Sonoma was just as detailed, full engine, detailed interior, tons of extra parts, nice decals, so forth. The only full detail kit of a 2009-2019 truck is the ’09 F-350 for as far as I know. But here I am lamenting a bunch of paragraphs on how I wish there were more, but more on the kit, here we go.

2017_F150Raptor (15)In contrast to the unfortunately not clear-cast rear lights and not-silver backed headlights, the pre-painted body is absolutely wonderful. It’s reminding me of those AMT ProShop kits where it’s stamped on the body, which shows a slight of a faded edge but it still makes for a very clean painted body. The rest is all single color cast plastic, all in a matte black besides the wheels, which are semi-gloss. The tires are also another giant, giant plus to this kit, nice and thick proper off-road tires that sit on the axles flawlessly. The only thing this kit could’ve used, y’know, other than some more loose parts to make the painting process easier, is decals. The “RAPTOR” decal is stamped onto the side of the body, for the rest there’s no decals at all – no little metal transfers for the mirrors, no dashboard, nothing. Again, it’s made for younger modelers and for those seeking a neat low effort kit.

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So I made a little decal sheet for the kit to at least try and improve the model a bit, at the very least give it some reasonable looking head and tail-lights as those bugged me to no end, it’s still not as close to the real deal as I’d like it to be but it’s as close as I can get. Also, some incredibly basic red metallic paint to cover the body up. I liked the red but it looked somewhat dull, plus the interior color bleeds through the red plastic quite badly so I figured at least this way it’s somewhat less blotchy looking. My taping-off skills are nice and shit as per usual, but still – it looks alright! Now I’ve had this one sitting around for a while I’ve had the desire to purchase one of those 2010 F-150s again and see how it holds up against this bad boy. It’s just a very nice little rut-breaker of a kit, if you can get one on the cheap.

 

’17 Ford F-150 Raptor specifications:
Kit: #85-1985
Skill Level: 1
Parts: 18
Molded in: Red
Scale: 1/25

1975 Plymouth Road Runner – MPC

1978PlymouthVolareSC (1)God how I’ve tried to find one of those damn MPC kits for years, literally so much that my eBay search auto-fill now forever has “75 roadrunner” engraved in until I decide to delete cookies. And actually, I still haven’t found a proper MPC ’75 or ’76 Road Runner kit – go figure(the ’76 was incorrect as by 1976 the Fury Road Runner had been killed off for the Volare Road Runner). Instead, I came across a may-as-well-be new 1975 promo model that had been kept in damn near new condition by a man who had a significant love for the 1975-1977 Fury and Monacos.

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To be fair, the Road Runner from that particular year wasn’t much of a Road Runner at all. Despite the fact that it could be equipped with a 400ci V8 and it would be okay quick, nothing to brag about but it had some reminiscence to the prior Road Runners, when they could still pack friggin’ HEMIs. Okay, well, not really – the most beefy engine was a heavily neutered 400ci V8 at best with a smog-filter-choked horsepower of up to 225, though nearly half of the Road Runners that left the factories for the ’75 year packed the 318ci V8 that only did about 135hp, keep in mind the car weighed around 3500lbs/1587kg – so 135hp with the weight of two Volvo wagons is pretty much just saying “it’s just a bright colored Plymouth Fury“, no more no less. You could have a 440ci V8 which would be only allotted to police Road Runners, apparently with filling in the right checks on the order form you could have one with that big block equipped, though it’s not a whole lot more powerful than the 400ci V8 with the power to weight ratio in mind.

1975Roadrunner (3)That being said, it did get a bunch of unique touches over the regular Fury. The Road Runner package which came back for this year alone on the Fury platform, it had the unique blacked out grille, the Roadrunners on the doors, a different dashboard gauge set with a optional clock or tach and of course the unique stripe and decal set; one I tried to replicate the best I could for a decal sheet. For the rest? I mean, that was kinda it… It really showed that the 1970s were a dying age for sport/muscle cars, either they were completely past the common public or they were completely neutered to comply exactly to them. The fact that the ads back then basically called out that people were mistaken for thinking muscle cars weren’t fun to own anymore pretty much sums up how this car ended up failing.

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Basically, it’s one of the most unique yet one of the most understated Road Runners. Yeah I know, hot take there dude, but really it may be one of the most uncommon Road Runners out there. It sold pitifully, largely due to the era it was created in, the idea of a heavy weight boxer trying to be quick and just… the disillusioned crowd it was being pandered to. There were lots of sizable yet sporty cars with tons of potential in existence around that period, the Road Runner was one of them, the 1977 Pontiac LeMans Can Am was another solid shot at just adding a trim level for those interested with the added benefit of a giant gas-guzzler in the front. It’s now common practice around the world, especially Europe, for cars to have a balls to the wall powerful car on a 2-door with the wheelbase of a luxury 4 door – what cars are those, you ask? BMW’s M6, Mercedes CL-class, so forth, known as “modern luxury grand tourers”. I can’t help but wonder if the weight issue was curbed, or if a reasonable six cylinder already existed, or maybe a halfway decent turbo was available back then, would the “muscle cars” which were already dead by 1975 still have had a chance? A overcome and adapt sort of situation, form a new breed of American tourers?

1975Roadrunner (15)It’s a shame but many excellent potential died in that era, MPC as well as AMT did keep up with the promotional demand, just about every new addition to the GM, Chrysler and Ford line-up would get either a full detail glue kit or a simple dealership promo, and many of those kits have been built up or collected by now, yet promos still litter any online marketplace like some unkillable scourge. They’ve become a bit of a lucky find for me as of late, as literally any glue kit is just… gone, or like 150$, these promos at least allow some creativity in place of a kit, y’know, the whole idea of “second best option”. With the ’75 Road Runner, it’s a double whammy of rarity – the original two kits, one for 1975 and one albeit incorrectly for 1976, they’re damn near impossible to find. I spotted three over the last year myself and all ran 75$ plus for a opened, sometimes even started kit. I accidentally stumbled over some guy selling off his collection of Fury models(as I mentioned at the beginning, this dude collected Fury and Monaco models and actually had a ’75 Fury for realsies and absolutely adored everything about it) – and I leaped on it like a fucking cougar, for 30$ or so a totally unscathed promo model that was new in all ways other than missing the box(which I later re-discovered on his other eBay listing supporting a series of ’76 Monaco models, so “misplaced” I suppose).

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I desperately wanted to make a proper Road Runner model for so long, I don’t know why but I truly enjoy the last of the line Road Runners, the stripes, the look of it with the bright colors, the trunk Road Runner tunnel entrance decal, it’s just… great. Like I mentioned before, the real car itself was anything but great but having a little model of it, hell yes. And it’s stupidly rare to boot! I can’t really say much about the build quality, as it of course is a pre-built promotional model, but they are a testament of how easily they can be modified. Yes, they’re “curbside”, they have no engine and have nearly no chassis detail. Think of them as Snap-Tite kits, but already built up and all the “snap” parts were soldered – all the parts are connected in basic manners and just ‘closed up’ by what I can only describe as using a soldering iron, which on the brittle plastic from 40 plus years back, is easy to remove without snapping off the posts the parts are connected to.

1975Roadrunner (7)Though, the interior is a hassle. The seats and dashboard are properly stuck to each-other, nothing short of breaking, snapping or melting them loose would help. When I drafted up the decal sheet, I figured I’d try compensate for the lack of a engine by going all in on the interior. The Furys of the day had the quite lovely yet distressingly seventies striped pattern fabric all over the interior, the front seats, the rear bench, the doors, even the floor mats would have the patterns. So I basically just made shapes like the seats, re-created the fabric pattern and slapped it on the decal sheet – and it… actually worked out, really, really nicely.

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Other than that, it was some wheels and tires from a Revell Dodge Charger kit, some hand made axle work and a set of Grand Am Radial G/T tire decals to wrap up the package. I still wish I had the ’75 Road Runner kit with the engine bay detail and all but… y’know what, I’m still absolutely happy and satisfied with what I ended up getting. Maybe, just maybe, one day. Back to working the decal designs, huzzah!

 

’75 Plymouth Road Runner specifications:
Kit: A box!
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 1, or 5, it’s a pre-built promo
Molded in: Burgundy
Scale: 1/25

Blog Update #007 – Decals, Decals and 3D Printing

Lets kick off by stating the obvious, this is an article about the wonderful side venture I got going – making decals for model kits and having them printed by a company nowhere near where I am located. Oh yes, if I’m gonna do it wrong, lets at least do it on a international level. But on a serious note, this simply wouldn’t have been possible without the lovely folks at Rothko & Frost. But as I’ve said before, the way I handle this with the limited resources I have, I’m utterly reliant on them printing my files for me.

Regardless, consider this one a bit of a look at how the whole ordeal is currently going. For starters, I’m currently at give or take 370 planned unique creations, of which around the 200 are currently either finished or in a state of being as good as done. On top of that, give or take 30 are custom works for folks, be it a set of Pro-Stock decals for a ’81 Dodge Omni, a refurbished sheet for old monster trucks, helicopters and Jeeps or simply just air cleaner decals for a AMC AMX. And this is a 10 month adventure so far, I started at the ass-end of November to send files over to the UK and seeing what they looked like on print and… well, at that point I realized, I don’t have to chalk off 1200 bucks for a fuckin’ ALPS printer from nowhere USA that has no guarantee of working, not to mention 200 bucks worth of shipping and imports charges crippling my already feeble income, I can do this at my own pace and earn a little bit of pocket change right from the start instead of paying off a damn printer myself.

So in under a year I’ve made a fair amount of sheets and I’ve grown nowadays to doing maybe one sheet a day, sometimes every two days, just to keep the creative flow going and to keep the growth somewhat constant. It’s 90% pure joyous fun on my part and 10% commissions from people which I do enjoy making, they just come at a slower pace as I’ve forced myself to shape up a sort of “list”, as I call it. Effectively, once I reached the point of having give or take a hundred ideas just bouncing around, I thought I’d write ’em down sequentially and just… go by that. Not exactly the most sexy way of going about it, but it’s just this one guy with a full time job that does this on the side, so it… it kinda keeps all the shit in order, somewhat.

But there may be a change on the horizon, or rather a expansion of sorts. While I’m not gonna change my methods of doing the decals, as long as I don’t have my own printers, this is gonna be the way I operate until either the money runs out on my part, or the company ceases to print for me. The expansion I’m currently working towards is 3D modelling, it seemed like the logical way to go – especially now Revell’s parent company is in the shitter, it just escalated the idea for me that it may be time to start offering some handy-dandy 3D crafted pieces to improve or change up already existing models. No, no, not resin business, God no. That’s a start-up so messy and gargantuan for one guy, especially with stupidly high demands like mine, that would never work unfortunately, so no proper bodies and whatnot, just pieces.

So how far off am I from going into the 3D printed parts market? Well, literally in it as of today. What happened is, well I got my own 3D printer as a birthday gift of all things. I mentioned it once fleetingly and here we are! The thing is getting 3D CAD nailed down again, similar to how I’ve got Photoshop and Illustrator bolted down firmly. So I ain’t gonna start by making anything stupendously difficult, infact the most basic I can think of shape wise and short term on my resin list is the front bumper and side flares for the ’78 Mustang King Cobra and the ’70 Pontiac GTO Judge rear wing. Like I said, I pretty much only want to do quality of life pieces and parts to replace others with, like a ram air Pontiac Firebird Formula hood or an air cleaner for a Dodge 383 V8 block. so forth. Maybe down the line I’ll go deeper, but who knows – for now this is what it’s gonna be.

Hell, maybe I gotta partner with people to make copies of whatever I end up printing, if it’s any good of course. Anyhow, yes – expansion and all that snazz. Keep an eye out for the ever growing list of decals, that ain’t going anywhere.

1976 Ford Mustang II Cobra II – MPC

1976CobraII (21)In the article for the ’77 Mustang II by AMT I pretty much lamented the whole time that I wish I could compare it to a MPC kit and see how it holds up, cause I stumbled upon the realization that the AMT kits of yore were kinda slightly not entirely great, especially when held up to another similar product. And whaddya know, I got a hold of a similar product to compare it to! From the get-go I really, really just wanted to make a Cobra II model and just couldn’t ever get a hold of the appropriate Cobra II kit so I improvised by buying a Missing Link resin set for the MPC Mustang that mimic the parts from said kit so I wasn’t utterly screwed from the start on my little plan.

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Then around the same time I was designing the series of Mustang II decals among which the Cobra II so I had one printed in nice metallic gold as in my personal belief there’s only two downright beautiful Mustang II’s: one is the simple two-tone Mustang II Ghia and the other is the ’76 Cobra II in either all white with blue stripes or all black with gold. Cause, with all due respect, the Mustang II isn’t ugly. Not ugly per se, it’s a situation of ugly birth riddled with abusive parents, family and it wasn’t until it grew into its proverbial pants that it could shine once more as a fox body after being kneecapped in 1974. Judging it purely by looks, despite it being a Pokemon evolution like ordeal from the Pinto, it’s not half bad. Yes compared to the ones it once rivaled, the Javelin, the Camaro, the Firebird, the Challenger, so forth… Yeah, it looks like a jellybean that was left on a dashboard on a hot summers’ day, but again – it’s not necessarily ugly.

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Ford HQ, 1973.

As I said, in this rigorous defense of the indefensible, man what a hill to fuckin’ die on huh – the Mustang II originated from inside bickering, indecisiveness and of course good old fashioned panic cause of changing times. In the previous Mustang II article I described a scene in James May’s Cars of the People where he takes a few old employees of Ford, GM and Chrysler to drive in basically primo-Malaise era Mustang goodness and get their take on why it all just fell the fuck apart back then and the simple conclusion was lack of change – innovation came about slowly and no-one really cared for the sheer, utter greed these cars symbolized. They drank copious amounts of fuel, had more lengths of sheet metal than most boats and lets not overlook the grandiose idea of putting friggin’ lead into everything. Lee Iacocca, the grandfather of the Mustang way back in 1964 was also poetically the saving grace of the Mustang in general, he greenlit the downsized Mustang project for 1974. They literally were gonna bin the Mustang as it was to turn it into sedan very much how the Mercury Cougar started out and turned into a land yacht of luxury in 1975. So the project had one of two choices; turn it into a smaller, more Maverick-ey powerhouse of joy, or just… kill it. So this is where apparently we should stop drawing parallels between the Mustang and Camaros, Firebirds and whatnot and begin comparing the Mustang’s overall “decent-ness” to and get this; Chevy Monzas, Toyota Celicas, Mazda RX-3s, Ford of Europe’s Capri II and so forth.

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And that’s exactly where it went wrong and right at the same time, it once was the definition of a pony car, the quintessential muscle car and much like a one hit wonder rock star, it got yanked off stage and given a serious talking-to in order to get the thing to have its shit together. It began playing on a smaller level again, half the weight and size of what it was the year before, all the while its former competitors literally died off or carried on stronger than before, and that’s where the “wrong” comes in from before. The “right” was doing a drastic measure to save the Mustang from becoming a vapid shadow of itself, the “wrong” was not sticking with its guns. You see, the Camaro and Firebird had some changes but largely they stayed heavy-weight big-block powerhouses, all the way through and the Firebird especially. They kept high performance versions all the way through the seventies, largely no different from their pre-1973 offerings, just bottlenecked as all hell horsepower wise, but even from that they recovered by 1978.

1976CobraII (11)By 1975 the Mustang II was slowly growing back into its old self(despite its most successful sales coming from the bare bones Mustangs), getting the 302 V8 back, albeit at an absolutely anemic horsepower output. And in 1976, the first of the so called “Decal GT” cars began appearing. Being largely unchanged from the normal Mustang bar for some appearance stuff, the Cobra II was literally the least sporty “sports” car out there. It was basically the car equivalent of a overweight fellow in a velour jumpsuit. Don’t get me wrong though, I’d argue its the prettiest of that generation Mustangs, cause holy shit they went all in with the 1978 Mustang II King Cobra and it became a hideous amalgamation of body kit, stripes and stencils, shopping cart wheels and the amount of cobra bite equal of what you’d find in a plush toy. That being said though, I find it amazing nonetheless and am doing a decal sheet for it as we speak, but I digress!

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The wrong that the Mustang II committed was simply that they were not changing enough in either direction, they just weren’t accepting that the Mustang had died and needed a rebirth, either as the now ultimately hyper successful basic Mustang II or the power-wagon V8 from days of yore. Cause in the end, the AMC Gremlin was a better compact alternative(even Ford’s very own Maverick was too) and for old fashioned muscle you could just glean over to Chevrolet or Pontiac. They stalled for time for four years and didn’t gain any serious ground whatsoever on reclaiming the old Mustang name and spirit until 1979 when shoving a turbo onto everything and anything had Ford experimenting with smaller engines and maximizing their output via turbos. To be fair, it had some severe teething issues but it did pave the way for the stupidly successful and loved Fox body Mustang.

1976CobraII (10)But enough lamenting on the Mustang II’s existence. Back to the comparison, the AMT and MPC bodies are different. Very different. First of all, the AMT one is definitely the one pulling the short stick, it has deep sinks on several parts of the body, the assembly is nowhere near MPC’s and in the end, the whole interior was a silly afterthought to them, being flat and un-detailed to say the least. The shape is also… worse? I dunno, it’s in the eye of the beholder but I’d argue at least on the tail end and the grille especially the AMT one is far less accurate than MPC’s offering. The biggest sinner remains to be the wheel size on the AMT kit, which is hilarious to say the least. Engine-wise again it goes to AMT for having the worse of the two, though but no means a lot – the V6 engines offered in either kit are actually really neat, and it’s the V6 offerings that usually go completely unloved so its nice to see two nicer castings out there.

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Though yeah at the end of the day, the AMT kit loses out on just about every point – the MPC Mustang II kit is just miles ahead of the other, with just basic things being better like the tail lights being translucent and the quality being finer on the grille, steering wheel, so forth. But also in terms of the engine bay and interior, the MPC still lies far, far ahead. The quality is sharper, more accurately shaped scale wise and it just looks… right. It’s got hardly any flat detailing due to “who’s gonna see it anyway”, they put in a good effort. Today though, this is a unfortunate thing as the only thing that was re-released at all in the last decade or two was, you guessed it, AMT’s Mustang II kit. The MPC one, like so many, probably got changed to fit some horrible funny car design or pro-stock AWB tool and was irreversibly changed to accommodate those changes. Could also be that like the ’75 Dodge Dart it just lies in hibernation somewhere until someone’s like “Yeah, give that sucker a whirl, whatever right”.

1976CobraII (5)So, the biggest issue I had with this kit was the tires. They, much like everything back then, were just tossed in the box. Even though they were sort of rubberized and really, really nice for the time, they also had a horrible habit of melting into the plastic over the many years they’d lie untouched. Mine decided to mate with the windshield, rear glass and part of one of the seats and took some digging to get loose from those parts, so unfortunately I had no tires for this model. I did however have access to a nice little Ford Pinto kit with the mag wheels that were actually on a proper ’76 Cobra II! So I stole those tires and wheels and slapped ’em on there no problemo and of course, they were one-size-fits-all so they went on with hardly a bit of hassle. Put on the set of Firestone Firehawk SS decals I had prepared for ’em and done!

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Like, this is one of those builds I am actually really proud of. One of those cases where everything kind of just came together really, really well. The decals sit beautifully, the body kit from Missing Link I couldn’t have done without, the perfectly fitting Pinto wheels, so forth.

 

’76 Ford Mustang II Cobra II specifications:
Kit: I-7513
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 94
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1971 Plymouth ‘Cuda 440 Convertible – Revell

1971CudaConvert (18)Third time’s the charm, right? I’ve done the ’71 ‘Cuda kit by Revell/Monogram twice so far, one as but a wee lad and the second time as a little test between mixing enamel paints and using photo etch parts, in either case royally screwing it up. Like, thoroughly. So when I got my hands on a cheap brand new Nash Bridges ‘Cuda kit by Revell, I figured let’s A) do this right for a change, you utter fool and B) no really, do this kit justice for a friggin’ change. I needed a little, tiny break from working on decals at a lovely rate of one entire sheet per day, so I picked up on doing the ’76 Mustang II turning it into a Cobra II and this ’71 ‘Cuda convertible – using it as a little distraction and as well to prove that this website hasn’t just died for that one page named “Decals“. Also, I wanted to give the ’71 ‘Cuda decals I made a whirl, see how they turned out.

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But first things first, most car enthusiasts will know about either the weird little gem of a TV show called “Nash Bridges” or at the very least his supposed all-yellow 1971 HEMI ‘Cuda convertible. Which, given how ungodly rare the ’71 Cuda as a convertible is by itself, rarely was an actual ’71 Cuda convertible, nor a HEMI – but that’s TV for ya’, they can’t just buy a 1971 ‘Cuda with a HEMI and be a convertible, hell one of those sold for 3.5 million dollar in 2014(given only 11 HEMI Cuda convertibles were ever built in 1971). I mean, Christ, a 440 equipped 6 barrel ‘Cuda convertible is still valued between 300,000$ and 450,000$. So they substituted the all ‘Curious Yellow’ 1971 ‘Cuda with several 1970s that were front and tail-swapped to look like a ’71 and they added the fender grilles afterwards as well. There was only one 1971 ‘Cuda on the show, the other three were from 1970 and not one had a HEMI block in there. But hey, that’s TV for ya’ – they still all caught over 150K a piece afterwards from Barrett Jackson or eBay so in a way, even the “not real deal” cars that were engine, front and rear swapped were still valuable as sin.

1971CudaConvert (1)And y’know what, despite the fact that Don Johnson and the Nash Bridges show as well are now just a blip on TV history(lets be fair here, despite the sweet-ass car and decent cast, Johnson will forever be Sonny Crockett in every role) – the ’71 Cuda itself remains a star and then some. As I said earlier, the ’71 HEMI convertibles catch literal millions and they increase in value literally every single day, and the still ungodly quick and gorgeous ’71 Cudas with 340s, 383s and 440s convertible or hard top are well over 100K more expensive than the average house price in the United States(189K) – so you could have a ‘Cuda 440, or you could have a whole house and a hundred grand left over. They were and still are American muscle in absolute perfection; it’s ungodly pretty, it’s ungodly fast, it’s ungodly thirsty and it’s ungodly unwieldy. It nailed every point of being a peak muscle car era vehicle, besides the at the time sale price – one of the reasons why the ‘Cuda was always a more rare sight out there regardless of the shape it came in was because at the time is was one of the most expensive of the bunch. It’s sister car of the same year with the same engine was 400$ cheaper(the ‘Cuda HEMI was 3433$ + 1228$ HEMI upgrade, the Challenger R/T was 3273$ + 892$ for the HEMI), the 1969 Camaro Z/28 grand totaled a person 3185$(2726$ + 458$ for the Z/28 package) and for reference, a 1970 Mustang Boss 302 ran a person 3720$(all the previous prices were 1969-1971 dollar value) – so in reality, the ‘Cuda was of course the premium quality car but it also cost a person a premium to get a hold of.

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But I mean, if I were alive in 1971, if I had what now is the equivalent of 30,000$ in 1971 money, and I wanted a car that was fun, luxurious and borderline undrivable(as just about any muscle car was), I’d get a ‘Cuda, cause as I said, it was just about peak muscle car, it was aggressively styled, it was stupidly difficult to keep straight on the road and it was staggeringly quick in every respect. So, y’know, that was three paragraphs to basically summarize “the car is good fun“, hooray! Though in the model kit world, the ‘Cudas never really had a lot of attention headed their way – MPC did annuals of the car from 1968 through 1974, AMT did the Barracudas from 1965 through 1969 and Jo-Han also did 1970 and 1971 and those kits just had a bunch of exactly-as-they-were re-releases in the 1980s and 1990s, with Jo-Han’s last blast in 1992, MPC’s in 1980 and AMT Ertl re-released a Snap-Tite 1974 ‘Cuda twice in early 2003 and again in 2010 – but Monogram and Revell remain reigning kings on this, in 1982 Monogram released the 1971 ‘Cuda kit and arguably, to date, it remains to be the best ‘Cuda kit out there for that year.

1971CudaConvert (7)To be fair, it has been re-released nine times since… 1982 it came out, in 1985 it was put out again as a street machine(pretty much the same but with the twin snorkel intake hood), then again in 1991 and another time in 1998 both as the stock versions again, then in 2000 it saw the return of the street machine, then in 2002 it got re-released again, in 2003 they changed the tool up again for the first time in 18 years by releasing this particular Nash Bridges edition, which saw another re-release in 2007, then another one in 2009 and one last one in 2012. But still, it’s the best 1971 kit out there, even with its flaws. Granted, Revell’s 2013’s new tool of the 1970 ‘Cuda is now the best ‘Cuda kit in general, but for ’71 – ain’t no better than the Monogram release from thirty six Goddamn years ago.

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Though like I said in the beginning, I’ve royally dicked this kit up twice before in the past and I wanted to do it proper for a change, just once. So I used the can of Plum Crazy Purple metallic I had left over from doing the ’74 Gremlin some time ago, which I knew wasn’t the right Plum Crazy, given its from the new generation Challenger, but still looks absolutely lovely on the ‘Cuda. Then I tore the 440 V8 block from a ’70 GTX kit which I knew would fit given Monogram’s simplistic, yet absolutely excellent chassis and engine blocks, though I couldn’t get the carbs to match the location of the Shaker so I just… glued the Shaker to the underside of the hood, which works well enough aesthetically. I also took the five spoke wheels from the same kit, as per usual, the wheels fit the tires perfectly and the adapters were 100% identical.

1971CudaConvert (17)For the rest, I used pretty plain slightly off-white satin and matte enamel paints for the interior which is the true star of this kit, for a somewhat one-off release, they really did an excellent job with the interior. The detailing, the thickness and the look of it all is absolutely spot on and I will say, no convertible kit had the door panels meet the interior door panels so supremely on the dot as it does here. The kit does pack a lot more decals than any of the other releases, like side marker lights, full dash and arm rest decals, so forth, which weren’t included on any of the other ’71 Cuda releases. Hell, one of the Nash Bridges Cuda releases has Goodyear GT Radial white letter tire decals as a bonus too, go figure, a utter rarity to find in kit decal sheets due to licensing. I didn’t need any though given I used my own created decals but it’s actually really, really nice to see the extra effort put into basically a little distraction kit that was apparently only gonna get released twice.

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All I would’ve asked for in this kit would’ve been a option to put the top up, that would be it, really. For the rest, goodness is this still a solid kit after all these years. Despite the simplified nature, which is par for the course with older Monogram kits like pretty blocky engine bay detail and the one issue where getting the chassis to fit deep into the body shell enough for you to slot the rear valance on there with the exhausts sticking correctly out of the ports… those were an annoying twenty minutes. The exhausts are molded onto the chassis, which is fine and all, but the real valance has the exhausts sticking out there and you have to place that absolutely perfectly so you can force the chassis/exhausts through – which either means, it won’t go deep enough and tear the rear off, or it does fit perfectly and you’re done. No middle ground. Despite that… boy, great kit, what a great kit.

’71 Plymouth ‘Cuda 440 Convertible specifications:
Kit: #85-2381
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 72
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/24

1977 Toyota Celica LB 2000GT – Aoshima

77ToyotaCelica (25)I say this every time and will likely say it every time from here on out, ’til the day I die – Japanese kits make for a pleasant, excellent time. Aoshima’s kits are the perfect balance in the middle between Fujimi and Hasegawa and Tamiya, which for me, still stands right at the top. When I got the kit in my hands, I spotted a little box of text on the side that says and I quote: “This assembly plastic model kit was developed in the mid 1970’s thus the level of replication and detailing are not up to today’s standards“. Isn’t that great? A friggin’ warning to let you know that it is ‘inferior’ to their ordinary quality due to the old molds! If Round 2 was forced to do this, they would melt on the spot out of fear. But I should state this right away, holy shit – if this is their inferior quality… What the hell is their normal quality? A literal shrunk real life car? It’s no less quality than anything I am used to by Aoshima.

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The Celica was introduced in 1971 as the Asian version of the Ford Mustang, direct competitor and everything. It was a two-door coupe with a short end and long front, nippy looks and feels of it, birthed out of a four door(the ’64 Falcon for the ’64½ Mustang and ’71 Carina for the ’71 Celica) and… well, I was gonna say “giant engine with stupendous speed” but, the Celica didn’t do that. The Asian market was and always has been all about ripping the absolute most power possible from a small block, and the power of any of the available engines from 1971 through 1977 was… well, it was anywhere between 50HP and 90HP, nothing to brag about. But! It was still, y’know, a little fun car is all it had to be, right? It doesn’t need 375 horsepower and all, but I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if it had a slightly-less of a giant ball of iron engine block, maybe a beefy V6 but, still. It’s just history. I should point out though, as to what bottlenecked the power of the Celica, Japan had extremely tight engine displacement size/overall car size rules(to some extend a relic-rule that originated in post-World War II years to cope with limited supplies and very small roads/places for cars to drive) that basically disallowed cars to have a engine bigger than 2.0L, or it would face penalties or simply not allowed on the road(go figure, this was while the very much bog standard American engine was 5.0L at the least). Coming to think of it, looking at both the Celica and Mustang, no matter how close they are, they are truly opposites, huh.

77ToyotaCelica (4)As the seventies pulled on, the Celica underwent some cosmetic changes but it stayed the same for the most part, until 1973 where it received a very… familiar looking version added to the trim choices. Called the Liftback, it added well, a lifted rear, with some louvers on the sides and effectively, it made it a gorgeous, little Asian cousin/brother to the Ford Mustang. And to be honest, it ‘borrowed’ a lot of design cues from the Mustang, nevermind the basic shape. The vertical stripe tail lights, the short but raised lip on the tail, the little louvers, it kind of goes on – which is fine. Cause ironically, this particular 1977 Celica LB-2000GT was more Mustang than the real, original 1977 Mustang ever would be. The problem with the Mustang, which I described in full on the ’77 Mustang II article, is that it became too much car for the changing landscape, it had to shrink and it had to do it right there and then, no second chances were given – many choices were pondered, but the design teams went with the… Ford Pinto, as a starting platform to build upon.

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All the while the Celica, which became ever so slightly sportier during its first years(albeit, once again, with a power capacity of 80 or so horse power), was already a very small car, with hardly any weight to it, so it had that opposed to the still ever so brick-like Mustang II, though what is truly odd is that the 1974 Mustang II had give or take the same amount of power output in horsepower, yet any reviewer basically scolded the shit out of it for being anemic, pathetic and sad, once again that cultural divide showing hardcore given the Celica, over in Asia and Europe, was actually quite adored for the little nippy 2+2 that it was, and had the Mustang II ever been thoroughly turned into a export, I reckon Europe would’ve appreciated it a lot more(as it eventually would prove true with the Ford Escort, basically a Mustang III in spirit). This is one of those cars that perfectly puts the whole ordeal into perspective, as the Mustang II was being dragged through the dirt for being anemic and underwhelming, the Celica LB was being loved for being quicker and sportier looking than ever before, despite the two honestly from the outside could’ve been Goddamn brothers.

77ToyotaCelica (5)Aoshima’s got just about all the Celica’s, well at least the older generations. They’ve got the normal Celica 1600GT, this LB 2000GT, a shitload of tuner and weirdly stanced versions of those two, the second gen from the early eighties, Beemax did a few rally versions of the ’84 and ’85 TA64’s and also one from 1990, and it kinda goes on. Tamiya has the more recent Celicas, on the other hand but Aoshima’s the company with the majority of the earlier generations covered. And this one in particular is the most recent re-release of the LB 2000GT kit, with from what I can tell some incredible additions like photo etched parts and optional deep dish wheels.

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Like I’ve only got two issues with the kit as a whole, one being that the stock wheels are molded in black and you gotta do the chrome ring yourself. Luckily, Molotow pens to the rescue, which honestly, holy shit, can you tell the difference between chromed parts and parts painted/drawn on by a Molotow chrome pen? I honestly can’t tell anymore these days. The other downside is that the detail is quite faded, or so called “soft-detail”, slightly raised in the plastic rather than sharp detailed edges. The kit does remedy this by giving you a lovely set of photo etched parts, just about any emblem on the body is given to you in P.E. parts, which y’know, for a on average 20$ kit… I’m into this! The last kit I came across with included P.E. parts and still retailed same price and any other was the Revell Torino kit.

77ToyotaCelica (18)Y’know, this kit is one of those kits that make me even more confused about the state of the model kit business as a whole. You read, particularly among the English speaking community, that there’s a stupendous amount of salt. The dominant mentalities of “I’ve got 600 kits, therefore I couldn’t care less if any company goes down” and “I pay premiums for what comes down to re-hashed shit from 1978” – and it’s kind of sad. I honestly don’t know if companies like Revell-Monogram(and their parent company Hobbico) and MPC/AMT Ertl under Round 2 kind of barely scrape by or go utterly bankrupt due to our picky-as-shit buying or that the market is just that different stateside, or if its just that the whole idea of “keeping American, American” just raises the price to a point where it’s just not possible. I’m not a saint, I scolded MPC for giving me kits they’ve re-released 9 times before unchanged, I’ve scolded Round 2 for cherry-picking their new releases whether its a re-release or not, I’ve also never been a stickler for price given as a European I automatically get charged 20 to 25 bucks on top of the buy price just to have it come my way. Obviously, there’s many people who know it either better or actually know it for a fact how it all works, it just fascinates me to watch companies fall apart and rise to new heights simultaneously in such a similar field.

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It’s just interesting to me, to see how the Asian market just… booms. Aoshima, Fujimi, Hasegawa and even to a extend Tamiya just keep on churning out new stuff, whether its re-releases with updated parts or entirely new tools, around the clock. And even then, when there’s a older, it’s still a good kit. Not every kit is top of the line, not even two thirds, to name a few like the Fujimi ’81 Camaro, their Lancer VIII series, most of their 1980s kits that were clearly motorized like old fashioned Arii kits of yore. But if I were to put the MPC ’76 Mustang II besides this kit, or even a more recent better attempt like AMT’s ’71 Charger and ’71 Duster kits… This one is a more pleasant build, more in-depth even without a engine than just about anything else offered. But then again, it’s just lamenting, if not pure whining on my part, maybe fueled entirely by the pure wish of a perfect mash-up of some mid-seventies American muscle car offering, with the quality of a Tamiya or Aoshima kit.

77ToyotaCelica (19)Yeah you knew it was gonna degenerate into this. Seriously, the bottom line is that the non-fuckery-weird-low-dropped-semi-drifter factory stock Aoshima kits are absolutely superb. There, my one paragraph summary. Also apologies for the supremely slow rate of articles as of late, I’m going into more depth about that soon-ish – it’s as you may have guessed if you’re a frequent flyer overhere, it’s the damn decals.

 

’77 Toyota Celica LB 2000GT specifications:
Kit: The Model Car series, #37
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 121
Molded in: White, Black
Scale: 1/25

1996 Chevrolet Impala SS Grand Sport – Revell

20180509_201358.jpgLemme start this one off right away by saying, yes you’re right – it isn’t a ’96. But Goddammit I want it to be. Besides its easier to sort in the total list where a ’94 Impala SS already sits, albeit something I now have the opportunity to overwrite and imagine I never built it, cause I… well, I didn’t do a very good job on it. The Revell kit has been re-released many times since the mid nineties(1996 to be exact), its roots originated as a SnapTite, though really it was one of those Basic Builder-ish scenarios where it was more complicated than a SnapTite just didn’t require glue. The whole thing is still very, very much that – just without the clicks and snaps of a SnapTite.

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The Impala SS is one of those cars that kind of always stuck with me, it has such a history to it as well that kind of is staggering. This car, this Impala SS right there, the end-of-the-sporty-line SS model(until the 2006 SS revival), was once the successor to the friggin’ Bel Air. From 1958, the Bel Air had a everything-included-please-but-different version, a “halo” car(basically terminology for ‘top line model that is meant to live on the popularity of what its based on’); the Impala. Something that stayed with the Impala as a whole was that the car itself generally had a direct twin but with subtle improvements and differences on just about every angle of the car. The Bel Air and Impalas had this from the sixties and the Caprice(which was initially a Impala option, called the Impala Caprice) and the Impala from 1977 on out. Though should be said, that’s a hell of a simplification in the grand scheme of things. The history of the Bel Air, Biscayne, Impala and Caprice is… complicated to say the least. Suffice to say, in the mid-seventies, the Impala and the Caprice both got slashed by a third and downsized to meet whatever the hell the eighties were gonna be for General Motors.

1996ImpalaSSGS (5)Is that a super gross simplification of how the Bel Air, Biscayne, Impala and Caprice came to separate into their own line of models through the seventies? Why yes, yes it is. And I am aware that grueling, horrible, maybe even inaccurate look at how they came to be but believe me when I say this… Chevrolet’s 1955 through 1969 model encyclopedia is nothing short of a M.C. Escher-esque maze to figure out accurately. What did happen is that in the mid seventies it became its own separate entity as a model, and even then you’d need a literal chart to play “spot the difference” on a Caprice Classic versus the Impala, it would have subtle but sometimes yet obvious changes to one-another like for instance, one having the indicators under the headlights and the other in the bumper, or a mesh grille opposed to a horizontal bar grille, interior would be bare plastic in one and splattered with wood grain in the other… The gist here is that in the end, the Caprice and the Impala were basically twins, the ones that are nearly identical but you learn to spot the clues to tell ’em apart.

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By the late eighties, the squarebox was about to get ushered into the era of automotive boredom, the Opel Vectra-fication of the business; cars were going to become bubbly, enthusiastically colored and have wheel styling that can only be described as “functional”. Generally, you can describe every era with one word. Seventies? Colorful, massive, growth. Eighties? Square, tempered, underwhelming. The nineties can be described as ‘sleek’, ‘gray’ and ’rounded’. Though this doesn’t mean they were ugly, by no means, just… neutral. Every car just looked like they were designed by someone who said “enough square shit already” and sanded every edge round. And the Caprice was among those who got a rigorous dose of rounding-off; in 1991 the newly updated Caprice was brought to life. And boy did it do… something.

1996ImpalaSSGS (13)You see, much like the Ford Crown Victoria/LTD, the Caprice too was basically “America’s Car”. What I mean with that is, name a picture, name a movie, name a scenic shot of a city and you’re likely to spot a series of Crown Vic or Caprice taxi cabs, police cars, fire department marshall’s, so on. Essentially, they were continuing the legacy of, well, the States’ cop car and cab. And when it got displayed to the populace, they fucking well laughed it off the stage. The new styling got a fairly harsh coat of insults plastered on it, like “beached whale”, “upside down bathtub”, “Orca-body” and “obesity on tires”. The Caprice 9C1 police package did do rather well, as we all know, it became literally the most popular police cruiser out there along with the Ford Crown Vic so, it did succeed, sorta. But on the regular average Joe front, changes needed to be made and they tried to do so at least. They ditched the skirted rear wheel wells(though kept ’em on the station wagons), which helped alleviate the fat look of the thing, introduced some Camaro parts to the interior and ended up also offering a de-tuned LT1 V8 from a Corvette.

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And basically there you already had the ingredients for the subject at hand here, the Impala SS. Announced as a concept in 1992, it was in essence; a giant, unchained sleeper. The concept had a friggin’ 8.2L V8(500ci) and had a more aggressive styling touch over the Caprice like nearly de-chromed bare(aside from the window trim and emblems), large deep offset 5 spoke wheels, raised Impala SS script on the rear fender, darkened grille, so forth. It was very much a Caprice 9C1 police car underneath in terms of what was standard equipment, like the reinforced shocks and springs, disc brakes, twin exhausts, higher output electronics, so on – the only thing GM did swap in the end was the 8.2L V8, which was replaced by a LT1 Corvette V8, which did do a decent 260 horsepower but still, y’know, meager. All in all, it was a sporty bathtub that looked menacing as hell. It was a reasonably sporty one-off, bit like the Mercury Marauder which was essentially a sexier Ford Crown Vic.

1996ImpalaSSGS (4)Anywhoooo, the model. Yeah, right! So I did build one of the Revell Impala SS’s last year and came out slightly disappointing, just a bit. Released in 1996(and re-released like four times since), it was made a slightly more difficult glue-required kit with the origins dating back to a SnapTite kit that came out in the same year and holy crap you could tell it was once a SnapTite, the engine block is three parts, the whole interior snaps together pretty much with the clicky-snappy bits still there. The headlights and the tail lights still have painfully obvious pins you force into the slots and in turn make the headlights and tail lights look stupidly toy-like, but y’know, its a thing. Atleast they don’t flop out the bezel every odd second the model gets touched, so there’s that! It also looks quite gargantuan, like it is bigger than a 1/24th scale GMC pick-up in width so I wouldn’t be surprised if the scaling wasn’t 1/25th but 1/24th, but that’s just a small observation. The rest of the kit was actually kind of nice, the body crisp, the detail quite nice and so on. Oddly enough, there’s a pattern with the wheels going on – the 2002 re-release had the Impala SS on the box with these giant American Racing style rims, but didn’t actually have those. Now I got a 2008 re-release which was hilariously stupid with a lowrider version(something that Revell made a thing back then, including a fucking ’81 Citation as a lowrider) which did come with the Impala SS with the proper wheels on the side of the box but only came with those AR wheels in the kit itself!

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Odd shit, really odd shit. But regardless, I preferred it with the plan I had in mind. I love, absolutely love the Corvette Grand Sport from 1996. I don’t know why but the theme always resonated with me and I thought of making a ’96 Camaro Z/28 Grand Sport, but before I even came across one of those kits, I found a Impala SS kit on the cheap. And I always wanted to do the Impala SS kit a bit more proper, which I did botch a fair bit the last time around… The engine didn’t fit, the hood didn’t shut, I idiotically attempted to do the trim which I jacked up to no end, the wheels hardly fit(and I ended up re-using on the ’91 Syclone Marlboro Edition), it was a shambles really. So! Time for round two, I thought. First order was getting the Admiral Blue, which I quickly did. Secondly was to get a better LT1 engine; which I promptly stole from a 1995 Corvette kit. Surprisingly, the engine fit quite well in the end – all I did was snap off a tiny part on the engine brace and the struts on the driveshaft.

1996ImpalaSSGS (14)Which… I dunno, this kit feels like a 1/24th scale one, I can’t help but feeling it is. But ah well, anyway – I created a decal sheet specifically for the Impala to make it look a little more like a Grand Sport, including a Impala SS branded hood stripe and the iconic fender stripes. For the rest it was a set of custom badges, license plates, so forth. I’m not gonna lie, I’m really surprised by how they ended up looking. I really, really am for once proud of my friggin’ work! The SnapTite features that are still part of the kit really do take away from the whole thing though, like the very visible placement hole for the radiator, the overtly obvious twin prongs in the headlights as I mentioned before, so on.

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So based on how this one ended up looking with the Grand Sport fantasy theme, I’m definitely gonna make one based on the Camaro as well. Hell to the yes.

’96 Chevrolet Impala SS Grand Sport specifications:
Kit: #85-2175
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 66
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

 

1977 Ford Mustang II Mach 1 – AMT

77mustangii-1.jpgOh boy, oh boy, I finally got one. A second generation Ford Mustang kit, and not just any of them, the friggin’ AMT release. The Mustang II fascinates me to no end, for all the wrong reasons – lemme just get my sins out of the way. I like it for several reasons, one’s obviously the story behind the absolute US automotive disaster the Mustang II became to symbolize, the second is that I, and fuck me for saying this, kind of dig the way it looked, especially the more European styled Mustang II Ghia and third; where it ended up going. Cause the Mustang is basically the Elvis of the automotive industry, it came in and it essentially changed the whole game there and then in 1964. Then as it became to define success, by 1969, it started packing on some… weight.

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To put it gently, it got fat. Over the span of six years, the Mustang grew wider and longer, it gained more empty space under the hood for some reason, it packed on over 1100 pounds(that’s 506kg, or in automotive terms, that’s nearly a whole Fiat Panda or half a ’64 Mustang extra), the newly appointed Ford president Semon Knudsen greenlit the final of the heavy-weight boxer Mustangs in 1971, where it gained that final tally of weight and grew another 3 inches to accommodate the 429 Cobra Jet engine and then by 1973, as the United States entered the automotive dark ages, the Elvis horse left the building. It was slashed entirely for a revamped model done by legendary car designed Lee Iacocca who was partially responsible in breathing life into the original Mustang project to start with – kind of fitting, isn’t it. Iacocca initially had a Mustang concept based on the Maverick, something that reminds me of the AMC Gremlin concept that was based on a late sixties Javelin. But in the end, the Mustang II was gonna be based on a Pinto. Well then.

77MustangII (5)Obviously, something had to be done and Iacocca definitely nailed it on the head when he noted that the Mustang had to be downsized to ever stand a chance at living on, cause it didn’t just define the muscle car era, it also defined the horrible side of perpetual growth in the muscle car market. James May and his Detroit-oriented interviewees said it best in a episode of James May’s Cars of the People; to paraphrase it some – “Detroit had thirty years of no competition” and “the cars were designed to be replaced by the newer model a few years after, longevity was not on their minds“, and despite everything obviously this mind-set carried on for another twenty years at the least, a solid ten years past the Mustang II was deemed to be around. Granted, the Mustang II wasn’t a bad car, by no means. Hell arguably it was one of the better Mustangs to have been created, the Ghia was an attractive flat-decked coupe that screamed European something fierce, the hatchback wasn’t utterly ugly even though it was yes, just a overweight Pinto but it needed to survive. The economy-car popularity spike did allow the Mustang II to thrive something fierce, the V6 was gutted and produced the power equivalent of a old horse’s fart but its lightweight build did allow it to have some pep, something that was exploited once the economic crisis worries died off a little bit over the following years; they first re-introduced a V8 engine, the semi-legendary 302/5.0L option.

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Then, after that in ’76 they did a special appearance package to sort of re-live the old Mustang/GT500 mania with elaborate air dams, vents and spoilers, called the Cobra II but in reality it did… fuck-all to enhance the power, the anemic 302 still only produced little over 140HP, which to be fair, was somewhat on par with the competitors like the Camaro Z/28 and the Firebird with a 350ci V8 of the time, but still it was kind of clear that the damage was done by 1977 as the last two years of the II began. The Firebird was the most popular muscle car with the Camaro trailing a close second, in ’78 they gave it one last hurrah by chucking out a King Cobra edition which was just a weird, odd little edition meant to mimic the others. But fair enough, I kind of like the crazy revival of the King Cobra, it’s in some ways kind of exactly what muscle cars were all about; making you look their way.

77MustangII (14)In a way, the Mustang II might have been the best thing to have happened to the entire Mustang lineage. I know, hot take there Mr. Grumpyfuck, why don’t you go and worship some more European scrap, you cretin. And I’d say, you’d be right, I am that but still – look at the fox body Mustang that followed it in ’79. It was compact-ish, it was quick, it maintained the awesome hatchback design for most of its models, it was a nippy, lightweight… fox! And by some ways I like to imagine that the Mustang II’s downsizing helped that vision be realized, cause while the Camaro, Firebird and other muscle car survivors maintained their livelihoods, they stayed quite… large. Lengthy, at the least.

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But I digress… a lot. Both AMT and MPC made Mustang models through the seventies, MPC made several versions of the II, among a few being the Cobra II and King Cobra editions, some IMSA-ish looking beast and the bog-standard ’74 V6 hatchback. AMT sort of kept up, offering the Cobra II kind of(somekind of Matchbox edition) and the annuals from ’74 through ’77 with similar features everytime; opening hatch, same wheels, same engine and interior. And uh, yeah I wish I had a MPC ’77 Ford Mustang to compare it to, this kit isn’t especially great all in all but I just wish I could compare it and see how well it fares opposed to other seventies releases. Like, the kit’s glaring issues already start right away with the giant mold lines and the absolutely gargantuan tires. I mean, they are fucking massive. Stupidly, absurdly, to a degree of just damn silly large.

77MustangII (15)The body has fitting issues, there’s a sunken part on the tailgate right where the Ford lettering is, the mold lines are obscene, the hood nor the hatch will fit at all, the clear pieces slot in from the bottom, giving the illusion that the damn windows sit deep as hell and looks like someone glued plastic sheets in from the inside to cover the fact that the car came with no windows. The rims inside the stupidly huge wheels are also too damn big, the tail lights are unfortunately just chrome pieces, the whole chassis is just a flat plate and the suspension is absolutely huge and so weirdly shaped compared to the flat chassis, the interior is smooshed flat in a odd manner and just looks… wrong. The engine is a nice one though, goes together smoothly and the underappreciated 250ci/4.0L V6 is nicely detailed and it is one of the few quite well cast V6’s too.

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But again, it’s… from 1977. It’s old, it’s AMT, their Camaro offering opposed to the MPC Camaro offering wasn’t exactly great in comparison either, but y’know, letting it slide due to the sheer friggin’ rarity of the kits in question. It quickly becomes a matter of “it’s fine, it’s old” with these kits. Generally speaking, these kits are what I’d call “adequate”. It mimics the real body quite well, much better than the ’75 Camaro for sure. It’s just, at least from a purely looking-outside-in perspective arguably a worse model than the MPC kit(from other builds and box-content pictures at least), but it’s still nothing to scoff at. Though, there’s one other glaring omission, something MPC might’ve done overkill on during the same period – decals. There were none with this kit, or at least none that I got, at all. Yeah, my axles were also missing so for all I know they too weren’t put in but I believe there’s no decals based on the fact that the instruction sheet makes absolutely no call-outs for them, nor does the box. So, I made my own sheet for it, like I seemingly keep doing for every kit now.

77MustangII (19)And y’know what, in the end, who the hell cares right, with some effort and part sourcing, something I definitely didn’t get around to, you could quite handily turn this into a much better model than the box initially offers. Smaller tires aren’t otherworldly to come across, some wing mirrors aren’t too difficult to find spares of, the decals I’ve got for sale now so there’s those and you could do some chisel-work to the hood and tailgate to get ’em to shut properly. I love, absolutely love these misery cars from the seventies, for the lessons that were learned, for the slowly-growing appreciation for the Mustang II, for the overall perspective one gains looking into these things, from both the modeler’s side of things as well as the actual car, and how it held up opposed to other competitors at the time, now that we live in a facts-found-in-seconds world… Speaking of competitors, the next build I’m currently actively messing about with is the ’77 Toyota Celica LB-2000GT – Basically its Japanese cousin. Oh yes, oh yes indeed.

’77 Ford Mustang II Mach 1 specifications:
Kit: #T487
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 90
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25