Decals Update – #002

Going into the new year with some more new sets, desperately trying to finish one series of a model before going to the next and more or less leaving it in progress forever. Since December 2nd, there’s sixteen new sets and as I type this I’m literally finishing off two more.


New Sets – 1976-1980 Chevrolet Monza

One of the biggest to-do’s on my list for well over two years was to do the Chevrolet Monza, they’ve kind of become super illusive these days and I always got turned off by the 60$+ MPC kits that are already opened or started and even the promos were more often than not sitting around the forty bucks range, so it just… never happened. But then I got lucky, a Dutch seller had a ’77 and a ’79 Monza 2+2 promo and I found a 99% finished ’78 Monza MPC kit that was just… in pieces. It was missing a lot of parts, some tires, one of the tail lights, the rear window louvers, so forth, but for decal designing that would do just fine.

Left to Right Top: ’77 Monza Spyder, ’77 Monza Mirage & ’78 Monza GT Prototype(Z29 Code)
Left to Right Bottom: ’80 Monza Spyder & ’77 Monza Mirage BORT “Rapide” Prototype

So far I’ve got all but two of the Monzas I wanted to do ready and able, the one that is pretty much a ground up design from just grainy, crappy photographs is the 1980 Spyder, which I shit you not is damn near impossible to find. Thanks to the Monza Homestead, I found some excellent info on some really, truly elusive Monzas and Monza concepts, like the BORT Rapide, the first running prototype of what would eventually become the ’77 Monza Mirage GT and the ’78 Monza Scorpion, a dealer option decal upgrade on 2+2s that honestly no-one seems to have any idea about where they came from, or what they originally truly looked like – that one’s coming soon, it’s a hell of a lot of work doing that one.

The next big list of Monza, or rather H-Body list are the various Buick Skyhawk editions, like the two Free Spirits, the Roadhawk and Nighthawk. Maybe down the line the Oldsmobile Starfire editions like the Firenza GT, Starfire GT and so on.

New Sets – 1969 Chevrolet Camaro

Ever since I discovered that the ’69 Camaro Baldwin by Revell could only be built with the white stripes in mind, I figured this had to change. But other things kept taking precedence and it just fell to the back every time, until now. I bought the Yenko Camaro and Baldwin Motion Camaro kits by Revell and grabbed my old Revell of Germany ’69 kit to get as much stuff to nail the decal sheet the first time through. I effectively did the same thing with these sets as I did with the ‘Cuda, making all of the emblems, logos, air cleaner decals and such for every version that I could copy and re-use on any of the other sets, so this means you get enough emblems to do any of the Camaros with any set and it’s the extra bits and the stripes that make the set unique.

Left to Right Top: ’69 Camaro Z/28, ’69 Camaro SS DX-1 Stripes & ’69 Camaro ZL-1 COPO #9567 Concept
Left to Right Bottom: ’69 Camaro SS, ’69 Camaro ZL-1 Z/427 Concept & ’69 Camaro SS Baldwin Motion L-72 454

So the general Z/28, SS and RS stripes are there as well as the unique DX-1 option, but also the Baldwin Motion 454 and 427(which is coming up next), the ZL-1 COPO #9567 concept and the super rare one of a kind Bill Mitchell one-off ’69 Camaro Z/427.

Updated Set – 1970 Plymouth AAR ‘Cuda

Speaking of the aforementioned ‘Cuda, I re-did the ‘Cuda AAR set for the model world legend Tim Boyd so it wouldn’t just be more accurate but also have the exact amount and similarly sized blocks on the stripe to the real deal, and most importantly it follows the body curve like the real deal, unlike the Revell AAR ‘Cuda stripe.

70CudaAAR’70 ‘Cuda AAR

New Sets – 1970-1971 Ford Torino

Couple of more of the… more random completions, I finally got around to finishing the ’71 Torino Cobra and the ’70 Torino King Cobra and actually started on the ’72 Torinos like the Gran Torino Sport and the Torino with the laser stripes. I wanted to get these out of the way before getting to the Mercury’s of the time, like the Cougar and Cyclone.

’71 Torino Cobra & ’70 Torino King Cobra

New Sets – 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass

Last month I re-did the whole Cutlass Hurst/Olds set to include the whole interior, far better resolution and quality body stripes and so on, and then I discovered the prototype 442 W-30 for ’85 that was part Darth Vader FE3-X and part 442 and… it needed a decal sheet to commemorate the damn thing existing. I also did the whole FE3-X set as well, given the Revell kit has far too thick stripes for the body and the gold emblems aren’t quite gold, so why the hell not. I’m also doing the ’83 Hurst/Olds as well and the ’85 442 just to complement the whole line-up.

’85 Cutlass 442 W-30 FE3-X Prototype & ’85 Cutlass FE3-X “Darth Vader” Prototype

And… that was it for now! The designing goes on still, and I also revamped the Decals page to be a bit less of a hassle to read, it’s more compact and less heavy to load in. It also now has all the prices in the list rather than in a separate PDF file, so hopefully that clears the whole thing up a little bit, I won’t lie – the damn page was a bit of a mess. Also, happy new years, still!

1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Special Edition – Revell

77TransAmSE_2019 (17)Holy crap it’s the goddamn Bandit. The somewhat harder to come by and in my opinion the better of the ’77 Firebird versions offered by the various model kit companies, lovingly crafted by Revell from a die-cast mold. And everyone knows this car, let’s be totally fair – it’s one of the most recognizable movie cars, ahead of the ’76 Gran Torino from Starsky & Hutch, it might even be ahead the ’69 Charger from the Dukes of Hazzard. Smokey and the Bandit is in all rights not just a solid movie, but also a time capsule of 1970s America.

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It quite literally served as an ad for Pontiac(Hal Needham fell in love with the car and Pontiac fortunately obliged his new-found love interests), with the hero’s car being a fresh off the line fully kitted out ’77 Firebird T/A S.E. and the bad guy(as far as a cop can be one) drove a ’77 LeMans. It played heavily on the odd as all hell distribution snafu Coors Brewing Company found itself in(which the short of it is as follows: Coors wasn’t permitted to sell past the Mississippi until it got the rights and permissions to do so in 1986, prior to that it only sold in 11 states in the direction of the West Coast, making it hugely desirable on the East Coast), it had CB radio which kicked off in popularity in the 1970s and to cap it all off, it had the most bankable actor of the late 1970s in there leading the show: Burt Reynolds, who unfortunately passed away in 2018 and the soundtrack was partially made by Jerry Reed, country music-slash-actor extraordinaire. The only thing that could arguably be more 1970s is a field made out of brown, red and yellow striped shag carpet with the Bee Gees doing a concert on top of it.

77TransAmSE_2019 (5)Hell, the star car in fact is 1970s through and through. While the movie’s popularity made it literally destroy the Camaro’s reputation as a whole, causing the Firebird sales to surge massively and the Camaro sales to tank, part of the iconic look of the new 1977 Firebird at the time was the adjustment of a quite strange U.S. law in 1976. You see, headlights of all things had a odd, hard line restriction to it. Not only were they at first restricted quite literally to size, diameter and… shape, it also took well over thirty years for designers to be allowed to use square shaped headlights. From 1940 through 1957, you could only have one headlight per side, and had to have low and high beam filaments in the same lamp and could only be 7 inches in diameter. Then in 1958, the first drastic change was permitted; twin goddamn headlights, yes baby! And you can tell designers were quite literally waiting for this as damn near every single car from then on would have twin headlights and be permitted to be smaller than the odd 7 inch requirement, but this came again with another weird limit: yes, you can now have smaller headlamps, but they could only be 5 ¾ inch.

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So now you have two unique headlight designs, but still they’re all the same size across the board. This is why all European or Asian cars imported to the U.S. had the local headlight swap treatment, but now lets time jump to 1975. Now, it’s more or less a free-for-all, while size restrictions are there, they are loose and quite varied but most importantly; the strange restriction that it had to be circular was lifted, and every Goddamn automotive designer over night made a square-headlight version of their favorite car. You can damn near count American cars that retained round headlights into the 1980s on one hand.

77TransAmSE_2019 (10)And there’s the oddball history lesson of this particular article, last time it was dealer specific tuners that made some of the most powerful muscle cars and this time its… headlights. Can always count on me derailing my own content into some lesson you didn’t know yet and I’ll bet didn’t feel like learning, but you’re welcome, now you too can tell people about the weird restrictions on car headlights in the US from the fifties through the eighties! Anyway, back to the hero car here. In real life, back in 2018, Burt Reynolds’ estate sold his private Firebird S.E. replica, given the originals were either wrecked or just driven to death this was a replica built to be as faithful as can be, with some modern overhauls such as a better performing custom built transmission, a fully rebuilt 400ci V8 and of course a damn must these days; air conditioning. But literally everything else down to the CB radio was original, also on the chopping block were two other of his private Firebirds, a ’78 Firebird in red, a perfect replica of the Hooper car and a ’84 Firebird in black and gold which he had built to promote his football team, the Tampa Bay Bandits.

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This was after his death, can’t imagine he’d ever wanted to part with his precious memories but unfortunately he had to, from 2014 on wards, he was caught up in sales and auctions left, right and center just to keep his estate afloat, selling various movie memorabilia, as well as one of the original Universal Studios Bandit Firebirds that was used as promotional material. Reynolds was a bit of a flamboyant fellow through his years and frankly made some shitty calls on investments quite a few times, as it seems a ton of celebrities are one to do. Either way, it’s really cool and quite interesting to find out just how attached he was to the stuff, his working together with Hal Needham back then really made him exactly who he wanted to be, it seems.

77TransAmSE_2019 (21)So here we are, seven paragraphs or so down and we’ve hardly even began to discuss the model kit this article should be about. It’s not my first rodeo with this kit, in fact, I’ve built a regular, still quite Trans Am-ey Firebird two and a half years ago and it disappointed me to no end that the legendary car, as it was, couldn’t be truly turned into the screaming chicken Trans Am without aftermarket aid. So I made it a plain jane on the outside with a nice shiny coat of red and just used the Firebird for the hood and called it a day. It’s very apparent Revell USA couldn’t nail down the Trans Am license, which I’ve found out is owned by a tuning company that visually upgraded a handful of Camaros to look like what might’ve been a modern day Pontiac Firebird if, you know, Pontiac wasn’t bust. The name itself hangs for the automotive category, at least, between Trans Am Specialties and the SCCA(the original Trans-Am name owners, as in the race), and I can imagine it’s kind of shitty to have to chalk up a stupid amount of money for what amounts to two words. Suppose they could’ve always done the old MPC trick by shuffling the letters on the decal sheet, but I reckon Revell was/is above doing this.

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The kit itself is absolutely excellent, it has a few quirks and problems but it makes up for it ten-fold by actually doing things other kit designs should just brazenly rip off. One thing, namely, is a separate dash insert which on the Firebird is a given since its either metal on normal Firebird T/A’s and proper brash gold on T/A S.E.’s, but it makes detailing it so much easier. Secondly is, again, a simple thing: clear plastic tail lights. Yes I appreciate the pre-painted transparent red but let’s be honest here, you can’t undo the red for the reverse lights. Third is the one thing I wish they’d steal the most; screw bottom chassis. Never once has a chassis clicking into the body felt as satisfying as it does on this kit, cause it doesn’t require a stupid amount of force, it doesn’t require bending the body to the point of having to worry that it cracks in half, its a neat slide in the finished body and gripping while you screw the thing tightly together and it’s so Goddamn fuss-free that it feels gratifying as all hell and it removes the one thing I always encounter with AMT Ertl kits especially, the firewall, the interior or the wheel wells getting caught on something in the body and just deciding there and then that it will never sit properly.

77TransAmSE_2019 (29)One of the downsides however is the decal sheet, which is undeniably fleshed out as hell. The problem is that the gold(or rather dull yellow on the sheet) stripes are outlined with a thick black, which just doesn’t come out right with any paint. So I remedied this by simply copying the whole decal sheet and actually completing it, the thin bumper stripes, the mirror stripes, the air intake stripes, so forth, they’re all there, and of course all the necessary extras. I opted for the Protrac Radial R/P tires cause they’re not only perfectly age appropriate(Protrac really tried to cash in on Pontiac’s Firebird line) and they’re also something I reckon Burt Reynolds would’ve been all about: every single fucking ad that Protrac put out in magazines or on papers was some half naked woman with clearly no bra and in a stupendously cold room straddling the tires, it was such abrasive sexism and trying to pander to men that I can’t even feel disappointed at it. Like they went for it, they gave zero damns. The second downside of this kit is that the tires are so thin and small that it’s like they’re made for a Beetle, but alas, such is life.

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The origins of the kit apparently is a die-cast Revell made and just like 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T kit which wasn’t at all related to the old Monogram one, it has particular build quality improvements here and there and it’s jarring how well they pan out. The whole body assembly is clear and cohesive and goes together so unbelievably smoothly, damn near as smoothly as the chassis screws. Like I know people aren’t too big a fan of this kit, for all its plusses it does look… slightly off. Maybe it’s something with the scale, maybe the proportions here and there but something about it doesn’t… look right. I’ll say though, one thing that definitely doesn’t look right is me horribly dicking up the rear end and putting the stripe that’s meant to go on the taillight at the top of the wing, but you know me – dumbnuts numbero uno, learn from me by not repeating my mistakes I suppose.

77TransAmSE_2019 (31)Either way, given I made the absolutely humongous decal sheet for it, I figured just like the ’70 Camaro Baldwin Motion, I’d try to go all in. I got all the gold stripes and placed ’em one by one like a patient model aircraft builder, plumbed the entirety of the engine, down to the pre-molded A/C system. Got a can of smoke tint paint to do the T-tops with to make them more authentic, got some seatbelts and tried to accurately put them in there which was far more difficult than I thought and of course the aformentioned Protrac Radial R/P white letter tire decals. I had like four different tints of metallic gold from three different brands just to see which ended up being the closest to legit, which was actually a mix of Tamiya’s Leaf Gold and Titanium Gold along with the Vallejo Metal Color Gold, and as you can see on the wheels, kind of worked to a realistic deal.

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Genuinely, this is one of those kits that comes out once and never shows itself again, just like the die-cast heritage Challenger and Mustang before, so I’d say, if you’re on the fence, that ’78 Firebird from Monogram’s coming back like every six years and by God skip that goddamn MPC shambles, get this one and maybe if you’re unlucky; get the Monogram one. But seriously, try and search for this one while it’s still remotely available for normal prices.

’77 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Special Edition specifications:
Kit: #85-4027
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 86
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1970 Chevrolet Camaro SS Baldwin Motion 454 Stage III – AMT Ertl

1970BMotionCamaro (6)And now for another Camaro, why yes indeed! The better of the two Camaro kits(for now), with a crisper mold and arguably a better overall image in the model car kit community. I was holding this one up against the Camaro Z/28 the whole way through that particular article and knowing that I’ve had this kit for a year plus now and it just… sat there, it really could do with being built. The whole reason I initially bought it was to do the decal sheet for it and do it properly. As well as of course do the split-stripe Baldwin Motion 454 Camaro for the 1971 year. And uh… many more.

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Regardless, it sat collecting dust under a table after I scanned in and photographed the body plenty enough. Then, long after I stowed it away, Round 2 proudly announced the re-tooling of the Camaro kit and finally give us a damn full bumper, single headlight Camaro. The first one since 1973, can you believe that? In an age of re-releases where every odd month a tool from 1967 is dug up to be used up after so long, it’s truly peculiar to see one of the best selling muscle cars of all time fall by the way side.

1970BMotionCamaro (2)But, I hear you say, but Mr. Writer Man, that is because they took the tool for the full bumper kit behind the shed and let it closely examine the rifling of the Remington rifle that got shoved in its eyes – and you’re right! They executed the full bumper tool  and re purposed its empty chest cavity for the double headlight split bumper in the eighties, combining this amalgamation of half-MPC guts, half-AMT guts into one gargantuan misshapen, ugly, terrible mess. Also side note, I know the term should be “twin headlight” and “quad headlight” rather than single and twin, but I’m a fool so bear with me.

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Either way, it’s finally happening and in celebration thereof I’m revisiting my, what, third and fourth models respectively? I never did write an article about the Baldwin Motion and the Z/28 article was uh, a thing. So I thought its time to use my tricks that I learned over the years and put them to use with a little elbow grease and actually try to make something nice out of them for once. For the Z/28 350, I went with the dark gray I at first wanted to do this one in but then it occurred to me, all of the Baldwin Motion cars are abrasively out there; they don’t do subtle. The green is honestly the darkest shade you could get the damn thing in, so I swapped the colors out – popping metallic blue under the black rear, why yes, yes indeed.

1970BMotionCamaro (12)Baldwin Motion is one of those four or five big names from the 1960s-going-on-1970s that really latched onto GM’s “COPO” program. They’re all dealers from across the United States, all dealt in GM products and they all fell in love with the Camaro, Chevelle, Corvette and Nova the most. Dana Chevrolet out of Long Beach, CA was the first to transplant the 427ci V8 out of the ‘Vette into the Camaro and that’s where the whole idea of dealers making subtle sleepers came from; the Dana hood for instance is just a simple twin-snorkel hood that on the outside doesn’t really scream “437HP car”. Then you had Nickey Chevrolet out in Chicago, IL where it became quite literally a customization shop to the customer’s taste. But you also had the now ever so famous Yenko, ran by Don Yenko out of Cannonsburg, PA and just like Nickey, just like Dana, Yenko too was a racing car driver with a dealership that just didn’t get enough power out of the supposed ‘powerful’ cars, so he just like the rest, began to offer suped-up versions; namely the Yenko S/C or sYc; the Yenko Super Car. And honestly, I can go on all day and not even remotely do those people’s backgrounds justice, they’re all enigmatic and engineering masterminds who turned the muscle car, into a beefcake car.

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I didn’t even mention the elephant in the room in that little background wade there; Baldwin Motion. Joel Rosen, a racing car driver and engine builder out of Brooklyn joined Baldwin Chevrolet out of well, Baldwin in New York and even before the Baldwin days, Rosen was known for making supremely, over the top, outrageously fast engines that would set a dyno on fire. In 1966 when he joined Baldwin, they began to offer specialty tuned packages on just about any Chevrolet on the lot if the customer so desired. And from these, we get the wide-as-hell selection of everything. The whole point was to create a car that was fast as balls on the road and could be not-at-all compromised on the track still. It had road-going comforts and for the most part it was the customer who chose if the luxury had to go for more speed(weight v.s. power back then was… well, with 3500 pound cars, no-one gave a shit if you had the top of the line luxury added atop of the minivan sized engine), and Rosen made it so that even fully equipped, that car could dominate. Even going as far as to call his cars “super cars”. And you know what, they were. And in 1967, when the all-new Camaro came to the public, those dealers had a damn field day.

1970BMotionCamaro (9)The funny thing is, a 1967 ad for the ’67 Phase III Motion Camaro called out exactly what I just described. Quite literally saying it’s not a sports car, drag car or a family car, yet somehow, still being exactly all of them. Considering they threaded the line of being called a jack of all trades and a master of none, they kind of pulled it off – being exactly a jack of all trades and a master of all nonetheless. It wasn’t until 1968 when the crazy sticker packages started to take off, with the 1968 Phase III having a quite lively stripe set that got further expanded on in 1969(Rosen gone on record saying there’s no Phase I or II, “Phase III” just sounds cool). But lets be fair, it got… it got conkers in 1970. Fresh of the line in mid-1970, the Camaro got a kick up something fierce; a freshly developed 1970 LS6 454 cubic inch V8 sourced once again from the Corvette which was now also offered into the other models by default would make it into the Camaro which at the time didn’t actually get a block bigger than the 396ci V8 and torque-monster 400ci V8 by default.

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And those 454’s… they were huge. They really packed a considerable punch and they were really popular among the dealership cars, right up there with the Yenkos. Though unfortunately, Baldwin Motion was also kind of responsible along with Yenko for bringing the custom dealership car to a painful halt in 1973. Yenko abruptly backed out the EPA testing of his ’72 Vega Stinger with the 4 cylinder cranked up to max via turbocharger cause they required 50000 miles to be driven in one before it was allowed to pass. He did eventually push out the already tested Stinger Vegas without the turbo, but this was quite literally the last Yenko Super Car model that left their shop. And Baldwin Motion ran into a totally different issue, albeit with the same agency and the same damn model: The Motion Super Vega.

1970BMotionCamaro (28)A 454 powered modified(pretty much only in the suspension, tire and engine housing compartment) that got Joel Rosen a cease-and-desist letter from the EPA in 1974 after being featured in Car Craft magazine, and they quite literally demanded that if they didn’t stop putting non-factory options onto any car, they would be given a 10,000$ fine per removed emission device. This was 1974 money, in 2019 money this is 51,000$ per Vega. That’s a staggering, ungodly high penalty. So… he ceased doing exactly that by settling a 500$ fine in 1975 and promising to no longer continue it for on the road vehicles, from then on he marked every car as ‘export only’ and ‘for off-road use only’. From there on out, Motion kind of faded into the background, though it still exists today, go figure!

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And that right there was a six paragraph history lesson on dealer-tuned cars and how… they all went away. Besides Yenko. And technically Hurst. And kind of Motion Performance. Oh fuck it. Anyway! One more thing of interest about Joel Rosen is that in the nineties, he was by this point a massive, avid model enthusiast. Like, of any type: prop planes, tanks, military planes, boats, military ships, it goes on and one thing of considerable import to us car model kit folks: he joined Ertl and Racing Champions back then to help put out the Baldwin Motion Camaro, ensuring its high grade quality with the Motion Performance name. It’s claimed(though I myself can’t verify it) he was also part of Revell’s undertaking of the 1969 Baldwin Motion Camaro around the same time.

1970BMotionCamaro (13)Like I kept rambling on about in the Z/28 350 article, this kit’s… the better one. In terms of mold quality, it’s leaps and bounds ahead, even though they come from the same damn source. The hood isn’t warped and torn to shreds due to crappy plastic quality and stupendously idiotic injector point placement, where you can actually hide the injection part, it’s got clearer details on most the parts cause they’re not soft blobs in the same of car related parts, the front end is… less crappy, which on the Z/28 kit is damn near flat due to the quality of the plastic but on the Baldwin Motion kit is actually kind of reasonable. That being said though, this kit desperately, like to a disturbing degree, separate headlight buckets. It’s awful. There’s no adequate way of describing how much better it would be if they could’ve been separate. Now you have to squeeze 4 transparent headlight pieces into the body and because of the way the body is molded, they don’t fit. They awkwardly get forced in there and they don’t really ever seem to look… right.

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Another problem that is unique to this kit is, and you might’ve spotted in the pictures, is the damn knuckle-dragger stance. There’s no way, no real way of knowing how low your exhausts will be. They should never have made it so the exhaust headers are one piece down to the chassis and have the rest of the exhaust pipes be a separate piece. Instead, a fix would’ve been quite simple: have the exhaust pipes with the headers, you know, the visible piece outside the car, be met halfway in the engine, where they’re covered by the engine block and engine bay, so even if you dicked it up, it’ll be hidden from view. The way they have it now is that the engine, with the headers, will be glued and stuck, incapable to be adjusted, days ahead of placing the exhausts. I mean for Gods sake… it’s pretty, pretty damn bad.

1970BMotionCamaro (16)On the flip side, however! This is the better version, it’s got a far more detailed engine bay, the quality is leaps ahead of the oddly enough exact same version just with different sprues, it has better tires and it has a better decal sheet. So, what did I do to it to make it more unique? Well for starters, only the stripes are used from the kit and I painted them gloss black with Tamiya blacks. The rest are my own decals, even though I screwed up the placement of the tail ones: the left one should’ve been a SS emblem and the Baldwin Motion badge above it, with the 454 emblem on the right, but instead I just put more Motion decals. The engine bay is fully wired, plumbed and decal’d up the wazoo – and holy shit does the air cleaner look good with the decal, I’m so pleasantly surprised by it.

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The body is painted with Tamiya’s TS-54 “Light Metallic Blue” with their clear over it and it’s the first time I’ve used their simple glossy clear and it’s actually supremely nice to use. It dries in a instant, it’s no wet look but it’s precisely what it says on the cap: glossy. Plus, it’s a decal’s best pal. It’s not gonna curl ’em, cause them to rip on the body, so forth, it actually seals them in perfectly. Another little home-addition I did, first time for anything – hood latches. I used some stray wire strands I yanked from the wires I’m using in the engine bay and painted ’em silver, leaving them to dry. Then I forced them in with the grille piece which forced them stuck perfectly and drilled holes in the hood latches. In the end, I gotta say, it’s quite a nice little finishing touch.

Like, all in all – definitely one of my better efforts I’d say. It joins the other Camaro, the Z/28 on the shelf and a little vacant spot’s gonna stay until the full bumper Camaro sees itself being shoved onto hobby store shelves. Until then, it’s gonna be finishing up the 1977 Firebird T/A S.E. and 1977 Pinto Special Accent Group – good time for ’77!

’70 Chevrolet Camaro SS Baldwin Motion 454 Phase III specifications:
Kit: AMT855
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 159
Molded in: Dark Green

Scale: 1/25

Decals Update – #001

Screw it, let’s rename the whole show to ‘decal updates’ instead of ‘blog updates’, sounds less dreary. So yes, last time I mentioned that I would attempt to keep track of what new sets I’ve wrapped up as of late and where my focuses lie for the foreseeable future. Big whopping “changes are ever present” and my menial mole rat brain will be distracted by the first shiny so my focuses tend to shift like the tides. That being said, first off a large thank you to those who rode out this particular storm with me and are still… with me. Secondly, and I’ll keep this very brief; the 3D printing aspect is coming along, learning or well rather re-learning 3D modeling is happening at a glacial pace but it’s… there.

My focus on that will still be small quality of life bits and bobs, nothing earth-shattering as I simply lack the time and resources for it. At best I one day envision myself doing clear head lights, small body related things like hood-tachs, door mirrors, spoilers and maybe one day try and replicate old engine blocks in 1/25th and 1/24th scale. The six cylinders from the 1970s especially.

Thirdly, I’m trying to break into the business of card-printed license plates and dash gauges, something I can actually do at home without any exterior printing process, 1500DPI strong on the higher quality grade photo stock that is commercially available(think those 30$ 10 page packs). The downside being that its… well, it’s fuckin’ photo paper. I now add them as an extra to any set people buy to make the steep buy-in price a little more bearable, and I want to catalog all the dash gauges and license plates I’ve made but it is a heck of a lot of work it turns out going through 250 odd sets one by one.

Anyway!


New Sets

The new sets I’ve published recently are all as one expect from the 1970s and 1980s, though there’s no real structure to it. I’ve begun re-designing a lot of my old works to make them A) worth the money and B) higher resolution. One real big, bad example of this is the work I did on the 1975 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 where I not only butchered the wheel arches, none of the damn stripes were even accurate.

75Cutlass442_21975 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442(redux)

This is a whole lot better, the stripes no longer have the inside pin stripe and the wheel arch decals aren’t thicker than the damn A-pillars anymore. I’m revisiting a lot of my old sets in this fashion, the 1984 Cutlass Hurst/Olds is up next as well as many of my old, first sets from 2016 are getting re-done. The ’84 Hurst/Olds is literally my first set, a botch job copy of the 1983 decal sheet in truth but it soon is now as proper at it should be.

84HurstOldsCutlass1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Hurst/Olds(redux)

Namely, the stripes are now… well, not haggard. The outlines are also now far clearer as well as accurate, silver at the bottom and black at the top. The top body stripes are three times thinner than they used to be, something Revell hadn’t gotten accurate either. But most importantly since the main thing had been fixed, I made all of the wood paneling in the interior. Every panel of burl wood has been accurately replicated with the switches and such on there, as well as duplicates without for those who desire the bare look. On top of that, I had already made the digital dash back then, but I also re-did the regular rally cluster which is a lot clearer and more detailed than the Revell sheet. Topped it off with some Eagle GT’s, South Dakota plates and that about covered it! I’m doing the ’83 Hurst/Olds as we speak as well as the ’85 FE3-X given the black on the decals never comes out well(looking at you Revell for the ’77 Firebird T/A), and the yellow stripe on the bumpers and body is far, far too thick on the Revell sheet.

87CamaroIROCZ1987 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z/Z28(redux)

Another re-do is the 1987 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z/28. The stripes are the same albeit it longer to truly wrap the bumpers(easier to hide) and furthermore it’s just far, far more expanded upon. Rally Sport emblems, regular Camaro emblems, all dashes from 1982 through 1992, you name it. The other Camaro sets from that generation still need the update but they’ll come with the 1985 Camaro Z/28 set all at once. This is just to show that old sets will one day see the revisit they deserve, so if you’re ever interested in a set and think it’s less detailed than the newer ones, shoot me a mail or drop a comment and I’ll revamp it ahead of the rest!

As for the other new sets, there’s a handful as of late, though a couple are just expansions on previously made sets, namely the ’76 Buick Century of which I finally gotten around to doing the Pikes Peak version and the consumer spec one(dubbed ‘Speedway Package’) that is just the other one, but with the extended fender decals.

1976 Buick Century “Free Spirit” ’76 Indy 500 Pace Car – Pikes Peak Int. Hillclimb Edition & 1976 Buick Century “Free Spirit” ’76 Indy 500 Pace Car – Speedway Edition

Some more GM related business in the shape of the 1970 Camaro Z/28 for the AMT Ertl kit, the 1976 Camaro AHC-100 “Black Hawk” which was a special dealership stripe package that you could only get at dealers that had a partnership with American Hatch Corp(which went bust in like the 1980s) and would you believe that no-one ever really bought it? On the internet, maybe four pictures exist of it(one leading to a defunct Photoshop account, the other are dead Imageshack links, which really date the pictures nicely) and the only two remaining pieces of evidence is a magazine ad for the AHC-100 that got picked up again by Motor Trend and the AMT kit from 1977 that was sponsored by it, though the decal sheet is designed for the far better and more detailed MPC Camaro kits. And given I tend to do one-off special editions and niche as can be packages for decal sheets, I suppose even the shitty Trans Am copy deserved a proper sheet. Lastly is the 1981 El Camino SS for the Breaking Bad movie from October, which is Todd Alquist’s personal turbo-charged pick-up that got customized with a GT steering wheel, a massive turbo and blacked out Camaro wheels. It also had some odd SS stickers all over, which I tried to emulate(including the damage gained by Jesse’s escape pre-movie).

1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, 1976 Chevrolet Camaro RS AHC-100 “Black Hawk” & 1981 Chevrolet El Camino SS “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie”

As for whats to come, I bought a old MPC Monza kit to finally begin work on a big ol’ new list of sets. For Chevrolet: ’76 Monza 2+2, ’77 Monza Spyder, ’77 Monza Mirage and ’80 Monza Spyder. For Buick: ’76 Skyhawk “Free Spirit”, ’76 Skyhawk Blackhawk, ’77 Skyhawk “Free Spirit” and the ’79 Skyhawk Roadhawk(look this one up, it’s… it’s a thing.)

And even more besides that, like finally doing the mid-seventies Chevelle’s like the ’73 Chevelle SS and the Chevelle Baldwin Motion SS 454, the ’75 Chevelle Laguna S3 and finally traversing into the Nova/Ventura range of the mid-seventies including the very, very nice Hurst GTO. ‘Til then!

1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 350 – AMT Ertl

1970CamaroZ28_2019 (31)Ahh yes, one of my first model kits that I built when I jumped back into this particular hobby. Heck, in fact, this particular kit might also be one of the first posts I did on this website, copying it like the ham fisted oaf that I am from a crappy Amazon.co.uk review. Well, we’re now a rigorous 300 or so models further into the future, it’s time to give this ol’ boy a re-do. Why? Honestly, there’s no big ‘true‘ reason, part of me was inspired by the anouncement of AMT’s semi-new tool 1970 Camaro with the full bumper and single headlights. Holy shit right? It only took them 30 years to finally do something with this kit. Though one shouldn’t bite the cramped, over-reaching hand that feeds him, this is a truth, it’s not AMT’s fault, it’s… well, it’s Round 2’s fault. A company that quite literally just invests in shoving more liquid plastic through old molds so they can make more AutoWorld 1/18th scale cars and be hugged by Coca-Cola Company for being good boys.

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Any-rant-over-who, while no more than one real new tool kits will come and have come from Round 2 every decade, I’m genuinely excited about the prospect of finally seeing them go for the other Camaro from 1970 through 1973, which AMT back in the seventies actually did do a kit of though I’m uh, I’m informed that it was a total pile of ass. Having the problem of well, looking absolutely nothing like the real deal in an extremely distracting manner. But I digress, back to business. The 1970 Camaro kit I built three years ago, I definitely didn’t do it justice and I’ll be honest, having grown and learned techniques and also having gotten a bad case of not-dumb-anymore-ness, I can’t stand the look of the thing.

1970CamaroZ28_2019 (15)Yet part of that is to blame on the kit itself, but I’ll go further into that in a moment. First, some well deserved history on the car and the kit; you see, this is like one of those cars that you really gotta give credit. Think of the Mustang, back in 1965 when they put out the Fastback alongside the convertible and coupe, that right there was serious concern for magnum opus. How the in the ever living fuck were they gonna triumph that? They essentially had designed the greatest hits album right there and then, and of course Caroll Shelby came along and for ’67 he essentially made the sexiest automobile in the history of mankind, better known as the 1967 Shelby GT500, not even the Eleanor version that added too much square to an all around slab of perfect. What the hell are you gonna do next? 1968 was largely unchanged and 1969 came along and it just went straight into Elvis territory from there, getting fatter and heavier until Ford had to damn near scrap it in 1973.

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The Camaro faced a similar prospect in 1969, they in 1967 had essentially created one of the de-facto muscle machines and they didn’t even know it yet, but it would very rapidly become the most popular muscle car of all time sharing the first place with the Mustang. Every man, woman, child, dog, cat, you name it knows the Mustang and every damn one knows the Camaro just as much, hell to such a degree that specific models became pop culture slang(like Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag with “drives an IROC”). And back then in US car culture, it was the norm of the day to swap out your entire car’s design every three to five years. Like ground up in most cases, even. For the Mustang, this first radical redesign came about in 1971, and for the Camaro it came a wee bit earlier, halfway through 1970. Just like the Mustang, kind of a victim of its own success though nowhere near as bad; it got wider, it got far heavier and it got far less options.

1970CamaroZ28_2019 (6)However, it was fortunately also a car to which GM for once in their lifetime actually listened to the consumers. The Camaro was popular in all configurations, as a two door family car all the way to Trans-Am racer. One of the biggest complaints from the first generation was the ride quality, it was lumpy, it was bumpy and generally it was a blast to drive as long as you went straight on a smooth road. They really took to the mantra of “the driver’s car”; they put on far better suspension, revamped the brakes, soundproofed the car and also did little comforts like longer doors for easier rear bench entry, more powerful steering, you name it. Essentially, while it was chunkier, it was also better. And it was still fast as all hell being a true to itself muscle car, until the 1973 oil crisis you had the base 290ci V6 but most customers chose the revamped 350ci V8 LT-1 engine sourced from the Corvette that would become a staple for the Camaro until deep into the eighties. The power monster 396ci V8 would be available until 1973 before it would get chopped in favor of… well, less.

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Like, in all specs the 1970 Camaro was generally just a good car. It weighed only around a hundred pounds more than the 1969 Camaro Z/28(the ’71 Mustang 429CJ weighed well over two hundred more than the ’70 Camaro RS Z/28), it retained most of the engine choices even while interior luxury would go down but the biggest hurdle the Camaro back then had to deal with was GM itself. The plant workers responsible for the second generation Camaro’s first three years striked for 240 days in total, 67 day company wide in 1971 and another 173 in 1972 and on top of that, literally before the oil market collapsed in the US, the Camaro had to be rapidly redesigned and well over a thousand of ’em had to be tossed into the crusher because of the new government mandated bumper safety standards. So when you think about it, they actually managed to pull of the near impossible and came up with a great successor to what essentially was the best Camaro, and they fell from grace through strikes, company mismanagement, idiotic bumper rules and the Middle-East yanking the carpet out from underneath everyone.

1970CamaroZ28_2019 (8)And the AMT kit also had its fair share of troubles, yes nice segue I know. From the seventies, AMT did the 1970, 1971 and 1972 all in the single headlight SS specs with the 396ci V8 engine. These were uh, well, they weren’t great. But ’twas 1970 and choice was rather limited and so was technology so lets forgive them for that. Then, in 1989 they did the impossible – they somehow fudged together the AMT and MPC kits from 1970 into one ugly abomination of ill-fitting shit that honestly didn’t deserve to see the light of day. It truly was every way a terrible kit, screwballed into a kit and you know it was a crapfest of a kit when not even the re-release kings Ertl, Racing Champions and Round 2 gave this one a second run. Instead, during the Racing Champions era of AMT Ertl, they invested in a ground up new tool of the 1970 Camaro in 1999, specifically the Baldwin Motion 454 Camaro in all new-tool glory. Even at the time specifically designed with the future in mind, the RS Z/28 Camaro hit the shelves in 2001.

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It was a beautiful kit and generally you can’t say many bad things about it, other than the usual mid-90s kits and early-2000s kits problems. However, the big fat however leaps out the bushes to pounce this sucker something fierce. It was clearly a quickly repurposed kit and it shows, the chassis  still has all the colossal holes for the big chunky Baldwin Motion side exhaust, it still has the raised suspension to accommodate the huge rear tires of that car and on top of it all, they really did dick up the injection molding on this thing. You see, while the Baldwin Motion kit is molded cleanly and in a crisp manner with the mold injection leading in from parts you can easily hide after painting, on the Z/28 it’s a whole different story.

1970CamaroZ28_2019 (33)The hood is molded onto the sprue from the left side all the way down and cause the plastic is so thin and flimsy it curves upwards horribly. The entire detail of the suspension and small pieces like the springs and shocks are just blobs. Hell the only thing to look somewhat decent are the A-arms, the rest is chunky and just decked with flash. Like an ungodly amount. And the worst part, I’d argue, is the front end of the body. The headlights are just ruined by flash, you need some surgical skills to reduce it to a reasonable amount and even then the thin, crappy plastic has shown its mark once again. The headlights are arguably the worst casualty of the plastic quality. For the rest however, it isn’t too bad. One can say though that this kit desperately could use more chrome pieces. They only chromed the two bumperettes, the grille, the rear bumper and the stick shift. Thats it. The wheels, for one, really could’ve used the chrome treatment, heck it could’ve used a rear-view mirror too. Maybe some headlight buckets instead of the molded on ones. Here’s hoping the full bumper Z/28 does see some separate headlight buckets. And some wheel support as there, well, isn’t any. They just loosely hang from the axles and eventually they go crooked… again. I kinda gave up on resetting the stance so the rear tires no cave in a tiny bit, I’m thinking “what the hell ever” by this point.

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Now one last paragraph of bitching, then I’ll shut the hell up as requested and get onto the good stuff. The decals in this kit, they’re quite decent however I very rapidly discovered a issue. None of the Z/28 decals have a white backing making them opaque, they’re entirely translucent! Unless you got a bright and vibrant color, they’re gonna vanish the moment you place ’em on the body. Which is a real damn shame. I compensated for this by printing my own decals, though instead of just placing them – I tried a little trick I read done by Maindrian Pace(no, not the Gone in 60 Seconds guy sadly) and cut ’em out from the paper and blackened it out around. Kinda looks halfway decent, I’d say!

1970CamaroZ28_2019 (2)So while I’m at it, I’m giving this decal sheet a do-over purely became it needs one and it lacks a bunch of stuff so, keep an eye out for that one to join the Baldwin Motion decal set I’ve made a while before. And here I am now, approaching the end of this article with one hell of a muscle car to show for it even with all the troubles and problems that plague the kit. Cause that’s really where it stands, despite everything crap, terrible and horrible about this kit, it still is quite… grand. The mold must’ve gone to hell over the years and frankly the build quality isn’t terrible. It’s nowhere near the ’69 Camaro from Revell in terms of how nice it all goes together and the crispness of the detail, but it’s damn well up there.

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And that gives me hope! The full bumper kit will likely have this one as its origin, as it’s alleged that the Round 2 boys are cloning it instead of falling in pits of kit molding past where they irreversibly chop up the original, which likely means they also have taken care of the now legendarily flashy, blubbery mold quality. The next model on the list is the ’70 Baldwin Motion Camaro re-do, another one I did terrible justice back in the day and paired with my decal sheet enhancements, it’ll likely be a neat little re-do. I gave this one all sorts of extra love, even though I didn’t bother plumbing the engine bay, I gave it some seatbelts, my own dash gauges and license plates, some high quality Tamiya paints on and in the model, you name it! And the Baldwin Motion Camaro looks to receive the same attention from me down the line, if only to make a nice pair for when the full bumper Camaro kit gets released.

’70 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 350 specifications:
Kit: AMT635
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 148
Molded in: Orange

Scale: 1/25

2006 Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren 722 Edition – Tamiya

mclaren_slr_06 (2)More Tamiya! And more Tamiya to come! Hooray! So to give myself a royal break from the normal, typical kits I tend to build and enjoy, I fully immersed myself into one of those more expensive Tamiya kits, and there’s plenty to choose from. I was torn between the Lexus LFA, the Honda NSX, the Ford GT and this one, well initially its older brother – the SLR McLaren. The regular, plain Jane one. Yeah bet no-one’s ever been able to say “plain Jane” to a damn SLR McLaren, but what did you expect given this little website’s history. This kit in particular is the last of the SLR McLaren that Tamiya put out, starting with the regular SLR McLaren in 2006, this kit based on the penultimate SLR; the 722 in 2010 and then a re-release of the original SLR with a fully transparent body in 2013. Though don’t be fooled, the original SLR apparently is still cheaper despite it all and the clear version is… well, the same, besides being clear.

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That being said, it’s a wholly new subject for me. I tried to build the Aoshima Lamborghini Murciélago SV LP670-4 a while ago and ran into a brick wall with it despite really, really enjoying it as a whole. Eventually while building it I got stupendously frustrated when I hit a spot while having to attach the little air intakes and the panels behind the doors and… just gave up, they didn’t fit, they didn’t match and I downright felt like I was smashing a four inch square peg through a needle hole even attempting to make ’em fit, so I gave up, royally shelved it. But that itch stuck with me, I wanted to build something stupidly complex yet from the time period I’ve actually lived in. And cue the SLR McLaren 722; effectively the final iteration of it as a coupe, with the looks being… well the best they could get.

mclaren_slr_06 (5)It got formally announced in 2003 in the shape we know it today, but it got its first conceptual unveiling in 1999 as the Vision SLR Concept; which to me always looked like the hairdressers favorite Mercedes SLK with the front end yanked outwards but I can’t deny it had something going on, like a big ol’ smooch right on the forehead of days of yore; the time of the grand tourer. What the uppety fuck is a grand tourer, I hear you ask? Well, turns out in the old days of barely sixty years ago, people with copious amounts of dosh and the desire to take the ol’ girl for a cruise would stuff their Louis Vuitton suitcases in the tiny trunk, hop in the massive luxuriously decorated cabin and stare over the long hood for many hours as they drive their iteration of the grand tourer which could be a Mercedes 300SL, a Jaguar E-Type or a Maserati 3500GT or anything with a luxurious mix of speed and interior opulence, on well, a grand tour. I mean, what the hell else would you do while stupidly wealthy? Those types of cars were made specifically for those situations, they could handle running for several thousand miles with not much of a stop in between, they were exciting rides for exciting drives to exciting places.

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Which y’know, ain’t much of a thing anymore in the economical climate of now. Or 1990. Or 1980. Or 1970. I mean they always will hold a place but no-one has time to drive to Turin nowadays, they fly there silly! That of course being said, no-one ever said they had no place to exist either, as grand tourers were still being made well into the 1980s, also known as the automotive dark ages, more commonly known as the Malaise Era, and they saw a massive resurgence in popularity through the 2000s as well, effectively coming back to the highly revered status of what they once were in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. And one can’t really argue that there’s so many great GT cars from the 2000, from Bentley’s to Astons, to Alfas to even Cadillacs. But in my humble albeit utterly rotten opinion, the SLR McLaren still stands taller than any of the others for the simple reason that it’s a goddamn beast.

mclaren_slr_06 (23)Every single angle of the SLR is intimidating, especially know how soft and smooth it was in its concept stage. Plus, it has the added benefit of having the ever sexy name “McLaren” in its official title. You see, this came to be out of two reasons: One is that Mercedes, or rather “Daimler-Chrysler” at the time was very much into adding more nameplates to their flag line up outside their HQ in Stuttgart, they bought a 40% share into McLaren Automotive. Heck, before I go on about that – anyone remember the Daimler-Chrysler times? Those were… a thing, weren’t they. The Chrysler Crossfire, unofficial Quasimodo brother of the SLK, oh hell yes! Anyway, so they owned a whole lot of McLaren and basically formally invited them to become part of the creation that would become the road going version of our beloved Vision SLR, now called the SLR McLaren.

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The whole thing is a collaboration that is nothing short of legendary, this in my view is the Ford-Cosworth connection from the 1980s and 1990s that gave us the Escort and Sierra Cozzies, brought to Mercedes via McLaren, a bunch of hyper intelligent tech guys engine, tuning and working with scientific accuracy paired with the elegance and old German workmanship of Mercedes Benz. It was a raw, unadulterated beast with a massive forward opening hood and a tail so short you’d swear your butt cheeks would be touching tail light if it weren’t for the panels. The engine is this gargantuan 5.4L SOHC V8 that just crapped out torque like nobody’s business, it went like a bat out of hell and it did so in luxury and style. Though, big ol’ though – even then I thought, man those wheels are the dullest thing I have ever seen. Maybe it was befitting of the heritage, with the clear nod to the Silver Arrows of the olden times, and the bright red absolutely massive tail lights kind of took away from the supremely soft-angled borderline beautiful curves of the car.

mclaren_slr_06 (6)But lo and behold, I probably wasn’t the only one who felt this way cause three years after the first production car rolled out of the factory in 2003, it got a formal new edition called the “722 Edition” in 2006 – so called after the #722 300SLR that took the number 1 place in Italy at the 1955 Mille Miglia, driven by none other than Stirling Moss. This 722 was pretty much the prettiest version I’d say, they capitalized on the supremely sinister sharp yet rounded angles of the car by further going in the dark with it; darkened tail lights, carbon fiber colored wheels, darker shade of gray for the paint, blacked out head lights, carbon fiber grilles on the hood, and of course a wholly black interior opposed to the popping red ones of before. And holy shit did this work!

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I’m super happy with Tamiya actually giving this one another whirl cause they’re very much known for their “we make a model, that’s it” approach to model kits. Which, y’know, is fine! Do what you want as long as the variety stays this way, but I can’t help but feeling thankful that they were willing to tool up the new bits and such for the 722 Edition. Cause in all honesty, they didn’t have to, it’s barely any different of the original aside from the blacked out stuff, other than the wheels. Though that being said, even with the small difference and the few extras on the decal sheet, it’s arguably the better of the two kits if anything cause it’s the more limited edition of the two. Given the 2005 SLR now has two releases, albeit one in a clear body – this one’s… meaner looking and more rare to boot!

mclaren_slr_06 (13)I figured since this is kind of my first “I’mma see this one finished” automotive kit since God knows how long, I thought lets go all the way like I did with the Kawasaki Ninja H2R. I bought the TS-42 “Light Gun Metal” spray by Tamiya, all the prerequisite bottles of matte, gloss and in between by Tamiya, panel line ink also by Tamiya and just to fuck with the sequence; the ever so lovely yet amazingly great Vallejo Metal color line which honestly makes for as close to the true thing shades of metal that one can achieve. They’re best worked with an air brush but they have no issue setting just as nicely with a regular soft brush, provided you go over it a time or two. So the paint is close to the real deal and the panel lines are nicely accentuated and I have to admit; it does look good. That shade of gray really looks like the stuff Mercedes would put on themselves. Not to mention the panel line ink does its job supremely well, dries in seconds too!

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But it ain’t all rainbows and sunshine with this sucker, there’s in fact three things that will likely come to count as a bit of a hurdle. One is, and this is the biggest by a long shot if you’ve ever googled some finished SLR’s: the hood does not sit flush, hell it sits massively open. There’s a panel gap so big it almost looks like a third of those air intakes. I actually managed to reduce this a fair amount by cutting off roughly a fifth of the little blocks that connect the hood to the little arm that moves it accordingly, cause I had the foresight of having seen those Google images where people could damn near stick a pinky through it. I still have some of a gap on the drivers side but it tends to sit well enough that it appears flush, though I will say that this hood opening system is so damn good looking and so accurate to the real deal that I’d almost argue it being worth having that massive gap.

mclaren_slr_06 (18)Number two is that opening doors, no matter how intelligent, no matter how clever always results in the same two things. You’ll always lose the little rods that are meant to prop the doors open, and you’ll always have the doors not fit in the Goddamn body when you want ’em shut. Fine, I guess though – it is a really intelligent system where the door hinges are two metal Z-pieces and the actual plastic connector bit being part of the body, forced snug between the windshield and the roofline. Though it still looks jarring when you want ’em to be closed, you can’t not have that. Also I was a idiot and skipped the step with the little Z-rods and can’t actually prop them open easily either – whoops!

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The third is a small complaint but its worth mentioning nonetheless, there are a couple of points where you just wonder what in the hell is the idea behind some things. 98% of this kit is beautifully thought out, complex and goes together like something out of a dream but then you hit that 2% and you get just extra infuriated by the at times utterly indecipherable instructions or parts that have little to no context or plan for fitting. The biggest offender in this particular complain would be the headlight assembly, which just like the rest is clever in its own right but then it just… stops being clever. It has two connecting bits, one on the glass, one on the chrome bezel, and they’re meant to slot in the front fascia; easy-peasy, right? Well, then it gets… odd. It’s just meant to halfway float on nothing, no idea on the angle, how high, how low, it just quasi floats on those two bits.

mclaren_slr_06 (7)Luckily, you get an answer when you assemble the hood and realize the sheer force of the smooshing the hood shut so it doesn’t have the panel gap, that it sort of corrects the angle perfectly. However, those are just a handful of complaints and I will admit that the only reason I sit here pointing them out is because of the sheet quality the kit offers. It’s all praise, all the time, so it’s a bit extra glaring when you hit those niggles. Seriously, it’s such a great kit – right up there with damn near anything Tamiya offers. The hood assembly, how the tail lights are set up, the simplicity of some of the parts that somehow still ends up looking incredibly complex. And there’s some kit exclusive things that far as I know only the SLR McLaren kits have had; a thick, heavy realistically molded chassis plate, a die-cast one even!

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Genuinely staggered by how complex the kit is and yet so nice and in some senses simple to put together, it’s just like any Tamiya kit of the last decade, and especially as I’ve recently been on a binge of Japanese model kits, it’s so friggin’ nice to have a superb kit that is cast well, designed well, goes together well and looks amazing with little effort on top of it. I won’t deny that this kit has definitely made me want to get any of the more 40-50 dollar range Tamiya car kits.

’06 Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren 722 specifications:
Kit: “The Sports Car” #317
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 148
Molded in: Silver, Gray, Black & White

Scale: 1/24

2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2R – Tamiya

2015kawasakih2r (18)Oh boy, he’s back! Kind of! And oh boy has he got a hell of a thing to return with! Something he doesn’t know a damn thing about but is very keen on learning! So, lately I’ve been either stupidly busy trying to keep this decal business alive and not so much afloat as just keeping her… buoyant, or doing literally anything else. And I’ve been having the itch to not only build something but actually finish something for close to half a year now, I’m basically sitting here doing the Requiem for a Dream monkey claw scratching down to my very bone, aching to get my lazy ass to finish a thing.

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And how else, than a motorcycle kit? Well… I’m not exactly a wizard or a man of high intelligence, but I could argue it’s like a very well balanced half car, right? Fair, in some ways, a car is a safe space(if Gary Numan has to believed for it) in which you can go balls to the wall and go apeshit listening to your engine roar and your wheels scream for dear life as rubber gets turned to particles and to some extend you’d be safe after hitting something as the engine block comes plowing through the firewall and mating itself permanently with your legs, unless your car wasn’t made in pre-1990s America, then you’d stand a solid chance at coming out unscathed. And y’know, a bike’s a safe space as long as you don’t hit anything above speeds of give or take 8MPH.

2015kawasakih2r (17)But safety, pish-posh, safety shouldn’t kill your fun, it only shouldn’t kill you. And while I know the square root of jack shit about motorcycles, I know enough to kind of get them. The appeal, the reasons, the whole thought of sitting Major Kong style on top of a well balanced V2 rocket and the only line between you and death being some cow skin cured into a road-rash preventing system. It’s the adrenaline, the sheer mindfuckery of watching the world go into strings of light like you’ve hit the Hyperspace button. It’s the same reason why people fling themselves off bridges with the only thing between being a fleshy lawn dart and safely bouncing along being a elastic rope hopefully attached properly by a underpaid Point Break reject with a van. It’s raw, it’s basic and deadly, the holy trinity that essentially made muscle cars great as well. Yeah they crumpled like a can and had the impact resistance of a wet paper boat, and sitting on a bicycle that has a engine the size of a Nissan Micra, it quickly becomes apparent that sitting in or on deadly things is a good bit of joy.

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See, I know enough about motorcycles to be familiar with a handful of names that are considered either legendary or up there. The Kawasaki Ninja is one of ’em, the re-inventor of the recipe, the O.G. “rice rocket” as some would call ’em(hell of a racist angle, but fair), the Suzuki Hayabusa which was this giant almost bees-mated-with-wasps looking thing that proved that you could have comfort, some reasonable ride and disturbingly high speeds all in the same bike, the MV Agusta F4 which was designed by the Pininfarina of motorcycles, Massimo Tamburini, and speaking of that name, the Ducati 916 was also designed by him and lets be fair here, any Ducati with any number is legendary by itself. And there’s a thousand more, there’s more unique sport bikes worth mentioning than there’s cars and there’s no point in arguing that one cause there really, really are.

2015kawasakih2r (2)And I always knew that Tamiya and Aoshima(and a hell of a lot more companies) had been producing really, really good motorcycle kits and I’ll be honest, they’ve always caught my eye but it was always a case of “I’d rather have X” and it slipped back again. Until now that is, I love the type of motorcycle that is somewhere halfways between a naked bike and a hyperbike and the Ninja H2R is as close as one can get for a reasonable amount of money(for the kit, the actual bike runs 52,000$, for 4 grand more you can have a brand new 4-door 2015 BMW M3). It’s one imposing, scary ass looking bike all around. It’s decked from top to bottom in carbon panels, it has actual goddamn wings, no headlights to speak of, no indicators, just a tail light assembly, no mirrors, no driver comforts, just some foam with leather over it to plant your butt on. It’s a track bike, through and through. The Ninja H2 for on the road(legally at least) has a much bigger muffler on the exhaust, the necessary bits to make it road legal, no carbon panels and a slightly de-tuned engine to make it, y’know, capable of driving well.

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But on the outside, it’s still the H2R. It still has the mean as hell looking sharp angles, the metallic lime green frame sticking out, the black wheels with minimum silver accents, it’s just menacing as heck in truth. And while the H2R is as of writing the fastest road going bike, proven to hit 400km/h(248mp/h) in 25 seconds, the H2 is not a whole lot slower to be honest. It still pumps out a solid 300km/h(186mp/h) and it only needs less than ten seconds to go past 200km/h(120mp/h), hell less than 2.6 to hit the 100(60mp/h) mark. This is one stupidly quick and spine destroyingly fast bike and I wouldn’t dare touch it with a ten foot pole attached to a twenty foot pole cause I’d be more terrified than I’d care to admit.

2015kawasakih2r (8)Luckily for me, there’s the Ninja H2R kit. And it’s a spectacularly good kit at that. And I’m by no means biased based on the fact that it’s my first and only built up motorcycle kit, no not at all. Yeah take all of what I say with your standard grain of salt, grab a shaker while you’re at it cause it’s about to get worse and/or better. The kit was put out on the market in December 2016 by Tamiya, their woof, like 130th or so bike kit and based on what I can tell from other kits’ contents and holding onto the Yamaha YZF-R1M kit as we speak, it’s nothing short of a excellent line-up with full detail, hyper accurate and over the top gorgeous motorcycles in damn near every shape and form. You see though, and I’m gonna be saying this a lot, it’s my first motorcycle kit and having built like 250 car kits, it’s a whole damn different world even though my intelligent man brain earlier proudly proclaimed motorcycles are like well balanced half cars.

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The kit packs everything to build the bike from start to finish, every piece is accounted for, which is necessary given the scale is 1/12th. But it also comes with all the extras, like every hose you could spot on the bike is there, all the brake lines, the decals and hell yes to these: metal transfers. And as you can tell, I royally ballsed those up by at some point picking up the bike to attach some decals on the lower end and myseriously losing the K in Kawasaki on one end and the ‘ja H2R’ on the other side, leaving me with this Igor and Frankenstein like Awasaki Nin. Oh well, one learns by ruining his first and not ruining his second.

2015kawasakih2r (15)It’s a hideously complex build, which is exactly what I longed for. Not a frustrating type of build, mind you, no no, quite the opposite. It’s complex in the sense that every single step has to be done right and accurately or you’ll know 17 steps down the line you’ve royally fucked up and thanks to Tamiya’s excellent quality stuff, that never happens. Every step is carefully planned out and every piece is crafted perfectly and it all fits together absolutely as it should. None of that Round 2 or even in some cases Revell like attitude of “just force everything in and pray nothing breaks”, just surgical precision. None of the “this whole assembly hangs by two small I-beams, lets hope gravity won’t dick up your progress today” that you’d see in so many older car kits, all excellent, tight, screw based strength build quality. And it’s really, truly a case of you feel like you built this one yourself from the engine up.

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Granted, that’s easy to say with a 1/12th scale bike. But I’ve built the 1/12th scale Shelby Mustang GT500 by Revell a few years ago and I have to admit, that was a really great kit and made a superb result but nowhere along the line did I feel like I was actually making something out of nothing, hell at best I felt like I was slotting objects A, B and C into object D. The much larger size should allow for a much more complex and detailed build and Tamiya seems to have nailed it down with these motorcycle kits and it’s with this that I lament the 1/16th scale kits from MPC(especially the Firebirds) and think to myself “Great, they made a bigger version of their 1/25th scale kits and forgot to add the damn detail“. It’s also nice to buck my own trend as of late for a bit, which is to include my own decals or make it a supremely niche version that only existed for like 3 months and just make a old fashioned, stock as the box it came in shelf model.

2015kawasakih2r (9)That being said, I have learned a few things. And boy did it impact this model a bit. One being, spray paint the pre-existing painted bits. Yeah the metallic dark green looks great but, uh-oh, it turns out that was a Tamiya choice on account of not wanting to plan out and print a bunch of carbon decals. It made me wonder right away, “why not make the plastic metallic dark silver or something?” and y’know, why didn’t they? I guess in the right light it looks just like carbon or something, I dunno. Though I have to say, it does look uh… more unique, in the forest green color. But hey, I did actually go through the trouble of buying some actual Tamiya brand paints for everything else, hooray! So everything but the actual color of the damn bike is accurate, it’s something.

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The neat thing of this kit is that on the outside, when you get the box in your hands, it looks… almost simple. You get three large plastic sprues, give or take 130 pieces, a baggie with hoses, screws and a wee little cute screw driver, decals, metal transfers and the clear plastic and chrome sprues, so it kind of looks like any other car kit I’ve peered into. But the genuine joy and amazement of starting with the four cylinder engine and only just wrapping up this hyper detailed hunk of plastic-imitating metal by Step 13 of 32 before even having to think about attaching the wheels to what by this point is a engine block with a frame around it… you’ve got hours into the thing by this point and you’ve only really just begun. It feels like a proper project out of the box and not one you arbitrarily give yourself for the sake of “authentic detail” the manufacturers of the kit couldn’t be bothered to give with the total package.

2015kawasakih2r (14)That being said though, it did come with a few moments of pure “uhhh”. Sometimes the instructions show… a thing. There’s no other way of saying it, I can say that you’ll spend minutes at a time trying to work out what in the hell you’re looking at, from which angle, from what microscopic piece a hose needs to go and where it needs to end up, how to coil ’em through the frame, etc. Though even while that’s a uh, complaint in some sense, it’s not impossible to figure out, eventually like a 15000 piece puzzle you hit that magical moment where you can see through the Matrix and figure it all out in a single whiff.

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Other than that, the foibles of the kit are largely due to me. I spent a stupid amount of time trying to get that look of titanium that has been hotter than the fires of hell(titanium discolors, or well, colors up in epic ways depending on heat), or as it’s professionally known “heat anodized” metal and I kind of nailed it with a mix of three transparent Humbrol tints(blue, red and indicator orange respectively) and then afterwards I slowly but surely ruined it on account of having grabbed the exhausts and held onto them for stability while working on the whole thing in general. Which eventually caused it to flake off bit by bit. Oh well… That and I ripped off the entire front brake system on both discs twice and ruined those, so they look, well, kind of odd now.

2015kawasakih2r (16)But the underlying point here is, and it’s a pretty important one – do yourself a favor, if you’re anything like me and your purest interests lie with vehicles, old and new, and have considered branching out; before you take on big rig truck kits, try a motorcycle kit. It’s… for what it’s all worth, truly and massively reinvigorated my love for this hobby, made me figure out what the fuss was about Tamiya paints and fallen in love with them fiercely and it’s just… it’s great. It’s a great, great kit and I’m writing this particular paragraphs having built the Yamaha YZF-R1M kit and I can once again affirm: they’re all like this, and they’re all great. Do yourself the favor though, get the right tools for the job, get the right paints and if you have the dosh to spare, get that front fork detail up set by Tamiya themselves and the carbon fiber decal set from Studio20, they really enhance the results massively.

’15 Kawasaki Ninja H2R specifications:
Kit: “Motorcycle Series” #131
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 104
Molded in: Metallic D. Green, Gray, Black & White

Scale: 1/12

Blog Update #010 – New New-er Stuff

New Stuff Again

So as I type this, I’m on some downtime due to some financial woes(ain’t it always the case), so I locked up the ordering for a short while. I’m also desperately late on answering emails as I’ve been so ungodly busy the last few weeks, but such is life and all! I bought a few new kits over the last couple of months and I’mma be doing old fashioned posts soon again, like the new Revell ’70 Cuda AAR based on the new tool and the Revell ’69 Mustang Boss 302, both of which I’ll be building considerably stock just to have some content out again other than the same-old-same-old about decals. Hell I even got a hold of a Tamiya 1/12th scale motorbike just to change it all up. Again, it’s all a temporary gig, this whole shutting down for like the fourth time, I’ll be up and running again very soon.

But in the meantime, there’s some new stuff I’ve whipped up since the last time. I’m still looking for that fuckin’ Dodge D-100 kit but I may have a direct line to one after what, four months of searching? Either way, one set I’ve tried to give a significant amount of love was the Subaru BRAT kit. I never even knew it existed until Adam Rehorn of the Sprue Lagoon made several posts of the kit in its original 1979 glorious form; and literally two months after I found out it existed, Round 2 popped out its re-release. And two things were immediately noticed about it, one – the stripes aren’t correct for the year of BRAT and two; even if they were, they could do with some extras. So what I did was whip up the wrap-around stripes in both the early 1978 and late 1979 styles(the font got changed in ’79 and very quickly replaced with the stripe that ends at the rear quarter) as well as the ’79 type that doesn’t wrap the body. Then I fully rendered the dashboard instruments up, cause while AMT’s aren’t even all that bad, they’re also not quite correct – try compare ’em if you have the kit, you’ll see what I mean.

Then, some white letter tires, badges, center caps emblems and most importantly: that thing that defines a decade by itself; plaid interiors. Jesus Christ it’s like everything back then had to have the appearance as if someone flensed a lumberjack, but alas – it’s period appropriate and deserved an addition. Especially knowing how much people seem to love seat upholstery decals.

’78 BRAT GL 4×4, ’79 BRAT GL 4×4 and the shortened ’79 BRAT GL 4×4

Then aside from that, I got really lucky and found a cheap as chips genuine MPC 1977 Ford Pinto kit, one I wanted a hell of a lot more than the freshly re-released AMT Pinto for two reasons. One is that the MPC casting has the full glass trunk and has the proportions nailed down a heck of a lot tighter, two is that the AMT re-release while not a half bad kit, is the same stocky and squared off chunk from the 1970s that even back then just couldn’t hold a candle to the MPC version. But one day I’ll get one, just to compare the two. But for that particular model I’ve made the 1977 Ford Pinto “Accent Stripe Group” set, which was basically Ford’s marketing team going “Well folks sure seem to love those Starsky and Hutch fellows’ car, lets put it on everything“. And they did, ho boy they did. LTD II’s, Pintos, Mustangs, nothing escaped that damn package.

But it’s apparently rare as all sin on the Pinto, the triple-striped version especially. You can hit this link to see interior and exterior shots, but it’s for real and it’s gaudy. The second set I did was the “Special Value Package” stripe set, which isn’t a half bad looking Pinto but… man, ain’t that name depressingly economical. It’s like the car version of buying a value 12 pack of toilet paper. Either way, the decal sheet for the Pinto includes every single stripe for the exterior and for the Accent Stripe the triple stripe seat decals as well, and while I was at it; spent 5 hours making the whole dashboard and gauges for every damn version you can think of. And as a bonus, badges for the Pinto Pony MPG, cause why not! There will be a hell of a lot more Pinto stuffs coming soon, among which finally, at last, the Pinto Wagon with wood panels.

’77 Ford Pinto “Accent Stripe Package” and the ’77 Ford Pinto “Special Value Package”

Other than that, there’s some more new stuffsies. A little project that went kind of out of hand was the Buick Skylark sets, which started off as just me wanting to make a big sheet of all GM air cleaner and valve cover decals, which of course includes those early seventies GS decals. It kinda grew out to me making two full sets with interior, exterior, the whole damn nine yards of the ’70 GSX and ’70 GS Stage 1. I still got three other Buick sets in the works, the ’87 Regal GNX and the ’81 Regal Turbo Indy Pace Car as well as the Parnelli Jones sponsor-stickered version of the ’76 Century Free Spirit.

’70 Buick Skylark GSX and the ’70 Buick Skylark GS Stage 1

Now, there’s more to see when it comes to Mustangs, as two more sets in that line-up are finished. The ’85 SVO with the bumper trim and engine bay goodies and the ’85 Predator GT302-H and R(both stripes in the same set!) which leaves just five sets to do for now for the Fox bodies, which are the ’79 Pace Car, ’83 GT, ’89 LX CFD-25, ’92 Shelby AAC Mk1 and last but not least, the ’93 SVT Cobra R. Also I recently did the 1978 Road Runner set for which I’m still doing the interior tri-colors but as it stands, the set is available as is for now, and while I was at it I also re-did the ’77 Road Runner to include the updated goodies like the engine bay decals, dashboard cluster and the likes.

’85 Ford Mustang Predator GT302-H/GT302-R, ’85 Ford Mustang SVO, ’78 Plymouth Roadrunner and the ’77 Plymouth Roadrunner

I’ve also gotten my hands on a vintage Jo-Han ’72 Ford Gran Torino and a ’77 International Harvester Scout SS II, so expect every damn thing regarding those models like the Gran Torino Sport, SS II decal set, Rallye set, so forth. I also finally got around to making a dedicated page for the white letter tire decals as it was kind of getting out hand, there’s over a hundred unique choices now and as we speak I’m trying to get every single possible variant of the Polyglas GT tire since I’ve managed to do every type of BF Goodrich Radial T/A. So hit up this particular page if you wanna see all of ’em.

But to nail down the exact sets which are coming up in the following weeks, among y’know, the ability to once again order:

International Harvester:
1977 International Scout II Rallye(1/25), 1977 International Scout SS II(1/25), 1978 International Scout II Rallye(1/25), 1978 International Scout II Traveler(1/25), 1977 International Scout II Traveler/Rallye(1/25), 1979 International Scout Midas SS II(1/25), 1980 International Scout “Shawnee Scout” Hurst SS II(1/25) and 1976 International Scout II “Spirit of ’76”(1/25).

Ford:
1996 Ford Crown Victoria LX(1/25), 1972 Ford Ranchero GT(1/25), 1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport and 1970 Ford Torino King Cobra(1/25), 1971 Ford Torino Cobra(1/25), 1984 Ford Mustang GT(1/25), 1989 Ford Mustang LX CFD-25(1/24), 1992 Ford Mustang Shelby AAC Mk.I(1/24), 1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R(1/24) and 1977 Ford Thunderbird.

Meyers:
1968 Meyers Manx(1/25).

In the meantime, as I said, it’ll just go on. I’ll update this post when the ordering gets back online, and that in itself shouldn’t be too long from now. I should apologize for shutting it down again, but financially speaking I just couldn’t risk it.

 

Blog Update #009 – New Stuff

What’s Happenin’

As I’m sitting here, contemplating writing this, it kinda occurred to me – I suppose it’d be neat to have some insight or at the very least some heads up of what has been finished for decal designs as of late, wouldn’t it be? Despite the long down time and having literally a dead computer stalling the whole ordeal out even longer, I didn’t sit idle.

So far, the outlook is by the end of June, business is back to normal. Orders can be taken, commissions will finally get printed and the designing will continue forever. I mean, I know every time I say “yes by then it’s back on!”, life lifts its foot to deliver the swift disabling kick to the nether region of progress, but generally that’s the current outlook. Brexit still sits on the horizon, albeit in October and the pound vs euro is slowly stabilizing a tiny bit so printing isn’t quite as expensive as it grew to be around March but… it’s still up there.

One of the things I had to do in the mean time was raise the prices some, now it’s somewhere around 17.50$ on average per set(though of course they differ on so many things, but that’s for most of them), and I hate to say it will get more expensive as the company I use, well, gets more expensive to use. Regardless, I’m trying to kick up whatever the hell I can to meet the higher prices quality-wise; for instance one tiny bit of a little extra will now be default: license plates and dashboard dials printed on high quality photo paper(as well as on the waterslide decal paper, so you get both). Like, when I say high quality, I mean four out of five star tier Canon photo paper. The 20 bucks per damn pack type. I think this is worthwhile down the line for two reasons, one is that I can print on a far higher resolution than the decal printers so whatever isn’t waterslide, I can crank out prints at 1200DPI which is… plenty sharp. The photo paper is also thin enough to allow the dash decals to be fitted easily, akin to those of Best Model Car Parts. Yet they’re thick enough to mimic license plates well enough. That’s effectively step 1 of 2 to justify the price raise, step 2 is a bit further down the line but it’s one I really wanna do.

Step 2 is metal transfers. Effectively little chrome foil stickers that are pre-cut in any shape, say emblem backings, scripts, so forth. I’m trying to save up for a Silhouette Cameo to do so, which I was fairly on top of ’til my PC decided to die and needed replacing. It’s one of those things one can combine really well with decals, as emblems get both the embossed photo etch look as well as the smallest details on top, not to mention I’m told many modelers love these things. They’re fairly easy to make, fairly easy to cut and even easier to finance, so it’s something I can definitely do when the payment hurdle is overcome.

Whats New

As for what’s new, I figure I might as well do this from now on to give a little insight, and y’know, so people don’t have to guess when visiting this website. Before my PC was tired of being functional, I’d been hard at work doing just about every single Mustang from the early seventies through the modern ones and I’ll be honest, I’ve made some fairly good progress on that.

I had started on the ’79 Mustang Pace Car before the PC died on me, but prior to that I did do most of the Fox bodies with only give or take seven planned sets to go. The ones still left on the list are the ’79 Mustang Pace Car, obviously, the ’83 Mustang GT, the ’85 Mustang Predator GT302H & GT302R, the ’89 Mustang LX CFD-25, the ’92 Mustang Shelby AAC Mk1 and the ’93 Mustang SVT Cobra R. Which will all get done when the laptop is set and ready for my work.

1979 Mustang Cobra, 1980 Mustang Cobra, 1984 Mustang GT350 20th Anniversary, 1985 Mustang Dominator GT, 1985 Mustang GT, 1985 Mustang GT Twister II and the 1985 Mustang Predator GT302.

I did struggle like a crazy person on the ’79 and ’80 Cobras, I can tell you that for free. I literally, no joke, made the entire hood cobra from scratch using some warped ass photographs. There’s hardly, if not any clear pictures of them both, hell for the ’80 I used three different angled shots of the front and overlaid them with one really low resolution one and sweated for like 7 hours while my damn PC kept crashing, forcing me to go back to this snapshot file that had me losing like 15 min of work every single time. But I got there in the end. Those Mustang sets are mostly designed for the MPC kits, with exception of the 1989 onwards ones, which are for the ’90 Mustang LX and ’93 Mustang Cobra kits respectfully, but even then I can re-shape them to match any kit if needed, just holler at me. I do quite enjoy doing those hyper rare and supremely specific dealership specials, they’re fun to do and you learn a fair bit of niche automotive history while you’re at it!

Other than that I finally managed to get my grip onto a revered 1970 Cutlass kit by Jo-Han, the genuine oroginal release and not the Testors re-release which has the wrong interior. What this meant was that at last I could do the proper 1970 Cutlass 442 stripes, redesign the ’70 Cutlass Rallye 350 set to be up to my newer standards and lay down the foundation work for the ’70 Cutlass 442 W-29 stripe set that I’m inevitably going to do.

1970 Cutlass 442 and the 1970 Cutlass Rallye 350.

As for some other miscellaneous sets I did lately, one of ’em is the AMC Spirit AMX from 1980, a pal of mine inspired me to do just about every AMC set through the seventies just to give our old fallen rival of the Big Three some love, not to mention there are some extremely rare kits out there like the Hornet and whatnot that could still use a decal set. I’ve got the ’71 Hornet SC/360, ’74 Hornet X, ’78 Hornet AMX, so forth. Aside from that, the 1970 Ford Torino and 1970 Mercury Cyclone are getting love as well, the ’70 through ’74 Torinos and the ’70 and ’71 Cyclones will have all of their respective sets like the Torino King Cobra, Cyclone Spoiler II, Torino Sport, and such.

1970 Ford Torino Cobra “Twister”, 1970 Ford Torino Cobra(Laser Stripes), 1970 Ford Torino Type N/W and the 1980 AMC Spirit AMX

Oh and one last thing, I’m desperately looking for that damn MPC Dodge D100 kit which is about as rare as can be these days either cause of hoarders or underproduction, either way I just cannot for the life of me get one – however I did do some work based on the Lil’ Red Express kit to eventually fit to the D100, this aughta get some folks excited.

And that’s about it for this update, like I said I’ll be doing this more frequently to have some info on whats new!

 

 

1978 Chevrolet El Camino Royal Knight – Revell

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (9)The El Camino is downright one of my favorite cars to ever touch the planet, it’s such a wicked car all around. Or coupe utility vehicle, if you’re one of those people. I’d rather go with car, or ute. You see, I’ll defend the merits of a ‘Cuda until the sun goes down, or the value of Ford stumbling through the seventies keeping the Mustang alive, or how something like the El Camino should and needs to exist. Today, there’s no worldwide version of what is the quintessential muscle car with a pick-up for an ass.

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Holden, the last one to do ute’s with big-ass engines stopped producing new cars entirely as of October 2017, and as of writing Holden is still merely a importer of elsewhere built cars, predominantly Opels from German and Canadian plants. So even though the Australians have been the inventors and now the last to have enjoyed the rough and tumble big-block car-truck/pickup/coupe ute, they still could effectively buy a new ’17 HSV Maloo GTSR R8 with the Chevrolet 6.8L LS3 V8 that would churn out 570HP from a dealership today.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (3)As for the rest of the world, we gotta make due with effectively the last of the El Caminos that date back to the 1980s, 1987 to exact or the equally extinct Ford Ranchero, which got ol’ Yeller’d in 1979. Since then, for the Americans and Europeans it was to either import a sweet chunk of Mad Max-ian deliciousness or take in a… well shit, might as well get it out of the way; through-out the decades it would’ve come down to a Ford Courier, Dodge Rampage, Plymouth Scamp, VW Rabbit/Caddy Pick Up, Fiat Strada, Subaru BRAT or something to that extend. And all of those are small, compact little pickups with the front end of one of their more popular cars, small engine and sustainable(unless it’s the Dodge or Plymouth, those rusted away in a few months time), but not anything that would make you wanna go “Fuck yeah, I’d take that over a Camaro!“.

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There’s no more of them unfortunately, and granted, it was always a niche market. Who in their right mind shears off the ass end of a car, hollows it out like a deranged coroner and puts in a solid floorboard, add a foot or so to the back of it and there you go; car-pickup hybrid. Though while the concept sounds odd in marketing terms, it actually had a very solid market base for most of the sixties. They might’ve been aimed at the reed chewing farmer of the middle of the 20th century(fun fact, the origin of this type of car lies with an Australian farmer who wanted a car that could both handle farmyard work and be used as a car to go to church with on sunday), with ads showing dudes in Levis shoving hay bales or those old milk churns in the back of what would translate to Chevrolet “The Roads” or Ford “Ranchers”, but in reality the farmer of those days had the Chevy C-series or the Ford F-series parked dutifully on base, while the El Camino and Ranchero found more love on the paved roads.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (7)Why? Well in the United States especially at least, it just was timed incredibly poorly. The El Camino and Ranchero were briefly very popular in the mid to late 50s, but then it just kind of collapsed in on itself. They had three massive hurdles to overcome, one was that it was meant to do work all the while looking like a gorgeous car and it had trouble doing so. Two was a simple problem that other cars had to deal with too, take the Camaro – it had to co-exist with a more convenient, more powerful and in some ways more attractive Corvette, the El Camino and Ranchero had to exist alongside the very cars they were based off from 1960 onwards. The third? Well, they were appalling for the exact task they were designed, they were meant to be half pick-up, half car and in most cases it wasn’t even close to being a fifth as useful. Why spend 3800$ of your fresh 1970 dollars on a El Camino if you could get a fully equipped C/K 2500 for the same money that did everything the El Camino could, but better. Well, that’s kind of where these type of cars grew into their own; they gained a following for what they were. A utility built Chevelle with the same insurance quote destroying 454SS in the front? Hell to the yes, man!

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I mean, that right there is glossing over the point so thickly it should win an award for doing so, but in general that’s just about the gist of it. It worked though, the type of car grew into its own being and they lasted in the States for a reasonable while for the kind of fad they were, with like I said the El Camino lasting through 1987, it’s GMC counterpart, the much rarer and less liked GMC Sprint/Caballero and the Ranchero going on ’til 1979. Then there have been smaller editions as mentioned before, the ’82 Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp took the throne as nippy pick-up and eventually even they died off to. At that point, it was just back to old fashioned pick up truck or car, nothing in between in the States and Europe. That being said, through-out its thirty year endeavor, there have been plenty of those weird editions that make you wonder what the hell the idea was.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (10)You got the very much pretty Chevelle based stripes on the El Camino throughout the sixties, the Torino GT stripes on the Ranchero, the twin-stripe SS get-up on the seventies El Caminos, the Scamp GT and Rampage both having just overblown either totally black or super colorful stripe packages, the VW Caddy/Rabbit “Sportstruck”, whatever the hell that might’ve been and so forth on the US side of the story. And that right there was eight paragraphs of me rambling on about a car with a pick up for a booty and how it’s no longer part of our world as we know it and ho-boy does it suck.

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Luckily, there’s Revell, Monogram, MPC and AMT to keep us happy campers with the offerings of the aforementioned pick-up-car-things in kit form to keep some semblance of them in the world. Wait, what’s that? There’s only like nine kits as a whole in 1/25th and 1/24th scale? Well, Goddammit. Okay quick gander through the list; there’s Revell’s 1966 El Camino, Revell-Monogram’s 1978 El Camino, the ’57 Ranchero by them as well. AMT offers the ’59 through ’61 Rancheros and the ’59, ’63, ’64, ’65 and ’68 El Caminos respectively, while MPC dove deeper into the El Camino through the seventies offering the ’78 through ’86 El Camino’s as well as a one time why-the-hell-not run of the GMC Caballero. There have been plenty of cases where evidence got presented that any of the previously mentioned big two/three/four(depending on what decade you’re discussing) kit makers were planning on doing all sorts of these, the mid-seventies Ranchero, the ’73 El Camino, hell the ’70 El Camino was announced in print on multiple occasions and just… never happened.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (15)Fortunately, there’s resin casters: Motor City Resin Casters has both the ’72 Ranchero GT and the ’73 El Camino in their repertoire. Jimmy Flintstone with the ’70 and ’72 El Camino bodies(although they’re entirely unchanged ’68 El Caminos with Chevelle front ends). There’s been plenty of coming-and-goers that offered transkit parts for anything from ’57 through ’86 and it looks like we’re never gonna truly run out of ways to whip up a mid sixties or seventies of either El Camino or Ranchero. On top of that, you got C1 Models’ excellent Golf-to-Caddy conversion kit so there’s some cross-continental love too. And I’m sure I’m leaving out a million more, it’s just to give some examples that while kit makers seem to have just forgotten about the American and even the Australian utility coupe, resin casters do their damnest to fill the gap.

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Right, to cut to the chase after give or take 1200 words of bullshitting on; this particular article should be about the ’78 El Camino. The Royal Knight El Camino to be specific, which has in fact been kitted before in 1978 by Monogram. It’s such a damn hard to find kit nowadays as while there are three entirely unique kits by Revell/Monogram based on the ’78 El Camino, the hardest one to find is by some definitions stock. In ’78 they released the Royal Knight kit(MPC did both the Royal and Black Knight versions but one could argue that quality wise the MPC kit… drifted behind a tad). Then in ’79 they re-tooled the kit – it now packs a massive turbo-charger and a modified hood to accommodate the gargantuan new air-sucking utensil in the engine bay. Oh also, they for some reason decided to add camper parts. Neat-o! But they did remove the stock engine and hood, bummer.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (17)Then for twenty years, not a Goddamn thing. The first and as of writing last re-release of this kit was in 2000 which was this kit I’m talking about right now, the re-release with newly crafted lowrider parts and decals. Back then, apparently Revell was on a roll bringing back long-dead kits and pumping them full, full of life and doing a stellar and sometimes awkward job of it. The ’81 Chevy Citation is a excellent example; it’s a beautiful re-pop of the old kit, with all the re-release editions crammed into one, a gargantuan new decal sheet that allowed options that weren’t even thought of in the eighties. Same goes for the ’92 Thunderbird, ’96 Impala SS and so on. The El Camino is yet another odd-ball lowrider kit that has all the “optional” parts packed in along with the stock ones and it makes for a much better complete package that despite the weird lowrider addition is quite a nice thing of them to do. Given that these days you’d be lucky to get a kit with extras, having one that is essentially a “greatest hits” of sorts is absolutely nice.

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The kit itself on the other hand has aged quite poorly, despite Monogram being way ahead of the competitors on most areas like the sheer detail on the body, grille and all around crispness of the whole kit, it still has those old Monogram quirks. The engine bay is kind of a slab with droopy details(which essentially means, anything that’s a reservoir or a battery “bleeds” into the arches and goes all the way down), the interior is kind of plain with the inner doors having no detail at all and the seats are hilariously oversized. Though one can just grab the seats and dash from a 1/24th scale Monogram Monte Carlo and make due with those as they should fit just fine. Another thing is while Monogram definitely bucked that garbage ass trend of the ’70s with molded in chrome headlights, but they just swapped it around making the rear lights on the rear bumper chrome and not really recessing them enough. And on top of everything else, there’s some severe panel gaps; the bumpers suffer the most of this as you can clearly look into the model from the front and the back.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (13)So it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but it’s also miles ahead of the curve for this particular era of El Camino kits. The MPC kits weren’t terrible, by now means – they were just incredibly basic. While it has more interior detail, it lacks severely on the body and engine bay, and while the all around model has more variety with the tool(like the ’82 quad-light grille and the Choo-Choo Customs Monte Carlo SS nosed edition), it still very much on the outside comes across like a toy car with tiny wheels and a sunken stance. That being said, I personally would’ve preferred a middle-ground where Monogram did the body and chassis and MPC handled everything else, we’d have one excellent kit to work with – but alas, the best El Camino offering we have and likely will have for the foreseeable future will likely be a shared number one spot with this kit and the MPC/AMT ’86 El Camino SS.

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That being said though, I did try to make the most out of this kit as it’s still a very, very nice one to work with. Goes together like a charm, like all those Monogram kits of the eighties it’s simple, yet nicely complex in some areas and it all just… works. I re-designed the entire El Camino Royal Knight decal sheet for this endeavor, though looking back at it I totally screwed up on the body stripes as it’s meant to follow the curve over the door, onto the bed, but y’know how I am, a failure is just half a success, keep working with it. While I’m absolutely in love with how it came out to be, I should’ve gone for a darker paint. I wanted this delightfully suave end seventies Bordeaux red that would look bright, lip-stick red in the sunlight and subdued as hell in the shadows. Unfortunately it’s now semi-bright in the shadows and bright as balls in the sunlight, making the decals hard to spot in any reasonably lit environment. On top of that, the tires are pre-lettered with Goodyear Polysteel Radial, which is nice if you haven’t got decals, but I did and had to use the rougher, undetailed inside of the tire to accommodate the decals.

Ohhh well… Also, first non-mostly decal related post in 3 months, hooray!

’78 Chevrolet El Camino Royal Knight specifications:
Kit: #85-2979
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 101
Molded in: White

Scale: 1/24