1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT – AMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE – AMT Ertl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Update #005 – Year in Review II

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

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

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

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

 

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

Merry Christmas and a happy new year y’all!

1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Hurst/Olds – Revell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8 – Tamiya

1993JeepGrandCherokee (1)Back in the early nineties, Tamiya was on a hell of a roll with their variety and among the Volvo 850 estates, Ford Mustangs and Alfa Romeo 155’s & GTV’s, they released a kit based on the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee. Which, deep down, was just a Cherokee(XJ platform) but… rounder. It’s pretty freaking epic as far as model kits go for three semi-rare reasons: 1) It’s a full detail kit, from Tamiya. It has a engine! That rarely happens in Japanese model kits! 2) It’s a full detail kit of a pretty down to earth, simple, ordinary SUV. 3) It’s molded in color, which normally isn’t always the best but here, it’s really good. It’s the one color that would’ve been a nightmare to mix and is even harder to get spray paints of; Hunter green metallic.

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From the looks and sound of it, the model kit was made in part to celebrate the Grand Cherokee model being introduced, or well, “released”, as its concept of the thing was already beginning to form in 1985, hell as early as 1983, by Larry Shinoda(Corvette & Boss Mustang designer guy), Giorgetto Giugiaro(“Car Designer of the Century” man, yeah no big deal) and Alain Clenet being contracted by AMC to each build the follow up for the ’83 Cherokee and the one with the winning design would be awarded massive payouts, a good designer challenge one might say. So, turns out, it wasn’t much of a contest as much as a thanks-for-the-inspiration-and-data-byeeee according to Shinoda as not long before the Chrysler Corp. take-over of AMC(AMC was the owner of the Jeep brand until 1987), they kicked him off the project. And fast-foward to 1989, where the all new Grand Cherokee concept “Concept 1” was presented and well… Shinoda saw what was pretty much his own design, just in the shape of an actual car.

1993JeepGrandCherokee (7)So the origins of the Grand Cherokee, which debuted much like the model kit in 1993, is dubious at best. However, it carried on to be one of the most successful SUVs on the planet and is a nice long lasting stamp on history that AMC did matter. It wasn’t oficially part of the “Big Three” in Detroit, Ford, GM and Chrysler but boy did they get their heels clawed at by AMC for the better part of four decades and the Jeep brand albeit owned by one of the big three today is still a high mark of all that history. While the Cherokee maintained its ultra square, more typical Jeep boxy style until 2001, the Grand Cherokee was more round, more luxurious and more… well, more Jeep. I doubt anyone who’s into cars is unaware of the Cherokee’s existence, so I suppose it getting a model kit isn’t totally out of the ordinary.

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But… it still really kind of is. Tamiya is known for making really great, great model kits and they’re not against making kits of regular cars, whether they’re five decades old or a car ready to be shown at say, the Geneva Motor Show or the North American International Auto Show but why the Jeep? It’s still visually so close to its predecessor and while that doesn’t necessarily warrant no model kit take on it, why make this one with a engine and all that? Whatever reason may have been behind it, it doesn’t even matter – the quality is so supremely high, which is default Tamiya level, we’ll never know if the kit was desired by Chrysler as a companion piece or if Tamiya just likes Jeeps. Hell, speaking of supreme quality…

1993JeepGrandCherokee (14)Everything about this kit is superb. To start it off, the body detail is just unheard of, and we gotta include Revell’s kits of the era, Monogram, AMT Ertl, MPC, all of them, it stands above it with ease. Its crisp, the fine details of the trim moldings, the small grille meshes, the depths of the ridges, so on. Yeah, normally I already drool over accuracy but there’s something special going here. The decal sheet has all the gold stripes of the “Limited” version, which was at the time the fanciest version of the vehicle, with gold trim a plenty, wooden panels, bigger 5.2L Magnum V8 engine, so forth. But back to orgasming over the quality; the cast quality is also something to behold. For instance, the headlights, which would’ve been a nightmare to re-create given that they’re rather unique and multi-segmented – it couldn’t have been easier. It has really, really fine mold quality that allow the black lines to be filled and the indicator reflector to be colored in, all without any hassle.

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Even the roof got extra attention, go friggin’ figure. There’s four decals for the ribs on the roof and the rack is a separate piece, so if you don’t like it you can skip over it. Hell the only thing I don’t quite like about the body is because of how the car sits rather high, as a SUV should, you can quite easily look into the wheel wells and there you’ll quite easily spot the ridges of the interior bucket and the hollow bits of the frame. But… nitpicking? Nitpicking. Once more, back to drooling. Something that’s always been uniquely high quality, even higher than what they already offer, is the wheels. Especially on older Tamiya kits, where the tires and the wheels come in a separate baggie in the box with branding and such, proof that they weren’t just one size fits all piles of wank(looking at you, Round 2) – high quality, vinyl tires with proper licensed branding printed on there to signify they are Goodyear Eagle GA tires. Which I explicitly turned into Eagle GTs cause I am lazy and my plan to use the “A” from left-over Eagle GT decals(of the lovely Joseph Osborn’s Fireball Modelworks) fell apart once I realized I actually didnt have enough to fix all four up.

1993JeepGrandCherokee (16)The interior is a bit more simplistic but given the nature of early nineties interiors in cars, it’s plastic. A ton of plastic with faux wood paneling to make it seem like it is higher quality than it really is, but it isn’t. There’s a set of decals for all the door panels and the dashboard that mimic the faux wood, and it does for some reason look like chocolate speckled bread but seeing as the model’s interior is enclosed by slightly matted by age windows, it’s hard to see from a distance. But again, it’s all high quality, the creases in the seats that mimic the leather, the texture of the floor, the spare wheel in the back, the teeny-tiny dials on the dash… it all marks up to one hell of a lot of detail work done by Tamiya. And I should point out, like the body, which I only detailed and nothing else(not even added a clear coat), the interior’s largely untouched too by paint. Only the darker areas that had either trim or buttons I painted, the rest is just the color of the mold and… it’s perfect. And the engine bay is no different, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I mean, if I had to complain, it’s that some of the parts that were molded in onto the body are slightly blocky but… y’know, nitpicky nitpicking.

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The 5.2L V8 is molded wonderfully, albeit in a very simplistic manner. The whole engine is five pieces; two main pieces that contain the transmission, oil pan, intake manifold and such, two valve covers and the air cleaner unit and that’s it. I mean, they’re very well cast and detailed, it’s just somewhat a shame that all the challenge and extra effort was taken out by having it all be one giant chunk. I would’ve wired it up but I skipped on it, mostly cause I figured out halfway through building it that I had run out of it and even if I did, given the engine’s simplicity, I doubt I would’ve gone through with it all. Where Tamiya did put a lot of focus on is the chassis. I absolutely love the way they handled the ride height; it has you screwing the suspension tighter and tighter onto a set of springs, so you could have it sit nice and high while maintaining some realistic bounce if you press on it, or you could tighten it down and have it sit more like a common Cherokee and still look the part. It’s such a great, fantastic kit and God damn do I love building these every now and then as they’re nice, simple and absolutely frickin’ gorgeous once they’re done and Tamiya never disappoints – what does disappoint is that once Tamiya is done with a kit, they’re generally truly done with it, they hardly ever re-release a old kit… Would love to see the early nineties kits be given another spin in the factory.

’93 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8 specifications:
Kit: “Sports Car” Series #127
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 99
Molded in: Metallic Green(Hunter Green), Gray, Dark Gray & Black
Scale: 1/24

1991 GMC Syclone Marlboro Edition – Revell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2007 Dodge Charger SRT8 Super Bee – Revell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1974 Dodge Charger Rallye – MPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1970 Plymouth GTX 440-6 – Monogram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1983 Chevrolet Citation X-11 – Revell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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