Ohhh yeah, the eighties. The TV shows during that period were and still are some of the wackiest, best and craziest by a far stretch. It was a era of masculinity(which sadly came with a fair bit of misogyny), filled with guys blowing crap up left, right and center. Every big action star had a trademark car to go along with and a theme tune to ride to. I mean, movies had their car stars but on TV series they stuck with their cars for nearly a decade in some cases.
Magnum P.I. had the Ferrari 308GTS, The Dukes of Hazzard had the Dodge Charger R/T, Knight Rider had the Pontiac Firebird T/A, Miami Vice had the Ferrari Daytona Spider and Testarossa and so on, all quick, spry and definitely eye catching rides. Then came along the likes of The Fall Guy, which had a lifted GMC Sierra Grande and A-Team had the big, tough brute that’s gonna be the feature of this article – the 1983 GMC Vandura.
The car of one of the four(or five) leads, B.A Baracus, it was meant to be as imposing, wide and tough as he was and to be fair, Chevy Vans(and their sister GMC vans) were quite hard to kill, always ready to do another hundred thousand miles. And only half a year after the TV show’s premiere, AMT Ertl put out a GMC Vandura kit during the time Ertl bought AMT in 1983, which in many cases made for a golden age in model kits for them.
Based on a mix of previous Chevy G-Series vans from the late seventies and early eighties, this kit has a giant parts amount. And when I say giant, I mean you can theoretically make this into whatever freaking version of the G-Series you want: a GMC Vandura, a Chevy G-series with stock features, the G-Series with deep wheels and custom options like side-pipes, giant headers and exhaust manifolds, it goes on and on.
It has the quadruple lights front, but also the dual headlights Chevy front, standard wheels with hubs, spotlights, brush-bar, the list just keeps on going. It’s so damn impressive that this kit not only goes together well, it also has a metric ton of options. Though of course, it’s the GMC Vandura A-Team kit so my guess here is gonna be that most folks with me included, will build that one.
Now this kit was pre-owned and already opened, back in 1984. So the decal sheet had the properties as cigarette paper that laid in the desert for three decades, so I ended up having to paint the iconic stripes on myself with some tape-work and lots of Google searches. I already knew that the van itself was two-toned with gloss black and a dark metallic gray so that saved some hassle(something many toy makers didn’t apparently notice), but there’s always a issue with TV shows that go on for years – the cars’ supply runs dry eventually and “stunt” versions become the mainstays in some cases.
Some had the red GMC logo on the grille and on the rear door in the first seasons, some didn’t. Some had the sunroof, some didn’t. Some had BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires, other had Cooper Cobras or All-Terrain T/A’s, the list goes on. Based on the differences, lack of decals and personal preference I just did the generic set-up: red GMC logo, Radial T/A tires(thanks to Fireball Modelworks), and a pair of Georgia plates that I had spares of, boom, done.
But to get back to the kit’s giant parts count, there’s a odd thing going on with the kit that I suppose was done for the builder’s enjoyment – the kit packs a very detailed 350ci V8(the same you’d find in a late seventies and early eighties Camaro for instance!) with all sorts of optional parts, detailed hoses and under-hood extras. Then you realize, oh that’s right, the hood on the body is molded in and doesn’t open. The firewall does have slots for little arms that would normally allow the hood to slide in and open whenever desired, this one just… doesn’t have that.
Though like I said, might be for the builder’s sake of having a complete model and not just a empty hole where the engine would be like most Japanese curbside kits. There’s some other things about this I thoroughly enjoyed and wish was more common in the designs; the sprues have # through # sorting which makes life a helluvalot easier given this kit’s got over 200 parts easily and you get a good six or seven parts to increase the stability of the chassis with thick chunks of plastic(or crossbeams in the real world counterpart), which in the end just makes the van’s weight feel more balanced and a hell of a lot more stable.
There’s some things that didn’t age so well, however. Like the decals, some of the plastic didn’t stand a chance in the open box for over thirty years, the bottom side of the front warped outwards some so the fender flares don’t meet the front fascia, the tires are the awful variety that plagued AMT kits in the eighties and are arguably twice as big as they should be(AMT was and still is fond of the “one size fits all, make it work” approach with tires). That being said though, this kit was re-released in 2004 with much better options: chrome parts for starters, a wider decal sheet with the appropriate license plates, stripes and so forth, clearer instructions and much, much better fitting tires, but to my personal dismay, still no damn clear headlights.
It’s also a giant, giant model. Of course, makes sense, given the real van’s a damn house on wheels too, but just for scale I put it next to the ’91 Syclone. Look at that freakin’ beast. It’s huge!
’83 GMC Vandura specifications:
Skill Level: N/A
Molded in: Black