1979 Chevrolet Nova Custom – MPC

1979novacustom_boxRight, so! Another MPC annual of a Malaise Era victim, turned into a traditional and very typical MPC kit by turning it into this horrendously ugly police car with the name only a man in his late forties could think of in 1979; “Squad Rod“. He almost certainly nodded appreciatively towards his marketing superiors and used hand signals when he said those words. I mean, woof. Granted, normally I kind of like the idea of the weird, wacky takes that MPC used to do, like the supremely odd Volaré that thank the damn Lord could still be made stock, it still was mighty goofy in a good way.

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And luckily, the Nova can be made stock too. Or at least, a more stock cop car too as well, without the horrific body kit. or rather, without the giant air dam at the front. It has some slightly worse options than the other mid and late seventies MPC annuals, for instance it hasn’t got red clear tail lights and slightly worse interior quality all in all. But y’know, it’s MPC. That being said, it is a seventies model, though so was the friggin’ Dart! That kit saw its first light of day in 1975 and got a new release(which I got) in 2014 and it was lightyears ahead of this one and this one’s a whole three years younger! Or rather, the tooling is. The release is a 2012 re-release, with more decals and “improved” tooling(which is marketing speak for better plastic and that’s generally about it).

1979novacustom (9)So, what about the Nova? Well, it’s got a rather long lineage that got shot down in a matter of a single year. It started off as a coupe-slash-sedan on a compact chassis in 1961 as the “Chevrolet Chevy II” and… it kind of stayed that way until it’s demise in 1979(though it saw a small come back as a rebadged Toyota Corolla/Sprinter with slight changes, but we don’t count that one), Revell and AMT Ertl have made several beautiful takes on the Novas of the sixties, with my personal favorite being the Revell ’69 Nova. MPC has been responsible for keeping a legacy alive kit-wise with the ’79 Nova, which in real life went out with a undeserved disappointing whimper. The last year of the Nova, it saw it trying desperately trying to remain relevant. It had all the “logical” engine choices, it got restyled to match the upcoming eighties trend of squaring-everything-up, it had luxurious interior even for the bog standard one and honestly… It didn’t even look half bad! GM really pushed the Nova to become the definitive Chevrolet; it could be a powerhouse, it could be a luxury ride for cruising, it could be your daughters first car, could be a cab in New York or a cop car in Houston, any place, any role.

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Some folks even went as far to order Novas to mimic a Camaro in performance but a Monte Carlo in luxury. Landau roof, trendy white striped tires with the sporty mag wheels, luxurious Custom level trim interior and on top of that the 350 cubic inch V8 that was usually only found in performance vehicles of the age, to kind of keep that old Nova vibe alive – one step above the Camaro in comfort, one step below the Corvette in speed. Regretabbly, like many of the 1970s cars, it had severe longevity issues. It would rust something fierce, the ride wasn’t anything to brag about and you’d be repairing the thing all the damn time. And what the hell happened next? Well 1980 rolled around and GM showed the Nova’s follow up: the 1980 Chevrolet Citation. In the words of Jeremy Clarkson; ambitious but rubbish.

1979novacustom (2)MPC/Round 2’s got a great trend of bringing back the models that essentially were the last of their line, which I am a very big fan of. In some cases, it’s a good reminder of how some models farted themselves into the annals of history(the real ones at least) like the 1980 Plymouth Volaré, which marked the end of the Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volaré. The 1976 Dodge Dart, marking the last chapter of the Dodge Dart/Plymouth Duster and of the Dodge subcompact sports cars ’til 2013. The Dodge Omni 024/Plymouth Horizon TC3, which lasted a whopping three years before being killed off in favor of the… revival of the Charger in ’83 on a L-chassis. Jesus Christ. It’s a depressing subject underneath it all but it’s also a time piece of a era long gone and desperately forgotten and that’s the exact reason why I love it.

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Back to the model in question, the version we’re talking about here is the 350 cubic inch(5.7L) V8 hatchback model, it seems to have the Custom interior treatment but it’s really hard to tell. But what the hell, a Nova Custom could be anything that the brochure showed so screw it, it’s gonna be a Custom! Though allow me to address a potential question you may be asking, and if you weren’t, well allow me to explain it nonetheless. Why, once again, a set of Torq-Thrust rims from American Racing? Nearly every model I do from AMT or MPC has ’em, what’s up with that?

Well, you awesome person for asking even if ya’ didn’t. Let me fill you in on a secret that I slipped through back on July 2nd of 2017 on the ’76 Dart article;

And again, just like usual, the fucking rim doesn’t match the tire. I love the enthusiasm for pad printed tires, especially from AMT who is the only one who has them printed on the rubber and not just included on a decal sheet but they are not a one-size fits all kind of tire. I’ve been going over this complaint on every single kit AMT has re-released since 2011 – the ’70 Chevelle, the ’80 Volaré, the ’68 El Camino and both ’69 Oldsmobiles I’ve built. They just don’t fit on legacy kits.

I should elaborate some though. Round 2 has a new tire design, or at least has a new tire design for around a decade now. They’re good quality life-like rubber, not all are pad printed but a fair couple of ’em have Goodyear Polyglas GT markings, and a few exclusive ones got the Goodyear Rally GT and GT Radial treatment. Whats the issue? Well they come in literally two sizes; the supposed Polyglas F60-15 and L60-15(these seem to pop up all over the place even without the markings) and far as I know, they’re era appropriate size-wise. However, the castings and toolings of the wheels; not so much. That’s the issue with fixing a problem halfway and stopping there.

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Most MPC kits that are re-released have these tires now without even having had a glance at the wheels. Only those with potential widebodies get a set of “thicker” drag wheels, which are either the Micky Thompson drag slicks or AMT/MPC Goodyear stock car tires. And y’know what, fair game, I got so many sets of spare tires now I could start a mouse sized tire company, but for those who haven’t? They’re doomed to have half-popping out wheels.

1979novacustom (14)Well, shit, I apologize, here I am ranting on for four paragraphs about the wheels. Back to the model’s more nicer features then. So the kit’s got a decent attempt at a 350 cubic inch V8, which was also found in the late seventies MPC Camaro kits for obvious reasons. It’s actually not bad, for a change! They’re usually terrible with engines, especially the Chrysler ones but this one’s pretty damn alright! It’s nice to wanna see the under-hood part of a MPC kit again for a change, it’s been a while. The interior tub isn’t molded very well, a lot of the details have gone a-miss but still, there’s nothing to truly complain about in the end. I mean, outside of inaccuracies. For instance, the dash is from 1975 with the square speedometer and… well, generally nothing had been updated past the 1975 mark.

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On the outside of it all, though. The imporant bit, if you ask me. The body. Oh boy, some things have gone a bit wrong. First of all, as I mentioned before, would it have killed them to give this kit some clear head lights and tail lights? I know it’s standard MPC modus operandi to not give it clear headlights, but ill-fitting slabs of chrome for the tail lamps(seriously, even the box art has the one crooked tail light, on the left)? Tsk, tsk. But that’s just what I’d have preferred, for the rest it’s kind of accurate! Besides one glaring thing… The size of the Nova script on the fenders. Good Goddamn grief, it’s huge! And even then, it’s molded very unevenly so when I attempted to chrome it, I caught a lot of the fender at the same time… Ah well.

1979novacustom (3)On top of that is something I can’t really blame the kit for, is the stance. The “Squad Rod” stance has the rear raised significantly with much thicker tires and the front sits lower on smaller tires. There’s no way around this, doubt they ever meant for it to stand like a normal Nova but, well, I suppose it adds some aggressiveness to a otherwise dull as sin car. And weirdly enough, it has bend inwards on the front left so no matter the work, the left front wheel will angle inwards cause of the chassis being jacked up. Mold issue? Packing issue? Hell if I know, all I know is that it annoys the ever living shit out of me when I look at it.

For the rest? The grille is actually molded rather nicely, it’s a bit of a shame you can’t really get the proper detail out of it but the cross bar design of the ’79 grille is all there along with the square lamps. The legacy paint job of the ’75-’77 Nova SS that got brought back on the Nova Custom for ’79 with the chromed fender lips and bottom, I actually really liked it so I attempted to get it done here. Not my finest work but, y’know, when is it my finest work, I skirt by half-assedly it seems and can’t fix mistakes when I make ’em.

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In the end, it goes together as well as most MPC kits of the era do. Some messing about with the engine placement(as it floats on the chassis and never really gets attached properly) and some squeezing and snapping to get the chassis and the body to sit properly, but outside of that, it’s fitment from the late seventies has held up, besides me needing to epoxy the damn chassis to the interior bucket cause it literally has no other way of staying inside the body. That being said though, it’s a meager parts count build(it’s 81 parts strong and only 45 are needed to build a stock Nova) so of course it’s gonna fit alright and honestly still it could do with a touch-up but apparently that’s too much to ask for these days from Round 2.

But ah well, it’s a legacy piece of a era long gone. I’m glad to have it.

’79 Chevrolet Nova Custom specifications:
Kit: MPC851/12
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 81
Molded in: Black
Scale: 1/25


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