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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Skill Level: N/A
Molded in: Wine Red