More Tamiya! And more Tamiya to come! Hooray! So to give myself a royal break from the normal, typical kits I tend to build and enjoy, I fully immersed myself into one of those more expensive Tamiya kits, and there’s plenty to choose from. I was torn between the Lexus LFA, the Honda NSX, the Ford GT and this one, well initially its older brother – the SLR McLaren. The regular, plain Jane one. Yeah bet no-one’s ever been able to say “plain Jane” to a damn SLR McLaren, but what did you expect given this little website’s history. This kit in particular is the last of the SLR McLaren that Tamiya put out, starting with the regular SLR McLaren in 2006, this kit based on the penultimate SLR; the 722 in 2010 and then a re-release of the original SLR with a fully transparent body in 2013. Though don’t be fooled, the original SLR apparently is still cheaper despite it all and the clear version is… well, the same, besides being clear.
That being said, it’s a wholly new subject for me. I tried to build the Aoshima Lamborghini Murciélago SV LP670-4 a while ago and ran into a brick wall with it despite really, really enjoying it as a whole. Eventually while building it I got stupendously frustrated when I hit a spot while having to attach the little air intakes and the panels behind the doors and… just gave up, they didn’t fit, they didn’t match and I downright felt like I was smashing a four inch square peg through a needle hole even attempting to make ’em fit, so I gave up, royally shelved it. But that itch stuck with me, I wanted to build something stupidly complex yet from the time period I’ve actually lived in. And cue the SLR McLaren 722; effectively the final iteration of it as a coupe, with the looks being… well the best they could get.
It got formally announced in 2003 in the shape we know it today, but it got its first conceptual unveiling in 1999 as the Vision SLR Concept; which to me always looked like the hairdressers favorite Mercedes SLK with the front end yanked outwards but I can’t deny it had something going on, like a big ol’ smooch right on the forehead of days of yore; the time of the grand tourer. What the uppety fuck is a grand tourer, I hear you ask? Well, turns out in the old days of barely sixty years ago, people with copious amounts of dosh and the desire to take the ol’ girl for a cruise would stuff their Louis Vuitton suitcases in the tiny trunk, hop in the massive luxuriously decorated cabin and stare over the long hood for many hours as they drive their iteration of the grand tourer which could be a Mercedes 300SL, a Jaguar E-Type or a Maserati 3500GT or anything with a luxurious mix of speed and interior opulence, on well, a grand tour. I mean, what the hell else would you do while stupidly wealthy? Those types of cars were made specifically for those situations, they could handle running for several thousand miles with not much of a stop in between, they were exciting rides for exciting drives to exciting places.
Which y’know, ain’t much of a thing anymore in the economical climate of now. Or 1990. Or 1980. Or 1970. I mean they always will hold a place but no-one has time to drive to Turin nowadays, they fly there silly! That of course being said, no-one ever said they had no place to exist either, as grand tourers were still being made well into the 1980s, also known as the automotive dark ages, more commonly known as the Malaise Era, and they saw a massive resurgence in popularity through the 2000s as well, effectively coming back to the highly revered status of what they once were in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. And one can’t really argue that there’s so many great GT cars from the 2000, from Bentley’s to Astons, to Alfas to even Cadillacs. But in my humble albeit utterly rotten opinion, the SLR McLaren still stands taller than any of the others for the simple reason that it’s a goddamn beast.
Every single angle of the SLR is intimidating, especially know how soft and smooth it was in its concept stage. Plus, it has the added benefit of having the ever sexy name “McLaren” in its official title. You see, this came to be out of two reasons: One is that Mercedes, or rather “Daimler-Chrysler” at the time was very much into adding more nameplates to their flag line up outside their HQ in Stuttgart, they bought a 40% share into McLaren Automotive. Heck, before I go on about that – anyone remember the Daimler-Chrysler times? Those were… a thing, weren’t they. The Chrysler Crossfire, unofficial Quasimodo brother of the SLK, oh hell yes! Anyway, so they owned a whole lot of McLaren and basically formally invited them to become part of the creation that would become the road going version of our beloved Vision SLR, now called the SLR McLaren.
The whole thing is a collaboration that is nothing short of legendary, this in my view is the Ford-Cosworth connection from the 1980s and 1990s that gave us the Escort and Sierra Cozzies, brought to Mercedes via McLaren, a bunch of hyper intelligent tech guys engine, tuning and working with scientific accuracy paired with the elegance and old German workmanship of Mercedes Benz. It was a raw, unadulterated beast with a massive forward opening hood and a tail so short you’d swear your butt cheeks would be touching tail light if it weren’t for the panels. The engine is this gargantuan 5.4L SOHC V8 that just crapped out torque like nobody’s business, it went like a bat out of hell and it did so in luxury and style. Though, big ol’ though – even then I thought, man those wheels are the dullest thing I have ever seen. Maybe it was befitting of the heritage, with the clear nod to the Silver Arrows of the olden times, and the bright red absolutely massive tail lights kind of took away from the supremely soft-angled borderline beautiful curves of the car.
But lo and behold, I probably wasn’t the only one who felt this way cause three years after the first production car rolled out of the factory in 2003, it got a formal new edition called the “722 Edition” in 2006 – so called after the #722 300SLR that took the number 1 place in Italy at the 1955 Mille Miglia, driven by none other than Stirling Moss. This 722 was pretty much the prettiest version I’d say, they capitalized on the supremely sinister sharp yet rounded angles of the car by further going in the dark with it; darkened tail lights, carbon fiber colored wheels, darker shade of gray for the paint, blacked out head lights, carbon fiber grilles on the hood, and of course a wholly black interior opposed to the popping red ones of before. And holy shit did this work!
I’m super happy with Tamiya actually giving this one another whirl cause they’re very much known for their “we make a model, that’s it” approach to model kits. Which, y’know, is fine! Do what you want as long as the variety stays this way, but I can’t help but feeling thankful that they were willing to tool up the new bits and such for the 722 Edition. Cause in all honesty, they didn’t have to, it’s barely any different of the original aside from the blacked out stuff, other than the wheels. Though that being said, even with the small difference and the few extras on the decal sheet, it’s arguably the better of the two kits if anything cause it’s the more limited edition of the two. Given the 2005 SLR now has two releases, albeit one in a clear body – this one’s… meaner looking and more rare to boot!
I figured since this is kind of my first “I’mma see this one finished” automotive kit since God knows how long, I thought lets go all the way like I did with the Kawasaki Ninja H2R. I bought the TS-42 “Light Gun Metal” spray by Tamiya, all the prerequisite bottles of matte, gloss and in between by Tamiya, panel line ink also by Tamiya and just to fuck with the sequence; the ever so lovely yet amazingly great Vallejo Metal color line which honestly makes for as close to the true thing shades of metal that one can achieve. They’re best worked with an air brush but they have no issue setting just as nicely with a regular soft brush, provided you go over it a time or two. So the paint is close to the real deal and the panel lines are nicely accentuated and I have to admit; it does look good. That shade of gray really looks like the stuff Mercedes would put on themselves. Not to mention the panel line ink does its job supremely well, dries in seconds too!
But it ain’t all rainbows and sunshine with this sucker, there’s in fact three things that will likely come to count as a bit of a hurdle. One is, and this is the biggest by a long shot if you’ve ever googled some finished SLR’s: the hood does not sit flush, hell it sits massively open. There’s a panel gap so big it almost looks like a third of those air intakes. I actually managed to reduce this a fair amount by cutting off roughly a fifth of the little blocks that connect the hood to the little arm that moves it accordingly, cause I had the foresight of having seen those Google images where people could damn near stick a pinky through it. I still have some of a gap on the drivers side but it tends to sit well enough that it appears flush, though I will say that this hood opening system is so damn good looking and so accurate to the real deal that I’d almost argue it being worth having that massive gap.
Number two is that opening doors, no matter how intelligent, no matter how clever always results in the same two things. You’ll always lose the little rods that are meant to prop the doors open, and you’ll always have the doors not fit in the Goddamn body when you want ’em shut. Fine, I guess though – it is a really intelligent system where the door hinges are two metal Z-pieces and the actual plastic connector bit being part of the body, forced snug between the windshield and the roofline. Though it still looks jarring when you want ’em to be closed, you can’t not have that. Also I was a idiot and skipped the step with the little Z-rods and can’t actually prop them open easily either – whoops!
The third is a small complaint but its worth mentioning nonetheless, there are a couple of points where you just wonder what in the hell is the idea behind some things. 98% of this kit is beautifully thought out, complex and goes together like something out of a dream but then you hit that 2% and you get just extra infuriated by the at times utterly indecipherable instructions or parts that have little to no context or plan for fitting. The biggest offender in this particular complain would be the headlight assembly, which just like the rest is clever in its own right but then it just… stops being clever. It has two connecting bits, one on the glass, one on the chrome bezel, and they’re meant to slot in the front fascia; easy-peasy, right? Well, then it gets… odd. It’s just meant to halfway float on nothing, no idea on the angle, how high, how low, it just quasi floats on those two bits.
Luckily, you get an answer when you assemble the hood and realize the sheer force of the smooshing the hood shut so it doesn’t have the panel gap, that it sort of corrects the angle perfectly. However, those are just a handful of complaints and I will admit that the only reason I sit here pointing them out is because of the sheet quality the kit offers. It’s all praise, all the time, so it’s a bit extra glaring when you hit those niggles. Seriously, it’s such a great kit – right up there with damn near anything Tamiya offers. The hood assembly, how the tail lights are set up, the simplicity of some of the parts that somehow still ends up looking incredibly complex. And there’s some kit exclusive things that far as I know only the SLR McLaren kits have had; a thick, heavy realistically molded chassis plate, a die-cast one even!
Genuinely staggered by how complex the kit is and yet so nice and in some senses simple to put together, it’s just like any Tamiya kit of the last decade, and especially as I’ve recently been on a binge of Japanese model kits, it’s so friggin’ nice to have a superb kit that is cast well, designed well, goes together well and looks amazing with little effort on top of it. I won’t deny that this kit has definitely made me want to get any of the more 40-50 dollar range Tamiya car kits.
’06 Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren 722 specifications:
Kit: “The Sports Car” #317
Skill Level: N/A
Molded in: Silver, Gray, Black & White