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or a “club coupe” which is just sales-speak for weird-looking-two-door, both of which came per standard a dingy, outdated Pontiac Iron Duke OHV four cylinder engine or a newly updated 2.8L V6 that was largely designed for use in the new X-body cars.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

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1980 Chevrolet Monte Carlo – MPC

1980montecarlo (1)The very brief third generation of the Monte Carlo, or rather the ’78-’79 front end of most Chevrolet models, is one of my favorite cars of all time. Especially when they’re completely de-chromed. I used to play this game called “Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition” and one of the starter cars was a ’78 Monte Carlo and I just fell in love. In reality, it’s a subdued car with hardly anything left related to it’s incarnation in 1970 besides the idea of having a big engine doesn’t mean you can’t have big luxuries in the car. But despite it being a bit of a shadow of its former self, I loved it. The fact that Denzel Washington’s character in Training Day has a ’79 Monte Carlo only upped my adoration factor for the car.

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The third generation kicked off right after the 1977 oil crisis, which more or less forced rationality in GM’s business plan that relying on outside oil sources and having cars do a solid 9MpG(3.8km/L) wasn’t quite… smart. So the ’78 Monte Carlo was shortened by fifteen inches, that’s a whole engine block shorter. It also got lighter by 800lbs(362kg), for reference; an adult brown bear weighs 350kg, they basically yanked a zoo out of the trunk worth of weight. But while the luxury boat of the early seventies died with the third generation, this did allow for something else to happen – the fourth generation of Monte Carlos, once more a contender at the NASCAR track and the badass beauties we know as the Monte Carlo SS. The luxurious sunday driver was still there as the Landau version, it just got shortened by a fair bit, and even then, for the days, it was basically a midget Cadillac with a more sporty look about it.

1980montecarlo (4)MPC made several versions of the Monte Carlo, starting with the 1978 release of the car which already came with something extra; a small trailer with a Harley Davidson(or at least, a copy of a H.D.). And it was… surprisingly subdued for the era. It had the typical MPC “custom” version where it has horrendously designed and in some senses, even stupid decals and over the top additions, however while it had the decals, the actual custom parts were wire wheels, luggage rack and landau roof. Go figure, it was sort of subdued! Then in 1979, the same kit was re-released as the “Wheeler Dealer”, just with a updated decal sheet. And I have to say, for a kit of the old days – it’s not awful! The chrome inserts for the bumpers are a brilliant idea to get the trim to really pop.

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So in 1980 the Monte Carlo received a small face-lift, it got new double headlamps with the indicator underneath and the grille got a larger mesh instead, nothing big but it did require a small adjustment to the tooling of MPC. And boy, did they screw it up fairly badly. The headlamps were simply recast, however they didn’t remove the slant of the ’78/’79 lamps so they look… wrong, they just look wrong. The rest? 100% the same. To be fair, so was the real car but still, it’s a bit of a cheap upgrade. But y’know what, it’s fine, most of the seventies and eighties for MPC were putting out basic kits alongside dealership promo cars.

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However, the kit I got here is a re-release from 2009. A very traditional Round 2 re-release, with nothing fixed and just a new decal sheet. Though, fair enough to them, they at least used some decent tires instead of the janky ill-fitting ones they force into every kit these days. The kit still has the generic, almost meh-quality 350 cubic inch V8 they put in nearly every single late seventies GM car kit for the sake of ease, the interior on the other hand isn’t awful but y’know, it’s like five pieces in total. The quality is nice and with some effort the interior can shine at least, which I suppose is almost required given that one big selling point of the kit is the optional ability of making it a T-top Monte Carlo without any hassle.

1980montecarlo (8)They give you this H-frame to re-stabilize the roof once you cut the panels out which is something I can really appreciate, I didn’t make mine a T-top but I should say that this kit is one of the few T-top Round 2 kits(MPC and AMT) where it isn’t a mess of no structural strength or a thing where you literally replace the roof panels with glass tops and have nothing there to hold them in place.

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The rest? The rest is generic MPC schlock. Like I said, none of it is terrible but it is all just one giant afterthought. The whole chassis is one piece, no suspension, no exhaust pipes(besides the exhaust headers and catalytic converter), no axles, all one piece and just a matter of attaching the wheels. The sad thing is, MPC’s notorious for having used one or two chassis plates during the seventies and eighties and once again, this is that one. Problem is though, the damn thing doesn’t fit the car. The tail end of the chassis is half stuck to the body and doesn’t wanna sit in place. Speaking of which, another bad thing of the generic chassis is that the engine block awkwardly floats on the chassis, you’re just meant to glue it stuck to the frame on two points, but no guiding spots, no prongs, no slots, just two flat surfaces for the engine block and where it’s supposed to go on the chassis.

1980montecarlo (16)Door mirrors are the generic type they slap in there that literally do not fit the body style, nor do they actually manage to fit anywhere on the doors without looking awkward. I figured screw it, it looks half assed as it is, I’m just gonna put ’em on there and roll with it. I wanted to do the blacked out theme I got going on with several late seventies GM cars, like the ’77 Monte Carlo, ’79 El Camino and sooner or later the ’78 Monte Carlo by Trumpeter. So instead of chrome, I did the badges and such in gloss black and the rest in slightly dulled out black(learned a thing or two from the ’80 Ramcharger, which was too matte). It came out alright and I have to admit, while the headlamps are awful, the tail lights are great and the body is even better! It’s just a shame that MPC skirted by on such half-assery back then. But, well, y’know, who else would make ordinary cars? AMT maybe, in some cases Revell, but only MPC truly brought most of the normal cars to the model kit market. So… I suppose I’m still thankful that they exist.

It’s nice to have it added to the whole collection here, but still, like so many MPC kits – it just leaves me wishing that they tried harder and got a better kit out of it.

’80 Chevrolet Monte Carlo specifications:
Kit: MPC-702
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 72
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1970 Dodge Charger R/T 426 HEMI – Revell

1970dodgechargert426hemi (1)Christ, we’ve all been awaiting this one since it’s nephew kit, a kit I’ve had half-finished since late 2016, appeared on the market. Which in reality was a ’69 Charger with the 1970 front end(the non-R/T and 500 version in 1970 kept the same tail lights as the 1969 Charger), based on Fast & Furious’ Dominic Toretto’s ’70 Charger – which too was a 1970 Charger in some scenes, a 1969 in others, a ’69 500 edition in some movies, a open-grilled ’70 in others – it was a shapeshifter car that was a nightmare to pin down by toy manufacturers for the simple reason that Vin Diesel’s car changed more often than the tone of the series itself. So Revell stuck with the first movie, in which the car generally had the 1970 grille with the headlight doors stuck open and the non-R/T trim the car genuinely had, therefor a ’69 tail end.

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So eagerly we all awaited a true, proper updated version of the Revell Charger tooling, which debuted in 1997 under the Pro Modeler line, with to put it mildly, friggin’ epic detail. The engines(it came with a 440 Magnum and 426 HEMI) in all three versions of their kits(’68, ’69 and ’69 Daytona) were seriously, right there and still today, the highest quality Mopar engine cast out there. It’s seen use in all of the Charger re-releases as well as the spectacular 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda kit and it’s back yet again in this kit, though sadly only with the 426 HEMI. The whole kit is centered around the sole engine choice, the proper black hood stripes have white HEMI print on ’em and the tooling’s been updated to only fit the HEMI engine for the time being(you’d have to do a tiny bit of tinkering to allow the transmission to fit the slightly updated chassis).

1970dodgechargert426hemi (7)The whole kit is a welcome upgrade on the tooling of twenty years ago, the unnecessary turnable wheels have been taken out in favor of one-piece front suspension, which was probably done to fix the common issue of the structural integrity of the whole front being horrible at best due to the wheels being attached to two little tiny arms and the weight would bend ’em in a second. The rear suspension’s been fixed up to better show the ride height and wheel depth, which was a bit too deep on the ’69 and ’68 Charger kits. The whole front end was updated to fit better, which was also a problem source on the other Charger kits, here it fits together a lot better due to… well, the front valance no longer is forced into the sway bar and now connects directly to the body. The decal sheet’s been updated a ton, giving full dashboard decals and arm rest wood decals instead of having us paint a mediocre copy of wood, the wheels come with optional red line tires(which actually weren’t available on a 1970 Charger at the time, unless you special ordered them at a dealership, go figure) but I substituted them for BF Goodrich Radial T/A’s from Fireball Modelworks.

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The one thing they went backwards on? All four wheels are attached by little metal pins to the axles. Revell has this weird obsession with metal pin wheel set-ups and just like my complaint with Round 2/AMT/MPC who force the same two tire sets on every single kit they re-release: It. Doesn’t. Friggin’. Work. God. Dammit. A good example is the 2010 Camaro SS kit, which I transformed into the 2012 Camaro RS 45th Anniversary edition; the wheels on that kit are also attached by the metal pins and I physically can’t touch the model today or the wheels pop off at high speed like they’re trying to escape Hell. And here’s no different, the fuckers won’t stay on and metal and plastic don’t mix when it comes to staying connected so I’m always forced to fill ’em with epoxy in hopes of giving it enough strength to stay together for a change.

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But y’know what, so be it. While I wish there was no friggin’ metal pins for the wheels but the old functional system of plastic pins, my true wish would’ve been that the kit also packed or instead packed the at the time new engine option for the Charger, one that became highly popular – the 440 Six Pack. They gave us the right air cleaner already, all they’d needed to do was update the 440 Magnum from previous years slightly and wham, done and done. But alas, suppose it would be too much to ask. Maybe in the future, who knows?

1970dodgechargert426hemi (15)The 1970 Charger was the last of the Coke bottle shaped Chargers, before it got slightly fatter and slightly slower. I mean, I love the ’71-’74 Charger and I wish AMT would update the ancient-as-sin ’72-’74 kits from MPC using their ’71 Charger tool so I can complete this series at last, but man I am still utterly happy that Revell finally has given us the perfect, or well, near-perfect ’70 Charger. MPC has had one on the market since 1970 and it… wasn’t amazing. It was the only source of a ’70 grille, which most people just manhandled onto a Revell ’69 Charger kit to somewhat moderate success. But to get back to the point, the ’70 Charger didn’t go out without a colorful bang.

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Like I said, it finally too got the 440 Six Pack engine option on top of the already powerful powerhouses available at the time(340, 383, 426, etc), another first for the Charger series was that it also got access to the high impact colors that were a lot more common on Chrysler vehicles from 1970 onwards, like the crazy lime, orange, yellow, pink and purples. At first I wanted to do it in the bright pink like the one on the box, as not only is it a unique color, it actually… suits it. There’s something amazingly alluring about a totally wild pink Charger, or hell any sporty Dodge product of the time. But I eventually went with the “sublime” hi-impact color, which is basically just a mix of the “yellow-green” RAL color and Duplicolor’s fluorescent lime green spray paint. Used it before on the 1971 Plymouth Duster 340 kit and it actually really looks good so I rolled with it once more!

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It goes together so much better than it ever did before and I’m glad the now twenty year old tooling has gotten a well deserved upgrade and I genuinely hope they keep on using this tool to great effect, maybe a Charger 500 some day? Who knows! All we need now is more engine options, a 1/25th 383ci V8 or 340ci V8 from Revell would be friggin’ amazing.

’70 Dodge Charger R/T 426 HEMI specifications:
Kit: #85-4381
Skill Level: 5
Parts: 117
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

2009 Ford F-350 Super Duty Crew Cab 4×4 – MENG

2009fordf350SD4x4 (1)One can say I’m on a bit of a pick-up streak as of late, starting with the I-wish-I-was-a-pickup ’87 El Camino SS, then Aoshima’s wonderful raised ’94 Toyota Hilux, got a ’91 Syclone kit underway ready to turn into the Marlboro version and now MENG’s first endeavor into model car kits, the 2009 Ford F-350. And it ain’t just any F-350, it’s the elongated Super Duty 4×4 with the crewcab… so it’s a nice and gentle 10 inches long. That, for the record, is easily one of the largest 1/24th scale car/pickup truck kits you can get. Hell later on in the article, I put it side-by-side with the ’05 Escalade kit from Revell which is also a 1/24th scale car. For real, it’s friggin’ gargantuan and I honestly came to the dilemma of “what the hell am I gonna do with this thing, it’s too big for any damn shelf!“, so now it’s awkwardly perched on a stack of books due to its ridiculous size.

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Right from the start I knew this was gonna be a fun one, mostly due to the hype that was built up by fellow model kit enthusiasts who hold this as a semi holy grail. Why? Well, by nature we’re a bunch of nit-picky pricks who scream for detail over functionality/build quality and fair, that’s what we strive for but while this kit has some errors here and there, it’s held up so high above all others for three reasons: 1), it’s a very unusual subject, especially for a company that literally never made model car kits before(in 2014, this was released, in ’15 they produced their second, the Hummer H1 and coming up in late ’17 – the 2017 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon) and it’s that exact seemingly random subject matter choice that related to so many of us who love building just… cars, regular old fashioned “you see this truck parked by Denny’s all the time” kind of car. Car, truck, you know what I mean. Ain’t nothing wrong with something slightly dreary or oh help me God, “regular” for a subject.

2009fordf350SD4x4 (5)2), it’s a super well thought out kit. Like, raise the bar some more why dontcha, MENG. Really, even Tamiya has hit a ceiling quality-wise and it’s still under what MENG has pulled out of their sleeves. The tooling is superb, it’s crisp, the planning is brilliant so that everything connects beautifully and best of all? Structurally sound. Once it fits, it sits. And lastly, 3), it’s riddled with detail. The engine bay is honestly the closest thing I’ve seen compared to the real stuff on any kit, the interior is crisp and done in such a manner that from a-far you couldn’t tell the difference, not until you see that none of the knobs have icons, the lines, the door handles, the little simulated light bulbs in the headlights, it’s all there and it’s all done perfectly.

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But about the truck itself, weirdly enough this is a truck we see quite commonly here in the Netherlands. Together with the ’11-’13 and ’15 Dodge Ram 1500, the ’08-’11 Ford F-150 and F-250 are quite common here, mostly driven by contractors as one would expect but for once other than the muscle cars I’ve worked on at the work place, I actually have seen this type of truck! Though boy, we only have the more recent F-series around here all the while the series has been around since 1948, for Christ’s sake. And even then, they’re kinda responsible(along with Chevrolet/GMC) for the shape that we know our pick-ups for today: square, boxy and long.

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The F-series truck is pretty much as American as it could possibly be, it’s been the best selling vehicle(yes, of all cars) since 1981 without any changes and the best selling pick-up truck since 1977, it’s always looked similar to the one that came before and for some reason, they just… kind of decided to last. Well, until the late eighties at least where they kind of ceased to last but, you know, at least if you had a ’78 F-series and it broke down somewhere, odds were you were gonna be lifted home by a F-series towtruck and the truck would be repaired in a jiffy, cause let’s be fair, parts for literally any generation of Ford F-series truck were about as common as grains of sand. Not to mention, while the trucks were hilariously unsafe(well, “unsafe” isn’t the right term, like most cars of the era, they were prone to being utterly fucked in case of a crash). They’re American culture through and through, and I can’t discredit its GM competitor brother, the Chevy C/K, for it too is just as much a icon.

2009fordf350SD4x4 (15)Though recently, and I don’t say this begrudgingly or anything, the pick-ups of GM and Ford have gotten… chunky. They weren’t ever the slim, nippy little trucks, oh no. Thats why we have the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado, the so called “compact trucks”, or under a tonne in weight, and to an extend the Dodge Ram but even at their respective sizes, the compact pick-up of the olden days is long gone. The Ranger is still mostly car with a bed attached but look at the smallest F-series, the F-150 and Jesus Christ that thing is frickin’ giant. They’re very imposing, like miniature Mack trucks with a giant, high slanted grille-hood, high seating compartment and just a ton of metal in between you and the world. But I’m just rambling on about unrelated stuff here, the article is about a train of a pick-up truck that also somehow can double as a nimble off-roader if the situation requires it so.

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Though, this kit is made to exact factory spec. It has OEM Continental Contitrac tires for ordinary highway use that, funnily enough, were all recalled in 2011 cause the tires would just fall apart after certain amounts of driving. Though in this kit, they’re awesomely produced and they are gorgeous quality. Nice, soft bouncy rubber, don’t get that too often. On top of that, it comes with two sets of wheels, the factory default ones and a set of 7-spoke rims that you could order on ’em at a Ford dealership, a very nice and optional choice that I adore. It also comes with a series of bed accessories(and a for now unreleased brush-guard and rollover-bar set from MENG, which is set to be released in November 2017) like a bed extender that reminds me way too much of an animal pen, it all goes to show that even for a very ordinary pick up truck kit, you can throw in extras that make sense.

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The real show, the true unique thing to the kit, is the absolutely massive 6.4L V8, the Power Stroke diesel engine, that has been replicated to a scary degree of accuracy. It’s huge, for starters, but the thing I appreciate most is that it’s like a 100% clone to the real deal, with perfect positions for the ignition wires and all, so I figured screw it, I’mma wire this sucker up and make it look… well, even more accurate. The only downside to the engine is the instructions(which are in a nice little colored-print booklet instead of a leaflet, thanks MENG!), which are vague as sin at best. There’s a intricate puzzle happening under the hood and boy it’s a shambles to figure it all out. For instance, the radiator coolant is meant to sit on the front radiator under the hood latch bar, I didn’t know this until long after I put it together.

2009fordf350SD4x4 (17)But you know what, screw it. While raggedy-ass, it looks pretty damn good still. Though I should point out a few more flaws, for one the connecting of the body to the frame is impossible due to the nature of the interior bucket and the windows, there was some trimming required to make it all meet and I didn’t know of this until long after I glued the damn things in place. The second thing is, the front bumper droops down and is already too low as it is. There’s also some missing bits that kind of stand out due to the immense detail, like there’s no steering box or the front suspension is missing the track bar, or that the decals incorrectly show “6.8L Triton V10” on the fender emblems instead of “6.4L Powerstroke V8“, that sort of stuff. I don’t particularly care though, as this kit is such a masterpiece despite that the flaws are just at worst some annoyances.

The kit’s pre-painted in dark, kind of a slate gray and that’s the color I decided to go with for two reasons, one is that dark colors are notoriously hard to primer away and two, I kind of dig the plainclothes look the truck still has with the semi-dull color, y’know, despite the 4×4 decal and the stupendous length. For the most part, the kit’s default color isn’t badly cast, some splotches here and there in the paint which were mostly on the inside of the fenders and the underside of the bed so they’re not obvious whatsoever luckily, but I reckon that can differ from kit to kit. The decal sheet, I should mention, is tiny but legendarily high quality. There’s no visible backing once they’re set plus they’re tough as hell and don’t rip apart easily.

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The whole kit screams superb quality, from the cast all the way to the box and the instruction booklet. Not to mention, it’s fun to have this ten inch tank sitting half-crooked on a stack of books due to lack of display space. Having finally built this kit, which by the way, quality increase means price increase as the RRP was over forty bucks even back when it came out, I can’t wait to see how the upcoming Jeep Wrangler kit of theirs will look like and come together. There’s a first time for anything, for me trying a new brand and for MENG trying out a new world of products after having only made tanks, figurines, planes and… dinosaurs, and holy hell, man it all worked perfectly.

’09 Ford F-350 Super Duty Crew Cab 4×4 specifications:
Kit: “Car Series”, CS-001
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 122
Molded in: Dark Gray, Gray, Black and Chrome
Scale: 1/24

1994 Toyota Hilux SSR-X Double Cab – Aoshima

1994toyotahiluxdcab_4wd (1)The vehicular equivalent of the AK-47“, that’s what terrorism analyst Andrew Exum called the Toyota Hilux to Newsweek back in 2014 and ho-boy is that the truth. And ho-boy does that make for one killer opening sentence. Cause in it’s simplistic nature, it’s the same deal – a highly efficient, cheap and unbreakable piece of technology. And such a unkillable icon has such… simple origins. The Hilux first came to be in 1965 as the Toyota Briska, a small, compact pick-up based on the Renault 4CV which eventually got turned into its own line of pickups as the Hilux in 1968. And at the time, it was pretty much exactly the same as its competitor Datsun; both had similar size beds, similar small 1.6L engine, and so on.

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Hell, Nissan/Datsun was already selling the Datsun 520 since the mid-sixties in the United States and it was doing quite well at home too. So, what did the Hilux have that the 520/620/720 series didn’t? Well, as it turns out… it had the future. Yeah, I know, what an ambiguous sentence! But really, it did. As the Datsun truck changed its scope and turned into the Nissan Pathfinder/Navara through the eighties and nineties, it remained the same similar cut of bread and butter that it had been known for since the sixties just increased in size and luxury, which isn’t bad! However, somewhere along the lines, Toyota did achieve greatness. The fourth generation of the Hilux, which kicked off in 1984 started a bit of a streak.

1994toyotahiluxdcab_4wd (6)For instance, it’s virtually indestructible(as seen on Top Gear, just Googling it will get you a ton of results). The engine(which were a series of 1.8L through 2.8L I4 engines and a single 3.2L V6) seemed to work at any given time no matter the circumstance and the whole thing screamed workhorse. Simple interior with basic luxuries, decent chugging engine, good ride and like the Ford Transit; plenty of options for your consumer desire. This lasted all the way through today, where the Hilux still is known as a indestructible workhorse that can be set on fire, rolled over and wrecked and still start and deliver the rubble that was used to destroy it in the first place. And of course, I guess that’s why insurgents love using it so much.

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But enough about that, Aoshima has had Hilux kits since the mid-nineties, from lowriders, to the Surf model(a Hilux with closed bed and a hatch), SSR-X 4WD and so on. And sometime in the early naughties, they released a single cab lift-up version of the Hilux – and so the origins of this kit were born. They transformed the frame of the SSR-X Double Cab and combined it with the lift-up to create this beast and boy, it’s huge. And it still contains all of the parts of the previous version, like the roll bars, shorter drivetrain and transfer case, but the important addition is the whole shebang plated in chrome. The idea is that it’s… flashy, I suppose. The whole undercarriage is meant to be silver, chrome or both.

1994toyotahiluxdcab_4wd (17)And the whole thing is glorious, the complexity of the chassis is immense yet it all functions. It’s this frame detail that made me wish they gave it a engine, no matter how meh it would be. The SSR-X could have a 2.4L I4 diesel, which is boring yes, but who cares! It’s just such a damn shame that this is one of the many curbside models of Aoshima with so much undercarriage detail that it seriously deserve a tooled up engine for a change. Hell, shit now I look at the pictures I realize the rear rims are crooked from forcing them straight(well, that worked out beautifully) for the photo taking.

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Speaking of which, the sole downside to the kit is sadly enough the wheels. They have been designed to fit on something that clearly once was meant to just hold the basic 4×4 wheels of the normal Hilux. It’s got replacement discs that the wheels attach onto which is just, well it just doesn’t hold the weight of the gargantuan high quality tires well. The downside does come with an upside as the tires are frickin’ amazing. They’re properly licensed Interco Super Swamper Radial/TSL tires and woof, I love ’em. Unfortunately the rim doesn’t quite fit, I mean it fits just enough but the littlest movement and you get what happened to my rear-right tire as you can tell.

1994toyotahiluxdcab_4wd (20)The whole kit is friggin’ epic. It goes together supremely well(other than a bad case of crooked-ass wheels) and the end result is huge, I mean. Truly, truly huge. I took a picture of the Hilux alongside a 1/24th scale Chevrolet Camaro, and a ’79 Camaro itself ain’t a small car either but holy hell, it looks compact compared to the workhorse rifle of the pickup trucks. It literally is as tall as the tires on the truck, and the truck sits a whole quarter inch higher than the tires.

Aoshima’s kits are such a nice relaxing change of pace for me, as I said before on the Silvia S13 article. These and the Tamiya kits are excellently crafted and thoroughly thought out kits that you can’t really screw up unless you manhandle ’em. Fujimi kits aren’t quite there, but even they are better build quality than most of MPC’s catalog. It’s kits like these that really make me look forward to building the Subaru BRZ and R32 Skyline which are underway as I type this!

’94 Toyota Hilux SSR-X Double Cab specifications:
Kit: “The Tuned Car” series, No.5
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 107
Molded in: White, Gray and Chrome
Scale: 1/24

1990 Chevrolet Beretta GTZ – AMT Ertl

1990chevyberettaGTZ (1)Remember GM’s Chevrolet Citation from the early eighties? Luckily a model kit of it exists and I built it this year and uh, boy does that car have some royal history to it. Firstly, it originated as replacement for the rear wheel drive barrel of joy Chevrolet Nova in 1979, changing platforms to deal with the ever growing need for an affordable car that didn’t require fuel stops every 20 miles, but also one that had some European smarts about it while remaining American to the bone. This… kind of proved to be true, turning it into a small engine front wheel drive two or four door that had excellent mileage, though the American heritage reared its head just as badly by also inheriting some ridiculous rust issues, parts snapping clear off left, right and center and of course a maintenance bill the length of the Pan-American Highway. And the rear brakes locking up and sending you into a death swerve obviously didn’t help anything either.

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So GM let the Citation die, gently, in 1985. Over the last two years of its bleeding to death, GM revitalized it once last time and it went over about as well as a fart in a crowded elevator. The jipped consumer wanted nothing to do anymore with the Citation and sales, which were legendary at first, barely broke hundred thousand in 1985 and was replaced, albeit non-officially by the Beretta in 1987. Hell, before I go into that, wanna know a fun little tid-bit? In 1988, Beretta Firearms(Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta) in Italy over the name – which got settled in ’89 out of court and they exchanged Berettas symbolically afterwards. Literally. No shit, really, read the LA Times story! The then chairman of Beretta handed GM chairman Roger Smith a Beretta shotgun and rifle, and Smith handed Guiseppe Beretta a 1989 Beretta GTU!

1990chevyberettaGTZ (19)Anyway, to move on from that interesting piece o’ history. It was a nice, popular little car that wasn’t all bad. In fact, from the heydays of yore, it was arguably one of the better ones around. It quickly got a reputation as a “high-schooler’s car”, which was… fair, I suppose. Designed by the same folks responsible for the 1983 Camaro and Corvette updates, it looked sporty and it was a comfortable little 2 door with a simple, front wheel drive and nice quaint little inline four engine that got enough power to do the littlest burnouts with but it also came with comfort and safety for the most part. I mean, it was definitely, one hundred percent, GM’s first true success with a front wheel drive car. Well, since the X-platform program at least. And no counting the ’66 Oldsmobile Toronado, that thing may have been FWD, but frickin’ look at it. But the success carried on and soon GM introduced the Corsica half a year after the two-door Beretta, effectively covering the whole market’s worth of appeal. It was a pretty unique look all around, small yet dominating space, blacked out tail end with obscured tail and reverse lights, door handles in the B-pillars, body colored everything, so on.

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Though yet, it missed something, something sporty. And GM jumped on top of it in 1988 with a GTU edition, which was a normal Beretta GT but with a sporty suspension package and special wheels, it just didn’t stand out enough yet apparently. So in 1990, the edition of which this kit I’m discussing here in a moment came to be – the Beretta GTZ. Special for three reasons; one, it was fast as hell for a little cutesy 2 door. It had a Oldsmobile 2.3L I4 engine, known as the “Quad 4” that produced more horsepower than a 305ci(5.0L) V8 Camaro of the era, which was… very impressive. Plus it got a nice little body kit and a theme of dark colors(or white, if you desired) with similarly colored wheels.

1990chevyberettaGTZ (3)It’s a shame that the Beretta/Corsica line died off after just little under a decade(replaced by the small-bodied continuation of the Chevrolet Malibu in 1996), given its pedigree in speed as well as its pedigree in being an all around decent generic little car. Replaced largely cause it began to be too good at its job, it got GM worried the Beretta Z/26 started to encroach upon the Camaro and Cavalier Z/24 too much and leech away sales from the “flagship models”, which in my opinion is utter bullshit – if a car is as good as it can be that fat and out of shape muscle cars lose sales cause of it, fix the fat and out of shape muscle car. But y’know, sales define a car’s lifespan and by proxy, others too.

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So, thankfully, as the car now grows ever more rare and enthusiasts finally now begin seeing the little champion for what it is and was, at least AMT Ertl made it a mission in the late eighties and nineties to tool up and kit the Beretta for a few years. Starting with a ’88 GT, then a ’89 GTU, followed by this one, the ’90 GTZ and finally the updated ’91 GTZ that coincided with Chevrolet’s decision to overhaul the interior and AMT Ertl diligently followed the changes. And boy, it is a nice, nice kit. I don’t know quite who was responsible, or whom were, for the tooling in the late eighties, but holy Christ it is a nicely crafted and complicated kit.

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It rounds out to about 100 pieces, but every detail is there. The engine bay is crowded as sin, the front and tail end piece together perfectly into the smooth shape of the car itself but most importantly – the pieces work together. A lot of it is forcing plastic lips into strong structural supports like slotting the interior bucket into a slot above the engine bay and one above the tail lights – which works. It works fantastically. It keeps stuff in place, and unlike the floaty crap we’ve come to expect from MPC and in some cases AMT itself, it works magnificently.

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The cast quality is excellent too, detail on the body and interior is super crisp, and the engine block which is a simple inline four, the Oldsmobile 2.3L I4 called the “Quad 4” which usually deems it to be a crappy cast due to no buyer interest(or so they allege) is cast like something you’d see on a modern day Revell kit. It is of such good quality that I’m staggered, not to mention it literally only exists in a handful of kits so someone went out of their way to get it to the quality level we got here. Not to mention, the engine bay itself is pretty nifty too. It’s just missing a bit of structural support for the Quad 4 so the engine is leaning forward too far(the cast wasn’t updated for the Quad 4, it still has the GT/GTU mounts which had a 2.8L Multi Port V6 engine) so it’s a bit empty on the back side of the engine bay but that’s fine.

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I spend a lifetime on the tail end, trying to replicate the real blackened out lights and such to the best of my ability and I didn’t quite get it right, given that the piece is one big transparent red one, so getting the reverse lights in was a no-go. But at least I managed to get the Beretta lettering and the semi-transparent tail lights in there so I’m happy with that at the very least. On top of that, I spotted the red Beretta on Google whilst researching this kit a bit deeper and fell in love with it right away, though it forced me to break away from the color-matched wheels and body cause I so, so much prefer the black wheels.

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Speaking of which, one of the very few downsides to this kit are the wheels I’d say. The simple BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires it comes with are the uniform 15 inch or so wheels of the era, found on any kit that AMT Ertl produced at the time and kits would have their wheels tooled in accordance to these specs. Which is fine, I suppose, at least unlike modern AMT Ertl or rather Round 2 kits, the wheels at least fuckin’ fit in there and don’t awkwardly float outside the tire. But the wheels themselves are separated into two parts, the colored five spoke and the chrome rim backing – you’re meant to force the spokes into the chrome, insert it so-to-speak and come out with a set of really good looking wheels.

1990chevyberettaGTZ (16)In theory, that is. You see, they don’t fit. And trimming them wasn’t an option cause, were I to screw it up, that meant the end for a set of GTZ wheels right there. So I just ran with it, and it’s not that much of an eye sore by the end of it, right? I mean, given how good the kit is overall, who gives a damn that the spokes don’t quite fit the rims, it’s fine! To close this whole rambling-session off, the red paint’s the same one I used on the ’12 Chevrolet Cruze kit and I love it, it’s quite close to the real somewhat wine red the ’90 Beretta could be gotten in plus it’s a nice metallic shade all in all. Went with a somewhat generic gray/dark-gray/black interior color choice, it matches the dreariness of the 1990s quite okay, plus it’s actually what it could’ve come in to start with. Ahh the olden days of friggin’ carpeted dashboards…

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Closing summary? I wish AMT Ertl made more of these kits… They were so damn good, holy hell.

’90 Chevrolet Beretta GTZ specifications:
Kit: #6068
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 96
Molded in: Off-White
Scale: 1/25

1990 Mercedes Benz 190E 2.3-16v – Revell/Fujimi

1990mercedesbenz190e_2-3_16v-110.jpgThis is one I’ve had sitting around since November 2016 and consistently backed away from the project, despite having a giant soft spot for it. You see, normally I just build model kits for fun, for the history of the car or just cause I like what I’m working on, I haven’t yet found a model kit I went in with the mentality of recreating something for someone or cause of someone. This one, however, is one of those. I wanted to make this one for my father, recreate the car he owned and loved for so many years. And the reason why I kept backing away from it is cause the Fujimi kit is… dogshit. I honestly can’t find any kind words for it, it just isn’t a good kit. I mean, were it produced as a pre-built model car I’m sure it would’ve been amazing cause the cast quality is immense, it’s just the horribly over complicated nothing-fits-anywhere mess of a build that ruins this one start to finish.

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Instantly, it struck me that I bought yet another Fujimi ’81 Camaro kit. A kit that once was destined or was actually a radio controlled car shell, hastily adjusted so it would make for a kit on the model kit market, with an awkward construction and adjustment made around where once the motor and the batteries were in the chassis. And it might have heritage from yet another company called Ceji, I honestly don’t know quite who to blame for this mess.

1990mercedesbenz190E_2-3_16v (4)So at some point, I stumbled upon a Dutch seller on eBay who had the Revell version of the 190E for sale, a kit hailing back to 1986, and I immediately bought it. Like, zero hesitation, thinking I may finally be able to patch this piece of crap up with. Then, it hit me… I saw a Revell AMG 190E kit for sale with open box pictures and spotted the exact same terrible chassis with the absurdly crappy fix for the once-it-was-a-RC-car problem – So I panicked and asked the Dutch seller for some pictures of the kit and promised I wouldn’t back down regardless, just satisfy my curiosity. And what a relief, man, Jesus I can’t tell you how happy I was to find out Revell actually improved on the turd it once was.

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But I’ll get back to the details in a moment, first I’ll actually finish the story about why this is a passion project seeped in “I’m just happy it’s done“. My dad has owned a variety of cars in his lifetime, especially through the 1980s while American muscle cars and luxury cars were being shipped overseas to happy exotic buyers for a dime on the dollar when it came to the price. He’s owned a ’71 Chrysler New Yorker he bought for just two hundred guilders(the good ol’ fashioned currency of the Netherlands before the Euro), Firebirds from ’72, ’75 and ’79, Mercury Cougars, Ford Mustangs, Buick Rivera’s. One of the AMC Javelins from Karmann(a ’68 79-K, one he regrets selling given how rare they have become) in Germany.

1990mercedesbenz190E_2-3_16v (17)And the list just goes on, from wild Americans to European luxury cars that he always bought on the cheap from someone who mistreated it, couldn’t be bothered to fix it or both, like a BMW 750il, the gargantuan V12 powered almost-limo. But his prize purchases were actually more simple, more performance oriented saloons like a 1989 Ford Scorpio Cosworth which is basically a Ford Sierra turned into a limousine and beefed up with a Cosworth V6, but his most prized possession remained to be, despite all of the cars he’s owned: a 1990 Mercedes Benz 190E 2.3-16v in smoke silver(which always looked champagne colored) with these giant 19 inch O.Z. Legerra wheels. Sadly, its saw its demise by a towtruck that was meant to take it in for a routine fix on a slight engine rumble – the tow cable snapped off the lift-truck and it rolled off backwards as it was being tied down and the metal hook slammed through the windshield, slamming the mostly brittle plastic dashboard to bits as a bonus.

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And the man loved this car until its fateful killshot by towing vehicle, it was dependable as hell, it always started in the cold and it had enough luxury to be cold in the summers. It had the gloriously ugly interior stitching and faux wooden panels all over, it looked like a Canadian lumberjack exploded in there and put plaid and wood everywhere, even the gear stick. Oh! Speaking of which, a fun little fact about 190E 2.3’s and 2.5’s: dogleg first gear gearbox. What the hell is that, you ask? Well, first let me show you what the hell happens if you haven’t driven one with a dogleg gearbox for decades and then suddenly do;

So effectively a dog-leg gearbox is one meant for racing convenience. Simply put, it puts reverse left-up and 1st left-down, so shifting through 2nd and 5th is a simple H pattern which improves shift times significantly. However, this means that something so burned in as left-up suddenly means wrecking your rear bumper on something, or someone. But y’know what, that made it unique. And denty, very denty.

1990mercedesbenz190E_2-3_16v (13)But anyhow, I bought some aftermarket Fujimi wheels in hopes that they would also fit the Fujimi kit and sadly I couldn’t find the O.Z. Legerra’s my father had so I substituted them with Yokohama AVS Model 5’s, which he kind of liked the most out of the series of wheels I showed him. On top of that, bought some appropriate smoke silver spraypaint to emulate the car entirely. And then I opened the box and attempted to put it together and… boy I got discouraged hard. Not a fiber in my body after five minutes wanted to ever carry on again on this terrible excuse of a kit and like I said earlier, the sad part is that it’s cast so unbelievably well. The details on the body for example are stellar!

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So I shelved it until a week ago when I got the Revell kit, which gave me the inspiration to kick it back up again. I concluded that the Fujimi body with the Revell chassis and interior would actually allow me to actually build it and look semi decent. The Fujimi kit has the better body, head and tail lights, better small details like the door handles and wipers for the headlamps and windshield while the Revell version has… better everything else. Unfortunately, the Fujimi kit doesn’t allow for the hood to be opened and even the Revell version has you manhandling the body to cut the hood out, the only difference is that the grille isn’t molded on so cutting it open is a lot easier. So the hood won’t open and it’s hiding a very well molded 2.3L 16v inline four, which I wish you could see cause credit to Revell – it’s wonderful!

1990mercedesbenz190E_2-3_16v (14)The only shame is that the rest of the engine bay is empty. No battery, no detail, just the engine. But y’know, given it’s a desperate improvement on something as terrible as it could be, I’ll take it. The original doesn’t even have a engine, so! And the suspension set-up is amazingly complicated but in a good way, it gives it all some proper structural integrity in the end. I gave the ’16 and ’17 Camaro kits some high praise for the detailed suspension set up but Revell did it back in 1986 with this kit!

Inside of the kit, it gets rather basic again. The seats are blocky, the dashboard is flatly detailed and the doors are literal slabs of plastic that are meant to give structural strength. Fujimi did improve here, sadly they’re not of the same size as the Revell’s upgrade so I unfortunately had to go with those instead after having already used the dashboard decals on the Fujimi dash.

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In the end, it cost me over a hundred euro to get this kit bashed together. Was it worth it? Oh yes, yes it was. I got plenty of bodies and spare parts left to do the supremely shitty Fujimi-origins Revell AMG 190E kit, twice. So I am definitely content with what I got here, especially since my old man seems to like it. Despite the off-kilter wheels, despite the window sitting a solid quarter of a inch too deep, despite the paint having chipped off the mirrors, despite it all – he likes it, and if he likes it, I like it too.

’90 Mercedes Benz 190E(W201) 2.3-16v specifications: (Fujimi’s in brackets)
Kit: Revell 7266-0389(No 3, Group A)
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 81(74)
Molded in: White, Black and Gray
Scale: 1/24

1970 Dodge Coronet Super Bee 440 Six Pack – MPC

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (1)The 1970 Coronet is one of those cars that is truly unique all the while remaining close to its roots, specifically with the styling, or at least from the ’65 Coronet on wards. It carried over the square shape, it carried over the grille increasing in size towards the headlamps, it carried the long hood and trunk design, it kept the very basic nature of its previous iterations and yet somehow manages to look the most alien, the most unique and honestly, in my opinion at least, the most beautifully wacky muscle car of all time. What makes it more unique is that unlike very, very many cars – it was only like this for a single year.

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First time I ever saw the car was as a fleet of police cars in 1974’s Gone in Sixty Seconds, though that was the regular four door without the chrome tail bezel, the one I truly fell in love with was the ’70 Super Bee version, the same one I built here. Though in a moment I’ll go into detail about the misery this kit can cause, for now I’m gonna focus some more on the car itself. You see, this was Chrysler’s magnum opus era. 1970 was peak good-ness for Chrysler, especially in design. The 1970 Charger lived, their best year in NASCAR began late this year, Plymouth’s newly updated Barracuda came to life, the 6-pack(2bbl x3) carburetor set-up gained maximum popularity, the list goes on. 1970, not a bad year! Well, it was a bad year for fuel reserves as it was also the year that big block engines truly gave no fucks about even attempting to hit 10MpG/4.2KpL(6-Pack and HEMI engines did frickin’ 7MpG/2.9KpL on average) and of course good ol’ fashioned tetraethyl additives.

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (5)The designers on their cars had freaking field days, damn near every car for the 1970 model year were gorgeous, even the boring ones. It truly was the era of the muscle car, but it was just as well just the finest era for cars in general, besides the obvious problems. And MPC was on top of this shit back in the day, with dealer promo’s leaving the production line in high demand and focusing their work on that, following it all up with glue kits based on the dealer promo’s some time later.

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This is how this edition of the 1970 Coronet Super Bee began its life. In 1968, the dealer promo for the 1968 Coronet was turned into a proper glue kit. They revamped the parts and the body for the 1969 release and updated it once more for 1970, as per usual of the time. So fast forward to 1989, Ertl had combined MPC and AMT to co-exist under the same roof and they fashioned a version of the ’70 Coronet Super Bee with a “Pro Street” package attached to it, which quickly led to demand of a re-release of the Super Bee without the idiotic large rear tires and gargantuan velocity stack engine and intake manifold, which came in 1992. They improved upon it in various ways, for instance they re-hashed the entire frame to be “better” and brought in stock parts to turn it into a 440 Six Pack along with bucket seats and standard exhaust pipes.

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (12)Now fast forward to 2008, two sub re-releases later(same parts, different day) with MPC bringing the Coronet Super Bee back like it was in 1992, just better. For instance, it now had a much, much improved decal sheet with both the C-shape decals as well as the tail trunk stripes, proper engine badging and finally some decent Super Bee emblems to boot. Skip time to 2017, and yes I hear you going “what about the Dirty Donny editions?” and I raise you a “What about ’em?”. They were based on the Pro Street version and actually had less going for them than the ’08 MPC release, so screw ’em. This version on the other hand has all of the stuff going for it since AMT’s update in the early nineties and the only thing it lacks is the pro street tires, despite the wheels still being there.

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Actually, about tires. Allow me to ramble on about Round 2’s wheels one more time, by quoting… a quote. This kit proudly presents itself on the side of the box to contain pad printed Goodyear Polyglas GT tires. Now the quote I’m gonna, well, quote, originally is from the 1976 Dodge Dart kit, which I then quoted on the ’79 Chevrolet Nova article, and it’s about the loveliness of the pad printed tires from Round 2;

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (4)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.

So, yeah, they’ve been clowning around with those again. And like I said, I love them but they just don’t match the rim and no effort has been put into actually remotely attempting them to fit. They could go the Revell Monogram route of just adjusting every rim to the tire size they have in stock, or they could do the more difficult Japanese way of literally fashioning a ton of different tires – either way Round 2 has to put in effort and like hell they’re doing that.

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But y’know what, we’ll roll with it. They are what they are, nightmare or not, nicely pad printed tires and I hope one day Revell begins to include tire letter decals again like they did a few times in the nineties. Though at the same time, Fireball Modelworks deserves every single purchase cause of how unbelievably awesome and nice those white letter decals are.

I’ve been wanting this kit for a few years now and there were a couple of reasons not to get it thus far, and the reasons came beaming on through as I was putting it together. When I said “misery” in the second paragraph, I meant it. You see, like I said earlier, this kit is a bash-together of MPC’s old tooling and AMT Ertl’s new tooling. The engine bits are super high quality and very well produced, the interior tub, not so much. The whole thing did get a revamp but it’s all inherited parts in a sense, like for instance the instructions have two interesting bits to ’em;

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (9)It’ll tell you to take a sixteenth of a inch from the bottom of the side windows on the windshield and it’ll tell you to saw off the front of the front side of the frame under the radiator. Why? Cause it’s a mish-mash in the end, the interior tub will collide with the windshield and basically kill any form of getting the whole thing getting together and the front lip has to be sawed off the frame otherwise the bottom bit of the body with the indicators will simply not fit.

Despite that, it still won’t fit. The whole build reeks of MPC shoddiness to me, with the bumpers floating about, the wheel assembly being a fucking, terrible, horror show of a mess. Hell, lemme elaborate. The front wheels especially, they’re attached to steerable prongs you force between the frame and the inner-engine bay wall, however the holes aren’t the same size and it requires force to put them on. You know how this works, as in that it doesn’t. The weight of the wheel will eventually begin tearing the innards of the wheel out so the wheels become stuck at this awful odd angle.

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (8)But I digress. What isn’t MPC shoddiness is AMT Ertl perfection; the 440 Six Pack engine is… something else. The 340 V8 and the 440 Magnum from the Duster and Charger kits respectively are awesome and come up to about Revell level in terms of detail and how good they look in the end, and this 440 Six Pack is uniquely different in how you build it, but it’s no less amazing. Not to mention, the whole chassis was improved by AMT Ertl so despite the issues, once it comes together, it comes together. And while it comes with a whole second 426 HEMI with the velocity stacks(ala Dodge Dart), it has no option of the other, third option on the real Super Bee – the 383 Magnum.

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And like I said, the decal sheet is the biggest winner here all in all. The choice and quality of it is just immense and it makes me so super happy that for once a Round 2 kit doesn’t have a puny decal sheet. And in the end, what matters is that Round 2 did improve this kit from it’s terrible roots into a semi-modernized kit that goes a lot better together thanks to it, it’s just a shame it isn’t all the way there yet. Hell, it’s actually one of those kits where I got too frustrated with trying to make it look good and was just happy it was done.

Screw you, crooked wheels and ill fitting tires.

’70 Dodge Coronet Super Bee 440 Six Pack specifications:
Kit: MPC-869/12
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 149
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1987 Chevrolet El Camino SS – MPC

1987ElCaminoSS (1)Last year I built the ’86 El Camino SS by AMT Ertl, the Choo Choo Customs version of the El Camino with the Monte Carlo SS nose instead of the flat one. And uh, well, it was a good kit! AMT’s re-released that kit give or take six separate times and they even did two more re-releases under MPC’s brand. Totally the same kit, just… different brand. But who cares! The MPC re-release is the most recent one of them, fresh from 2011 and the when you pop the box and compare it to the 1991 release of the kit, you’ll soon stumble upon the realization that its the same kit, but with different tires!

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Though that makes the kit infinitely better, as the ’91 release has the generic Polyglas GT tires from AMT Ertl that were massively popular with them throughout the eighties but were just stupidly chunky, over sized and were actually just kind of ugly. They hardly ever suited the size of the car, they were ridiculously over-done and the only kit where they even looked remotely right was on the giant GMC Vandura/Chevy Van kits. But I digress, this kit has the nicer newer tires that are of the one-size-fits-all type that is now current Round 2 modus operandi to shove into every kit for the sake of ease.

1987ElCaminoSS (7)Anyway, since I built that kit last year I’ve been pining to give it another whirl. Try get it done right this time though skip on most of the bits that made it a Choo Choo Customs, like passing on the sidepipes and the raised hood. I saw some ’87 El Camino SS’s that have the normal flat front(a front that does exist in kit form, though only on a single-release MPC kit from 1983…) that came in a two tone color set up and had a very similar graphics package as the 1987 Monte Carlo SS, with stripes, SS logos and such in a color that catches the eye.

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All of the bigger companies have made iterations of the El Camino, so it’s not exactly a rare subject matter. Nearly every year since 1959 through 1969 has been covered by MPC, AMT Ertl and Revell and sadly it kind of ends there, my personal favorites will forever be the 1970, 1972 and 1977-1981 ones but hardly any kits of those exist. You got the few rarities like the Revell-Monogram ’78 El Camino and the handful of MPC kits of the era, but of the ’70 through ’77? Well, at best a resin kit. That’s what makes having the ultra unusual 1986 El Camino in kit form so genuinely nice, especially with the fact in mind that it’s a very well executed kit too! It’s a superb mash-up of MPC tooling with AMT Ertl’s finest era improvements, something I wish they would apply to most of MPC’s kits nowadays before just showing the same old crap out the door and asking premium prices for it.

1987ElCaminoSS (8)Underneath, it’s a ’79 El Camino from MPC, simple chassis, very basic suspension, ultra simplistic interior and far too many floating parts like the awkward manner of how the radiator slides into the body and how the firewall is attached to the interior tub. However, AMT Ertl improved on this by cutting off the front end and tooling up a totally new Monte Carlo nosecone, with clear headlights and crisp-as-sin grille(the Chevrolet lettering may as well have been photo etched, that’s how fine it is) and gave it a new set of high quality wheels that were exclusive to the El Camino through the eighties. All in all, they took what they had and they improved it significantly. This is how it should be done, you don’t have to fix everything, just make it somewhat better.

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Hell, just like the model kits, the interest for the El Camino just kind of stopped existing near the coming of the nineties. Whether this was GM’s fault or the consumer’s fault, it’s not exactly clear given both were somewhat at fault. But in my opinion, it was the finest evolution of a pick up truck. I mean, it may be my European brain wanting the best of both worlds; half American muscle, half Australian utility. While Australia’s been carrying the torch on wards with the gorgeous Holden Commodore Ute, the US has been fixated on widening the gap between straight pick up truck and ordinary sedan. The last one of these things from the States to exist was this particular car, the ’80-’87 El Camino and like I am apparently been writing so often these days with MPC and AMT Ertl kits in mind; they did a nice send-off to go with the simple… disappearance of the car itself.

1987ElCaminoSS (11)The last few El Caminos that were special were crafted up by Choo-Choo Customs up in a factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. These were little El Camino and Monte Carlo hybrids and the package was meant to be the same as the Monte Carlo upgrade; get a nice appearance package and some extra power for a bit more money, so you’d certainly stand out in the crowd. Though while the El Camino SS got the aerodynamic front and the stripes and even some brutal looking sidepipes, it didn’t get the L69(305ci/5.0L V8) engine upgrade like the Monte Carlo SS did, though the 350ci V8(which is the engine in this kit) was a option for both gas and diesels. Though, looking back at the last era of the car, you could tell GM was slowly shuttering the whole thing step-by-step, from bad feedback from customers to simply having better cars on the road from their own division. I mean, if you had a diesel El Camino, you’d be betting your income on maintenance. It also doesn’t help that while the car wanted to be a muscle car with a bed, that you only got a miserable 115 horsepower from a giant V8 was a obvious death sentence no matter how sporty you make it look.

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Like so many eighties misery pots from GM, the El Camino slowly faded into darkness throughout 1988. The only four survivors of the power era would be shot down to just two by that year, the Monte Carlo as it was known seized to be in ’88 too(before being resurrected as a sad shadow of itself) and by this point the Camaro Z/28 was beginning to have a bleaker future too now that customers were waking up to the thought that the Camaro essentially just was a more expensive and more annoying to maintain Beretta and perhaps equally as slow.

1987ElCaminoSS (17)But y’know, it’s 2017 and it’s always easier to look back and criticize than to actually do something about it, but that era is something worth remembering. And I suppose one of the biggest benefits of model car building is, no matter how shitty the car was or how bad the engine or how short the lifespan, if it was pretty – in plastic it lasts. And the ’86 El Camino is no different. Like I said, I wanted to turn it into even more of a Monte Carlo hybrid than it already was.

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So I started off with the idea of black and silver with a red line divide, like the Monte Carlo kits I’ve done before. Unfortunately, since the decal sheet was such a miserable bitch to work with, I only had the Aeroback kit’s decals left and had already used up the red lines. “However!“, I suddenly thought, I got two sheets with the golden stripes. I thought, “I can make this work“. Mind you, the decals still are true trash cause of the bad finish they were given back in the late nineties but with like nine layers of decal bonder I finally made ’em work. I embraced the metallic black-gold-metallic silver theme all the way from there on out.

1987ElCaminoSS (15)It all came down to the decals to make it work and I’m quite happy with how it panned out. The rest is all AMT Ertl, the kit just… works. It goes together decently enough with some extra improved reinforcements that keep the floaty bits actually in place some unlike the prior MPC El Camino kits. The only two issues I came across were typical MPC problems, like the chassis needing the strength of ten men to force and hold into place while overly strong glue attempts to connect the two and the fact that the front wheels are attached by a tiny bit of plastic and nothing more but pure good will keeping them aligned to the body.

’87 Chevrolet El Camino SS specifications:
Kit: MPC-712
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 87
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Landau – Revell

1977montecarlolandau (1)The Monte Carlo is one of those cars that no matter the generation, I always loved. Yes, even that thing from the nineties. And while in 2000, the Monte Carlo got a slight revival with some features returning that the early nineties so desperately seemed to want to shake and had both the support of GM Motorsports and racing teams trying to get some life back into that comatose and savaged horse, it only lasted until 2007 before being killed off all together for good in favor for the back-from-the-dead Camaro. A decision largely made to focus as many potential buyers onto that revival.

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Though honestly, it sprung to life in 1970 – peak muscle car era, as a car that was for the mid-wealth class providing luxury as well as performance. Swivel seats for easier entrance and exit, all the components you’d want for a road cruiser like cruise control and A/C systems, AM-FM radio, trim taken straight from a Beverly Hills mansion bathroom and what was shoved under the hood? Well, it would come standard with the 350ci V8 Turbo Fire small block but… it could be a gargantuan big block Chevy V8; the SS 454. For the most part, the Monte Carlo’s existence is quite possibly all thanks to the revamped Pontiac Grand Prix(What was the fuss? Well, it was a long, long, long sports coupe basically) being a success in 1969 and Chevrolet not having their own version of such a car, the blend of comfort and luxury together with burbling powerhouses and track-capable suspension.

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I mean, it was a gargantuan car… Yes, it was smaller than Cadillac Eldorado’s but, that’s like saying a 45 floor building’s smaller than the Empire State Building; it’s still huge. The Monte Carlos of 1970 through 1972 were 17 and a half feet(5.3m) long, that’s 2 feet longer than a full bore Mercedes Benz S-Klasse! All that empty engine bay real estate, woof man.

But regardless, it just sprouted out of a idea and within two years it was on the market for 1970 with all the possible options available you’d normally expect for a car with an established customer base. Suppose that’s the nice thing of being able to just… inherit all the buyer statistics from your(technically) competitor because you’re both under the same company in the end. And through the seventies, it got several changes. One of them was the one we’re talking about in this article; the 1977 version. The last of the boaty Monte Carlos. In ’78, it got cut shorter by over a foot, lighter by 800 pounds and prepped up some so that it could actually, y’know, make it from the driveway without having downed a gallon of gas. But the ’77 Monte Carlo wasn’t gonna go out on a vapid whiff, oh no. It came equipped with all the stuff that was added over the years since 1973.

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Quad square headlights, segmented grille and of course the tail lights that would stay similar all the way until the last Monte Carlo of 1988. It still had that Coke bottle shape, it still had the disgusting length of a Cadillac and of course, it had luxury. Specifically, in 1977 you could either have it as the “S Coupe”, which basically meant you had the normal hardtop, or you could get the Landau coupe. Boy if there’s ever a country club name for something so basic as a strip of vinyl on the ass end of the roof, it’s this(though of course, the landau option as a “fake convertible” is one of those pretentious things that goes back to the early 1950s). The name comes from those old almost fairy tale carriages where the two cloth tops could fold backwards for and I ain’t kidding; maximum showcasing of the passengers.

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But I digress, Revell’s the sole manufacturer of a 1973-1977 generation Monte Carlo and it comes in the shape of a extremely basic SnapTite kit. Which, I have to admit, not a bad thing at all. I mean, sadly it means it doesn’t come with a lot of parts like for instance a engine. It also means the entire chassis is one solid piece. But does this mean Revell’s lowered the bar for incredible quality all around? Hell no. You could turn this bad boy into just about anything your heart desires, just without a engine sadly. Revell first brought this quite amazing kit to the market way back in 2001 as a lowrider(for some reason, Revell had a giant lowrider craze going on in the late nineties and early 2000s) and didn’t come around to making it a proper Monte Carlo(with the right mag wheels) until 2011. Like I said, the quality is supremely high – the Monte Carlo scripts are very clear, the dash and interior detail is very high and all the little details like the segmented grille, tail lights with the chrome accents, it’s all there.

1977montecarlolandau (12)It’s a mere 36 pieces in total and it’s kind of inflated even cause it counts the movable suspension as unique pieces even though they’re firmly attached to the chassis. Speaking of which, a nice thing this kit has is adjustable ride height! It’s as simple as just forcing it up or down(it’s got a bit with teeth that with some force can be pushed up or down) so you can stance it normally, front/back up or as a lowrider – some variety I can appreciate.

Either way, I got this theme going on for some reason that I love which is to turn any Monte Carlo black. No chrome trim, or at least as little as possible unless it’s a factory option and for the most part just a simple black paint job. I did it on the ’78 El Camino, I’m doing it on the ’78 Monte Carlo kit from Trumpeter and I kind of let it go through in the ’86 and ’87 Monte Carlos as well. So I thought, yep, definitely going it here too. Though of course, it’s a Landau so it has the soft top which I had to accentuate in a different tone so it would look… correct. Though, left the trim of it body color as it is.

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In the end, it’s one of those kits that I’m glad exists even though I would’ve loved it if it got the “Basic Builder” treatment, which is a series that Revell-Monogram once did for a few models like the 1985 Camaro and such which were pretty much snap kits in nature but with a slight bump in the difficulty with requiring glue and having more in depth parts. Also, a waterslide decal sheet instead of sticks would’ve been appreciated… But y’know, this is also one of this kits that serves as an example that even the most basic snap kits can be frickin’ fantastic models. They’re definitely not just entry model kits for children or bored folks, they’re high quality kits that are easy enough for kids or those who just don’t wanna go through the effort of it all yet complicated and detailed enough to warrant a purchase from any serious minded modeler.

Hell, if we could get more models of cars of the seventies like a Pontiac Can Am or such and the only way would be via a SnapTite release? Then bring it on, I will buy friggin’ fifty if need be.

 

’77 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Landau specifications:
Kit: #85-1962
Skill Level: 1
Parts: 36
Molded in: Red, White and Black
Scale: 1/25