2005 Cadillac Escalade – Revell

2005cadillacescalade (1)SUV and pick up truck kits are few and far between, and even then they’re of wildly varying quality at best. From the simplistic yet well produced GMC Sierra and Dodge Ramcharger, to the highly detailed and excellent ’93 and ’95 Chevrolet S-10 and of course the GMC Syclone. But then, weirdly enough, there’s kits like the one here – the Cadillac Escalade. Revell’s put out two of these kits over the years, one in 2002 along with the release of the technically second generation of the Escalade and the one I have here just a short two years later. The regular Escalade, even though Revell put out a ’06 Escalade EXT(albeit as a custom version) in 2007 and AMT themselves did a stock EXT at one point, no ESV sadly.

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But, technically the second generation of the Escalade? Well, apparently there’s a direct clone of the 1999 GMC Yukon Denali to compete with the ever successful Lincoln Navigator – a big ol’ SUV with extra options, a big ol’ V8 engine and seats so comfortable and luxurious that wouldn’t be out of place in a opera house. In 2002, the Escalade was finally allowed to be its own player on the field instead of dressing a old one up in new clothes and it turned out to be a huge success! Over one hundred thousand total sales from ’02 through ’06, when the updated model was revealed.

2005cadillacescalade (4)I always, always adored the Escalade. Ever since I got to play Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition back in… what was it, 2005 I think, I loved the Escalade. It featured on the box art in vermillion red metallic with these giant TIS-04 wheels and while I utterly hate how lowriders can truly ruin a car or how Hollywood loves to turn SUVs into everything they shouldn’t be – there’s just something about that one that clicked with me. I ended up going with metallic black cause the spray paint merchant I always shop from didn’t have vermilion red in stock at the moment but I will definitely have to buy it regardless for the ’12 Chevy Cruze and the eventual ’05 Escalade EXT that I am gonna buy and build sooner or later.

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Though unlike the EXT kit, this one doesn’t have a engine. The only semblance of a engine is on the extremely well detailed bottom side. The chassis is so utterly well detailed that it kind of hurts – there’s obviously a ton of dedication done by the creators of the kit, why would they skip on the engine? Too costly to tool a 5.3L Vortec V8? It’s just… such a goddamn shame. I have to admit, a lot of the sadness lies with the Escalade EXT kit having a full engine and engine bay detail, but alas I’m just droning on now.

2005cadillacescalade (6)The other extremely nice bits of the kit lie with Revell’s dedication in making this kit friggin’ epic. Tinted windows, for instance, a thing the real Escalade has by default much like many of the luxury SUVs and this kit supplies tinted windows for the rear doors, rear windows and trunk window and clear for the rest. It comes with two sets of custom wheels, one set’s a wire dish wheel and the other are these half-DUB Cyphen S745, half-TIS 04 looking wheels. Hell, maybe they’re properly licensed, I wouldn’t know, 20 inch plus SUV wheels isn’t my area of expertise sadly. And with ’em come these really nicely detailed rubber Toyo Proxes tires that feel as close to the real thing as they can get, like it’s up there with Aoshima and Tamiya tire quality.

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Something else that’s a rarity among model kits; functional trunk. Though it was briefly a common thing on the California Wheels and Uptown series of Revell kits, like the Chrysler 300C, Cadillac STS-V, Dodge Magnum and so on, they had functional doors or a functional trunk or in some cases even both. I dunno, generally I don’t really care but with the luxurious nature of the Cadillac obviously the interior is something that needs to be taken care of and seen. It’s also partially due to the 2-in-1 nature of the kit, as one half of the kit also has these giant speakers and subwoofers in the trunk instead of a bench seat, even though it does come with the bench seat as you can see on my take on it.

2005cadillacescalade (10)Despite the utter lack of a engine, the kit makes up for that by shoving detail elsewhere. As I said, the chassis got a massive amount of love but the interior is no different. The quality of the seats, the seatbelts on them, the dashboard functions, the ceiling TV screen, the consoles, so forth, they’re all crisply detailed. Plus a good solid amount of decals to bring the extra detail out some more. What I truly love about the interior of this kit is how it’s put together; you build essentially the entire interior frame onto the chassis with the insides of the doors and walls and you slot it into the empty body shell and they both connect like a friggin’ puzzle piece, absolute perfection. The ’06 Dodge Magnum kit has a similar interior construction and… it’s just so solid and it goes into the shell so damn well that I honestly think this is how they should do it more often!

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Though of course, not many cars are as padded inside as Cadillacs… It’s like triple brick walls in houses up in Scandinavia in there. But to carry on about the positives here, the rear end of the car is also just stellar. The headlamp housing is slotted inside and connecting the tail lamps isn’t awkward as all hell for a change, plus bonus points to Revell for individually segment the reverse lights! No need to use a silver marker for once plus it looks a thousand times better for a change!

So… onto the less than stellar. Well, first of all, the way the kit’s packaged without any supports for the body, especially the rear end, it’s super prone to warping. Mine was bent inwards a fair amount and the grille had cracked and according to the delightful folks over at model kit forums I found out that I wasn’t the only victim. The other downsides? Well, it would’ve been nice to have stock wheels… I wouldn’t have used them, but they did shape them for the chassis, would’ve been nice! I know it would require extra rubber tires and all that hassle but y’know, I can dream right!

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And while the decals are subtle and let some nice real world licensing show through(like the Steve Foley Cadillac branded plate, nice one Revell), they were incredibly frugal with the decals for this kit. Two thirds of the sheet are the ugly-as-sin flame decals, the rest is Cadillac and Escalade emblems, oil pan sticker and the interior bits and while I won’t be asking for duplicates(even though AMT is beginning to make it a custom to include spares, thank God), just two Escalade scripts even though there’s obviously three on the car? No center console decal? I mean, it just would’ve been nice.

2005cadillacescalade (20)But meh, at least for the little issues and downsides and the kit having no engine, it was well worth it. Well worth it. I love building SUV and pick up truck kits every now and then and having a Cadillac with the collection is a hell of a welcome sight. I still would kill for my personal favorite Escalade, the ’15 ESV with the long tail lights that looks like a Volvo 850 Turbo from space(that’s a good thing!) but, hey, maybe some day. The kit inspired me to look for the Escalade EXT and get that thing going in vermilion red metallic so it can join it’s shorter brother. Serious props to Revell for this one.

’05 Cadillac Escalade specifications:
Kit: #85-2881
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 95
Molded in: White and Black
Scale: 1/25

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1971 Plymouth Duster 340 – AMT Ertl

1971plymouthduster340 (1)Man, you gotta love the Dodge Dart/Plymouth Valiant line. Well, the second coming of the line at least, right before the oil crisis turned it into a ghastly ectoplasmic fart of its former self. It kicked off in 1960, so it’s actually reasonably young compared to most of the other cars in the Chrysler line-up, though of course, it lasted a mere 19 years before being shelved for good. It had a bit of a wandering early years, first year being a slightly smaller yet still full size Dodge. The ’61 through late ’62 Dart saw its first true direction towards becoming the compact we know love today, with the ’63 Dart taking on the A-platform from there on ’til the day it got shelved.

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All the while, Plymouth being Dodge’s “step-in” brand, which is business speak for “we need to have a cheaper, crappier cousin that is the same, yet different“, the Valiant sprung to live along every Dart, from 1960 all the way until 1976 and by 1967 and 1968, you could really tell where they were headed with the cars – a straight divide between more leisurely Dart/Valiant for the cruising type, compact and durable or the incredibly sporty and bare bones entry into the performance market. In 1970, they finally gave it the split like they had done with other models before like the Dodge Coronet/Super Bee and Plymouth Road Runner and allowed it to form its own little mark on history as the Plymouth Duster, kind of a blend between power and affordability that the late sixties’ cars were becoming known for, and the car performed so well in sales that Dodge demanded its own version in ’71, the appropriately named Demon. Allegedly built to compete with the Chevy Vega, Ford Maverick and AMC Hornet, hell it even was advertised to fight away a Volkswagen Beetle of all friggin’ things in LIFE Magazine in 1972!

1971plymouthduster340 (4)And back in 1998, AMT Ertl produced a kit version of the ’71 Duster. Technically, the kit’s a 2-in-1 and has something I appreciate so much, words can’t quite describe it – engine options. Revell only ever does it with their convenient Chrysler 440 Magnum/426 HEMI engines cause the Magnum and HEMI rocker covers and intake manifold are so easily interchangeable but AMT’s got the only 1/25th scale 340 engine that has the crispness and quality of a Revell mold, and what did they do with it? They gave it the standard four barrel carb 340 as well as the Six Pack carb set up with the different air cleaner. What else makes it a 2-in-1? Well, the kit can be built like I did it, the 340 four barrel equipped Duster, or the 340-6 Duster Twister(with the twin ram-air intakes and the “twister” hood stripes) and they’re subtle enough to not require massive changes, yet they are truly two different cars.

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The late nineties, AMT Ertl had a wizard working the tools cause the 1971 Dodge Charger(and the Super Bee variant I built a while back) and this kit are of supreme quality, the build quality is epic and the detail on the parts and body are of a level that I can only describe as “Revell-like”. And I know, I shouldn’t consistently hold up a bar to Revell and yell at the others to keep up, but Japanese and Chinese kit designers are literally cranking out kit after kit without much of a hassle and Revell is keeping up appearances with several new tools every year. AMT Ertl’s been skirting by on re-release after re-release but in that nineties era? They dared to make new stuff and it worked out wonderfully, even though they did re-release this particular kit eleven separate times since and with worse qualities about ’em like none of the 340 stripes in some and no stock wheels in others.

1971plymouthduster340 (9)Speaking of the stripes, like I said it comes with all the things you’d need to make a 340 Wedge or a 340 Twister in both black and white, though sadly given the kit’s from 1998 the decals have gone milky as all shit. But y’know, I made due with ’em as the age only really shows through on the rear end of the car. Other than the decal issues, it is really a truly fantastic kit. It’s so well thought out, even the separate frame from the chassis where the engine sits on actually has the structural integrity to be able of holding onto the weight, unlike the ’71 Charger kit. The wheels actually sit on their supports and they actually stay in their tires! Holy shit, the wheels are good for a change!

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Though it’s not all perfect, it may be just this release in particular but one giant niggle is that the headlight lenses that came with this kit do not fit the headlight bezels at all. Like, twice as big as they should be. I really do believe they may be from something like a ‘Cuda or something else with a single big headlamp. I chopped it down to the point it would at least fit within the grille, which is still 2 steps from even looking remotely good. But… screw it, like I said, I doubt it’s a problem for any other of the ten releases besides this one given the box art models and some built models I’ve spotted have correct headlamps at least.

The only semi-downside of the kit? Well, the interior is basic as sin yet nicely detailed. “What the holy mother of Hell does that mean?”, I hear you ask. Good question! Well, the dashboard is this weird mix of shapes and stuff that is meant to mimic the ’71 Duster’s dash but it doesn’t… look right. Yet on the other side of  it all, the seats, doorpanels and everything else but the dials is of supreme quality! So it’s on this odd point of being super detailed, yet undetailed on the one part where it mattered.

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But lemme get back to the engine for a moment, the 340 cubic inch V8 is glorious. Like I said, it’s one of the few if not only 340 cubic inch engines in 1/25th scale that is this detailed. The MPC engines from literally 1970/1971 are utter shit, no matter the excuse of time, given they haven’t updated the mold since those years… The ’71 Charger had a similarly detailed engine bay and this one is no different with all the reservoirs, wires and hoses present and accounted for. The only wires missing are the sparkplug wires and I just don’t find it fun anymore to wire up a engine these days so I do it only when I truly feel like it but, I really should’ve with this one. The whole thing is so supremely detailed, the wiring it up would’ve completed the picture.

1971plymouthduster340 (18)All in all, it was a fun kit to put together. The “Yellow Green” RAL color spraypaint pops nicely in the sunlight and looks to be close enough to the Sassy Green hi-impact color and that matte black hood that goes over into the C-pillar, I love it. Easily one of the prettiest Plymouths that ever saw the light of day, right up there with the ‘Cuda. It’s a shame the Duster has just… popped out of existence after 1976.

’71 Plymouth Duster 340 specifications:
Kit: AMT099-8437R
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 104
Molded in: Gray
Scale: 1/25

1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe – Revell

1987MonteCarloAerocoperedux (1)Last year I built Revell’s wonderful Aerocoupe version of Monogram’s late eighties ’86 Monte Carlo kit. And uh, boy, I didn’t do it justice. Not at all. Not even one bit. Actually, I would even go as far as to say, that the work I pulled on the kit was… quite shit. So I was thinking, either I delete the article and put this one up with this as a disclaimer, or I would just do it as a redux and leave the other piece up for what it is just with a reference to here and have it link this way, it is technically more a ’86 MC than it is a ’87 so… I should point out, that kit was opened before and the person had attempted to start it but never finished it and it was missing literally half the kit including the 1987 exclusive smoothed out rear bumper so I had to compensate for the whole thing by buying a 1986 Monte Carlo kit to steal bits and bobs from.

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With the age the whole decal sheet had gone to hell too as the decals literally went to about 60 pieces upon touching, so I was forced to use the 1986 decals that were literally from 1986… Milky, ugly and yellowed to sin, but it beat having nothing on there.

1987MonteCarloAerocoperedux (10)So I came in prepared this time! The kit is rare, very rare. It’s also from that era in the nineties that Revell made easily their best kits and improved on older ones in spectacular fashion, giant expanded decal sheets, all parts from separate releases included in one, so forth. The ’80 Chevrolet Citation X-11 is a good example of this, but this Monte Carlo SS is right up there with it. I bought decal bonder from Testors, I used spray nail varnish for my own decals and it works just as well but the Testors can is far more tough and lets go of a lot less pieces.

The Monte Carlo itself is a car that actually managed to last well into the 2000s, believe it or not. I mean, at a quarter of the muscle-luxury mix it once possessed but it lasted. And well, I suppose I should say that the nineties Monte Carlo was pretty much just a elongated Chevrolet Lumina with some extra luxury but for the most part from the mid seventies onwards, it was largely success all around. It had the luxurious Landau versions, the sporty muscle car versions and the ones that sat neatly in between. Also, due to NASCAR, the Monte Carlo also saw the SS badge becoming a beefed up, front-swapped winner line alongside the normal one from 1983 onward.

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And a lot of stuff kept carrying over from NASCAR onto the production vehicles, for both the Monte Carlo and the Pontiac Grand Prix, the half-Hurst/Olds Cutlass and half-Monte Carlo Pontiac that history has forgotten about. One of these things that carried over was the Aerocoupe glass rear window for the 1986 and 1987 model years. It was already a thing on late seventies Chevy Caprices, though more as a sign of luxury and less of a, well, speed influenced bit. And as I mentioned earlier, NASCAR’s rules dictated that a certain number of cars needed to be produced in order to have the aerodynamic changes to be allowed, how many were necessary? 200. Just 200. In ’87, the last year of the Monte Carlo being in production, over 6000 of the 39000 were Aerocoupes that year so they were quite a common sight among the rest of them.

1987MonteCarloAerocoperedux (13)Like I said at the beginning, Revell did just one production run of the Aerocoupe model kit, which feels awfully similar to the real life version also being a supremely brief and desired run. And even as a whole new kit, yet again the decals fell the fuck apart. I mean, Goddammit there’s just no getting around the fact that decal sheets from Revell between 1997 and 2000 were absolute balls. So thank God for that decal bonder I used, cause it finally allowed me to get the decals on at last.

And the kit is still joyously simple, as nearly all the Monogram kits were of the 1980’s. Granted, the engine bay is “slab like” in detail, which is the best descriptor I can give for it. Though this is standard Monogram modus operandi, highly detailed engine, superb body detail, good interior detail and meh engine bay. But it’s thanks to that, this kit goes together so nicely and even with very little effort, it can end up looking fantastic. There’s something to be said about the minds at Monogram and Revell making up very nice kits that go together properly all the while MPC was around at the time schlepping by on mediocrity before being picked up by Ertl in 1985 and combined into AMT Ertl.

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I gotta say, kits like these? These were Revell-Monogram’s golden years. And you know what, they have been consistently great since, and seem to be keeping up on their line of quality. I always thoroughly enjoy building these kits, and it pains me to know that these at the ripe age of eighteen years already(the Aeroback kit was released in late 1998), will likely never see the light of day once more. Normally I bitch and moan about the laziness of just reproducing a kit, but Revell has proven many times they are all but lazy when it comes to reproducing kits, no matter how niche the subject of an aeroback and the last hurrah of the second act of the muscle car might be.

’87 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe specifications:
Kit: #85-2576
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 92
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/24

2012 Chevrolet Camaro RS 45th Anniversary Edition – Revell

2012camaro45th (1)Rick Wagoner, the CEO of General Motors ’til 2009 claimed on August 20th, 2006 that he and his staff weren’t completely braindead and would bring back the Camaro for real, no bullshit. He claimed it would follow the design cues of the ’06 concept that was unveiled at the NAIA show 7 months prior on January 6th. As timing would have it, Chrysler showed off the Dodge Challenger concept the same year at the Detroit Auto Show. And sadly, while all the winners of the muscle car eras got revamped, the Pontiac Firebird never came back, hell Pontiac as a whole got killed off to allow GM to actually survive for a bit longer in 2010.

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But I digress, we got the Camaro back in 2009 for realsies for the 2010 model year. Now, both AMT Ertl and Revell have been on top of the Camaro hype train for most of their existences. Both companies have been making models of their “new introductions” so to say, take for example AMT’s devotion to the ’67 Camaro kit that got released in the same year as the car itself and every year from there on out ’til 76. Then, in 1982, both Revell and AMT produced new tool Camaro kits for the third generation’s arrival. Same again in 1993, Revell-Monogram and AMT Ertl made their own versions of the fourth generation. So it’s not strange that yet again, both model kit companies would be all over this. It took both of them ’til 2012 to put out a proper 2010 Camaro kit.

2012camaro45th (5)And hotdamn did we get some variety. We got the Special Edition, which I got here, with the standard SS model but also a 1LE inspired look as an alternative, while AMT Ertl put out the normal ’10 SS as well but also some variants like a highway patrol car and the 2010 Indianapolis Pace Car so in terms of choice we got nothing to complain. However, when it comes to how well both of the new tools end up going together, I gotta hand it to Revell. I mean, AMT isn’t far behind, it’s just a fair bit clunkier all around. Nearly every aspect of it has something that won’t sit well or required some serious force to get into place.

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Now one of my first model car kits I’ve built since picking up the hobby again was the 2010 Camaro, though the one I got my hands on was the Revell of Germany re-release with a more… European touch to the whole ordeal. Small touch-ups here and there, some omissions and in the end just a smidge more European. Like Dutch, German, Belgian and French plates, bigger decal sheet, but also some stuff not being there like the entire body kit option and second pair of wheels. And back then, I first encountered something I absolutely frickin’ hate about Revell’s early 2010 and onwards kits; the way they handle the wheels.

2012camaro45th (6)They decided that for some reason, metal rods and little metal screws to attach the big heavy wheels to. So here’s the kicker; no wheel they’ve ever made fits on these things. On top of that, it’s real hard to force them on when the complicated suspension bits are literally millimeters thick at best so you’ve got no chance in hell to actually get ’em on properly. This all in the name of getting wheels that turn… And guess what! They still won’t after cause the Goddamn things will drop off at the slightest tiniest little bit of breeze coming near ’em.

So that explains why the stance of the wheels themselves is… crooked, at best. Like this it’s the only way they stay on, otherwise it’ll look like a Camaro left in early nineties movie Bronx. Just a car sitting on the axles. Speaking of stance, the gargantuan ride height is… well, I just don’t know how to fix it. The model has a lovely complicated suspension, it’s detailed and super well cast but it’s also incredibly hard to get the ride height down without omitting bits.

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But enough bitching for the time being, the kit, aside from those issues, is unbelievably wonderful. For instance, a thing I love – metal exhaust tips! Good stuff, excellent addition! Making the spoiler separate? Thank you! The incredibly detailed suspension? Hell yes, Revell, hell yes. But the strongest part, by a fair amount, even though everything else cast wise is impeccable? The interior. Sweet mother of God the interior has a quality that is on a level of its own. Granted, Revell is known for going all in on detail on every side and this is no different but there’s so much detail everywhere. The fit is rather good too, despite the wheel fit being an absolute pile of shit, the rest snaps and fits together supremely well plus it takes very little effort on your end to make this a very good looking model cause Revell did a lot of the work for us luckily with the decal sheet and the super crisp quality.

2012camaro45th (10)Though I had never considered to expand on the four Camaro Anniversary Editions, given they were actually as they were from the box with no outside help for the most part. Revell with the ’02 Camaro that has the 35th Anniversary decals and AMT with the ’92, ’97 and ’17 anniversary editions that were all proper renditions of the real deal. And one thing has to be said, I said it before in the article on the FIFTY Camaro; the Camaro has a weird anniversary going on… Technically, the Camaro is 43. Hell, 42 even but it’s 43 on a technical note that even though the Camaro went on sale again in 2009, it was for the “2010 Model Year” as car manufacturers call it. But the Camaro went shelved from mid 2002 onwards until then, all the while the Mustang kept going strong putting out a retro-inspired(much like our dear Camaro here) update that went back to its roots… in 2005.

20170630_133828So we’ve got the 45th Anniversary done with and the FIFTY as well, yet it has friggin’ 2 more years to do to even deserve the 45th one to begin with. But I digress… I was pointed towards Slixx Decals, a model car decal shop for just about everything decal related to any competition car you can name. And they rarely do stock decals, it’s actually super out of character for them to do this particular sheet which has the 2012 45th stripes and logos, the 2010 Transformer Bumblebee stripes and logos but also ZL1 emblems, the proper SS stripes and all of the super rare street version of drag COPO Camaros. And that inspired me to get one of these done now I knew it was possible without having to mess around in Photoshop and create my own sheet.

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Which I am doing for the ’87 Camaro 20th Anniversary Edition that’ll pop up on the website at some point or another. But the decal sheet from Slixx gave me 95% of the work pre-made on a nice sheet… The rest? Well, I didn’t have access to Chevrolet’s American line of paints so I took the next best thing and maintaining quality – I bought a can of Mercedes Benz’s metallic black paint, or rather “Obsidian Black/Obsidianschwarz” and used that instead. I mean, it may not be the right brand or even technically the right color but at least it’s a very good color nonetheless! And I gotta admit, I am a fan of the 45th Anniversary Camaro’s colors. The stripes are a really nice offset against the color and the bright red stripe highlighting the 45 does grab the attention rather well. On top of that I’m trying something new, Motip’s got this line of chrome-ish paints that are meant to replicate the proper chrome though I figured out that if you only do two coats instead of the required four to six, you get the perfect polished silver look on rims like most modern cars have these days. But I’m just harping on now…

2012camaro45th (16)In the end, even if it was a super unnecessary commemorative edition, I am happy as hell that it exists cause it allows me to expand the Anniversary collection from four up to 6. Though, the 20th version doesn’t quite count based on the fact that the only differences from the standard models was the little embroidered 20th Anniversary logo on the dash but meh, screw it, it’s gonna be a part of the line up.

’12 Chevrolet Camaro RS 45th Anniversary Edition specifications:
Kit: #85-4239
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 115
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1979 Chevrolet Nova Custom – MPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1971 Dodge Charger Super Bee 440 – AMT Ertl

71superbeebox1971 was a good year for muscle cars all in all, we’ve gotten several overhaul of models that year like the ’71 Mustang becoming more square, the ’71 Charger becoming less square, the ’71 ‘Cuda becoming even more of a brutal beast to be reckoned with, the ’71 Javelin AMX took on its now iconic shape and it just goes on and on like this. Among the awesome new editions, facelifts and continuations of great cars came the shift of Super Bee exteriors, from being a Coronet to being a Charger all of the sudden. And again, just like most of Chrysler’s vehicles, the B-body vehicles got a friggin’ plethora of choices for the buyer.

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The Super Bee was introduced as the sports version, one trim/price level under the Charger R/T but generally just as wonderful. You got literally choose from everything, 340ci V8 all the way through to 440 R/T, including the 426 HEMI(God, a 426 HEMI cost 800 bucks 1971 cash, which is roughly five grand in 2017 cash). Ramcharger hood? 383 side-intakes? Hidden headlights like the ’67-’70? Or fitted lamps? Body colored trim? Vinyl top? Bench seat? Generally, obviously nearly all the vehicles came with their pre-designated trim level installed, like the R/T got the highest tier stuff, side vents, 3-vent hood, so forth, but the late sixties were the era of dealer-orders.

1971superbee (3)You could have your car equipped with a mish-mash of trim level parts, if you had the cash for it and a dealer with connections. Sadly, the ’71 Charger was also the last of many things. The 440 Six Pack engine was discontinued for 1972, as were the hi-impact colors that now truly define muscle cars and worst of all; the Super Bee was killed off. Which is a friggin’ shame, given how good it looked.

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I built the Charger R/T model last year already, the kit I had was the AMT “Pro Shop” version which had a totally pre-painted kit, start to finish. All you had to do was add small details like the indicator lights and the side markers and that was just about it and it was a fantastic little kit! I loved it, it was properly done before hand and sometimes it’s just nice to do something that takes little effort to keep your enthusiasm up high. But ever since then I actually really wanted to build the regular kit and I kept hearing about how good this particular era of AMT Ertl’s detail and casting was, so I bought this kit and a ’71 Plymouth Duster 340 which is coming soon, which apparently of equal super high quality.

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But then I stumbled upon Keith Marks’ decal sheet for the ’71 Super Bee and on top of that, Kevin of Missing Link Resin Casters has a whole conversion set to turn it into a 440 equipped Super Bee, proper bumpers, hood and all. Which I will update on the model once they come in of course, just a matter of cracking the tail bumper off and installing the new one and hey-presto. And I finally got my reason for building it again, it’ll be just different enough to warrant a similar Charger R/T model.

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So my first thoughts were, alright let’s try and make it even more different while remaining within the realm of possibilities. First one was, hell yes, A-54 code colored and louvered tail-light bumpers. Two, red. Red as Goddamn sin. Three, vinyl top. I’m still not great at hand-crafting the suckers but I feel like I’m improving at least, the only hitch I had was that the satin black I use for it had gone old and glossy no matter the stirring so I had to quickly cover it up again with some matte. Four, some Magnum 500 wheels with Cooper Cobra tire letters. And the rest? Well the rest is actually AMT Ertl’s doing. Folks are right, it is just as detailed and fancy as the Pro Shop release and just as unbelievably nice to build.

1971superbee (6)The cast quality is so unbelievably high, down to the seams of the seats and the extremely clear Charger scripts on the body. The grille and tail valances have supreme detail and was all a breeze to let pop cause with the foundation being so friggin’ well detailed, just meant a single coat of paint and a bit of rubbing would replicate factory level detail. Goddamn, I hope they earned back every cent triple on this cast and mold, that’s how supremely high level it is and it deserves all the praise it can get. I kind of think I should’ve wired the engine up cause the detailed engine bay deserves it but… I dunno, I just don’t enjoy doing it too often and I shouldn’t force it on myself cause it’ll just have me half-assing it supremely.

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The 440 Magnum under the hood is arguably better cast than Revell’s 440 block, which as y’all may know, I rank up there nearly highest on the list of Revell engine blocks. While Revell’s Dodge engine bays are excellent, the addition of the A/C and the smoothness of how the engine goes together, I’d argue it’s a grade above Revell’s. Hell, I can only give this kit two faults all in all;

1971superbee (11)One’s just a personal wish that would kill off creativity but… screw it, gotta throw it out there. The interior shell is built attaching the doors and such to the chassis, which is fine and allows for us to add the detail to the door panel like the wood grain and chrome accents, but it’ll always snap off when you gotta force it into the body shell. I’m stuck on the thought between “should detail come before structural integrity” or “should structural integrity overcome detail”. Obviously, it’s detail overcomes structural strength, but it could’ve used some more strength, like a insert for the back pillar pads or something. The second is a bit of a pet peeve – the entire engine rests on a single square frame and the frame is only attached by a third of the whole thing so chances of it snapping off anywhere during the insertion of the chassis/interior or while you’re working on anything else is Goddamn massive. It looks better like this, yes. But functions a thousand times worse than were it so that the front frame was cast to the chassis already. There is a third fault but that’s no issue of the kit and more cause of the previous owner’s care of the kit – the chassis got warped significantly and thanks to that it flatout refuses to allow the rear valance to connect to the trunk which causes that giant wedge you see in the pictures. Though of course, once Missing Link sends the rear end; that’ll be fixed!

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But still, y’know, annoyances. Mere annoyances. It’s still a unbelievable kit, even the instructions are some of the best I’ve ever seen with a complete list of interior and exterior colors, trim options, and such. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the ’71 Duster kit has to offer. And of course, one the Missing Link bits come in I am definitely updating this article with the new parts attached and a short bit about ’em.

’71 Dodge Charger Super Bee 440 specifications:
Kit: AMT30053-1HD
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 114
Molded in: Gray
Scale: 1/25

1991 Nissan Silvia Turbo K’s RASTY S13 – Aoshima

1991silviaS13 (1)Every once in a while I enjoy building one of these Japanese car kits, especially those by Tamiya and Aoshima. They’ve always been five miles ahead of anything else and they do detail like no other has ever done. Fujimi runs a close third and even Hasegawa ranks highly up there, all of ’em just do top stuff when it comes to whatever you get your hands on. I mean, I’m forever one of those dipshits that is infatuated with all things American, especially the good ol’ lead laced gasoline powered V8’s that literally drank away the world’s supply gasoline one boat ride to a Texaco at a time – but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the other side of the planet’s offerings. And uh, forgive the jab at old Americana life there, I love American V8 powered muscle cars and I will forever but boy they do deserve the slap every now and again.

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Of all the Japanese cars out there, my favorites are easily the legendary R33 and R34 Nissan Skylines, the Mitshubishi Lancer IV through X line and the Nissan Silvia, which unfortunately just like the Skyline rarely ever showed itself outside the Japanese domestic market, hell the only cousin I ever seen in real life as a regular ordinary car was it’s 200SX cousin which was a European spec version of the discontinued-yet-continued-for-export 180SX and even then they only shared a chassis for the most part.

1991silviaS13 (9)But when it comes to drifting, generally I don’t really care. Actually, I should correct myself and say that I don’t care at all. Which I suppose is a shame, cause the cars not only look amazing, they’re wondrous pieces of tech themselves too. Plus it’s a feat of strength in itself when you can control a car so well you can turn it on a dime and cause its ass to come within millimeters of a wall and look stylish doing so. Now Aoshima’s been doing a line of drift cars for God knows how long now, you name a company or a tuning shop with a car under their wing and chances are they got a kit of it one way or another. Rasty, a small car maintenance and tuning company a few kilometers outside of Tokyo in a suburb called Shiroi, happened to have such a car ready for kitting.

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It’s a rather unique take on the Silvia S13 with this gargantuan body kit and a wing so large it could just about take off but despite the fact that this kit has no engine(and oddly enough it does have a moving hood, but I suppose that’s likely cause Aoshima also does proper detailed engines for the Silvia kits, though sadly they only packaged it with one kit so far), it does have a ton of legacy parts from the earlier S13 releases such as the S13 Turbo I mentioned before that does come with the proper SR20DET I4 engine, it has both early and late headlight frames and lamps, it has normal interior pieces and steering wheels, plus a nice addition I always love from Aoshima – left hand drive set-up.

Though I should mention, two of these kits exist and I apparently got a re-release which is far nicer to deal with all in all(one’s from 2013 and this one’s from 2016). The original is molded in white and whatnot, this one is cast in the colors of the car and the interior, plus the wheels are pre-painted, so bonus!

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But what I truly love about this kit and by God, I do mean, love; the wheels. It has separate high quality chrome rings that you simply glue onto the rims proper and it makes for such a clean, good look. No hassle with paint, nothing. It’s simple, it’s elegant and fuck me sideways do I wish more kit companies would take this approach with wheels, especially if they’re deep and chrome ringed like these.

1991silviaS13 (14)So what else can be said? Well, sadly no engine though I am definitely gonna buy the S13 kit with the SR20DET engine in it, cause I do want a stock Silvia at one point or another for funsies. The whole thing goes together like a friggin’ dream, plus it all sits right at the end and doesn’t feel like the slightest nudge might make everything snap off. Though, the wheels are turnable and have this nasty habit of going crooked under their own weight a bit, but whatever man, small print I guess. If slightly on-the-piss wheels is what needs to happen for a kit that goes together this well to be able to exist, then so be it!

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It’s such a lovely, simplistic yet complicated build. But then again, that is more or less the trademark of Japanese model kits. Authentic as all sin, beautiful, but simple in most places. And believe me, that is no complaint at all. I seriously enjoy these types of kits every now and again cause it’s not only different, but they are also damn near stress free. It’s a nice solid fun build from start to finish.

’91 Nissan Silvia Turbo K’s RASTY S13 specifications:
Kit: “The Tuned Car” series, No. 6
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 113
Molded in: Black, Gray
Scale: 1/24

1980 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – MPC

1980firebirdtransam_box.jpgOkay, imagine this. It’s January 1979, the new Firebird Trans Am just a few months prior was beginning to hit the market with the updated front end and darkened out tail and celebrated its 10th anniversary with style. Two years before, Smokey and the Bandit lit the fire under the Firebird popularity and made it go stratospheric, effectively making the Firebird the “go-to” muscle car of the late seventies. However, in April of ’79 the second energy crisis crippled the United States once more and even stricter regulations had to be made to curb the giant usage of oil they no longer could import.

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So cue 1980 coming around and the Firebird needed to be changed somewhat, all the while the hype train kept rolling. So they decided on the turbocharged 301ci V8 which was a smaller engine option on the previous Firebirds and the 305ci V8, the standard in the Camaro which effectively brought the Camaro and Firebird back to even lines on the performance front. Other than that, the Firebird stayed the same for the most part, some new wheel choices and a couple more color shades were added to the buyers’ folder. Part of the hype train was MPC with their annual kits, which was in the process of making another Firebird release that they had been dutifully doing since 1968. Though every new facelift or so, MPC would get a contract by General Motors or for General Motors, whichever the hell it could’ve been, to make promotional kits. Promo kits basically entailed a detailed body, somewhat detailed chassis and depending on the car; a detailed interior. But most importantly? Rolling wheels, oh yeah. That was a kicker. I mean, who gives a damn? Right, the folks who usually got these kits were the actual car buyers who were given one by the dealership for their kids to build or to “display” that they’re a proud you-name-it owner. Hell 99% of the time, it was pre-built in a little box, this ’80 Firebird T/A being a buildable kit apparently is a super rare occurrence.

1980firebirdtransam (5)Promo kits were pretty damn popular throughout the fifties and sixties but as the seventies rolled around, the divide between promo kits and just, regular kits, was beginning to get really wide. Promo kits by this point were just there to be given to the car buyers, and at most if it weren’t for that, had a mail order at the dealership where you could order one of these kits for two or three bucks.

Here I got the ’79 release for the upcoming 1980 Firebird Trans Am as a promo kit, which means it’s all molded in one color besides a couple of “accenting” bits and has screws that allow the body to be tightly secured to the chassis. It is entirely the same as the 1979 Firebird promo, down to the friggin’ box, but what the hell I can overlook ’em for that one – they’re meant to be flashy dealership pieces after all.

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Now, I should admit – I built the 1979 Pontiac Firebird T/A a year ago and… well, I won’t lie; it was shit. It’s one of those MPC releases that went the other of two ways. You see, MPC kits either go in the way that it’s reasonable by all means, not bad, not great, a kit you can have fun with and improve on to make great. Like the ’76 Dart, or the ’81 Omni 024. Hell, even the ’80 Volaré was pretty good in that way. But then you got the distinctively terrible ones, where the kit went the other way. Where it was meant to be a bland, unoriginal pile of wank that was no fun to build and certainly no fun to expand upon. For instance, the ’73 Cougar or the ’67 GTO. The ’79 Firebird was a kit I tried so damn hard on to get a reasonable result out of and… to no avail. I thought I could mend the situation of it and even with a ton of advice of those who failed with this kit before, I just couldn’t do it. It was becoming half a tube of epoxy and a bunch of sweat, blood and tears and it still looked like crap. So, I abandoned it. It was finished, yeah, but it looked half done. I was quite ashamed of the way it turned out and had hardly a positive word of it, so I didn’t even bother writing an article for it and the only evidence of this mess that exists is the picture on the Collection page.

1980firebirdtransam (2)Then I came across this one on eBay, all wrapped up for damn near nothing. And I couldn’t resist, I thought at first it was a pre-built promo model that I could dismantle and give a proper model kit freshener, but then I held the box and it made the noise of a bunch of sprues sliding about in the box. That was the first pleasant surprise I got from this model kit. The second pleasant surprise lies with the nature of this kit…

It’s a supremely easy kit, it’s 37 parts in total and that’s including the four headlights, tires, wheels and wheel backings. So in reality, it’s somewhere around the 20 if it weren’t for things like the fender flares being on separate sprues. But the surprise lied with the fact that this kit goes together fantastically. And it gave me a weird but positive lesson; MPC should do simple kits like this. The engines that MPC did in the 1970s were pretty damn awful, so awful that most modelers wouldn’t even bother giving it the 100% treatment with engine wires or would even go as far as to epoxy the hood shut. And this engine-less simplistic as sin build… it’s so smooth and goes together so nicely, it gives me nothing but feelings of all those MPC kits could’ve been so much better if it had gone down this road.

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But of course, who would pay full retail price for 30 odd part kits? Not a damn soul, I reckon. Anyway, this kit in particular could come in two color choices for as far as I’m aware. Either in black with the golden bird decals or in “Francisco red” with the same decals as well. The black one is ungodly expensive, while the Francisco red one is balls cheap. So I did what any reasonable soul would do; buy the red one and make Mick Jagger proud by painting it black all around. Granted, the rare red color is nice though and it would take hardly any work to get a nice red Firebird out of it, but I much prefer the all black one.

Another nice thing that this kit has that the normal 1979 full kit doesn’t is the Pontiac snowflake wheels, I love those and their omission in the ’79 kit was such a damn shame! Though of course, speaking of omissions, it’s lacking the frickin’ door mirrors. MPC has been known for the re-use of the same shape of door mirror since ’73 in several kits(most Mopar kits at least), and honestly having those would’ve meant that there was a set at least. So I stole a couple from a old Mercury kit I had lying around in shambles. One piece that was left from the 1979 kit that did turn out to be useful? The whole decal sheet. I made it red on white at the time so thankfully, I had the whole golden bird set left! The Trans Am scripts, the bird, so forth.

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I learned some things from that kit, too. For instance, I attempted to give the headlights some more depth and the tail light which in this kit is a solid black piece instead of a clear piece, I only used a red permanent marker on it and painted the fuel cap piece satin black to keep that subtle blacked out tail light looking dark, while red. So with all that said and done, I didn’t have and couldn’t find a similar color to the original gold-on-black color set up’s interior – anywhere I looked, the satin tan color was sold out. So what did I do? I just stuck with the good ol’ black.

1980firebirdtransam (13)Finished the whole thing up with some BF Goodrich Radial T/A tire decals, which sadly required me to cut off the very embossed Goodyear Polyglas GT tire letters off there to make space for ’em, though then I ran into issue numbero dos; the tires don’t actually fit the rims! So I luckily had some spare tires from a ’70 Mustang kit, a 1/24th scale kit and fitted the rims in there and lo and behold they fit exactly!

I like it this kit a fair bit actually, there’s something to be said about the utter simplicity of this kit also being it’s saving grace.

’80 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am specifications:
Kit: MPC78-8071-250
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 37
Molded in: Francisco Red
Scale: 1/25

1970 Buick Skylark GS Stage 1 – Monogram

1970buickgsstage1_boxBuick always has stood far ahead in being a pioneer in performance, from the thirties on as the first to break 100MPH with a factory stock vehicle(the ’36 Century) and closing the muscle car chapter with a big, gargantuan bang in 1987 with the modified Buick Regal, the GNX. In between? Well, they’re responsible among many other things, for the 455 Buick V8 engine. A engine so powerful and controversial, in November 1984, the Skylark GS Stage 1 was deemed the third fastest muscle car by Muscle Car Review, second was the 1966 427 Corvette and first was the 1966 427 Shelby Cobra. This obviously had a giant shitstorm associated with it; faster than a 426 HEMI powered Plymouth GTX? Oh boy.

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Obviously it’s never really been settled, in some cases the GS beat a HEMI powered car like a ‘Cuda, GTX, Charger, other times it got beaten by them instead. Hell some even just went with the “it comes down to the driver” mentality, but still being mighty upset about the idea that a Buick, with cars most commonly known for being boats on wheels, the mid ground Cadillac, kicked Chrysler’s ass.

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And besides the GSX‘s decals and brightercolors, the GS Stage 1 is a lot more subtle, with only very minimal decals which are some red stripes on the bottom of the sides and a bunch of GS Stage 1 badges on the front and the fenders. The 1970 version of a sleeper, if you will. There was a Stage 2 version, which was supremely rare in its own right, so rare that Buick literally only made three. You could buy the still-rare Stage 2 engine parts to replace your own 455 parts with, but the idea here of course is a factory stock Buick GS 455, which is a boat on wheels, sits gently on an average ride height, comes with a luxury interior and still somehow it held the highest torque output record in a factory street car from 1970 until 2003 when it finally got beaten by a ’03 Viper SRT10.

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These cars fascinate me to no end. I’m European, so I think I got this natural ability to not pick sides and evaluate things from a neutral point of view and God’s honest I love Plymouths equally to anything. But yeah, I could believe a HEMI equipped GTX may be a shred slower than this thing based on the booklets, the test drives, the heated versus sprint races, so forth. But to hell with the controversy, Buick’s legacy and Plymouth’s legacy both went to hell in 1974 when the first giant oil embargo crippled the US vehicle industry and brought in stricter regulations, which officially marked the shotgun-to-the-skull for the muscle car era. So in the end, sadly, neither Chrysler nor GM had the opportunity to use the seventies to duke it out for good and bring in the final victor, as the Skylark Gran Sport model was shelved indefinitely in 1974 and the GTX sadly already saw its last daylight three years prior.

1970buickgsstage1 (7)But back to the kit at hand here, Monogram first brought the wonderful Buick GSX to light in 1988 and it’s been largely unchanged since then. It’s seen a few re-releases here and there, split off into two distinct releases: the GSX in ’88 and again in 2012 and the “Street Machine” 2-in-1 release that got released in ’89, ’97 and ’07 which included a giant cut out in the hood with the engine sticking out and a set of custom wheels. Plus of course more decals, which is a given.

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Two years back, one of my first models I built was the GSX. This was at the time when I decided, yeah you know what, let’s build a couple more! So it was… shoddy, not that I would ever say I gotten a ton better since but I’ve marked some improvement at the least. In 2015, I came across a German with a 1971 Skylark GS in dark blue metallic who claims he had actually driven the thing on the Nürburgring for whatever friggin’ reason. At my workplace, we tear apart imported American classics(from 1978 onwards, getting big block V8s into Europe was a trend it seems, we seem to be getting mostly 1978-1983 imports) daily cause some twit decided it was funny to take a barely steerable 1974 Firebird down a local race track.

20170702_173430But I digress, the point I was apparently trying to avoid so damn well was that the color just… I loved it. To be fair, no muscle car looks bad in a coat of metallic blue, be it a light shade or a dark shade. But this one had this deep almost black undertone to it, only the metallic flakes seemed to reflect light and only by that you could tell it was in fact blue. So I took that paint job, made it a tad more blue cause otherwise, well, I may as well just make it black given the model stands inside 99% of the time. Then I bought myself a photo etched detail set for the Skylark from Model Car Garage and immediately began digging out the hood vents and grilles to replace with the PE parts.

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It’s a given that none of the Monogram releases of the 1980s are flawless, they’re largely awesome with one or two faults that’ll nag you for days. For starters, the ride height. God, fuck me, the ride height. You see, the entire rear suspension of the model is decided entirely by two coil springs. It’s this awful support system where the suspension arms rest on the two coil springs and it completely screws the ride height to hell. It’s basically a Goddamn lowrider thanks to that. I should’ve seen it coming but I honestly couldn’t think of a way to raise it without bending the two tiny arms to adjust with the rising of the springs, which believe me would’ve snapped at an instant. Even on the box art it sits like a frickin’ lowrider, so it ain’t just me!

1970buickgsstage1 (18)But screw it, fine, it sits like a Californian wants it best; on the floor. The other? Well, the gorgeous(and I do mean, gorgeous) engine is kind of overshadowed by some fitting issues. The two tiny arms of the chassis are meant to take on the entire engine block, but the exhaust manifolds get stuck on the A-arm(or wishbone if you will) suspension and the oil pan gets wedged stuck in the chassis before the little arms can reach the supports.

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Still though, other than that, it’s a perfectly fine kit. Hell, underappreciated even. I aughta re-build the GSX again some time to give it the detail it deserves, try and fix the ride height properly by maybe kitbashing a different suspension set. Either way, with the beautifully recreated 455 cubic inch V8 engine, the stellar interior(that sadly doesnt get dial decals, damn!) and beautiful casting work of the body and bumpers, it’s just one of those kits that despite the problems, is always worth building and going through the extra effort for. It’s just that good.

’70 Buick Skylark GS Stage 1 specifications:
Kit: #85-4030
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 85
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/24

1976 Dodge Dart Lite Spirit of ’76 – MPC

76dartboxIn 2013 MPC re-released the 1975 Dodge Dart Sport kit from, well you guessed it, 1975 and it was welcomed with great, great… nothing. Okay, to be fair to the guys at Round 2, there’s always demand so to speak and for one I am grateful that they dragged the tool from the dusty depths and gave her another whirl. And with respect to ’em, they had released another few of ’em disguised as an AMT kit in 2003 as a police car, which was a 1976 release called “Smokey, the Convoy Chaser”(if only they knew in ’76 what popularity that phrase was gonna get just a year later thanks to Jerry Reed, Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason).

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And it’s this weird picking and choosing from Round 2 that gets me, I’m really interested in the era that effectively killed the muscle car as a whole but at the same time, who’s in the offices going “Hey look, we got the tooling still, wanna give it a go again?” and then points at a ’75 Dodge Dart Sport, or a ’80 Volaré? The 1973 on wards Dodge Darts had the look of a teacher desperate to look hip. So in ’75 they wanted to cool the car up some with a special editon: the “Hang 10” Dart. Hang ten’s a surfer’s term for standing on the nose of the board with all ten of your toes over the edge, in the middle of a wave. It had enough space for a board and some ultra hip multi colored line interior with orange shag and of course the Hang 10 stripes.

1976spiritof76_dodgedart (8)I mean, I appreciate the effort but boy did that fall flat. The edition sold but it didn’t even come near being a surfer icon, let alone a icon itself. Hell, the “Swinger” edition which I hope with my dumb, half innocent European mind, was of no relation to the giant ‘swinging'(wife-swapping woop woop) wave that dragged through the USA in the seventies, but boy did this sex mobile have absolutely no features to go wild about. The only mid seventies Dart I personally dig is, is also the one that the Dart kind of farted into the annals of history with: the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial edition, the Spirit of ’76.

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It had the prominence of being a Dart Lite and a special edition, two good things. One, it was a hell of a lot lighter to conserve fuel. Two, it only came with the Slant-6 engine. It was actually a pretty decent car for a Malaise era vehicle. It of course still had trouble surviving for years on end due to a lot of shoddy parts, rusting parts and electrical gremlins but at least the engine was a super reliable one. And amazingly enough(especially for the time), the car did 36mpg streches(15km per litre) on average. Plus less than thousand of those little guys were built and obviously a lot less exist today(with many in a state of disrepair), so it’s a double rarity!

76dartdecalsSo when I found out that Keith Marks has a set of both the Hang 10 and Spirit of ’76 decals, I bought the kit and began sifting through the thing. Firstly, it has the same pad printed Goodyear Polyglas GT tires that many if not all AMT/MPC kits now have. 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 what did I do to mend this? Well the only rim I can fit to these new tires are the old version of the American Racing Torq Thrust wheels from MPC kits, especially the ones from the seventies. So I grabbed a set from a 46 year old Mercury Cyclone kit and substituted the Polyglas side with some Grand Am tire decals.

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However, on the other hand, something new that is nice is the decal sheet. While I didn’t need it, it does have all the necessary decals to make it similar to the box and a Demon inspired Dart 340, something that I ain’t used to with MPC kits.

1976spiritof76_dodgedart (12)Now obviously there’s some differences between this kit, the year and the Spirit of ’76 that I wanted to create. For instance, the engine is definitely not a Slant-6 but a 318 or a 340 V8 that was turned into a V6 by simply reducing the engine length and giving it V6 exhaust manifolds, hell none of the Darts during this period had a damn V6 besides the inline six Slant-6 engine… well, MPC wasn’t known for accuracy at the time under the hood. But other than the different engine, the 1975 Dart had a chrome center panel on the rear end, but ’76 Darts just have it being part of the sheet metal. But I made due with it, I actually prefer the look of the chrome on the tail, it’s kind of a shame they ditched it!

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But it does come with a whole separate engine, if you want to have one. A entire 426 HEMI engine’s included with sidepipes, though the mold quality on it is… well, it’s awful. The ignition wire points are smeared on, the chrome is kind of dingy though the transmission case is molded decently. Speaking of mold quality, the entire kit is a straight up re-cast of the 1975 kit – it has flash up the wazoo, it’s of the crappy “molten” quality on most of the sprues and the only piece in the entire kit that has seen a upgrade, which is oddly crisp compared to the rest, is the body itself. And thank God for that, cause it if it were on par with the rest, I’d wager it would’ve been as awful as the 1979 Pontiac Firebird casting from MPC, where you’d be working on the body and trimming extra plastic off for days.

1976spiritof76_dodgedart (18)Hell, I won’t deny that with the sheer dinginess of the engine that I wanted to just epoxy the hood shut and hide the half-V8/V6 hybrid from hell but I figured, it would ruin the whole look and I did try to make the engine somewhat nice. The Volaré’s engine, while 100% the same, was cast a ton better with better plastic quality that actually had it fit somewhat okay. This? This is a frickin’ mess with parts cast too large due to old, old tooling. But I’m rambling on now, screw it. Either way, the not-Slant 6 is still there to behold no matter how badly I still wanna hide it all together.

Some of the other things that I wish were actually done somewhat better are just… well, regular MPC kit woes. Again, it’s not that difficult to cast clear headlights. The bumpers are horribly made on their backsides and they have no place to be attached, hell no matter the positioning.1976spiritof76_dodgedart (10)

It’s either look right from the front and awful from the sides, or awful from the front and right from the sides, there’s no winning with ’em. Other than that, the chassis doesn’t meet the body at any given place and has no single way other than epoxying gaps shut to actually stay connected to the rest of the car! There’s give or take a quarter inch of space on either side of the chassis and the body, and it apparently is just meant to connect to the interior bucket but, genius move here, it’s only connected to the tub at give or take a fifth of it.

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So whats the bottom line? Well, I would say Round 2 needs to get their crap together cause part of me feels gypped at the idea of a simple second spin of the Dodge Dart Sport molds that had gone unchanged since 1975, with not a single bit of improvement being made other than the by now utterly expected new tires. But, they did improve on the casting quality when they put out the ’80 Volaré kit, with unique Radial G/T tires, much better quality plastic and a lot less, if any flash on the sprues.

Thank God for Keith Marks’ decal sheets and Torq Thrust wheels to make this thing look much better, especially on the interior front. And all in all, from the outside, it ain’t looking too bad! Well, if you discount señor butterfingers, the royal me, ruining the decals while wrestling the body onto the chassis…

’76 Dodge Dart Lite Spirit of ’76 specifications:
Kit: MPC798/12
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 71
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25