1996 Chevrolet Impala SS Grand Sport – Revell

20180509_201358.jpgLemme start this one off right away by saying, yes you’re right – it isn’t a ’96. But Goddammit I want it to be. Besides its easier to sort in the total list where a ’94 Impala SS already sits, albeit something I now have the opportunity to overwrite and imagine I never built it, cause I… well, I didn’t do a very good job on it. The Revell kit has been re-released many times since the mid nineties(1996 to be exact), its roots originated as a SnapTite, though really it was one of those Basic Builder-ish scenarios where it was more complicated than a SnapTite just didn’t require glue. The whole thing is still very, very much that – just without the clicks and snaps of a SnapTite.

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The Impala SS is one of those cars that kind of always stuck with me, it has such a history to it as well that kind of is staggering. This car, this Impala SS right there, the end-of-the-sporty-line SS model(until the 2006 SS revival), was once the successor to the friggin’ Bel Air. From 1958, the Bel Air had a everything-included-please-but-different version, a “halo” car(basically terminology for ‘top line model that is meant to live on the popularity of what its based on’); the Impala. Something that stayed with the Impala as a whole was that the car itself generally had a direct twin but with subtle improvements and differences on just about every angle of the car. The Bel Air and Impalas had this from the sixties and the Caprice(which was initially a Impala option, called the Impala Caprice) and the Impala from 1977 on out. Though should be said, that’s a hell of a simplification in the grand scheme of things. The history of the Bel Air, Biscayne, Impala and Caprice is… complicated to say the least. Suffice to say, in the mid-seventies, the Impala and the Caprice both got slashed by a third and downsized to meet whatever the hell the eighties were gonna be for General Motors.

1996ImpalaSSGS (5)Is that a super gross simplification of how the Bel Air, Biscayne, Impala and Caprice came to separate into their own line of models through the seventies? Why yes, yes it is. And I am aware that grueling, horrible, maybe even inaccurate look at how they came to be but believe me when I say this… Chevrolet’s 1955 through 1969 model encyclopedia is nothing short of a M.C. Escher-esque maze to figure out accurately. What did happen is that in the mid seventies it became its own separate entity as a model, and even then you’d need a literal chart to play “spot the difference” on a Caprice Classic versus the Impala, it would have subtle but sometimes yet obvious changes to one-another like for instance, one having the indicators under the headlights and the other in the bumper, or a mesh grille opposed to a horizontal bar grille, interior would be bare plastic in one and splattered with wood grain in the other… The gist here is that in the end, the Caprice and the Impala were basically twins, the ones that are nearly identical but you learn to spot the clues to tell ’em apart.

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By the late eighties, the squarebox was about to get ushered into the era of automotive boredom, the Opel Vectra-fication of the business; cars were going to become bubbly, enthusiastically colored and have wheel styling that can only be described as “functional”. Generally, you can describe every era with one word. Seventies? Colorful, massive, growth. Eighties? Square, tempered, underwhelming. The nineties can be described as ‘sleek’, ‘gray’ and ’rounded’. Though this doesn’t mean they were ugly, by no means, just… neutral. Every car just looked like they were designed by someone who said “enough square shit already” and sanded every edge round. And the Caprice was among those who got a rigorous dose of rounding-off; in 1991 the newly updated Caprice was brought to life. And boy did it do… something.

1996ImpalaSSGS (13)You see, much like the Ford Crown Victoria/LTD, the Caprice too was basically “America’s Car”. What I mean with that is, name a picture, name a movie, name a scenic shot of a city and you’re likely to spot a series of Crown Vic or Caprice taxi cabs, police cars, fire department marshall’s, so on. Essentially, they were continuing the legacy of, well, the States’ cop car and cab. And when it got displayed to the populace, they fucking well laughed it off the stage. The new styling got a fairly harsh coat of insults plastered on it, like “beached whale”, “upside down bathtub”, “Orca-body” and “obesity on tires”. The Caprice 9C1 police package did do rather well, as we all know, it became literally the most popular police cruiser out there along with the Ford Crown Vic so, it did succeed, sorta. But on the regular average Joe front, changes needed to be made and they tried to do so at least. They ditched the skirted rear wheel wells(though kept ’em on the station wagons), which helped alleviate the fat look of the thing, introduced some Camaro parts to the interior and ended up also offering a de-tuned LT1 V8 from a Corvette.

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And basically there you already had the ingredients for the subject at hand here, the Impala SS. Announced as a concept in 1992, it was in essence; a giant, unchained sleeper. The concept had a friggin’ 8.2L V8(500ci) and had a more aggressive styling touch over the Caprice like nearly de-chromed bare(aside from the window trim and emblems), large deep offset 5 spoke wheels, raised Impala SS script on the rear fender, darkened grille, so forth. It was very much a Caprice 9C1 police car underneath in terms of what was standard equipment, like the reinforced shocks and springs, disc brakes, twin exhausts, higher output electronics, so on – the only thing GM did swap in the end was the 8.2L V8, which was replaced by a LT1 Corvette V8, which did do a decent 260 horsepower but still, y’know, meager. All in all, it was a sporty bathtub that looked menacing as hell. It was a reasonably sporty one-off, bit like the Mercury Marauder which was essentially a sexier Ford Crown Vic.

1996ImpalaSSGS (4)Anywhoooo, the model. Yeah, right! So I did build one of the Revell Impala SS’s last year and came out slightly disappointing, just a bit. Released in 1996(and re-released like four times since), it was made a slightly more difficult glue-required kit with the origins dating back to a SnapTite kit that came out in the same year and holy crap you could tell it was once a SnapTite, the engine block is three parts, the whole interior snaps together pretty much with the clicky-snappy bits still there. The headlights and the tail lights still have painfully obvious pins you force into the slots and in turn make the headlights and tail lights look stupidly toy-like, but y’know, its a thing. Atleast they don’t flop out the bezel every odd second the model gets touched, so there’s that! It also looks quite gargantuan, like it is bigger than a 1/24th scale GMC pick-up in width so I wouldn’t be surprised if the scaling wasn’t 1/25th but 1/24th, but that’s just a small observation. The rest of the kit was actually kind of nice, the body crisp, the detail quite nice and so on. Oddly enough, there’s a pattern with the wheels going on – the 2002 re-release had the Impala SS on the box with these giant American Racing style rims, but didn’t actually have those. Now I got a 2008 re-release which was hilariously stupid with a lowrider version(something that Revell made a thing back then, including a fucking ’81 Citation as a lowrider) which did come with the Impala SS with the proper wheels on the side of the box but only came with those AR wheels in the kit itself!

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Odd shit, really odd shit. But regardless, I preferred it with the plan I had in mind. I love, absolutely love the Corvette Grand Sport from 1996. I don’t know why but the theme always resonated with me and I thought of making a ’96 Camaro Z/28 Grand Sport, but before I even came across one of those kits, I found a Impala SS kit on the cheap. And I always wanted to do the Impala SS kit a bit more proper, which I did botch a fair bit the last time around… The engine didn’t fit, the hood didn’t shut, I idiotically attempted to do the trim which I jacked up to no end, the wheels hardly fit(and I ended up re-using on the ’91 Syclone Marlboro Edition), it was a shambles really. So! Time for round two, I thought. First order was getting the Admiral Blue, which I quickly did. Secondly was to get a better LT1 engine; which I promptly stole from a 1995 Corvette kit. Surprisingly, the engine fit quite well in the end – all I did was snap off a tiny part on the engine brace and the struts on the driveshaft.

1996ImpalaSSGS (14)Which… I dunno, this kit feels like a 1/24th scale one, I can’t help but feeling it is. But ah well, anyway – I created a decal sheet specifically for the Impala to make it look a little more like a Grand Sport, including a Impala SS branded hood stripe and the iconic fender stripes. For the rest it was a set of custom badges, license plates, so forth. I’m not gonna lie, I’m really surprised by how they ended up looking. I really, really am for once proud of my friggin’ work! The SnapTite features that are still part of the kit really do take away from the whole thing though, like the very visible placement hole for the radiator, the overtly obvious twin prongs in the headlights as I mentioned before, so on.

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So based on how this one ended up looking with the Grand Sport fantasy theme, I’m definitely gonna make one based on the Camaro as well. Hell to the yes.

’96 Chevrolet Impala SS Grand Sport specifications:
Kit: #85-2175
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 66
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

 

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1977 Ford Mustang II Mach 1 – AMT

77mustangii-1.jpgOh boy, oh boy, I finally got one. A second generation Ford Mustang kit, and not just any of them, the friggin’ AMT release. The Mustang II fascinates me to no end, for all the wrong reasons – lemme just get my sins out of the way. I like it for several reasons, one’s obviously the story behind the absolute US automotive disaster the Mustang II became to symbolize, the second is that I, and fuck me for saying this, kind of dig the way it looked, especially the more European styled Mustang II Ghia and third; where it ended up going. Cause the Mustang is basically the Elvis of the automotive industry, it came in and it essentially changed the whole game there and then in 1964. Then as it became to define success, by 1969, it started packing on some… weight.

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To put it gently, it got fat. Over the span of six years, the Mustang grew wider and longer, it gained more empty space under the hood for some reason, it packed on over 1100 pounds(that’s 506kg, or in automotive terms, that’s nearly a whole Fiat Panda or half a ’64 Mustang extra), the newly appointed Ford president Semon Knudsen greenlit the final of the heavy-weight boxer Mustangs in 1971, where it gained that final tally of weight and grew another 3 inches to accommodate the 429 Cobra Jet engine and then by 1973, as the United States entered the automotive dark ages, the Elvis horse left the building. It was slashed entirely for a revamped model done by legendary car designed Lee Iacocca who was partially responsible in breathing life into the original Mustang project to start with – kind of fitting, isn’t it. Iacocca initially had a Mustang concept based on the Maverick, something that reminds me of the AMC Gremlin concept that was based on a late sixties Javelin. But in the end, the Mustang II was gonna be based on a Pinto. Well then.

77MustangII (5)Obviously, something had to be done and Iacocca definitely nailed it on the head when he noted that the Mustang had to be downsized to ever stand a chance at living on, cause it didn’t just define the muscle car era, it also defined the horrible side of perpetual growth in the muscle car market. James May and his Detroit-oriented interviewees said it best in a episode of James May’s Cars of the People; to paraphrase it some – “Detroit had thirty years of no competition” and “the cars were designed to be replaced by the newer model a few years after, longevity was not on their minds“, and despite everything obviously this mind-set carried on for another twenty years at the least, a solid ten years past the Mustang II was deemed to be around. Granted, the Mustang II wasn’t a bad car, by no means. Hell arguably it was one of the better Mustangs to have been created, the Ghia was an attractive flat-decked coupe that screamed European something fierce, the hatchback wasn’t utterly ugly even though it was yes, just a overweight Pinto but it needed to survive. The economy-car popularity spike did allow the Mustang II to thrive something fierce, the V6 was gutted and produced the power equivalent of a old horse’s fart but its lightweight build did allow it to have some pep, something that was exploited once the economic crisis worries died off a little bit over the following years; they first re-introduced a V8 engine, the semi-legendary 302/5.0L option.

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Then, after that in ’76 they did a special appearance package to sort of re-live the old Mustang/GT500 mania with elaborate air dams, vents and spoilers, called the Cobra II but in reality it did… fuck-all to enhance the power, the anemic 302 still only produced little over 140HP, which to be fair, was somewhat on par with the competitors like the Camaro Z/28 and the Firebird with a 350ci V8 of the time, but still it was kind of clear that the damage was done by 1977 as the last two years of the II began. The Firebird was the most popular muscle car with the Camaro trailing a close second, in ’78 they gave it one last hurrah by chucking out a King Cobra edition which was just a weird, odd little edition meant to mimic the others. But fair enough, I kind of like the crazy revival of the King Cobra, it’s in some ways kind of exactly what muscle cars were all about; making you look their way.

77MustangII (14)In a way, the Mustang II might have been the best thing to have happened to the entire Mustang lineage. I know, hot take there Mr. Grumpyfuck, why don’t you go and worship some more European scrap, you cretin. And I’d say, you’d be right, I am that but still – look at the fox body Mustang that followed it in ’79. It was compact-ish, it was quick, it maintained the awesome hatchback design for most of its models, it was a nippy, lightweight… fox! And by some ways I like to imagine that the Mustang II’s downsizing helped that vision be realized, cause while the Camaro, Firebird and other muscle car survivors maintained their livelihoods, they stayed quite… large. Lengthy, at the least.

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But I digress… a lot. Both AMT and MPC made Mustang models through the seventies, MPC made several versions of the II, among a few being the Cobra II and King Cobra editions, some IMSA-ish looking beast and the bog-standard ’74 V6 hatchback. AMT sort of kept up, offering the Cobra II kind of(somekind of Matchbox edition) and the annuals from ’74 through ’77 with similar features everytime; opening hatch, same wheels, same engine and interior. And uh, yeah I wish I had a MPC ’77 Ford Mustang to compare it to, this kit isn’t especially great all in all but I just wish I could compare it and see how well it fares opposed to other seventies releases. Like, the kit’s glaring issues already start right away with the giant mold lines and the absolutely gargantuan tires. I mean, they are fucking massive. Stupidly, absurdly, to a degree of just damn silly large.

77MustangII (15)The body has fitting issues, there’s a sunken part on the tailgate right where the Ford lettering is, the mold lines are obscene, the hood nor the hatch will fit at all, the clear pieces slot in from the bottom, giving the illusion that the damn windows sit deep as hell and looks like someone glued plastic sheets in from the inside to cover the fact that the car came with no windows. The rims inside the stupidly huge wheels are also too damn big, the tail lights are unfortunately just chrome pieces, the whole chassis is just a flat plate and the suspension is absolutely huge and so weirdly shaped compared to the flat chassis, the interior is smooshed flat in a odd manner and just looks… wrong. The engine is a nice one though, goes together smoothly and the underappreciated 250ci/4.0L V6 is nicely detailed and it is one of the few quite well cast V6’s too.

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But again, it’s… from 1977. It’s old, it’s AMT, their Camaro offering opposed to the MPC Camaro offering wasn’t exactly great in comparison either, but y’know, letting it slide due to the sheer friggin’ rarity of the kits in question. It quickly becomes a matter of “it’s fine, it’s old” with these kits. Generally speaking, these kits are what I’d call “adequate”. It mimics the real body quite well, much better than the ’75 Camaro for sure. It’s just, at least from a purely looking-outside-in perspective arguably a worse model than the MPC kit(from other builds and box-content pictures at least), but it’s still nothing to scoff at. Though, there’s one other glaring omission, something MPC might’ve done overkill on during the same period – decals. There were none with this kit, or at least none that I got, at all. Yeah, my axles were also missing so for all I know they too weren’t put in but I believe there’s no decals based on the fact that the instruction sheet makes absolutely no call-outs for them, nor does the box. So, I made my own sheet for it, like I seemingly keep doing for every kit now.

77MustangII (19)And y’know what, in the end, who the hell cares right, with some effort and part sourcing, something I definitely didn’t get around to, you could quite handily turn this into a much better model than the box initially offers. Smaller tires aren’t otherworldly to come across, some wing mirrors aren’t too difficult to find spares of, the decals I’ve got for sale now so there’s those and you could do some chisel-work to the hood and tailgate to get ’em to shut properly. I love, absolutely love these misery cars from the seventies, for the lessons that were learned, for the slowly-growing appreciation for the Mustang II, for the overall perspective one gains looking into these things, from both the modeler’s side of things as well as the actual car, and how it held up opposed to other competitors at the time, now that we live in a facts-found-in-seconds world… Speaking of competitors, the next build I’m currently actively messing about with is the ’77 Toyota Celica LB-2000GT – Basically its Japanese cousin. Oh yes, oh yes indeed.

’77 Ford Mustang II Mach 1 specifications:
Kit: #T487
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 90
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1975 Chevrolet Camaro RS – MPC

1975CamaroRS (1)So, last year I built the ’76 Chevrolet Camaro that was done by AMT back in the seventies. Specifically, it was somekind of one off version done by American Hatch Corporation in 1976 for the 1976 and 1977 model years called the Camaro AHC-100, where they did some… well, there’s no kind way of saying it; half-assed rip off of the more popular and more desirable Pontiac Firebird, the Trans-Am even. It was a truly weird set of choices made by AHC, the odd egg-shell off white paint job, the weird(albeit totally 70s) color choices for the bird on the hood(that they so eloquently called “the Black Bird”), the stripes that didnt follow the curves of the Camaro, the ugly font for the AHC-100 call-outs, it was just a strange, strange thing. Though it was the earliest example of a semi-licensed Camaro with T-tops, so there’s that!

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And I now truly regret not having made it the AHC-100, instead I half-assed this 1976 Camaro together with a Z/28 inspired thing going on from 1974… So I effectively doubled down on the weirdness factor. Though, that being said, now that I have the 1975 Camaro done by MPC, I can conclude quite easily that the MPC version is not only twice as good as the AMT version, it’s actually the most accurate mid-seventies Camaro kit out there. I always felt that something was off about the nose of the AMT version and having the MPC one in my hands, I could easily spot it now – the headlights aren’t just misshapen on the AMT kit, they’re nowhere near as deep as they should be.

1975CamaroRS (8)I bought the kit for two reasons, one is that I desperately wanted an accurate Camaro kit to design the decal sheets off, two was that I desperately wanted a damn good Camaro kit. And well over a year later, on eBay I accidentally stumble over a second hand Camaro kit from 1975, the box all ripped and quite frankly, rotten beyond belief. But whoever had this thing sitting around since 1976, did me a big solid. He unpacked it, clearly but he then put the parts(that were all just in one giant soggy bag) in separate baggies and… just left it be. I am 100% certain that the baggies that he put them in were at least 30 years old as even under cardboard they’d turned a nice shade of smokers’ beige. But this prevented the typical 1970s kits woes; the rubber wheels melting into the plastic parts and the clear plastics turning into a misty milky white.1975camarors-9.jpg

However, the decals had gone totally off. But who gives a shit, they’re MPC graphics from the 1970s, they at best had some Hooker Headers and Hurst logos and a few NASCAR inspired door numbers. Shrug! Gotta do a little D.I.Y. with these kits of AMT and MPC from back then, Keith Marks had already made the 1974-1977 sets and I did my own takes on them as well but there were no available decals to turn it into a bit of a call back to the stripes of the first generation, not to mention a hint of Bumble Bee in there. So I figured, fuck it, I’ll do it then. Added all the side-emblems for the ’74 through ’78 years and wham, there we go. Really makes it stand out, though were these damn kits a bit more common I’d have bought another one to turn it into a proper 1975 Rally Sport version. But I’d thought that with the stripes, the emblems, some Firestone Firehawk white letter tire decals and some badges I’d make it look a hell of a lot better than it would’ve been otherwise.

1975CamaroRS (15)Speaking of which, “Rally Sport”, the arguably most sporty Camaro of ’75 truly didn’t deserve the name “sport” in there, did it. I mean, Jesus wept that thing had absolutely the worst and lowest power output of all the Camaros, ever. The 350ci V8 produced 155HP. There are bog standard VW Jettas with that amount of horsepower. Though, yeah, in Chevrolet’s defense, they were trying times. They were the days of unregulated growth and interchangeability. Your ’68 Camaro is starting to show its ripe age of seven years, rusting to the bolts, engine popping about like someone’s firing machine guns in there and interior trim disintegrating upon touching? Well, you’re done paying for the thing so why not get yourself a new one. That was basically how cars worked back then, they were somewhat meant to be replaceable. Bit like the iPhones and Galaxy series phones of today, we are more than willing to lay down the same amount every so often to get the newer version, so it’s not such a unusual practice.

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But this cemented the ideology that cars weren’t meant to last and they certainly weren’t meant to get smaller and they had no real outside competition to show them other methods. And then the oil crisis came about in 1973, and much like today, the leaders of big corporations just didn’t understand change, even if their lives depended on it – and they fell the fuck down on their knees, tripping over the corpses of abandoned big block V8s that they just couldn’t ferry off to Europe fast enough for a buck or two, cause the U.S. population sure as hell didn’t want them anymore. They had to adapt, and they tried so damn hard. Well, they tried in ways they were familiar with; lets not necessarily change the root of the problem, lets just… adjust it. The American people still wanted American cars and what they represented, just without the hassle of blowing up animals with fumes as they passed, the hassle of not being able to fill up on tuesdays and standing in queues to fill up whenever it wasn’t tuesday.

1975CamaroRS (11)So while Lee Iacocca was fighting off Ford techs and designers to get the Mustang to be downsized to a Maverick(though it became a Pinto platform in the end), GM decided that it was about time to give the Camaro a revitalization with the upcoming changes in the… well, everything climate. Political, economical, world, food, you name it, it was a year of everything must go. The 1970 Camaro Z/28 with a for the 1970s quite ordinary 350ci V8 that did 250HP still did 0 to 60 in 7 seconds, had a fuel mileage of 12.6mpg(5.4km/l), which was uh… not good. Not 426 HEMI bad or 396ci V8 bad, but not great. The 1975 Camaro, fresh from the learning-a-lesson-fucking-hard school of corporate failures, had a similar 350ci V8 in the Rally Sport and it did, after all modifications for emissions and fuel saving was slapped on – 145HP. That’s damn near half. But fine, if it ended up saving fuel and was a hell of a lot less bad for the world, then good! Right? Well… While it did take 11.5 seconds to get to… 60MPH, it had a fuel efficiency 14mpg(5.9km/l). Well fuck it. Now I run up against the wall of idiocy with the excuse of “it’s a 350ci V8 man, for fuel economy you needed the 250ci V6!”. And guess what, even that excuse didn’t go well.. The 250ci V6 did an average 17.9mph(7.6km/l) – which is better! True! For 1975, that wasn’t awful! A semi-equivalent 1975 Ford Capri RS 2.3 V6 from the grand ol’ United Kingdom… did 32-35mpg(13.6-14.8km/l).

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Oh well then. Fuck it, it’s called the Malaise Era for a reason. A era of falling down and getting up, falling down while getting up and just appreciating the cooling and stress reducing cold floor in the end. Cause despite the failures of… well, most the big three of Detroit in the day, the mid-seventies Camaro is definitely one of my favorite muscle cars out there. It’s the definition of a somewhat subdued muscle car, reminiscent of the 1969 Camaro Z/28, just aggressive looks and some pep and it could all be doubled down on with the stripe kits and badges but deep down it still looked… somewhat subdued. Albeit, y’know, a Camaro, still.

1975CamaroRS (18)And MPC gave it a fair run for its money, the supposed “full detail” kits, which was early seventies marketing speak for “it’s not a dealer promo” were quite accurate. Even though the engine bay was very typical like all the MPC kits, even of today, barren and sad, the rest of the model like the body and the interior were quite good. Two of the definite improvements over the AMT Camaro kit is the fact that the grille and the bumper are just two separate pieces that are meant to slot into the body, so you don’t ever get that ugly ass drooping nose that AMT’s Camaro kits do get. Two is, the wider wheels that look a thousand times better than any of AMT’s offerings from back then. I was quite surprised by the crispness of the whole ordeal, clear Camaro emblems on the fenders, the tail lights quite clearly showed where the reverse lights would be with subtle patterns, the dashboard is well detailed and nicely raised, it just goes on and on. Stole some wing mirrors from the AMT Ertl ’70 Baldwin Motion kit to complete the look a little more cause they sure as hell didn’t come with the kit, or any kit from that era. The anemic as all hell 350ci V8 is nicely detailed too but it just looks… sad in the barren, empty engine bay. I did use a 5.7L Z/28 air cleaner decal on it to test it out and see if it would fit and, it did! Though of course the ’75 Camaro’s no Z/28, just wanted to test it out.

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Maybe if we’re truly, truly lucky, someone someday will put the mid-seventies Camaro to a full detail release. Given that at this point it’s literally the only generation(minus the late eighties) Camaro to haven’t gotten that treatment from the boys at AMT Ertl or Revell. Who knows, maybe I’ll be forced to lay down hundred dollar plus every time for the rest of my life. Either way… worth it.

’75 Chevrolet Camaro Rally Sport specifications:
Kit: MPC7519
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 95
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

2001 Opel Astra V8 DTM Opel Team Phoenix – Tamiya

2001OpelAstraDTMTeamPhoenix (4)So we all have our favorite motorsports. Okay shouldn’t call them “sports” per se, more “the type of crashes or lack thereof that interest me“. For some folks it’s NASCAR, other folks its JGTC and its new Super GT buddy, Formula 1, so on. For me, it’s DTM and its distant cousin WTCC. The thing that interests me the most about either is the… somewhat vague intention that it’s still cars being driven by racers, not plastic husks that are all the same shape. I know, technically this is called a “silhouette” for motorsports, complicated racing gear underneath the shell of a heavily modified car, but at least unlike NASCAR, DTM still attempts to keep it unique! Not a bunch of colored slabs that are tailgating fiercely that you have to identify by their damn headlight or taillight stickers to spot the friggin’ make.

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… Yeah that’s probably gonna draw some ire. Basically, I just like how they look in DTM, WTCC and the Super GT. Also I just noticed how many frickin’ acronyms were just tossed around in like six sentences, thats motorsports for you! But DTM in particular has been one interesting motorsport for me, especially the cars – and I had built a fair amount of models of it before, though this way before I even thought of doing this website. Revell has a whole series of the more recent BMW’s, Mercedes’ & Audi’s, of which I did Bruno Spengler’s BMW M3 and Mercedes C-class and Tom Kristensen’s Audi A4. I was(and still am) amateur extraordinaire when I made those models but holy Jesus they were a blast to build. The interior is simplistic, as it kind of is in real life, though the roll cage and such is nice and complicated, the real fun comes on the body shell itself.

2001OpelAstraDTMTeamPhoenix (9)To be fair, it isn’t as complicated as the Revell DTM kits, but that’s thanks to two parts; one being it having no engine and not needing a whole removable front lid and two being that most of the complicated parts and aerodynamic bits are already attached to the body. For instance, the Audi A4 kit by Revell has you manually attach around eight canards to a side, bit by bit. I personally prefer the somewhat less complicated manner, but I can see how folks would prefer the “everything needs to be done by hand” method. One thing that Tamiya has done a friggin’ good job of is the attempts at helping the builder out on trying to nail the two tone paint job, it’s still somewhat of a guess-job as it tells you to cut out shapes of the decal instruction sheet for little spray paint masks, which is nice and all but its just one of those things that is more effort than its worth, given you can also just tape off a similar body line and just do it the slightly harder way.

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But man, this is one interesting subject matter, the Opel Astra or its British counterpart, the Vauxhall Astra, always has been the de facto boring-ass-car, even being the more sporty coupe variant of the Opels. Its basically the European Toyota Camry. There’s arguably no more boring car on the European market than the Opel Astra, well its bigger brother the Vectra though its just a elongated version of it, but for some reason, it made for one decent performance vehicle. The Astra G did quite alright in rallycross, made some appearances back in the nineties in the Super Tourenwagen Cup among BMW M3s and such. But its biggest claim to racing fame is its 2000 through 2004, where it took 2nd place on it’s first go-through(this particular car even, driven by Manuel Reuter) and then… it just fell the fuck apart. I mean, Jesus they tried and they just… failed. Opel had one more team victory on the Nürburgring and then it just wouldn’t go their way anymore. Hell, Opel pulled from the racing scene as a factory sponsored team in 2006.

2001OpelAstraDTMTeamPhoenix (10)So as a whole, Opel racing cars from the nineties onwards are rarities in general, there’s a handful of different types out there and even less are available in model kit shape. Tamiya has taken on two of them as model car kits, one being the Calibra from the mid-nineties which was in theme kind of similar with the white and yellow mix and then of course there’s this one. Though Tamiya is no stranger to Opels as a whole, though unfortunately they’re limited to a bunch of 1/10th scale R/C bodies. One unique thing about this kit is the gullwing doors, which are beautifully thought out save for one, tiny thing. They become damn near non-functional cause the bracing struts is attached to the weakest point of the door and its expected to be glued onto the door frame by you. Now on paper, this works. In practice, this means the next time you flip the gullwings open, it’ll just snap the little heads off.

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All it would’ve taken for it to ensure to work perfectly and maintain some strength is if the little heads for the strut arms that you have to connect together with screws were molded onto the door frame before hand, in stead of little separate pieces. However, there’s many very, very good sides to this kit. Other than it having no engine, which is pretty standard for Japanese model kits and the gullwing doors having their own issues, there’s like four things I wished other model kit companies would steal and turn into a standard of sorts. One is, the tail-lights. The fact that the indicators and reverse lights are slotted into the main red tail light makes it look… so much more realistic. It’s just so damn good looking, there’s hardly anything we can do to make it look better than it already does, it’s that damn good. Two is, when your kit has a giant wing, allow for its little legs to be slotted into the body rather than to connect it via two tiny-tiny holes and a bunch of glue; this actual gives it some structural strength and won’t have it snap off when someone decides to walk in the mere vicinity of it. It’s one of those little Tamiya touches that just make the whole thing a lot more solid.

2001OpelAstraDTMTeamPhoenix (16)Three? Little chrome stickers you transfer onto the kit. I absolutely love them. When they work, they work. The Opel emblem in the grille looks a thousand times better with an embossed sticker than a decal, and that’s coming from a guy who spend the last three months peddling his own decal sheets. And lastly, four; mold the most complicated parts as one piece. I love silhouette racing cars for the most part because they’re so damn complicated and I just enjoy going balls-to-the-wall sometimes, however when you got like eight little canards across the body, either make them supremely easy to slot in(like in the same manner the wing is slotted into the tail rather than just glued to it), or mold them into the body before hand. It’s just no fun half-assedly trying to put tiny, tiny canards on there that refuse to stick, specifically looking at you Revell with the Audi A4 DTM car.

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As a whole, the Opel kit is one of those legacy kits from Tamiya that works incredibly well, minus one or two things. Age ruined the little sticky wheel transfers(hence the lack of Dunlop tire decals), the glue had just ceased to be glue so they literally were worthless. I kind of hoped Tamiya would cease to use those but… well, they’re not going to. The door system could’ve been better but other than that, it’s just again one of those excellent kits that requires a fair amount of work to detail but Tamiya has helped as much as it could to make detailing this thing and building it complicated yet fun and smooth, not painful and annoying. And that’s why I friggin’ adore Japanese kits in between sometimes. Cause you know it’s always gonna contain a quality kit, with a quality result without a brain melting amount of hassle.

Now back to being a decal designing slave, and finish the ’96 Impala SS Grand Sport.

’01 Opel Astra V8 DTM “Opel Team Phoenix” specifications:
Kit: “The Sports Car” series, No.243
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 107
Molded in: White, Gray and Black
Scale: 1/24

Blog Update #006 – Decals

So a little post to state where stuff is at, currently. You see, I began doing this little decal venture a while ago to fill up that giant goddamn void on the market, mostly for my own needs and desires but it quickly slammed up into high gear and now I’ve surpassed around the hundred unique creations. The thing is, it kind of has begun feeling… whats the word, official, recently. I dunno if that makes any sense, hell 97% of the time on this website I’m rambling about little cars and how they somehow open the floodgates for me with their past, both in real life and the little plastic counterpart so having this side venture has really given me a deep look into how awesome it can be being part of the bigger machine.

Though it’s left me begging for more nearly all the time, my methods now rely on sending off what I want printed to a company in the United Kingdom that do A4 sized sheets for a specific amount at a time and I must admit, they are a class act; the quality is fuckin’ fantastic. They are friendly, they are consistently working on upgrading their printing capabilities and they now have two sets of different prints, one’s from an Alps which are capable of very tight, blacks, whites and metallics, but color is definitely one of its biggest short-comings, it’s all dot-matrix impact print for the colors where it does its damnest to form solid colors via lines and intensity, rather than pigments. Which, y’know, when those things were new back in the nineties was fantastic. The blacks, whites and metallics like gold and silver are more similar to inkjet from the looks of it as it can do some incredibly sharp and defined lines and shapes.

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The new prints do a hell of a job on black backgrounds

The other are screenprinted, similar to what Cartograf, Tamiya, etc. do these days, it’s not the best quality for blacks, as it relies on the RGB scale to make black(which to put it bluntly is just “dump all the colors on top of each other and you get black!”), but for colors… Unlike the Alps, which needs individual colors to be read, one at a time, this one acts more like a conventional printer just with whites included(this also means since it needs colors to create black, grays and shades thereof usually get a red hue) so creating things with color is now easier than ever before. Effectively I’ve now hit the point that I split the sheet to have one with metallics, blacks, whites, silver and gold(BWSG) and the rest on the main color(RBG) sheet – the only issue here of course is, I now spend double the money to retain the quality.

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Like, I am incredibly satisfied with what I create and I so, so, so fucking hope other folks are too given I put in a stupid amount of passion into these things. But to get my scatterbrain thoughts back on the line, the point I was trying to make is that I rely on a outside source for them and I pony up a lot of my own money to have them printed and it all just takes time. So ungodly much time. I have grown to resent telling people “you gotta wait two weeks cause I’m too poor to constantly invest on a personal basis, so I stack everything into one giant order and have it all done at once“, but unfortunately that’s just how I have to operate for the time being. The downside of just being a dude with Photoshop and a hell of a creative streak, I roll with the changes and fortunately everyone who has put their time, money and hopes in me seem to have kept their patience with my slow-as-sin method.

In the meantime, this decal stuff has slowed down the model building to… well, it ground it to a halt. Hell, in fact it turned me into a very stereotypical model kit enthusiast where I now have literally forty unfinished kits to work on. I got eight car bodies in my living room just sitting, parts of three different makes of Firebird from three different model kit manufacturers(MPC, AMT Ertl and Monogram) scattered around my living room, half-finished ideas planted in piles on random objects like the ’96 Impala SS Grand Sport I’m trying to make is just sitting half-done on a pile of sprues on the table, the ’84 Dodge Daytona sits painted and half ready on a pile for two months now, got thirty five boxes stacked up behind the couch and more coming. A backlog so big that I genuinely think I’ll ever finish in this lifetime. And I keep buying more, these days more to create a decal sheet for it(like the Pontiac Ventura, Pontiac Bonneville, all the Firebird kits) and just putting it back in the box and… kind of forgetting about it. In reality, I hope I personally can strike a balance to go back to actually building more model kits rather than adding more and more decal sheets to ’em.

So in a sense, this one’s a bit of a thank you infused with a what-the-hell-goes-on kind of post, given I never ever do blog posts other than ones about the actual models. Excuse my rambling, soon we’re going back to regular programming – the Opel Astra DTM kit is coming up any day now once time permits me to type a little more. And after that, more and more I hope! So yeah, one day this website will go back to pseudo-reviews and lollygagging about model kits and cars soon, I promise!

2012 Subaru BRZ – Tamiya

2012SubaruBRZ (1)There’s only a handful of cars that were made for the buyers with “fun” being up front. There’s plenty of examples where the car is designed for the buyer’s comfort, like the AMC Pacer innovating the idea that it’s all about interior creature comforts like space, visibility, and such. Then of course you got the Mercedes’, BMWs and Audis that are designed for comfort all the while being nippy. You got things designed specifically to be as Gran Turismo-esque as possible like the Nissan GT-R. Then you got things like old grand touring coupes that were designed for long stretches of road, they were fast, they were bouncy and all around just kind of fun. But that still isn’t the type of fun we’re discussing here, it’s the type of fun that you only get as a twenty-something year old, pulling the handbrake with every turn in your starter car like a old degenerate Buick Regal or a VW Golf Mk3… Stomping the pedal into the floorboards and getting the slightest bit of ass peeling out. The kind of fun that basically meant you were destroying the thing you were driving, but you didn’t care cause you were having a Goddamn blast.

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And that all somewhat started in 1983 as the Toyota Corolla and Sprinter Trueno AE86, one of the last rear wheel drive Corollas before they went nearly exclusively FWD, it somewhat accidentally became a racing and drifting legend. It had literally all the checkboxes filled in on all the important fronts. It had great power to weight, it had excellent engines that even by themselves without any tune-ups were nothing short of epic and it was generally just a light-weight sports coupe that somehow excelled at everything it did. It got turned into a rally car for Group A rally, it dominated the 1986 European Touring Car Championship, beating all the legends like the Mercedes 190E, BMW M6, Merkur XR4Ti, Volvo 240 Turbo and so on, it was and still is a drifting legend in both anime and real life, being seen as the grand-daddy of it all, the wise elder where it all began – and it never got a true direct follow up since it’s discontinuation in 1987.

2012SubaruBRZ (5)Until 2007, when Toyota showed a concept car that had direct heritage to the AE86 with the same similar set-up. Normal, ordinary interior, nothing wild. Light weight yet very powerful for its size engine block. Rear wheel drive with the power balance shifted to the rear. Low weight all around on the car. That recipe. At first though it was a hybrid V6 block and it was sort of destined to be yet another concept that would attract a lot of attention for a year and just be forgotten about the next, until in 2008 when Subaru decided to want to partner up on this on one(after the lead designer had asked them to, which was first rejected by Toyota’s peers cause of Subaru’s reputation with AWD cars, not necessarily RWD) – keep in mind, this is like Chrysler coming in to GM’s offices to offer help on improving the Camaro. Subaru designed a boxer engine, a 4 cylinder boxer engine was designed by Subaru and they improved upon one of their already tight-as-hell chassis and gearbox from a Impreza to build the newly improved FT-86 concept.

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In 2010 the final concept was announced in Tokyo, and boy did it get some hype and the hype train kept rolling through those years with the styling being changed every four months cause while the innards were settled upon, Subaru chassis, gearbox, simple interior with lots of plastics but still enough modern day necessities, flat 4 cylinder boxer engine by Subaru with Toyota’s DS-4 injection system to create an all around quick and nippy little engine. It wasn’t until literal months before the final go ahead that the last and most accurate concept was shown; the Subaru BRZ. Around the world since late 2011, there’s several editions of what largely is the same car but just under a very complicated licensing deal where both Toyota and Subaru would get some slice of the pie; Toyota’s 86 was destined for the Asian market, Subaru’s BRZ(Boxer engine, RWD and Zenith) for Europe and other territories and the Scion FR-S(Front engine, RWD – Sport) for the North American and Canadian markets.

2012SubaruBRZ (6)And to say the least, it was welcomed quite well. It brought back the boyish joy of just spinning out your car whenever you wanted but that could still behave when necessary. It wasn’t super fast, it wasn’t the quickest to 60MPH and it was the most luxurious but the car did get the sticker of approval for “most fun” without a doubt. And Asian kit makers did jump on this boat with some finesse, both Tamiya and Aoshima produced a full detail kit(which is unusual to say the least, engines are usually considered a luxury on their kits) and they might be so similar that I’m not even sure they’re not a same joint-venture, but I figured I’d go with the Tamiya kit just because I generally trust Tamiya to be 100% the best of the bunch.

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The rear bumper’s the kit color, the rest is Skoda’s Race Blue mixed in with some Motip metallic blue.

And it’s a fantastic, fantastic kit like usual by Tamiya on all but one fronts! Holy shit it happened, I found a complaint that was for once on Tamiya’s – if you’re gonna pre-decorate your kits, as you’re known to do, do it at least decently well. It’s not even blue, it’s some off navy blue that’s closer to purple than it is to blue. But as it says above there, it wasn’t anything a little Skoda Race Blue and some store-shelf metallic blue couldn’t fix. Then decided, y’know what this need? One buffed as all hell clear coat – and I think after the fourth coat it was plenty. The rest of the kit that isn’t the weird blue, is either in black, chrome in silver and it’s of a decent enough shade to not need any painting to be done(as I did for the sake of short-cutting on the engine block a little). It comes with a set of window masks, lots of decals and a hell of a set of wheels. Tamiya, along with Aoshima and Fujimi – still kings of wheels and tires, no contest. Really tight fitting and very well detailed Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 tires and unlike damn near any Revell and AMT kit to date; friggin’ fit and go onto the model with the least amount of effort.

2012SubaruBRZ (16)It’s also a nice and complicated kit that as usual goes together with some force but ends up looking excellent. Plus as I mentioned before, for a change – a whole engine! The 4U-GSE engine is replicated with a fair amount of detail, albeit a five piece construction. Literally just the half engine block, a set of manifolds, intakes and the engine strut – that’s about it. The reservoirs and all are all one piece and what isn’t a slab or a single piece is already molded onto the body or the chassis. But fine, who cares – it’s an Asian kit with a engine and that makes me happy by default. And they also didn’t half-ass it given the engine bay looks accurate enough like the real deal(unlike MPC kits of yore where it’s wheel wells and engine block with some reservoirs awkwardly slapped on top).

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The only two issues I had were part due to the fact that I skimped on this kit. I bought it on the cheap from an Australian retailer that said this box was opened before for a promotional pictures or something in that vein and may have been “shuffled about some”. Well, while nearly nothing was damaged in the end, it did get some damage done to it. For instance, the fender indicators are missing entirely, the left headlight was snapped into pieces and given you have to force the headlamp bezel into place with the plastic glass in front, it made getting a three piece headlamp in there in one piece impossible, the loose piece fell through the bumper and is now lost to the confined space of the grille. And the little metal transfers were stuck to all sorts of random places in the plastic, all I recovered was the “B” of “BRZ” and the mirror pieces, plus randomly one Subaru badge. Believe there’s meant to be a Subaru script as well but… yeah that’s gone.

2012SubaruBRZ (13)Given it’s such a beautiful kit and knowing how good Tamiya kits are I decided y’know what, stop being such a cheap asshole and actually get the kits brand new no matter the age. So I did! I got the Opel Astra DTM, the Subaru Ayclone, the Honda S2000 and a couple more coming up down the line some time. Maybe one day I’ll reinvest in a model or a used kit to steal the headlight and the fender indicators from so I can complete this beauty, truly.

’12 Subaru BRZ specifications:
Kit: “The Sports Car” series, No.324
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 99
Molded in: Navy Blue and Black
Scale: 1/24

1978 Plymouth Volaré Super Coupe – MPC

1978PlymouthVolareSC (1)Oh man, oh man, I love me some Volarés and Aspens, so much so that I’ve actively made a decal sheet for every damn version of the car. Well, for the Aspen at least. Anyhow, the Volaré and Aspen cars are so rare and forgotten that you actually might’ve spotted a fair few of ’em and just never even gave it a thought cause they were so… trivial(even though the Volaré was one of Chrysler’s best selling cars of ’77). It didn’t help that there were four giant problems plaguing the whole replacement for the Dart and Valiant era; one being in peak Malaise era where having cars basically meant a drain on your wallet and your sanity, two being production rush that very much gave people a 1976 version of Windows Vista, something I’ll come back to in a moment, three was Chrysler being mighty ambiguous with where the new Dart/Valiant would head and four was competition being just… better, weirdly enough.

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In ’77 when the car truly came to be after a disastrous first year with quality issues making most of the buyers think “well shit”, both the Aspen and the Volaré actually got to be decent little cars. All the basic versions weren’t awful, were reasonably quick for the limited as sin power they possessed and they were… kinda good? I dunno, it was right up there with the rest of the mediocre late seventies but it does kind of show they were trying at the very least. The analogy I made earlier with the Windows Vista experience is that the 1976 Volaré and Aspen were shoved out of the door so quick that they had all sorts of now-very-typical 1970s woes and all those woes were discovered by the fucking buyers, not the quality assurance team; rusted to piles of scrap within a year(which forced or uh, “allowed” for Chrysler to utilize a new method in sealing the body that now has become quite standard), nothing functioned within the car, it was loud, it was wobbly, it was generally a pile of utter crap but y’know, baby steps and all that.

1978PlymouthVolareSC (6)However in 1977 they also introduced the new top-line model; the Aspen R/T or the Volaré Road Runner. Both came with possible largest-of-the-engines 360 cubic inch V8s with TorqueFlite 3 speed automatic, both came with appropriate all-around decal sets that were… something else, to say the least. In ’78 they escalated it with the Super Coupe for both the models. The upgrade kit was… well, an air dam, fender flares, window louvres and a set of stickers. But that being said, it was quite something to behold and it was actually made to be a really, really quick little bastard for the era. With the 360 it could out-drag(0-60MPH), and here comes a list: 1978 Camaro Z/28, 1978 Corvette, 1978 Firebird Trans Am, 1978 Mustang King Cobra II and it actually kind of goes on. So all the while it recaptured some of the dead-as-can-friggin’-be era of muscle cars, it sold… not great. Like, it was rather embarrassing.

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531. That’s the amount of Aspen Super Coupes that exist. And as for Plymouth, it’s not better at a measly 494. That’s two entire models, selling a combined bottom-of-the-barrel grand. To put that in perspective, in 1978 the US population was 222.6 million, that means in 1978 just 0.00046% of the US population had a Super Coupe of either brand, opposed to say the 68,745 1978 Trans Ams(0.03088%). People just wanted more luxurious and more reliable, dependable cars(e.g. Ford Granada). But thats what makes or rather these cars so special, they were the underdog and they were better for it… for two years. Cause after all, after 1980, the entire Volaré and Aspen line was brought out behind the barn while ol’ Chrysler held onto a double barrel. It’s such a weird little achievement to have, the one that didn’t sell whatsoever was actually a fairly quick call-back to the muscle car era that was actually becoming to be decently reliable.

1978PlymouthVolareSC (9)But y’know, the whole Malaise era was full of stories like these. Failures, sad attempts, screw ups and above all; customer exploitation. It didn’t keep the fucktrain from derailing though, not until way into the eighties! Hooray for bailouts, bailouts of bailouts and just good old fashioned bailing out the bailout of the bailout. Anyway! MPC made several Volaré kits in the seventies, all the way from the days where it was still a Satellite masquerading as a Road Runner, then when it was a Fury masquerading as a Road Runner and then lastly when it became a Volaré masquerading as a Road Runner, or as Chrysler’s clever marketing folks made it; a “Fun Runner!”. From 1977 it brought out annual Volaré kits and promos until 1980(skipping the ’79 year as it was largely unchanged from ’78) and not a damn thing exists of the Dodge Aspen but that’s where I supposedly come in with my decal sets… Anyway, it was a right pain in the ass to find a decently priced kit, so I settled for a promo from 1977 and used some parts from my previously built 1980 Volaré kit(like the deck spoiler and the window louvres).

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So first hurdles were simple… The grille isn’t correct for a 1978 Volaré, but screw it, I don’t mind and it’ll be a fair bit of work to make it look anything like a ’78, something that if I’d screw it up, be a royal problem to solve. The second hurdle was the wrong-as-sin tail lights that MPC put on the ’78-’80 Volaré kits, they’re too wide and odd looking to be anything close to the legit thing. So I tried to make due with what I had and just rolled with it, sawing out more and more of the real valance to make room for the gargantuan light bezels. Then I realized, awh shit, the whole interior is one giant piece and I don’t know what type of super glue they used to solder the goddamn seats and steering wheel in but they probably use it to seal rifts in the space time continuum cause no matter the amount of wedging, cutting, pulling and bending, they would not come loose, hell the plastic half a inch above and under the glue points was beginning to break before the bonds.

1978PlymouthVolareSC (11)So I just tried my damnest to give it all a royal red coat for the interior and attempted to detail it as best I could between the steering wheel arms and the seats. I bought some spray paint that allegedly was between dark red and black, which is somewhat close to the real Volaré Super Coupe’s color. Yeah, as you yourself have probably pointed out in aggravation; it’s just a shade of Goddamn maroon. I figured I might get it darker if I used a black primer, which helped but it only made it a dark shade of maroon. And at this point I was seventy bucks deep into this promo, not counting the wrecking of a ’80 Volaré kit for the tail lights, chassis and engine. And then, to finish this calamity off, I realized the decals I spend a lifetime trying to design didn’t fit as snugly over the door handles as I’d hoped. They at least do look quite good, especially with the new quality of ’em(similar to the somewhat thicker Aoshima and Tamiya decals), so there’s that. I am kinda in love with the wheels though, they fit the Super Coupe really well and it was all I had other than the stock steelies they slapped on there by default, put some Fireball Modelworks Grand Am Radial GT tire decals on there to finish it off and poof, decent looking wheels – minus the stance but that’s more a MPC promo problem and less a fitting problem.

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The promo itself is… well, it’s a typical promo. Wholly one color minus the chrome, easy to disassemble(body is screwed to the chassis by 4 screws, once they’re out, it all comes loose), hard as balls to take completely apart(as I said before, the original ’77 bucket is still the one in there). Maybe I’ll recycle it once again for the Dodge Aspen Super Coupe or perhaps the Dodge Aspen R/T, who knows. Either way, it’s not a terrible addition to the collection. Just wish I’d done it justice instead of thinking “well, I’m approaching a hundred bucks, time to just wrap this one up son” – learning experiences and such, eh.

’78 Plymouth Volaré Super Coupe specifications:
Kit: … Little MPC box
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 1, or 5, it’s a pre-built promo
Molded in: “Silver Cloud”, aka Silver
Scale: 1/25

1983 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta – Revell

20180302_103043Have you ever had the thing happen to you when you more or less blindly order something from say, Amazon, or some place and when the delivery guy gets to your door and they hold a box more aptly designed to transport a damn fridge and you quickly come to the realization that you may have made a mistake? Time wasn’t kind to this kit, or perhaps the owner but when the delivery guy came to the door, dude looked at me with despair in his eyes when he tilted it slightly and heard the noise that just sounded like someone packaged a broken vase. Well fortunately I already knew what I ordered had some pieces loose in the box but… that was odd, it sounded like it went from one far side of the three foot box to the other. There’s no way in hell there’s a little six and a half inch model in there. And lo and behold, a twenty five inch box comes out of the bigger one like some Russian nesting doll – Jesus, that is not a 1/25th scale kit, I thought to myself, I got myself a long out of production Camaro Berlinetta kit for 23 dollar and it’s also a friggin’ 1/16th scale one.

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So here I am, overjoyed and worried. I ain’t got shelf space for a 12 inch model but I do have a very rare subject that I absolutely wanted for so unbelievably long. I just never knew it was a 1/16th scale model, hell the box of the kit was in the worst state imaginable with corners torn and stuff that had delicately removed the 1/16th scale call-out from existence and honestly, I just always assumed it was a companion kit to the ’82 and ’83 Camaro Z/28 kits from Revell that were introduced along the new generation of the Camaro way back. The story of this kit goes that it was produced in 1985 as the “Custom ’83 Camaro Berlinetta” kit, weirdly enough of a car that just never really got any footing with the new generation, it got killed off in 1986, just a short year after Revell dedicated one kit to it.

83berlinetta (2)The Berlinetta was always meant to be the “upscale”, sporty, nicer and excuse my vomit inducing terminology; European. Berlinetta itself is an Italian term for ‘little saloon’ or ‘small saloon’ and was often found as a badge name for European cars destined to be grand tour coupes like old Ferraris, Alfa Romeos, Maseratis, Opels, MGs, etc. What did General Motors do with the name? They slapped it to a Camaro as a replacement type for the Type LT luxury model, which is appropriate I suppose. But then they generally did fuck-all with the exterior(other than different wheels, a “unique” grille and some extra chrome) and used up the whole budget on the inside. And in a way, that’s fine, right? Some people want a luxurious sport car that wouldn’t cost them an arm or leg, that’s mostly what drives Alfa Romeo these days so why not back then. It was a very popular option on the second generation models from ’78 on and was re-introduced along the new third generation as a upgrade package with unique gold spoked wheels, gold accented stripes and badges plus the whole shebang on the inside; velour interior, digital dashboard from ’84 onwards, all the electrical gadgets you could cream over in… well, 1983 and a restyled nose, cause while I just said, they did fuck-all on the outside, well they broke that trend in 1983 and gave the Camaro an overbite!

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It’s weird looking but sure, it catches the eye. It’s a different enough Camaro to warrant a turning of the head here and there, besides it was all about the inside. You could live like a Goddamn oil sheikh in there, it had all the cool stuff for a ’83 car like a clock on the arm rest, storage space in every nook and cranny, fancy ass radio and sound system, from ’84 it got that space age digital dash that broke after just four months and all that snazz. Not to mention, every damn inch of the car was carpeted and the velour would soak up all your humble scents and regurgitate them at any moment you weren’t sweating just so it could simulate as if you were. Yeah it was delightfully eighties. But it also carried a reputation, it was the gentleman’s muscle car edition – the Type LT and early Berlinettas had been the more sophisticated relic of the muscle car, with refined interiors, more subdued European looks about with with the wire wheels and the flat rear deck and the chrome inlaid tail light segments, so on. It also still could be equipped with a 305 and 350 ci V8 so it wasn’t just good looking in some respects, it still had some power to it.

83berlinetta (11)Though granted, this was the era that sporty American cars were advertised by their “superior ride” due to weighing as much as a fully equipped Mercedes Benz wagon. Weird times they were, and no that’s not my European superiority bleeding through, I’m a snarky shit but we can all agree these days that while being heavy allowed for a floaty ride, the last thing you need on your “sporty” car is 3500 pounds of weight(just for reference, a ’93 Mercedes 220E Estate weighs 3100lbs) but y’know… at least it was pretty. And the model kit does replicate this quite well, granted it’s easier to get the detail out there at 1/16th scale so it’s not like I’m praising it for being out of the ordinary, but you know, it’s still a pretty damn close replica of the real deal – a car so rare now that most Berlinettas that exist have either been parted into a regular Camaro due to replacement parts being so hard to come by you’d just have to go for other versions or have just… died, as so many cars from the eighties.

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Check out that warp-age on the tailgate/window, it’s absolutely sexy isn’t it.

So from the get-go, given its rarity and… size, I wanted to try and do it justice. I love me some all black Chevrolets so I figured I’d roll with the color choice of black on black, instead of the more common silver. All Berlinettas came with gold accented wheels, gold accented tail lights and gold stripes all around the body so I thought doing it in all black would only bring more attention to that lovely gold. The decals in the kit had gone all rancid(as did the tires, but more on that later) due to sitting in the open air since 1986, I was pretty much forced into re-creating the whole decal sheet myself. That being said though, this is in my opinion, a “custom” kit done right. MPC and to an extend even AMT Ertl, from the late sixties through the entire seventies and early eighties did one thing with every kit; make it look absolutely insane. Not the “wow, it’s epic” insane, its the “we the jury find the defendant” insane. I mean, hooray for choice but generally it’s just a waste of effort on the designer’s part as they’re just too insane, granted it was the period and it made perfect sense given the customers wanted the eyesores but they aged… poorly. Whereas the ’83 Camaro they did here, well it may as well have been a factory standard option.

83berlinetta (13)It looks really subdued all things considered, it’s totally a thing I see people get to using thinking it looks better than the actual Berlinetta stripes, which were just some golden accented stripes that were hard to spot even in normal daylight. But figured I’d roll ol’ stock for funsies and getting the whole thing in black. As I said, I had to re-do the whole sheet but I thought I’d expand on some omissions like the dashboard dials, the armrest clock, the nosecone badge, the giant air cleaner decal and the likes. So all in all, some stuff to get the best detail on the body with. The problem with the 33 year old decals is that they were… milky, to say the least. Hell, they required a literal washing to be any sort of usable whatsoever so the two decals I did use(the Camaro license plates) required like twenty minutes of rubbing and touching up like some demented puppy to get all the paper backing, milky substances and all the other old gunk off. That being said though, for a early eighties kit, well middle-eighties, the decal sheet isn’t all too bad, it comes with all the Camaro and Berlinetta badges, no dials and no front Camaro badge but even then, the mold quality is high enough to simply fill in the badge yourself by hand.

83berlinetta (9)Now earlier I said that time did a number on this kit and not on just the decals, like the tires for instance. They had gone all white, fuzzy and looked very much like a rotten apple, which is just the rubberizing agent seeping out the tires which is the downside of old, old rubber, but apparently I mended it by just spray painting it gently with some satin black after scrubbing the more gunky stuff away. What I couldn’t mend was a problem of a slightly more painful nature; the tendency for shit to warp. The chassis had warped like a Goddamn banana, which made getting it into the body stupidly difficult. There’s now also the downside that the engine sits a quarter inch higher than the rest so I can’t close the hood without removing the air cleaner, but it’s all fine. It’s a 33 year old kit, it’s fine, it can be busted up, broken, fucked up, it’s just age doing its thing. That being said though, this kit is… really, really good, especially with age in mind.

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I built one other large scale kit before, which was Revell’s 2010 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang in 1/12th scale and the only thing I truly recall from it was that similarly like this kit, it built and finished up like any other 1/24th scale or 1/25th scale model just with sharper detail and much easier to do so thanks to the larger pieces but this one does have an edge on the Mustang; it comes with opening doors, opening trunk and moving seats. Sadly though, that extra amount of moving parts truly fucked it all up even more cause the trunk doesn’t close, the doors don’t fit any longer and the hood is literally the only moving part that isn’t botched due to the warped body, chassis or parts. It also stands on three wheels due to the warped chassis however the very soft, bouncy tires do allow for some more uh… “realistic” weight on them so it only looks a little bit off with the tires being pushed down some.

83berlinetta (8)It’s just one of those things that I always wanted, and weirdly enough surprised me in the best of ways. I got my rare edition Camaro kit, I got to try a 1/16th scale kit and all of this without the hassle of having to sell a child into slavery or rob a bank to afford it! What a hell of a kit. That being said though, I do seriously still want to find an affordable ’82 or ’83 Camaro kit by Revell, or the ’82 Firebird brother, just to see what the detail level would’ve been at a 1/25th scale. Shame those kits are as rare or even rarer than this one.

’83 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta specifications:
Kit: #85-7491
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 89
Molded in: Off-blue & Black
Scale: 1/16

2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Collector Edition – Revell

2002FirebirdCE (1)For Pontiac, the early 2000s were a time of change and adaptation. Gently guided by the revamp of their lineup and the broadening of their market by General Motors in 2004, which saw legendary names like the Firebird getting axed in 2002(which had less to do with the revamp and more to do with the beyond terrible sales numbers for it and the Camaro brother), the Bonneville getting axed in 2004, the Grand Am in 2005, the GTO came back badge-engineered from an Australian badass that still lives today(as the HSV Commodore); the Holden Monaro and the last decade also saw the introduction of a few new ones like the Solstice, a fun and quite killer looking little two door, the G6 and G8 saloons and the… Aztek, which got replaced by a more sensible albeit a slightly fatter looking Dodge Caliber.

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And then… in 2008, GM finally ended their drunken stagger in financial misfortune by falling face first into their own puke puddle and realized it was time to either sell their puppies off of tell someone to get shotgun from the shed, either for themselves or the pups in question. Hell, Pontiac wasn’t the only one to go in that decade… Oldsmobile got shuttered in 2004 already even though their kill shot occurred in 2000. But anyhow, in mid-2009, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, GMC and Hummer were led in front of the wall and blindfolded as the GM execs debated and fought on which they could keep, sell or shutter, like some demented game of fuck-marry-kill. GMC got saved, likely cause American pick ups just sell like hotcakes regardless of brand. Saab got sold off, again, only this time to one of my country’s finest; Spyker Automobiles, a sale that legit got laughed off the stage here in the Netherlands and dragged Spyker to its knees in debt, shuttering Saab in 2012. Saturn got… well, I kind of liked Saturn’s brief 20-something year existence but that was a shot hardly heard around the world. Hummer too got shot down in flames in 2010 and Pontiac? Well Pontiac got shuttered all together, all operations ceased, the dealerships would sell their stock and get closed or rebranded and the only thing that remains today is the Pontiac trademark that has been updated every ten years, set to expire in July 2027 – and based on the somewhat melancholy attitude around Pontiac’s death, they’re likely to keep renewing the trademark every decade.

2002FirebirdCE_sunny (3)So, y’know, long story, but the last decade of Pontiac’s life was actually kind of depressing and the Firebird being killed off in 2002 didn’t help. But it got a nice little last hurrah if you will, being granted a “Collector Edition”, originally intended as a 35th anniversary which turned more into a final salute. Less than 2000 were offered, with options like a convertible or a T-top and by default the nice WS6 package which comes with the LS1 5.7L V8 that churned out a solid 325 horsepower, embroidered Collector Edition emblems into the seats and a number badge on the center console showing the build number of the car, two metal CE badges on the doors and a series of black, gray and silver stripes running along the rear quarter and across the hood. In kit form however, the ’98 Firebird wasn’t a Trans Am model but a mere Ram Air with the same engine block, mostly cause, I’m just assuming here, they didn’t get the rights for the Trans Am name as they didn’t manage to get them either for the ’77 Firebird. It also has the single exhaust set-up, so there’s that.

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Anyhow, last year I got the ’98 Firebird built and was quite pleasantly surprised. It’s like its real counterpart based mostly on the Camaro, with a fair amount of Camaro parts still being on the sprues, like the LT1 engine parts and the little stamper to get the fog-lights into the bumper, but it does have the benefit of its build quality which is quite awesome! It’s one of those nineties kits that was designed to be versatile and really, really detailed. It started with the ’93 Camaro Pace Car kit, followed up by the ’93 Firebird very shortly after and those eventually became the ’98 and ’02 Camaro and the ’98 Firebird, as the Firebird never got a final salute by Revell. This kit, is the one I suggested folks should get in the ’98 Firebird post, which is infinitely better! Well, I was wrong it turns out, it’s just somewhat better due to the choice of wheels, given the decals are still prone to being milky and will get ugly borders if the box has been opened before.

2002FirebirdCE_sunny (6)But that’s besides the point, the plastic is also of a somewhat increased quality, the T-top decals were once kind of matted glass-textured and now turned into literal black slabs, which in some cases can be seen as a improvement or considered to be a lot cheaper and worse, up to the builder I suppose, but y’know – it’s still a bit better. The only problem I ran into is that given the previous owner of this delightful little kit had opened it and somehow let it get squashed. The body warped outwards which I stupidly over corrected by squeezing it too far back inwards, causing the bumpers to no longer fit and the hood to no longer shut properly. This exaggerated the panel gaps on the bumpers quite a friggin’ bit… But oh well. That’s just how life goes whilst trying to be a cheapskate.

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Initially, I made a decal sheet for the whole thing that includes some interior things I didn’t get around to using like a pair of floor mats cause I tried to flock the interior flooring however the decals for the engine bay I did use to great effect cause Goddamn I am happy with how crisply they came out, especially the text. The tail light masks which in my opinion should’ve been a part of the kit in the first place given how weird it looks without make a hell of a difference too. Other than that, I genuinely wish the kit came with dual exhausts cause… the bumper has the two holes for it, it’s so strange to see the open exhaust port and just have nothing there. I genuinely don’t know if its because of the type of Firebird or if its just something they did to avoid Trans Am related bits and bobs.

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So, in the end, it’s really just another kit I built to try and test fit some decals onto, bit similar to the AMC Gremlin and Pacer of late and I dunno, it’s quite a success! The stripes look fantastic, the text based decals look sharp as hell and the whole thing kind of came out looking quite alright besides the fact that obviously, it was warped a fair amount. Not to mention I do friggin’ love me some special edition GM material, like the whole Camaro anniversary line up and sooner or later all the Firebird ones! Revell has made a 25th Anniversary edition Firebird and I’m in the process of making a version of the 30th – so at least there’s that.

’98 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Collector Edition specifications:
Kit: #85-2159
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 102
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1977 AMC Pacer X – MPC

1977PacerX (1)The fishbowl! The aquarium! The girthy-midget! The pregnant guppy! The Ass-tastrophy! The terrarium! The monstrosity! The Mirth-Mobile! The Malaise Egg! The nicknames for the AMC Pacer just go on and on and on… The Pacer was introduced in 1974 as a companion to the supremely successful AMC Gremlin but the designing of the thing already started in 1971 with the first-time-for-everything approach of: designing the car from the inside out. I mean, that’s clever but it also has a weird by effect that it made the car’s ass freaking enormous. I mean, Jesus wept, that thing got a wide, wide ass. But that giant bubble glass butt allows for giant storage compartments in the trunk. It also has wide as sin passenger and drivers compartments, leg room so big that Delta Airlines spontaneously detonates at the sheer concept of it and weird but neat little things like the rain gutters being removed for a sleeker design(which did allow for some wet front seats when it rains but… well, that’s kinda our norm now), the passenger door being around four inches longer for easier entry and a built in B-pillar roll-over bar – all quite awesome features.

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And while it had the width of a full size 1970 Chevrolet Impala SS, it had the mileage of a Datsun. And that right there, for a 1974 car that was designed just before the fuel crisis ground the United States to a damn halt, was one excellent choice of theirs. What was also one excellent choice was the styling. It’s… quite something, ain’t it. I mean, it’s on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to utterly cool and absolutely Goddamn hideous. Christ on a bike, the thing had more ugly on it than a Rolling Stones album cover but at the same time, it was just as awesome as a Rolling Stones album.

1977PacerX (14)So… yeah, it’s a Pacer. Made by MPC, first in 1976 and onwards until 1978 where they made yet another Pacer X model but totally forgot that the X version was scrapped by the end of ’77 in favor of a ehem, “Sport” model which by the end of ’78 was also axed. Hell, the whole thing was axed by 1979 for various reasons, not before turning the grille into something heinous but… y’know, swings and roundabouts. The legit MPC release from ’77 featured a 1976 Pacer X with some new parts. Yeah I also don’t know what the hell the new parts are but the legacy pieces are there; the odd off-road tires of the ’76 and the fog lights and some new decals that will never ever get used, so yep. But one thing that was stupidly awesome at the time and in utter contrast to other MPC kits of the same year; the detail on it is friggin’ crisp as hell. I mean, holy friggin’ shit it’s something special – the Pacer X script on the side is so well done that you really wouldn’t need any decals to get the script looking like it’s legit. Same goes for the AMC/Pacer badges on the trunk and hood and everything else. I don’t say this quickly, hell I hardly ever say it it at all but… Good job, MPC!

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I should say though, this kit was brand spanking new from 1977 all the way until now but it still carries the non-separate baggie curse of ye olde modeling days. All the parts were crammed into a single bag(but the tires were separate, thank God) and it squished the body outward for, well, for years at the least. So it’s horribly warped and the hood never, ever is gonna sit flush like it should, the front bumper and front lip were so warped it now has this weird uplift to it(can’t bend it any way without snapping it) and the tire rubber had gone rock solid but not before shrinking so the rims wouldn’t fit any longer. Oh and the chassis warped inwards giving the front tires a lovely wobbly looking inwards stance… but I am perfectly content with it. I was so stoked that I made a decal sheet for it in anticipation of it and wanted to make a bog standard, nothing special about it Pacer X in metallic silver with a boring gray interior. I also flocked in a carpet…-ish, which I’ll get back to later and I also wired up the whole damn engine. Every last bit of it that I could.

1977PacerX (12)Like I said, the whole thing got warped something fierce, as you’ve been able to see in the pictures. But lemme just go down the list of parts that ended up warping; the front bumper, the front valance, the front grille(snapped in two), the fenders on the body, the chassis frame, the glass and the interior bucket. So on a kit of roughly fifty pieces with well over half being “custom”, that’s damn near all the parts having a defect one way or the other. But to hell with it, I built it and I like it. It’s such a weird little model just like the car, it’s got a strange blend of high quality parts and low quality parts, the body and such being crisp as all hell but the glass and most of the interior being low quality as hell. I mean, the seats are nice and they got the denim pattern on there nailed down but the rest like the doors and the dash… Not so much. The engine bay is quite detailed for a MPC kit, especially the engine block which gets half hidden under the firewall/dashboard regardless and there’s no place for the hood to connect to other than just lying awkwardly on the glass which is connected to the dashboard. It’s odd to see such a high quality/low quality mix.

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Speaking of engine bays, AMC’s straight six 258ci engine is definitely the highlight, as I mentioned before. MPC has notoriously shitty engine casts, the 305 and 350ci V8s from Chevrolet models are just so damn dull, the 440, 426 and 340 blocks are quite honestly terrible but then there’s some winners here and there like MPC’s late entry Volare Super Six engines aren’t casted too terribly and have the correct air cleaners. Then of course you got their 1980s entries like the Omni, Charger, Daytona and such which pack incredible renditions of their small I4 and I6 blocks. But to get back to the point, it’s such a detailed little engine block in this AMC, it’s… quite staggering.

1977PacerX (7)The decals I made are on the decal sheet page and I made a little addition in the form of the semi-existent 258 engine marking decal. The rest is the stripes, the tail light stripe, the emblems, the Pacer X for the side, so forth, just to make the whole thing a whole lot easier to detail without giving my damn shaky hand a chance at ruining it. I’d say they came out quite well! Not to mention, unlike having accidented my way through the ’84 Oldsmobile Cutlass H/O build, this one actually finished up quite nicely! Just a shame about the warped-ass body.

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Welcome to the collection, you bubble assed beauty, you. This kicked off a whole parade of AMC love on my part, I am already invested in the Gremlin X from ’74 by AMT Ertl which isn’t even close to being half the kit this is but screw it, I’m going for it. And sooner or later, a ’77 Pacer Wagon will join the festival of madness. Oh yeah, y’know what these seventies models could use that MPC just glossed over time and time again? Some Goddamn door mirrors.

’77 AMC Pacer X specifications:
Kit: MPC 1-7701
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 62
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25