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

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1974 AMC Gremlin X – AMT Ertl

1974GremlinX (1)Oh Jesus H. Christ, what have I gotten myself into. Recently I bought a ’77 Pacer X kit from MPC, at the time of purchasing not quite realizing just how unbelievably freaking lucky I had been getting it in the first place, let alone brand new for next to nothing. So what did I decide to do immediately? I bought the 1974 AMC Gremlin X kit from AMT Ertl. When I built up the Pacer, it kind of struck me that the kit unlike any of MPC’s schlock from the 1970s… it was good. It was really, really good, in fact. So I had laid my expectations somewhat higher than “it’ll be that non-detail-shitfest that AMT and MPC did from 1971 through 1983.” – y’know, as low as bars go, that’s… I mean, it’s a promotion.

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Plot twist, it was horrible. But I’ll get to it in a moment, when I bought the Pacer I right away decided that I wanted the Gremlin too as a companion piece. Both cars were notorious to say the least, the Pacer had so many nicknames that weren’t exactly flattering that there’s a whole page dedicated to it on the internet and the Gremlin… well, it was once described by Jay Leno as the “homeless man’s Corvette” to Jeff Dunham who attempted to refer to it as the “poor man’s Corvette”. Either of ’em, not exactly held in high regard by the public. And while the Pacer has gotten a cult following over the last thirty years, the Gremlin’s more or less fallen behind as the chopped in half Javelin that never quite could. That being said, the Gremlin was the more subdued more down-to-American-earth subcompact that did several things very right, that the Pacer did so very wrong to many. Richard Teague, the designer, whom is also responsible for the Pacer, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Javelin, AMX and more, claimed that fellow designer Bob Nixon designed the Gremlin on a puke bag on a flight. It originally was to be a ’68 Javelin on the front and chopped down and short, called the AMC AMX-GT, which I will admit; looked a hell of a lot more sexy than any of the Gremlins did eventually. It kept the Javelin front, albeit the less sexy ’70-’74 one and the roof was raised quite a bit cause, as it turned out – no human over four foot ten could sit in the damn prototype.

1974GremlinX (4)The things that the Gremlin did right was making standard options small and affordable(yet also kept bigger engines and trim options on the sheet), as the economy shat itself and the oil embargos were dished out. It also looked less alien and odd than some would’ve expected, especially knowing the Pacer was around the corner and the styling was soon made normal by things like the Pinto, Vega, Chevette and so on. It was also, unlike many of its vehicle brethren, quite solidly built. It didn’t rust quite as easily, it didn’t fall to bits after ten thousand miles, the engines were low maintenance and often crossplatform so if it did need maintenance, parts were plenty. The smaller V6s that were on offer were also really fuel efficient, especially during those days.

1974GremlinX (6)If only the AMT Ertl kit was on a similar level… which it isn’t. You see, the 1970s for AMT and MPC were simply put; quotas. Get the new Gremlin on the market, get the new Camaro on the market, get the new dealership promos out the door, get that Dodge Fury promo, who gives a flying ratsass about detail or even getting a reasonable kit out there, just get it out. And in a way, this allowed for market saturation which now is sort of beneficial in the way that there’s 1970s promos literally everywhere you look but this also allowed for AMT Ertl and MPC to lower the bar so damn low that South Park’s James Cameron is still looking for it to this day. But despite! I figured I’d at least try and get a nice little model out of it.

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So I first designed a decal sheet for it, knowing full well AMT Ertl and MPC just cannot do a decent one for the life of ’em. Well, mostly at least – the ’74 Roadrunner and ’70 Coronet Super Bee have really nice sheets but in that case the model itself ended up being awful. It’s just how it goes, huh. Anyhow, I’m into the decal business these days so no half assing it this time around and I may as well get a reasonable model out of it all. Initially I wanted to make a black one with red stripes but then I thought… Purple can be really, really pretty. So I bought a can of the Plum Crazy purple metallic from a new ’16 Dodge Challenger and laid into it and I gotta admit; it doesn’t look bad! It sort of comes close to the real AMC metallic purple which is a tad brighter with a more lighter purple hue underneath but y’know, it’s not bad.

1974GremlinX (5)What is bad, though, is how unbelievably half-assed this kit is. Normally I wouldn’t call out the “exaggerated” pictures and drawings on the side of a kit cause they’re always prettier than anything most of us can make. However, this time I can and I am – it’s a fucking lie. For instance, the seats on the side are what they would’ve looked like… This is what they actually look like. (Photo credit: Sportabout @MCM). Seriously, nearly everything on this kit is an afterthought to the degree that it’s irredeemable, the seats are narrow and weird, the rear bench is so low that even garden gnomes are too tall for it, the steering wheel is gargantuan in comparison to the rest, the gear stick is around five times too big(like, really, it’s the size of the steering column). The little ribs on the side where the side marker lights go aren’t scaled properly and are just off looking, neither of the two bumpers go where they should go, the hood is a solid quarter inch too small, the wheels are attached to metal rods that are a solid two inches too long so I spent the better part of half an hour drilling part by part into the rims to get a somewhat better stance going. The whole chassis is a disappointment that was obviously still a relic from the 1974 AMC Gremlin Drag Racer kit cause it sits a fair inch out of the body.

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So I knew going in the seats were just stupid toothpicks, so I stole a pair of seats from a ’70 Torino GT kit which look somewhat more appropriate and I spend a fair amount of time sanding down the leaf springs and such to get the ride height better suited. Like, it upsets me for real knowing this kit RRP’s for around twenty dollars. I mean, it’s fine to say and assume model kit enthusiasts should just take their shit and adjust, which is what we do and are known for; but this is just stupid. This is a unchanged release with a very minor upgrade(hooray, there’s MT branded drag slicks, thanks AMT Ertl, thank you.) that was awful in 1975 and it’s no different in 2018. Like I said, it’s just so damn painful to know that the 1977 MPC AMC Pacer X kit is just worlds, worlds apart. And that one they didn’t re-release, go figure. I’m willing to overlook the sheer braindead decision that they still don’t do clear headlight lenses after forty years, but the interior of this kit is just so, so cheap. Apologies if I come across upset, I’m genuinely disappointed in Round 2’s modus operandi these days of just repackaging kits from the seventies damn near untouched.

I paid less for a genuine, brand new 1977 AMC Pacer X kit that is infinitely better than a 2017 re-imagination of a 1974 kit.

’74 AMC Gremlin X specifications:
Kit: AMT1077/12
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 77
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT – AMT

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (1)The mid to late sixties were a period of aggressive advances and what one could call a sort of coming of age. The fifties had the United States booming left, right and center with opulence, slapping chrome on every inch of the house, fancy leather and bright colors everywhere, music getting wilder and wilder, cinema getting better and better, the golden age of TV kicked off and the cars, while they don’t really appeal to me, but late fifties is Americana to its Miss Belvedere burying heart. And as the sixties came around, the United States began living less like the wild party apartment and honed in on all of its specific parts and began improving on ’em something fierce, in most cases for better, in some for worse.

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One thing that was for the better was the introduction of the ’64-½ Mustang, the literal introduction of the pony car. A car so damn desirable that it kickstarted nearly ten years of the toughest brawling for number one among car manufacturers, it had every big company doing their own take on the pony car to get a slice of the pie. The semi-official checklist is: affordable entry, long front and short rear, focused on being sporty all around, mainly equipped with small block V8s and aggressively aimed at younger buyers. Before you know it, Chrysler chucked the Barracuda at the world two weeks before the Mustang hit the market but it got adapted over the years into its magnum opus; the ’70-’74 ‘Cuda(and the Challenger on the same platform), AMC brought the Javelin in ’67, GM pushed the Camaro and Firebird on the market in ’67 too and it even spread globally; Ford Europe making the now equally legendary Ford Capri, Toyota bringing the Celica and Nissan the Fairlady 240Z, whats the one omission here? Well, Ford, just like GM and Chrysler had more than one name under their umbrella and had Mercury design their own more luxurious version based on the new ’67 Mustang platform.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (5)And what came out of it is in my opinion, arguably one of the prettiest muscle cars ever designed. Ford had it be designed as such that it would eye more European to the American customers, with more ‘alien’ design cues to things like the giant “electric razor” grille and the sharp fender angles. How it looks more European is way the balls beyond me as a European but I suppose its nicer to say its “European” instead of “less bulbous than what we’re used to“. It was twinned to the Mustang from its inception to about 1973 when Mercury was turning their entire lineup into luxury cars, which was, y’know, fair point, the Cougar was a luxurious pony car that could be optioned to be a roaring beast with bare bones everything else but deep down it was… well, luxurious. But never mind its ill fated thirty year voyage beyond muscle car kingdom, the 1967 and 1968 were prime years for the cars and while Semon Knudsen took over the design of the Mustang, he had them turned into heavier, slower, clunkier and generally just fat versions of what they once were(I should add here though that I do really like the ’69-’73 Mustangs, but yeah they are just… unnecessarily huge), the Cougar kept being what it was until the fuel crisis in 1973.

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And AMT back in the day was responsible for fashioning kits out of the newly arrived Cougar until 1970, in which MPC took over but before that happened, AMT pushed out these kits which were three in one kits with a plethora of options(which thankfully included stock, yeah believe it or not, sometimes you didn’t get a stock version) and quite crisp detailing. And boy I had been looking for a 1967 or 1968 Cougar since I started building kits again and after that disappointment known as the ’69 Cougar, and I just never found one for less than 120 bucks. Until I found one while randomly browsing eBay looking for the newly released ’85 Olds from Revell… It was on offer for thirty bucks, nearly brand new with all bits still in plastic from a French seller. Of all places, I found one of the most elusive kits just 230 miles away from me. Now I found out the kit was purchased in 1972 or so by someone as a gift, it got transported to Europe with a family moving at one point or another and sat around for a long, long time. So bidding wars erupted, paid 80 euros for it in the end but… worth it. So damn worth it. Immediately hit up Keith Marks for the ’68 Cougar sheet he has on offer and bought some metallic blue after seeing this particular picture of a Cougar(a design I’ll be mimicking on the upcoming ’92 Cougar) – what color blue is it that I procured for this build? Well, you’re quite wrong – it’s a Goddamn Skoda color of all things. It’s their “Race Blue Metallic” color and boy oh boy does it pop.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (9)So right away upon seeing the kit in my hands, two thoughts entered my mind. One; holy shit detail is crisp, what the hell kind of magic did they use in 1968 and why can’t AMT Ertl even reach similar heights in friggin’ 2018. Two; Jesus, Mary and Joseph Stalin the detail is so crisp, is this kit really from 1968 or was the seller just full of shit!? The body is so unbelievably good and the fit of the body parts is also stellar, it’s only in the engine bay where the detail takes a fairly colossal hit. The engine is either a 302ci V8 or a 390ci V8 I can’t tell, it’s rather hard to tell, the radiator is just a single piece, no shroud or anything, the fan blades are huge, as are the other parts besides the battery, which is a tiny little cube. Oh and no reservoirs, nothing. It’s really, really bare bones in there. So I opted to take another Mustang engine but quickly ran into the problem that I didn’t really wanted to sacrifice any kits I was still going to complete… Until I found the old spare of a 1970 Ford Torino GT I once purchased for the chassis, engine and interior to slap into the ’71 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler I got coming up sooner or later. I thought, y’know what, this is a worthwhile thing, the basic engine/transmission seemed to fit the engine bay exactly and even fit the mounts perfectly(just had to drill a hole in the oil pan, that’s it). The only problem was, the ’68 Cougar did not have the type of engine the ’70 Torino GT had… A 429 Cobra Jet. Oooohhh weeell, it sits in there, it looks much better than the original and it might even just look good.

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The interior has quite nice detail to it as well, even a weird addition I’ve never seen before: seat belts on the stock seats. Molded in there, in decent quality. I mean, it’s a bit odd but… nice at the same time. The chassis on the other hand is quite mediocre, but it’s just something all of the model kit designers from the sixties through the eighties did, the thought of “no-one looks at the bottom” reigned supreme for long. The ridiculous age of the kit, fifty years old in a few months, has had some downsides on a few parts… One was the rubber wheels, which had gone rock hard and shrunk to the point that none of the wheels still fit them, so I tried to solve that particular problem via AMT Ertl’s one-size-fits-fuck-all tires and they actually fit for the first time, ever. Though the tires aren’t the right size for the model and it sits… weird, but it sorta works. At least it’s got the friggin’ wheels on, that was a fight in its own right.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (16)The other problem is that back in those times, they shoved the whole kit in one plastic bag. This nowadays isn’t done anymore for one simple reason; it wrecked the damn kit. Parts interconnected, the tires can rot and melt to a piece and be conjoined forever. And last but not least, the thing that happened to this kit; the clear piece got scratched to high heaven in the baggie. But whatever, time and decay go hand in hand. At the end of it all, the kit went together so unbelievably well, even with the whole replacement engine in mind. Keith Marks’ decals topped off an incredible package and was worth every penny, not to mention it really brings the detail out, especially on the grille.

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Worth the 100 euro or so investment? Hell yes. Worth investing if you ever stumble upon one for not a whole lot of money? Oh hell yes. Wishing along with me for a re-release or a new tool of the ’67-’68 and ’70 Cougars? Hell. Yes.

’68 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT specifications:
Kit: AMT5328-200
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 109
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE – AMT Ertl

2017CamaroSS1LE (1)AMT’s the proud license owner of the latest Camaro molds and tools, as of 2016 they’ve been responsible for getting the newest Camaro models to the market in all shapes and forms, some are full kits, few others are pre-painted snap-tite kits, but in general they’ve all been quite remarkably nice kits with supremely detailed suspension and interior parts. That’s pretty much the gist of it. Last year it was the 2016 SS and a early release of the 2017 SS “FIFTY” along with two snap-tite versions of the ’16 SS, this year it was a 2017 Pace Car version of the FIFTY, a snap-tite version of the SS 1LE and to close the year off; a full kit version of said SS 1LE.

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And they’ve been “listening” to the builders across the world and they actually learned, albeit at a step-by-step speed. Though by the time this kit came around, I’d say they had fixed most of the problems but at the cost of introducing some significantly worse ones. For instance, some quality of life improvers were made like including side marker light decals and making the tail light lens dark gray instead of chrome which made it a ton easier to detail the lights and get the stark contrast of black-to-chrome/white looking right, they included some decals for the interior and so forth.

2017CamaroSS1LE (4)That’s great and all and honestly, it’s a good feeling that manufacturers listen to their customers to some extend, however, boy oh boy this is one cheap-as-shit kit. You see, the wheels are quality additions, they’re accurate, they’re solid, the tires are good rubber but oh man did they take cheap shortcuts on just about everything else. Again, it’s got the same pre-detailed glass and pre-colored tail lights, which is also amazing and I’m happy that they’re a thing but… I cannot stress the point enough that they literally cut corners on everything else. Though to go back to the tail lights, while it’s supremely nice that they’re pre-detailed, they also look somewhat… odd. It’s possible because you can see into the red through the clear, making it look “soft” on the inside, I would argue it would’ve been a thousand times better if the reverse/indicator lights were separate(think Tamiya’s Nissan Skyline R34, with separate lenses for the inner and outer lights).

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But to go back to the point I keep talking past; this is a cheaply manufactured kit. There’s no beating around the bush on that one, there’s no making up for it, it’s just one fricking awful showing on AMT’s part. The plastic comes pre-colored in the injection process, which is fine I suppose, this is the status quo for most of Asian manufacturers and it’s beginning to bleed into US and European kit makers as well, totally okay. What isn’t okay is the sheer crap quality of the plastic. It’s this cheap, flaky, thin-as-fucking-sin plastic that is somewhat flexible but just… It’s so thin, that even with a coat of primer, light shines through the other side. The yellow its colored in is also this weird, dirty yellow instead of the intense yellow featured on the real deal, it’s just… cheap. What doesn’t help matters is, given that most folks will just primer the hell out of it and do the coloring themselves so that’s not a giant problem, but as I said, what doesn’t help matters is the giant, hideous, crisp mold lines that run over the roof, over the rear quarter, over the fender, over the bumpers, it’s just immense how rough the body is.

2017CamaroSS1LE (11)So I kind of went in with a semi-defeated attitude, having come to terms with the trade-offs with the quality, to just build it and have one last kit finished before the turn of the year into 2018. I mean, despite the rough body, cheap-ass quality plastic and shortcomings in total, it’s still mostly the epic new tool from AMT from 2016. Like I said, the suspension build on this kit is nothing short of legendary, it’s well over forty parts for the rear suspension alone(and weirdly enough, just 8 or so for the front) and while most modern cars sadly hide their engines under some synthetic engine cover, AMT Ertl’s tried to maximize the detail under the hood despite it all. The 6.2L LT1 V8(shared with a Corvette these days!) is detailed supremely well and the whole engine bay just… looks good. I mean, for the sake of modeling, nothing beats the raw engine bay of a late sixties/early seventies engine block but, y’know, given how well engines are hidden under plastic these days, they did pretty good on that part.

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The hood on the SS 1LE is completely blacked out, bit like the old Dodges and Plymouths, which they provide a decal for but hoooo-boy, it just doesn’t A) fit, B) look right and C) sit correctly without rippling like crazy. I mean, they tried. But you’re just better off spraying the thing semi-gloss black. For the rest, they got rid of the chrome parts all together when they made the swap to gray headlight lenses so you get these dull medium gray exhaust pipes which were… disappointing looking to say the least. But luckily there’s things like chrome spray paint that make it look pretty damn close to the real deal, so thank goodness for that.

2017CamaroSS1LE (15)For a last 2017 build, it was semi disappointing. I mean, it’s still a perfectly fine kit but given the standards they achieved in 2016 with this kit, it’s odd to see them take the cheap-as-chips plastic route with the weird half-metallic half translucent yellow paint and sprues with so much flash on them that you spend a third of the time chipping bits of plastic of the parts so they frickin’ fit. I mean, Monogram nailed the process in 1983 for Christs sake, it shouldn’t be so hard to get a decent quality plastic for your kits. But ah well, it’s just all that, still a fine kit all in all.

’17 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE specifications:
Kit: AMT1074
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 112
Molded in: Yellow, Black & Gray
Scale: 1/25

1990 Chevrolet Beretta GTZ – AMT Ertl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1970 Dodge Coronet Super Bee 440 Six Pack – MPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (4)And again, just like usual, the fucking rim doesn’t match the tire. I love the enthusiasm for pad printed tires, especially from AMT who is the only one who has them printed on the rubber and not just included on a decal sheet but they are not a one-size fits all kind of tire. I’ve been going over this complaint on every single kit AMT has re-released since 2011 – the ’70 Chevelle, the ’80 Volaré, the ’68 El Camino and both ’69 Oldsmobiles I’ve built. They just don’t fit on legacy kits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screw you, crooked wheels and ill fitting tires.

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

1987 Chevrolet El Camino SS – MPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1987 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z 20th Anniversary Edition – MPC

1987camaroirocz (1)Apparently, back in 2016, Bloomberg claimed that if you were to invest in a Camaro one way or another your best bet would be a mid eighties third generation Chevrolet Camaro. Specifically, the IROC-Z variant of the Z/28 Camaro which was unique to the third generation exclusively. Now this wasn’t a new trend as similarly “ordinary” cars were becoming better long term investments without having to go ultra deep in the pockets. A Camaro of that era wasn’t exactly known for… well, being special. They were daily drivers for most and those that weren’t were just drag raced or wrecked to a unfortunate end, so the idea of finding one at a reasonable price in a good state and keeping it while all the other third gen Camaros falter away, not a bad idea.

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Hell, the 1985 Camaro IROC-Z was Car & Driver magazine’s car of the year and understandably so. The 1980s aren’t known for good cars throughout the decade, it was mostly a decade of a solid two thirds of the US having to come to terms that dad’s ’74 Chrysler New Yorker was genuinely killing the wallet and a new little Omni or Aries had to come in and replace it. It was a decade of failed prototypes, automotive giants slipping up and falling literally as they had just slipped and fallen down.

1987camaroirocz (7)And spontaneously through that decade, we got a series of revamped beasts we still owe our love to: the Buick Regal, the Oldsmobile Cutlass, the Chevrolet Camaro, the Ford Mustang, the Pontiac Firebird and well, it’s a honorable mention cause it was literally the first crossover, the AMC Eagle but y’know nevermind that I’m just getting side-tracked. Those cars were the sort of surprise successes of the decade and for the most part held up a lot better than their cheaper cousins. For the most part, at least.

What hasn’t held up well? MPC’s tooling of the updated post-1985 Camaro. You see, both AMT and Revell put out a 1982 Camaro Z/28 kit to coincide with the new generation coming to light and both of those kits were genuinely good. AMT’s kit had strong points and so did Revell’s, neither did a bad job whatsoever. Though fortunately AMT has re-released this kit once more in 2004 and it’s a upcoming release again for the last quarter of 2017, so knowing full well how good of a third generation Camaro kit there is, it’s all the more crappy knowing Ertl took their tooling and ran with it until 1992. I’ve built two of the kits so far and this is my third and there’s one tiny solace – the AMT released versions of this tool are slightly better.

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You see, Ertl bought MPC over in 1985 and began pushing out these kits under both AMT’s name as well as MPC’s. AMT Camaro kits of that generation were the ’88 Z/28, ’88 IROC-Z and ’92 25th Anniversary Z/28 while MPC put out the similar ’84 Z/28 for the ’85 year, ’87 IROC-Z and ’88 IROC-Z. All with the same engine configurations, all with the same interior and all with largely the same body just with different spoilers. And all were cast… awfully. I don’t really mind a shoddy kit so much anymore after having dealt with MPC’s glorious early seventies kits that were literal finger aches to build, I’m okay with it provided the outcome is somewhat decent and that’s largely true for them.

1987camaroirocz (9)However, with their take on the third generation Camaro, it’s just the body that is fine and even that is mediocre at best. The windows are just awkwardly glued to the frame, the rear window has no supports even whatsoever, the whole thing is brittle as all sin and has no reinforcements on the T-top part so the slightest push and it caves like a crème brûlée. The interior isn’t horrible, just plain. Horribly plain. The very faint details on the doors, the just featureless dashboard(although, the detail on the passenger side of the dashboard for some reason isn’t too bad) and once again, even though by this point not one single fucking company still did this: chrome headlamps instead of clear. I know I’m bitching my socks off here but you have the shapes, you have the tools – cast the Goddamn things in clear plastic! I suppose part of my problem is that for the most part this we do for fun, right? And it ain’t fun when it’s a frustrating mess that has no pretty reward when you’re done with it unless you give it some ungodly amount of attention that these, let’s be fair, just aren’t worth it.

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Though, despite literally all the flaws – I wanted it done. I made a decal sheet to mimic the 20th commemorative anniversary edition from 1987 but it came with none of the decals I needed even though they are on the box art model, and the ones that do come with it are so milky and badly printed that it became white blobs on the side of the model so I just… figured, screw it let’s just go without.

Under the hood, I did very little. The three configurations it can come with all are nice but go together about as well as forcing a round peg through a square hole so I just stuck with the default injected 5.7L V8. The other two, the twin-turbo carburetor and Weber carburetor engines are nice but just, man the effort that would go into getting those damn things to stick together is way too much. One of the highlights for once is the tires, even though the lettering on them is way too big, they are nice quality and could easily be white lettered with an acrylic pen.

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And the tail lights, while too embossed to match the squared yet flat proper tail lights are nicely detailed enough to bring the individual lights out. Plus, some spray painting on the T-tops and boosh, tinted glass. All in all, with some work on my end, it’s a somewhat if not reasonably if not at the very least a honest attempt at a 20th Anniversary Camaro. Even though that car is maroon… and a convertible… and twin-striped instead of single… and has IROC-Z logos on the doors… Well, you know what, I tried. And with this, I’ve completed the entire line-up of anniversary Camaros, so I got that going for me.

’87 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z 20th Anniversary Edition specifications:
Kit: MPC6202
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 120
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

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

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