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.

77MustangII (3)

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.

77MustangII (10)

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.

77MustangII (7)

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.

77MustangII (17)

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

Advertisements

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.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (13)

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.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (7)

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.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (12)

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.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (17)

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

1976 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 – AMT

76camaroboxAlright, I can hear ya’ thinking right away; “There was no Z/28 in 1975 and 1976, you dolt“, and you’d be perfectly on the mark for this kit is based on the 1976 RS model! But my good grief, the struggle a man has to go through and the sheer wallet emptying a man has to do to merely find a ’74-’77 Camaro to begin with is nothing short of soul destroying.

So I took the best chance I had, and made myself a ’74 Z/28 inspired ’76 RS. Why? Cause the Z/28 editions fit the scheme of my Camaro line up more, to start with. Another good reason is cause the ’75 and ’76 Type LT had no stripes to speak of and the RS had this odd yet interesting black/stripe/body color get up that really wouldn’t fit whatsoever.

76camaronew-1

So, here we are! An impostor Z/28 from the era where Chevrolet nearly killed off the Z/28 package all together, with the wrong trim levels for its year and coming off the kit that has nothing to do with RS nor Z/28 at all. Allow me to elaborate, short history lesson time!

In 1976 the Pontiac Firebird was kicking serious ass in sales, especially the Trans-Am(half of the sales in ’76 were T/A’s) which was beating the Camaro a fair bit, even with the V8 slaughter cause of the 1973 oil crisis. Even though both Pontiac and Chevrolet are under the same corporation name, the rivalry wasn’t any less fiery cause of it, both were competing to be the winner in the sales figures. And even though the ’77 Camaro brought back the Z/28 to give the customer some power to play with, the ’76 and ’77 models had at best a 350 cubic inch V8 while the Firebird T/A had a 400 cubic inch V8 or the 455 cubic inch V8 which easily outdid the Camaro. Difference for most folks? Price. Getting a Camaro with the 350 ci was a good thousand bucks(1976 money; the RS sat at 3927$ and the T/A 455 was 4985$) cheaper than the 455 package from Pontiac. So getting it taped up over at AHC was still cheaper than a Firebird, hell still a few hundred off from the 400ci T/A even.

So cue the American Hatch Company’s effort at finding middle ground, I suppose. AHC made high quality T-top windows, frames, so on. But they also dabbled with vinyl
76camaronew-3kits which were really a hot item in the 1970s, and they figured that the concept of “what if we dress up a Camaro like a Firebird” was worth the effort. It was literally just a package of Firebird ‘inspired’ decals for any Camaro from 1973 through 1977 and all you had to do was ask your local Chevy dealer for more info. I’d say it didn’t pan out for them given no-one can really say they’ve seen this “AHC-100” Camaro drive around, even finding pictures of the real deal is nigh impossible. The most common evidence of it having been legit is that AMT issued this kit, the one I built, in 1977 to join the party and that’s really about it, some Motor Trend ads, the AMT kit and a few posters here and there in Chevy dealers across the USA.

I bought two sets of decals from Keith Marks, one for the ’76 RS, one for the ’74 Z/28 before I was sure on which way to go with the kit; I have some ’69 stripes left that I was going to use but thought, y’know what, screw it, it may be a 1976 Camaro, it may not have an official Z/28 version, but dammit I am building one! So time to talk about the kit, finally eh?

So it’s a 1977 release, based on the mold that AMT’s used since 1974 with their annual releases of Camaro “customizing” kits, and all the seventies goodness that comes with it. No clear headlights, no clear tail lights, ill-fitting parts, hardly a engine bay to speak of, but in a tradition they’ve held since the late sixties: great engine(its got the 350ci V8), great interior and to be fair, the mold quality of whats there is fantastic. Hell, even the decal sheet survived decently and the kit I bought was not new. It was opened in 1981 according to the seller and promptly abandoned for other fun stuff and left on their storage shelf since then and he claims he’s tried to sell it since 2014.

76camaronew-2

This did do some damage to the kit, the rear window caught some scratches and smudges some time, the plastic turned a rotten yellow and for the most part the tires were unusable, however it didn’t warp and it still was pretty damn good stuff to work with all things considered. The issues I can mention, despite being spoiled by modern tooling and well thought out kit designs by AMT Ertl, Revell, Tamiya and so on of these days, the bodywork is a ill-fitting nightmare. The bumpers, the chassis and the grille all had to be cut, bend and warped to fit, shortened the chassis by half an inch so the rear bumper could get on, it’s pretty much an AMT kit through and through. Hell both the front bumper and rear bumper stick out a few millimeters on the sides cause they’re just too wide, so that’s also something. And another thing to note of the bumpers is that they got a severe case of being droopy, which is especially noticeable on the front.

On top of that, it uses two metal rods to attach the wheels to, which would’ve worked if the rod wasn’t twice the size of the wheels, so I manhandled some toothpicks and it’s now got good ol’ fashioned wooden axles. Though now the wheels sit a tad too far to the inside, but with some work that is… fixable. I haven’t bothered cause every slight touch to the76camaro-5 toothpicks will make the wheels fall off unless they sit exactly as they do in the pictures, so… Yup. At least it looks sort of decent in the Polyglas GT tires I took from another AMT kit to replace the thoroughly rotten ones.

Also, like many of that era kits: no rear-view mirror and no door mirrors, sadly. Still looking to find the ones I didn’t put on the ’69 Olds Cutlass, that might make it look a bit more complete.

Though, I should say, those are just the downsides of the kit. It has a fair amount of pluses to balance it all out! It’s still considered a “customizing kit” on all fronts, with ’71/’72 Camaro split bumpers for both the front and rear, front airdam, sportier rally wheels, RS rear wing, the olden-goldie CB radio set, so on. They’re all nice extras to have!

But despite it looking a bit haggard, it’s a T-top Camaro from the mid-seventies. That in itself is rare, it’s even rarer given it’s also a fake on my part by pasting Z/28 decals on a RS model, but there have been one or two moments where I felt like I should’ve just built it as the AHC-100 Camaro cause honestly… It’s just that rare. A slower and thinner wolf in… well, wolves clothing. Maybe one day I’ll shell out another 70 to 100 dollar just to make the Firemaro/Camobird/Trans-28/etc AHC-100 properly.

’76 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28(AHC-100 RS Camaro) specifications:
Kit: #2213
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 80
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25