1976 Ford Mustang II Cobra II – MPC

1976CobraII (21)In the article for the ’77 Mustang II by AMT I pretty much lamented the whole time that I wish I could compare it to a MPC kit and see how it holds up, cause I stumbled upon the realization that the AMT kits of yore were kinda slightly not entirely great, especially when held up to another similar product. And whaddya know, I got a hold of a similar product to compare it to! From the get-go I really, really just wanted to make a Cobra II model and just couldn’t ever get a hold of the appropriate Cobra II kit so I improvised by buying a Missing Link resin set for the MPC Mustang that mimic the parts from said kit so I wasn’t utterly screwed from the start on my little plan.

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Then around the same time I was designing the series of Mustang II decals among which the Cobra II so I had one printed in nice metallic gold as in my personal belief there’s only two downright beautiful Mustang II’s: one is the simple two-tone Mustang II Ghia and the other is the ’76 Cobra II in either all white with blue stripes or all black with gold. Cause, with all due respect, the Mustang II isn’t ugly. Not ugly per se, it’s a situation of ugly birth riddled with abusive parents, family and it wasn’t until it grew into its proverbial pants that it could shine once more as a fox body after being kneecapped in 1974. Judging it purely by looks, despite it being a Pokemon evolution like ordeal from the Pinto, it’s not half bad. Yes compared to the ones it once rivaled, the Javelin, the Camaro, the Firebird, the Challenger, so forth… Yeah, it looks like a jellybean that was left on a dashboard on a hot summers’ day, but again – it’s not necessarily ugly.

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Ford HQ, 1973.

As I said, in this rigorous defense of the indefensible, man what a hill to fuckin’ die on huh – the Mustang II originated from inside bickering, indecisiveness and of course good old fashioned panic cause of changing times. In the previous Mustang II article I described a scene in James May’s Cars of the People where he takes a few old employees of Ford, GM and Chrysler to drive in basically primo-Malaise era Mustang goodness and get their take on why it all just fell the fuck apart back then and the simple conclusion was lack of change – innovation came about slowly and no-one really cared for the sheer, utter greed these cars symbolized. They drank copious amounts of fuel, had more lengths of sheet metal than most boats and lets not overlook the grandiose idea of putting friggin’ lead into everything. Lee Iacocca, the grandfather of the Mustang way back in 1964 was also poetically the saving grace of the Mustang in general, he greenlit the downsized Mustang project for 1974. They literally were gonna bin the Mustang as it was to turn it into sedan very much how the Mercury Cougar started out and turned into a land yacht of luxury in 1975. So the project had one of two choices; turn it into a smaller, more Maverick-ey powerhouse of joy, or just… kill it. So this is where apparently we should stop drawing parallels between the Mustang and Camaros, Firebirds and whatnot and begin comparing the Mustang’s overall “decent-ness” to and get this; Chevy Monzas, Toyota Celicas, Mazda RX-3s, Ford of Europe’s Capri II and so forth.

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And that’s exactly where it went wrong and right at the same time, it once was the definition of a pony car, the quintessential muscle car and much like a one hit wonder rock star, it got yanked off stage and given a serious talking-to in order to get the thing to have its shit together. It began playing on a smaller level again, half the weight and size of what it was the year before, all the while its former competitors literally died off or carried on stronger than before, and that’s where the “wrong” comes in from before. The “right” was doing a drastic measure to save the Mustang from becoming a vapid shadow of itself, the “wrong” was not sticking with its guns. You see, the Camaro and Firebird had some changes but largely they stayed heavy-weight big-block powerhouses, all the way through and the Firebird especially. They kept high performance versions all the way through the seventies, largely no different from their pre-1973 offerings, just bottlenecked as all hell horsepower wise, but even from that they recovered by 1978.

1976CobraII (11)By 1975 the Mustang II was slowly growing back into its old self(despite its most successful sales coming from the bare bones Mustangs), getting the 302 V8 back, albeit at an absolutely anemic horsepower output. And in 1976, the first of the so called “Decal GT” cars began appearing. Being largely unchanged from the normal Mustang bar for some appearance stuff, the Cobra II was literally the least sporty “sports” car out there. It was basically the car equivalent of a overweight fellow in a velour jumpsuit. Don’t get me wrong though, I’d argue its the prettiest of that generation Mustangs, cause holy shit they went all in with the 1978 Mustang II King Cobra and it became a hideous amalgamation of body kit, stripes and stencils, shopping cart wheels and the amount of cobra bite equal of what you’d find in a plush toy. That being said though, I find it amazing nonetheless and am doing a decal sheet for it as we speak, but I digress!

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The wrong that the Mustang II committed was simply that they were not changing enough in either direction, they just weren’t accepting that the Mustang had died and needed a rebirth, either as the now ultimately hyper successful basic Mustang II or the power-wagon V8 from days of yore. Cause in the end, the AMC Gremlin was a better compact alternative(even Ford’s very own Maverick was too) and for old fashioned muscle you could just glean over to Chevrolet or Pontiac. They stalled for time for four years and didn’t gain any serious ground whatsoever on reclaiming the old Mustang name and spirit until 1979 when shoving a turbo onto everything and anything had Ford experimenting with smaller engines and maximizing their output via turbos. To be fair, it had some severe teething issues but it did pave the way for the stupidly successful and loved Fox body Mustang.

1976CobraII (10)But enough lamenting on the Mustang II’s existence. Back to the comparison, the AMT and MPC bodies are different. Very different. First of all, the AMT one is definitely the one pulling the short stick, it has deep sinks on several parts of the body, the assembly is nowhere near MPC’s and in the end, the whole interior was a silly afterthought to them, being flat and un-detailed to say the least. The shape is also… worse? I dunno, it’s in the eye of the beholder but I’d argue at least on the tail end and the grille especially the AMT one is far less accurate than MPC’s offering. The biggest sinner remains to be the wheel size on the AMT kit, which is hilarious to say the least. Engine-wise again it goes to AMT for having the worse of the two, though but no means a lot – the V6 engines offered in either kit are actually really neat, and it’s the V6 offerings that usually go completely unloved so its nice to see two nicer castings out there.

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Though yeah at the end of the day, the AMT kit loses out on just about every point – the MPC Mustang II kit is just miles ahead of the other, with just basic things being better like the tail lights being translucent and the quality being finer on the grille, steering wheel, so forth. But also in terms of the engine bay and interior, the MPC still lies far, far ahead. The quality is sharper, more accurately shaped scale wise and it just looks… right. It’s got hardly any flat detailing due to “who’s gonna see it anyway”, they put in a good effort. Today though, this is a unfortunate thing as the only thing that was re-released at all in the last decade or two was, you guessed it, AMT’s Mustang II kit. The MPC one, like so many, probably got changed to fit some horrible funny car design or pro-stock AWB tool and was irreversibly changed to accommodate those changes. Could also be that like the ’75 Dodge Dart it just lies in hibernation somewhere until someone’s like “Yeah, give that sucker a whirl, whatever right”.

1976CobraII (5)So, the biggest issue I had with this kit was the tires. They, much like everything back then, were just tossed in the box. Even though they were sort of rubberized and really, really nice for the time, they also had a horrible habit of melting into the plastic over the many years they’d lie untouched. Mine decided to mate with the windshield, rear glass and part of one of the seats and took some digging to get loose from those parts, so unfortunately I had no tires for this model. I did however have access to a nice little Ford Pinto kit with the mag wheels that were actually on a proper ’76 Cobra II! So I stole those tires and wheels and slapped ’em on there no problemo and of course, they were one-size-fits-all so they went on with hardly a bit of hassle. Put on the set of Firestone Firehawk SS decals I had prepared for ’em and done!

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Like, this is one of those builds I am actually really proud of. One of those cases where everything kind of just came together really, really well. The decals sit beautifully, the body kit from Missing Link I couldn’t have done without, the perfectly fitting Pinto wheels, so forth.

 

’76 Ford Mustang II Cobra II specifications:
Kit: I-7513
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 94
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

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1977 Ford Mustang II Mach 1 – AMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 – Revell

1970mustangboss302 (1)By the late sixties, the definitive muscle car was the Mustang. It invented the term “pony car”; long hood, big engine, short rear and low price. And by 1968 every single large car manufacturer had a variety of the pony car. GM by then had the Firebird, Camaro and Barracuda, Ford re-invented it by going deeper with the Mustang(fastback and coupe) and let Mercury in on the fun with the Cougar and AMC came with the Javelin. Late entries to the fun were Chrysler with the Challenger and the updated ‘Cuda in 1970.

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However, by the turn of the decade the pony car was actually beginning to influence the whole world. In Europe, Ford brought the Capri and to Australia they gave the Falcon, while GM was dealing out the Vauxhall Firenza, or more popularly known as the Opel Manta. In Japan, Toyota brought in the Celica to begin to compete on the playing field too.

1970mustangboss302 (18)And kit manufacturers have been really generous with the original muscle car. Every single generation’s had every single edition covered, some better than others. Monogram brought out the 1970 Mustang kit way back in 1981 and has since been improving upon it. It’s been re-released around twelve times since, every time in a different jacket; some were the Boss 302, some were the Boss 429, some were both, hell some even came as the famous Mach 1 and in 2007 Revell released them in the same box under their excellent “Special Edition” line. Which comes down to the mold being a lot more crisp and more detailed, a much much better decal sheet and of course having all the bits to go fully one way or the other.

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Now a long time ago I bought the Mustang Boss 429 kit on the cheap with this kit in mind; the 2 in 1 of this kit is so good that it warrants a whole separate kit for spares. I wanted to build both version that come with this kit, the Mach 1 and the Boss 302. And look back in the future for the Mach 1, but for now back to the Boss 302;

The whole kit changes accordingly, the engine size, the decals and the wheels. One thing worth noting straight off the bat is that the 302 did get a nice extra set of decals in white, which I promptly used. The white stripes were rare on the car, only coming with black paint jobs, though sadly the Mach 1 didn’t get the same treatment and only has the black 351 stripes. The other neat little changes are spare grilles for either version since the Boss didn’t come with the grille lights.

1970mustangboss302 (16)The legendary 5.0L engine that Ford Mustangs are still asciociated with to this day, the 302, is replicated fantastically. Down to the little Ford emblems on the rocker covers, the little breathers on them, so on. The decals help, a lot. But it helps that Revell put effort into making it crisp, just like the Charger engine molds, these will look good for a long, long time to come, though sadly its 1/24th scale likely means the engine won’t see a lot of use cross-kits from here on out. But still, it’s a fantastically molded engine block. The “custom” bits, like the so called “Cross Boss” intake manifold(fantastic Trans-Am goodie made by Autolite back in 1969, rarely if ever seen on a stock 302), is fantastically done for this kit and is a nice legacy piece.

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But some things haven’t changed since 1981, even if the box claims new and improved tooling. While on the outside, the car does have few to no mold lines at all, on the inside it’s a different story. I mean, they’re cleverly hidden this is true but the injection marks are… significant on this model. So much so that you have to trim them before building cause they will get in the way of the structural integrity of the whole model. This is especially bad with the rear bumper where the chassis is forcing it outwards due to the two giant injection lumps.

Though, other than that, it is a perfectly done kit. It’s one of those Monogram legacy kits that stands the test of time thanks to Revell re-tooling it. It’s fantastic, pretty and goes together really well, with some work here and there. I bought a can of metallic blue paint(a color not available in ’70 with the white stripes, only with black stripes) and figured I’d try to get a nice and popping blue like the old ’65 Shelby GT500 fastback, used some Goodyear Eagle GTII white letter tire decals to get the wheels to stick out more and wrapped it up.

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It’s a shame how little Fords I’ve built over the years, since nearly any model you can name has a really good kit attached to it by either Revell or AMT these days. But I’m gonna be changing that in the future, there’s a few Mustangs on the way.

’70 Ford Mustang Boss 302 specifications:
Kit: #85-4203
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 144
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/24

1990 Ford Mustang LX 5.0 – Revell

90mustang (1)This is one of those great kits that come up from Revell’s headquarters every now and again. The kinda kit that’s extra packed with options, extra detailed and in the end truly comes together like a showroom replica of the car itself. It’s a more difficult skill 3(or as it’s nowadays known: 5), packs more parts and comes this much closer to being the real deal, just smaller.

It’s also a rare case of a police car done well, without focusing on the over the top shotgun-in-the-back-CB-in-the-front obvious catches, it’s got all the checks requested by the California Highway Patrol for the Mustang SSP; spotlights on the window frame, a interior red light, two siren lights on the platform behind the rear seats, CB unit on the dash, chrome dishes on the blacked-out wheels, proper CA Exempt plates, it even has the in-itself extra of turning a regular CHP cruiser into a K9 unit. Hell the only thing that it’s missing, and believe me it’s a giant stretch when I say this, is a CB antenna. Don’t let the box art fool you, it’s even better than that.

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I on the other hand made it a regular LX 5.0, I like the car a lot more as a regular old90mustang (6)
Mustang. Just needed to be said just how unbelievably well Revell has done the CHP Mustang, one of the CHP’s favorites.

All in all, it was a pretty difficult build. In the good sense, that it’s very detailed in the interior, in the engine bay and underneath the whole thing. Complicated suspension, detailed engine, so on. Usually kits forego the suspension cause it’s usually not directly visible but this one? The 90mustang (7)whole package. The only thing about this whole kit I didn’t like is the stock wheels the LX 5.0 comes with.

I could’ve sworn the Mustang of that era comes with 5 spoke wheels, could’ve been the fastback version only having those, not sure. But I ended up replacing them with some absolutely giant wheels from the second version of the ’70 Cuda kit by Revell, which happened to perfectly fit cause both share the metal pins that go in the axle, they almost hit the wheel wells now but, somehow it still works.

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I’m still contemplating anodizing them so they’re at least no longer chrome, but for now it 90mustang (11)will do just fine. The interior detail is really, really strong too. Stronger in the CHP version obviously due to the extra little bits, but even then, with some paintwork it looks borderline real. It’s got a bit of a weird mount for the arm-rest but that’s just me being a nitpicker.

The engine bay on the other hand is also a thing of beauty, the V8 got the detail it deserved. The giant air-intake unit on-top, the distributor mount, it looks great with some decent paint work. I must’ve done something wrong cause my engine block is angled a bit backwards, it looks sorta odd but what the hell, it’s finished!

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Revell did a extraordinary job with this one, once the wheels are anodized this beauty gets the shelf space it deserves.

’90 Ford Mustang LX 5.0 specifications:
Kit: #85-4252
Skill Level: 3
Parts: 86
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25