1975 Plymouth Road Runner – MPC

1978PlymouthVolareSC (1)God how I’ve tried to find one of those damn MPC kits for years, literally so much that my eBay search auto-fill now forever has “75 roadrunner” engraved in until I decide to delete cookies. And actually, I still haven’t found a proper MPC ’75 or ’76 Road Runner kit – go figure(the ’76 was incorrect as by 1976 the Fury Road Runner had been killed off for the Volare Road Runner). Instead, I came across a may-as-well-be new 1975 promo model that had been kept in damn near new condition by a man who had a significant love for the 1975-1977 Fury and Monacos.

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To be fair, the Road Runner from that particular year wasn’t much of a Road Runner at all. Despite the fact that it could be equipped with a 400ci V8 and it would be okay quick, nothing to brag about but it had some reminiscence to the prior Road Runners, when they could still pack friggin’ HEMIs. Okay, well, not really – the most beefy engine was a heavily neutered 400ci V8 at best with a smog-filter-choked horsepower of up to 225, though nearly half of the Road Runners that left the factories for the ’75 year packed the 318ci V8 that only did about 135hp, keep in mind the car weighed around 3500lbs/1587kg – so 135hp with the weight of two Volvo wagons is pretty much just saying “it’s just a bright colored Plymouth Fury“, no more no less. You could have a 440ci V8 which would be only allotted to police Road Runners, apparently with filling in the right checks on the order form you could have one with that big block equipped, though it’s not a whole lot more powerful than the 400ci V8 with the power to weight ratio in mind.

1975Roadrunner (3)That being said, it did get a bunch of unique touches over the regular Fury. The Road Runner package which came back for this year alone on the Fury platform, it had the unique blacked out grille, the Roadrunners on the doors, a different dashboard gauge set with a optional clock or tach and of course the unique stripe and decal set; one I tried to replicate the best I could for a decal sheet. For the rest? I mean, that was kinda it… It really showed that the 1970s were a dying age for sport/muscle cars, either they were completely past the common public or they were completely neutered to comply exactly to them. The fact that the ads back then basically called out that people were mistaken for thinking muscle cars weren’t fun to own anymore pretty much sums up how this car ended up failing.

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Basically, it’s one of the most unique yet one of the most understated Road Runners. Yeah I know, hot take there dude, but really it may be one of the most uncommon Road Runners out there. It sold pitifully, largely due to the era it was created in, the idea of a heavy weight boxer trying to be quick and just… the disillusioned crowd it was being pandered to. There were lots of sizable yet sporty cars with tons of potential in existence around that period, the Road Runner was one of them, the 1977 Pontiac LeMans Can Am was another solid shot at just adding a trim level for those interested with the added benefit of a giant gas-guzzler in the front. It’s now common practice around the world, especially Europe, for cars to have a balls to the wall powerful car on a 2-door with the wheelbase of a luxury 4 door – what cars are those, you ask? BMW’s M6, Mercedes CL-class, so forth, known as “modern luxury grand tourers”. I can’t help but wonder if the weight issue was curbed, or if a reasonable six cylinder already existed, or maybe a halfway decent turbo was available back then, would the “muscle cars” which were already dead by 1975 still have had a chance? A overcome and adapt sort of situation, form a new breed of American tourers?

1975Roadrunner (15)It’s a shame but many excellent potential died in that era, MPC as well as AMT did keep up with the promotional demand, just about every new addition to the GM, Chrysler and Ford line-up would get either a full detail glue kit or a simple dealership promo, and many of those kits have been built up or collected by now, yet promos still litter any online marketplace like some unkillable scourge. They’ve become a bit of a lucky find for me as of late, as literally any glue kit is just… gone, or like 150$, these promos at least allow some creativity in place of a kit, y’know, the whole idea of “second best option”. With the ’75 Road Runner, it’s a double whammy of rarity – the original two kits, one for 1975 and one albeit incorrectly for 1976, they’re damn near impossible to find. I spotted three over the last year myself and all ran 75$ plus for a opened, sometimes even started kit. I accidentally stumbled over some guy selling off his collection of Fury models(as I mentioned at the beginning, this dude collected Fury and Monaco models and actually had a ’75 Fury for realsies and absolutely adored everything about it) – and I leaped on it like a fucking cougar, for 30$ or so a totally unscathed promo model that was new in all ways other than missing the box(which I later re-discovered on his other eBay listing supporting a series of ’76 Monaco models, so “misplaced” I suppose).

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I desperately wanted to make a proper Road Runner model for so long, I don’t know why but I truly enjoy the last of the line Road Runners, the stripes, the look of it with the bright colors, the trunk Road Runner tunnel entrance decal, it’s just… great. Like I mentioned before, the real car itself was anything but great but having a little model of it, hell yes. And it’s stupidly rare to boot! I can’t really say much about the build quality, as it of course is a pre-built promotional model, but they are a testament of how easily they can be modified. Yes, they’re “curbside”, they have no engine and have nearly no chassis detail. Think of them as Snap-Tite kits, but already built up and all the “snap” parts were soldered – all the parts are connected in basic manners and just ‘closed up’ by what I can only describe as using a soldering iron, which on the brittle plastic from 40 plus years back, is easy to remove without snapping off the posts the parts are connected to.

1975Roadrunner (7)Though, the interior is a hassle. The seats and dashboard are properly stuck to each-other, nothing short of breaking, snapping or melting them loose would help. When I drafted up the decal sheet, I figured I’d try compensate for the lack of a engine by going all in on the interior. The Furys of the day had the quite lovely yet distressingly seventies striped pattern fabric all over the interior, the front seats, the rear bench, the doors, even the floor mats would have the patterns. So I basically just made shapes like the seats, re-created the fabric pattern and slapped it on the decal sheet – and it… actually worked out, really, really nicely.

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Other than that, it was some wheels and tires from a Revell Dodge Charger kit, some hand made axle work and a set of Grand Am Radial G/T tire decals to wrap up the package. I still wish I had the ’75 Road Runner kit with the engine bay detail and all but… y’know what, I’m still absolutely happy and satisfied with what I ended up getting. Maybe, just maybe, one day. Back to working the decal designs, huzzah!

 

’75 Plymouth Road Runner specifications:
Kit: A box!
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 1, or 5, it’s a pre-built promo
Molded in: Burgundy
Scale: 1/25

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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

1977 Ford Mustang II Mach 1 – AMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1975 Chevrolet Camaro RS – MPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1978 Plymouth Volaré Super Coupe – MPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1983 Chevrolet Citation X-11 – Revell

1983chevycitationx11 (1)Okay, so, bear with me here. We’re going back to 1979 for a moment. The Nova was on its last legs and it was being pushed aside in favor of a newly engineered X-body car for the 1980 model year. The second fuel crisis of 1977 had proven fatal for car consumerism in the United States and it required some swift changes and the big three in Detroit had no friggin’ idea how to cope with it. So one of the first big kickers that ushered in the “new era” was the Chevrolet Citation, a roomy hatchback that easily outsized the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon, or a “club coupe” which is just sales-speak for weird-looking-two-door, both of which came per standard a dingy, outdated Pontiac Iron Duke OHV four cylinder engine or a newly updated 2.8L V6 that was largely designed for use in the new X-body cars. And it worked for out Chevrolet, the Citation initially was a giant success!

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I discussed this whole ordeal in the 1980 Citation X-11 article, so thank you for reading this whole shebang all over again if you already saw that one, but for those who haven’t I’mma carry on. Given, this is about the 1983 version so may as well go deeper! Chevrolet sold 811,000 Citations in the 1980 alone, making it one of the best selling new models in GM history but it was gonna take a dark turn just a year later. By 1981, the truth of the Citation had already sunk in with the American consumers, it was a car best summed up by a quote, by a friend of mine whose father had a brand new 1982 Citation;

The guttural groan of the transmission, the loud burble of the engine as it kicks into life, the heater knobs coming off as I’m trying to warm the cabin and trying to cool off the car as it is somehow overheating in early morning traffic even though it was a frigid November morning, the rear view mirror dropping off the windshield, the trim popping off the door once I shut them, the insulation on the windows just flopping loose after two months, the erratic veer to the left when I gently brake, the paint chips lying on the tarmac next to my car while its parked as it was showing its ripe age of eighteen months, but rusting as if it were eighteen years.

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Clearly, the man wasn’t pleased. And neither was the public, as by 1982, the Citation was only selling a fifth of what it did in 1980 and even less in 1984 before it was reinvigorated as the “Citation II”. Equally as terrible as GM had learned nothing of the consumer feedback and it was quietly put down in 1985. And GM wasn’t gonna learn anything until 1987, when GM did a drastic make-over of the entire structure, but the damage of the Citation had already been done. The 1983 Toyota Camry was already a improvement over anything and somehow looked exactly like a Citation, just Asian. Even Chrysler had a better thing going for them, even though the K-type vehicles were no less terrible, they at least had more variety.

1983chevycitationx11 (14)But the eighties have had this weird “everything needs publicity” vibe to it, even the terrible things were hyped up and to great effect. For instance, MPC, AMT and Revell Monogram all had a stake in being the next annual model car kit maker, something that effectively allowed MPC and AMT to coast through the seventies on a cloud. And while MPC got the slightly longer stick by getting kits for the Dodge Omni, Chevrolet Cavalier, Plymouth Horizon and so on, Monogram got to take on the all new, hyped to the moon, the usher of all things better, the Chevrolet Citation and they went all in. They produced two kits for the 1981 model year, one as the somewhat regular yet pumped up Citation Turbo. The other was this odd semi-tuner weirdness called the Citation X. And they were some great kits, too! They gave ’em the typical Monogram treatment with a nice engine block, very good body and the detail on it, good set of tires with good wheels and a solid interior, but of course with that also comes low chassis detail and a blocky engine bay but y’know, compared to what MPC was producing at the time, they were doing an amazing job.

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Though in 2002, as Revell was going through its “turn everything into a lowrider” phase, they put out some extremely weird choices like a ’92 Mustang lowrider, a ’91 Chevrolet S-10 lowrider, a ’78 El Camino lowrider, I mean what the hell. But the strangest choice by a hell of a stretch – this one. Seriously, no shit, someone thought “let’s turn that failure from 1980 into even more of a failure by making it even uglier” and someone reacted to that with “Yes!“, holy hell right!? But it also benefited the kit greatly as the 1981 tooling got a bit of a polish, decided that it was worthwhile to put both versions from 1981 in one box and someone went to town on the decal sheet as a extra to also allow both “versions” of the ’80-’84 Citation X-11 to be made and thanks to that this kit is an amazing time piece. A solid look back at how the car could’ve been, as just like the real one, the X-11 wasn’t all bad. Even though it shared the rust issues and reliability problems, the engine was a nice little power plant that could out-pull some V8’s of the time.

1983chevycitationx11 (10)The 2.8L V6 Turbo from the Citation Turbo kit is the one we’ve gotten, so no proper air cleaner or anything, just a giant turbo charger on top of the manifold. But that’s no problem, really, as the engine is fine with it as is. It’s the outside where it truly matters, this is likely to be the only way to get a mint Citation in front of you that isn’t either on a junkyard or stripped clean of paint and decals due to… well, literally, weather.

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So unlike the 1980 Citation I did before, which I built to be like the one on the side of the box which was a silver X-11 with the 1980 graphics package of black stripes and serif font style X-11, I ran with a bit of a inspired look. Someone did a wallpaper take on a brochure photo of a ’83 Citation, which was slightly different to mine. Like, it doesn’t have a tail spoiler and it has a High Output V6 badge on the hood, but I liked the look of it – an all white X-11 with the golden graphics, blacked out grille and tail light frame, Goodyear Eagle GTII tire decals(courtesy of Fireball), black between the spokes of the wheels, so on. I went with that to the best of my ability and luckily the kit’s epic quality does allow for some improvisation here and there. Not to mention, some decals lifted from other kits helped out to complete the thing some more, like the Cowl Induction decals from a ’70 Chevelle, the front plate too, so on. Though I should say, the Goodyear Polysteel Radial tire decals(which are a rarity to find in kits themselves, so kudos to Revell) are perfectly adequate and look great, I just wanted a set of white outlines instead.

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The build quality is still staggering, just like any Monogram kit of old. It goes together no problemo, though the side-ways mounted engine does make for some awkward positioning and gluing, but it’s just a bit of a fiddle no more. In the end, it still truly shines as a very, very good kit. I mean, weird way for them to spend money back in 2002, to re-incarnate the Citation kit from 20 years before that and slap some lowrider bits on there, but I’m genuinely happy that they did. Like I said, it is a time piece. A car that was known to literally disintegrate in years time, and Revell Monogram allowed it to live forever albeit at a 1/24th scale.

’83 Chevrolet Citation X-11 specifications:
Kit: #85-2378
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 110
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/24

1979 Chevrolet Nova Custom – MPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1976 Dodge Dart Lite Spirit of ’76 – MPC

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

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

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

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

76dartdecalsSo when I found out that Keith Marks has a set of both the Hang 10 and Spirit of ’76 decals, I bought the kit and began sifting through the thing. Firstly, it has the same pad printed Goodyear Polyglas GT tires that many if not all AMT/MPC kits now have. And again, just like usual, the fucking rim doesn’t match the tire. I love the enthusiasm for pad printed tires, especially from AMT who is the only one who has them printed on the rubber and not just included on a decal sheet but they are not a one-size fits all kind of tire. I’ve been going over this complaint on every single kit AMT has re-released since 2011 – the ’70 Chevelle, the ’80 Volaré, the ’68 El Camino and both ’69 Oldsmobiles I’ve built. They just don’t fit on legacy kits. So what did I do to mend this? Well the only rim I can fit to these new tires are the old version of the American Racing Torq Thrust wheels from MPC kits, especially the ones from the seventies. So I grabbed a set from a 46 year old Mercury Cyclone kit and substituted the Polyglas side with some Grand Am tire decals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1980 Chevrolet Citation X-11 – Revell

1980chevycitationx11boxRevell, just like AMT Ertl and MPC, has a bit of a history of making some really interesting models that were relics of a era where the US vehicle industry was on the verge of bankruptcy and throwing out vehicles left, right and center to attempt to re-capture the US domestic market all the while laying off so many people that it broke records. Chrysler had the K body cars, GM had the “brilliant” all-new X-body Chevrolet Citation.

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Sales wise the car was very successful, in 1980 over eight hundred thousand of the Citations were sold. And honestly, on paper, it looked like an alright little car! And y’know what, screw it, here’s the obligatory joke: this model kit lasts longer than your average Citation, plus it probably has better brakes than the actual car. The whole reason of the Citation’s failure lies with GM(and most other American car manufacturers at the time) being stuck between rushed innovation and desperately trying to cling onto a consumer market that decided that for the same money, American built cars just weren’t providing nearly as much working car as say, a Toyota or a Volkswagen.

1980chevycitationx11 (4)The downfall of the Citation was swift, within five years the car’s sales had dropped nearly 90% as recalls for faulty brakes, radiator hoses leaking that could lead to fires, rust issues, interior bits just popping off randomly and general lack of quality tore apart what actually was a functional little car that could’ve saved GM a giant amount of financial woes. The saying “too little, too late” stuck ’em hard though, as the Citation was the proverbial drop that filled the bucket past its rim: after the Chevrolet Vega was well underway of becoming GM’s last ‘blunder’, the Citation quickly proved that it could get worse.

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I’m really torn on the real subject matter, cause when you look at the car purely on paper, it was a frickin’ good plan. A east-west positioned engine, interior as roomy and comfortable as a full size Chevy Malibu of the same year, wasn’t actually hideously styled as some other similarly ill-fated cars of the eighties and above all: it fixed most of the issues that arose from the fuel crisis. So what the hell went wrong? Well, part is the rush for such a car to exist and part of it is GM’s mentality at the time being nothing short of legendarily stupid.

Firstly, what could’ve benefited the car the most was a brand new four cylinder engine. Instead, the base version got a clunky retro-fitted Iron Duke I4 that was outdated half a decade before the Citation was even a idea on a napkin. Second was the utter rush, which caused the car to get recalled three times in its short life span and had the car’s longevity rated at “just until the warranty expires“. The only sensible option GM put out was the optional transverse 2.8L 60 degree V6, which laid the ground work for two decades to come and even more. Sadly, again, too little, too late. GM tried to make amends by bringing out a updated Citation in ’84, the very cleverly named “Citation II”, which lasted a year and only sold slightly over five thousand times.

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Anyway, enough history on the real thing, onto the kit. Back in ’81, Monogram released two Citation model kits. One sort of based on the 2.8L V6, just with a fake turbo and such, and the second being a custom “X” variant, which I can only describe as a European inspired “tuner” of that decade, y’know, the decade in which cars had difficulty even operating on their own accord. But I’ve been going on this trend lately of gathering the kits of the attempts of Motor City to try and get off the horrible rollercoaster that was becoming their financial sheets, with the ’81 Dodge Omni 024, the ’80 Plymouth Volare and of course, this little monster.

The kit I got here is the 2002 re-release of the kit as a lowrider, which honest to God – who the hell thought of this? Lets turn a failure from the early eighties with the looks of a shoe box with Malibu tail-lights that rusts within a matter of years to having it rain inside the car as well, into a lowrider!

1980chevycitationx11 (10)Though luckily, a theme of the lowrider kit series is that it’s always a 2-in-1 kit with plenty of options and thanks to that, this is the best version of this kit you can possibly get. It has the options for the X-11, the 2.8L V6 and the lowrider version, with Goodyear Polysteel Radial decals, two sets of X-11 decals and a whole stripe set for the custom 2.8L Turbo version. And to get it outta the way quickly; the lowrider version is hilariously ugly. The decals for it are low-res, the woman for the hood decal is vague at best(I think its a topless blonde? Honestly cannot tell) and it has the same ugly-as-sin outwards wheels that are on every lowrider kit from Revell during this time. (The ’92 Thunderbird, ’92 Mustang, ’84 Coupe Deville, so on, all have the same whitewall tires and wire rims and such, which are awesome quality and seriously well cast but just… ugly).

So while it has all the right decals to make this a X-11 from 1980 or a X-11 from ’82 onwards, which is actually really impressive given the source material. Though, oddly, the only year the X-11 wasn’t offered in the “club coupe” notchback is what the box claims it to be; 1981. Which y’know, is odd, but we’ll overlook this I suppose. The notchback is arguably the prettiest of the Citation family and somehow kind of held a bit of a legacy among folks while the hatchbacks rust away at derelict car graveyards, despite that at the time of the car actually hitting the market, the notchback just refused to sell at all and was dropped in ’84.

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Someone at Revell really put this whole kit through the motions. As I said, it has all the decals to make it a replica of every year and the mold quality is freaking amazing. The only two places it is a letdown is around the exact places you’d expect ’em to be in a Monogram mold: the engine bay has the “bleeding” effect in which pieces such as the battery, engine struts and so on are molded inwards, which honestly is just lazy. On the other hand, the engine quality, the interior quality and the body quality, all are just… amazing. Hell it is insane how highly detailed the interior is for a 1980 mold, especially knowing the source material was a literal plastic slab with “trim”, which was just ripples and fake stitching. Yeah, the real Citation skimped on nearly everything, especially on interior quality.

I figured I’d give the little engine some extra love and wire it up, even though the weird aircleaner set-up that Monogram was so fond of in the 1980s does kind of ruin the aesthetic. Yeah, weirdly enough I’m in favor of the circular snorkel air cleaners!

1980chevycitationx11 (13)It all goes together really well, too. Which is hardly surprising from a Monogram kit, they always had the tendency to go together supremely well, the only downside was that they were also super basic thanks to said simplicity, though that really isn’t the case here. Hell, even the instructions are crystal clear with reference pictures to get some of the more complicated set-ups done right from several angles.

All in all, despite the insane choice for a lowrider, this kit is one of the best replica kits Revell’s done, it’s up there with the ’83 Hurst/Olds Cutlass and even to a degree, the ’69 Dodge Charger Daytona, in terms of it letting to recreate the original plus more.

’80 Chevrolet Citation X-11 specifications:
Kit: #85-2378
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 110
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/24