1970 Plymouth GTX 440-6 – Monogram

1970plymouthGTX440_6 (1)The Gentleman’s Muscle Car“, that’s how the GTX got described as it came to exist back in 1967. Just like the Road Runner of the time, it was based on the baseline Plymouth Belvedere, a car with a long lineage of being a big hunk of metal with a lot of style. Coming to think of it, with that descriptor you could likely sum up ninety five percent of cars back then. The GTX itself only existed for a grand total of four years, though. From ’67 through ’71, all as expensive versions of the Road Runner, which itself was marketed as the “budget muscle car“.

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The whole reason for the GTX to exist as a separate version is also the reason for why it only existed for a short four years; the Road Runner did all the GTX did and it did it for a hell of a lot less. In 1969, the GTX got hamstrung by the Road Runner when Plymouth offered a convertible version of it. Hell, by 1970, the year in question of the kit here, the Road Runner and GTX were so similar, most people couldn’t tell them apart. The ’70 GTX had the same stripes, engine options and trim and in the end – less choice. Granted, it defaulted with a 440 Six Barrel engine, with a possible upgrade to a 426 HEMI and the interior was a lot nicer and fancier than the Road Runner innards, but despite that – it just didn’t stand apart enough for it to sell anywhere as well as they had hoped.

1970plymouthGTX440_6 (6)In 1971, the last year of the GTX as a separate model, they finally differentiated the model some more than the years before but in this year, sadly the thing that brought sales down wasn’t the fact that a GTX was a more expensive Road Runner, it was the insurance rates on muscle cars spiking. And with that, the GTX became nothing more than a name plate for two more years, before being shelved for good in favor of just the Road Runner and the base version it was based on(Satellite from ’72 to ’74, Fury in ’75 and Volaré from ’76 through it’s getting Ol Yeller’d in 1980).

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So back in 1982, Monogram put out their first version of this kit. Total new tool, as many of their kits were at the time. And just like literally any other kit of theirs, it was… superb. Granted, it has the typical ups and downs, like very plain engine bay but a stellar engine quality to counter or a basic as sin interior and chassis detail, but body detail that rivals die-casts of this very day. At the time, the GTX kit came out with a stock version only which was really nicely made. It missed some decals that would’ve improved quality of life but y’know, couldn’t complain.

1970plymouthGTX440_6 (23)For instance, you gotta manually do the big stripe over the hood as all you’ll get is the two smaller stripes that run along them. While you do get the 440-6 decals for next to the air intake, no 440 Six Barrel engine decal, GTX decals(even though they’re very well defined so a silver/chrome pen works wonders) and such. What you do get is a very accurate representation of the now highly desirable and rare car. So four years later, they added a bunch of extras and turned it into a “Street Machine”. Also known as, let’s make this car hideous as sin by adding stovepipes that require the hood to be cut open, for fun y’know.

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But my opinion’s aside, the “upgrade” involves a new set of wheels and with that wider, patterned Goodyear GT Radial tires(which I enhanced with some Fireball Modelworks decals, fit like a charm!), raised suspension, a ’71 GTX/’70 ‘Cuda wing and a choice between closed and open ram air hood options. It’s a basic set of extras but it makes a difference if you ask me, even though the wider profile tires don’t actually physically fit in the wheel wells in the front – whoops, right. Still though, the raised rear end and the wing, I totally love. I wanted to make it all stock but decided against it given I got a 1970 Road Runner kit coming(based on this kit, but very much improved by Revell in 2000) up and definitely giving that one the stock spin and allow this one to look more badass.

1970plymouthGTX440_6 (19)And I just wanna point something out here – I didn’t paint the body. That’s the way it looked straight from the box, that shade of metallic blue. It’s a similar finish to the sister model, the 1969 Dodge Super Bee. This kit is from 1986, sat in a smokey storage room for decades and somehow, the paint and the glossy coat of the paint are still better than the stuff I can produce today. It’s really impressive how well it’s done, even today, kit manufacturers don’t quite know how to avoid paint splodges in the injection process but Monogram nailed back in the mid friggin’ eighties.

1970plymouthGTX440_6 (8)I had been looking for this kit for a year and a half and now I found both the Road Runner and GTX, I’m feelin’ quote fortunate and it truly helps that the kit is stellar even after 31 years. As I said earlier, the typical Monogram pluses and minuses come into effect but it’s still one of those kits that always feels pleasant to make and put together. The suspension and exhaust system are one piece, most of the engine block is one piece besides the headers, rocker covers and waterpump, the engine bay has the typical “block” like structure going on where for instance the battery goes down to the axle, but even despite it all, it’s still one of those kits that screams quality through and through.

’70 Plymouth GTX 440-6 specifications:
Kit: #85-2730
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 89
Molded in: Metallic Dark Blue
Scale: 1/24

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1990 Mercedes Benz 190E 2.3-16v – Revell/Fujimi

1990mercedesbenz190e_2-3_16v-110.jpgThis is one I’ve had sitting around since November 2016 and consistently backed away from the project, despite having a giant soft spot for it. You see, normally I just build model kits for fun, for the history of the car or just cause I like what I’m working on, I haven’t yet found a model kit I went in with the mentality of recreating something for someone or cause of someone. This one, however, is one of those. I wanted to make this one for my father, recreate the car he owned and loved for so many years. And the reason why I kept backing away from it is cause the Fujimi kit is… dogshit. I honestly can’t find any kind words for it, it just isn’t a good kit. I mean, were it produced as a pre-built model car I’m sure it would’ve been amazing cause the cast quality is immense, it’s just the horribly over complicated nothing-fits-anywhere mess of a build that ruins this one start to finish.

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Instantly, it struck me that I bought yet another Fujimi ’81 Camaro kit. A kit that once was destined or was actually a radio controlled car shell, hastily adjusted so it would make for a kit on the model kit market, with an awkward construction and adjustment made around where once the motor and the batteries were in the chassis. And it might have heritage from yet another company called Ceji, I honestly don’t know quite who to blame for this mess.

1990mercedesbenz190E_2-3_16v (4)So at some point, I stumbled upon a Dutch seller on eBay who had the Revell version of the 190E for sale, a kit hailing back to 1986, and I immediately bought it. Like, zero hesitation, thinking I may finally be able to patch this piece of crap up with. Then, it hit me… I saw a Revell AMG 190E kit for sale with open box pictures and spotted the exact same terrible chassis with the absurdly crappy fix for the once-it-was-a-RC-car problem – So I panicked and asked the Dutch seller for some pictures of the kit and promised I wouldn’t back down regardless, just satisfy my curiosity. And what a relief, man, Jesus I can’t tell you how happy I was to find out Revell actually improved on the turd it once was.

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But I’ll get back to the details in a moment, first I’ll actually finish the story about why this is a passion project seeped in “I’m just happy it’s done“. My dad has owned a variety of cars in his lifetime, especially through the 1980s while American muscle cars and luxury cars were being shipped overseas to happy exotic buyers for a dime on the dollar when it came to the price. He’s owned a ’71 Chrysler New Yorker he bought for just two hundred guilders(the good ol’ fashioned currency of the Netherlands before the Euro), Firebirds from ’72, ’75 and ’79, Mercury Cougars, Ford Mustangs, Buick Rivera’s. One of the AMC Javelins from Karmann(a ’68 79-K, one he regrets selling given how rare they have become) in Germany.

1990mercedesbenz190E_2-3_16v (17)And the list just goes on, from wild Americans to European luxury cars that he always bought on the cheap from someone who mistreated it, couldn’t be bothered to fix it or both, like a BMW 750il, the gargantuan V12 powered almost-limo. But his prize purchases were actually more simple, more performance oriented saloons like a 1989 Ford Scorpio Cosworth which is basically a Ford Sierra turned into a limousine and beefed up with a Cosworth V6, but his most prized possession remained to be, despite all of the cars he’s owned: a 1990 Mercedes Benz 190E 2.3-16v in smoke silver(which always looked champagne colored) with these giant 19 inch O.Z. Legerra wheels. Sadly, its saw its demise by a towtruck that was meant to take it in for a routine fix on a slight engine rumble – the tow cable snapped off the lift-truck and it rolled off backwards as it was being tied down and the metal hook slammed through the windshield, slamming the mostly brittle plastic dashboard to bits as a bonus.

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And the man loved this car until its fateful killshot by towing vehicle, it was dependable as hell, it always started in the cold and it had enough luxury to be cold in the summers. It had the gloriously ugly interior stitching and faux wooden panels all over, it looked like a Canadian lumberjack exploded in there and put plaid and wood everywhere, even the gear stick. Oh! Speaking of which, a fun little fact about 190E 2.3’s and 2.5’s: dogleg first gear gearbox. What the hell is that, you ask? Well, first let me show you what the hell happens if you haven’t driven one with a dogleg gearbox for decades and then suddenly do;

So effectively a dog-leg gearbox is one meant for racing convenience. Simply put, it puts reverse left-up and 1st left-down, so shifting through 2nd and 5th is a simple H pattern which improves shift times significantly. However, this means that something so burned in as left-up suddenly means wrecking your rear bumper on something, or someone. But y’know what, that made it unique. And denty, very denty.

1990mercedesbenz190E_2-3_16v (13)But anyhow, I bought some aftermarket Fujimi wheels in hopes that they would also fit the Fujimi kit and sadly I couldn’t find the O.Z. Legerra’s my father had so I substituted them with Yokohama AVS Model 5’s, which he kind of liked the most out of the series of wheels I showed him. On top of that, bought some appropriate smoke silver spraypaint to emulate the car entirely. And then I opened the box and attempted to put it together and… boy I got discouraged hard. Not a fiber in my body after five minutes wanted to ever carry on again on this terrible excuse of a kit and like I said earlier, the sad part is that it’s cast so unbelievably well. The details on the body for example are stellar!

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So I shelved it until a week ago when I got the Revell kit, which gave me the inspiration to kick it back up again. I concluded that the Fujimi body with the Revell chassis and interior would actually allow me to actually build it and look semi decent. The Fujimi kit has the better body, head and tail lights, better small details like the door handles and wipers for the headlamps and windshield while the Revell version has… better everything else. Unfortunately, the Fujimi kit doesn’t allow for the hood to be opened and even the Revell version has you manhandling the body to cut the hood out, the only difference is that the grille isn’t molded on so cutting it open is a lot easier. So the hood won’t open and it’s hiding a very well molded 2.3L 16v inline four, which I wish you could see cause credit to Revell – it’s wonderful!

1990mercedesbenz190E_2-3_16v (14)The only shame is that the rest of the engine bay is empty. No battery, no detail, just the engine. But y’know, given it’s a desperate improvement on something as terrible as it could be, I’ll take it. The original doesn’t even have a engine, so! And the suspension set-up is amazingly complicated but in a good way, it gives it all some proper structural integrity in the end. I gave the ’16 and ’17 Camaro kits some high praise for the detailed suspension set up but Revell did it back in 1986 with this kit!

Inside of the kit, it gets rather basic again. The seats are blocky, the dashboard is flatly detailed and the doors are literal slabs of plastic that are meant to give structural strength. Fujimi did improve here, sadly they’re not of the same size as the Revell’s upgrade so I unfortunately had to go with those instead after having already used the dashboard decals on the Fujimi dash.

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In the end, it cost me over a hundred euro to get this kit bashed together. Was it worth it? Oh yes, yes it was. I got plenty of bodies and spare parts left to do the supremely shitty Fujimi-origins Revell AMG 190E kit, twice. So I am definitely content with what I got here, especially since my old man seems to like it. Despite the off-kilter wheels, despite the window sitting a solid quarter of a inch too deep, despite the paint having chipped off the mirrors, despite it all – he likes it, and if he likes it, I like it too.

’90 Mercedes Benz 190E(W201) 2.3-16v specifications: (Fujimi’s in brackets)
Kit: Revell 7266-0389(No 3, Group A)
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 81(74)
Molded in: White, Black and Gray
Scale: 1/24

1987 Chevrolet El Camino SS – MPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1986 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe – Revell

Click here to go to the 1987 Monte Carlo SS article, this one’s about the 1986. Or well, it’s a 1987 one but with the 1986’s decals cause this kit had ’em fall apart on me. But I have done a new article on the kit with the proper decals and ’87 parts instead of the mish-mash I have here.

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God how long I’ve been looking for this kit, and I finally found one. Well, I found two. One brand new in the box that got eBay sniped away from me and a second one being a scrapper kit that was missing the front valance and the rear bumper, but had everything else.

Little did I know that the ’87 Monte Carlo actually had a restyled bumper, but… alas, I bought a ’86 Monte Carlo SS kit on the cheap and quickly found out just how valuable that purchase was. The decal sheet, the front and back bumpers as well as some interior pieces ended up going into this Frankenstein build. But still, despite that, I’m happy to have build it. And uh, have just about the entire ’86 Monte Carlo kit left over to sit incomplete for the rest of time.

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The eagle eyed auto enthusiasts may spot the two discrepancies right away. One, what the hell is wrong with the stripes? Two, what the absolute hell is the matter with the stripes?! Now, I tried to make this as close as I could to the ’87 Monte Carlo with the wrong bumpers, until I ran into the issue that I run into more often with older Revell kits, the decals being absolute ass. Though this time, it was much, much worse.

I attempted to put the stripes on and well, they fell apart quicker than I could salvage them.

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To the point that I should say “disintegrated” instead of “fell apart“, a few photos show the SS logos that survived, barely. Hell the SS logo on the right side fell apart during the night after the build in the drying process, so I scraped off the remnants of the stripes and put on the ’86 stripes instead. Which also have a nasty bad thing about them, they got this hideous white line from being printed badly! Well damn.

87montecarlo1-8Ah well, I carried on. At this point there was no turning back, it was riddled with the left overs of destroyed decal so I had to cover them with the other stripes or I’d have left it all black, which I have to admit didn’t even look half bad. But alas, this kit just wouldn’t swing that way, the fact that it was a pre-opened kit and had sat around in a musty attic since 1998 obviously did a number on the parts, body and especially the decal sheet.

I mean, the kit itself is fantastic. Taken straight from Monogram’s late eighties Monte Carlo mold, they changed up the rear, added a new bumper and a pair of tail lights, a giant decal sheet and that glorious Aerocoupe window. They also included some Goodyear Radial GT tire letters, that’s a extra you don’t even get today! I had a bit of an awkward fit cause the interior bucket was warped badly so I had to use the ’86 one which obviously wasn’t87montecarlo1-9 made to hold that aerocoupe window so it all sat a bit weird, but I suppose with the ’87 bucket it would’ve fit like charm.

I went a bit overboard detailing the car and wired up the whole car, A/C and everything cause it just felt like it was worth it. That being said though, you’d think from a business point of view, considering the variation of a ’87 Monte Carlo is nothing more than new tail lights, new rear bumper, bit more back window shelving and a fancier window for a 5MPH increase on the track, it wouldn’t warrant such a fancy approach from Revell, but they did and went the extra mile with the giant decal sheet that offers all the stripes for the color combo’s available; black, red and gold.

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In the end, despite it being a bit of a frankenstein build, it looks nice next to the other Monte Carlo. Especially since I’ve learned a hell of a lot since I started building kits, and didn’t mess up the front as badly as I did back then.

 

’86 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe specifications:
Kit: #85-2576
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 92
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/24

1986 Chevrolet El Camino SS – AMT Ertl

elcamino1I always had a big affinity for late eighties cars, I don’t really know why. Even though it might be the worst time for cars since the 1973 Oil Crisis, the late eighties had boxy unimaginative designs across the board and giant engines that produced so little horse power that it was bordering insanity. But still, something about that era grabs me. Despite those things, it was a era of overblown luxury just like the fifties.

And the ’86 El Camino was no different.

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The kit itself is from the era that AMT Ertl made superb kits, really well detailed but often used recycled molds for say the engine bits and wheels. But this one is a custom version on all but the engine, the ’86 SS rims are there with the proper Goodyear Polyglas GT L60-15 tires, the 305 cubic inch V8, SS trim interior with optional CB radio(which is neat and odd at the same time, I like it!), the bed cover and the SS of course had the unique aerodynamic front end from the Monte Carlo which made it look pretty damn radical.

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And suffice to say AMT delivered back in 1991 with this kit, basing it off the Choo Choo Customs version of the El Camino SS with silver stripe trim and the huge SS logos. And like I said the kit does come with Polyglas GT tires but not the ones pictured, the ones I got
on there are also from AMT, though from a separate set they sell with L60-15 and F60-15elcamino_new-2 tires with padprinted logos on ’em, the ones in the kit are kinda rugged and haven’t aged well.

The only downsides to this kit are that the engine’s lacking the entire A/C system and that attaching the front wheels to the frame with the tiny prongs was a nightmare, but that’s it. Age warped the nose a bit so its slightly out of place on the right side but that’s no fault of AMT, and knowing this kit is 24 years old(came out in ’91) makes it all the more impressive and also makes me sort of sad. The kits AMT puts out these days are great but lack… the quality if not detail of their older ones.

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I absolutely love this kit, it was a joy painting it and putting together. Everything just fit too, which is really nice of a older kit too. Maybe I’m getting biased but both Revell and AMT seemed to do really, really well in the 1990s!

’86 Chevrolet El Camino SS specifications:
Kit: AMT6964
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 98
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25