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!

1987ElCaminoSS (3)

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.

1987ElCaminoSS (4)

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.

1987ElCaminoSS (16)

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.

1987ElCaminoSS (18)

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.

1987ElCaminoSS (14)

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

Advertisements

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

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

1987camaroirocz (2)

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

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

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

1987camaroirocz (10)

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

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

1987camaroirocz (15)

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

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

1987camaroirocz (12)

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

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

1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe – Revell

1987MonteCarloAerocoperedux (1)Last year I built Revell’s wonderful Aerocoupe version of Monogram’s late eighties ’86 Monte Carlo kit. And uh, boy, I didn’t do it justice. Not at all. Not even one bit. Actually, I would even go as far as to say, that the work I pulled on the kit was… quite shit. So I was thinking, either I delete the article and put this one up with this as a disclaimer, or I would just do it as a redux and leave the other piece up for what it is just with a reference to here and have it link this way, it is technically more a ’86 MC than it is a ’87 so… I should point out, that kit was opened before and the person had attempted to start it but never finished it and it was missing literally half the kit including the 1987 exclusive smoothed out rear bumper so I had to compensate for the whole thing by buying a 1986 Monte Carlo kit to steal bits and bobs from.

1987MonteCarloAerobackredux (23)

With the age the whole decal sheet had gone to hell too as the decals literally went to about 60 pieces upon touching, so I was forced to use the 1986 decals that were literally from 1986… Milky, ugly and yellowed to sin, but it beat having nothing on there.

1987MonteCarloAerocoperedux (10)So I came in prepared this time! The kit is rare, very rare. It’s also from that era in the nineties that Revell made easily their best kits and improved on older ones in spectacular fashion, giant expanded decal sheets, all parts from separate releases included in one, so forth. The ’80 Chevrolet Citation X-11 is a good example of this, but this Monte Carlo SS is right up there with it. I bought decal bonder from Testors, I used spray nail varnish for my own decals and it works just as well but the Testors can is far more tough and lets go of a lot less pieces.

The Monte Carlo itself is a car that actually managed to last well into the 2000s, believe it or not. I mean, at a quarter of the muscle-luxury mix it once possessed but it lasted. And well, I suppose I should say that the nineties Monte Carlo was pretty much just a elongated Chevrolet Lumina with some extra luxury but for the most part from the mid seventies onwards, it was largely success all around. It had the luxurious Landau versions, the sporty muscle car versions and the ones that sat neatly in between. Also, due to NASCAR, the Monte Carlo also saw the SS badge becoming a beefed up, front-swapped winner line alongside the normal one from 1983 onward.

1987MonteCarloAerocoperedux (9)

And a lot of stuff kept carrying over from NASCAR onto the production vehicles, for both the Monte Carlo and the Pontiac Grand Prix, the half-Hurst/Olds Cutlass and half-Monte Carlo Pontiac that history has forgotten about. One of these things that carried over was the Aerocoupe glass rear window for the 1986 and 1987 model years. It was already a thing on late seventies Chevy Caprices, though more as a sign of luxury and less of a, well, speed influenced bit. And as I mentioned earlier, NASCAR’s rules dictated that a certain number of cars needed to be produced in order to have the aerodynamic changes to be allowed, how many were necessary? 200. Just 200. In ’87, the last year of the Monte Carlo being in production, over 6000 of the 39000 were Aerocoupes that year so they were quite a common sight among the rest of them.

1987MonteCarloAerocoperedux (13)Like I said at the beginning, Revell did just one production run of the Aerocoupe model kit, which feels awfully similar to the real life version also being a supremely brief and desired run. And even as a whole new kit, yet again the decals fell the fuck apart. I mean, Goddammit there’s just no getting around the fact that decal sheets from Revell between 1997 and 2000 were absolute balls. So thank God for that decal bonder I used, cause it finally allowed me to get the decals on at last.

And the kit is still joyously simple, as nearly all the Monogram kits were of the 1980’s. Granted, the engine bay is “slab like” in detail, which is the best descriptor I can give for it. Though this is standard Monogram modus operandi, highly detailed engine, superb body detail, good interior detail and meh engine bay. But it’s thanks to that, this kit goes together so nicely and even with very little effort, it can end up looking fantastic. There’s something to be said about the minds at Monogram and Revell making up very nice kits that go together properly all the while MPC was around at the time schlepping by on mediocrity before being picked up by Ertl in 1985 and combined into AMT Ertl.

1987MonteCarloAerocoperedux (17)

I gotta say, kits like these? These were Revell-Monogram’s golden years. And you know what, they have been consistently great since, and seem to be keeping up on their line of quality. I always thoroughly enjoy building these kits, and it pains me to know that these at the ripe age of eighteen years already(the Aeroback kit was released in late 1998), will likely never see the light of day once more. Normally I bitch and moan about the laziness of just reproducing a kit, but Revell has proven many times they are all but lazy when it comes to reproducing kits, no matter how niche the subject of an aeroback and the last hurrah of the second act of the muscle car might be.

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

1987 Buick Regal Grand National – Monogram

1987buickregalgrandnational (1)Monogram haven’t made many Buick kits, only a couple of ’em across the board. I wrote something on the GNX kit a long time ago before I knew what the hell I wanted to do with this website, but in a way the kit is essentially entirely the same. For three decades, it’s just been the Grand National, GNX and GSX and they’ve made a fair amount of variations of them. The Grand National has seen around eight separate releases, two already in ’88 and one was actually really sweet and boy did I wish I could’ve gotten that one instead.

1987buickregalgrandnational (15)

It was the GNX and it was part of the High Performance series which included flexible radiator hoses and engine wire plus instructions on how to use ’em, which for a in-box extra is incredibly nice. The other one from 1988 is the one I got here, which has the unique box art that upset GM quite a bit as it shows a Buick Regal out-dragging a Chevrolet Corvette(just imagine this, step-above Regal could out-do the flagship Corvette, just imagine what a GNX was capable of), which was fixed in a 1989 re-release by putting it in front of dull, boring old fashioned boxart. But anyhow, as I said, this kit is in general 100% identical to the GNX kit, just with slightly less parts and the standard Regal wheels(and not the Turbo-T wheels, sadly) instead of the GNX wire-wheels.

1987buickregalgrandnational (4)And boy this kit shows that just like the car itself, it was peak turbocharger hype, V6 engines that produced equal power to big block V8s and the end of the muscle car era all at the same time. The Regal was one of the few late eighties cars that could preform all the while being a good car and the engine itself was nothing short of a masterpiece(its direct competitors were the Cutlass, Grand Prix, Thunderbird and Monte Carlo and… that was about it). Well, okay, it was also falling back onto old habits cause man, it sure as hell wasn’t fuel efficient. But Buick did try to innovate, there’s no faulting them there. They took the Buick 231 V6 from ’78 and took it on a tour of duty through the eighties, slapping a gargantuan turbocharger onto it and giving it the appropriate name “Turbo Regal”.

1987buickregalgrandnational (7)

I mean, it took the second generation of the Regal nine years to hit peak greatness, going out with a last take on the turbocharged up Regal, simply called the Grand National once again, a car that could keep up with Corvettes of the day. Though it has to be said, the order sheets were very lenient and you could very well just order a plain silver colored or white Regal with no outer markings besides the 3.8 SFI on the raised hood and have quite frankly a severely powerful sleeper. And on the subject of powerful, there of course was the wider, more badass, all black and vicious GNX that could even keep up with Ferrari F40s and Porsche 930’s in terms of acceleration and top speed. No other coupe in ’87 could claim they had this pedigree, not even its sister car the “look at how NASCAR I am” Monte Carlo Aerocoupe.

1987buickregalgrandnational (5)Though unlike the real car, this kit does have a few woes that linger. Despite the fact that this kit is one of those late eighties new tools from Monogram that trumped all expectations with crisp as all hell molding, beyond high quality engine bay and engine itself and a good eye for quality on the body, there are moments where it goes together like shoving a round peg in a square hole. For instance, while the superb detail is there, the side marker lights for the headlights are a God damn nightmare to get in place. They hardly fit and when they do, they “float” on nothing but the backing.

The chassis sits against the front and rear bumpers and you have to keep mashing it back and forth to find the exact spot where it won’t tear one or the other off its brackets. Some of the turbocharger and intercooler hoses have weird positioning, I mean it’s true to the car of course, but the way you’re meant to mount ’em in the kit is awkward to say the least. And speaking of the intercooler, it floats awkwardly on the front sway bar and is only truly connected to the car by the radiator hoses.

1987buickregalgrandnational (13)

But man, it does make for a nice kit. Revell was kind enough to re-release this and the GNX kit a few more times so the legacy lasts a bit longer at a not-being–gauged-silly purchase price, though I’d advise that if you’re going looking for this kit, get the 2012 re-release of the GNX kit, it is essentially the same as this kit just with the performance package suspension and powertrain set-up, the bits that make the exterior a GNX are separate and you get a much better decal sheet. Though you don’t get the Grand National steelies, sadly, however Fireball Modelworks has a set of appropriate ’84/’85 Grand National resin wheels if you prefer those.

As you can see, I figured I’d go with the semi-sleeper appearance with the blacked out wheels but regular Regal color and Turbo-T blacked out trim. It doesn’t look quite as good as a GNX, but I like the difference enough! The Eagle GT lettering(thanks to Fireball Modelworks) on the tires make it look less dingy and more menacing and the silver makes it more civilized despite it rocking a turbocharged 231 cubic inch V6.

1987buickregalgrandnational (16)

But as for the car in real life, just like its sister Monte Carlo and rivals, they all saw their muscle pedigree vanish with the turn of the nineties to become either front wheel drive luxury cars, mere ghosts of their former selves or in the case of some like the Cutlass 442; vanish all together.

’87 Buick Regal Grand National specifications:
Kit: #85-2765
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 93
Molded in: Black
Scale: 1/24

1987 Buick Regal GNX – Monogram

buickgnx6Short version; Monogram’s take on the Buick GNX is pretty damn good, but honestly there’s a few niggles here and there with the kit like some instructions being wrong or it skipping a whole step involving the rear suspension, or the car being molded in flat white while the end result would imply the thing’s all black, it could’ve been better.

But let’s be fair here, it being molded in white lets creativity run wild. You wanna make a stock factory Buick Regal with GNX parts? You got a clean slate to work with.

87buickgnx-1

The car’s gorgeous, lots of the late 1980s cars were very boxy and very unimaginative but the Buick somehow still makes something so square look so damn good and this model does show that pretty well. The specifically GNX tuned engine is replicated really well with some chrome plated parts to accentuate it even further. Lots of interior decals make for easier and prettier results inside as well, however sadly there’s no dashboard decals whatsoever.

87buickgnx-2Now the downsides to this kit… About the wrong instructions? Well, the kit skips on installing the panhard rod on the rear suspension. It’s not a really big deal(it’s a model afterall) but it does kinda screw with the integrity of the rear end like applying the wheels or keeping the suspension in place. Another thing is related to the decals, it’ll tell you to put the front seat decals on the back and the back’s on the front.

Most of the model fits together pretty well, but the entire nose is one big piece that you need to glue onto the body. Wouldn’t be such a problem if the damn thing would fit, you’re meant to squeeze two pins into the body and then just glue it in place – The problem being, they aren’t aligned, and there’s nothing at the top stopping it from sliding too high. So the nose on mine’s crooked. Could be just mine, could be a mold problem, I don’t know for certain.

87buickgnx-3

The bottom line? Pretty kit that offers a nice challenge to build, a few hiccups and a fair bit of paint work for a reasonable price. Buy it!

’87 Buick Regal GNX specifications:
Kit: #85-4018
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 103
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/24