1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 350 – AMT Ertl

1970CamaroZ28_2019 (31)Ahh yes, one of my first model kits that I built when I jumped back into this particular hobby. Heck, in fact, this particular kit might also be one of the first posts I did on this website, copying it like the ham fisted oaf that I am from a crappy Amazon.co.uk review. Well, we’re now a rigorous 300 or so models further into the future, it’s time to give this ol’ boy a re-do. Why? Honestly, there’s no big ‘true‘ reason, part of me was inspired by the anouncement of AMT’s semi-new tool 1970 Camaro with the full bumper and single headlights. Holy shit right? It only took them 30 years to finally do something with this kit. Though one shouldn’t bite the cramped, over-reaching hand that feeds him, this is a truth, it’s not AMT’s fault, it’s… well, it’s Round 2’s fault. A company that quite literally just invests in shoving more liquid plastic through old molds so they can make more AutoWorld 1/18th scale cars and be hugged by Coca-Cola Company for being good boys.

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Any-rant-over-who, while no more than one real new tool kits will come and have come from Round 2 every decade, I’m genuinely excited about the prospect of finally seeing them go for the other Camaro from 1970 through 1973, which AMT back in the seventies actually did do a kit of though I’m uh, I’m informed that it was a total pile of ass. Having the problem of well, looking absolutely nothing like the real deal in an extremely distracting manner. But I digress, back to business. The 1970 Camaro kit I built three years ago, I definitely didn’t do it justice and I’ll be honest, having grown and learned techniques and also having gotten a bad case of not-dumb-anymore-ness, I can’t stand the look of the thing.

1970CamaroZ28_2019 (15)Yet part of that is to blame on the kit itself, but I’ll go further into that in a moment. First, some well deserved history on the car and the kit; you see, this is like one of those cars that you really gotta give credit. Think of the Mustang, back in 1965 when they put out the Fastback alongside the convertible and coupe, that right there was serious concern for magnum opus. How the in the ever living fuck were they gonna triumph that? They essentially had designed the greatest hits album right there and then, and of course Caroll Shelby came along and for ’67 he essentially made the sexiest automobile in the history of mankind, better known as the 1967 Shelby GT500, not even the Eleanor version that added too much square to an all around slab of perfect. What the hell are you gonna do next? 1968 was largely unchanged and 1969 came along and it just went straight into Elvis territory from there, getting fatter and heavier until Ford had to damn near scrap it in 1973.

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The Camaro faced a similar prospect in 1969, they in 1967 had essentially created one of the de-facto muscle machines and they didn’t even know it yet, but it would very rapidly become the most popular muscle car of all time sharing the first place with the Mustang. Every man, woman, child, dog, cat, you name it knows the Mustang and every damn one knows the Camaro just as much, hell to such a degree that specific models became pop culture slang(like Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag with “drives an IROC”). And back then in US car culture, it was the norm of the day to swap out your entire car’s design every three to five years. Like ground up in most cases, even. For the Mustang, this first radical redesign came about in 1971, and for the Camaro it came a wee bit earlier, halfway through 1970. Just like the Mustang, kind of a victim of its own success though nowhere near as bad; it got wider, it got far heavier and it got far less options.

1970CamaroZ28_2019 (6)However, it was fortunately also a car to which GM for once in their lifetime actually listened to the consumers. The Camaro was popular in all configurations, as a two door family car all the way to Trans-Am racer. One of the biggest complaints from the first generation was the ride quality, it was lumpy, it was bumpy and generally it was a blast to drive as long as you went straight on a smooth road. They really took to the mantra of “the driver’s car”; they put on far better suspension, revamped the brakes, soundproofed the car and also did little comforts like longer doors for easier rear bench entry, more powerful steering, you name it. Essentially, while it was chunkier, it was also better. And it was still fast as all hell being a true to itself muscle car, until the 1973 oil crisis you had the base 290ci V6 but most customers chose the revamped 350ci V8 LT-1 engine sourced from the Corvette that would become a staple for the Camaro until deep into the eighties. The power monster 396ci V8 would be available until 1973 before it would get chopped in favor of… well, less.

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Like, in all specs the 1970 Camaro was generally just a good car. It weighed only around a hundred pounds more than the 1969 Camaro Z/28(the ’71 Mustang 429CJ weighed well over two hundred more than the ’70 Camaro RS Z/28), it retained most of the engine choices even while interior luxury would go down but the biggest hurdle the Camaro back then had to deal with was GM itself. The plant workers responsible for the second generation Camaro’s first three years striked for 240 days in total, 67 day company wide in 1971 and another 173 in 1972 and on top of that, literally before the oil market collapsed in the US, the Camaro had to be rapidly redesigned and well over a thousand of ’em had to be tossed into the crusher because of the new government mandated bumper safety standards. So when you think about it, they actually managed to pull of the near impossible and came up with a great successor to what essentially was the best Camaro, and they fell from grace through strikes, company mismanagement, idiotic bumper rules and the Middle-East yanking the carpet out from underneath everyone.

1970CamaroZ28_2019 (8)And the AMT kit also had its fair share of troubles, yes nice segue I know. From the seventies, AMT did the 1970, 1971 and 1972 all in the single headlight SS specs with the 396ci V8 engine. These were uh, well, they weren’t great. But ’twas 1970 and choice was rather limited and so was technology so lets forgive them for that. Then, in 1989 they did the impossible – they somehow fudged together the AMT and MPC kits from 1970 into one ugly abomination of ill-fitting shit that honestly didn’t deserve to see the light of day. It truly was every way a terrible kit, screwballed into a kit and you know it was a crapfest of a kit when not even the re-release kings Ertl, Racing Champions and Round 2 gave this one a second run. Instead, during the Racing Champions era of AMT Ertl, they invested in a ground up new tool of the 1970 Camaro in 1999, specifically the Baldwin Motion 454 Camaro in all new-tool glory. Even at the time specifically designed with the future in mind, the RS Z/28 Camaro hit the shelves in 2001.

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It was a beautiful kit and generally you can’t say many bad things about it, other than the usual mid-90s kits and early-2000s kits problems. However, the big fat however leaps out the bushes to pounce this sucker something fierce. It was clearly a quickly repurposed kit and it shows, the chassis  still has all the colossal holes for the big chunky Baldwin Motion side exhaust, it still has the raised suspension to accommodate the huge rear tires of that car and on top of it all, they really did dick up the injection molding on this thing. You see, while the Baldwin Motion kit is molded cleanly and in a crisp manner with the mold injection leading in from parts you can easily hide after painting, on the Z/28 it’s a whole different story.

1970CamaroZ28_2019 (33)The hood is molded onto the sprue from the left side all the way down and cause the plastic is so thin and flimsy it curves upwards horribly. The entire detail of the suspension and small pieces like the springs and shocks are just blobs. Hell the only thing to look somewhat decent are the A-arms, the rest is chunky and just decked with flash. Like an ungodly amount. And the worst part, I’d argue, is the front end of the body. The headlights are just ruined by flash, you need some surgical skills to reduce it to a reasonable amount and even then the thin, crappy plastic has shown its mark once again. The headlights are arguably the worst casualty of the plastic quality. For the rest however, it isn’t too bad. One can say though that this kit desperately could use more chrome pieces. They only chromed the two bumperettes, the grille, the rear bumper and the stick shift. Thats it. The wheels, for one, really could’ve used the chrome treatment, heck it could’ve used a rear-view mirror too. Maybe some headlight buckets instead of the molded on ones. Here’s hoping the full bumper Z/28 does see some separate headlight buckets. And some wheel support as there, well, isn’t any. They just loosely hang from the axles and eventually they go crooked… again. I kinda gave up on resetting the stance so the rear tires no cave in a tiny bit, I’m thinking “what the hell ever” by this point.

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Now one last paragraph of bitching, then I’ll shut the hell up as requested and get onto the good stuff. The decals in this kit, they’re quite decent however I very rapidly discovered a issue. None of the Z/28 decals have a white backing making them opaque, they’re entirely translucent! Unless you got a bright and vibrant color, they’re gonna vanish the moment you place ’em on the body. Which is a real damn shame. I compensated for this by printing my own decals, though instead of just placing them – I tried a little trick I read done by Maindrian Pace(no, not the Gone in 60 Seconds guy sadly) and cut ’em out from the paper and blackened it out around. Kinda looks halfway decent, I’d say!

1970CamaroZ28_2019 (2)So while I’m at it, I’m giving this decal sheet a do-over purely became it needs one and it lacks a bunch of stuff so, keep an eye out for that one to join the Baldwin Motion decal set I’ve made a while before. And here I am now, approaching the end of this article with one hell of a muscle car to show for it even with all the troubles and problems that plague the kit. Cause that’s really where it stands, despite everything crap, terrible and horrible about this kit, it still is quite… grand. The mold must’ve gone to hell over the years and frankly the build quality isn’t terrible. It’s nowhere near the ’69 Camaro from Revell in terms of how nice it all goes together and the crispness of the detail, but it’s damn well up there.

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And that gives me hope! The full bumper kit will likely have this one as its origin, as it’s alleged that the Round 2 boys are cloning it instead of falling in pits of kit molding past where they irreversibly chop up the original, which likely means they also have taken care of the now legendarily flashy, blubbery mold quality. The next model on the list is the ’70 Baldwin Motion Camaro re-do, another one I did terrible justice back in the day and paired with my decal sheet enhancements, it’ll likely be a neat little re-do. I gave this one all sorts of extra love, even though I didn’t bother plumbing the engine bay, I gave it some seatbelts, my own dash gauges and license plates, some high quality Tamiya paints on and in the model, you name it! And the Baldwin Motion Camaro looks to receive the same attention from me down the line, if only to make a nice pair for when the full bumper Camaro kit gets released.

’70 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 350 specifications:
Kit: AMT635
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 148
Molded in: Orange

Scale: 1/25

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1978 Chevrolet El Camino Royal Knight – Revell

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (9)The El Camino is downright one of my favorite cars to ever touch the planet, it’s such a wicked car all around. Or coupe utility vehicle, if you’re one of those people. I’d rather go with car, or ute. You see, I’ll defend the merits of a ‘Cuda until the sun goes down, or the value of Ford stumbling through the seventies keeping the Mustang alive, or how something like the El Camino should and needs to exist. Today, there’s no worldwide version of what is the quintessential muscle car with a pick-up for an ass.

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Holden, the last one to do ute’s with big-ass engines stopped producing new cars entirely as of October 2017, and as of writing Holden is still merely a importer of elsewhere built cars, predominantly Opels from German and Canadian plants. So even though the Australians have been the inventors and now the last to have enjoyed the rough and tumble big-block car-truck/pickup/coupe ute, they still could effectively buy a new ’17 HSV Maloo GTSR R8 with the Chevrolet 6.8L LS3 V8 that would churn out 570HP from a dealership today.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (3)As for the rest of the world, we gotta make due with effectively the last of the El Caminos that date back to the 1980s, 1987 to exact or the equally extinct Ford Ranchero, which got ol’ Yeller’d in 1979. Since then, for the Americans and Europeans it was to either import a sweet chunk of Mad Max-ian deliciousness or take in a… well shit, might as well get it out of the way; through-out the decades it would’ve come down to a Ford Courier, Dodge Rampage, Plymouth Scamp, VW Rabbit/Caddy Pick Up, Fiat Strada, Subaru BRAT or something to that extend. And all of those are small, compact little pickups with the front end of one of their more popular cars, small engine and sustainable(unless it’s the Dodge or Plymouth, those rusted away in a few months time), but not anything that would make you wanna go “Fuck yeah, I’d take that over a Camaro!“.

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There’s no more of them unfortunately, and granted, it was always a niche market. Who in their right mind shears off the ass end of a car, hollows it out like a deranged coroner and puts in a solid floorboard, add a foot or so to the back of it and there you go; car-pickup hybrid. Though while the concept sounds odd in marketing terms, it actually had a very solid market base for most of the sixties. They might’ve been aimed at the reed chewing farmer of the middle of the 20th century(fun fact, the origin of this type of car lies with an Australian farmer who wanted a car that could both handle farmyard work and be used as a car to go to church with on sunday), with ads showing dudes in Levis shoving hay bales or those old milk churns in the back of what would translate to Chevrolet “The Roads” or Ford “Ranchers”, but in reality the farmer of those days had the Chevy C-series or the Ford F-series parked dutifully on base, while the El Camino and Ranchero found more love on the paved roads.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (7)Why? Well in the United States especially at least, it just was timed incredibly poorly. The El Camino and Ranchero were briefly very popular in the mid to late 50s, but then it just kind of collapsed in on itself. They had three massive hurdles to overcome, one was that it was meant to do work all the while looking like a gorgeous car and it had trouble doing so. Two was a simple problem that other cars had to deal with too, take the Camaro – it had to co-exist with a more convenient, more powerful and in some ways more attractive Corvette, the El Camino and Ranchero had to exist alongside the very cars they were based off from 1960 onwards. The third? Well, they were appalling for the exact task they were designed, they were meant to be half pick-up, half car and in most cases it wasn’t even close to being a fifth as useful. Why spend 3800$ of your fresh 1970 dollars on a El Camino if you could get a fully equipped C/K 2500 for the same money that did everything the El Camino could, but better. Well, that’s kind of where these type of cars grew into their own; they gained a following for what they were. A utility built Chevelle with the same insurance quote destroying 454SS in the front? Hell to the yes, man!

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I mean, that right there is glossing over the point so thickly it should win an award for doing so, but in general that’s just about the gist of it. It worked though, the type of car grew into its own being and they lasted in the States for a reasonable while for the kind of fad they were, with like I said the El Camino lasting through 1987, it’s GMC counterpart, the much rarer and less liked GMC Sprint/Caballero and the Ranchero going on ’til 1979. Then there have been smaller editions as mentioned before, the ’82 Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp took the throne as nippy pick-up and eventually even they died off to. At that point, it was just back to old fashioned pick up truck or car, nothing in between in the States and Europe. That being said, through-out its thirty year endeavor, there have been plenty of those weird editions that make you wonder what the hell the idea was.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (10)You got the very much pretty Chevelle based stripes on the El Camino throughout the sixties, the Torino GT stripes on the Ranchero, the twin-stripe SS get-up on the seventies El Caminos, the Scamp GT and Rampage both having just overblown either totally black or super colorful stripe packages, the VW Caddy/Rabbit “Sportstruck”, whatever the hell that might’ve been and so forth on the US side of the story. And that right there was eight paragraphs of me rambling on about a car with a pick up for a booty and how it’s no longer part of our world as we know it and ho-boy does it suck.

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Luckily, there’s Revell, Monogram, MPC and AMT to keep us happy campers with the offerings of the aforementioned pick-up-car-things in kit form to keep some semblance of them in the world. Wait, what’s that? There’s only like nine kits as a whole in 1/25th and 1/24th scale? Well, Goddammit. Okay quick gander through the list; there’s Revell’s 1966 El Camino, Revell-Monogram’s 1978 El Camino, the ’57 Ranchero by them as well. AMT offers the ’59 through ’61 Rancheros and the ’59, ’63, ’64, ’65 and ’68 El Caminos respectively, while MPC dove deeper into the El Camino through the seventies offering the ’78 through ’86 El Camino’s as well as a one time why-the-hell-not run of the GMC Caballero. There have been plenty of cases where evidence got presented that any of the previously mentioned big two/three/four(depending on what decade you’re discussing) kit makers were planning on doing all sorts of these, the mid-seventies Ranchero, the ’73 El Camino, hell the ’70 El Camino was announced in print on multiple occasions and just… never happened.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (15)Fortunately, there’s resin casters: Motor City Resin Casters has both the ’72 Ranchero GT and the ’73 El Camino in their repertoire. Jimmy Flintstone with the ’70 and ’72 El Camino bodies(although they’re entirely unchanged ’68 El Caminos with Chevelle front ends). There’s been plenty of coming-and-goers that offered transkit parts for anything from ’57 through ’86 and it looks like we’re never gonna truly run out of ways to whip up a mid sixties or seventies of either El Camino or Ranchero. On top of that, you got C1 Models’ excellent Golf-to-Caddy conversion kit so there’s some cross-continental love too. And I’m sure I’m leaving out a million more, it’s just to give some examples that while kit makers seem to have just forgotten about the American and even the Australian utility coupe, resin casters do their damnest to fill the gap.

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Right, to cut to the chase after give or take 1200 words of bullshitting on; this particular article should be about the ’78 El Camino. The Royal Knight El Camino to be specific, which has in fact been kitted before in 1978 by Monogram. It’s such a damn hard to find kit nowadays as while there are three entirely unique kits by Revell/Monogram based on the ’78 El Camino, the hardest one to find is by some definitions stock. In ’78 they released the Royal Knight kit(MPC did both the Royal and Black Knight versions but one could argue that quality wise the MPC kit… drifted behind a tad). Then in ’79 they re-tooled the kit – it now packs a massive turbo-charger and a modified hood to accommodate the gargantuan new air-sucking utensil in the engine bay. Oh also, they for some reason decided to add camper parts. Neat-o! But they did remove the stock engine and hood, bummer.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (17)Then for twenty years, not a Goddamn thing. The first and as of writing last re-release of this kit was in 2000 which was this kit I’m talking about right now, the re-release with newly crafted lowrider parts and decals. Back then, apparently Revell was on a roll bringing back long-dead kits and pumping them full, full of life and doing a stellar and sometimes awkward job of it. The ’81 Chevy Citation is a excellent example; it’s a beautiful re-pop of the old kit, with all the re-release editions crammed into one, a gargantuan new decal sheet that allowed options that weren’t even thought of in the eighties. Same goes for the ’92 Thunderbird, ’96 Impala SS and so on. The El Camino is yet another odd-ball lowrider kit that has all the “optional” parts packed in along with the stock ones and it makes for a much better complete package that despite the weird lowrider addition is quite a nice thing of them to do. Given that these days you’d be lucky to get a kit with extras, having one that is essentially a “greatest hits” of sorts is absolutely nice.

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The kit itself on the other hand has aged quite poorly, despite Monogram being way ahead of the competitors on most areas like the sheer detail on the body, grille and all around crispness of the whole kit, it still has those old Monogram quirks. The engine bay is kind of a slab with droopy details(which essentially means, anything that’s a reservoir or a battery “bleeds” into the arches and goes all the way down), the interior is kind of plain with the inner doors having no detail at all and the seats are hilariously oversized. Though one can just grab the seats and dash from a 1/24th scale Monogram Monte Carlo and make due with those as they should fit just fine. Another thing is while Monogram definitely bucked that garbage ass trend of the ’70s with molded in chrome headlights, but they just swapped it around making the rear lights on the rear bumper chrome and not really recessing them enough. And on top of everything else, there’s some severe panel gaps; the bumpers suffer the most of this as you can clearly look into the model from the front and the back.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (13)So it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but it’s also miles ahead of the curve for this particular era of El Camino kits. The MPC kits weren’t terrible, by now means – they were just incredibly basic. While it has more interior detail, it lacks severely on the body and engine bay, and while the all around model has more variety with the tool(like the ’82 quad-light grille and the Choo-Choo Customs Monte Carlo SS nosed edition), it still very much on the outside comes across like a toy car with tiny wheels and a sunken stance. That being said, I personally would’ve preferred a middle-ground where Monogram did the body and chassis and MPC handled everything else, we’d have one excellent kit to work with – but alas, the best El Camino offering we have and likely will have for the foreseeable future will likely be a shared number one spot with this kit and the MPC/AMT ’86 El Camino SS.

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That being said though, I did try to make the most out of this kit as it’s still a very, very nice one to work with. Goes together like a charm, like all those Monogram kits of the eighties it’s simple, yet nicely complex in some areas and it all just… works. I re-designed the entire El Camino Royal Knight decal sheet for this endeavor, though looking back at it I totally screwed up on the body stripes as it’s meant to follow the curve over the door, onto the bed, but y’know how I am, a failure is just half a success, keep working with it. While I’m absolutely in love with how it came out to be, I should’ve gone for a darker paint. I wanted this delightfully suave end seventies Bordeaux red that would look bright, lip-stick red in the sunlight and subdued as hell in the shadows. Unfortunately it’s now semi-bright in the shadows and bright as balls in the sunlight, making the decals hard to spot in any reasonably lit environment. On top of that, the tires are pre-lettered with Goodyear Polysteel Radial, which is nice if you haven’t got decals, but I did and had to use the rougher, undetailed inside of the tire to accommodate the decals.

Ohhh well… Also, first non-mostly decal related post in 3 months, hooray!

’78 Chevrolet El Camino Royal Knight specifications:
Kit: #85-2979
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 101
Molded in: White

Scale: 1/24

1996 Chevrolet Impala SS Grand Sport – Revell

20180509_201358.jpgLemme start this one off right away by saying, yes you’re right – it isn’t a ’96. But Goddammit I want it to be. Besides its easier to sort in the total list where a ’94 Impala SS already sits, albeit something I now have the opportunity to overwrite and imagine I never built it, cause I… well, I didn’t do a very good job on it. The Revell kit has been re-released many times since the mid nineties(1996 to be exact), its roots originated as a SnapTite, though really it was one of those Basic Builder-ish scenarios where it was more complicated than a SnapTite just didn’t require glue. The whole thing is still very, very much that – just without the clicks and snaps of a SnapTite.

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The Impala SS is one of those cars that kind of always stuck with me, it has such a history to it as well that kind of is staggering. This car, this Impala SS right there, the end-of-the-sporty-line SS model(until the 2006 SS revival), was once the successor to the friggin’ Bel Air. From 1958, the Bel Air had a everything-included-please-but-different version, a “halo” car(basically terminology for ‘top line model that is meant to live on the popularity of what its based on’); the Impala. Something that stayed with the Impala as a whole was that the car itself generally had a direct twin but with subtle improvements and differences on just about every angle of the car. The Bel Air and Impalas had this from the sixties and the Caprice(which was initially a Impala option, called the Impala Caprice) and the Impala from 1977 on out. Though should be said, that’s a hell of a simplification in the grand scheme of things. The history of the Bel Air, Biscayne, Impala and Caprice is… complicated to say the least. Suffice to say, in the mid-seventies, the Impala and the Caprice both got slashed by a third and downsized to meet whatever the hell the eighties were gonna be for General Motors.

1996ImpalaSSGS (5)Is that a super gross simplification of how the Bel Air, Biscayne, Impala and Caprice came to separate into their own line of models through the seventies? Why yes, yes it is. And I am aware that grueling, horrible, maybe even inaccurate look at how they came to be but believe me when I say this… Chevrolet’s 1955 through 1969 model encyclopedia is nothing short of a M.C. Escher-esque maze to figure out accurately. What did happen is that in the mid seventies it became its own separate entity as a model, and even then you’d need a literal chart to play “spot the difference” on a Caprice Classic versus the Impala, it would have subtle but sometimes yet obvious changes to one-another like for instance, one having the indicators under the headlights and the other in the bumper, or a mesh grille opposed to a horizontal bar grille, interior would be bare plastic in one and splattered with wood grain in the other… The gist here is that in the end, the Caprice and the Impala were basically twins, the ones that are nearly identical but you learn to spot the clues to tell ’em apart.

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By the late eighties, the squarebox was about to get ushered into the era of automotive boredom, the Opel Vectra-fication of the business; cars were going to become bubbly, enthusiastically colored and have wheel styling that can only be described as “functional”. Generally, you can describe every era with one word. Seventies? Colorful, massive, growth. Eighties? Square, tempered, underwhelming. The nineties can be described as ‘sleek’, ‘gray’ and ’rounded’. Though this doesn’t mean they were ugly, by no means, just… neutral. Every car just looked like they were designed by someone who said “enough square shit already” and sanded every edge round. And the Caprice was among those who got a rigorous dose of rounding-off; in 1991 the newly updated Caprice was brought to life. And boy did it do… something.

1996ImpalaSSGS (13)You see, much like the Ford Crown Victoria/LTD, the Caprice too was basically “America’s Car”. What I mean with that is, name a picture, name a movie, name a scenic shot of a city and you’re likely to spot a series of Crown Vic or Caprice taxi cabs, police cars, fire department marshall’s, so on. Essentially, they were continuing the legacy of, well, the States’ cop car and cab. And when it got displayed to the populace, they fucking well laughed it off the stage. The new styling got a fairly harsh coat of insults plastered on it, like “beached whale”, “upside down bathtub”, “Orca-body” and “obesity on tires”. The Caprice 9C1 police package did do rather well, as we all know, it became literally the most popular police cruiser out there along with the Ford Crown Vic so, it did succeed, sorta. But on the regular average Joe front, changes needed to be made and they tried to do so at least. They ditched the skirted rear wheel wells(though kept ’em on the station wagons), which helped alleviate the fat look of the thing, introduced some Camaro parts to the interior and ended up also offering a de-tuned LT1 V8 from a Corvette.

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And basically there you already had the ingredients for the subject at hand here, the Impala SS. Announced as a concept in 1992, it was in essence; a giant, unchained sleeper. The concept had a friggin’ 8.2L V8(500ci) and had a more aggressive styling touch over the Caprice like nearly de-chromed bare(aside from the window trim and emblems), large deep offset 5 spoke wheels, raised Impala SS script on the rear fender, darkened grille, so forth. It was very much a Caprice 9C1 police car underneath in terms of what was standard equipment, like the reinforced shocks and springs, disc brakes, twin exhausts, higher output electronics, so on – the only thing GM did swap in the end was the 8.2L V8, which was replaced by a LT1 Corvette V8, which did do a decent 260 horsepower but still, y’know, meager. All in all, it was a sporty bathtub that looked menacing as hell. It was a reasonably sporty one-off, bit like the Mercury Marauder which was essentially a sexier Ford Crown Vic.

1996ImpalaSSGS (4)Anywhoooo, the model. Yeah, right! So I did build one of the Revell Impala SS’s last year and came out slightly disappointing, just a bit. Released in 1996(and re-released like four times since), it was made a slightly more difficult glue-required kit with the origins dating back to a SnapTite kit that came out in the same year and holy crap you could tell it was once a SnapTite, the engine block is three parts, the whole interior snaps together pretty much with the clicky-snappy bits still there. The headlights and the tail lights still have painfully obvious pins you force into the slots and in turn make the headlights and tail lights look stupidly toy-like, but y’know, its a thing. Atleast they don’t flop out the bezel every odd second the model gets touched, so there’s that! It also looks quite gargantuan, like it is bigger than a 1/24th scale GMC pick-up in width so I wouldn’t be surprised if the scaling wasn’t 1/25th but 1/24th, but that’s just a small observation. The rest of the kit was actually kind of nice, the body crisp, the detail quite nice and so on. Oddly enough, there’s a pattern with the wheels going on – the 2002 re-release had the Impala SS on the box with these giant American Racing style rims, but didn’t actually have those. Now I got a 2008 re-release which was hilariously stupid with a lowrider version(something that Revell made a thing back then, including a fucking ’81 Citation as a lowrider) which did come with the Impala SS with the proper wheels on the side of the box but only came with those AR wheels in the kit itself!

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Odd shit, really odd shit. But regardless, I preferred it with the plan I had in mind. I love, absolutely love the Corvette Grand Sport from 1996. I don’t know why but the theme always resonated with me and I thought of making a ’96 Camaro Z/28 Grand Sport, but before I even came across one of those kits, I found a Impala SS kit on the cheap. And I always wanted to do the Impala SS kit a bit more proper, which I did botch a fair bit the last time around… The engine didn’t fit, the hood didn’t shut, I idiotically attempted to do the trim which I jacked up to no end, the wheels hardly fit(and I ended up re-using on the ’91 Syclone Marlboro Edition), it was a shambles really. So! Time for round two, I thought. First order was getting the Admiral Blue, which I quickly did. Secondly was to get a better LT1 engine; which I promptly stole from a 1995 Corvette kit. Surprisingly, the engine fit quite well in the end – all I did was snap off a tiny part on the engine brace and the struts on the driveshaft.

1996ImpalaSSGS (14)Which… I dunno, this kit feels like a 1/24th scale one, I can’t help but feeling it is. But ah well, anyway – I created a decal sheet specifically for the Impala to make it look a little more like a Grand Sport, including a Impala SS branded hood stripe and the iconic fender stripes. For the rest it was a set of custom badges, license plates, so forth. I’m not gonna lie, I’m really surprised by how they ended up looking. I really, really am for once proud of my friggin’ work! The SnapTite features that are still part of the kit really do take away from the whole thing though, like the very visible placement hole for the radiator, the overtly obvious twin prongs in the headlights as I mentioned before, so on.

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So based on how this one ended up looking with the Grand Sport fantasy theme, I’m definitely gonna make one based on the Camaro as well. Hell to the yes.

’96 Chevrolet Impala SS Grand Sport specifications:
Kit: #85-2175
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 66
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

1983 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta – Revell

20180302_103043Have you ever had the thing happen to you when you more or less blindly order something from say, Amazon, or some place and when the delivery guy gets to your door and they hold a box more aptly designed to transport a damn fridge and you quickly come to the realization that you may have made a mistake? Time wasn’t kind to this kit, or perhaps the owner but when the delivery guy came to the door, dude looked at me with despair in his eyes when he tilted it slightly and heard the noise that just sounded like someone packaged a broken vase. Well fortunately I already knew what I ordered had some pieces loose in the box but… that was odd, it sounded like it went from one far side of the three foot box to the other. There’s no way in hell there’s a little six and a half inch model in there. And lo and behold, a twenty five inch box comes out of the bigger one like some Russian nesting doll – Jesus, that is not a 1/25th scale kit, I thought to myself, I got myself a long out of production Camaro Berlinetta kit for 23 dollar and it’s also a friggin’ 1/16th scale one.

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So here I am, overjoyed and worried. I ain’t got shelf space for a 12 inch model but I do have a very rare subject that I absolutely wanted for so unbelievably long. I just never knew it was a 1/16th scale model, hell the box of the kit was in the worst state imaginable with corners torn and stuff that had delicately removed the 1/16th scale call-out from existence and honestly, I just always assumed it was a companion kit to the ’82 and ’83 Camaro Z/28 kits from Revell that were introduced along the new generation of the Camaro way back. The story of this kit goes that it was produced in 1985 as the “Custom ’83 Camaro Berlinetta” kit, weirdly enough of a car that just never really got any footing with the new generation, it got killed off in 1986, just a short year after Revell dedicated one kit to it.

83berlinetta (2)The Berlinetta was always meant to be the “upscale”, sporty, nicer and excuse my vomit inducing terminology; European. Berlinetta itself is an Italian term for ‘little saloon’ or ‘small saloon’ and was often found as a badge name for European cars destined to be grand tour coupes like old Ferraris, Alfa Romeos, Maseratis, Opels, MGs, etc. What did General Motors do with the name? They slapped it to a Camaro as a replacement type for the Type LT luxury model, which is appropriate I suppose. But then they generally did fuck-all with the exterior(other than different wheels, a “unique” grille and some extra chrome) and used up the whole budget on the inside. And in a way, that’s fine, right? Some people want a luxurious sport car that wouldn’t cost them an arm or leg, that’s mostly what drives Alfa Romeo these days so why not back then. It was a very popular option on the second generation models from ’78 on and was re-introduced along the new third generation as a upgrade package with unique gold spoked wheels, gold accented stripes and badges plus the whole shebang on the inside; velour interior, digital dashboard from ’84 onwards, all the electrical gadgets you could cream over in… well, 1983 and a restyled nose, cause while I just said, they did fuck-all on the outside, well they broke that trend in 1983 and gave the Camaro an overbite!

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It’s weird looking but sure, it catches the eye. It’s a different enough Camaro to warrant a turning of the head here and there, besides it was all about the inside. You could live like a Goddamn oil sheikh in there, it had all the cool stuff for a ’83 car like a clock on the arm rest, storage space in every nook and cranny, fancy ass radio and sound system, from ’84 it got that space age digital dash that broke after just four months and all that snazz. Not to mention, every damn inch of the car was carpeted and the velour would soak up all your humble scents and regurgitate them at any moment you weren’t sweating just so it could simulate as if you were. Yeah it was delightfully eighties. But it also carried a reputation, it was the gentleman’s muscle car edition – the Type LT and early Berlinettas had been the more sophisticated relic of the muscle car, with refined interiors, more subdued European looks about with with the wire wheels and the flat rear deck and the chrome inlaid tail light segments, so on. It also still could be equipped with a 305 and 350 ci V8 so it wasn’t just good looking in some respects, it still had some power to it.

83berlinetta (11)Though granted, this was the era that sporty American cars were advertised by their “superior ride” due to weighing as much as a fully equipped Mercedes Benz wagon. Weird times they were, and no that’s not my European superiority bleeding through, I’m a snarky shit but we can all agree these days that while being heavy allowed for a floaty ride, the last thing you need on your “sporty” car is 3500 pounds of weight(just for reference, a ’93 Mercedes 220E Estate weighs 3100lbs) but y’know… at least it was pretty. And the model kit does replicate this quite well, granted it’s easier to get the detail out there at 1/16th scale so it’s not like I’m praising it for being out of the ordinary, but you know, it’s still a pretty damn close replica of the real deal – a car so rare now that most Berlinettas that exist have either been parted into a regular Camaro due to replacement parts being so hard to come by you’d just have to go for other versions or have just… died, as so many cars from the eighties.

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Check out that warp-age on the tailgate/window, it’s absolutely sexy isn’t it.

So from the get-go, given its rarity and… size, I wanted to try and do it justice. I love me some all black Chevrolets so I figured I’d roll with the color choice of black on black, instead of the more common silver. All Berlinettas came with gold accented wheels, gold accented tail lights and gold stripes all around the body so I thought doing it in all black would only bring more attention to that lovely gold. The decals in the kit had gone all rancid(as did the tires, but more on that later) due to sitting in the open air since 1986, I was pretty much forced into re-creating the whole decal sheet myself. That being said though, this is in my opinion, a “custom” kit done right. MPC and to an extend even AMT Ertl, from the late sixties through the entire seventies and early eighties did one thing with every kit; make it look absolutely insane. Not the “wow, it’s epic” insane, its the “we the jury find the defendant” insane. I mean, hooray for choice but generally it’s just a waste of effort on the designer’s part as they’re just too insane, granted it was the period and it made perfect sense given the customers wanted the eyesores but they aged… poorly. Whereas the ’83 Camaro they did here, well it may as well have been a factory standard option.

83berlinetta (13)It looks really subdued all things considered, it’s totally a thing I see people get to using thinking it looks better than the actual Berlinetta stripes, which were just some golden accented stripes that were hard to spot even in normal daylight. But figured I’d roll ol’ stock for funsies and getting the whole thing in black. As I said, I had to re-do the whole sheet but I thought I’d expand on some omissions like the dashboard dials, the armrest clock, the nosecone badge, the giant air cleaner decal and the likes. So all in all, some stuff to get the best detail on the body with. The problem with the 33 year old decals is that they were… milky, to say the least. Hell, they required a literal washing to be any sort of usable whatsoever so the two decals I did use(the Camaro license plates) required like twenty minutes of rubbing and touching up like some demented puppy to get all the paper backing, milky substances and all the other old gunk off. That being said though, for a early eighties kit, well middle-eighties, the decal sheet isn’t all too bad, it comes with all the Camaro and Berlinetta badges, no dials and no front Camaro badge but even then, the mold quality is high enough to simply fill in the badge yourself by hand.

83berlinetta (9)Now earlier I said that time did a number on this kit and not on just the decals, like the tires for instance. They had gone all white, fuzzy and looked very much like a rotten apple, which is just the rubberizing agent seeping out the tires which is the downside of old, old rubber, but apparently I mended it by just spray painting it gently with some satin black after scrubbing the more gunky stuff away. What I couldn’t mend was a problem of a slightly more painful nature; the tendency for shit to warp. The chassis had warped like a Goddamn banana, which made getting it into the body stupidly difficult. There’s now also the downside that the engine sits a quarter inch higher than the rest so I can’t close the hood without removing the air cleaner, but it’s all fine. It’s a 33 year old kit, it’s fine, it can be busted up, broken, fucked up, it’s just age doing its thing. That being said though, this kit is… really, really good, especially with age in mind.

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I built one other large scale kit before, which was Revell’s 2010 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang in 1/12th scale and the only thing I truly recall from it was that similarly like this kit, it built and finished up like any other 1/24th scale or 1/25th scale model just with sharper detail and much easier to do so thanks to the larger pieces but this one does have an edge on the Mustang; it comes with opening doors, opening trunk and moving seats. Sadly though, that extra amount of moving parts truly fucked it all up even more cause the trunk doesn’t close, the doors don’t fit any longer and the hood is literally the only moving part that isn’t botched due to the warped body, chassis or parts. It also stands on three wheels due to the warped chassis however the very soft, bouncy tires do allow for some more uh… “realistic” weight on them so it only looks a little bit off with the tires being pushed down some.

83berlinetta (8)It’s just one of those things that I always wanted, and weirdly enough surprised me in the best of ways. I got my rare edition Camaro kit, I got to try a 1/16th scale kit and all of this without the hassle of having to sell a child into slavery or rob a bank to afford it! What a hell of a kit. That being said though, I do seriously still want to find an affordable ’82 or ’83 Camaro kit by Revell, or the ’82 Firebird brother, just to see what the detail level would’ve been at a 1/25th scale. Shame those kits are as rare or even rarer than this one.

’83 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta specifications:
Kit: #85-7491
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 89
Molded in: Off-blue & Black
Scale: 1/16

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE – AMT Ertl

2017CamaroSS1LE (1)AMT’s the proud license owner of the latest Camaro molds and tools, as of 2016 they’ve been responsible for getting the newest Camaro models to the market in all shapes and forms, some are full kits, few others are pre-painted snap-tite kits, but in general they’ve all been quite remarkably nice kits with supremely detailed suspension and interior parts. That’s pretty much the gist of it. Last year it was the 2016 SS and a early release of the 2017 SS “FIFTY” along with two snap-tite versions of the ’16 SS, this year it was a 2017 Pace Car version of the FIFTY, a snap-tite version of the SS 1LE and to close the year off; a full kit version of said SS 1LE.

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And they’ve been “listening” to the builders across the world and they actually learned, albeit at a step-by-step speed. Though by the time this kit came around, I’d say they had fixed most of the problems but at the cost of introducing some significantly worse ones. For instance, some quality of life improvers were made like including side marker light decals and making the tail light lens dark gray instead of chrome which made it a ton easier to detail the lights and get the stark contrast of black-to-chrome/white looking right, they included some decals for the interior and so forth.

2017CamaroSS1LE (4)That’s great and all and honestly, it’s a good feeling that manufacturers listen to their customers to some extend, however, boy oh boy this is one cheap-as-shit kit. You see, the wheels are quality additions, they’re accurate, they’re solid, the tires are good rubber but oh man did they take cheap shortcuts on just about everything else. Again, it’s got the same pre-detailed glass and pre-colored tail lights, which is also amazing and I’m happy that they’re a thing but… I cannot stress the point enough that they literally cut corners on everything else. Though to go back to the tail lights, while it’s supremely nice that they’re pre-detailed, they also look somewhat… odd. It’s possible because you can see into the red through the clear, making it look “soft” on the inside, I would argue it would’ve been a thousand times better if the reverse/indicator lights were separate(think Tamiya’s Nissan Skyline R34, with separate lenses for the inner and outer lights).

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But to go back to the point I keep talking past; this is a cheaply manufactured kit. There’s no beating around the bush on that one, there’s no making up for it, it’s just one fricking awful showing on AMT’s part. The plastic comes pre-colored in the injection process, which is fine I suppose, this is the status quo for most of Asian manufacturers and it’s beginning to bleed into US and European kit makers as well, totally okay. What isn’t okay is the sheer crap quality of the plastic. It’s this cheap, flaky, thin-as-fucking-sin plastic that is somewhat flexible but just… It’s so thin, that even with a coat of primer, light shines through the other side. The yellow its colored in is also this weird, dirty yellow instead of the intense yellow featured on the real deal, it’s just… cheap. What doesn’t help matters is, given that most folks will just primer the hell out of it and do the coloring themselves so that’s not a giant problem, but as I said, what doesn’t help matters is the giant, hideous, crisp mold lines that run over the roof, over the rear quarter, over the fender, over the bumpers, it’s just immense how rough the body is.

2017CamaroSS1LE (11)So I kind of went in with a semi-defeated attitude, having come to terms with the trade-offs with the quality, to just build it and have one last kit finished before the turn of the year into 2018. I mean, despite the rough body, cheap-ass quality plastic and shortcomings in total, it’s still mostly the epic new tool from AMT from 2016. Like I said, the suspension build on this kit is nothing short of legendary, it’s well over forty parts for the rear suspension alone(and weirdly enough, just 8 or so for the front) and while most modern cars sadly hide their engines under some synthetic engine cover, AMT Ertl’s tried to maximize the detail under the hood despite it all. The 6.2L LT1 V8(shared with a Corvette these days!) is detailed supremely well and the whole engine bay just… looks good. I mean, for the sake of modeling, nothing beats the raw engine bay of a late sixties/early seventies engine block but, y’know, given how well engines are hidden under plastic these days, they did pretty good on that part.

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The hood on the SS 1LE is completely blacked out, bit like the old Dodges and Plymouths, which they provide a decal for but hoooo-boy, it just doesn’t A) fit, B) look right and C) sit correctly without rippling like crazy. I mean, they tried. But you’re just better off spraying the thing semi-gloss black. For the rest, they got rid of the chrome parts all together when they made the swap to gray headlight lenses so you get these dull medium gray exhaust pipes which were… disappointing looking to say the least. But luckily there’s things like chrome spray paint that make it look pretty damn close to the real deal, so thank goodness for that.

2017CamaroSS1LE (15)For a last 2017 build, it was semi disappointing. I mean, it’s still a perfectly fine kit but given the standards they achieved in 2016 with this kit, it’s odd to see them take the cheap-as-chips plastic route with the weird half-metallic half translucent yellow paint and sprues with so much flash on them that you spend a third of the time chipping bits of plastic of the parts so they frickin’ fit. I mean, Monogram nailed the process in 1983 for Christs sake, it shouldn’t be so hard to get a decent quality plastic for your kits. But ah well, it’s just all that, still a fine kit all in all.

’17 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE specifications:
Kit: AMT1074
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 112
Molded in: Yellow, Black & Gray
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

1980 Chevrolet Monte Carlo – MPC

1980montecarlo (1)The very brief third generation of the Monte Carlo, or rather the ’78-’79 front end of most Chevrolet models, is one of my favorite cars of all time. Especially when they’re completely de-chromed. I used to play this game called “Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition” and one of the starter cars was a ’78 Monte Carlo and I just fell in love. In reality, it’s a subdued car with hardly anything left related to it’s incarnation in 1970 besides the idea of having a big engine doesn’t mean you can’t have big luxuries in the car. But despite it being a bit of a shadow of its former self, I loved it. The fact that Denzel Washington’s character in Training Day has a ’79 Monte Carlo only upped my adoration factor for the car.

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The third generation kicked off right after the 1977 oil crisis, which more or less forced rationality in GM’s business plan that relying on outside oil sources and having cars do a solid 9MpG(3.8km/L) wasn’t quite… smart. So the ’78 Monte Carlo was shortened by fifteen inches, that’s a whole engine block shorter. It also got lighter by 800lbs(362kg), for reference; an adult brown bear weighs 350kg, they basically yanked a zoo out of the trunk worth of weight. But while the luxury boat of the early seventies died with the third generation, this did allow for something else to happen – the fourth generation of Monte Carlos, once more a contender at the NASCAR track and the badass beauties we know as the Monte Carlo SS. The luxurious sunday driver was still there as the Landau version, it just got shortened by a fair bit, and even then, for the days, it was basically a midget Cadillac with a more sporty look about it.

1980montecarlo (4)MPC made several versions of the Monte Carlo, starting with the 1978 release of the car which already came with something extra; a small trailer with a Harley Davidson(or at least, a copy of a H.D.). And it was… surprisingly subdued for the era. It had the typical MPC “custom” version where it has horrendously designed and in some senses, even stupid decals and over the top additions, however while it had the decals, the actual custom parts were wire wheels, luggage rack and landau roof. Go figure, it was sort of subdued! Then in 1979, the same kit was re-released as the “Wheeler Dealer”, just with a updated decal sheet. And I have to say, for a kit of the old days – it’s not awful! The chrome inserts for the bumpers are a brilliant idea to get the trim to really pop.

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So in 1980 the Monte Carlo received a small face-lift, it got new double headlamps with the indicator underneath and the grille got a larger mesh instead, nothing big but it did require a small adjustment to the tooling of MPC. And boy, did they screw it up fairly badly. The headlamps were simply recast, however they didn’t remove the slant of the ’78/’79 lamps so they look… wrong, they just look wrong. The rest? 100% the same. To be fair, so was the real car but still, it’s a bit of a cheap upgrade. But y’know what, it’s fine, most of the seventies and eighties for MPC were putting out basic kits alongside dealership promo cars.

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However, the kit I got here is a re-release from 2009. A very traditional Round 2 re-release, with nothing fixed and just a new decal sheet. Though, fair enough to them, they at least used some decent tires instead of the janky ill-fitting ones they force into every kit these days. The kit still has the generic, almost meh-quality 350 cubic inch V8 they put in nearly every single late seventies GM car kit for the sake of ease, the interior on the other hand isn’t awful but y’know, it’s like five pieces in total. The quality is nice and with some effort the interior can shine at least, which I suppose is almost required given that one big selling point of the kit is the optional ability of making it a T-top Monte Carlo without any hassle.

1980montecarlo (8)They give you this H-frame to re-stabilize the roof once you cut the panels out which is something I can really appreciate, I didn’t make mine a T-top but I should say that this kit is one of the few T-top Round 2 kits(MPC and AMT) where it isn’t a mess of no structural strength or a thing where you literally replace the roof panels with glass tops and have nothing there to hold them in place.

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The rest? The rest is generic MPC schlock. Like I said, none of it is terrible but it is all just one giant afterthought. The whole chassis is one piece, no suspension, no exhaust pipes(besides the exhaust headers and catalytic converter), no axles, all one piece and just a matter of attaching the wheels. The sad thing is, MPC’s notorious for having used one or two chassis plates during the seventies and eighties and once again, this is that one. Problem is though, the damn thing doesn’t fit the car. The tail end of the chassis is half stuck to the body and doesn’t wanna sit in place. Speaking of which, another bad thing of the generic chassis is that the engine block awkwardly floats on the chassis, you’re just meant to glue it stuck to the frame on two points, but no guiding spots, no prongs, no slots, just two flat surfaces for the engine block and where it’s supposed to go on the chassis.

1980montecarlo (16)Door mirrors are the generic type they slap in there that literally do not fit the body style, nor do they actually manage to fit anywhere on the doors without looking awkward. I figured screw it, it looks half assed as it is, I’m just gonna put ’em on there and roll with it. I wanted to do the blacked out theme I got going on with several late seventies GM cars, like the ’77 Monte Carlo, ’79 El Camino and sooner or later the ’78 Monte Carlo by Trumpeter. So instead of chrome, I did the badges and such in gloss black and the rest in slightly dulled out black(learned a thing or two from the ’80 Ramcharger, which was too matte). It came out alright and I have to admit, while the headlamps are awful, the tail lights are great and the body is even better! It’s just a shame that MPC skirted by on such half-assery back then. But, well, y’know, who else would make ordinary cars? AMT maybe, in some cases Revell, but only MPC truly brought most of the normal cars to the model kit market. So… I suppose I’m still thankful that they exist.

It’s nice to have it added to the whole collection here, but still, like so many MPC kits – it just leaves me wishing that they tried harder and got a better kit out of it.

’80 Chevrolet Monte Carlo specifications:
Kit: MPC-702
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 72
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1990 Chevrolet Beretta GTZ – AMT Ertl

1990chevyberettaGTZ (1)Remember GM’s Chevrolet Citation from the early eighties? Luckily a model kit of it exists and I built it this year and uh, boy does that car have some royal history to it. Firstly, it originated as replacement for the rear wheel drive barrel of joy Chevrolet Nova in 1979, changing platforms to deal with the ever growing need for an affordable car that didn’t require fuel stops every 20 miles, but also one that had some European smarts about it while remaining American to the bone. This… kind of proved to be true, turning it into a small engine front wheel drive two or four door that had excellent mileage, though the American heritage reared its head just as badly by also inheriting some ridiculous rust issues, parts snapping clear off left, right and center and of course a maintenance bill the length of the Pan-American Highway. And the rear brakes locking up and sending you into a death swerve obviously didn’t help anything either.

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So GM let the Citation die, gently, in 1985. Over the last two years of its bleeding to death, GM revitalized it once last time and it went over about as well as a fart in a crowded elevator. The jipped consumer wanted nothing to do anymore with the Citation and sales, which were legendary at first, barely broke hundred thousand in 1985 and was replaced, albeit non-officially by the Beretta in 1987. Hell, before I go into that, wanna know a fun little tid-bit? In 1988, Beretta Firearms(Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta) in Italy filed a lawsuit over the name – which got settled in ’89 out of court and they exchanged Berettas symbolically afterwards. Literally. No shit, really, read the LA Times story! The then chairman of Beretta handed GM chairman Roger Smith a Beretta shotgun and rifle, and Smith handed Guiseppe Beretta a 1989 Beretta GTU!

1990chevyberettaGTZ (19)Anyway, to move on from that interesting piece o’ history. It was a nice, popular little car that wasn’t all bad. In fact, from the heydays of yore, it was arguably one of the better ones around. It quickly got a reputation as a “high-schooler’s car”, which was… fair, I suppose. Designed by the same folks responsible for the 1983 Camaro and Corvette updates, it looked sporty and it was a comfortable little 2 door with a simple, front wheel drive and nice quaint little inline four engine that got enough power to do the littlest burnouts with but it also came with comfort and safety for the most part. I mean, it was definitely, one hundred percent, GM’s first true success with a front wheel drive car. Well, since the X-platform program at least. And no counting the ’66 Oldsmobile Toronado, that thing may have been FWD, but frickin’ look at it. But the success carried on and soon GM introduced the Corsica half a year after the two-door Beretta, effectively covering the whole market’s worth of appeal. It was a pretty unique look all around, small yet dominating space, blacked out tail end with obscured tail and reverse lights, door handles in the B-pillars, body colored everything, so on.

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Though yet, it missed something, something sporty. And GM jumped on top of it in 1988 with a GTU edition, which was a normal Beretta GT but with a sporty suspension package and special wheels, it just didn’t stand out enough yet apparently. So in 1990, the edition of which this kit I’m discussing here in a moment came to be – the Beretta GTZ. Special for three reasons; one, it was fast as hell for a little cutesy 2 door. It had a Oldsmobile 2.3L I4 engine, known as the “Quad 4” that produced more horsepower than a 305ci(5.0L) V8 Camaro of the era, which was… very impressive. Plus it got a nice little body kit and a theme of dark colors(or white, if you desired) with similarly colored wheels.

1990chevyberettaGTZ (3)It’s a shame that the Beretta/Corsica line died off after just little under a decade(replaced by the small-bodied continuation of the Chevrolet Malibu in 1996), given its pedigree in speed as well as its pedigree in being an all around decent generic little car. Replaced largely cause it began to be too good at its job, it got GM worried the Beretta Z/26 started to encroach upon the Camaro and Cavalier Z/24 too much and leech away sales from the “flagship models”, which in my opinion is utter bullshit – if a car is as good as it can be that fat and out of shape muscle cars lose sales cause of it, fix the fat and out of shape muscle car. But y’know, sales define a car’s lifespan and by proxy, others too.

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So, thankfully, as the car now grows ever more rare and enthusiasts finally now begin seeing the little champion for what it is and was, at least AMT Ertl made it a mission in the late eighties and nineties to tool up and kit the Beretta for a few years. Starting with a ’88 GT, then a ’89 GTU, followed by this one, the ’90 GTZ and finally the updated ’91 GTZ that coincided with Chevrolet’s decision to overhaul the interior and AMT Ertl diligently followed the changes. And boy, it is a nice, nice kit. I don’t know quite who was responsible, or whom were, for the tooling in the late eighties, but holy Christ it is a nicely crafted and complicated kit.

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It rounds out to about 100 pieces, but every detail is there. The engine bay is crowded as sin, the front and tail end piece together perfectly into the smooth shape of the car itself but most importantly – the pieces work together. A lot of it is forcing plastic lips into strong structural supports like slotting the interior bucket into a slot above the engine bay and one above the tail lights – which works. It works fantastically. It keeps stuff in place, and unlike the floaty crap we’ve come to expect from MPC and in some cases AMT itself, it works magnificently.

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The cast quality is excellent too, detail on the body and interior is super crisp, and the engine block which is a simple inline four, the Oldsmobile 2.3L I4 called the “Quad 4” which usually deems it to be a crappy cast due to no buyer interest(or so they allege) is cast like something you’d see on a modern day Revell kit. It is of such good quality that I’m staggered, not to mention it literally only exists in a handful of kits so someone went out of their way to get it to the quality level we got here. Not to mention, the engine bay itself is pretty nifty too. It’s just missing a bit of structural support for the Quad 4 so the engine is leaning forward too far(the cast wasn’t updated for the Quad 4, it still has the GT/GTU mounts which had a 2.8L Multi Port V6 engine) so it’s a bit empty on the back side of the engine bay but that’s fine.

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I spend a lifetime on the tail end, trying to replicate the real blackened out lights and such to the best of my ability and I didn’t quite get it right, given that the piece is one big transparent red one, so getting the reverse lights in was a no-go. But at least I managed to get the Beretta lettering and the semi-transparent tail lights in there so I’m happy with that at the very least. On top of that, I spotted the red Beretta on Google whilst researching this kit a bit deeper and fell in love with it right away, though it forced me to break away from the color-matched wheels and body cause I so, so much prefer the black wheels.

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Speaking of which, one of the very few downsides to this kit are the wheels I’d say. The simple BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires it comes with are the uniform 15 inch or so wheels of the era, found on any kit that AMT Ertl produced at the time and kits would have their wheels tooled in accordance to these specs. Which is fine, I suppose, at least unlike modern AMT Ertl or rather Round 2 kits, the wheels at least fuckin’ fit in there and don’t awkwardly float outside the tire. But the wheels themselves are separated into two parts, the colored five spoke and the chrome rim backing – you’re meant to force the spokes into the chrome, insert it so-to-speak and come out with a set of really good looking wheels.

1990chevyberettaGTZ (16)In theory, that is. You see, they don’t fit. And trimming them wasn’t an option cause, were I to screw it up, that meant the end for a set of GTZ wheels right there. So I just ran with it, and it’s not that much of an eye sore by the end of it, right? I mean, given how good the kit is overall, who gives a damn that the spokes don’t quite fit the rims, it’s fine! To close this whole rambling-session off, the red paint’s the same one I used on the ’12 Chevrolet Cruze kit and I love it, it’s quite close to the real somewhat wine red the ’90 Beretta could be gotten in plus it’s a nice metallic shade all in all. Went with a somewhat generic gray/dark-gray/black interior color choice, it matches the dreariness of the 1990s quite okay, plus it’s actually what it could’ve come in to start with. Ahh the olden days of friggin’ carpeted dashboards…

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Closing summary? I wish AMT Ertl made more of these kits… They were so damn good, holy hell.

’90 Chevrolet Beretta GTZ specifications:
Kit: #6068
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 96
Molded in: Off-White
Scale: 1/25

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