1976 Ford Mustang II Cobra II – MPC

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

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

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Ford HQ, 1973.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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1977 Ford Mustang II Mach 1 – AMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Landau – Revell

1977montecarlolandau (1)The Monte Carlo is one of those cars that no matter the generation, I always loved. Yes, even that thing from the nineties. And while in 2000, the Monte Carlo got a slight revival with some features returning that the early nineties so desperately seemed to want to shake and had both the support of GM Motorsports and racing teams trying to get some life back into that comatose and savaged horse, it only lasted until 2007 before being killed off all together for good in favor for the back-from-the-dead Camaro. A decision largely made to focus as many potential buyers onto that revival.

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Though honestly, it sprung to life in 1970 – peak muscle car era, as a car that was for the mid-wealth class providing luxury as well as performance. Swivel seats for easier entrance and exit, all the components you’d want for a road cruiser like cruise control and A/C systems, AM-FM radio, trim taken straight from a Beverly Hills mansion bathroom and what was shoved under the hood? Well, it would come standard with the 350ci V8 Turbo Fire small block but… it could be a gargantuan big block Chevy V8; the SS 454. For the most part, the Monte Carlo’s existence is quite possibly all thanks to the revamped Pontiac Grand Prix(What was the fuss? Well, it was a long, long, long sports coupe basically) being a success in 1969 and Chevrolet not having their own version of such a car, the blend of comfort and luxury together with burbling powerhouses and track-capable suspension.

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I mean, it was a gargantuan car… Yes, it was smaller than Cadillac Eldorado’s but, that’s like saying a 45 floor building’s smaller than the Empire State Building; it’s still huge. The Monte Carlos of 1970 through 1972 were 17 and a half feet(5.3m) long, that’s 2 feet longer than a full bore Mercedes Benz S-Klasse! All that empty engine bay real estate, woof man.

But regardless, it just sprouted out of a idea and within two years it was on the market for 1970 with all the possible options available you’d normally expect for a car with an established customer base. Suppose that’s the nice thing of being able to just… inherit all the buyer statistics from your(technically) competitor because you’re both under the same company in the end. And through the seventies, it got several changes. One of them was the one we’re talking about in this article; the 1977 version. The last of the boaty Monte Carlos. In ’78, it got cut shorter by over a foot, lighter by 800 pounds and prepped up some so that it could actually, y’know, make it from the driveway without having downed a gallon of gas. But the ’77 Monte Carlo wasn’t gonna go out on a vapid whiff, oh no. It came equipped with all the stuff that was added over the years since 1973.

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Quad square headlights, segmented grille and of course the tail lights that would stay similar all the way until the last Monte Carlo of 1988. It still had that Coke bottle shape, it still had the disgusting length of a Cadillac and of course, it had luxury. Specifically, in 1977 you could either have it as the “S Coupe”, which basically meant you had the normal hardtop, or you could get the Landau coupe. Boy if there’s ever a country club name for something so basic as a strip of vinyl on the ass end of the roof, it’s this(though of course, the landau option as a “fake convertible” is one of those pretentious things that goes back to the early 1950s). The name comes from those old almost fairy tale carriages where the two cloth tops could fold backwards for and I ain’t kidding; maximum showcasing of the passengers.

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But I digress, Revell’s the sole manufacturer of a 1973-1977 generation Monte Carlo and it comes in the shape of a extremely basic SnapTite kit. Which, I have to admit, not a bad thing at all. I mean, sadly it means it doesn’t come with a lot of parts like for instance a engine. It also means the entire chassis is one solid piece. But does this mean Revell’s lowered the bar for incredible quality all around? Hell no. You could turn this bad boy into just about anything your heart desires, just without a engine sadly. Revell first brought this quite amazing kit to the market way back in 2001 as a lowrider(for some reason, Revell had a giant lowrider craze going on in the late nineties and early 2000s) and didn’t come around to making it a proper Monte Carlo(with the right mag wheels) until 2011. Like I said, the quality is supremely high – the Monte Carlo scripts are very clear, the dash and interior detail is very high and all the little details like the segmented grille, tail lights with the chrome accents, it’s all there.

1977montecarlolandau (12)It’s a mere 36 pieces in total and it’s kind of inflated even cause it counts the movable suspension as unique pieces even though they’re firmly attached to the chassis. Speaking of which, a nice thing this kit has is adjustable ride height! It’s as simple as just forcing it up or down(it’s got a bit with teeth that with some force can be pushed up or down) so you can stance it normally, front/back up or as a lowrider – some variety I can appreciate.

Either way, I got this theme going on for some reason that I love which is to turn any Monte Carlo black. No chrome trim, or at least as little as possible unless it’s a factory option and for the most part just a simple black paint job. I did it on the ’78 El Camino, I’m doing it on the ’78 Monte Carlo kit from Trumpeter and I kind of let it go through in the ’86 and ’87 Monte Carlos as well. So I thought, yep, definitely going it here too. Though of course, it’s a Landau so it has the soft top which I had to accentuate in a different tone so it would look… correct. Though, left the trim of it body color as it is.

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In the end, it’s one of those kits that I’m glad exists even though I would’ve loved it if it got the “Basic Builder” treatment, which is a series that Revell-Monogram once did for a few models like the 1985 Camaro and such which were pretty much snap kits in nature but with a slight bump in the difficulty with requiring glue and having more in depth parts. Also, a waterslide decal sheet instead of sticks would’ve been appreciated… But y’know, this is also one of this kits that serves as an example that even the most basic snap kits can be frickin’ fantastic models. They’re definitely not just entry model kits for children or bored folks, they’re high quality kits that are easy enough for kids or those who just don’t wanna go through the effort of it all yet complicated and detailed enough to warrant a purchase from any serious minded modeler.

Hell, if we could get more models of cars of the seventies like a Pontiac Can Am or such and the only way would be via a SnapTite release? Then bring it on, I will buy friggin’ fifty if need be.

 

’77 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Landau specifications:
Kit: #85-1962
Skill Level: 1
Parts: 36
Molded in: Red, White and Black
Scale: 1/25

 

1970 Buick Skylark GS Stage 1 – Monogram

1970buickgsstage1_boxBuick always has stood far ahead in being a pioneer in performance, from the thirties on as the first to break 100MPH with a factory stock vehicle(the ’36 Century) and closing the muscle car chapter with a big, gargantuan bang in 1987 with the modified Buick Regal, the GNX. In between? Well, they’re responsible among many other things, for the 455 Buick V8 engine. A engine so powerful and controversial, in November 1984, the Skylark GS Stage 1 was deemed the third fastest muscle car by Muscle Car Review, second was the 1966 427 Corvette and first was the 1966 427 Shelby Cobra. This obviously had a giant shitstorm associated with it; faster than a 426 HEMI powered Plymouth GTX? Oh boy.

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Obviously it’s never really been settled, in some cases the GS beat a HEMI powered car like a ‘Cuda, GTX, Charger, other times it got beaten by them instead. Hell some even just went with the “it comes down to the driver” mentality, but still being mighty upset about the idea that a Buick, with cars most commonly known for being boats on wheels, the mid ground Cadillac, kicked Chrysler’s ass.

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And besides the GSX‘s decals and brightercolors, the GS Stage 1 is a lot more subtle, with only very minimal decals which are some red stripes on the bottom of the sides and a bunch of GS Stage 1 badges on the front and the fenders. The 1970 version of a sleeper, if you will. There was a Stage 2 version, which was supremely rare in its own right, so rare that Buick literally only made three. You could buy the still-rare Stage 2 engine parts to replace your own 455 parts with, but the idea here of course is a factory stock Buick GS 455, which is a boat on wheels, sits gently on an average ride height, comes with a luxury interior and still somehow it held the highest torque output record in a factory street car from 1970 until 2003 when it finally got beaten by a ’03 Viper SRT10.

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These cars fascinate me to no end. I’m European, so I think I got this natural ability to not pick sides and evaluate things from a neutral point of view and God’s honest I love Plymouths equally to anything. But yeah, I could believe a HEMI equipped GTX may be a shred slower than this thing based on the booklets, the test drives, the heated versus sprint races, so forth. But to hell with the controversy, Buick’s legacy and Plymouth’s legacy both went to hell in 1974 when the first giant oil embargo crippled the US vehicle industry and brought in stricter regulations, which officially marked the shotgun-to-the-skull for the muscle car era. So in the end, sadly, neither Chrysler nor GM had the opportunity to use the seventies to duke it out for good and bring in the final victor, as the Skylark Gran Sport model was shelved indefinitely in 1974 and the GTX sadly already saw its last daylight three years prior.

1970GSX_raised (2)But back to the kit at hand here, Monogram first brought the wonderful Buick GSX to light in 1988 and it’s been largely unchanged since then. It’s seen a few re-releases here and there, split off into two distinct releases: the GSX in ’88 and again in 2012 and the “Street Machine” 2-in-1 release that got released in ’89, ’97 and ’07 which included a giant cut out in the hood with the engine sticking out and a set of custom wheels. Plus of course more decals, which is a given.

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Two years back, one of my first models I built was the GSX. This was at the time when I decided, yeah you know what, let’s build a couple more! So it was… shoddy, not that I would ever say I gotten a ton better since but I’ve marked some improvement at the least. In 2015, I came across a German with a 1971 Skylark GS in dark blue metallic who claims he had actually driven the thing on the Nürburgring for whatever friggin’ reason. At my workplace, we tear apart imported American classics(from 1978 onwards, getting big block V8s into Europe was a trend it seems, we seem to be getting mostly 1978-1983 imports) daily cause some twit decided it was funny to take a barely steerable 1974 Firebird down a local race track.

20170702_173430But I digress, the point I was apparently trying to avoid so damn well was that the color just… I loved it. To be fair, no muscle car looks bad in a coat of metallic blue, be it a light shade or a dark shade. But this one had this deep almost black undertone to it, only the metallic flakes seemed to reflect light and only by that you could tell it was in fact blue. So I took that paint job, made it a tad more blue cause otherwise, well, I may as well just make it black given the model stands inside 99% of the time. Then I bought myself a photo etched detail set for the Skylark from Model Car Garage and immediately began digging out the hood vents and grilles to replace with the PE parts.

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It’s a given that none of the Monogram releases of the 1980s are flawless, they’re largely awesome with one or two faults that’ll nag you for days. For starters, the ride height. God, fuck me, the ride height. You see, the entire rear suspension of the model is decided entirely by two coil springs. It’s this awful support system where the suspension arms rest on the two coil springs and it completely screws the ride height to hell. It’s basically a Goddamn lowrider thanks to that. I should’ve seen it coming but I honestly couldn’t think of a way to raise it without bending the two tiny arms to adjust with the rising of the springs, which believe me would’ve snapped at an instant. Even on the box art it sits like a frickin’ lowrider, so it ain’t just me!

1970buickgsstage1 (18)But screw it, fine, it sits like a Californian wants it best; on the floor. The other? Well, the gorgeous(and I do mean, gorgeous) engine is kind of overshadowed by some fitting issues. The two tiny arms of the chassis are meant to take on the entire engine block, but the exhaust manifolds get stuck on the A-arm(or wishbone if you will) suspension and the oil pan gets wedged stuck in the chassis before the little arms can reach the supports.

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Still though, other than that, it’s a perfectly fine kit. Hell, underappreciated even. I aughta re-build the GSX again some time to give it the detail it deserves, try and fix the ride height properly by maybe kitbashing a different suspension set. Either way, with the beautifully recreated 455 cubic inch V8 engine, the stellar interior(that sadly doesnt get dial decals, damn!) and beautiful casting work of the body and bumpers, it’s just one of those kits that despite the problems, is always worth building and going through the extra effort for. It’s just that good. (Updated Dec 12: Fixed the ride height with some plastic bits, now it sits goooood)

’70 Buick Skylark GS Stage 1 specifications:
Kit: #85-4030
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 85
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/24

1973 Mercury Cougar XR-7 – AMT Ertl

1973cougarboxOh man, this is one of those kits that immediately caught my attention when I spotted it first years ago and never having been able to find it for a moderate price only increased the super strong desire to get one of ’em. But I finally got one, brand spanking new from 2006. I mean, it is still yet another one of many MPC releases from the 1970s re-released around seven times under three different companies, but I won’t hold that against the kit, really.

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The 1968 Cougar is easily one of my favorite cars, hell I like it even more than the ’69 Camaro and this is coming from someone who practically handles Camaros like they’re the second coming of freakin’ Christ. The ’67 and ’68 Cougar had such a basic, yet overly aggressive look about them with the hidden headlights, sort of sharp shapes in the body work and the two giant tail lights, like a Mustang on cocaine. But since MPC hasn’t made a ’68 Cougar kit since, well, 1968, I looked for the second best, the last Cougar before Ford turned the Cougar into a luxury car and moved it off the Mustang chassis – the ’73 Cougar in question.

Originally released in ’73 by MPC as an annual kit, it came with a ton of customizing options, the usual MPC fodder with awkward build quality but generally it was a pretty damn good kit all around given the tooling situation of the late sixties and early seventies. Then in 1985, Ertl Company takes over MPC and the same year they begin doing what they’ve been doing ever since: patching up old popular MPC molds and updating them. Among many, the Cougar saw itself being released as “The Cat” – a molded entirely in black kit that can either built to be a factory stock XR-7 with a 351 cubic inch Windsor V8, or as The Cat with sidepipes, hood scoop, different carburetor, large headers, so on. Y’know, typical MPC extra goodies.

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The kit then saw itself being re-released as such in 2002, 2004(which is this one) and 2006, just without the spectacle being built up around “The Cat” and just putting a normal Cougar on the box and shoving a single decal sheet in there with just The Cat stripes. No license plates, no Mercury decals, just a bunch of gold stripes. So you gotta dive into your left-over decal sheets or hit up Best Model Car Parts for some license plates and what-not.

That being said though, the Ertl company taking over MPC did do this kit some serious good. Unlike the 1969 Cougar, a kit which has lived in crappy oblivion since it’s inception and still is a hot mess with its last 2015 release, the ’73 Cougar is a crisply molded piece of awesome! It still has all the customizing goodies along the stock parts(including the good ol’ Mercury wire-dish wheel covers), such as Torq-Thrust wheels, BF Goodrich Radial T/A branded tires(though the lettering is friggin’ massive), optional engine parts such as different carburetors, headers, valve covers, rocker covers, so on. And the mold quality on the pieces is superb, all the lettering, detailing and so forth is clearly visible.

1973mercurycougar_sunny (1)Now onto the dirty side of this kit… It is still very, very much a MPC kit. When I said “awkward” about the way it goes together, I meant that. The chassis floats under the the whole thing, the way the wheels are attached is quite frankly a invention of a Goddamn madman if not a idiot; there’s no simple prongs, instead you awkwardly connect the hubs to the axles by completing the shapes(the axle end is one half of a circle, the wheel hub is the other) like some sort of demented puzzle, something that the weight of the wheel itself makes nearly impossible.

So what I ended up doing was fashion a pair of arms the wheels could hang onto and slathered it all in epoxy to get the ride height to match the rear end, and of course so the 1973cougarxr7 (7)God forsaken wheels would stay on. It’s like the AMT/MPC Cougar curse lives on.

The interior bucket floats on the windows, the engine block is floating on the sway bar and has no designated arms, the engine bay piece is very prone to warping(read this is a common issue cause it hasnt got a plastic sprue through it keeping the sides apart) and can/will ruin the stability of attaching the wheels cause its the only place on the front where the chassis will meet and be attached to the rest of the car and it can go on and on like this.

And should mention, for all the extra parts this kit has to make a whole different Cougar out of, it doesn’t have a rear view mirror or side-mirrors. Well, it might have side mirrors, I found some tear drop shaped things on the chrome tree that vaguely look like mirrors, but honestly they may as well be chunkier plastic flash.

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In the end it’s a damn hassle, this kit. The chassis detail is a horrendous amount of fidgeting and crafting just to get it to go together and not fall apart with the faintest touch, the wheels don’t stay and the ride looks crooked… But, I enjoy having made it, despite the trouble. It is a rare kit these days, just as the early second generation Cougar’s a rare one as well, it was one of the last Cougars that was considered sporty and it began the trend of the Cougar ‘shape’ that was brought back to life in the late 1980s.

’73 Mercury Cougar XR-7 specifications:
Kit: AMT38206
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 111
Molded in: Tan/White
Scale: 1/25

1966 Pontiac GTO – Revell

1966pontiacgto-18A while ago I watched the series finale of Sons of Anarchy, in which the ‘good guys’ end up chasing down a IRA member trying to make a getaway in a champagne/gold ’66 Pontiac GTO, with some excellent 18 inch blacked out TorqThrust wheels and a vinyl roof. Now the Revell kit of old doesn’t have a separate set of wheels, but the ’66 Royal “GeeTo” GTO drag festival car does!

They’re still 14 inch, but they’re still rather nice. I did order a TorqThrust set that was similar to the car in the show but when they arrived, they ended up being 1/24th in scale rather than 1/25 so couldn’t use them.

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But I digress, did end up purchasing a set of photo etched parts from Model Car Garage, along side of it all. And I gotta admit, it’s strange that this kit isn’t part of the Special 20161104_070132Edition line-up cause it’s way up there. It’s got ridiculous detail, detail on every angle that would normally get overlooked easily. It’s really, really good!

That being said though, the kit itself is becoming rarer and rarer by the day, even though it’s only been like half a decade since it’s been released, it’s already really hard to find for a reasonable price.

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The body itself is molded perfectly, usually there’s a fender mold line or something that you gotta sand off but this one’s cleverly hidden on the inside of the model where it’ll be hidden from view after it’s build up, besides that the mold quality itself is grand. With
66gto_1-7little details like the bumped up detail on the GTO and Pontiac logos and lock cylinders, as well as a detail that easily could’ve gone a-miss like the louvre styled rear lights.

Also the parts that need to be chromed are perfectly molded and are easily chromed out, with the acrylic pen(which is what I use) or bare metal foil, no hard task thanks to it. But it doesn’t end there, the interior quality is also superb, with properly detailed interior doors, the center console, seat texture, dashboard, so on. It’s really, really well made. Which is why I’m surprised it’s not a part of the Special Edition line and it also doesn’t have a picture of the model on the front which is also in turn kind of hiding the fact that it’s a great, great kit.

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Before I’ll get to the engine, I should go over the bits you get with the Jim Wangers’ drag-
toy GeeTo Tiger which of course is the center of the kit despite that I went with a simplistic stock ’66 GTO. You get a giant, giant sheet of decals, though few pieces. Which is a good thing, otherwise you’d be putting on around 19-20 single pieces,  but they’re nice and high quality and they’re as close to the real thing as they’re gonna get.

66gtonew-6You also get this nifty little statue with it that actually is meant to go inside the car, in the seat, it looks a little goofy but y’know, like that uncanny valley version of Linda Vaughn that comes with the Revell ’72 Hurst/Olds kit, it’s still a nice extra! But anyway, to the engine. It’s got a beautiful 400ci Pontiac V8 Tri-Power engine with again significant detail. The only thing that can be said is that the carburetor detail isn’t up there with the rest, but hey, nitpicking like crazy here.

It’s such a great kit, and incidentally now the “oldest” model I’ve made. Previously it was just the ’67 Camaros, now it’s the ’66 GTO.

’66 Pontiac GTO specifications:
Kit: #85-4037
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 114
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1970 Plymouth Superbird – Monogram

1970plymouthsuperbird-16So summer’s gone and fall’s come, so long good opportunities to snap photo’s of a better quality than indoors mush. Sorry, ’til spring comes around again or when it’s a extraordinarily good day outside I’ll recapture this one and the one’s coming soon(the Pontiac GTO, so forth) in far better light but ’til then, this has to do I’m afraid!

Anyway, the Superbird. Plymouth’s, or rather Chrysler Corp’s answer to the 1969 Ford Talladega which was dominating the ’69 and ’70 NASCAR seasons something fierce. Along with the Talladega and it’s cousin the Mercury Cougar Spoiler II, it just ripped the competition to shreds. Then came Chrysler with the first attempt at beating it with the Dodge Charger 500, which did better but wasn’t quite there yet. And along came the two “winged warriors”, the ’69 Dodge Charger Daytona and the ’70 Plymouth Superbird. Both of which have been a staple of Revell-Monogram’s model line for a long, long time now.

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Hell, to give you a idea of how long; this particular kit was cast in 1987 and sold in 1995. The age shows, although that doesn’t mean it’s a bad kit, it just means that the decals are about as rancid as they’re gonna get. But what the hell, it’s something you gotta deal with when working with things that old.

The exterior looks fantastic, especially the color which the entire kit is molded in minus the chrome bits. Yep, the 1980’s trend was molded in color and this one was still part of it. The kit came with a few little extras like a bunch of sturdy post cards with a light yellow Superbird on it, which is a nice little extra, I mean why not?

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But to get back to the color, its molded in a semi-gloss light blue so a glossy clearcoat’s a definite purchase for this kit. But beyond that? Ya’ can’t argue with the result, it saves a lot of time and again it’s a case of mixing that particular color of blue is a nightmare to start with so it’s even appreciated. Although if you’re looking for a molded in white version, look for the ever so rare Revell release which has a orange Superbird on the front under the Streetburner line(#85-4921).

That one does have the extended decal sheet that also has the Superbird logos for on the front and the wing, mine are just Roadrunner logos from the left over decals I had from the ’74 Roadrunner kit. But yeah, minor details!

While the exterior detail is very, very good, the interior is a little bit less. That being said though, it’s still fairly detailed with good molding but it’s nearly all one big piece with just the dash, console, steering wheel and seats to put in there. It was a trend of Monogram back then to release really high quality models that were little hassle to put together, so the interior detail and in some cases even the engine detail got overlooked a little bit in favor of making it a little more approachable.

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The engine bay in particular’s a bit hollow. It has a very appropriately giant 440ci Six Barrel beast of an engine, the block itself has some good detail to it but the air cleaner and the carbs are just two chrome slabs that you glue to each-other so no point in leaving it removable, the battery is also a chunk that goes all the way down the wheel well.70superbirdnew_1-12

For that reason I figured I’d not wire it up, it looks reasonable enough without it. But that’s exactly the point I wanted to get to, actually. This kit is a glorious rut-breaker! It’s molded in the color it has to be so it’s just a matter of gloss coating it and painting the vinyl roof, the interior’s nice and easily put together and the build itself is fuss-less. It all goes together like a charm, hell even the wheels stay on for a change!

I mean, if it weren’t for the decal sheets of the 1980s and 1990s going dingy yellow over the years, this might easily be the best coming-back-to-the-hobby kit ever. And even so, it’s still a wonderful kit to work on with a gorgeous result once it’s all done.

Besides, it just looks good next to it’s older brother. Even if it’s a bit bigger, it being 1/24th and all.

(Edit Nov 29th ’16: braved the freezing cold and photographed some new shots on a literal sheet of ice on top of the glass table, hell yeah!) 

’70 Plymouth Superbird specifications:
Kit: #85-2758
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 67
Molded in: Ice blue
Scale: 1/24