1977 AMC Pacer X – MPC

1977PacerX (1)The fishbowl! The aquarium! The girthy-midget! The pregnant guppy! The Ass-tastrophy! The terrarium! The monstrosity! The Mirth-Mobile! The Malaise Egg! The nicknames for the AMC Pacer just go on and on and on… The Pacer was introduced in 1974 as a companion to the supremely successful AMC Gremlin but the designing of the thing already started in 1971 with the first-time-for-everything approach of: designing the car from the inside out. I mean, that’s clever but it also has a weird by effect that it made the car’s ass freaking enormous. I mean, Jesus wept, that thing got a wide, wide ass. But that giant bubble glass butt allows for giant storage compartments in the trunk. It also has wide as sin passenger and drivers compartments, leg room so big that Delta Airlines spontaneously detonates at the sheer concept of it and weird but neat little things like the rain gutters being removed for a sleeker design(which did allow for some wet front seats when it rains but… well, that’s kinda our norm now), the passenger door being around four inches longer for easier entry and a built in B-pillar roll-over bar – all quite awesome features.

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And while it had the width of a full size 1970 Chevrolet Impala SS, it had the mileage of a Datsun. And that right there, for a 1974 car that was designed just before the fuel crisis ground the United States to a damn halt, was one excellent choice of theirs. What was also one excellent choice was the styling. It’s… quite something, ain’t it. I mean, it’s on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to utterly cool and absolutely Goddamn hideous. Christ on a bike, the thing had more ugly on it than a Rolling Stones album cover but at the same time, it was just as awesome as a Rolling Stones album.

1977PacerX (14)So… yeah, it’s a Pacer. Made by MPC, first in 1976 and onwards until 1978 where they made yet another Pacer X model but totally forgot that the X version was scrapped by the end of ’77 in favor of a ehem, “Sport” model which by the end of ’78 was also axed. Hell, the whole thing was axed by 1979 for various reasons, not before turning the grille into something heinous but… y’know, swings and roundabouts. The legit MPC release from ’77 featured a 1976 Pacer X with some new parts. Yeah I also don’t know what the hell the new parts are but the legacy pieces are there; the odd off-road tires of the ’76 and the fog lights and some new decals that will never ever get used, so yep. But one thing that was stupidly awesome at the time and in utter contrast to other MPC kits of the same year; the detail on it is friggin’ crisp as hell. I mean, holy friggin’ shit it’s something special – the Pacer X script on the side is so well done that you really wouldn’t need any decals to get the script looking like it’s legit. Same goes for the AMC/Pacer badges on the trunk and hood and everything else. I don’t say this quickly, hell I hardly ever say it it at all but… Good job, MPC!

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I should say though, this kit was brand spanking new from 1977 all the way until now but it still carries the non-separate baggie curse of ye olde modeling days. All the parts were crammed into a single bag(but the tires were separate, thank God) and it squished the body outward for, well, for years at the least. So it’s horribly warped and the hood never, ever is gonna sit flush like it should, the front bumper and front lip were so warped it now has this weird uplift to it(can’t bend it any way without snapping it) and the tire rubber had gone rock solid but not before shrinking so the rims wouldn’t fit any longer. Oh and the chassis warped inwards giving the front tires a lovely wobbly looking inwards stance… but I am perfectly content with it. I was so stoked that I made a decal sheet for it in anticipation of it and wanted to make a bog standard, nothing special about it Pacer X in metallic silver with a boring gray interior. I also flocked in a carpet…-ish, which I’ll get back to later and I also wired up the whole damn engine. Every last bit of it that I could.

1977PacerX (12)Like I said, the whole thing got warped something fierce, as you’ve been able to see in the pictures. But lemme just go down the list of parts that ended up warping; the front bumper, the front valance, the front grille(snapped in two), the fenders on the body, the chassis frame, the glass and the interior bucket. So on a kit of roughly fifty pieces with well over half being “custom”, that’s damn near all the parts having a defect one way or the other. But to hell with it, I built it and I like it. It’s such a weird little model just like the car, it’s got a strange blend of high quality parts and low quality parts, the body and such being crisp as all hell but the glass and most of the interior being low quality as hell. I mean, the seats are nice and they got the denim pattern on there nailed down but the rest like the doors and the dash… Not so much. The engine bay is quite detailed for a MPC kit, especially the engine block which gets half hidden under the firewall/dashboard regardless and there’s no place for the hood to connect to other than just lying awkwardly on the glass which is connected to the dashboard. It’s odd to see such a high quality/low quality mix.

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Speaking of engine bays, AMC’s straight six 258ci engine is definitely the highlight, as I mentioned before. MPC has notoriously shitty engine casts, the 305 and 350ci V8s from Chevrolet models are just so damn dull, the 440, 426 and 340 blocks are quite honestly terrible but then there’s some winners here and there like MPC’s late entry Volare Super Six engines aren’t casted too terribly and have the correct air cleaners. Then of course you got their 1980s entries like the Omni, Charger, Daytona and such which pack incredible renditions of their small I4 and I6 blocks. But to get back to the point, it’s such a detailed little engine block in this AMC, it’s… quite staggering.

1977PacerX (7)The decals I made are on the decal sheet page and I made a little addition in the form of the semi-existent 258 engine marking decal. The rest is the stripes, the tail light stripe, the emblems, the Pacer X for the side, so forth, just to make the whole thing a whole lot easier to detail without giving my damn shaky hand a chance at ruining it. I’d say they came out quite well! Not to mention, unlike having accidented my way through the ’84 Oldsmobile Cutlass H/O build, this one actually finished up quite nicely! Just a shame about the warped-ass body.

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Welcome to the collection, you bubble assed beauty, you. This kicked off a whole parade of AMC love on my part, I am already invested in the Gremlin X from ’74 by AMT Ertl which isn’t even close to being half the kit this is but screw it, I’m going for it. And sooner or later, a ’77 Pacer Wagon will join the festival of madness. Oh yeah, y’know what these seventies models could use that MPC just glossed over time and time again? Some Goddamn door mirrors.

’77 AMC Pacer X specifications:
Kit: MPC 1-7701
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 62
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

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1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT – AMT

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (1)The mid to late sixties were a period of aggressive advances and what one could call a sort of coming of age. The fifties had the United States booming left, right and center with opulence, slapping chrome on every inch of the house, fancy leather and bright colors everywhere, music getting wilder and wilder, cinema getting better and better, the golden age of TV kicked off and the cars, while they don’t really appeal to me, but late fifties is Americana to its Miss Belvedere burying heart. And as the sixties came around, the United States began living less like the wild party apartment and honed in on all of its specific parts and began improving on ’em something fierce, in most cases for better, in some for worse.

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One thing that was for the better was the introduction of the ’64-½ Mustang, the literal introduction of the pony car. A car so damn desirable that it kickstarted nearly ten years of the toughest brawling for number one among car manufacturers, it had every big company doing their own take on the pony car to get a slice of the pie. The semi-official checklist is: affordable entry, long front and short rear, focused on being sporty all around, mainly equipped with small block V8s and aggressively aimed at younger buyers. Before you know it, Chrysler chucked the Barracuda at the world two weeks before the Mustang hit the market but it got adapted over the years into its magnum opus; the ’70-’74 ‘Cuda(and the Challenger on the same platform), AMC brought the Javelin in ’67, GM pushed the Camaro and Firebird on the market in ’67 too and it even spread globally; Ford Europe making the now equally legendary Ford Capri, Toyota bringing the Celica and Nissan the Fairlady 240Z, whats the one omission here? Well, Ford, just like GM and Chrysler had more than one name under their umbrella and had Mercury design their own more luxurious version based on the new ’67 Mustang platform.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (5)And what came out of it is in my opinion, arguably one of the prettiest muscle cars ever designed. Ford had it be designed as such that it would eye more European to the American customers, with more ‘alien’ design cues to things like the giant “electric razor” grille and the sharp fender angles. How it looks more European is way the balls beyond me as a European but I suppose its nicer to say its “European” instead of “less bulbous than what we’re used to“. It was twinned to the Mustang from its inception to about 1973 when Mercury was turning their entire lineup into luxury cars, which was, y’know, fair point, the Cougar was a luxurious pony car that could be optioned to be a roaring beast with bare bones everything else but deep down it was… well, luxurious. But never mind its ill fated thirty year voyage beyond muscle car kingdom, the 1967 and 1968 were prime years for the cars and while Semon Knudsen took over the design of the Mustang, he had them turned into heavier, slower, clunkier and generally just fat versions of what they once were(I should add here though that I do really like the ’69-’73 Mustangs, but yeah they are just… unnecessarily huge), the Cougar kept being what it was until the fuel crisis in 1973.

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And AMT back in the day was responsible for fashioning kits out of the newly arrived Cougar until 1970, in which MPC took over but before that happened, AMT pushed out these kits which were three in one kits with a plethora of options(which thankfully included stock, yeah believe it or not, sometimes you didn’t get a stock version) and quite crisp detailing. And boy I had been looking for a 1967 or 1968 Cougar since I started building kits again and after that disappointment known as the ’69 Cougar, and I just never found one for less than 120 bucks. Until I found one while randomly browsing eBay looking for the newly released ’85 Olds from Revell… It was on offer for thirty bucks, nearly brand new with all bits still in plastic from a French seller. Of all places, I found one of the most elusive kits just 230 miles away from me. Now I found out the kit was purchased in 1972 or so by someone as a gift, it got transported to Europe with a family moving at one point or another and sat around for a long, long time. So bidding wars erupted, paid 80 euros for it in the end but… worth it. So damn worth it. Immediately hit up Keith Marks for the ’68 Cougar sheet he has on offer and bought some metallic blue after seeing this particular picture of a Cougar(a design I’ll be mimicking on the upcoming ’92 Cougar) – what color blue is it that I procured for this build? Well, you’re quite wrong – it’s a Goddamn Skoda color of all things. It’s their “Race Blue Metallic” color and boy oh boy does it pop.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (9)So right away upon seeing the kit in my hands, two thoughts entered my mind. One; holy shit detail is crisp, what the hell kind of magic did they use in 1968 and why can’t AMT Ertl even reach similar heights in friggin’ 2018. Two; Jesus, Mary and Joseph Stalin the detail is so crisp, is this kit really from 1968 or was the seller just full of shit!? The body is so unbelievably good and the fit of the body parts is also stellar, it’s only in the engine bay where the detail takes a fairly colossal hit. The engine is either a 302ci V8 or a 390ci V8 I can’t tell, it’s rather hard to tell, the radiator is just a single piece, no shroud or anything, the fan blades are huge, as are the other parts besides the battery, which is a tiny little cube. Oh and no reservoirs, nothing. It’s really, really bare bones in there. So I opted to take another Mustang engine but quickly ran into the problem that I didn’t really wanted to sacrifice any kits I was still going to complete… Until I found the old spare of a 1970 Ford Torino GT I once purchased for the chassis, engine and interior to slap into the ’71 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler I got coming up sooner or later. I thought, y’know what, this is a worthwhile thing, the basic engine/transmission seemed to fit the engine bay exactly and even fit the mounts perfectly(just had to drill a hole in the oil pan, that’s it). The only problem was, the ’68 Cougar did not have the type of engine the ’70 Torino GT had… A 429 Cobra Jet. Oooohhh weeell, it sits in there, it looks much better than the original and it might even just look good.

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The interior has quite nice detail to it as well, even a weird addition I’ve never seen before: seat belts on the stock seats. Molded in there, in decent quality. I mean, it’s a bit odd but… nice at the same time. The chassis on the other hand is quite mediocre, but it’s just something all of the model kit designers from the sixties through the eighties did, the thought of “no-one looks at the bottom” reigned supreme for long. The ridiculous age of the kit, fifty years old in a few months, has had some downsides on a few parts… One was the rubber wheels, which had gone rock hard and shrunk to the point that none of the wheels still fit them, so I tried to solve that particular problem via AMT Ertl’s one-size-fits-fuck-all tires and they actually fit for the first time, ever. Though the tires aren’t the right size for the model and it sits… weird, but it sorta works. At least it’s got the friggin’ wheels on, that was a fight in its own right.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (16)The other problem is that back in those times, they shoved the whole kit in one plastic bag. This nowadays isn’t done anymore for one simple reason; it wrecked the damn kit. Parts interconnected, the tires can rot and melt to a piece and be conjoined forever. And last but not least, the thing that happened to this kit; the clear piece got scratched to high heaven in the baggie. But whatever, time and decay go hand in hand. At the end of it all, the kit went together so unbelievably well, even with the whole replacement engine in mind. Keith Marks’ decals topped off an incredible package and was worth every penny, not to mention it really brings the detail out, especially on the grille.

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Worth the 100 euro or so investment? Hell yes. Worth investing if you ever stumble upon one for not a whole lot of money? Oh hell yes. Wishing along with me for a re-release or a new tool of the ’67-’68 and ’70 Cougars? Hell. Yes.

’68 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT specifications:
Kit: AMT5328-200
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 109
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Hurst/Olds – Revell

83olds_2The Hurst nameplate is one of those you immediately associate with muscle cars, without a doubt. A lesser known fact is that George Hurst’s company invented the jaws of life system in 1961 and gave away the patent for free, but a better known fact is that if your muscle car in the mid to late sixties or early seventies had a steering column shifter or just a plain and rough floor shifter, you were doing it wrong. The Hurst shifter was nothing short of legendary throughout that decade, you needed one to stay with the pack and you know what, that’s fine. And it quickly became a realization within the Pontiac division of GM that slapping the Hurst brand on your car might actually help improve sales!

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By the turn of the 1970s, Hurst Engineering had their name and their iconic logos or gold-white paint and/or stripe set up on well over a dozen types of cars, the ’69 AMC SC/Rambler, ’72 Pontiac SSJ Grand Prix, ’70 Hurst Jeepster and of course the ’68 through the early eighties; Hurst/Olds. AMT Ertl made a kit of the ’69 Hurst/Olds back in the nineties, based on a even older W-30 Cutlass 442 kit and I’ll say, they weren’t half bad. Not superb, but pretty damn good in their own right. Revell still has a 1972 Hurst/Olds pace car kit on the market today, which is nothing short of amazing, I personally made it into a 442 but I wish I had made it the pace car, still. Jo-Han is the only model kit maker to have bridged the gap between 1973 and 1983 by issuing a simple snap kit of the ’75 Cutlass Supreme and a few promo models of that one and a ’73 Cutlass, but nothing truly spectacular. In somewhat sadder news, or well, it was news once, there were plans to revive some Jo-Han kits including the ’75 Cutlass back in 2011 but legal hurdles quickly killed those plans off.

1984oldshurstolds (4)So we’re left with 1969, 1972 and 1983 for the time being. And Revell is a month away from unleashing the ’85 Oldsmobile 442 with a second option in there to turn it into a FE3-X “Darth Vader” show car, they haven’t yet blessed us with a 1984 Cutlass kit. Which is… understandable, it’s just a swapped paint job and decal scheme of the ’83 version and some minor differences in the grille, rear axle and tail lights and I doubt its worth the effort of boxing one for that. I built the ’83 version last year and a ’84 LSX-442 version earlier this year, with a LSX-454 engine designed by Clearly Scale in there to boot and I have to admit, it’s easily one of my favorite model kits. Not necessarily cause it builds like the best, cause believe me, it’s still a 7 outta 10 at best, especially with how the wheels are attached and how you’re meant to manhandle the chassis into the body but.. Still, I love 1980s cars and the last dying wail of one farted into the annals of history in 1984 as the very last proper stripe-ridden specialty version on the market. And no, not counting the ’87-’88 Monte Carlo SS, dammit. Well, I should, but nah.

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You see, the thing of muscle cars is always the sheer un-subtleness of it, and yeah that isn’t a word but bear with me here. Take for instance the 1969 AMC Rebel Machine, also known simply as “The Machine”. It literally had AMC’s colors all over the cars and seriously made some striped vehicles like namely a ’69 Mustang look subtle besides it. Muscle cars are cheap, powerful, uncomfortable powerhouses that do the supercar appeal of “look at me” but got the anger and growl of a rabid dog and the 1984 Hurst/Olds is literally one of the last to have that with the two toned paint job, the bright red stripes, the aggressive stance and red-lined wheels. Underneath, it’s literally the same car, as I said earlier. It has the same LG8 307ci V8(5.0L) under the hood, which given the 1980s standards for power output versus size, actually had a very reasonable amount of horsepower going through it(around the 180HP, to compare it to a similarly equipped car; the ’84 Z/28 with a 305ci V8 block achieved 150) and the interior luxury was… well, Oldsmobile-ey. It had kept a lot of interior options of the Cutlass Supreme that got crossed over that were translated into kit form veeeery nicely and besides the fact that my dumbass once again used a gloss paint for the color; the detail is crisp as sin.

1984oldshurstolds (10)I mean, for the most part I’m gonna be regurgitating information that you could read over in either the ’83 Hurst/Olds article of the ’84 LSX-442(minus engine details, given it’s got a Clearly Scale engine swap in there), but for the sake of it I’ll just go over it one more time. The interior detail as I just mentioned is really, really good. I mean, it could use some slightly more raised details but 99% of it is there and perfectly fine to work with, vents, dials, all of it. The engine bay is really, really pretty but it does have some downsides; the A/C unit is molded into fender and so is the battery and… it can look really, really strange when you look down besides the engine and see that the A/C unit goes all the way to the frame, kind of the same blocky “bleed” from old Monogram kits, it’s just not exactly pretty.

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The body has some significant mold lines along the rear windows and fitting the nose cone can be a right pain in the ass at times given plastic’s nature to very sometimes expand and/or warp, and even with a kit from a year old, the fenders can bend inwards in the package so sometimes the front end just won’t fit without some severe bending and warping with warm water, but y’know what, it’s something we deal with as modelers, ain’t it. The thing that makes this build stand out, or unique rather, is the decal sheet which I crafted up for it. I’d been pining to get all the Hurst/Olds and 442’s done from ’83 through ’87 and y’know, the ’84 Hurst/Olds is part of it. So when I began with the little decal sheet crafting adventure, number two on my list was the ’84 stripes. Which, I am gonna shamelessly plug right here, yeah, right here, it’s a link to eBay. I have some regrets which I am gonna change on the sheet, number one; the color is off. It’s too far away from bright red, it isn’t helped by the fact that it’s not entirely opaque(printing error by Rothko & Frost) and number two; the top fender/door stripe is too thick. Gotta change that up to perfect it, but as it is, it’s perfectly acceptable.

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I mean, if I’m gonna plug shit, whether it’s mine or someone elses, it’s only fair I’m honest. I did a better job on the air cleaner decals and the Syclone decals, undoubtedly and it’s not helped that the red stripes aren’t printed properly so… y’know, swings and roundabouts. I put some Fireball Modelworks Goodyear Eagle GTII tire decals on the wheels to wrap the whole thing up looking spiffy and that was about it, the rest it’s all the same Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds kit underneath. In the end, it’s part of a series and I’m totally happy its among ’em, it’s all a learning experience, right! Now just to await Revell’s unleashing of the FE3-X/442 Cutlass kit!

’84 Oldsmobile Cutlass Hurst/Olds specifications:
Kit: #85-4317
Skill Level: 4
Parts: 93
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

 

1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8 – Tamiya

1993JeepGrandCherokee (1)Back in the early nineties, Tamiya was on a hell of a roll with their variety and among the Volvo 850 estates, Ford Mustangs and Alfa Romeo 155’s & GTV’s, they released a kit based on the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee. Which, deep down, was just a Cherokee(XJ platform) but… rounder. It’s pretty freaking epic as far as model kits go for three semi-rare reasons: 1) It’s a full detail kit, from Tamiya. It has a engine! That rarely happens in Japanese model kits! 2) It’s a full detail kit of a pretty down to earth, simple, ordinary SUV. 3) It’s molded in color, which normally isn’t always the best but here, it’s really good. It’s the one color that would’ve been a nightmare to mix and is even harder to get spray paints of; Hunter green metallic.

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From the looks and sound of it, the model kit was made in part to celebrate the Grand Cherokee model being introduced, or well, “released”, as its concept of the thing was already beginning to form in 1985, hell as early as 1983, by Larry Shinoda(Corvette & Boss Mustang designer guy), Giorgetto Giugiaro(“Car Designer of the Century” man, yeah no big deal) and Alain Clenet being contracted by AMC to each build the follow up for the ’83 Cherokee and the one with the winning design would be awarded massive payouts, a good designer challenge one might say. So, turns out, it wasn’t much of a contest as much as a thanks-for-the-inspiration-and-data-byeeee according to Shinoda as not long before the Chrysler Corp. take-over of AMC(AMC was the owner of the Jeep brand until 1987), they kicked him off the project. And fast-foward to 1989, where the all new Grand Cherokee concept “Concept 1” was presented and well… Shinoda saw what was pretty much his own design, just in the shape of an actual car.

1993JeepGrandCherokee (7)So the origins of the Grand Cherokee, which debuted much like the model kit in 1993, is dubious at best. However, it carried on to be one of the most successful SUVs on the planet and is a nice long lasting stamp on history that AMC did matter. It wasn’t oficially part of the “Big Three” in Detroit, Ford, GM and Chrysler but boy did they get their heels clawed at by AMC for the better part of four decades and the Jeep brand albeit owned by one of the big three today is still a high mark of all that history. While the Cherokee maintained its ultra square, more typical Jeep boxy style until 2001, the Grand Cherokee was more round, more luxurious and more… well, more Jeep. I doubt anyone who’s into cars is unaware of the Cherokee’s existence, so I suppose it getting a model kit isn’t totally out of the ordinary.

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But… it still really kind of is. Tamiya is known for making really great, great model kits and they’re not against making kits of regular cars, whether they’re five decades old or a car ready to be shown at say, the Geneva Motor Show or the North American International Auto Show but why the Jeep? It’s still visually so close to its predecessor and while that doesn’t necessarily warrant no model kit take on it, why make this one with a engine and all that? Whatever reason may have been behind it, it doesn’t even matter – the quality is so supremely high, which is default Tamiya level, we’ll never know if the kit was desired by Chrysler as a companion piece or if Tamiya just likes Jeeps. Hell, speaking of supreme quality…

1993JeepGrandCherokee (14)Everything about this kit is superb. To start it off, the body detail is just unheard of, and we gotta include Revell’s kits of the era, Monogram, AMT Ertl, MPC, all of them, it stands above it with ease. Its crisp, the fine details of the trim moldings, the small grille meshes, the depths of the ridges, so on. Yeah, normally I already drool over accuracy but there’s something special going here. The decal sheet has all the gold stripes of the “Limited” version, which was at the time the fanciest version of the vehicle, with gold trim a plenty, wooden panels, bigger 5.2L Magnum V8 engine, so forth. But back to orgasming over the quality; the cast quality is also something to behold. For instance, the headlights, which would’ve been a nightmare to re-create given that they’re rather unique and multi-segmented – it couldn’t have been easier. It has really, really fine mold quality that allow the black lines to be filled and the indicator reflector to be colored in, all without any hassle.

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Even the roof got extra attention, go friggin’ figure. There’s four decals for the ribs on the roof and the rack is a separate piece, so if you don’t like it you can skip over it. Hell the only thing I don’t quite like about the body is because of how the car sits rather high, as a SUV should, you can quite easily look into the wheel wells and there you’ll quite easily spot the ridges of the interior bucket and the hollow bits of the frame. But… nitpicking? Nitpicking. Once more, back to drooling. Something that’s always been uniquely high quality, even higher than what they already offer, is the wheels. Especially on older Tamiya kits, where the tires and the wheels come in a separate baggie in the box with branding and such, proof that they weren’t just one size fits all piles of wank(looking at you, Round 2) – high quality, vinyl tires with proper licensed branding printed on there to signify they are Goodyear Eagle GA tires. Which I explicitly turned into Eagle GTs cause I am lazy and my plan to use the “A” from left-over Eagle GT decals(of the lovely Joseph Osborn’s Fireball Modelworks) fell apart once I realized I actually didnt have enough to fix all four up.

1993JeepGrandCherokee (16)The interior is a bit more simplistic but given the nature of early nineties interiors in cars, it’s plastic. A ton of plastic with faux wood paneling to make it seem like it is higher quality than it really is, but it isn’t. There’s a set of decals for all the door panels and the dashboard that mimic the faux wood, and it does for some reason look like chocolate speckled bread but seeing as the model’s interior is enclosed by slightly matted by age windows, it’s hard to see from a distance. But again, it’s all high quality, the creases in the seats that mimic the leather, the texture of the floor, the spare wheel in the back, the teeny-tiny dials on the dash… it all marks up to one hell of a lot of detail work done by Tamiya. And I should point out, like the body, which I only detailed and nothing else(not even added a clear coat), the interior’s largely untouched too by paint. Only the darker areas that had either trim or buttons I painted, the rest is just the color of the mold and… it’s perfect. And the engine bay is no different, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I mean, if I had to complain, it’s that some of the parts that were molded in onto the body are slightly blocky but… y’know, nitpicky nitpicking.

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The 5.2L V8 is molded wonderfully, albeit in a very simplistic manner. The whole engine is five pieces; two main pieces that contain the transmission, oil pan, intake manifold and such, two valve covers and the air cleaner unit and that’s it. I mean, they’re very well cast and detailed, it’s just somewhat a shame that all the challenge and extra effort was taken out by having it all be one giant chunk. I would’ve wired it up but I skipped on it, mostly cause I figured out halfway through building it that I had run out of it and even if I did, given the engine’s simplicity, I doubt I would’ve gone through with it all. Where Tamiya did put a lot of focus on is the chassis. I absolutely love the way they handled the ride height; it has you screwing the suspension tighter and tighter onto a set of springs, so you could have it sit nice and high while maintaining some realistic bounce if you press on it, or you could tighten it down and have it sit more like a common Cherokee and still look the part. It’s such a great, fantastic kit and God damn do I love building these every now and then as they’re nice, simple and absolutely frickin’ gorgeous once they’re done and Tamiya never disappoints – what does disappoint is that once Tamiya is done with a kit, they’re generally truly done with it, they hardly ever re-release a old kit… Would love to see the early nineties kits be given another spin in the factory.

’93 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8 specifications:
Kit: “Sports Car” Series #127
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 99
Molded in: Metallic Green(Hunter Green), Gray, Dark Gray & Black
Scale: 1/24

1991 GMC Syclone Marlboro Edition – Revell

1991GMCSycloneMarlboro (1)GMC’s never really been a name you’d associate performance with, right? Generally it’s trucks, light trucks, pick up trucks and… shit, that’s just about it. For the most part, especially recently, GMC’s been the alternative to Chevrolet for the supposed “professional“. It’s a confusing thing, yet it’s simple as sin at the origin – they’re the same car with small cosmetic differences but according to GM, the Chevrolet’s the daily driver(therefor cheaper) meant to be worn down to just bolts as it racks up 500K miles, while the GMC is the work truck(for some reason more expensive) that is meant to be dented to the heavens and filthy as can be, but it’ll last the model’s lifespan and can be pawned off in favor for a newer model once it comes around. (Excuse the sun-kissed as hell photos, they were taken on a foggy day with sun beaming through it like a ball of hellfire, once Spring rolls around they’ll be updated!)

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But in 1991, they changed their image significantly. Albeit very briefly, given the image swap lasted to about 1993. September ’91, Car & Driver magazine did an article on the newly spawned, all jet black, sleeked down and bodykitted out GMC truck and pitted its merit against a Ferrari 348TS from the same year. Now, you might think, yeah but the Ferrari isn’t the fastest they could’ve offered, the thing was a brick even with the 5.6 second 0-60 time, so on. But let’s not skimp over this detail – it’s a damn pick up truck. It still looks like that little bastard you’d see driven in middle of nowhere Idaho, ferrying stuff from A to B. Though granted, it no longer was a pick-up truck by definition given it had a weight-holding capacity of a songbird thanks to the tech-up it had received, GMC had a little sticker on the inside of the tailgate that advised you shouldn’t put more than 500 pounds of weight in the back(that’s 226kg). This meant it no longer was a pick-up truck, it was more a short car with lots of useless space attached to it.

1991GMCSycloneMarlboro (17)Granted, all it had going for it was short term speed. While it ran to the 60 mile an hour mark in 4.6 seconds, it did only have a top speed of 126MPH(202KM/h). So while it has all of the merits of a true sports… truck, it also came with the downside of not being able to keep up with actual sports cars. But it’s not a big deal, the little Syclone had proven something and it had made its mark on the map. It out-dragged just about anything, Chevrolet Corvettes, Ferrari’s, Audi’s, BMW’s, it had the off-the-light speed boost that would allow you to be the badass around town. It was a good ride, it stopped well, it also lasted pretty long even though the turbocharger and liquid cooler had shorter lifespans(as they always do), it was a fun little truck. Which I suppose is the reason why people like Jay Leno own one and drive one still, just for funsies. People see a black pick up truck, think “typical American truck, all stickers, no speed” and then bolt away from said person at friggin’ light speed. A year later, GMC introduced the Typhoon, a closed bed with rear seats version of the Syclone. Came in different colors and slightly less power due to the weight re-distribution and such, but still a lightning bolt.

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So yes! Long, long, long story short, it was a pretty impressive, albeit underappreciated little truck. Revell designed a kit around the truck back in 1991 and it was friggin’ stellar. It was a kit I accidentally stumbled upon after popping on eBay, just back in the hobby, literally after I made my first model kit in over a decade, thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if there was a Syclone kit, I saw a S-10 Monogram ad once so…“. And holy shit, there it was. It was the ’92 release, in all black, kind of milky dated decals but man I loved putting it together. It was complicated, it was pretty and dammit it gave me a little Syclone of my own. Looking back at it, I almost wish I hadn’t found it until now cause I really did try my best with it at the time and still I feel like I could do a ton better these days.

1991GMCSycloneMarlboro (8)That being said, I bought a second one. Specifically for one reason; to make the Marlboro edition of the Syclone. In 1992, Marlboro, or rather Phillip Morris, Inc(whom are evil as sin, but y’know, car/kit blog, no bullshit) had a reward for the ten winners of the Marlboro Racing Contest ’92. Ten Syclones were given to the designer of the Corvette and Boss Mustangs, Larry Shinoda and he did the following: gave ’em T-tops with special holders in the bed, rear window that could slide down, special Boyd Coddington Cobra chrome-black wheels, Recaro seats and a MOMO sports steering wheel and of course, the “Hot Lick” bright red-as-sin paint job and Marlboro chevron-style stripes on the doors and hood. Now I should say right off the bat, the kit didn’t pack any Marlboro brand decals for a very simple reason: advertising cigarette brands is somewhere along the same line as putting tits on a billboard. I don’t give a damn myself, but folks, even for historical subjects(like say, a race literally called the Marlboro Racing Contest) say “nope”.

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So I had to improvise and improvise I friggin’ well did. I had this decal sheet sitting in .PSD format for the better part of a year now, a semi-abandoned plan to turn a S-10 into a Baja S-10 and a GMC Syclone into a Sonoma GT. It wasn’t until I figured out that the newer release, the 2010 re-release of the kit packs all the stripes and white Syclone logos to make effectively a cigarette-brand-free version, but I didn’t wanna half-ass it and I had already gone full bore with the decal printing plan so I cooked up some extras on that sheet for the Marlboro version(which go for 8.50$ on eBay, gotta plug my own stuff somehow eh). All-in-all, that part was a reasonable success. Some of the other “additions” I had to figure out were, for instance, the black wheels with the chrome lip.

20171116_125009That was slightly more difficult as, A) the Boyd Coddington wheels are a rare one in their own right, as they were designed by the guy himself and he sadly passed away in 2008, so getting something even remotely similar in 1/25th scale… Yeah, no. B) the early nineties Revell wheel adapters were slightly… well, one size fits barely. So it had to be something from a similar era and luck would have it that some old Chevrolet Impala SS wheels from 1994 would be exact fits, I mean like perfect flush fit. I mean, unfortunate that I gutted a Impala SS model for parts but y’know, circle of a models life. Built, kept, torn asunder, re-built. The wheels just took a lick of semi-gloss black and wham, semi-good looking replacement of the custom Coddington wheels. The real version also has targa-tops which uhh… Yeah, I love them and American Sunroof Corp. did an ace job at making ’em look okay on the Syclone but, really, I did not want to ravage two T-top panels onto the already rather frail body and just painting them on seemed too much of a cop-out.

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Some other differences between the original and the Marlboro version are also found under the hood. For instance, the intake plenum and the Garrett liquid-cooler housing were donned in red and chrome along with the rest, and y’know, had to go along with it. I will say this, the kit is spectacular and nothing short of epic but holy shit did they go all in on the engine bay. It is so, so well detailed. The cross-over air filter tubing, the way the turbo hooks up, the separate and ultra detailed A/C units, the liquid cooler and all the extras… This is a pick-up truck kit, by heart. It isn’t a best-seller, it’s not a hot topic, yet it gets so much love that it boggles my mind. They put so, so much effort into the engine block and engine bay, and it’s only been used three times. In ’92 for the Syclone, in ’93 for the S-10 versions and one last time in ’10 for this re-release and that’s it. Not to mention, the interior detail is crisp as all hell and all it would need to be utterly friggin’ fantastic would’ve been a dashboard decal. Something I unfortunately couldn’t craft up myself, it was too difficult to find a good dashboard picture to base it off alone.

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The first of two downsides I encountered wasn’t necessarily the fault of Revell, but more by the package itself. It was packaged in a bigger, flatter box(think Aoshima sized boxes), however it had the unfortunate problem of it having been crammed in there tightly – most of the bodykit had warped to half a C-shape by the time I got my hands on ’em.

Which y’know… Sucks. It truly, truly sucks. It’s made putting the bodykit on the thing hard and it kept tearing itself loose from the glue even after being taped together and the rear side was a total loss as it just didn’t have the surface to be strongly glued together enough for the shape to hold – so there’s some severe panel gaps there.

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Whats the second downside? Well that’s a legacy thing of old. Like I said earlier, the wheel adapters are of the old Monogram kits of the late eighties that basically just… fit one type of tire. Usually, Monogram either had Goodyear GS-C tires(branded for this kit, even), Goodyear GT Radials(usually for muscle-cars) and Polysteel Radials for older kits. This meant that they had to roll with the old wheel adapters too and boy are they a wobbly pile of wank. Both front wheels sit at a hideous angle and the rear wheels wobble all over the place and there’s no fixing it now given they’re the click-to-forever-connect type. But y’know what, fine – it can’t all be perfect and I’m happy as a clam nonetheless.

1991GMCSycloneMarlboro (10)It always feels good to tinker on these old pick-up kits and both Revell-Monogram and AMT Ertl have shown up to the stage with stellar kits, whether it is the S-15 types from GMC or the S-10 types from Chevrolet, they’ve both been on top of their game with the releases. Chassis, body, engine, interior, it all gets an equal amount of love from the companies and it’s even a bit strange that some of their more well-desired car kits come with less detail in some cases. But y’know, lamenting blah-blah and all. Ah well, onwards to the Sonoma SLS soon!

’91 GMC Syclone Marlboro Edition specifications:
Kit: #85-7213
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 132
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1970 Plymouth GTX 440-6 – Monogram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1971 Plymouth Duster 340 – AMT Ertl

1971plymouthduster340 (1)Man, you gotta love the Dodge Dart/Plymouth Valiant line. Well, the second coming of the line at least, right before the oil crisis turned it into a ghastly ectoplasmic fart of its former self. It kicked off in 1960, so it’s actually reasonably young compared to most of the other cars in the Chrysler line-up, though of course, it lasted a mere 19 years before being shelved for good. It had a bit of a wandering early years, first year being a slightly smaller yet still full size Dodge. The ’61 through late ’62 Dart saw its first true direction towards becoming the compact we know love today, with the ’63 Dart taking on the A-platform from there on ’til the day it got shelved.

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All the while, Plymouth being Dodge’s “step-in” brand, which is business speak for “we need to have a cheaper, crappier cousin that is the same, yet different“, the Valiant sprung to live along every Dart, from 1960 all the way until 1976 and by 1967 and 1968, you could really tell where they were headed with the cars – a straight divide between more leisurely Dart/Valiant for the cruising type, compact and durable or the incredibly sporty and bare bones entry into the performance market. In 1970, they finally gave it the split like they had done with other models before like the Dodge Coronet/Super Bee and Plymouth Road Runner and allowed it to form its own little mark on history as the Plymouth Duster, kind of a blend between power and affordability that the late sixties’ cars were becoming known for, and the car performed so well in sales that Dodge demanded its own version in ’71, the appropriately named Demon. Allegedly built to compete with the Chevy Vega, Ford Maverick and AMC Hornet, hell it even was advertised to fight away a Volkswagen Beetle of all friggin’ things in LIFE Magazine in 1972!

1971plymouthduster340 (4)And back in 1998, AMT Ertl produced a kit version of the ’71 Duster. Technically, the kit’s a 2-in-1 and has something I appreciate so much, words can’t quite describe it – engine options. Revell only ever does it with their convenient Chrysler 440 Magnum/426 HEMI engines cause the Magnum and HEMI rocker covers and intake manifold are so easily interchangeable but AMT’s got the only 1/25th scale 340 engine that has the crispness and quality of a Revell mold, and what did they do with it? They gave it the standard four barrel carb 340 as well as the Six Pack carb set up with the different air cleaner. What else makes it a 2-in-1? Well, the kit can be built like I did it, the 340 four barrel equipped Duster, or the 340-6 Duster Twister(with the twin ram-air intakes and the “twister” hood stripes) and they’re subtle enough to not require massive changes, yet they are truly two different cars.

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The late nineties, AMT Ertl had a wizard working the tools cause the 1971 Dodge Charger(and the Super Bee variant I built a while back) and this kit are of supreme quality, the build quality is epic and the detail on the parts and body are of a level that I can only describe as “Revell-like”. And I know, I shouldn’t consistently hold up a bar to Revell and yell at the others to keep up, but Japanese and Chinese kit designers are literally cranking out kit after kit without much of a hassle and Revell is keeping up appearances with several new tools every year. AMT Ertl’s been skirting by on re-release after re-release but in that nineties era? They dared to make new stuff and it worked out wonderfully, even though they did re-release this particular kit eleven separate times since and with worse qualities about ’em like none of the 340 stripes in some and no stock wheels in others.

1971plymouthduster340 (9)Speaking of the stripes, like I said it comes with all the things you’d need to make a 340 Wedge or a 340 Twister in both black and white, though sadly given the kit’s from 1998 the decals have gone milky as all shit. But y’know, I made due with ’em as the age only really shows through on the rear end of the car. Other than the decal issues, it is really a truly fantastic kit. It’s so well thought out, even the separate frame from the chassis where the engine sits on actually has the structural integrity to be able of holding onto the weight, unlike the ’71 Charger kit. The wheels actually sit on their supports and they actually stay in their tires! Holy shit, the wheels are good for a change!

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Though it’s not all perfect, it may be just this release in particular but one giant niggle is that the headlight lenses that came with this kit do not fit the headlight bezels at all. Like, twice as big as they should be. I really do believe they may be from something like a ‘Cuda or something else with a single big headlamp. I chopped it down to the point it would at least fit within the grille, which is still 2 steps from even looking remotely good. But… screw it, like I said, I doubt it’s a problem for any other of the ten releases besides this one given the box art models and some built models I’ve spotted have correct headlamps at least.

The only semi-downside of the kit? Well, the interior is basic as sin yet nicely detailed. “What the holy mother of Hell does that mean?”, I hear you ask. Good question! Well, the dashboard is this weird mix of shapes and stuff that is meant to mimic the ’71 Duster’s dash but it doesn’t… look right. Yet on the other side of  it all, the seats, doorpanels and everything else but the dials is of supreme quality! So it’s on this odd point of being super detailed, yet undetailed on the one part where it mattered.

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But lemme get back to the engine for a moment, the 340 cubic inch V8 is glorious. Like I said, it’s one of the few if not only 340 cubic inch engines in 1/25th scale that is this detailed. The MPC engines from literally 1970/1971 are utter shit, no matter the excuse of time, given they haven’t updated the mold since those years… The ’71 Charger had a similarly detailed engine bay and this one is no different with all the reservoirs, wires and hoses present and accounted for. The only wires missing are the sparkplug wires and I just don’t find it fun anymore to wire up a engine these days so I do it only when I truly feel like it but, I really should’ve with this one. The whole thing is so supremely detailed, the wiring it up would’ve completed the picture.

1971plymouthduster340 (18)All in all, it was a fun kit to put together. The “Yellow Green” RAL color spraypaint pops nicely in the sunlight and looks to be close enough to the Sassy Green hi-impact color and that matte black hood that goes over into the C-pillar, I love it. Easily one of the prettiest Plymouths that ever saw the light of day, right up there with the ‘Cuda. It’s a shame the Duster has just… popped out of existence after 1976.

’71 Plymouth Duster 340 specifications:
Kit: AMT099-8437R
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 104
Molded in: Gray
Scale: 1/25

1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe – Revell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1980 Chevrolet Citation X-11 – Revell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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