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

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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 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

1974 Dodge Charger Rallye – MPC

1974ChargerRallye (1)1973 and 1974 were not exactly great periods for the world, especially for the United States. The economy was already in the shitter for a few years due to the Bretton Woods system falling apart in 1971 and things weren’t helped when Richard Nixon kicked off a series of rapid economic changes in mid 1971(also called the “Nixon Shock“) who was running a presidency that was still dumping money in a at-that-point already lost Vietnam war. So cue October 1973 coming around and Egypt and Syria started the Yom Kippur war by surprise attacking Israeli territories and Nixon requested direct aid to be supplied to Israel six days after the conflict kicked off. OPEC responded by directly putting an strict oil embargo on the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Japan.

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This changed everything and especially the automotive market given, well, y’know, cars kinda require the stuff to even… do something useful. While European countries were a tiny bit less harshly affected, as for instance, the Netherlands had begun building a domestic natural gas network in the mid sixties and European cars had already been shaped a lot smaller and had better fuel mileage due to restrictions set shortly after the second World War. Still, though, it crippled just about every country involved and it demanded drastic changes on every field, daylight savings kicked in, “don’t be fuelish” campaigns to avoid power waste, a choke hold on the heating oil market, but what especially needed change was the American automotive market – a common car you’d see like the very popular Chevrolet Impala and Caprice with a standard 400 cubic inch V8 did a lovely 14 miles to the gallon on highways and around 9 on common roads at best, that’s not great.

1974ChargerRallye (2)I gotta admit, part of what has me enjoying this hobby so much is the research involved with the kit subject, so forgive the book of text here, cause what intrigues me equally is to understand what went so wrong. I mean, having worked on big block V8’s before at my workplace gave me a thorough journey through what made Detroit tick in those days(a mentality from the post-war fifties’ Golden Age of Capitalism that carried on through the sixties) but it never really dawned on me just how drastic it suddenly all had to change until I began doing this whole ordeal for funsies. That a type of car which was already long past its peak suddenly got stranded in the desert without food or water and was forced to adapt, quick, or wither away. With the great power of hindsight, the big three of Detroit didn’t learn whatsoever in 1973 though, as they kept looking at the short term gain instead of a permanent fix – by 1975, the larger vehicles began to start selling rather well once more, despite restrictions and having their power neutered to the point of embarrassment. So when the second fuel crisis came about in 1979, they were literally repeating history.

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So, the third generation Dodge Charger stood against some terrible, terrible odds. By 1974, the muscle car era had just about reached its closing stage, the economic crisis began to seriously affect US buying power and while in 1973, it did reach peak sales but well over 60% of ’em were non-performance oriented versions, hell Dodge had already replaced the R/T with the Rallye in 1972. And if you’d ask me, I honestly think it’s a damn shame – I really love the ’71-’74 Charger’s shape. They truly stand out to me, even with the weird mandatory US regulation overbite bumpers and/or 5-MPH-bumperettes that look like buckteeth on the thing.

1974ChargerRallye (17)MPC did annual releases of the Chargers from 1967 all the way through 1974 and of the third generation, only one got a re-release later on. AMT Ertl meanwhile took the 1971 subject and totally overhauled it to great success, making it one of their best kits hands down, no questions asked. MPC on the other hand, didn’t improve all that much, sadly. In 1980, they re-popped their 1974 Charger annual kit in their hyper typical 1980s fashion – make it appear tuned with a huge hood scoop and a engine with giant exhaust headers, deep dish wheels, thick rear tires, big over the top silver decals and of course, weird optional parts no sane man would use. Granted, I love extra choice but the quality of the extra parts are such an afterthought that it’s just one spurt of flash away from being insulting.

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So I first decided I would buy a decal set from Keith Marks and roll with it. Then when I finally got the kit in my possession, I figured out it was also molded entirely in the off-red as it was on the box. Wasn’t expecting that! It’s sort of nice if you wanted it to be that color anyway but… even then, it’s poorly made. It’s the kind of color injected plastic where it doesn’t settle well in edges, so you get this weird half translucent color most of the time. I painted it with a few coats of BMW’s titanium silver metallic and glossed the hell out of it, which came out nice! What didn’t though, was my dumbass fault – I put the decals a solid inch too low and it didn’t occur to me that they were positioned wrong long after they dried… So I kind of had to roll with it or spend another 23 dollar at Keith’s for another set.

1974ChargerRallye (16)Roll with it I shall and rolled with I did. The wheels, as I said earlier, were deep dish Centerline Drags and I just can’t stand the look of ’em so I quickly got rid of ’em. Instead I used a set of Magnum 500 wheels I fortunately had spare from the 1970 GTX kit I built not too long ago, albeit in the wrong scale, they kind of look like they fit. Sort of, right? Sort of. Slapped some BF Goodrich Radial T/A’s on there to make them stand out a bit more and tada, the car sits on better wheels. The only downside here is that it was obviously designed for the smaller wheels so now it has a humongous ride height, but… ah well, screw it. Even at the wrong scale, I much prefer the Magnums.

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The kit as a whole is reeking of MPC shortcuts. While the body is nice(the Charger scripts are still off kilter and gigantic even if I had positioned the damn decals straight, yay) and the details on the grille and tail end are superb, the kit does come with some incredible low points. For instance, the engine is based on the 340 with a two barrel carb of the day and somehow also on the 400 Four Barrel. So it’s living in this weird off-sized limbo where it’s actually neither. The engine also floats on the chassis on two non existent points, half on the front suspension(well, actually only the water pump sits on it) and just the transmission’s very tip sits on the support in the chassis. The interior on the other hand is really nice, chunky but nice. The wood grain is detailed rather nicely and you could even make out the details on the dial if you look hard enough and the seats, while having huge excess amounts of flash, there’s actual fabric patterns running on them.

1974ChargerRallye (19)So it’s a mixed bag, for every up there is a down. For instance, another cop out on MPC’s part is using generic one-size-fits-all components like the air cleaner which isn’t a Dodge part, the generic wrong shaped door mirrors that were found on just about every MPC kit of the era regardless of the car’s make, the same plain chassis that they use over and over, that sort of stuff. Still though, the front and tail end valances are stupidly well detailed(even without proper headlight lenses) and the body minus the script is really, really nice. Many of MPC’s tools were destroyed some time ago and it is likely that the 1974 Charger mold was a victim too of it so it’s actually unfortunate that these kits never see the light of day again. I love Malaise era victims, I love Charger’s and I love MPC’s determination of putting out a model kit to just about every new American car in the 1970s and at this point I am actively going through eBay’s listings for anything 1973-1979 related in order to manhandle together into something coherent, just cause I love the era so much. Despite MPC’s terrible casting jobs of many of the parts, despite generic pieces, despite the recycled use of the same chassis for a decade.

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1975 Plymouth Road Runner, 1980 Dodge Aspen R/T, 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier, 1977 Chevrolet Monza 2+2, they’re all coming sooner or later.

’74 Dodge Charger Rallye specifications:
Kit: #0-6333
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 95
Molded in: Wine Red
Scale: 1/25

1983 Chevrolet Citation X-11 – Revell

1983chevycitationx11 (1)Okay, so, bear with me here. We’re going back to 1979 for a moment. The Nova was on its last legs and it was being pushed aside in favor of a newly engineered X-body car for the 1980 model year. The second fuel crisis of 1977 had proven fatal for car consumerism in the United States and it required some swift changes and the big three in Detroit had no friggin’ idea how to cope with it. So one of the first big kickers that ushered in the “new era” was the Chevrolet Citation, a roomy hatchback that easily outsized the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon, or a “club coupe” which is just sales-speak for weird-looking-two-door, both of which came per standard a dingy, outdated Pontiac Iron Duke OHV four cylinder engine or a newly updated 2.8L V6 that was largely designed for use in the new X-body cars. And it worked for out Chevrolet, the Citation initially was a giant success!

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I discussed this whole ordeal in the 1980 Citation X-11 article, so thank you for reading this whole shebang all over again if you already saw that one, but for those who haven’t I’mma carry on. Given, this is about the 1983 version so may as well go deeper! Chevrolet sold 811,000 Citations in the 1980 alone, making it one of the best selling new models in GM history but it was gonna take a dark turn just a year later. By 1981, the truth of the Citation had already sunk in with the American consumers, it was a car best summed up by a quote, by a friend of mine whose father had a brand new 1982 Citation;

The guttural groan of the transmission, the loud burble of the engine as it kicks into life, the heater knobs coming off as I’m trying to warm the cabin and trying to cool off the car as it is somehow overheating in early morning traffic even though it was a frigid November morning, the rear view mirror dropping off the windshield, the trim popping off the door once I shut them, the insulation on the windows just flopping loose after two months, the erratic veer to the left when I gently brake, the paint chips lying on the tarmac next to my car while its parked as it was showing its ripe age of eighteen months, but rusting as if it were eighteen years.

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Clearly, the man wasn’t pleased. And neither was the public, as by 1982, the Citation was only selling a fifth of what it did in 1980 and even less in 1984 before it was reinvigorated as the “Citation II”. Equally as terrible as GM had learned nothing of the consumer feedback and it was quietly put down in 1985. And GM wasn’t gonna learn anything until 1987, when GM did a drastic make-over of the entire structure, but the damage of the Citation had already been done. The 1983 Toyota Camry was already a improvement over anything and somehow looked exactly like a Citation, just Asian. Even Chrysler had a better thing going for them, even though the K-type vehicles were no less terrible, they at least had more variety.

1983chevycitationx11 (14)But the eighties have had this weird “everything needs publicity” vibe to it, even the terrible things were hyped up and to great effect. For instance, MPC, AMT and Revell Monogram all had a stake in being the next annual model car kit maker, something that effectively allowed MPC and AMT to coast through the seventies on a cloud. And while MPC got the slightly longer stick by getting kits for the Dodge Omni, Chevrolet Cavalier, Plymouth Horizon and so on, Monogram got to take on the all new, hyped to the moon, the usher of all things better, the Chevrolet Citation and they went all in. They produced two kits for the 1981 model year, one as the somewhat regular yet pumped up Citation Turbo. The other was this odd semi-tuner weirdness called the Citation X. And they were some great kits, too! They gave ’em the typical Monogram treatment with a nice engine block, very good body and the detail on it, good set of tires with good wheels and a solid interior, but of course with that also comes low chassis detail and a blocky engine bay but y’know, compared to what MPC was producing at the time, they were doing an amazing job.

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Though in 2002, as Revell was going through its “turn everything into a lowrider” phase, they put out some extremely weird choices like a ’92 Mustang lowrider, a ’91 Chevrolet S-10 lowrider, a ’78 El Camino lowrider, I mean what the hell. But the strangest choice by a hell of a stretch – this one. Seriously, no shit, someone thought “let’s turn that failure from 1980 into even more of a failure by making it even uglier” and someone reacted to that with “Yes!“, holy hell right!? But it also benefited the kit greatly as the 1981 tooling got a bit of a polish, decided that it was worthwhile to put both versions from 1981 in one box and someone went to town on the decal sheet as a extra to also allow both “versions” of the ’80-’84 Citation X-11 to be made and thanks to that this kit is an amazing time piece. A solid look back at how the car could’ve been, as just like the real one, the X-11 wasn’t all bad. Even though it shared the rust issues and reliability problems, the engine was a nice little power plant that could out-pull some V8’s of the time.

1983chevycitationx11 (10)The 2.8L V6 Turbo from the Citation Turbo kit is the one we’ve gotten, so no proper air cleaner or anything, just a giant turbo charger on top of the manifold. But that’s no problem, really, as the engine is fine with it as is. It’s the outside where it truly matters, this is likely to be the only way to get a mint Citation in front of you that isn’t either on a junkyard or stripped clean of paint and decals due to… well, literally, weather.

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So unlike the 1980 Citation I did before, which I built to be like the one on the side of the box which was a silver X-11 with the 1980 graphics package of black stripes and serif font style X-11, I ran with a bit of a inspired look. Someone did a wallpaper take on a brochure photo of a ’83 Citation, which was slightly different to mine. Like, it doesn’t have a tail spoiler and it has a High Output V6 badge on the hood, but I liked the look of it – an all white X-11 with the golden graphics, blacked out grille and tail light frame, Goodyear Eagle GTII tire decals(courtesy of Fireball), black between the spokes of the wheels, so on. I went with that to the best of my ability and luckily the kit’s epic quality does allow for some improvisation here and there. Not to mention, some decals lifted from other kits helped out to complete the thing some more, like the Cowl Induction decals from a ’70 Chevelle, the front plate too, so on. Though I should say, the Goodyear Polysteel Radial tire decals(which are a rarity to find in kits themselves, so kudos to Revell) are perfectly adequate and look great, I just wanted a set of white outlines instead.

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The build quality is still staggering, just like any Monogram kit of old. It goes together no problemo, though the side-ways mounted engine does make for some awkward positioning and gluing, but it’s just a bit of a fiddle no more. In the end, it still truly shines as a very, very good kit. I mean, weird way for them to spend money back in 2002, to re-incarnate the Citation kit from 20 years before that and slap some lowrider bits on there, but I’m genuinely happy that they did. Like I said, it is a time piece. A car that was known to literally disintegrate in years time, and Revell Monogram allowed it to live forever albeit at a 1/24th scale.

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

1979 Chevrolet Nova Custom – MPC

1979novacustom_boxRight, so! Another MPC annual of a Malaise Era victim, turned into a traditional and very typical MPC kit by turning it into this horrendously ugly police car with the name only a man in his late forties could think of in 1979; “Squad Rod“. He almost certainly nodded appreciatively towards his marketing superiors and used hand signals when he said those words. I mean, woof. Granted, normally I kind of like the idea of the weird, wacky takes that MPC used to do, like the supremely odd Volaré that thank the damn Lord could still be made stock, it still was mighty goofy in a good way.

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And luckily, the Nova can be made stock too. Or at least, a more stock cop car too as well, without the horrific body kit. or rather, without the giant air dam at the front. It has some slightly worse options than the other mid and late seventies MPC annuals, for instance it hasn’t got red clear tail lights and slightly worse interior quality all in all. But y’know, it’s MPC. That being said, it is a seventies model, though so was the friggin’ Dart! That kit saw its first light of day in 1975 and got a new release(which I got) in 2014 and it was lightyears ahead of this one and this one’s a whole three years younger! Or rather, the tooling is. The release is a 2012 re-release, with more decals and “improved” tooling(which is marketing speak for better plastic and that’s generally about it).

1979novacustom (9)So, what about the Nova? Well, it’s got a rather long lineage that got shot down in a matter of a single year. It started off as a coupe-slash-sedan on a compact chassis in 1961 as the “Chevrolet Chevy II” and… it kind of stayed that way until it’s demise in 1979(though it saw a small come back as a rebadged Toyota Corolla/Sprinter with slight changes, but we don’t count that one), Revell and AMT Ertl have made several beautiful takes on the Novas of the sixties, with my personal favorite being the Revell ’69 Nova. MPC has been responsible for keeping a legacy alive kit-wise with the ’79 Nova, which in real life went out with a undeserved disappointing whimper. The last year of the Nova, it saw it trying desperately trying to remain relevant. It had all the “logical” engine choices, it got restyled to match the upcoming eighties trend of squaring-everything-up, it had luxurious interior even for the bog standard one and honestly… It didn’t even look half bad! GM really pushed the Nova to become the definitive Chevrolet; it could be a powerhouse, it could be a luxury ride for cruising, it could be your daughters first car, could be a cab in New York or a cop car in Houston, any place, any role.

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Some folks even went as far to order Novas to mimic a Camaro in performance but a Monte Carlo in luxury. Landau roof, trendy white striped tires with the sporty mag wheels, luxurious Custom level trim interior and on top of that the 350 cubic inch V8 that was usually only found in performance vehicles of the age, to kind of keep that old Nova vibe alive – one step above the Camaro in comfort, one step below the Corvette in speed. Regretabbly, like many of the 1970s cars, it had severe longevity issues. It would rust something fierce, the ride wasn’t anything to brag about and you’d be repairing the thing all the damn time. And what the hell happened next? Well 1980 rolled around and GM showed the Nova’s follow up: the 1980 Chevrolet Citation. In the words of Jeremy Clarkson; ambitious but rubbish.

1979novacustom (2)MPC/Round 2’s got a great trend of bringing back the models that essentially were the last of their line, which I am a very big fan of. In some cases, it’s a good reminder of how some models farted themselves into the annals of history(the real ones at least) like the 1980 Plymouth Volaré, which marked the end of the Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volaré. The 1976 Dodge Dart, marking the last chapter of the Dodge Dart/Plymouth Duster and of the Dodge subcompact sports cars ’til 2013. The Dodge Omni 024/Plymouth Horizon TC3, which lasted a whopping three years before being killed off in favor of the… revival of the Charger in ’83 on a L-chassis. Jesus Christ. It’s a depressing subject underneath it all but it’s also a time piece of a era long gone and desperately forgotten and that’s the exact reason why I love it.

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Back to the model in question, the version we’re talking about here is the 350 cubic inch(5.7L) V8 hatchback model, it seems to have the Custom interior treatment but it’s really hard to tell. But what the hell, a Nova Custom could be anything that the brochure showed so screw it, it’s gonna be a Custom! Though allow me to address a potential question you may be asking, and if you weren’t, well allow me to explain it nonetheless. Why, once again, a set of Torq-Thrust rims from American Racing? Nearly every model I do from AMT or MPC has ’em, what’s up with that?

Well, you awesome person for asking even if ya’ didn’t. Let me fill you in on a secret that I slipped through back on July 2nd of 2017 on the ’76 Dart article;

And again, just like usual, the fucking rim doesn’t match the tire. I love the enthusiasm for pad printed tires, especially from AMT who is the only one who has them printed on the rubber and not just included on a decal sheet but they are not a one-size fits all kind of tire. I’ve been going over this complaint on every single kit AMT has re-released since 2011 – the ’70 Chevelle, the ’80 Volaré, the ’68 El Camino and both ’69 Oldsmobiles I’ve built. They just don’t fit on legacy kits.

I should elaborate some though. Round 2 has a new tire design, or at least has a new tire design for around a decade now. They’re good quality life-like rubber, not all are pad printed but a fair couple of ’em have Goodyear Polyglas GT markings, and a few exclusive ones got the Goodyear Rally GT and GT Radial treatment. Whats the issue? Well they come in literally two sizes; the supposed Polyglas F60-15 and L60-15(these seem to pop up all over the place even without the markings) and far as I know, they’re era appropriate size-wise. However, the castings and toolings of the wheels; not so much. That’s the issue with fixing a problem halfway and stopping there.

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Most MPC kits that are re-released have these tires now without even having had a glance at the wheels. Only those with potential widebodies get a set of “thicker” drag wheels, which are either the Micky Thompson drag slicks or AMT/MPC Goodyear stock car tires. And y’know what, fair game, I got so many sets of spare tires now I could start a mouse sized tire company, but for those who haven’t? They’re doomed to have half-popping out wheels.

1979novacustom (14)Well, shit, I apologize, here I am ranting on for four paragraphs about the wheels. Back to the model’s more nicer features then. So the kit’s got a decent attempt at a 350 cubic inch V8, which was also found in the late seventies MPC Camaro kits for obvious reasons. It’s actually not bad, for a change! They’re usually terrible with engines, especially the Chrysler ones but this one’s pretty damn alright! It’s nice to wanna see the under-hood part of a MPC kit again for a change, it’s been a while. The interior tub isn’t molded very well, a lot of the details have gone a-miss but still, there’s nothing to truly complain about in the end. I mean, outside of inaccuracies. For instance, the dash is from 1975 with the square speedometer and… well, generally nothing had been updated past the 1975 mark.

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On the outside of it all, though. The imporant bit, if you ask me. The body. Oh boy, some things have gone a bit wrong. First of all, as I mentioned before, would it have killed them to give this kit some clear head lights and tail lights? I know it’s standard MPC modus operandi to not give it clear headlights, but ill-fitting slabs of chrome for the tail lamps(seriously, even the box art has the one crooked tail light, on the left)? Tsk, tsk. But that’s just what I’d have preferred, for the rest it’s kind of accurate! Besides one glaring thing… The size of the Nova script on the fenders. Good Goddamn grief, it’s huge! And even then, it’s molded very unevenly so when I attempted to chrome it, I caught a lot of the fender at the same time… Ah well.

1979novacustom (3)On top of that is something I can’t really blame the kit for, is the stance. The “Squad Rod” stance has the rear raised significantly with much thicker tires and the front sits lower on smaller tires. There’s no way around this, doubt they ever meant for it to stand like a normal Nova but, well, I suppose it adds some aggressiveness to a otherwise dull as sin car. And weirdly enough, it has bend inwards on the front left so no matter the work, the left front wheel will angle inwards cause of the chassis being jacked up. Mold issue? Packing issue? Hell if I know, all I know is that it annoys the ever living shit out of me when I look at it.

For the rest? The grille is actually molded rather nicely, it’s a bit of a shame you can’t really get the proper detail out of it but the cross bar design of the ’79 grille is all there along with the square lamps. The legacy paint job of the ’75-’77 Nova SS that got brought back on the Nova Custom for ’79 with the chromed fender lips and bottom, I actually really liked it so I attempted to get it done here. Not my finest work but, y’know, when is it my finest work, I skirt by half-assedly it seems and can’t fix mistakes when I make ’em.

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In the end, it goes together as well as most MPC kits of the era do. Some messing about with the engine placement(as it floats on the chassis and never really gets attached properly) and some squeezing and snapping to get the chassis and the body to sit properly, but outside of that, it’s fitment from the late seventies has held up, besides me needing to epoxy the damn chassis to the interior bucket cause it literally has no other way of staying inside the body. That being said though, it’s a meager parts count build(it’s 81 parts strong and only 45 are needed to build a stock Nova) so of course it’s gonna fit alright and honestly still it could do with a touch-up but apparently that’s too much to ask for these days from Round 2.

But ah well, it’s a legacy piece of a era long gone. I’m glad to have it.

’79 Chevrolet Nova Custom specifications:
Kit: MPC851/12
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 81
Molded in: Black
Scale: 1/25

1981 Dodge Omni 024 – MPC

1981dodgeomni024 (1)Oh yeah, now this is a unique one, ain’t it. Every once in a while I enjoy building kits of supposed “great” cars, which ended up being failures or legendary for their unreliability, or in this case of the wonderful front wheel drive Chrysler K and L-platform era; “dull“. MPC made a fair few of these little kits in the early eighties, which included the L-platform Dodge Charger, the Dodge Omni/024(the predecessor) and the eventual Shelby Charger GLHS(Goes Like Hell S’more) that Carroll Shelby took a interest to and actually turned into formidable race and drag cars.

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All the way through the eighties, MPC made variations of the Omni and Charger kits, some custom, some factory stock but with the Shelby options. All in all, these kits were from a much stronger era for MPC, where the kits were packed with parts that would go together somewhat alright instead of what we can now only describe as “like AMT, but worse“. I’ve slammed MPC time and time again for producing lazy molds and kits that are a struggle to build, if not in some cases just not fun, but I really can’t ever fault them for variety. And with the Omni/Charger kits, they infact aced it on both variety as well as quality.

1981dodgeomni024 (3)This, though, is not a Shelby Charger. This is a ’81 Omni. There’s no mincing words about the quality of the car, especially this one which came with the legendarily slow 1.7L Volkwagen inline four(the ’81 onwards 2.2L I4 from Chrysler improved the ride and speeds significantly), but it was a direct answer to the second fuel crisis in 1979 when yet again the signs came out and burbling V6’s and V8’s roared around on gas station lots waiting in line. Along with the Dodge Omni Miser, Dodge Aries and Dodge Colt, the Omni 024 was meant to be European under the hood but American on the road. Fitting pretty much the entire idea of Detroit’s mentality at the time of “just buy an American car, it’ll be as good as a European or Asian car“.

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Granted, it was nothing like that. The car rusted terribly, the brakes were terrible but lo and behold, despite the heap of flaws, for the money you spend you did get a decent car and the I4 engine(whether 1.7 or 2.2) actually did what it was meant to. It saved you a ton of fuel, got you around and if you had luck, the car didn’t rust away on your driveway and could one day be your kids ride, it has flaws but it could always be fixed. MPC meanwhile kicked off 1980 and 1981 with two kits based on the Omni 024 – and both attempted to “cool” the cars up significantly, cause this was in the era that Detroit was very upset with itself, OPEC and Japan(holy shit were they pissed off at Japan, public destruction of Japanese cars, Japanese people being shunned, attacked and in extreme cases even killed, they weren’t great times).

1981dodgeomni024 (14)Forgive me for the history lesson, but with these little cars and the respective kits, this day and age, it helps to get some of the context on how these things came to be and how they’re actually really unique, if not a reminder of a dark time in automotive history.

Anyhow, little gritty racers is what the 024 and TC3 were meant to represent and MPC tried to do so with this kit, giving it the “Silver Bullet” treatment and the other kit was given what I can only describe as some absolutely ridiculous Pike’s Peak like front bumper scoop and giant wing. And like I said, Detroit wasn’t having it and to some extend, neither was the public – The car sold… poorly. Not awfully, just nowhere near the hopes. In the same year, the “Omni” name was taken off and given its own lineage and the car was now just the Dodge 024, which was about as catchy as a fart, but y’know, desperate times.

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This kit too had some extras, wire-wheels, louvers for the side windows(but not rear, weirdly enough even though the ‘other’ Omni 024 kit from MPC does have them) and all sorts of extra bits to make the car stand out more sporty. It’ll start to remind you of a slightly ‘Americanized’ Volkswagen Scirocco and honestly, nothing wrong with that sentiment. It comes with all the parts to make it a bog standard, simplistic Dodge Omni hatchback or turning it into the sportier slightly more custom 024. It even has some weird relic pieces where the tires of the car are both available in normal rubber, or casted plastic. But I digress, the quality is top notch.

There’s something odd about the eighties when suddenly kit production hit a new height in quality and detail from all the large companies, but AMT(once it became AMT Ertl) and MPC saw the biggest leaps. From somewhat low quality but still very detailed kits to high quality casts with good builds and loads of detail all around. The tiny, puny and now even downright forgettable engine has well over 15 pieces dedicated to it and even then there’s more to customize with, like chrome headers, turbo intake(on this I4 though? What?) and more.

1981dodgeomni024 (8)To an extend I did wanna show the kit some extra love cause it’s actually a really, really decent kit coming from the MPC guys so I for instance gave it a set of nicer wheels. A set of Foresight Ventures Indy 500 mags from Forward Resin, a reputable resin caster from the States that sells wheels for damn near nothing. Applied a coat of a Mercedes color, smoke silver with a few clear coats over it. Originally intended to go with red but then though, nah, this is sportier and prettier to a degree. Fashioned a spoiler out of the front air-dam cause the actual tail wing is… shoddily cast and hardly fits(it’s a typical MPC product, it’s meant to “sleeve” over the tail end but just gives two giant ugly edges you can see under) and just kind of shoved it together from there on.

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To be fair, it is a very simple build, it has three pieces for the rear axle, around five on the front and it’s all a little clunky when it comes to attaching the wheels and the engine rests on the trans-axle in a way I can only describe as resting a pallet of bricks on a twig. But despite that, it does all kind of go together well. Especially for a MPC build. Especially. There’s even some room for improvement; the headlight slots are completely open and you can easily replicate some square headlights with some translucent plastic sheeting, black paint, and some chrome backings fashioned from a chrome sprue. I don’t have any plastic sheets so I just rolled with it, but it’s possible so that’s nice! Finally non-chrome headlamps if you want it! Though it takes some effort on our end, but at least it is a possibility.

1981dodgeomni024 (17)On top of that, I used some decals from the ’68 Dart and ’69 Charger Daytona kits to give it a sliiiightly improved look that isn’t downright dull, in reality the cars have O24/024 decals behind the front door and on the tail gate but of course MPC didn’t add any of those when they created that uh, “Silver Bullet” design. No license plates either, so, figured a couple of classic “Dodge” logos on the side and the red logo plate on the back would make it look somewhat more finished.

The only two issues with the kit, the ones that stand out at least is the fact that the chassis and the body have severe issues meeting and this was meant to play out with the fender flares that I didn’t add, so it looks… a bit off with a bit of the chassis sticking out underneath. The second is that the hood floats on the body and just doesn’t fit, it doesn’t help that of course a thirty six year old kit has warped somewhat so the hood now doesn’t even meet the front.

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It’s a weird little time-piece. With the ’80 Citation X-11 I left it as stock as could be given that the box came with all the pieces and decals to make it so but on the Omni 024 it was hardly possible, it didn’t have the rear louvers to make it a 2.2 or even a DeTomaso(kid you not, Alejandro de Tomaso’s company did a styling package for this thing, the wheels are on the sprues even!) so it’s hard to make it into any of the more uh… “performance orientated” Omnis, Jesus Christ did I just type that about a freaking inline four rust bucket? Yup, I did. Anyhow, it’s to an extend a far nicer build than its distant cousin the Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare and comes out looking twice as nice even though they’re in reality only two years apart in terms of tooling.

’81 Dodge Omni 024 specifications:
Kit: M1-0710
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 96
Molded in: Silver
Scale: 1/25

1980 Plymouth Volaré Road Runner – MPC

1980plymouthvolareroadrunner (1)Ahh MPC, how rocky a relationship we have. I talked about how MPC’s model kits have this odd, cheap and unfinished feeling to ’em and how it damn near ruined the hobby for me in the 1974 Plymouth Road Runner article, a kit I can now describe as “similar” to this one. How’s that? Well this kit has a myriad of issues, a MPC staple. It has annual re-release woes, also an MPC staple. But there’s also something that I actually truly adore about MPC model kits; they’ve made kits of nearly every American car you can name that aren’t already covered by other manufacturers.

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I mean, while Revell Monogram made a ’81 Chevrolet Citation kit, at least they have the excuse of being part of the hype machine that eventually threw a rod and self destructed in a massive joyful explosion of bad brakes, rust issues and leaking radiator hoses, in some cases, a literal explosion, actually. But I digress, the point that I’m trying to get to is that MPC is the annual model kit release company. AMT kept up until they were taken over by Ertl in 1982 but MPC has released a yearly version of damn near any “mainstay” GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicle.

And I’m on a bit of a spree with Malaise era car kits and holy Christ does the Plymouth Volaré count. Introduced in 1976 to replace the Dodge Dart, it was the start more or less of the “lets slap all our cars on a single platform”, cause that worked out perfectly in the end, didn’t it? Weirdly enough, in that same year, Motor Trend gave it the Car of the Year award… Though they weren’t allowed to include foreign cars and with that logic in mind, yeah, it wasn’t exactly picking from a series of true winners that year, was it.

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This kit is based on the dying breath of the Volaré and while they were at it, the final dying breath of the Road Runner – the 1980 Volaré Road Runner. MPC, as per usual MPC modus operandi: a oddly cartooned up car kit with gargantuan list of oversized and in most cases downright ugly parts and a weird eye catching name, suddenly re-released with new extras, which is Round 2’s(MPC’s father company) way of saying “Yeah, that’ll make it a worthwhile kit!”. That being said though, the two things that are new are the Goodyear GT Radial stamped tires and a new, fresh decal sheet and they’re both honestly pretty damn sweet, though it has to be said that it’s the “basic AMT tire” issue, in which I mean that all of their pad printed tires are of the exact same size and in no kit with these that I’ve encountered, the wheels and their backings properly/snugly fit, they always are about to fall out. However, everything else is still the same old MPC schlock as always.

1980plymouthvolareroadrunner (13)For instance, is it so damn hard to mold some clear headlights instead of making ’em all chrome pieces? Revell, Monogram and AMT have been doing it since the seventies, what the absolute hell is keeping MPC from doing it? Oh right, simplicity and short-cuts.

Anyhow, lets get down to brass tacks in terms of whats a pain in the ass with this kit. First of all, what the hell is the engine? It’s a 318 V8 from the looks of it at least, even down to the mold lines underneath the rocker covers, quickly “turned” into a V6 according to the box, even though the only V6 available on the Volaré was a Slant-6 225. It is very clear the kit is a 1977 Volaré with a new grille and tail lights, even the instruction sheet hasn’t been updated for the changed tail lights. And speaking of which, the tail lights are… off, they don’t look right. Even with the reverse light added in there, there’s something wrong with the proportions still.

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None of the bumpers actually fit and holy shit did I wish I’d have known about it before I began building this thing, cause honestly just one or two little plastic lips and it’s a smooth fit all around. No-one at MPC gave this any legitimate thought in terms of a clever construction, hell it’s become less of a puzzle and more of a horrible hassle. The exhaust pipes that lead down from the manifolds are meant to just… hang onto the manifolds with no underneath support. The engine block itself is also just meant to float on two vague engine arms and a flat piece near the bland molded in driveshaft.

1980plymouthvolareroadrunner (14)I kept the red paint job the box showed for the 2-in-1 option, the car was available in several colors and honestly the black suits it but I figured I’d go with a more subdued red. To make it a little nicer, I used some leftover Road Runner decals from the 1974 kit which I honestly prefer over the giant eighties ones and kept the T-tops “painted” on, the kit does offer separate T-tops and cutting the ones out of the body is very easy but just doesn’t look pretty when they’re out, the removable tops are just as solid as they were in the first place and it just looks janky and it really still shows that its a D.I.Y. job.

But I digress… It is a time piece. Granted, MPC is one of those brands that forever feels like a “we had a quantity quota to reach so to hell with quality” brand, but even then, the body is pretty damn pristine and all things considered, as I said earlier, it is thanks to them going full on annual releases that we have so many forgotten cars still having somesort of legacy through a model kit.

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I mean, the Volaré was a truly terrible car(even though the Slant-6 engine lived on to be ultra reliable, though shame the car around it digested itself to dust), it is only thanks to MPC that I can add another Malaise era victim to the line up. And like most of MPC’s kits, it is fully capable of being turned into a neat model with enough effort, I just think it’s such a damn shame that it has to be such a challenge to even get to look on par with a bog standard Revell/Monogram or AMT release of the same era.

’80 Plymouth Volaré Road Runner specifications:
Kit: M843-200
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 78
Molded in: Off-White
Scale: 1/25

 

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