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

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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

1986 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe – Revell

Click here to go to the 1987 Monte Carlo SS article, this one’s about the 1986. Or well, it’s a 1987 one but with the 1986’s decals cause this kit had ’em fall apart on me. But I have done a new article on the kit with the proper decals and ’87 parts instead of the mish-mash I have here.

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God how long I’ve been looking for this kit, and I finally found one. Well, I found two. One brand new in the box that got eBay sniped away from me and a second one being a scrapper kit that was missing the front valance and the rear bumper, but had everything else.

Little did I know that the ’87 Monte Carlo actually had a restyled bumper, but… alas, I bought a ’86 Monte Carlo SS kit on the cheap and quickly found out just how valuable that purchase was. The decal sheet, the front and back bumpers as well as some interior pieces ended up going into this Frankenstein build. But still, despite that, I’m happy to have build it. And uh, have just about the entire ’86 Monte Carlo kit left over to sit incomplete for the rest of time.

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The eagle eyed auto enthusiasts may spot the two discrepancies right away. One, what the hell is wrong with the stripes? Two, what the absolute hell is the matter with the stripes?! Now, I tried to make this as close as I could to the ’87 Monte Carlo with the wrong bumpers, until I ran into the issue that I run into more often with older Revell kits, the decals being absolute ass. Though this time, it was much, much worse.

I attempted to put the stripes on and well, they fell apart quicker than I could salvage them.

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To the point that I should say “disintegrated” instead of “fell apart“, a few photos show the SS logos that survived, barely. Hell the SS logo on the right side fell apart during the night after the build in the drying process, so I scraped off the remnants of the stripes and put on the ’86 stripes instead. Which also have a nasty bad thing about them, they got this hideous white line from being printed badly! Well damn.

87montecarlo1-8Ah well, I carried on. At this point there was no turning back, it was riddled with the left overs of destroyed decal so I had to cover them with the other stripes or I’d have left it all black, which I have to admit didn’t even look half bad. But alas, this kit just wouldn’t swing that way, the fact that it was a pre-opened kit and had sat around in a musty attic since 1998 obviously did a number on the parts, body and especially the decal sheet.

I mean, the kit itself is fantastic. Taken straight from Monogram’s late eighties Monte Carlo mold, they changed up the rear, added a new bumper and a pair of tail lights, a giant decal sheet and that glorious Aerocoupe window. They also included some Goodyear Radial GT tire letters, that’s a extra you don’t even get today! I had a bit of an awkward fit cause the interior bucket was warped badly so I had to use the ’86 one which obviously wasn’t87montecarlo1-9 made to hold that aerocoupe window so it all sat a bit weird, but I suppose with the ’87 bucket it would’ve fit like charm.

I went a bit overboard detailing the car and wired up the whole car, A/C and everything cause it just felt like it was worth it. That being said though, you’d think from a business point of view, considering the variation of a ’87 Monte Carlo is nothing more than new tail lights, new rear bumper, bit more back window shelving and a fancier window for a 5MPH increase on the track, it wouldn’t warrant such a fancy approach from Revell, but they did and went the extra mile with the giant decal sheet that offers all the stripes for the color combo’s available; black, red and gold.

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In the end, despite it being a bit of a frankenstein build, it looks nice next to the other Monte Carlo. Especially since I’ve learned a hell of a lot since I started building kits, and didn’t mess up the front as badly as I did back then.

 

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