1975 Plymouth Road Runner – MPC

1978PlymouthVolareSC (1)God how I’ve tried to find one of those damn MPC kits for years, literally so much that my eBay search auto-fill now forever has “75 roadrunner” engraved in until I decide to delete cookies. And actually, I still haven’t found a proper MPC ’75 or ’76 Road Runner kit – go figure(the ’76 was incorrect as by 1976 the Fury Road Runner had been killed off for the Volare Road Runner). Instead, I came across a may-as-well-be new 1975 promo model that had been kept in damn near new condition by a man who had a significant love for the 1975-1977 Fury and Monacos.

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To be fair, the Road Runner from that particular year wasn’t much of a Road Runner at all. Despite the fact that it could be equipped with a 400ci V8 and it would be okay quick, nothing to brag about but it had some reminiscence to the prior Road Runners, when they could still pack friggin’ HEMIs. Okay, well, not really – the most beefy engine was a heavily neutered 400ci V8 at best with a smog-filter-choked horsepower of up to 225, though nearly half of the Road Runners that left the factories for the ’75 year packed the 318ci V8 that only did about 135hp, keep in mind the car weighed around 3500lbs/1587kg – so 135hp with the weight of two Volvo wagons is pretty much just saying “it’s just a bright colored Plymouth Fury“, no more no less. You could have a 440ci V8 which would be only allotted to police Road Runners, apparently with filling in the right checks on the order form you could have one with that big block equipped, though it’s not a whole lot more powerful than the 400ci V8 with the power to weight ratio in mind.

1975Roadrunner (3)That being said, it did get a bunch of unique touches over the regular Fury. The Road Runner package which came back for this year alone on the Fury platform, it had the unique blacked out grille, the Roadrunners on the doors, a different dashboard gauge set with a optional clock or tach and of course the unique stripe and decal set; one I tried to replicate the best I could for a decal sheet. For the rest? I mean, that was kinda it… It really showed that the 1970s were a dying age for sport/muscle cars, either they were completely past the common public or they were completely neutered to comply exactly to them. The fact that the ads back then basically called out that people were mistaken for thinking muscle cars weren’t fun to own anymore pretty much sums up how this car ended up failing.

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Basically, it’s one of the most unique yet one of the most understated Road Runners. Yeah I know, hot take there dude, but really it may be one of the most uncommon Road Runners out there. It sold pitifully, largely due to the era it was created in, the idea of a heavy weight boxer trying to be quick and just… the disillusioned crowd it was being pandered to. There were lots of sizable yet sporty cars with tons of potential in existence around that period, the Road Runner was one of them, the 1977 Pontiac LeMans Can Am was another solid shot at just adding a trim level for those interested with the added benefit of a giant gas-guzzler in the front. It’s now common practice around the world, especially Europe, for cars to have a balls to the wall powerful car on a 2-door with the wheelbase of a luxury 4 door – what cars are those, you ask? BMW’s M6, Mercedes CL-class, so forth, known as “modern luxury grand tourers”. I can’t help but wonder if the weight issue was curbed, or if a reasonable six cylinder already existed, or maybe a halfway decent turbo was available back then, would the “muscle cars” which were already dead by 1975 still have had a chance? A overcome and adapt sort of situation, form a new breed of American tourers?

1975Roadrunner (15)It’s a shame but many excellent potential died in that era, MPC as well as AMT did keep up with the promotional demand, just about every new addition to the GM, Chrysler and Ford line-up would get either a full detail glue kit or a simple dealership promo, and many of those kits have been built up or collected by now, yet promos still litter any online marketplace like some unkillable scourge. They’ve become a bit of a lucky find for me as of late, as literally any glue kit is just… gone, or like 150$, these promos at least allow some creativity in place of a kit, y’know, the whole idea of “second best option”. With the ’75 Road Runner, it’s a double whammy of rarity – the original two kits, one for 1975 and one albeit incorrectly for 1976, they’re damn near impossible to find. I spotted three over the last year myself and all ran 75$ plus for a opened, sometimes even started kit. I accidentally stumbled over some guy selling off his collection of Fury models(as I mentioned at the beginning, this dude collected Fury and Monaco models and actually had a ’75 Fury for realsies and absolutely adored everything about it) – and I leaped on it like a fucking cougar, for 30$ or so a totally unscathed promo model that was new in all ways other than missing the box(which I later re-discovered on his other eBay listing supporting a series of ’76 Monaco models, so “misplaced” I suppose).

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I desperately wanted to make a proper Road Runner model for so long, I don’t know why but I truly enjoy the last of the line Road Runners, the stripes, the look of it with the bright colors, the trunk Road Runner tunnel entrance decal, it’s just… great. Like I mentioned before, the real car itself was anything but great but having a little model of it, hell yes. And it’s stupidly rare to boot! I can’t really say much about the build quality, as it of course is a pre-built promotional model, but they are a testament of how easily they can be modified. Yes, they’re “curbside”, they have no engine and have nearly no chassis detail. Think of them as Snap-Tite kits, but already built up and all the “snap” parts were soldered – all the parts are connected in basic manners and just ‘closed up’ by what I can only describe as using a soldering iron, which on the brittle plastic from 40 plus years back, is easy to remove without snapping off the posts the parts are connected to.

1975Roadrunner (7)Though, the interior is a hassle. The seats and dashboard are properly stuck to each-other, nothing short of breaking, snapping or melting them loose would help. When I drafted up the decal sheet, I figured I’d try compensate for the lack of a engine by going all in on the interior. The Furys of the day had the quite lovely yet distressingly seventies striped pattern fabric all over the interior, the front seats, the rear bench, the doors, even the floor mats would have the patterns. So I basically just made shapes like the seats, re-created the fabric pattern and slapped it on the decal sheet – and it… actually worked out, really, really nicely.

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Other than that, it was some wheels and tires from a Revell Dodge Charger kit, some hand made axle work and a set of Grand Am Radial G/T tire decals to wrap up the package. I still wish I had the ’75 Road Runner kit with the engine bay detail and all but… y’know what, I’m still absolutely happy and satisfied with what I ended up getting. Maybe, just maybe, one day. Back to working the decal designs, huzzah!

 

’75 Plymouth Road Runner specifications:
Kit: A box!
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 1, or 5, it’s a pre-built promo
Molded in: Burgundy
Scale: 1/25

1976 Ford Mustang II Cobra II – MPC

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

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

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Ford HQ, 1973.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

1978 Plymouth Volaré Super Coupe – MPC

1978PlymouthVolareSC (1)Oh man, oh man, I love me some Volarés and Aspens, so much so that I’ve actively made a decal sheet for every damn version of the car. Well, for the Aspen at least. Anyhow, the Volaré and Aspen cars are so rare and forgotten that you actually might’ve spotted a fair few of ’em and just never even gave it a thought cause they were so… trivial(even though the Volaré was one of Chrysler’s best selling cars of ’77). It didn’t help that there were four giant problems plaguing the whole replacement for the Dart and Valiant era; one being in peak Malaise era where having cars basically meant a drain on your wallet and your sanity, two being production rush that very much gave people a 1976 version of Windows Vista, something I’ll come back to in a moment, three was Chrysler being mighty ambiguous with where the new Dart/Valiant would head and four was competition being just… better, weirdly enough.

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In ’77 when the car truly came to be after a disastrous first year with quality issues making most of the buyers think “well shit”, both the Aspen and the Volaré actually got to be decent little cars. All the basic versions weren’t awful, were reasonably quick for the limited as sin power they possessed and they were… kinda good? I dunno, it was right up there with the rest of the mediocre late seventies but it does kind of show they were trying at the very least. The analogy I made earlier with the Windows Vista experience is that the 1976 Volaré and Aspen were shoved out of the door so quick that they had all sorts of now-very-typical 1970s woes and all those woes were discovered by the fucking buyers, not the quality assurance team; rusted to piles of scrap within a year(which forced or uh, “allowed” for Chrysler to utilize a new method in sealing the body that now has become quite standard), nothing functioned within the car, it was loud, it was wobbly, it was generally a pile of utter crap but y’know, baby steps and all that.

1978PlymouthVolareSC (6)However in 1977 they also introduced the new top-line model; the Aspen R/T or the Volaré Road Runner. Both came with possible largest-of-the-engines 360 cubic inch V8s with TorqueFlite 3 speed automatic, both came with appropriate all-around decal sets that were… something else, to say the least. In ’78 they escalated it with the Super Coupe for both the models. The upgrade kit was… well, an air dam, fender flares, window louvres and a set of stickers. But that being said, it was quite something to behold and it was actually made to be a really, really quick little bastard for the era. With the 360 it could out-drag(0-60MPH), and here comes a list: 1978 Camaro Z/28, 1978 Corvette, 1978 Firebird Trans Am, 1978 Mustang King Cobra II and it actually kind of goes on. So all the while it recaptured some of the dead-as-can-friggin’-be era of muscle cars, it sold… not great. Like, it was rather embarrassing.

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531. That’s the amount of Aspen Super Coupes that exist. And as for Plymouth, it’s not better at a measly 494. That’s two entire models, selling a combined bottom-of-the-barrel grand. To put that in perspective, in 1978 the US population was 222.6 million, that means in 1978 just 0.00046% of the US population had a Super Coupe of either brand, opposed to say the 68,745 1978 Trans Ams(0.03088%). People just wanted more luxurious and more reliable, dependable cars(e.g. Ford Granada). But thats what makes or rather these cars so special, they were the underdog and they were better for it… for two years. Cause after all, after 1980, the entire Volaré and Aspen line was brought out behind the barn while ol’ Chrysler held onto a double barrel. It’s such a weird little achievement to have, the one that didn’t sell whatsoever was actually a fairly quick call-back to the muscle car era that was actually becoming to be decently reliable.

1978PlymouthVolareSC (9)But y’know, the whole Malaise era was full of stories like these. Failures, sad attempts, screw ups and above all; customer exploitation. It didn’t keep the fucktrain from derailing though, not until way into the eighties! Hooray for bailouts, bailouts of bailouts and just good old fashioned bailing out the bailout of the bailout. Anyway! MPC made several Volaré kits in the seventies, all the way from the days where it was still a Satellite masquerading as a Road Runner, then when it was a Fury masquerading as a Road Runner and then lastly when it became a Volaré masquerading as a Road Runner, or as Chrysler’s clever marketing folks made it; a “Fun Runner!”. From 1977 it brought out annual Volaré kits and promos until 1980(skipping the ’79 year as it was largely unchanged from ’78) and not a damn thing exists of the Dodge Aspen but that’s where I supposedly come in with my decal sets… Anyway, it was a right pain in the ass to find a decently priced kit, so I settled for a promo from 1977 and used some parts from my previously built 1980 Volaré kit(like the deck spoiler and the window louvres).

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So first hurdles were simple… The grille isn’t correct for a 1978 Volaré, but screw it, I don’t mind and it’ll be a fair bit of work to make it look anything like a ’78, something that if I’d screw it up, be a royal problem to solve. The second hurdle was the wrong-as-sin tail lights that MPC put on the ’78-’80 Volaré kits, they’re too wide and odd looking to be anything close to the legit thing. So I tried to make due with what I had and just rolled with it, sawing out more and more of the real valance to make room for the gargantuan light bezels. Then I realized, awh shit, the whole interior is one giant piece and I don’t know what type of super glue they used to solder the goddamn seats and steering wheel in but they probably use it to seal rifts in the space time continuum cause no matter the amount of wedging, cutting, pulling and bending, they would not come loose, hell the plastic half a inch above and under the glue points was beginning to break before the bonds.

1978PlymouthVolareSC (11)So I just tried my damnest to give it all a royal red coat for the interior and attempted to detail it as best I could between the steering wheel arms and the seats. I bought some spray paint that allegedly was between dark red and black, which is somewhat close to the real Volaré Super Coupe’s color. Yeah, as you yourself have probably pointed out in aggravation; it’s just a shade of Goddamn maroon. I figured I might get it darker if I used a black primer, which helped but it only made it a dark shade of maroon. And at this point I was seventy bucks deep into this promo, not counting the wrecking of a ’80 Volaré kit for the tail lights, chassis and engine. And then, to finish this calamity off, I realized the decals I spend a lifetime trying to design didn’t fit as snugly over the door handles as I’d hoped. They at least do look quite good, especially with the new quality of ’em(similar to the somewhat thicker Aoshima and Tamiya decals), so there’s that. I am kinda in love with the wheels though, they fit the Super Coupe really well and it was all I had other than the stock steelies they slapped on there by default, put some Fireball Modelworks Grand Am Radial GT tire decals on there to finish it off and poof, decent looking wheels – minus the stance but that’s more a MPC promo problem and less a fitting problem.

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The promo itself is… well, it’s a typical promo. Wholly one color minus the chrome, easy to disassemble(body is screwed to the chassis by 4 screws, once they’re out, it all comes loose), hard as balls to take completely apart(as I said before, the original ’77 bucket is still the one in there). Maybe I’ll recycle it once again for the Dodge Aspen Super Coupe or perhaps the Dodge Aspen R/T, who knows. Either way, it’s not a terrible addition to the collection. Just wish I’d done it justice instead of thinking “well, I’m approaching a hundred bucks, time to just wrap this one up son” – learning experiences and such, eh.

’78 Plymouth Volaré Super Coupe specifications:
Kit: … Little MPC box
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 1, or 5, it’s a pre-built promo
Molded in: “Silver Cloud”, aka Silver
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 AMC Gremlin X – AMT Ertl

1974GremlinX (1)Oh Jesus H. Christ, what have I gotten myself into. Recently I bought a ’77 Pacer X kit from MPC, at the time of purchasing not quite realizing just how unbelievably freaking lucky I had been getting it in the first place, let alone brand new for next to nothing. So what did I decide to do immediately? I bought the 1974 AMC Gremlin X kit from AMT Ertl. When I built up the Pacer, it kind of struck me that the kit unlike any of MPC’s schlock from the 1970s… it was good. It was really, really good, in fact. So I had laid my expectations somewhat higher than “it’ll be that non-detail-shitfest that AMT and MPC did from 1971 through 1983.” – y’know, as low as bars go, that’s… I mean, it’s a promotion.

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Plot twist, it was horrible. But I’ll get to it in a moment, when I bought the Pacer I right away decided that I wanted the Gremlin too as a companion piece. Both cars were notorious to say the least, the Pacer had so many nicknames that weren’t exactly flattering that there’s a whole page dedicated to it on the internet and the Gremlin… well, it was once described by Jay Leno as the “homeless man’s Corvette” to Jeff Dunham who attempted to refer to it as the “poor man’s Corvette”. Either of ’em, not exactly held in high regard by the public. And while the Pacer has gotten a cult following over the last thirty years, the Gremlin’s more or less fallen behind as the chopped in half Javelin that never quite could. That being said, the Gremlin was the more subdued more down-to-American-earth subcompact that did several things very right, that the Pacer did so very wrong to many. Richard Teague, the designer, whom is also responsible for the Pacer, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Javelin, AMX and more, claimed that fellow designer Bob Nixon designed the Gremlin on a puke bag on a flight. It originally was to be a ’68 Javelin on the front and chopped down and short, called the AMC AMX-GT, which I will admit; looked a hell of a lot more sexy than any of the Gremlins did eventually. It kept the Javelin front, albeit the less sexy ’70-’74 one and the roof was raised quite a bit cause, as it turned out – no human over four foot ten could sit in the damn prototype.

1974GremlinX (4)The things that the Gremlin did right was making standard options small and affordable(yet also kept bigger engines and trim options on the sheet), as the economy shat itself and the oil embargos were dished out. It also looked less alien and odd than some would’ve expected, especially knowing the Pacer was around the corner and the styling was soon made normal by things like the Pinto, Vega, Chevette and so on. It was also, unlike many of its vehicle brethren, quite solidly built. It didn’t rust quite as easily, it didn’t fall to bits after ten thousand miles, the engines were low maintenance and often crossplatform so if it did need maintenance, parts were plenty. The smaller V6s that were on offer were also really fuel efficient, especially during those days.

1974GremlinX (6)If only the AMT Ertl kit was on a similar level… which it isn’t. You see, the 1970s for AMT and MPC were simply put; quotas. Get the new Gremlin on the market, get the new Camaro on the market, get the new dealership promos out the door, get that Dodge Fury promo, who gives a flying ratsass about detail or even getting a reasonable kit out there, just get it out. And in a way, this allowed for market saturation which now is sort of beneficial in the way that there’s 1970s promos literally everywhere you look but this also allowed for AMT Ertl and MPC to lower the bar so damn low that South Park’s James Cameron is still looking for it to this day. But despite! I figured I’d at least try and get a nice little model out of it.

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So I first designed a decal sheet for it, knowing full well AMT Ertl and MPC just cannot do a decent one for the life of ’em. Well, mostly at least – the ’74 Roadrunner and ’70 Coronet Super Bee have really nice sheets but in that case the model itself ended up being awful. It’s just how it goes, huh. Anyhow, I’m into the decal business these days so no half assing it this time around and I may as well get a reasonable model out of it all. Initially I wanted to make a black one with red stripes but then I thought… Purple can be really, really pretty. So I bought a can of the Plum Crazy purple metallic from a new ’16 Dodge Challenger and laid into it and I gotta admit; it doesn’t look bad! It sort of comes close to the real AMC metallic purple which is a tad brighter with a more lighter purple hue underneath but y’know, it’s not bad.

1974GremlinX (5)What is bad, though, is how unbelievably half-assed this kit is. Normally I wouldn’t call out the “exaggerated” pictures and drawings on the side of a kit cause they’re always prettier than anything most of us can make. However, this time I can and I am – it’s a fucking lie. For instance, the seats on the side are what they would’ve looked like… This is what they actually look like. (Photo credit: Sportabout @MCM). Seriously, nearly everything on this kit is an afterthought to the degree that it’s irredeemable, the seats are narrow and weird, the rear bench is so low that even garden gnomes are too tall for it, the steering wheel is gargantuan in comparison to the rest, the gear stick is around five times too big(like, really, it’s the size of the steering column). The little ribs on the side where the side marker lights go aren’t scaled properly and are just off looking, neither of the two bumpers go where they should go, the hood is a solid quarter inch too small, the wheels are attached to metal rods that are a solid two inches too long so I spent the better part of half an hour drilling part by part into the rims to get a somewhat better stance going. The whole chassis is a disappointment that was obviously still a relic from the 1974 AMC Gremlin Drag Racer kit cause it sits a fair inch out of the body.

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So I knew going in the seats were just stupid toothpicks, so I stole a pair of seats from a ’70 Torino GT kit which look somewhat more appropriate and I spend a fair amount of time sanding down the leaf springs and such to get the ride height better suited. Like, it upsets me for real knowing this kit RRP’s for around twenty dollars. I mean, it’s fine to say and assume model kit enthusiasts should just take their shit and adjust, which is what we do and are known for; but this is just stupid. This is a unchanged release with a very minor upgrade(hooray, there’s MT branded drag slicks, thanks AMT Ertl, thank you.) that was awful in 1975 and it’s no different in 2018. Like I said, it’s just so damn painful to know that the 1977 MPC AMC Pacer X kit is just worlds, worlds apart. And that one they didn’t re-release, go figure. I’m willing to overlook the sheer braindead decision that they still don’t do clear headlight lenses after forty years, but the interior of this kit is just so, so cheap. Apologies if I come across upset, I’m genuinely disappointed in Round 2’s modus operandi these days of just repackaging kits from the seventies damn near untouched.

I paid less for a genuine, brand new 1977 AMC Pacer X kit that is infinitely better than a 2017 re-imagination of a 1974 kit.

’74 AMC Gremlin X specifications:
Kit: AMT1077/12
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 77
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

1980 Chevrolet Monte Carlo – MPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1970 Dodge Coronet Super Bee 440 Six Pack – MPC

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (1)The 1970 Coronet is one of those cars that is truly unique all the while remaining close to its roots, specifically with the styling, or at least from the ’65 Coronet on wards. It carried over the square shape, it carried over the grille increasing in size towards the headlamps, it carried the long hood and trunk design, it kept the very basic nature of its previous iterations and yet somehow manages to look the most alien, the most unique and honestly, in my opinion at least, the most beautifully wacky muscle car of all time. What makes it more unique is that unlike very, very many cars – it was only like this for a single year.

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First time I ever saw the car was as a fleet of police cars in 1974’s Gone in Sixty Seconds, though that was the regular four door without the chrome tail bezel, the one I truly fell in love with was the ’70 Super Bee version, the same one I built here. Though in a moment I’ll go into detail about the misery this kit can cause, for now I’m gonna focus some more on the car itself. You see, this was Chrysler’s magnum opus era. 1970 was peak good-ness for Chrysler, especially in design. The 1970 Charger lived, their best year in NASCAR began late this year, Plymouth’s newly updated Barracuda came to life, the 6-pack(2bbl x3) carburetor set-up gained maximum popularity, the list goes on. 1970, not a bad year! Well, it was a bad year for fuel reserves as it was also the year that big block engines truly gave no fucks about even attempting to hit 10MpG/4.2KpL(6-Pack and HEMI engines did frickin’ 7MpG/2.9KpL on average) and of course good ol’ fashioned tetraethyl additives.

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (5)The designers on their cars had freaking field days, damn near every car for the 1970 model year were gorgeous, even the boring ones. It truly was the era of the muscle car, but it was just as well just the finest era for cars in general, besides the obvious problems. And MPC was on top of this shit back in the day, with dealer promo’s leaving the production line in high demand and focusing their work on that, following it all up with glue kits based on the dealer promo’s some time later.

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This is how this edition of the 1970 Coronet Super Bee began its life. In 1968, the dealer promo for the 1968 Coronet was turned into a proper glue kit. They revamped the parts and the body for the 1969 release and updated it once more for 1970, as per usual of the time. So fast forward to 1989, Ertl had combined MPC and AMT to co-exist under the same roof and they fashioned a version of the ’70 Coronet Super Bee with a “Pro Street” package attached to it, which quickly led to demand of a re-release of the Super Bee without the idiotic large rear tires and gargantuan velocity stack engine and intake manifold, which came in 1992. They improved upon it in various ways, for instance they re-hashed the entire frame to be “better” and brought in stock parts to turn it into a 440 Six Pack along with bucket seats and standard exhaust pipes.

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (12)Now fast forward to 2008, two sub re-releases later(same parts, different day) with MPC bringing the Coronet Super Bee back like it was in 1992, just better. For instance, it now had a much, much improved decal sheet with both the C-shape decals as well as the tail trunk stripes, proper engine badging and finally some decent Super Bee emblems to boot. Skip time to 2017, and yes I hear you going “what about the Dirty Donny editions?” and I raise you a “What about ’em?”. They were based on the Pro Street version and actually had less going for them than the ’08 MPC release, so screw ’em. This version on the other hand has all of the stuff going for it since AMT’s update in the early nineties and the only thing it lacks is the pro street tires, despite the wheels still being there.

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Actually, about tires. Allow me to ramble on about Round 2’s wheels one more time, by quoting… a quote. This kit proudly presents itself on the side of the box to contain pad printed Goodyear Polyglas GT tires. Now the quote I’m gonna, well, quote, originally is from the 1976 Dodge Dart kit, which I then quoted on the ’79 Chevrolet Nova article, and it’s about the loveliness of the pad printed tires from Round 2;

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (4)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.

So, yeah, they’ve been clowning around with those again. And like I said, I love them but they just don’t match the rim and no effort has been put into actually remotely attempting them to fit. They could go the Revell Monogram route of just adjusting every rim to the tire size they have in stock, or they could do the more difficult Japanese way of literally fashioning a ton of different tires – either way Round 2 has to put in effort and like hell they’re doing that.

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But y’know what, we’ll roll with it. They are what they are, nightmare or not, nicely pad printed tires and I hope one day Revell begins to include tire letter decals again like they did a few times in the nineties. Though at the same time, Fireball Modelworks deserves every single purchase cause of how unbelievably awesome and nice those white letter decals are.

I’ve been wanting this kit for a few years now and there were a couple of reasons not to get it thus far, and the reasons came beaming on through as I was putting it together. When I said “misery” in the second paragraph, I meant it. You see, like I said earlier, this kit is a bash-together of MPC’s old tooling and AMT Ertl’s new tooling. The engine bits are super high quality and very well produced, the interior tub, not so much. The whole thing did get a revamp but it’s all inherited parts in a sense, like for instance the instructions have two interesting bits to ’em;

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (9)It’ll tell you to take a sixteenth of a inch from the bottom of the side windows on the windshield and it’ll tell you to saw off the front of the front side of the frame under the radiator. Why? Cause it’s a mish-mash in the end, the interior tub will collide with the windshield and basically kill any form of getting the whole thing getting together and the front lip has to be sawed off the frame otherwise the bottom bit of the body with the indicators will simply not fit.

Despite that, it still won’t fit. The whole build reeks of MPC shoddiness to me, with the bumpers floating about, the wheel assembly being a fucking, terrible, horror show of a mess. Hell, lemme elaborate. The front wheels especially, they’re attached to steerable prongs you force between the frame and the inner-engine bay wall, however the holes aren’t the same size and it requires force to put them on. You know how this works, as in that it doesn’t. The weight of the wheel will eventually begin tearing the innards of the wheel out so the wheels become stuck at this awful odd angle.

1970dodgecoronetsuperbee (8)But I digress. What isn’t MPC shoddiness is AMT Ertl perfection; the 440 Six Pack engine is… something else. The 340 V8 and the 440 Magnum from the Duster and Charger kits respectively are awesome and come up to about Revell level in terms of detail and how good they look in the end, and this 440 Six Pack is uniquely different in how you build it, but it’s no less amazing. Not to mention, the whole chassis was improved by AMT Ertl so despite the issues, once it comes together, it comes together. And while it comes with a whole second 426 HEMI with the velocity stacks(ala Dodge Dart), it has no option of the other, third option on the real Super Bee – the 383 Magnum.

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And like I said, the decal sheet is the biggest winner here all in all. The choice and quality of it is just immense and it makes me so super happy that for once a Round 2 kit doesn’t have a puny decal sheet. And in the end, what matters is that Round 2 did improve this kit from it’s terrible roots into a semi-modernized kit that goes a lot better together thanks to it, it’s just a shame it isn’t all the way there yet. Hell, it’s actually one of those kits where I got too frustrated with trying to make it look good and was just happy it was done.

Screw you, crooked wheels and ill fitting tires.

’70 Dodge Coronet Super Bee 440 Six Pack specifications:
Kit: MPC-869/12
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 149
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

1987 Chevrolet El Camino SS – MPC

1987ElCaminoSS (1)Last year I built the ’86 El Camino SS by AMT Ertl, the Choo Choo Customs version of the El Camino with the Monte Carlo SS nose instead of the flat one. And uh, well, it was a good kit! AMT’s re-released that kit give or take six separate times and they even did two more re-releases under MPC’s brand. Totally the same kit, just… different brand. But who cares! The MPC re-release is the most recent one of them, fresh from 2011 and the when you pop the box and compare it to the 1991 release of the kit, you’ll soon stumble upon the realization that its the same kit, but with different tires!

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Though that makes the kit infinitely better, as the ’91 release has the generic Polyglas GT tires from AMT Ertl that were massively popular with them throughout the eighties but were just stupidly chunky, over sized and were actually just kind of ugly. They hardly ever suited the size of the car, they were ridiculously over-done and the only kit where they even looked remotely right was on the giant GMC Vandura/Chevy Van kits. But I digress, this kit has the nicer newer tires that are of the one-size-fits-all type that is now current Round 2 modus operandi to shove into every kit for the sake of ease.

1987ElCaminoSS (7)Anyway, since I built that kit last year I’ve been pining to give it another whirl. Try get it done right this time though skip on most of the bits that made it a Choo Choo Customs, like passing on the sidepipes and the raised hood. I saw some ’87 El Camino SS’s that have the normal flat front(a front that does exist in kit form, though only on a single-release MPC kit from 1983…) that came in a two tone color set up and had a very similar graphics package as the 1987 Monte Carlo SS, with stripes, SS logos and such in a color that catches the eye.

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All of the bigger companies have made iterations of the El Camino, so it’s not exactly a rare subject matter. Nearly every year since 1959 through 1969 has been covered by MPC, AMT Ertl and Revell and sadly it kind of ends there, my personal favorites will forever be the 1970, 1972 and 1977-1981 ones but hardly any kits of those exist. You got the few rarities like the Revell-Monogram ’78 El Camino and the handful of MPC kits of the era, but of the ’70 through ’77? Well, at best a resin kit. That’s what makes having the ultra unusual 1986 El Camino in kit form so genuinely nice, especially with the fact in mind that it’s a very well executed kit too! It’s a superb mash-up of MPC tooling with AMT Ertl’s finest era improvements, something I wish they would apply to most of MPC’s kits nowadays before just showing the same old crap out the door and asking premium prices for it.

1987ElCaminoSS (8)Underneath, it’s a ’79 El Camino from MPC, simple chassis, very basic suspension, ultra simplistic interior and far too many floating parts like the awkward manner of how the radiator slides into the body and how the firewall is attached to the interior tub. However, AMT Ertl improved on this by cutting off the front end and tooling up a totally new Monte Carlo nosecone, with clear headlights and crisp-as-sin grille(the Chevrolet lettering may as well have been photo etched, that’s how fine it is) and gave it a new set of high quality wheels that were exclusive to the El Camino through the eighties. All in all, they took what they had and they improved it significantly. This is how it should be done, you don’t have to fix everything, just make it somewhat better.

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Hell, just like the model kits, the interest for the El Camino just kind of stopped existing near the coming of the nineties. Whether this was GM’s fault or the consumer’s fault, it’s not exactly clear given both were somewhat at fault. But in my opinion, it was the finest evolution of a pick up truck. I mean, it may be my European brain wanting the best of both worlds; half American muscle, half Australian utility. While Australia’s been carrying the torch on wards with the gorgeous Holden Commodore Ute, the US has been fixated on widening the gap between straight pick up truck and ordinary sedan. The last one of these things from the States to exist was this particular car, the ’80-’87 El Camino and like I am apparently been writing so often these days with MPC and AMT Ertl kits in mind; they did a nice send-off to go with the simple… disappearance of the car itself.

1987ElCaminoSS (11)The last few El Caminos that were special were crafted up by Choo-Choo Customs up in a factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. These were little El Camino and Monte Carlo hybrids and the package was meant to be the same as the Monte Carlo upgrade; get a nice appearance package and some extra power for a bit more money, so you’d certainly stand out in the crowd. Though while the El Camino SS got the aerodynamic front and the stripes and even some brutal looking sidepipes, it didn’t get the L69(305ci/5.0L V8) engine upgrade like the Monte Carlo SS did, though the 350ci V8(which is the engine in this kit) was a option for both gas and diesels. Though, looking back at the last era of the car, you could tell GM was slowly shuttering the whole thing step-by-step, from bad feedback from customers to simply having better cars on the road from their own division. I mean, if you had a diesel El Camino, you’d be betting your income on maintenance. It also doesn’t help that while the car wanted to be a muscle car with a bed, that you only got a miserable 115 horsepower from a giant V8 was a obvious death sentence no matter how sporty you make it look.

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Like so many eighties misery pots from GM, the El Camino slowly faded into darkness throughout 1988. The only four survivors of the power era would be shot down to just two by that year, the Monte Carlo as it was known seized to be in ’88 too(before being resurrected as a sad shadow of itself) and by this point the Camaro Z/28 was beginning to have a bleaker future too now that customers were waking up to the thought that the Camaro essentially just was a more expensive and more annoying to maintain Beretta and perhaps equally as slow.

1987ElCaminoSS (17)But y’know, it’s 2017 and it’s always easier to look back and criticize than to actually do something about it, but that era is something worth remembering. And I suppose one of the biggest benefits of model car building is, no matter how shitty the car was or how bad the engine or how short the lifespan, if it was pretty – in plastic it lasts. And the ’86 El Camino is no different. Like I said, I wanted to turn it into even more of a Monte Carlo hybrid than it already was.

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So I started off with the idea of black and silver with a red line divide, like the Monte Carlo kits I’ve done before. Unfortunately, since the decal sheet was such a miserable bitch to work with, I only had the Aeroback kit’s decals left and had already used up the red lines. “However!“, I suddenly thought, I got two sheets with the golden stripes. I thought, “I can make this work“. Mind you, the decals still are true trash cause of the bad finish they were given back in the late nineties but with like nine layers of decal bonder I finally made ’em work. I embraced the metallic black-gold-metallic silver theme all the way from there on out.

1987ElCaminoSS (15)It all came down to the decals to make it work and I’m quite happy with how it panned out. The rest is all AMT Ertl, the kit just… works. It goes together decently enough with some extra improved reinforcements that keep the floaty bits actually in place some unlike the prior MPC El Camino kits. The only two issues I came across were typical MPC problems, like the chassis needing the strength of ten men to force and hold into place while overly strong glue attempts to connect the two and the fact that the front wheels are attached by a tiny bit of plastic and nothing more but pure good will keeping them aligned to the body.

’87 Chevrolet El Camino SS specifications:
Kit: MPC-712
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 87
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25