Blog Update #010 – New New-er Stuff

New Stuff Again

So as I type this, I’m on some downtime due to some financial woes(ain’t it always the case), so I locked up the ordering for a short while. I’m also desperately late on answering emails as I’ve been so ungodly busy the last few weeks, but such is life and all! I bought a few new kits over the last couple of months and I’mma be doing old fashioned posts soon again, like the new Revell ’70 Cuda AAR based on the new tool and the Revell ’69 Mustang Boss 302, both of which I’ll be building considerably stock just to have some content out again other than the same-old-same-old about decals. Hell I even got a hold of a Tamiya 1/12th scale motorbike just to change it all up. Again, it’s all a temporary gig, this whole shutting down for like the fourth time, I’ll be up and running again very soon.

But in the meantime, there’s some new stuff I’ve whipped up since the last time. I’m still looking for that fuckin’ Dodge D-100 kit but I may have a direct line to one after what, four months of searching? Either way, one set I’ve tried to give a significant amount of love was the Subaru BRAT kit. I never even knew it existed until Adam Rehorn of the Sprue Lagoon made several posts of the kit in its original 1979 glorious form; and literally two months after I found out it existed, Round 2 popped out its re-release. And two things were immediately noticed about it, one – the stripes aren’t correct for the year of BRAT and two; even if they were, they could do with some extras. So what I did was whip up the wrap-around stripes in both the early 1978 and late 1979 styles(the font got changed in ’79 and very quickly replaced with the stripe that ends at the rear quarter) as well as the ’79 type that doesn’t wrap the body. Then I fully rendered the dashboard instruments up, cause while AMT’s aren’t even all that bad, they’re also not quite correct – try compare ’em if you have the kit, you’ll see what I mean.

Then, some white letter tires, badges, center caps emblems and most importantly: that thing that defines a decade by itself; plaid interiors. Jesus Christ it’s like everything back then had to have the appearance as if someone flensed a lumberjack, but alas – it’s period appropriate and deserved an addition. Especially knowing how much people seem to love seat upholstery decals.

’78 BRAT GL 4×4, ’79 BRAT GL 4×4 and the shortened ’79 BRAT GL 4×4

Then aside from that, I got really lucky and found a cheap as chips genuine MPC 1977 Ford Pinto kit, one I wanted a hell of a lot more than the freshly re-released AMT Pinto for two reasons. One is that the MPC casting has the full glass trunk and has the proportions nailed down a heck of a lot tighter, two is that the AMT re-release while not a half bad kit, is the same stocky and squared off chunk from the 1970s that even back then just couldn’t hold a candle to the MPC version. But one day I’ll get one, just to compare the two. But for that particular model I’ve made the 1977 Ford Pinto “Accent Stripe Group” set, which was basically Ford’s marketing team going “Well folks sure seem to love those Starsky and Hutch fellows’ car, lets put it on everything“. And they did, ho boy they did. LTD II’s, Pintos, Mustangs, nothing escaped that damn package.

But it’s apparently rare as all sin on the Pinto, the triple-striped version especially. You can hit this link to see interior and exterior shots, but it’s for real and it’s gaudy. The second set I did was the “Special Value Package” stripe set, which isn’t a half bad looking Pinto but… man, ain’t that name depressingly economical. It’s like the car version of buying a value 12 pack of toilet paper. Either way, the decal sheet for the Pinto includes every single stripe for the exterior and for the Accent Stripe the triple stripe seat decals as well, and while I was at it; spent 5 hours making the whole dashboard and gauges for every damn version you can think of. And as a bonus, badges for the Pinto Pony MPG, cause why not! There will be a hell of a lot more Pinto stuffs coming soon, among which finally, at last, the Pinto Wagon with wood panels.

’77 Ford Pinto “Accent Stripe Package” and the ’77 Ford Pinto “Special Value Package”

Other than that, there’s some more new stuffsies. A little project that went kind of out of hand was the Buick Skylark sets, which started off as just me wanting to make a big sheet of all GM air cleaner and valve cover decals, which of course includes those early seventies GS decals. It kinda grew out to me making two full sets with interior, exterior, the whole damn nine yards of the ’70 GSX and ’70 GS Stage 1. I still got three other Buick sets in the works, the ’87 Regal GNX and the ’81 Regal Turbo Indy Pace Car as well as the Parnelli Jones sponsor-stickered version of the ’76 Century Free Spirit.

’70 Buick Skylark GSX and the ’70 Buick Skylark GS Stage 1

Now, there’s more to see when it comes to Mustangs, as two more sets in that line-up are finished. The ’85 SVO with the bumper trim and engine bay goodies and the ’85 Predator GT302-H and R(both stripes in the same set!) which leaves just five sets to do for now for the Fox bodies, which are the ’79 Pace Car, ’83 GT, ’89 LX CFD-25, ’92 Shelby AAC Mk1 and last but not least, the ’93 SVT Cobra R. Also I recently did the 1978 Road Runner set for which I’m still doing the interior tri-colors but as it stands, the set is available as is for now, and while I was at it I also re-did the ’77 Road Runner to include the updated goodies like the engine bay decals, dashboard cluster and the likes.

’85 Ford Mustang Predator GT302-H/GT302-R, ’85 Ford Mustang SVO, ’78 Plymouth Roadrunner and the ’77 Plymouth Roadrunner

I’ve also gotten my hands on a vintage Jo-Han ’72 Ford Gran Torino and a ’77 International Harvester Scout SS II, so expect every damn thing regarding those models like the Gran Torino Sport, SS II decal set, Rallye set, so forth. I also finally got around to making a dedicated page for the white letter tire decals as it was kind of getting out hand, there’s over a hundred unique choices now and as we speak I’m trying to get every single possible variant of the Polyglas GT tire since I’ve managed to do every type of BF Goodrich Radial T/A. So hit up this particular page if you wanna see all of ’em.

But to nail down the exact sets which are coming up in the following weeks, among y’know, the ability to once again order:

International Harvester:
1977 International Scout II Rallye(1/25), 1977 International Scout SS II(1/25), 1978 International Scout II Rallye(1/25), 1978 International Scout II Traveler(1/25), 1977 International Scout II Traveler/Rallye(1/25), 1979 International Scout Midas SS II(1/25), 1980 International Scout “Shawnee Scout” Hurst SS II(1/25) and 1976 International Scout II “Spirit of ’76”(1/25).

Ford:
1996 Ford Crown Victoria LX(1/25), 1972 Ford Ranchero GT(1/25), 1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport and 1970 Ford Torino King Cobra(1/25), 1971 Ford Torino Cobra(1/25), 1984 Ford Mustang GT(1/25), 1989 Ford Mustang LX CFD-25(1/24), 1992 Ford Mustang Shelby AAC Mk.I(1/24), 1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R(1/24) and 1977 Ford Thunderbird.

Meyers:
1968 Meyers Manx(1/25).

In the meantime, as I said, it’ll just go on. I’ll update this post when the ordering gets back online, and that in itself shouldn’t be too long from now. I should apologize for shutting it down again, but financially speaking I just couldn’t risk it.

 

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Blog Update #009 – New Stuff

What’s Happenin’

As I’m sitting here, contemplating writing this, it kinda occurred to me – I suppose it’d be neat to have some insight or at the very least some heads up of what has been finished for decal designs as of late, wouldn’t it be? Despite the long down time and having literally a dead computer stalling the whole ordeal out even longer, I didn’t sit idle.

So far, the outlook is by the end of June, business is back to normal. Orders can be taken, commissions will finally get printed and the designing will continue forever. I mean, I know every time I say “yes by then it’s back on!”, life lifts its foot to deliver the swift disabling kick to the nether region of progress, but generally that’s the current outlook. Brexit still sits on the horizon, albeit in October and the pound vs euro is slowly stabilizing a tiny bit so printing isn’t quite as expensive as it grew to be around March but… it’s still up there.

One of the things I had to do in the mean time was raise the prices some, now it’s somewhere around 17.50$ on average per set(though of course they differ on so many things, but that’s for most of them), and I hate to say it will get more expensive as the company I use, well, gets more expensive to use. Regardless, I’m trying to kick up whatever the hell I can to meet the higher prices quality-wise; for instance one tiny bit of a little extra will now be default: license plates and dashboard dials printed on high quality photo paper(as well as on the waterslide decal paper, so you get both). Like, when I say high quality, I mean four out of five star tier Canon photo paper. The 20 bucks per damn pack type. I think this is worthwhile down the line for two reasons, one is that I can print on a far higher resolution than the decal printers so whatever isn’t waterslide, I can crank out prints at 1200DPI which is… plenty sharp. The photo paper is also thin enough to allow the dash decals to be fitted easily, akin to those of Best Model Car Parts. Yet they’re thick enough to mimic license plates well enough. That’s effectively step 1 of 2 to justify the price raise, step 2 is a bit further down the line but it’s one I really wanna do.

Step 2 is metal transfers. Effectively little chrome foil stickers that are pre-cut in any shape, say emblem backings, scripts, so forth. I’m trying to save up for a Silhouette Cameo to do so, which I was fairly on top of ’til my PC decided to die and needed replacing. It’s one of those things one can combine really well with decals, as emblems get both the embossed photo etch look as well as the smallest details on top, not to mention I’m told many modelers love these things. They’re fairly easy to make, fairly easy to cut and even easier to finance, so it’s something I can definitely do when the payment hurdle is overcome.

Whats New

As for what’s new, I figure I might as well do this from now on to give a little insight, and y’know, so people don’t have to guess when visiting this website. Before my PC was tired of being functional, I’d been hard at work doing just about every single Mustang from the early seventies through the modern ones and I’ll be honest, I’ve made some fairly good progress on that.

I had started on the ’79 Mustang Pace Car before the PC died on me, but prior to that I did do most of the Fox bodies with only give or take seven planned sets to go. The ones still left on the list are the ’79 Mustang Pace Car, obviously, the ’83 Mustang GT, the ’85 Mustang Predator GT302H & GT302R, the ’89 Mustang LX CFD-25, the ’92 Mustang Shelby AAC Mk1 and the ’93 Mustang SVT Cobra R. Which will all get done when the laptop is set and ready for my work.

1979 Mustang Cobra, 1980 Mustang Cobra, 1984 Mustang GT350 20th Anniversary, 1985 Mustang Dominator GT, 1985 Mustang GT, 1985 Mustang GT Twister II and the 1985 Mustang Predator GT302.

I did struggle like a crazy person on the ’79 and ’80 Cobras, I can tell you that for free. I literally, no joke, made the entire hood cobra from scratch using some warped ass photographs. There’s hardly, if not any clear pictures of them both, hell for the ’80 I used three different angled shots of the front and overlaid them with one really low resolution one and sweated for like 7 hours while my damn PC kept crashing, forcing me to go back to this snapshot file that had me losing like 15 min of work every single time. But I got there in the end. Those Mustang sets are mostly designed for the MPC kits, with exception of the 1989 onwards ones, which are for the ’90 Mustang LX and ’93 Mustang Cobra kits respectfully, but even then I can re-shape them to match any kit if needed, just holler at me. I do quite enjoy doing those hyper rare and supremely specific dealership specials, they’re fun to do and you learn a fair bit of niche automotive history while you’re at it!

Other than that I finally managed to get my grip onto a revered 1970 Cutlass kit by Jo-Han, the genuine oroginal release and not the Testors re-release which has the wrong interior. What this meant was that at last I could do the proper 1970 Cutlass 442 stripes, redesign the ’70 Cutlass Rallye 350 set to be up to my newer standards and lay down the foundation work for the ’70 Cutlass 442 W-29 stripe set that I’m inevitably going to do.

1970 Cutlass 442 and the 1970 Cutlass Rallye 350.

As for some other miscellaneous sets I did lately, one of ’em is the AMC Spirit AMX from 1980, a pal of mine inspired me to do just about every AMC set through the seventies just to give our old fallen rival of the Big Three some love, not to mention there are some extremely rare kits out there like the Hornet and whatnot that could still use a decal set. I’ve got the ’71 Hornet SC/360, ’74 Hornet X, ’78 Hornet AMX, so forth. Aside from that, the 1970 Ford Torino and 1970 Mercury Cyclone are getting love as well, the ’70 through ’74 Torinos and the ’70 and ’71 Cyclones will have all of their respective sets like the Torino King Cobra, Cyclone Spoiler II, Torino Sport, and such.

1970 Ford Torino Cobra “Twister”, 1970 Ford Torino Cobra(Laser Stripes), 1970 Ford Torino Type N/W and the 1980 AMC Spirit AMX

Oh and one last thing, I’m desperately looking for that damn MPC Dodge D100 kit which is about as rare as can be these days either cause of hoarders or underproduction, either way I just cannot for the life of me get one – however I did do some work based on the Lil’ Red Express kit to eventually fit to the D100, this aughta get some folks excited.

And that’s about it for this update, like I said I’ll be doing this more frequently to have some info on whats new!

 

 

1978 Chevrolet El Camino Royal Knight – Revell

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (9)The El Camino is downright one of my favorite cars to ever touch the planet, it’s such a wicked car all around. Or coupe utility vehicle, if you’re one of those people. I’d rather go with car, or ute. You see, I’ll defend the merits of a ‘Cuda until the sun goes down, or the value of Ford stumbling through the seventies keeping the Mustang alive, or how something like the El Camino should and needs to exist. Today, there’s no worldwide version of what is the quintessential muscle car with a pick-up for an ass.

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Holden, the last one to do ute’s with big-ass engines stopped producing new cars entirely as of October 2017, and as of writing Holden is still merely a importer of elsewhere built cars, predominantly Opels from German and Canadian plants. So even though the Australians have been the inventors and now the last to have enjoyed the rough and tumble big-block car-truck/pickup/coupe ute, they still could effectively buy a new ’17 HSV Maloo GTSR R8 with the Chevrolet 6.8L LS3 V8 that would churn out 570HP from a dealership today.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (3)As for the rest of the world, we gotta make due with effectively the last of the El Caminos that date back to the 1980s, 1987 to exact or the equally extinct Ford Ranchero, which got ol’ Yeller’d in 1979. Since then, for the Americans and Europeans it was to either import a sweet chunk of Mad Max-ian deliciousness or take in a… well shit, might as well get it out of the way; through-out the decades it would’ve come down to a Ford Courier, Dodge Rampage, Plymouth Scamp, VW Rabbit/Caddy Pick Up, Fiat Strada, Subaru BRAT or something to that extend. And all of those are small, compact little pickups with the front end of one of their more popular cars, small engine and sustainable(unless it’s the Dodge or Plymouth, those rusted away in a few months time), but not anything that would make you wanna go “Fuck yeah, I’d take that over a Camaro!“.

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There’s no more of them unfortunately, and granted, it was always a niche market. Who in their right mind shears off the ass end of a car, hollows it out like a deranged coroner and puts in a solid floorboard, add a foot or so to the back of it and there you go; car-pickup hybrid. Though while the concept sounds odd in marketing terms, it actually had a very solid market base for most of the sixties. They might’ve been aimed at the reed chewing farmer of the middle of the 20th century(fun fact, the origin of this type of car lies with an Australian farmer who wanted a car that could both handle farmyard work and be used as a car to go to church with on sunday), with ads showing dudes in Levis shoving hay bales or those old milk churns in the back of what would translate to Chevrolet “The Roads” or Ford “Ranchers”, but in reality the farmer of those days had the Chevy C-series or the Ford F-series parked dutifully on base, while the El Camino and Ranchero found more love on the paved roads.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (7)Why? Well in the United States especially at least, it just was timed incredibly poorly. The El Camino and Ranchero were briefly very popular in the mid to late 50s, but then it just kind of collapsed in on itself. They had three massive hurdles to overcome, one was that it was meant to do work all the while looking like a gorgeous car and it had trouble doing so. Two was a simple problem that other cars had to deal with too, take the Camaro – it had to co-exist with a more convenient, more powerful and in some ways more attractive Corvette, the El Camino and Ranchero had to exist alongside the very cars they were based off from 1960 onwards. The third? Well, they were appalling for the exact task they were designed, they were meant to be half pick-up, half car and in most cases it wasn’t even close to being a fifth as useful. Why spend 3800$ of your fresh 1970 dollars on a El Camino if you could get a fully equipped C/K 2500 for the same money that did everything the El Camino could, but better. Well, that’s kind of where these type of cars grew into their own; they gained a following for what they were. A utility built Chevelle with the same insurance quote destroying 454SS in the front? Hell to the yes, man!

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I mean, that right there is glossing over the point so thickly it should win an award for doing so, but in general that’s just about the gist of it. It worked though, the type of car grew into its own being and they lasted in the States for a reasonable while for the kind of fad they were, with like I said the El Camino lasting through 1987, it’s GMC counterpart, the much rarer and less liked GMC Sprint/Caballero and the Ranchero going on ’til 1979. Then there have been smaller editions as mentioned before, the ’82 Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp took the throne as nippy pick-up and eventually even they died off to. At that point, it was just back to old fashioned pick up truck or car, nothing in between in the States and Europe. That being said, through-out its thirty year endeavor, there have been plenty of those weird editions that make you wonder what the hell the idea was.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (10)You got the very much pretty Chevelle based stripes on the El Camino throughout the sixties, the Torino GT stripes on the Ranchero, the twin-stripe SS get-up on the seventies El Caminos, the Scamp GT and Rampage both having just overblown either totally black or super colorful stripe packages, the VW Caddy/Rabbit “Sportstruck”, whatever the hell that might’ve been and so forth on the US side of the story. And that right there was eight paragraphs of me rambling on about a car with a pick up for a booty and how it’s no longer part of our world as we know it and ho-boy does it suck.

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Luckily, there’s Revell, Monogram, MPC and AMT to keep us happy campers with the offerings of the aforementioned pick-up-car-things in kit form to keep some semblance of them in the world. Wait, what’s that? There’s only like nine kits as a whole in 1/25th and 1/24th scale? Well, Goddammit. Okay quick gander through the list; there’s Revell’s 1966 El Camino, Revell-Monogram’s 1978 El Camino, the ’57 Ranchero by them as well. AMT offers the ’59 through ’61 Rancheros and the ’59, ’63, ’64, ’65 and ’68 El Caminos respectively, while MPC dove deeper into the El Camino through the seventies offering the ’78 through ’86 El Camino’s as well as a one time why-the-hell-not run of the GMC Caballero. There have been plenty of cases where evidence got presented that any of the previously mentioned big two/three/four(depending on what decade you’re discussing) kit makers were planning on doing all sorts of these, the mid-seventies Ranchero, the ’73 El Camino, hell the ’70 El Camino was announced in print on multiple occasions and just… never happened.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (15)Fortunately, there’s resin casters: Motor City Resin Casters has both the ’72 Ranchero GT and the ’73 El Camino in their repertoire. Jimmy Flintstone with the ’70 and ’72 El Camino bodies(although they’re entirely unchanged ’68 El Caminos with Chevelle front ends). There’s been plenty of coming-and-goers that offered transkit parts for anything from ’57 through ’86 and it looks like we’re never gonna truly run out of ways to whip up a mid sixties or seventies of either El Camino or Ranchero. On top of that, you got C1 Models’ excellent Golf-to-Caddy conversion kit so there’s some cross-continental love too. And I’m sure I’m leaving out a million more, it’s just to give some examples that while kit makers seem to have just forgotten about the American and even the Australian utility coupe, resin casters do their damnest to fill the gap.

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Right, to cut to the chase after give or take 1200 words of bullshitting on; this particular article should be about the ’78 El Camino. The Royal Knight El Camino to be specific, which has in fact been kitted before in 1978 by Monogram. It’s such a damn hard to find kit nowadays as while there are three entirely unique kits by Revell/Monogram based on the ’78 El Camino, the hardest one to find is by some definitions stock. In ’78 they released the Royal Knight kit(MPC did both the Royal and Black Knight versions but one could argue that quality wise the MPC kit… drifted behind a tad). Then in ’79 they re-tooled the kit – it now packs a massive turbo-charger and a modified hood to accommodate the gargantuan new air-sucking utensil in the engine bay. Oh also, they for some reason decided to add camper parts. Neat-o! But they did remove the stock engine and hood, bummer.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (17)Then for twenty years, not a Goddamn thing. The first and as of writing last re-release of this kit was in 2000 which was this kit I’m talking about right now, the re-release with newly crafted lowrider parts and decals. Back then, apparently Revell was on a roll bringing back long-dead kits and pumping them full, full of life and doing a stellar and sometimes awkward job of it. The ’81 Chevy Citation is a excellent example; it’s a beautiful re-pop of the old kit, with all the re-release editions crammed into one, a gargantuan new decal sheet that allowed options that weren’t even thought of in the eighties. Same goes for the ’92 Thunderbird, ’96 Impala SS and so on. The El Camino is yet another odd-ball lowrider kit that has all the “optional” parts packed in along with the stock ones and it makes for a much better complete package that despite the weird lowrider addition is quite a nice thing of them to do. Given that these days you’d be lucky to get a kit with extras, having one that is essentially a “greatest hits” of sorts is absolutely nice.

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The kit itself on the other hand has aged quite poorly, despite Monogram being way ahead of the competitors on most areas like the sheer detail on the body, grille and all around crispness of the whole kit, it still has those old Monogram quirks. The engine bay is kind of a slab with droopy details(which essentially means, anything that’s a reservoir or a battery “bleeds” into the arches and goes all the way down), the interior is kind of plain with the inner doors having no detail at all and the seats are hilariously oversized. Though one can just grab the seats and dash from a 1/24th scale Monogram Monte Carlo and make due with those as they should fit just fine. Another thing is while Monogram definitely bucked that garbage ass trend of the ’70s with molded in chrome headlights, but they just swapped it around making the rear lights on the rear bumper chrome and not really recessing them enough. And on top of everything else, there’s some severe panel gaps; the bumpers suffer the most of this as you can clearly look into the model from the front and the back.

1978ElCaminoRoyalKnight (13)So it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but it’s also miles ahead of the curve for this particular era of El Camino kits. The MPC kits weren’t terrible, by now means – they were just incredibly basic. While it has more interior detail, it lacks severely on the body and engine bay, and while the all around model has more variety with the tool(like the ’82 quad-light grille and the Choo-Choo Customs Monte Carlo SS nosed edition), it still very much on the outside comes across like a toy car with tiny wheels and a sunken stance. That being said, I personally would’ve preferred a middle-ground where Monogram did the body and chassis and MPC handled everything else, we’d have one excellent kit to work with – but alas, the best El Camino offering we have and likely will have for the foreseeable future will likely be a shared number one spot with this kit and the MPC/AMT ’86 El Camino SS.

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That being said though, I did try to make the most out of this kit as it’s still a very, very nice one to work with. Goes together like a charm, like all those Monogram kits of the eighties it’s simple, yet nicely complex in some areas and it all just… works. I re-designed the entire El Camino Royal Knight decal sheet for this endeavor, though looking back at it I totally screwed up on the body stripes as it’s meant to follow the curve over the door, onto the bed, but y’know how I am, a failure is just half a success, keep working with it. While I’m absolutely in love with how it came out to be, I should’ve gone for a darker paint. I wanted this delightfully suave end seventies Bordeaux red that would look bright, lip-stick red in the sunlight and subdued as hell in the shadows. Unfortunately it’s now semi-bright in the shadows and bright as balls in the sunlight, making the decals hard to spot in any reasonably lit environment. On top of that, the tires are pre-lettered with Goodyear Polysteel Radial, which is nice if you haven’t got decals, but I did and had to use the rougher, undetailed inside of the tire to accommodate the decals.

Ohhh well… Also, first non-mostly decal related post in 3 months, hooray!

’78 Chevrolet El Camino Royal Knight specifications:
Kit: #85-2979
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 101
Molded in: White

Scale: 1/24

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor – Revell

2017_F150Raptor (1)So this will be a short one, I reckon – SnapTite kits are a blast. That’s roughly the gist of it! Revell has done a lot of these types of little kits and generally they’ve been rather decent, especially if folks put in a lot of extra work on some of the lesser regions like the headlights/taillights, the interior, so forth. To name a few examples of Revell SnapTite kits that are beautifully done and are actually really, really solid kits even while they pack… only a handful of parts or so at best – the ’77 Monte Carlo, the ’70 Chevelle and what matters to this kit in general; the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor kit. It’s essentially the forerunner to this one, it was really neatly detailed, contained nice, clear parts, was actually kind of fun to put together and all in all made for one neatly detailed model by the end of it.

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It’s been a few years since I built it though and lost the model along the way, but not before utterly annihilating it via crushing it under a big ol’ box. But it was honestly a great little kit, it reminds me of a full kit just without the glue. This kit on the other hand, is… not super great. I mean, it’s good but it’s literally half as good as the 2010 F-150 kit, and why? Well it’s simple, actually. The first big sinner is that everything is extremely simplified, the headlights already have a silver backing to it, the tail lights are no longer clear plastic, the whole interior is already assembled and so forth. I mean, it’s obviously a kit for the younger modeler or someone who doesn’t feel like turning their house into a glue sniffing den, but so were the other SnapTite kits.

2017_F150Raptor (13)But then again, we got a goddamn pickup truck kit in 2017. We got one. That’s basically all that matters. Back in the nineties, pick-up truck kits were everywhere, the Ford F-150s and Rangers, the Chevrolet S-10 and C-1500s, GMC Sierras, Syclones and Jimmys and so forth. They were everywhere and AMT as well as Revell were on their game back then, and prior to that MPC and AMT did just about every Ford, Dodge, GMC and Chevy truck for every year. Since the early 2000s, we’ve slowed down to a crawl and across the 2010s we’ve gotten literally around three modern ones, all in all. The wonderful 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, the MENG ’09 F-350 Super Duty and well, this one. And it’s weird that we’ve gotten so few of them, given the pick-up popularity in the real world has gotten quite insane as of late.

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I’m fairly sure I’m not alone in this one, there’s obvious interest from the consumer to buy those kits up something fierce, as per the MENG kit, there’s some serious desire and love to see a new Dodge Ram kit or a regular F-150 kit, or maybe a Chevy Silverado at last after all this time again. The old kits of the nineties were also supremely detailed, the Chevrolet S-10 kit was absolutely delightful and the GMC Sonoma was just as detailed, full engine, detailed interior, tons of extra parts, nice decals, so forth. The only full detail kit of a 2009-2019 truck is the ’09 F-350 for as far as I know. But here I am lamenting a bunch of paragraphs on how I wish there were more, but more on the kit, here we go.

2017_F150Raptor (15)In contrast to the unfortunately not clear-cast rear lights and not-silver backed headlights, the pre-painted body is absolutely wonderful. It’s reminding me of those AMT ProShop kits where it’s stamped on the body, which shows a slight of a faded edge but it still makes for a very clean painted body. The rest is all single color cast plastic, all in a matte black besides the wheels, which are semi-gloss. The tires are also another giant, giant plus to this kit, nice and thick proper off-road tires that sit on the axles flawlessly. The only thing this kit could’ve used, y’know, other than some more loose parts to make the painting process easier, is decals. The “RAPTOR” decal is stamped onto the side of the body, for the rest there’s no decals at all – no little metal transfers for the mirrors, no dashboard, nothing. Again, it’s made for younger modelers and for those seeking a neat low effort kit.

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So I made a little decal sheet for the kit to at least try and improve the model a bit, at the very least give it some reasonable looking head and tail-lights as those bugged me to no end, it’s still not as close to the real deal as I’d like it to be but it’s as close as I can get. Also, some incredibly basic red metallic paint to cover the body up. I liked the red but it looked somewhat dull, plus the interior color bleeds through the red plastic quite badly so I figured at least this way it’s somewhat less blotchy looking. My taping-off skills are nice and shit as per usual, but still – it looks alright! Now I’ve had this one sitting around for a while I’ve had the desire to purchase one of those 2010 F-150s again and see how it holds up against this bad boy. It’s just a very nice little rut-breaker of a kit, if you can get one on the cheap.

 

’17 Ford F-150 Raptor specifications:
Kit: #85-1985
Skill Level: 1
Parts: 18
Molded in: Red
Scale: 1/25

Blog Update #007 – Decals, Decals and 3D Printing

Lets kick off by stating the obvious, this is an article about the wonderful side venture I got going – making decals for model kits and having them printed by a company nowhere near where I am located. Oh yes, if I’m gonna do it wrong, lets at least do it on a international level. But on a serious note, this simply wouldn’t have been possible without the lovely folks at Rothko & Frost. But as I’ve said before, the way I handle this with the limited resources I have, I’m utterly reliant on them printing my files for me.

Regardless, consider this one a bit of a look at how the whole ordeal is currently going. For starters, I’m currently at give or take 370 planned unique creations, of which around the 200 are currently either finished or in a state of being as good as done. On top of that, give or take 30 are custom works for folks, be it a set of Pro-Stock decals for a ’81 Dodge Omni, a refurbished sheet for old monster trucks, helicopters and Jeeps or simply just air cleaner decals for a AMC AMX. And this is a 10 month adventure so far, I started at the ass-end of November to send files over to the UK and seeing what they looked like on print and… well, at that point I realized, I don’t have to chalk off 1200 bucks for a fuckin’ ALPS printer from nowhere USA that has no guarantee of working, not to mention 200 bucks worth of shipping and imports charges crippling my already feeble income, I can do this at my own pace and earn a little bit of pocket change right from the start instead of paying off a damn printer myself.

So in under a year I’ve made a fair amount of sheets and I’ve grown nowadays to doing maybe one sheet a day, sometimes every two days, just to keep the creative flow going and to keep the growth somewhat constant. It’s 90% pure joyous fun on my part and 10% commissions from people which I do enjoy making, they just come at a slower pace as I’ve forced myself to shape up a sort of “list”, as I call it. Effectively, once I reached the point of having give or take a hundred ideas just bouncing around, I thought I’d write ’em down sequentially and just… go by that. Not exactly the most sexy way of going about it, but it’s just this one guy with a full time job that does this on the side, so it… it kinda keeps all the shit in order, somewhat.

But there may be a change on the horizon, or rather a expansion of sorts. While I’m not gonna change my methods of doing the decals, as long as I don’t have my own printers, this is gonna be the way I operate until either the money runs out on my part, or the company ceases to print for me. The expansion I’m currently working towards is 3D modelling, it seemed like the logical way to go – especially now Revell’s parent company is in the shitter, it just escalated the idea for me that it may be time to start offering some handy-dandy 3D crafted pieces to improve or change up already existing models. No, no, not resin business, God no. That’s a start-up so messy and gargantuan for one guy, especially with stupidly high demands like mine, that would never work unfortunately, so no proper bodies and whatnot, just pieces.

So how far off am I from going into the 3D printed parts market? Well, literally in it as of today. What happened is, well I got my own 3D printer as a birthday gift of all things. I mentioned it once fleetingly and here we are! The thing is getting 3D CAD nailed down again, similar to how I’ve got Photoshop and Illustrator bolted down firmly. So I ain’t gonna start by making anything stupendously difficult, infact the most basic I can think of shape wise and short term on my resin list is the front bumper and side flares for the ’78 Mustang King Cobra and the ’70 Pontiac GTO Judge rear wing. Like I said, I pretty much only want to do quality of life pieces and parts to replace others with, like a ram air Pontiac Firebird Formula hood or an air cleaner for a Dodge 383 V8 block. so forth. Maybe down the line I’ll go deeper, but who knows – for now this is what it’s gonna be.

Hell, maybe I gotta partner with people to make copies of whatever I end up printing, if it’s any good of course. Anyhow, yes – expansion and all that snazz. Keep an eye out for the ever growing list of decals, that ain’t going anywhere.

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

1971 Plymouth ‘Cuda 440 Convertible – Revell

1971CudaConvert (18)Third time’s the charm, right? I’ve done the ’71 ‘Cuda kit by Revell/Monogram twice so far, one as but a wee lad and the second time as a little test between mixing enamel paints and using photo etch parts, in either case royally screwing it up. Like, thoroughly. So when I got my hands on a cheap brand new Nash Bridges ‘Cuda kit by Revell, I figured let’s A) do this right for a change, you utter fool and B) no really, do this kit justice for a friggin’ change. I needed a little, tiny break from working on decals at a lovely rate of one entire sheet per day, so I picked up on doing the ’76 Mustang II turning it into a Cobra II and this ’71 ‘Cuda convertible – using it as a little distraction and as well to prove that this website hasn’t just died for that one page named “Decals“. Also, I wanted to give the ’71 ‘Cuda decals I made a whirl, see how they turned out.

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But first things first, most car enthusiasts will know about either the weird little gem of a TV show called “Nash Bridges” or at the very least his supposed all-yellow 1971 HEMI ‘Cuda convertible. Which, given how ungodly rare the ’71 Cuda as a convertible is by itself, rarely was an actual ’71 Cuda convertible, nor a HEMI – but that’s TV for ya’, they can’t just buy a 1971 ‘Cuda with a HEMI and be a convertible, hell one of those sold for 3.5 million dollar in 2014(given only 11 HEMI Cuda convertibles were ever built in 1971). I mean, Christ, a 440 equipped 6 barrel ‘Cuda convertible is still valued between 300,000$ and 450,000$. So they substituted the all ‘Curious Yellow’ 1971 ‘Cuda with several 1970s that were front and tail-swapped to look like a ’71 and they added the fender grilles afterwards as well. There was only one 1971 ‘Cuda on the show, the other three were from 1970 and not one had a HEMI block in there. But hey, that’s TV for ya’ – they still all caught over 150K a piece afterwards from Barrett Jackson or eBay so in a way, even the “not real deal” cars that were engine, front and rear swapped were still valuable as sin.

1971CudaConvert (1)And y’know what, despite the fact that Don Johnson and the Nash Bridges show as well are now just a blip on TV history(lets be fair here, despite the sweet-ass car and decent cast, Johnson will forever be Sonny Crockett in every role) – the ’71 Cuda itself remains a star and then some. As I said earlier, the ’71 HEMI convertibles catch literal millions and they increase in value literally every single day, and the still ungodly quick and gorgeous ’71 Cudas with 340s, 383s and 440s convertible or hard top are well over 100K more expensive than the average house price in the United States(189K) – so you could have a ‘Cuda 440, or you could have a whole house and a hundred grand left over. They were and still are American muscle in absolute perfection; it’s ungodly pretty, it’s ungodly fast, it’s ungodly thirsty and it’s ungodly unwieldy. It nailed every point of being a peak muscle car era vehicle, besides the at the time sale price – one of the reasons why the ‘Cuda was always a more rare sight out there regardless of the shape it came in was because at the time is was one of the most expensive of the bunch. It’s sister car of the same year with the same engine was 400$ cheaper(the ‘Cuda HEMI was 3433$ + 1228$ HEMI upgrade, the Challenger R/T was 3273$ + 892$ for the HEMI), the 1969 Camaro Z/28 grand totaled a person 3185$(2726$ + 458$ for the Z/28 package) and for reference, a 1970 Mustang Boss 302 ran a person 3720$(all the previous prices were 1969-1971 dollar value) – so in reality, the ‘Cuda was of course the premium quality car but it also cost a person a premium to get a hold of.

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But I mean, if I were alive in 1971, if I had what now is the equivalent of 30,000$ in 1971 money, and I wanted a car that was fun, luxurious and borderline undrivable(as just about any muscle car was), I’d get a ‘Cuda, cause as I said, it was just about peak muscle car, it was aggressively styled, it was stupidly difficult to keep straight on the road and it was staggeringly quick in every respect. So, y’know, that was three paragraphs to basically summarize “the car is good fun“, hooray! Though in the model kit world, the ‘Cudas never really had a lot of attention headed their way – MPC did annuals of the car from 1968 through 1974, AMT did the Barracudas from 1965 through 1969 and Jo-Han also did 1970 and 1971 and those kits just had a bunch of exactly-as-they-were re-releases in the 1980s and 1990s, with Jo-Han’s last blast in 1992, MPC’s in 1980 and AMT Ertl re-released a Snap-Tite 1974 ‘Cuda twice in early 2003 and again in 2010 – but Monogram and Revell remain reigning kings on this, in 1982 Monogram released the 1971 ‘Cuda kit and arguably, to date, it remains to be the best ‘Cuda kit out there for that year.

1971CudaConvert (7)To be fair, it has been re-released nine times since… 1982 it came out, in 1985 it was put out again as a street machine(pretty much the same but with the twin snorkel intake hood), then again in 1991 and another time in 1998 both as the stock versions again, then in 2000 it saw the return of the street machine, then in 2002 it got re-released again, in 2003 they changed the tool up again for the first time in 18 years by releasing this particular Nash Bridges edition, which saw another re-release in 2007, then another one in 2009 and one last one in 2012. But still, it’s the best 1971 kit out there, even with its flaws. Granted, Revell’s 2013’s new tool of the 1970 ‘Cuda is now the best ‘Cuda kit in general, but for ’71 – ain’t no better than the Monogram release from thirty six Goddamn years ago.

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Though like I said in the beginning, I’ve royally dicked this kit up twice before in the past and I wanted to do it proper for a change, just once. So I used the can of Plum Crazy Purple metallic I had left over from doing the ’74 Gremlin some time ago, which I knew wasn’t the right Plum Crazy, given its from the new generation Challenger, but still looks absolutely lovely on the ‘Cuda. Then I tore the 440 V8 block from a ’70 GTX kit which I knew would fit given Monogram’s simplistic, yet absolutely excellent chassis and engine blocks, though I couldn’t get the carbs to match the location of the Shaker so I just… glued the Shaker to the underside of the hood, which works well enough aesthetically. I also took the five spoke wheels from the same kit, as per usual, the wheels fit the tires perfectly and the adapters were 100% identical.

1971CudaConvert (17)For the rest, I used pretty plain slightly off-white satin and matte enamel paints for the interior which is the true star of this kit, for a somewhat one-off release, they really did an excellent job with the interior. The detailing, the thickness and the look of it all is absolutely spot on and I will say, no convertible kit had the door panels meet the interior door panels so supremely on the dot as it does here. The kit does pack a lot more decals than any of the other releases, like side marker lights, full dash and arm rest decals, so forth, which weren’t included on any of the other ’71 Cuda releases. Hell, one of the Nash Bridges Cuda releases has Goodyear GT Radial white letter tire decals as a bonus too, go figure, a utter rarity to find in kit decal sheets due to licensing. I didn’t need any though given I used my own created decals but it’s actually really, really nice to see the extra effort put into basically a little distraction kit that was apparently only gonna get released twice.

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All I would’ve asked for in this kit would’ve been a option to put the top up, that would be it, really. For the rest, goodness is this still a solid kit after all these years. Despite the simplified nature, which is par for the course with older Monogram kits like pretty blocky engine bay detail and the one issue where getting the chassis to fit deep into the body shell enough for you to slot the rear valance on there with the exhausts sticking correctly out of the ports… those were an annoying twenty minutes. The exhausts are molded onto the chassis, which is fine and all, but the real valance has the exhausts sticking out there and you have to place that absolutely perfectly so you can force the chassis/exhausts through – which either means, it won’t go deep enough and tear the rear off, or it does fit perfectly and you’re done. No middle ground. Despite that… boy, great kit, what a great kit.

’71 Plymouth ‘Cuda 440 Convertible specifications:
Kit: #85-2381
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 72
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/24

1996 Chevrolet Impala SS Grand Sport – Revell

20180509_201358.jpgLemme start this one off right away by saying, yes you’re right – it isn’t a ’96. But Goddammit I want it to be. Besides its easier to sort in the total list where a ’94 Impala SS already sits, albeit something I now have the opportunity to overwrite and imagine I never built it, cause I… well, I didn’t do a very good job on it. The Revell kit has been re-released many times since the mid nineties(1996 to be exact), its roots originated as a SnapTite, though really it was one of those Basic Builder-ish scenarios where it was more complicated than a SnapTite just didn’t require glue. The whole thing is still very, very much that – just without the clicks and snaps of a SnapTite.

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The Impala SS is one of those cars that kind of always stuck with me, it has such a history to it as well that kind of is staggering. This car, this Impala SS right there, the end-of-the-sporty-line SS model(until the 2006 SS revival), was once the successor to the friggin’ Bel Air. From 1958, the Bel Air had a everything-included-please-but-different version, a “halo” car(basically terminology for ‘top line model that is meant to live on the popularity of what its based on’); the Impala. Something that stayed with the Impala as a whole was that the car itself generally had a direct twin but with subtle improvements and differences on just about every angle of the car. The Bel Air and Impalas had this from the sixties and the Caprice(which was initially a Impala option, called the Impala Caprice) and the Impala from 1977 on out. Though should be said, that’s a hell of a simplification in the grand scheme of things. The history of the Bel Air, Biscayne, Impala and Caprice is… complicated to say the least. Suffice to say, in the mid-seventies, the Impala and the Caprice both got slashed by a third and downsized to meet whatever the hell the eighties were gonna be for General Motors.

1996ImpalaSSGS (5)Is that a super gross simplification of how the Bel Air, Biscayne, Impala and Caprice came to separate into their own line of models through the seventies? Why yes, yes it is. And I am aware that grueling, horrible, maybe even inaccurate look at how they came to be but believe me when I say this… Chevrolet’s 1955 through 1969 model encyclopedia is nothing short of a M.C. Escher-esque maze to figure out accurately. What did happen is that in the mid seventies it became its own separate entity as a model, and even then you’d need a literal chart to play “spot the difference” on a Caprice Classic versus the Impala, it would have subtle but sometimes yet obvious changes to one-another like for instance, one having the indicators under the headlights and the other in the bumper, or a mesh grille opposed to a horizontal bar grille, interior would be bare plastic in one and splattered with wood grain in the other… The gist here is that in the end, the Caprice and the Impala were basically twins, the ones that are nearly identical but you learn to spot the clues to tell ’em apart.

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By the late eighties, the squarebox was about to get ushered into the era of automotive boredom, the Opel Vectra-fication of the business; cars were going to become bubbly, enthusiastically colored and have wheel styling that can only be described as “functional”. Generally, you can describe every era with one word. Seventies? Colorful, massive, growth. Eighties? Square, tempered, underwhelming. The nineties can be described as ‘sleek’, ‘gray’ and ’rounded’. Though this doesn’t mean they were ugly, by no means, just… neutral. Every car just looked like they were designed by someone who said “enough square shit already” and sanded every edge round. And the Caprice was among those who got a rigorous dose of rounding-off; in 1991 the newly updated Caprice was brought to life. And boy did it do… something.

1996ImpalaSSGS (13)You see, much like the Ford Crown Victoria/LTD, the Caprice too was basically “America’s Car”. What I mean with that is, name a picture, name a movie, name a scenic shot of a city and you’re likely to spot a series of Crown Vic or Caprice taxi cabs, police cars, fire department marshall’s, so on. Essentially, they were continuing the legacy of, well, the States’ cop car and cab. And when it got displayed to the populace, they fucking well laughed it off the stage. The new styling got a fairly harsh coat of insults plastered on it, like “beached whale”, “upside down bathtub”, “Orca-body” and “obesity on tires”. The Caprice 9C1 police package did do rather well, as we all know, it became literally the most popular police cruiser out there along with the Ford Crown Vic so, it did succeed, sorta. But on the regular average Joe front, changes needed to be made and they tried to do so at least. They ditched the skirted rear wheel wells(though kept ’em on the station wagons), which helped alleviate the fat look of the thing, introduced some Camaro parts to the interior and ended up also offering a de-tuned LT1 V8 from a Corvette.

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And basically there you already had the ingredients for the subject at hand here, the Impala SS. Announced as a concept in 1992, it was in essence; a giant, unchained sleeper. The concept had a friggin’ 8.2L V8(500ci) and had a more aggressive styling touch over the Caprice like nearly de-chromed bare(aside from the window trim and emblems), large deep offset 5 spoke wheels, raised Impala SS script on the rear fender, darkened grille, so forth. It was very much a Caprice 9C1 police car underneath in terms of what was standard equipment, like the reinforced shocks and springs, disc brakes, twin exhausts, higher output electronics, so on – the only thing GM did swap in the end was the 8.2L V8, which was replaced by a LT1 Corvette V8, which did do a decent 260 horsepower but still, y’know, meager. All in all, it was a sporty bathtub that looked menacing as hell. It was a reasonably sporty one-off, bit like the Mercury Marauder which was essentially a sexier Ford Crown Vic.

1996ImpalaSSGS (4)Anywhoooo, the model. Yeah, right! So I did build one of the Revell Impala SS’s last year and came out slightly disappointing, just a bit. Released in 1996(and re-released like four times since), it was made a slightly more difficult glue-required kit with the origins dating back to a SnapTite kit that came out in the same year and holy crap you could tell it was once a SnapTite, the engine block is three parts, the whole interior snaps together pretty much with the clicky-snappy bits still there. The headlights and the tail lights still have painfully obvious pins you force into the slots and in turn make the headlights and tail lights look stupidly toy-like, but y’know, its a thing. Atleast they don’t flop out the bezel every odd second the model gets touched, so there’s that! It also looks quite gargantuan, like it is bigger than a 1/24th scale GMC pick-up in width so I wouldn’t be surprised if the scaling wasn’t 1/25th but 1/24th, but that’s just a small observation. The rest of the kit was actually kind of nice, the body crisp, the detail quite nice and so on. Oddly enough, there’s a pattern with the wheels going on – the 2002 re-release had the Impala SS on the box with these giant American Racing style rims, but didn’t actually have those. Now I got a 2008 re-release which was hilariously stupid with a lowrider version(something that Revell made a thing back then, including a fucking ’81 Citation as a lowrider) which did come with the Impala SS with the proper wheels on the side of the box but only came with those AR wheels in the kit itself!

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Odd shit, really odd shit. But regardless, I preferred it with the plan I had in mind. I love, absolutely love the Corvette Grand Sport from 1996. I don’t know why but the theme always resonated with me and I thought of making a ’96 Camaro Z/28 Grand Sport, but before I even came across one of those kits, I found a Impala SS kit on the cheap. And I always wanted to do the Impala SS kit a bit more proper, which I did botch a fair bit the last time around… The engine didn’t fit, the hood didn’t shut, I idiotically attempted to do the trim which I jacked up to no end, the wheels hardly fit(and I ended up re-using on the ’91 Syclone Marlboro Edition), it was a shambles really. So! Time for round two, I thought. First order was getting the Admiral Blue, which I quickly did. Secondly was to get a better LT1 engine; which I promptly stole from a 1995 Corvette kit. Surprisingly, the engine fit quite well in the end – all I did was snap off a tiny part on the engine brace and the struts on the driveshaft.

1996ImpalaSSGS (14)Which… I dunno, this kit feels like a 1/24th scale one, I can’t help but feeling it is. But ah well, anyway – I created a decal sheet specifically for the Impala to make it look a little more like a Grand Sport, including a Impala SS branded hood stripe and the iconic fender stripes. For the rest it was a set of custom badges, license plates, so forth. I’m not gonna lie, I’m really surprised by how they ended up looking. I really, really am for once proud of my friggin’ work! The SnapTite features that are still part of the kit really do take away from the whole thing though, like the very visible placement hole for the radiator, the overtly obvious twin prongs in the headlights as I mentioned before, so on.

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So based on how this one ended up looking with the Grand Sport fantasy theme, I’m definitely gonna make one based on the Camaro as well. Hell to the yes.

’96 Chevrolet Impala SS Grand Sport specifications:
Kit: #85-2175
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 66
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

 

1977 Ford Mustang II Mach 1 – AMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1975 Chevrolet Camaro RS – MPC

1975CamaroRS (1)So, last year I built the ’76 Chevrolet Camaro that was done by AMT back in the seventies. Specifically, it was somekind of one off version done by American Hatch Corporation in 1976 for the 1976 and 1977 model years called the Camaro AHC-100, where they did some… well, there’s no kind way of saying it; half-assed rip off of the more popular and more desirable Pontiac Firebird, the Trans-Am even. It was a truly weird set of choices made by AHC, the odd egg-shell off white paint job, the weird(albeit totally 70s) color choices for the bird on the hood(that they so eloquently called “the Black Bird”), the stripes that didnt follow the curves of the Camaro, the ugly font for the AHC-100 call-outs, it was just a strange, strange thing. Though it was the earliest example of a semi-licensed Camaro with T-tops, so there’s that!

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And I now truly regret not having made it the AHC-100, instead I half-assed this 1976 Camaro together with a Z/28 inspired thing going on from 1974… So I effectively doubled down on the weirdness factor. Though, that being said, now that I have the 1975 Camaro done by MPC, I can conclude quite easily that the MPC version is not only twice as good as the AMT version, it’s actually the most accurate mid-seventies Camaro kit out there. I always felt that something was off about the nose of the AMT version and having the MPC one in my hands, I could easily spot it now – the headlights aren’t just misshapen on the AMT kit, they’re nowhere near as deep as they should be.

1975CamaroRS (8)I bought the kit for two reasons, one is that I desperately wanted an accurate Camaro kit to design the decal sheets off, two was that I desperately wanted a damn good Camaro kit. And well over a year later, on eBay I accidentally stumble over a second hand Camaro kit from 1975, the box all ripped and quite frankly, rotten beyond belief. But whoever had this thing sitting around since 1976, did me a big solid. He unpacked it, clearly but he then put the parts(that were all just in one giant soggy bag) in separate baggies and… just left it be. I am 100% certain that the baggies that he put them in were at least 30 years old as even under cardboard they’d turned a nice shade of smokers’ beige. But this prevented the typical 1970s kits woes; the rubber wheels melting into the plastic parts and the clear plastics turning into a misty milky white.1975camarors-9.jpg

However, the decals had gone totally off. But who gives a shit, they’re MPC graphics from the 1970s, they at best had some Hooker Headers and Hurst logos and a few NASCAR inspired door numbers. Shrug! Gotta do a little D.I.Y. with these kits of AMT and MPC from back then, Keith Marks had already made the 1974-1977 sets and I did my own takes on them as well but there were no available decals to turn it into a bit of a call back to the stripes of the first generation, not to mention a hint of Bumble Bee in there. So I figured, fuck it, I’ll do it then. Added all the side-emblems for the ’74 through ’78 years and wham, there we go. Really makes it stand out, though were these damn kits a bit more common I’d have bought another one to turn it into a proper 1975 Rally Sport version. But I’d thought that with the stripes, the emblems, some Firestone Firehawk white letter tire decals and some badges I’d make it look a hell of a lot better than it would’ve been otherwise.

1975CamaroRS (15)Speaking of which, “Rally Sport”, the arguably most sporty Camaro of ’75 truly didn’t deserve the name “sport” in there, did it. I mean, Jesus wept that thing had absolutely the worst and lowest power output of all the Camaros, ever. The 350ci V8 produced 155HP. There are bog standard VW Jettas with that amount of horsepower. Though, yeah, in Chevrolet’s defense, they were trying times. They were the days of unregulated growth and interchangeability. Your ’68 Camaro is starting to show its ripe age of seven years, rusting to the bolts, engine popping about like someone’s firing machine guns in there and interior trim disintegrating upon touching? Well, you’re done paying for the thing so why not get yourself a new one. That was basically how cars worked back then, they were somewhat meant to be replaceable. Bit like the iPhones and Galaxy series phones of today, we are more than willing to lay down the same amount every so often to get the newer version, so it’s not such a unusual practice.

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But this cemented the ideology that cars weren’t meant to last and they certainly weren’t meant to get smaller and they had no real outside competition to show them other methods. And then the oil crisis came about in 1973, and much like today, the leaders of big corporations just didn’t understand change, even if their lives depended on it – and they fell the fuck down on their knees, tripping over the corpses of abandoned big block V8s that they just couldn’t ferry off to Europe fast enough for a buck or two, cause the U.S. population sure as hell didn’t want them anymore. They had to adapt, and they tried so damn hard. Well, they tried in ways they were familiar with; lets not necessarily change the root of the problem, lets just… adjust it. The American people still wanted American cars and what they represented, just without the hassle of blowing up animals with fumes as they passed, the hassle of not being able to fill up on tuesdays and standing in queues to fill up whenever it wasn’t tuesday.

1975CamaroRS (11)So while Lee Iacocca was fighting off Ford techs and designers to get the Mustang to be downsized to a Maverick(though it became a Pinto platform in the end), GM decided that it was about time to give the Camaro a revitalization with the upcoming changes in the… well, everything climate. Political, economical, world, food, you name it, it was a year of everything must go. The 1970 Camaro Z/28 with a for the 1970s quite ordinary 350ci V8 that did 250HP still did 0 to 60 in 7 seconds, had a fuel mileage of 12.6mpg(5.4km/l), which was uh… not good. Not 426 HEMI bad or 396ci V8 bad, but not great. The 1975 Camaro, fresh from the learning-a-lesson-fucking-hard school of corporate failures, had a similar 350ci V8 in the Rally Sport and it did, after all modifications for emissions and fuel saving was slapped on – 145HP. That’s damn near half. But fine, if it ended up saving fuel and was a hell of a lot less bad for the world, then good! Right? Well… While it did take 11.5 seconds to get to… 60MPH, it had a fuel efficiency 14mpg(5.9km/l). Well fuck it. Now I run up against the wall of idiocy with the excuse of “it’s a 350ci V8 man, for fuel economy you needed the 250ci V6!”. And guess what, even that excuse didn’t go well.. The 250ci V6 did an average 17.9mph(7.6km/l) – which is better! True! For 1975, that wasn’t awful! A semi-equivalent 1975 Ford Capri RS 2.3 V6 from the grand ol’ United Kingdom… did 32-35mpg(13.6-14.8km/l).

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Oh well then. Fuck it, it’s called the Malaise Era for a reason. A era of falling down and getting up, falling down while getting up and just appreciating the cooling and stress reducing cold floor in the end. Cause despite the failures of… well, most the big three of Detroit in the day, the mid-seventies Camaro is definitely one of my favorite muscle cars out there. It’s the definition of a somewhat subdued muscle car, reminiscent of the 1969 Camaro Z/28, just aggressive looks and some pep and it could all be doubled down on with the stripe kits and badges but deep down it still looked… somewhat subdued. Albeit, y’know, a Camaro, still.

1975CamaroRS (18)And MPC gave it a fair run for its money, the supposed “full detail” kits, which was early seventies marketing speak for “it’s not a dealer promo” were quite accurate. Even though the engine bay was very typical like all the MPC kits, even of today, barren and sad, the rest of the model like the body and the interior were quite good. Two of the definite improvements over the AMT Camaro kit is the fact that the grille and the bumper are just two separate pieces that are meant to slot into the body, so you don’t ever get that ugly ass drooping nose that AMT’s Camaro kits do get. Two is, the wider wheels that look a thousand times better than any of AMT’s offerings from back then. I was quite surprised by the crispness of the whole ordeal, clear Camaro emblems on the fenders, the tail lights quite clearly showed where the reverse lights would be with subtle patterns, the dashboard is well detailed and nicely raised, it just goes on and on. Stole some wing mirrors from the AMT Ertl ’70 Baldwin Motion kit to complete the look a little more cause they sure as hell didn’t come with the kit, or any kit from that era. The anemic as all hell 350ci V8 is nicely detailed too but it just looks… sad in the barren, empty engine bay. I did use a 5.7L Z/28 air cleaner decal on it to test it out and see if it would fit and, it did! Though of course the ’75 Camaro’s no Z/28, just wanted to test it out.

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Maybe if we’re truly, truly lucky, someone someday will put the mid-seventies Camaro to a full detail release. Given that at this point it’s literally the only generation(minus the late eighties) Camaro to haven’t gotten that treatment from the boys at AMT Ertl or Revell. Who knows, maybe I’ll be forced to lay down hundred dollar plus every time for the rest of my life. Either way… worth it.

’75 Chevrolet Camaro Rally Sport specifications:
Kit: MPC7519
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 95
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25