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

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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

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

1983 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta – Revell

20180302_103043Have you ever had the thing happen to you when you more or less blindly order something from say, Amazon, or some place and when the delivery guy gets to your door and they hold a box more aptly designed to transport a damn fridge and you quickly come to the realization that you may have made a mistake? Time wasn’t kind to this kit, or perhaps the owner but when the delivery guy came to the door, dude looked at me with despair in his eyes when he tilted it slightly and heard the noise that just sounded like someone packaged a broken vase. Well fortunately I already knew what I ordered had some pieces loose in the box but… that was odd, it sounded like it went from one far side of the three foot box to the other. There’s no way in hell there’s a little six and a half inch model in there. And lo and behold, a twenty five inch box comes out of the bigger one like some Russian nesting doll – Jesus, that is not a 1/25th scale kit, I thought to myself, I got myself a long out of production Camaro Berlinetta kit for 23 dollar and it’s also a friggin’ 1/16th scale one.

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So here I am, overjoyed and worried. I ain’t got shelf space for a 12 inch model but I do have a very rare subject that I absolutely wanted for so unbelievably long. I just never knew it was a 1/16th scale model, hell the box of the kit was in the worst state imaginable with corners torn and stuff that had delicately removed the 1/16th scale call-out from existence and honestly, I just always assumed it was a companion kit to the ’82 and ’83 Camaro Z/28 kits from Revell that were introduced along the new generation of the Camaro way back. The story of this kit goes that it was produced in 1985 as the “Custom ’83 Camaro Berlinetta” kit, weirdly enough of a car that just never really got any footing with the new generation, it got killed off in 1986, just a short year after Revell dedicated one kit to it.

83berlinetta (2)The Berlinetta was always meant to be the “upscale”, sporty, nicer and excuse my vomit inducing terminology; European. Berlinetta itself is an Italian term for ‘little saloon’ or ‘small saloon’ and was often found as a badge name for European cars destined to be grand tour coupes like old Ferraris, Alfa Romeos, Maseratis, Opels, MGs, etc. What did General Motors do with the name? They slapped it to a Camaro as a replacement type for the Type LT luxury model, which is appropriate I suppose. But then they generally did fuck-all with the exterior(other than different wheels, a “unique” grille and some extra chrome) and used up the whole budget on the inside. And in a way, that’s fine, right? Some people want a luxurious sport car that wouldn’t cost them an arm or leg, that’s mostly what drives Alfa Romeo these days so why not back then. It was a very popular option on the second generation models from ’78 on and was re-introduced along the new third generation as a upgrade package with unique gold spoked wheels, gold accented stripes and badges plus the whole shebang on the inside; velour interior, digital dashboard from ’84 onwards, all the electrical gadgets you could cream over in… well, 1983 and a restyled nose, cause while I just said, they did fuck-all on the outside, well they broke that trend in 1983 and gave the Camaro an overbite!

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It’s weird looking but sure, it catches the eye. It’s a different enough Camaro to warrant a turning of the head here and there, besides it was all about the inside. You could live like a Goddamn oil sheikh in there, it had all the cool stuff for a ’83 car like a clock on the arm rest, storage space in every nook and cranny, fancy ass radio and sound system, from ’84 it got that space age digital dash that broke after just four months and all that snazz. Not to mention, every damn inch of the car was carpeted and the velour would soak up all your humble scents and regurgitate them at any moment you weren’t sweating just so it could simulate as if you were. Yeah it was delightfully eighties. But it also carried a reputation, it was the gentleman’s muscle car edition – the Type LT and early Berlinettas had been the more sophisticated relic of the muscle car, with refined interiors, more subdued European looks about with with the wire wheels and the flat rear deck and the chrome inlaid tail light segments, so on. It also still could be equipped with a 305 and 350 ci V8 so it wasn’t just good looking in some respects, it still had some power to it.

83berlinetta (11)Though granted, this was the era that sporty American cars were advertised by their “superior ride” due to weighing as much as a fully equipped Mercedes Benz wagon. Weird times they were, and no that’s not my European superiority bleeding through, I’m a snarky shit but we can all agree these days that while being heavy allowed for a floaty ride, the last thing you need on your “sporty” car is 3500 pounds of weight(just for reference, a ’93 Mercedes 220E Estate weighs 3100lbs) but y’know… at least it was pretty. And the model kit does replicate this quite well, granted it’s easier to get the detail out there at 1/16th scale so it’s not like I’m praising it for being out of the ordinary, but you know, it’s still a pretty damn close replica of the real deal – a car so rare now that most Berlinettas that exist have either been parted into a regular Camaro due to replacement parts being so hard to come by you’d just have to go for other versions or have just… died, as so many cars from the eighties.

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Check out that warp-age on the tailgate/window, it’s absolutely sexy isn’t it.

So from the get-go, given its rarity and… size, I wanted to try and do it justice. I love me some all black Chevrolets so I figured I’d roll with the color choice of black on black, instead of the more common silver. All Berlinettas came with gold accented wheels, gold accented tail lights and gold stripes all around the body so I thought doing it in all black would only bring more attention to that lovely gold. The decals in the kit had gone all rancid(as did the tires, but more on that later) due to sitting in the open air since 1986, I was pretty much forced into re-creating the whole decal sheet myself. That being said though, this is in my opinion, a “custom” kit done right. MPC and to an extend even AMT Ertl, from the late sixties through the entire seventies and early eighties did one thing with every kit; make it look absolutely insane. Not the “wow, it’s epic” insane, its the “we the jury find the defendant” insane. I mean, hooray for choice but generally it’s just a waste of effort on the designer’s part as they’re just too insane, granted it was the period and it made perfect sense given the customers wanted the eyesores but they aged… poorly. Whereas the ’83 Camaro they did here, well it may as well have been a factory standard option.

83berlinetta (13)It looks really subdued all things considered, it’s totally a thing I see people get to using thinking it looks better than the actual Berlinetta stripes, which were just some golden accented stripes that were hard to spot even in normal daylight. But figured I’d roll ol’ stock for funsies and getting the whole thing in black. As I said, I had to re-do the whole sheet but I thought I’d expand on some omissions like the dashboard dials, the armrest clock, the nosecone badge, the giant air cleaner decal and the likes. So all in all, some stuff to get the best detail on the body with. The problem with the 33 year old decals is that they were… milky, to say the least. Hell, they required a literal washing to be any sort of usable whatsoever so the two decals I did use(the Camaro license plates) required like twenty minutes of rubbing and touching up like some demented puppy to get all the paper backing, milky substances and all the other old gunk off. That being said though, for a early eighties kit, well middle-eighties, the decal sheet isn’t all too bad, it comes with all the Camaro and Berlinetta badges, no dials and no front Camaro badge but even then, the mold quality is high enough to simply fill in the badge yourself by hand.

83berlinetta (9)Now earlier I said that time did a number on this kit and not on just the decals, like the tires for instance. They had gone all white, fuzzy and looked very much like a rotten apple, which is just the rubberizing agent seeping out the tires which is the downside of old, old rubber, but apparently I mended it by just spray painting it gently with some satin black after scrubbing the more gunky stuff away. What I couldn’t mend was a problem of a slightly more painful nature; the tendency for shit to warp. The chassis had warped like a Goddamn banana, which made getting it into the body stupidly difficult. There’s now also the downside that the engine sits a quarter inch higher than the rest so I can’t close the hood without removing the air cleaner, but it’s all fine. It’s a 33 year old kit, it’s fine, it can be busted up, broken, fucked up, it’s just age doing its thing. That being said though, this kit is… really, really good, especially with age in mind.

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I built one other large scale kit before, which was Revell’s 2010 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang in 1/12th scale and the only thing I truly recall from it was that similarly like this kit, it built and finished up like any other 1/24th scale or 1/25th scale model just with sharper detail and much easier to do so thanks to the larger pieces but this one does have an edge on the Mustang; it comes with opening doors, opening trunk and moving seats. Sadly though, that extra amount of moving parts truly fucked it all up even more cause the trunk doesn’t close, the doors don’t fit any longer and the hood is literally the only moving part that isn’t botched due to the warped body, chassis or parts. It also stands on three wheels due to the warped chassis however the very soft, bouncy tires do allow for some more uh… “realistic” weight on them so it only looks a little bit off with the tires being pushed down some.

83berlinetta (8)It’s just one of those things that I always wanted, and weirdly enough surprised me in the best of ways. I got my rare edition Camaro kit, I got to try a 1/16th scale kit and all of this without the hassle of having to sell a child into slavery or rob a bank to afford it! What a hell of a kit. That being said though, I do seriously still want to find an affordable ’82 or ’83 Camaro kit by Revell, or the ’82 Firebird brother, just to see what the detail level would’ve been at a 1/25th scale. Shame those kits are as rare or even rarer than this one.

’83 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta specifications:
Kit: #85-7491
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 89
Molded in: Off-blue & Black
Scale: 1/16

2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Collector Edition – Revell

2002FirebirdCE (1)For Pontiac, the early 2000s were a time of change and adaptation. Gently guided by the revamp of their lineup and the broadening of their market by General Motors in 2004, which saw legendary names like the Firebird getting axed in 2002(which had less to do with the revamp and more to do with the beyond terrible sales numbers for it and the Camaro brother), the Bonneville getting axed in 2004, the Grand Am in 2005, the GTO came back badge-engineered from an Australian badass that still lives today(as the HSV Commodore); the Holden Monaro and the last decade also saw the introduction of a few new ones like the Solstice, a fun and quite killer looking little two door, the G6 and G8 saloons and the… Aztek, which got replaced by a more sensible albeit a slightly fatter looking Dodge Caliber.

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And then… in 2008, GM finally ended their drunken stagger in financial misfortune by falling face first into their own puke puddle and realized it was time to either sell their puppies off of tell someone to get shotgun from the shed, either for themselves or the pups in question. Hell, Pontiac wasn’t the only one to go in that decade… Oldsmobile got shuttered in 2004 already even though their kill shot occurred in 2000. But anyhow, in mid-2009, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, GMC and Hummer were led in front of the wall and blindfolded as the GM execs debated and fought on which they could keep, sell or shutter, like some demented game of fuck-marry-kill. GMC got saved, likely cause American pick ups just sell like hotcakes regardless of brand. Saab got sold off, again, only this time to one of my country’s finest; Spyker Automobiles, a sale that legit got laughed off the stage here in the Netherlands and dragged Spyker to its knees in debt, shuttering Saab in 2012. Saturn got… well, I kind of liked Saturn’s brief 20-something year existence but that was a shot hardly heard around the world. Hummer too got shot down in flames in 2010 and Pontiac? Well Pontiac got shuttered all together, all operations ceased, the dealerships would sell their stock and get closed or rebranded and the only thing that remains today is the Pontiac trademark that has been updated every ten years, set to expire in July 2027 – and based on the somewhat melancholy attitude around Pontiac’s death, they’re likely to keep renewing the trademark every decade.

2002FirebirdCE_sunny (3)So, y’know, long story, but the last decade of Pontiac’s life was actually kind of depressing and the Firebird being killed off in 2002 didn’t help. But it got a nice little last hurrah if you will, being granted a “Collector Edition”, originally intended as a 35th anniversary which turned more into a final salute. Less than 2000 were offered, with options like a convertible or a T-top and by default the nice WS6 package which comes with the LS1 5.7L V8 that churned out a solid 325 horsepower, embroidered Collector Edition emblems into the seats and a number badge on the center console showing the build number of the car, two metal CE badges on the doors and a series of black, gray and silver stripes running along the rear quarter and across the hood. In kit form however, the ’98 Firebird wasn’t a Trans Am model but a mere Ram Air with the same engine block, mostly cause, I’m just assuming here, they didn’t get the rights for the Trans Am name as they didn’t manage to get them either for the ’77 Firebird. It also has the single exhaust set-up, so there’s that.

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Anyhow, last year I got the ’98 Firebird built and was quite pleasantly surprised. It’s like its real counterpart based mostly on the Camaro, with a fair amount of Camaro parts still being on the sprues, like the LT1 engine parts and the little stamper to get the fog-lights into the bumper, but it does have the benefit of its build quality which is quite awesome! It’s one of those nineties kits that was designed to be versatile and really, really detailed. It started with the ’93 Camaro Pace Car kit, followed up by the ’93 Firebird very shortly after and those eventually became the ’98 and ’02 Camaro and the ’98 Firebird, as the Firebird never got a final salute by Revell. This kit, is the one I suggested folks should get in the ’98 Firebird post, which is infinitely better! Well, I was wrong it turns out, it’s just somewhat better due to the choice of wheels, given the decals are still prone to being milky and will get ugly borders if the box has been opened before.

2002FirebirdCE_sunny (6)But that’s besides the point, the plastic is also of a somewhat increased quality, the T-top decals were once kind of matted glass-textured and now turned into literal black slabs, which in some cases can be seen as a improvement or considered to be a lot cheaper and worse, up to the builder I suppose, but y’know – it’s still a bit better. The only problem I ran into is that given the previous owner of this delightful little kit had opened it and somehow let it get squashed. The body warped outwards which I stupidly over corrected by squeezing it too far back inwards, causing the bumpers to no longer fit and the hood to no longer shut properly. This exaggerated the panel gaps on the bumpers quite a friggin’ bit… But oh well. That’s just how life goes whilst trying to be a cheapskate.

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Initially, I made a decal sheet for the whole thing that includes some interior things I didn’t get around to using like a pair of floor mats cause I tried to flock the interior flooring however the decals for the engine bay I did use to great effect cause Goddamn I am happy with how crisply they came out, especially the text. The tail light masks which in my opinion should’ve been a part of the kit in the first place given how weird it looks without make a hell of a difference too. Other than that, I genuinely wish the kit came with dual exhausts cause… the bumper has the two holes for it, it’s so strange to see the open exhaust port and just have nothing there. I genuinely don’t know if its because of the type of Firebird or if its just something they did to avoid Trans Am related bits and bobs.

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So, in the end, it’s really just another kit I built to try and test fit some decals onto, bit similar to the AMC Gremlin and Pacer of late and I dunno, it’s quite a success! The stripes look fantastic, the text based decals look sharp as hell and the whole thing kind of came out looking quite alright besides the fact that obviously, it was warped a fair amount. Not to mention I do friggin’ love me some special edition GM material, like the whole Camaro anniversary line up and sooner or later all the Firebird ones! Revell has made a 25th Anniversary edition Firebird and I’m in the process of making a version of the 30th – so at least there’s that.

’98 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Collector Edition specifications:
Kit: #85-2159
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 102
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25