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

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2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE – AMT Ertl

2017CamaroSS1LE (1)AMT’s the proud license owner of the latest Camaro molds and tools, as of 2016 they’ve been responsible for getting the newest Camaro models to the market in all shapes and forms, some are full kits, few others are pre-painted snap-tite kits, but in general they’ve all been quite remarkably nice kits with supremely detailed suspension and interior parts. That’s pretty much the gist of it. Last year it was the 2016 SS and a early release of the 2017 SS “FIFTY” along with two snap-tite versions of the ’16 SS, this year it was a 2017 Pace Car version of the FIFTY, a snap-tite version of the SS 1LE and to close the year off; a full kit version of said SS 1LE.

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And they’ve been “listening” to the builders across the world and they actually learned, albeit at a step-by-step speed. Though by the time this kit came around, I’d say they had fixed most of the problems but at the cost of introducing some significantly worse ones. For instance, some quality of life improvers were made like including side marker light decals and making the tail light lens dark gray instead of chrome which made it a ton easier to detail the lights and get the stark contrast of black-to-chrome/white looking right, they included some decals for the interior and so forth.

2017CamaroSS1LE (4)That’s great and all and honestly, it’s a good feeling that manufacturers listen to their customers to some extend, however, boy oh boy this is one cheap-as-shit kit. You see, the wheels are quality additions, they’re accurate, they’re solid, the tires are good rubber but oh man did they take cheap shortcuts on just about everything else. Again, it’s got the same pre-detailed glass and pre-colored tail lights, which is also amazing and I’m happy that they’re a thing but… I cannot stress the point enough that they literally cut corners on everything else. Though to go back to the tail lights, while it’s supremely nice that they’re pre-detailed, they also look somewhat… odd. It’s possible because you can see into the red through the clear, making it look “soft” on the inside, I would argue it would’ve been a thousand times better if the reverse/indicator lights were separate(think Tamiya’s Nissan Skyline R34, with separate lenses for the inner and outer lights).

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But to go back to the point I keep talking past; this is a cheaply manufactured kit. There’s no beating around the bush on that one, there’s no making up for it, it’s just one fricking awful showing on AMT’s part. The plastic comes pre-colored in the injection process, which is fine I suppose, this is the status quo for most of Asian manufacturers and it’s beginning to bleed into US and European kit makers as well, totally okay. What isn’t okay is the sheer crap quality of the plastic. It’s this cheap, flaky, thin-as-fucking-sin plastic that is somewhat flexible but just… It’s so thin, that even with a coat of primer, light shines through the other side. The yellow its colored in is also this weird, dirty yellow instead of the intense yellow featured on the real deal, it’s just… cheap. What doesn’t help matters is, given that most folks will just primer the hell out of it and do the coloring themselves so that’s not a giant problem, but as I said, what doesn’t help matters is the giant, hideous, crisp mold lines that run over the roof, over the rear quarter, over the fender, over the bumpers, it’s just immense how rough the body is.

2017CamaroSS1LE (11)So I kind of went in with a semi-defeated attitude, having come to terms with the trade-offs with the quality, to just build it and have one last kit finished before the turn of the year into 2018. I mean, despite the rough body, cheap-ass quality plastic and shortcomings in total, it’s still mostly the epic new tool from AMT from 2016. Like I said, the suspension build on this kit is nothing short of legendary, it’s well over forty parts for the rear suspension alone(and weirdly enough, just 8 or so for the front) and while most modern cars sadly hide their engines under some synthetic engine cover, AMT Ertl’s tried to maximize the detail under the hood despite it all. The 6.2L LT1 V8(shared with a Corvette these days!) is detailed supremely well and the whole engine bay just… looks good. I mean, for the sake of modeling, nothing beats the raw engine bay of a late sixties/early seventies engine block but, y’know, given how well engines are hidden under plastic these days, they did pretty good on that part.

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The hood on the SS 1LE is completely blacked out, bit like the old Dodges and Plymouths, which they provide a decal for but hoooo-boy, it just doesn’t A) fit, B) look right and C) sit correctly without rippling like crazy. I mean, they tried. But you’re just better off spraying the thing semi-gloss black. For the rest, they got rid of the chrome parts all together when they made the swap to gray headlight lenses so you get these dull medium gray exhaust pipes which were… disappointing looking to say the least. But luckily there’s things like chrome spray paint that make it look pretty damn close to the real deal, so thank goodness for that.

2017CamaroSS1LE (15)For a last 2017 build, it was semi disappointing. I mean, it’s still a perfectly fine kit but given the standards they achieved in 2016 with this kit, it’s odd to see them take the cheap-as-chips plastic route with the weird half-metallic half translucent yellow paint and sprues with so much flash on them that you spend a third of the time chipping bits of plastic of the parts so they frickin’ fit. I mean, Monogram nailed the process in 1983 for Christs sake, it shouldn’t be so hard to get a decent quality plastic for your kits. But ah well, it’s just all that, still a fine kit all in all.

’17 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE specifications:
Kit: AMT1074
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 112
Molded in: Yellow, Black & Gray
Scale: 1/25

1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8 – Tamiya

1993JeepGrandCherokee (1)Back in the early nineties, Tamiya was on a hell of a roll with their variety and among the Volvo 850 estates, Ford Mustangs and Alfa Romeo 155’s & GTV’s, they released a kit based on the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee. Which, deep down, was just a Cherokee(XJ platform) but… rounder. It’s pretty freaking epic as far as model kits go for three semi-rare reasons: 1) It’s a full detail kit, from Tamiya. It has a engine! That rarely happens in Japanese model kits! 2) It’s a full detail kit of a pretty down to earth, simple, ordinary SUV. 3) It’s molded in color, which normally isn’t always the best but here, it’s really good. It’s the one color that would’ve been a nightmare to mix and is even harder to get spray paints of; Hunter green metallic.

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From the looks and sound of it, the model kit was made in part to celebrate the Grand Cherokee model being introduced, or well, “released”, as its concept of the thing was already beginning to form in 1985, hell as early as 1983, by Larry Shinoda(Corvette & Boss Mustang designer guy), Giorgetto Giugiaro(“Car Designer of the Century” man, yeah no big deal) and Alain Clenet being contracted by AMC to each build the follow up for the ’83 Cherokee and the one with the winning design would be awarded massive payouts, a good designer challenge one might say. So, turns out, it wasn’t much of a contest as much as a thanks-for-the-inspiration-and-data-byeeee according to Shinoda as not long before the Chrysler Corp. take-over of AMC(AMC was the owner of the Jeep brand until 1987), they kicked him off the project. And fast-foward to 1989, where the all new Grand Cherokee concept “Concept 1” was presented and well… Shinoda saw what was pretty much his own design, just in the shape of an actual car.

1993JeepGrandCherokee (7)So the origins of the Grand Cherokee, which debuted much like the model kit in 1993, is dubious at best. However, it carried on to be one of the most successful SUVs on the planet and is a nice long lasting stamp on history that AMC did matter. It wasn’t oficially part of the “Big Three” in Detroit, Ford, GM and Chrysler but boy did they get their heels clawed at by AMC for the better part of four decades and the Jeep brand albeit owned by one of the big three today is still a high mark of all that history. While the Cherokee maintained its ultra square, more typical Jeep boxy style until 2001, the Grand Cherokee was more round, more luxurious and more… well, more Jeep. I doubt anyone who’s into cars is unaware of the Cherokee’s existence, so I suppose it getting a model kit isn’t totally out of the ordinary.

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But… it still really kind of is. Tamiya is known for making really great, great model kits and they’re not against making kits of regular cars, whether they’re five decades old or a car ready to be shown at say, the Geneva Motor Show or the North American International Auto Show but why the Jeep? It’s still visually so close to its predecessor and while that doesn’t necessarily warrant no model kit take on it, why make this one with a engine and all that? Whatever reason may have been behind it, it doesn’t even matter – the quality is so supremely high, which is default Tamiya level, we’ll never know if the kit was desired by Chrysler as a companion piece or if Tamiya just likes Jeeps. Hell, speaking of supreme quality…

1993JeepGrandCherokee (14)Everything about this kit is superb. To start it off, the body detail is just unheard of, and we gotta include Revell’s kits of the era, Monogram, AMT Ertl, MPC, all of them, it stands above it with ease. Its crisp, the fine details of the trim moldings, the small grille meshes, the depths of the ridges, so on. Yeah, normally I already drool over accuracy but there’s something special going here. The decal sheet has all the gold stripes of the “Limited” version, which was at the time the fanciest version of the vehicle, with gold trim a plenty, wooden panels, bigger 5.2L Magnum V8 engine, so forth. But back to orgasming over the quality; the cast quality is also something to behold. For instance, the headlights, which would’ve been a nightmare to re-create given that they’re rather unique and multi-segmented – it couldn’t have been easier. It has really, really fine mold quality that allow the black lines to be filled and the indicator reflector to be colored in, all without any hassle.

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Even the roof got extra attention, go friggin’ figure. There’s four decals for the ribs on the roof and the rack is a separate piece, so if you don’t like it you can skip over it. Hell the only thing I don’t quite like about the body is because of how the car sits rather high, as a SUV should, you can quite easily look into the wheel wells and there you’ll quite easily spot the ridges of the interior bucket and the hollow bits of the frame. But… nitpicking? Nitpicking. Once more, back to drooling. Something that’s always been uniquely high quality, even higher than what they already offer, is the wheels. Especially on older Tamiya kits, where the tires and the wheels come in a separate baggie in the box with branding and such, proof that they weren’t just one size fits all piles of wank(looking at you, Round 2) – high quality, vinyl tires with proper licensed branding printed on there to signify they are Goodyear Eagle GA tires. Which I explicitly turned into Eagle GTs cause I am lazy and my plan to use the “A” from left-over Eagle GT decals(of the lovely Joseph Osborn’s Fireball Modelworks) fell apart once I realized I actually didnt have enough to fix all four up.

1993JeepGrandCherokee (16)The interior is a bit more simplistic but given the nature of early nineties interiors in cars, it’s plastic. A ton of plastic with faux wood paneling to make it seem like it is higher quality than it really is, but it isn’t. There’s a set of decals for all the door panels and the dashboard that mimic the faux wood, and it does for some reason look like chocolate speckled bread but seeing as the model’s interior is enclosed by slightly matted by age windows, it’s hard to see from a distance. But again, it’s all high quality, the creases in the seats that mimic the leather, the texture of the floor, the spare wheel in the back, the teeny-tiny dials on the dash… it all marks up to one hell of a lot of detail work done by Tamiya. And I should point out, like the body, which I only detailed and nothing else(not even added a clear coat), the interior’s largely untouched too by paint. Only the darker areas that had either trim or buttons I painted, the rest is just the color of the mold and… it’s perfect. And the engine bay is no different, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I mean, if I had to complain, it’s that some of the parts that were molded in onto the body are slightly blocky but… y’know, nitpicky nitpicking.

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The 5.2L V8 is molded wonderfully, albeit in a very simplistic manner. The whole engine is five pieces; two main pieces that contain the transmission, oil pan, intake manifold and such, two valve covers and the air cleaner unit and that’s it. I mean, they’re very well cast and detailed, it’s just somewhat a shame that all the challenge and extra effort was taken out by having it all be one giant chunk. I would’ve wired it up but I skipped on it, mostly cause I figured out halfway through building it that I had run out of it and even if I did, given the engine’s simplicity, I doubt I would’ve gone through with it all. Where Tamiya did put a lot of focus on is the chassis. I absolutely love the way they handled the ride height; it has you screwing the suspension tighter and tighter onto a set of springs, so you could have it sit nice and high while maintaining some realistic bounce if you press on it, or you could tighten it down and have it sit more like a common Cherokee and still look the part. It’s such a great, fantastic kit and God damn do I love building these every now and then as they’re nice, simple and absolutely frickin’ gorgeous once they’re done and Tamiya never disappoints – what does disappoint is that once Tamiya is done with a kit, they’re generally truly done with it, they hardly ever re-release a old kit… Would love to see the early nineties kits be given another spin in the factory.

’93 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8 specifications:
Kit: “Sports Car” Series #127
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 99
Molded in: Metallic Green(Hunter Green), Gray, Dark Gray & Black
Scale: 1/24

1979 Chevrolet Nova Custom – MPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1971 Dodge Charger Super Bee 440 – AMT Ertl

71superbeebox1971 was a good year for muscle cars all in all, we’ve gotten several overhaul of models that year like the ’71 Mustang becoming more square, the ’71 Charger becoming less square, the ’71 ‘Cuda becoming even more of a brutal beast to be reckoned with, the ’71 Javelin AMX took on its now iconic shape and it just goes on and on like this. Among the awesome new editions, facelifts and continuations of great cars came the shift of Super Bee exteriors, from being a Coronet to being a Charger all of the sudden. And again, just like most of Chrysler’s vehicles, the B-body vehicles got a friggin’ plethora of choices for the buyer.

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The Super Bee was introduced as the sports version, one trim/price level under the Charger R/T but generally just as wonderful. You got literally choose from everything, 340ci V8 all the way through to 440 R/T, including the 426 HEMI(God, a 426 HEMI cost 800 bucks 1971 cash, which is roughly five grand in 2017 cash). Ramcharger hood? 383 side-intakes? Hidden headlights like the ’67-’70? Or fitted lamps? Body colored trim? Vinyl top? Bench seat? Generally, obviously nearly all the vehicles came with their pre-designated trim level installed, like the R/T got the highest tier stuff, side vents, 3-vent hood, so forth, but the late sixties were the era of dealer-orders.

1971superbee (3)You could have your car equipped with a mish-mash of trim level parts, if you had the cash for it and a dealer with connections. Sadly, the ’71 Charger was also the last of many things. The 440 Six Pack engine was discontinued for 1972, as were the hi-impact colors that now truly define muscle cars and worst of all; the Super Bee was killed off. Which is a friggin’ shame, given how good it looked.

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I built the Charger R/T model last year already, the kit I had was the AMT “Pro Shop” version which had a totally pre-painted kit, start to finish. All you had to do was add small details like the indicator lights and the side markers and that was just about it and it was a fantastic little kit! I loved it, it was properly done before hand and sometimes it’s just nice to do something that takes little effort to keep your enthusiasm up high. But ever since then I actually really wanted to build the regular kit and I kept hearing about how good this particular era of AMT Ertl’s detail and casting was, so I bought this kit and a ’71 Plymouth Duster 340 which is coming soon, which apparently of equal super high quality.

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But then I stumbled upon Keith Marks’ decal sheet for the ’71 Super Bee and on top of that, Kevin of Missing Link Resin Casters has a whole conversion set to turn it into a 440 equipped Super Bee, proper bumpers, hood and all. Which I will update on the model once they come in of course, just a matter of cracking the tail bumper off and installing the new one and hey-presto. And I finally got my reason for building it again, it’ll be just different enough to warrant a similar Charger R/T model.

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So my first thoughts were, alright let’s try and make it even more different while remaining within the realm of possibilities. First one was, hell yes, A-54 code colored and louvered tail-light bumpers. Two, red. Red as Goddamn sin. Three, vinyl top. I’m still not great at hand-crafting the suckers but I feel like I’m improving at least, the only hitch I had was that the satin black I use for it had gone old and glossy no matter the stirring so I had to quickly cover it up again with some matte. Four, some Magnum 500 wheels with Cooper Cobra tire letters. And the rest? Well the rest is actually AMT Ertl’s doing. Folks are right, it is just as detailed and fancy as the Pro Shop release and just as unbelievably nice to build.

1971superbee (6)The cast quality is so unbelievably high, down to the seams of the seats and the extremely clear Charger scripts on the body. The grille and tail valances have supreme detail and was all a breeze to let pop cause with the foundation being so friggin’ well detailed, just meant a single coat of paint and a bit of rubbing would replicate factory level detail. Goddamn, I hope they earned back every cent triple on this cast and mold, that’s how supremely high level it is and it deserves all the praise it can get. I kind of think I should’ve wired the engine up cause the detailed engine bay deserves it but… I dunno, I just don’t enjoy doing it too often and I shouldn’t force it on myself cause it’ll just have me half-assing it supremely.

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The 440 Magnum under the hood is arguably better cast than Revell’s 440 block, which as y’all may know, I rank up there nearly highest on the list of Revell engine blocks. While Revell’s Dodge engine bays are excellent, the addition of the A/C and the smoothness of how the engine goes together, I’d argue it’s a grade above Revell’s. Hell, I can only give this kit two faults all in all;

1971superbee (11)One’s just a personal wish that would kill off creativity but… screw it, gotta throw it out there. The interior shell is built attaching the doors and such to the chassis, which is fine and allows for us to add the detail to the door panel like the wood grain and chrome accents, but it’ll always snap off when you gotta force it into the body shell. I’m stuck on the thought between “should detail come before structural integrity” or “should structural integrity overcome detail”. Obviously, it’s detail overcomes structural strength, but it could’ve used some more strength, like a insert for the back pillar pads or something. The second is a bit of a pet peeve – the entire engine rests on a single square frame and the frame is only attached by a third of the whole thing so chances of it snapping off anywhere during the insertion of the chassis/interior or while you’re working on anything else is Goddamn massive. It looks better like this, yes. But functions a thousand times worse than were it so that the front frame was cast to the chassis already. There is a third fault but that’s no issue of the kit and more cause of the previous owner’s care of the kit – the chassis got warped significantly and thanks to that it flatout refuses to allow the rear valance to connect to the trunk which causes that giant wedge you see in the pictures. Though of course, once Missing Link sends the rear end; that’ll be fixed!

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But still, y’know, annoyances. Mere annoyances. It’s still a unbelievable kit, even the instructions are some of the best I’ve ever seen with a complete list of interior and exterior colors, trim options, and such. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the ’71 Duster kit has to offer. And of course, one the Missing Link bits come in I am definitely updating this article with the new parts attached and a short bit about ’em.

’71 Dodge Charger Super Bee 440 specifications:
Kit: AMT30053-1HD
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 114
Molded in: Gray
Scale: 1/25

1980 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – MPC

1980firebirdtransam_box.jpgOkay, imagine this. It’s January 1979, the new Firebird Trans Am just a few months prior was beginning to hit the market with the updated front end and darkened out tail and celebrated its 10th anniversary with style. Two years before, Smokey and the Bandit lit the fire under the Firebird popularity and made it go stratospheric, effectively making the Firebird the “go-to” muscle car of the late seventies. However, in April of ’79 the second energy crisis crippled the United States once more and even stricter regulations had to be made to curb the giant usage of oil they no longer could import.

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So cue 1980 coming around and the Firebird needed to be changed somewhat, all the while the hype train kept rolling. So they decided on the turbocharged 301ci V8 which was a smaller engine option on the previous Firebirds and the 305ci V8, the standard in the Camaro which effectively brought the Camaro and Firebird back to even lines on the performance front. Other than that, the Firebird stayed the same for the most part, some new wheel choices and a couple more color shades were added to the buyers’ folder. Part of the hype train was MPC with their annual kits, which was in the process of making another Firebird release that they had been dutifully doing since 1968. Though every new facelift or so, MPC would get a contract by General Motors or for General Motors, whichever the hell it could’ve been, to make promotional kits. Promo kits basically entailed a detailed body, somewhat detailed chassis and depending on the car; a detailed interior. But most importantly? Rolling wheels, oh yeah. That was a kicker. I mean, who gives a damn? Right, the folks who usually got these kits were the actual car buyers who were given one by the dealership for their kids to build or to “display” that they’re a proud you-name-it owner. Hell 99% of the time, it was pre-built in a little box, this ’80 Firebird T/A being a buildable kit apparently is a super rare occurrence.

1980firebirdtransam (5)Promo kits were pretty damn popular throughout the fifties and sixties but as the seventies rolled around, the divide between promo kits and just, regular kits, was beginning to get really wide. Promo kits by this point were just there to be given to the car buyers, and at most if it weren’t for that, had a mail order at the dealership where you could order one of these kits for two or three bucks.

Here I got the ’79 release for the upcoming 1980 Firebird Trans Am as a promo kit, which means it’s all molded in one color besides a couple of “accenting” bits and has screws that allow the body to be tightly secured to the chassis. It is entirely the same as the 1979 Firebird promo, down to the friggin’ box, but what the hell I can overlook ’em for that one – they’re meant to be flashy dealership pieces after all.

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Now, I should admit – I built the 1979 Pontiac Firebird T/A a year ago and… well, I won’t lie; it was shit. It’s one of those MPC releases that went the other of two ways. You see, MPC kits either go in the way that it’s reasonable by all means, not bad, not great, a kit you can have fun with and improve on to make great. Like the ’76 Dart, or the ’81 Omni 024. Hell, even the ’80 Volaré was pretty good in that way. But then you got the distinctively terrible ones, where the kit went the other way. Where it was meant to be a bland, unoriginal pile of wank that was no fun to build and certainly no fun to expand upon. For instance, the ’73 Cougar or the ’67 GTO. The ’79 Firebird was a kit I tried so damn hard on to get a reasonable result out of and… to no avail. I thought I could mend the situation of it and even with a ton of advice of those who failed with this kit before, I just couldn’t do it. It was becoming half a tube of epoxy and a bunch of sweat, blood and tears and it still looked like crap. So, I abandoned it. It was finished, yeah, but it looked half done. I was quite ashamed of the way it turned out and had hardly a positive word of it, so I didn’t even bother writing an article for it and the only evidence of this mess that exists is the picture on the Collection page.

1980firebirdtransam (2)Then I came across this one on eBay, all wrapped up for damn near nothing. And I couldn’t resist, I thought at first it was a pre-built promo model that I could dismantle and give a proper model kit freshener, but then I held the box and it made the noise of a bunch of sprues sliding about in the box. That was the first pleasant surprise I got from this model kit. The second pleasant surprise lies with the nature of this kit…

It’s a supremely easy kit, it’s 37 parts in total and that’s including the four headlights, tires, wheels and wheel backings. So in reality, it’s somewhere around the 20 if it weren’t for things like the fender flares being on separate sprues. But the surprise lied with the fact that this kit goes together fantastically. And it gave me a weird but positive lesson; MPC should do simple kits like this. The engines that MPC did in the 1970s were pretty damn awful, so awful that most modelers wouldn’t even bother giving it the 100% treatment with engine wires or would even go as far as to epoxy the hood shut. And this engine-less simplistic as sin build… it’s so smooth and goes together so nicely, it gives me nothing but feelings of all those MPC kits could’ve been so much better if it had gone down this road.

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But of course, who would pay full retail price for 30 odd part kits? Not a damn soul, I reckon. Anyway, this kit in particular could come in two color choices for as far as I’m aware. Either in black with the golden bird decals or in “Francisco red” with the same decals as well. The black one is ungodly expensive, while the Francisco red one is balls cheap. So I did what any reasonable soul would do; buy the red one and make Mick Jagger proud by painting it black all around. Granted, the rare red color is nice though and it would take hardly any work to get a nice red Firebird out of it, but I much prefer the all black one.

Another nice thing that this kit has that the normal 1979 full kit doesn’t is the Pontiac snowflake wheels, I love those and their omission in the ’79 kit was such a damn shame! Though of course, speaking of omissions, it’s lacking the frickin’ door mirrors. MPC has been known for the re-use of the same shape of door mirror since ’73 in several kits(most Mopar kits at least), and honestly having those would’ve meant that there was a set at least. So I stole a couple from a old Mercury kit I had lying around in shambles. One piece that was left from the 1979 kit that did turn out to be useful? The whole decal sheet. I made it red on white at the time so thankfully, I had the whole golden bird set left! The Trans Am scripts, the bird, so forth.

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I learned some things from that kit, too. For instance, I attempted to give the headlights some more depth and the tail light which in this kit is a solid black piece instead of a clear piece, I only used a red permanent marker on it and painted the fuel cap piece satin black to keep that subtle blacked out tail light looking dark, while red. So with all that said and done, I didn’t have and couldn’t find a similar color to the original gold-on-black color set up’s interior – anywhere I looked, the satin tan color was sold out. So what did I do? I just stuck with the good ol’ black.

1980firebirdtransam (13)Finished the whole thing up with some BF Goodrich Radial T/A tire decals, which sadly required me to cut off the very embossed Goodyear Polyglas GT tire letters off there to make space for ’em, though then I ran into issue numbero dos; the tires don’t actually fit the rims! So I luckily had some spare tires from a ’70 Mustang kit, a 1/24th scale kit and fitted the rims in there and lo and behold they fit exactly!

I like it this kit a fair bit actually, there’s something to be said about the utter simplicity of this kit also being it’s saving grace.

’80 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am specifications:
Kit: MPC78-8071-250
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 37
Molded in: Francisco Red
Scale: 1/25

1970 Plymouth AAR ‘Cuda 340-6 – Revell

1970AAR_Cuda (1)The late sixties and early seventies is where two major motorsports began to grow into their own little spectacular bubble of progress. One that got popped in 1973 but before that, you had for instance NASCAR hitting a new peak with the “Aero Warrior” era; the ’69 Ford Torino Talladega, Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II, Dodge Charger Daytona and the final one, the ’70 Plymouth Superbird. The other sport? Trans-Am. It too had it’s golden age around 1968 that lasted to about 1973 and it made for a more competitive scene cause it had a lot more variety in contestant’s cars, plus it had two plain categories: Under 2.0L and Over 2.0L.

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This was cause of the pony car popularity explosion, so you had factory-backed teams sprouting out every where you’d see, you had AMC Javelins, Chevrolet Camaros(even a sole Nova), Ford Mustangs, Pontiac Firebirds, Dodge Challengers and of course, the one featured here; Plymouth ‘Cudas. And all these teams had some proper talent behind the wheel, for instance AMC had Team Penske, Chaparral drove Camaro Z/28s(famous for the Chaparral Cars), Bud Moore Engineering drove Mustang BOSS’s(NASCAR champions) and the talent just goes on. Plymouth hired All American Racers(famous Indy 500 and Formula 1 racers), specifically Dan Gurney and “Swede” Savage(whom died in ’73, which was famous for sitting alive in a pool of burning fuel and survived the ordeal, just to pass away allegedly from hepatitis-B in hospice care after the accident) and they gave ’em ‘Cudas to roll with.

1970AAR_Cuda (6)Though, what makes the car so unique is two parts amazing, one part sadness. Obviously, the rules were similar to NASCARs in which all participating cars needed homologation special versions with over thousand produced so Plymouth made a one year only version of the AAR ‘Cuda, slapped a 383ci V8 Six Pack in there, gave it the special bits like the front air spoilers and the ducktail rear wing and the now iconic strobe stripes and blacked out hood and fender tops, it was as close as you could get to a powerful Trans-Am car without actually sitting in the race. The thing that makes it a bit sad is that the AAR Team quickly quit with Trans-Am racing after coming in dead last overall in the 1970 season together with Dodge, both getting under 20 points and being 20 points behind third place.

But despite that, the car grew a legacy. It looked awesome, it was a ‘Cuda and it had a bit of a humble yet obvious team sponsorship badge on it, like you could still easily see it was a factory stock car but still unique simply cause of the strobe stripes. Hell, even in kit form it is unique.

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This is the only 1970 ‘Cuda that exists in 1/24th scale form. It saw its first release in 1995, based on the Monogram 1971 Cuda and in part spliced together with the Monogram 1970 Challenger T/A kit(a similar car, in style as well as features), it still has some pieces of the Challenger on some sprues and a couple of HEMI ‘Cuda bits here and there but mostly Challenger. Hell, the entire rear fascia is on one of them, go figure. The re-release of the kit from 2007 is miles better than this original as Revell had time to improve, for instance what this kit lacks is a decal sheet with useful extras like side marker lights, ‘Cuda logos and such and the ’07 kit has them all. Downside? The ’07 kit is nigh impossible to find used, let alone new.

1970AAR_Cuda (10)Luckily, I had some spares from the 1970 ‘Cuda kit that I replaced with the awesome decals from Keith Marks, so the sidemarker lights and such weren’t a issue, but they would’ve been nice if they had been included. Speaking of which, there’s some glaring differences between the all new tool and infinitely awesome 2013 new tool – it’s got some shape issues for the most part. For instance, the grille is totally unique to this kit which is awesome but it has a far too exaggerated curvature to it and the same goes for the tail end. But that’s actually kind of it for the downsides! Other than the over-exaggerated features, the kit is freakin’ wonderful. It all goes together like a dream and the engine bay despite it being a Monogram kit by birth with Revell touches is actually less of a slab infested bore-fest and looks a lot more like the real thing.

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The only thing I’d say is that, with it being a Monogram kit, it’s simplistic as sin. The engine block is five pieces all in all, the whole front grille is one piece just missing the lights and chrome bumper. But what the hell, if the simplicity was the reason that it goes together as well as it does, then fine, it’s totally forgiven.

I didn’t do a whole lot to the kit’s color aside from the obvious black front end and whatnot, the car is colored in the Go-Go Green Plymouth color and it has this nice high glossy sheen to it so I left it alone entirely, it was the color I wanted to begin with(even bought a can of spray paint to mimic the color!). The only things I truly did differently to it were the wheels, the BF Goodrich Radial T/As and the Magnum 500 wheels were pretty much the sole change. That and wiring the engine, but that doesn’t really count as a change.

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Good grief this kit is nice, I ended up buying three of ’em. Why? Well it meshes fantastically with a few ideas I got, like a 1971 340 ‘Cuda and making a little home improved 1970 426 HEMI AAR ‘Cuda. It’s wonderful that the ’70 and ’71 kits share so much!

’70 Plymouth AAR ‘Cuda 340-6 specifications:
Kit: #85-7601
Skill Level: 2
Parts: 76
Molded in: Go-Go Green
Scale: 1/24