Saturday, January 31, 2009

MPC 69 Charger--My First "Vintage Kit" Purchase

After about a year of clandestinely viewing the model car section of Ebay
, I finally decided to plunk down $17 on a "Vintage" MPC kit plus something like $8 for shipping. I won the bid!!!! Joy!!!!

It's an MPC! MPC lives forever! (Well, MPC/Ertl. Close enough.) When I was a youngster I remember my brothers and me thinking MPC always had the coolest stuff. We probably built every one of their kits at one time or another.

MPC is long gone of course, and nowadays, some MPC kits, in unbuilt/new in box form have become collectable. I see kits going for $70 to $140 to $200....not the price of a collectable Gibson ES335 or a Tiffany Egg, certainly, but for a box with a bunch of dumb plastic inside it seems to me a lot of money.

I am not one for collecting anything, really, but I wanted to get my hands on an authentic MPC kit for the first time in something like 35 years, so out came the credit card. Besides, I love '69 Mopars!

A few days later kit showed up at my door.

So off came the cellophane (I am going to build this, not just put it on the shelf! Go Ebay!) and guess what? The whole thing smelled like mildew inside. I mean: make your eyes water, nasty, stinky mildew.

The decals were dirty, filthy, old looking, and probably unusable. That's a problem, really.

But the biggest issue was that the entire drivers side of the body was tweaked about 20-30 degrees off center. It's as if the body was stored incorrectly inside the box and during the 20+ odd years of sitting around (the kit is copyright 1987) the roof and driver's side caved in. I'm not sure the picture above shows the true horror of the tweak, but, as it sits now, this banana-yellow Charger body is unusable!!

Out came the hot water and attempts to bend it back. Nothing seemed to work--even after bending it a bit a few days later the body would return to its unusable state.

So what to do? Go to the Internet of course. On the site I posted my dilemma and the general response was: you'll never be able to bend the roof back. Stop wasting time and just get the Daytona reissue of the kit.

Reissue? So I didn't need to go through any of this "vintage kit" hooey at all?

Yep. The AMT/ERTL Daytona kit #31747 is the same thing as my beloved MPC with some extra "Superbird Parts". So I didn't need to get the vintage kit at all, eh?

Well, maybe, but maybe not. There are subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the two.

The Daytona kit obviously has parts the 500 kit doesn't, such as the rear wing and front nose--so the biggest difference is the front grille. The vintage kit has the correct Charger 500 Coronet-style "lights out" and the newer kit (which I am surprised has a grill at all since it's a Daytona) has the headlights retracted, non-500 sytle. The good news is the basic "body shell" on the reissue is the same as my vintage purchase. So I will build this kit "lights out" so anyone in the know will say--wow--that's a vintage kit! (In reality, if anyone ever really said that, I'd probably fall over....)

So what does this all mean? I think for a builder, as opposed to a collector, staking your build on the condition of an unopened vintage kit may not be the best idea. There's no way of telling which kits have unforeseen damage before you buy, at least not through Ebay, and I could easily see paying a lot of money for something that can't be built--maybe ever.

Maybe it makes sense to buy vintage kits to rob parts out of them that aren't otherwise easy to come by. For me the jury is still out.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

55 Chevy Gasser--Finished!!!!

After a few weeks and some time off for the holidays the 55 Chevy Gasser is finally DONE. Thank goodness! It's time to move onto something else!

It's probably been 6 months since I started reading up on 60's gassers and trying to figure out how to make something that's fairly accurate in terms of getting the right parts in there. So here it is. The finished build should have some decals I guess, as strip gassers from the 60's at the very least would have had their class (this would be a C/GS or D/GS I believe) painted on them somewhere. I couldn't bring myself to cover up the nice Tamiya paint with decals.

Even though the paint is a single solid color, right out of the rattle can, this build was a lot of work, but I am not entirely sure it shows. It makes me realize how much work some modelers put into their detailing on things like the engine compartment. I am not sure I have it in me to spend that much time on any one build.

The most frustration I had with this build, turns out, in addition to getting the glass to fit, was this: I lost an itty bitty door handle right before I was going to take the photos you see here. I looked for it for about an hour to no avail. I ended up going into my parts box and finding something pretty close. So the door handles don't quite match. How many times can I say "good enough" on one blog? Here I'll say it again: it's good enough.

One creative thing I did for this build is to use the hand grips from a drag steering wheel in the interior, as door pulls. Looks pretty gothic, and 1/24th and larger kits with drag type "butterfly" steering wheels are good candidates for this.

Is there a commercial kit like this--that would give me this look box-stock, and make all the kitbashing and customizing unnecessary? I remember building the Monogram "Tom Daniels Badman" kit about 10 times as a kid, which I am pretty sure has gotten rare and hard to find, which is pretty close I think if built box stock. However the big block Chevy combined with the retro interior, the huge difference between the "big and smalls" and the parts pack wheels gives this build a look of its own. But it's a subtle look and perhaps I was trying to get an "oh wow" look. It's not oh wow....oh well.....

Overall a very fun build, and I recommend any of the kits I pilfered parts out of to anyone except the Henry J kit--which is a good kit as a donor for retro gasser parts but not good for much else. I give an A++ to the 55 Chevy Revell kit that donated its body to this build--now there's a wonderfult kit. Also the Hilborn injected Olds engine in the "Simple Simon" Thames gasser is one of the coolest engines I've seen in 1:25 scale. It's now waiting in my parts box to be stuffed into a dragster that I will build before too long.

The big blower (see earlier posts for which kits were used....) is a perfect way to top off a fun build. It was extremely satisfying to glue on the Willys blower scoop and call things done.

Now I'm ready to put the hot rod thing aside for a bit....Next up: Mopar mania. Is there no end?

Monday, January 19, 2009

55 Chevy Gasser--Interior is finished

The 55 Chevy gasser project is almost finished. After taking some time off from pretty much everything for the holidays I'd like to get this build done so I can start some new things.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the interior is actually two interiors bonded together: the interior from Revell's 51 Henry J #2036, which was extended by grafting on parts of the interior from Revell's 55 Chevy #85-2069. I liked the look of the Henry J interior--it matched the look of some of the 60's gassers I found in some research material--but wasn't long enough for the 55 Chevy, hence the mods. The whole thing was painted with a combination of Tamiya matte black--a popular paint with modelers everywhere, showing up in many magazine articles about builds, and one of my own new favorites, Floquil Engine Black along with Floquil RailRoad Colors Flat Finish. Used in different combinations throughout the build, the end result is a multi-tone flat black, which is great because on a 1:1 car all the flat blacks aren't going to look the same.

The rest of the interior parts came out of one of the Gasser donor kits for this build (The Henry J, Revell 51 Willys Gasser #85-2350, the Ertl/AMT 55 Chevy #31931, and Revell Thames #7609) or the parts box. I bought an expensive photo etched 5-part seat belt for this build, but besides not being true to the 60's era sort of look, I also found myself too rushed to take the time to build the seatbelts "just right". Instead I went to the parts box and cut up some seatbelts from a 63 Corvette that got scrapped, and reused them here. And there's only belts on the drivers side because apparently on some older gassers only the driver's seat needed them--NHRA rules said you had to have a passenger seat but of course no one wanted the weight of an extra body on the quarter mile....Good enough.....who's going to look into the "window" of the build and really study the seat belts, anyway?

One of the hardest and most frustrating parts of any build in recent memory was getting the glass into the Chevy body and then getting the dash into the glass/body without making a mess. I had everything mapped out and it should have all gone together easily but it didn't. I ended up using bare metal foil for the windshield brightwork, and the "wrapped under" part of the BMF got in the way. I ended up using the glass out of the AMT 55 Chevy Bel Air instead, which sort of fit, and ended up creating special "pinning" on the dash so the thing would stick where it should stick. Overall it didn't come out too bad, but, there was one heck of a lot of cursing trying to get it all together. Not stress relieving, and not good!

Good news is I'm almost ready to wrap up this build. I need to do an assembly of the body/interior/frame, lay in the goodies like headlights and door handles, and do a final detail pass at the engine compartment. If all goes well, I can finish this this week. I have been having dreams at night about Mopars so that's probably where I'm going next.

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