Tuesday, March 3, 2015

69 Chevelle Convertible--Vintage Build, Sort of!

If you've followed this blog at all: I get nostalgic about making models.  For me this hobby is all about simpler times, in my Central Valley basement, with my brothers, the AM radio playing Top 40.
There were bullies on every corner, sure, there was endless racism and Nixon and the Vietnam war, which as a sheltered 7 year old didn't mean much. The principal of my grade school was probably a fascist but I guess I'll never know that either.  Time tends to heal all wounds.

For me model making is about going back there, to the good times.  And not just to the good times, but to the cool kits.  Those old kits made my brothers and me happy, and as soon as we had some lawn mowing money we rode our bikes to the 5 and dime and we got the latest AMT or MPC thing.

OK fast forward 45 years. With the Internet, you can still get pretty much any kit, but for rare vintage ones, you will have to pay. In the spirit of time travel back to the early Seventies,  I have purchased and even built a few vintage kits like an MPC Toyota GT2000. It can be frustrating: expensive to buy, lacking in detail compared to modern kits that are designed and tooled with computers. And no spares if I screw something up!

OK about this next build, an AMT 1:25 1969 Chevelle convertible.  It's a vintage kit, gone for decades, but recently reissued by Round 2.  (About Round 2: These guys must be going through endless cellars in corporate Michigan and Indiana and finding old injection molding tooling from the Sixties, polishing the molds, sending them off to China, getting a bunch of cheapo styrene molded parts back, and lovingly packing them in cool vintage cardboard artwork and plastic baggies.  The global economy at work! )

The AMT 69 Chevelle Convertible lists in Coulter and Shelton's Directory of Model Car Kits as last issued in 1977 and having a street value of $95.  After some more research--those guys are right, 77 is when this kit was originally released, so 8 years or so after the 1:1 car's debut.  I went on eBay and couldn't find a Chevelle convertible kit from 1977 available at any price.  So the original 69 Chevelle from AMT is a rare bird, I figure.  Or was.

Due to the hard work from these Round 2 guys, this rare bird isn't rare any longer, and I got the convertible 1:25 kit for $20 on Ebay.  Go Round 2!  You guys rule!

(Actually from lessons learned on the Toyota vintage build, I bought 2!)

OK that's where the good news about the AMT 69 Chevelle convertible ends.

The bad news is that back in the 70's plastic model kits had serious issues and they still have serious issues.  I don't imagine the Round 2 folks have $750K (? some big number here?) to tool up a new version of an old kit, and that's not what they are about regardless, so it seems.  To understand why old AMT is really, well, old AMT, it's time for the way back machine.  This was the "golden age of model building".  Back then we didn't play video games, or watch Netflix streaming, or text our friends. We saved our lunch money, we built models, we painted bodies with 20 cent brushes, and if something didn't fit, well, it was good enough to show your parents and maybe get a 2nd place at the local hobby shop model contest.  It was good enough for us, and therefore it was good enough for AMT.  AMT and MPC were boss!

Now, as an adult with an obsessive need to get every damn thing right, vintage tooling issues present an endless list of problems to solve. Let's start with the interior!  Modern kits have interiors that come in pieces, making them easier to mask and paint, but for these oldies, the interior is almost always a tub.  The 69 Chevelle tub is a disaster! It has huge ejector pin marks in plain sight (remember this is a convertible!) and inner door panel detail that is almost non-existent and too 2-dimensional.

Next problem: flash and a general lack of crispness in the molding process.  Flash is when the plastic runs between the 2 halves of the mold during the injection process.  General lack of crispness, well I am not sure why that happens, and perhaps this was an issue back in 1971 and I never noticed.  Some more modern kits have flash issues; the Ford F1 pickup speed build  had a lot of it, but on these old AMT kits, it's just ridiculous!  All the molding here is pretty bad.  Everything, and I mean everything, will have to be carefully sanded, filed, and cleaned up.

And--the dreaded "chrome headlights".  Yuck! Changing this out for "real" scale lenses (yes I know that's an oxymoron) will be a real challenge.

How about:"it just plain don't fit!" This is the interior tub test fitted into the 69 Chevelle's body. That looks like a one foot scale gap to me.  On these old AMT kits, I have found the hood, the trim, and exhaust system, valances (front and rear), and interior tub, just don't, well, line up, ever!  If this test fit is any indication, it will be a lot of work to correct fit issues.

Finally: "It just ain't right".  On these old kits, the craftsmen making the tooling got some things way wrong, and the kit doesn't correspond to the 1:1 subject.  EG! The flares on the wheel wells on the AMT 69 Chevelle are completely out to lunch! Correcting this, along with whatever other oddities I find, and I will find lots of them, I am sure, is going to be hours of work!

Now the balance sheet. There is still a cool factor about old AMT and MPC that can't be ignored. I have always felt their craftsmen loved cars, and loved this hobby, and you can tell by their work, even when they got things wrong, there is still something really fun about it.  And, as far as fixing the above mentioned issues,  I have a bit more lawn money now, as an employed adult, versus when I was 12.  So I can buy a couple modern tooled kits--the two Camaros you see here, and rob parts out of them to try to correct the issues with the Chevelle without taking months scratchbuilding replacement parts or making endless trips to the parts box.

So overall, why did I do this?  The challenge for sure.  The fact that I made a chevelle model when I was 10 and it came out pretty well and my dad, the car fiend, said he liked it. I have seen youtubes and forum entires of other modelers reviewing this kit and being disappointed with the poor quality in general and complaining about some of the issues I touch on here.  Some of these Internet authors even say Round 2 is ripping us off.  Not true! I will never complain that Round 2 (or AMT) makes a substandard product; Round 2 is faithfully reproducing kits that were flawed to begin with, but still super fun, and we are lucky to have this reissue at all!


Unknown said...

That's really cool. I can't wait to see how it turns out. And you are right about the "old" days. I miss those simpler times, riding my bike to the hobby store and staying up all night to finish a really cool car. Good times...

- said...

Hi Charlie - I guess I was part of your basement days, and I have to say you looked like you were having fun, frustration & all. Glad model building takes you back there. I'm sure my car hobby does the same for me. Didn't know the bullies were so bad, though. Sorry 'bout that. Anxious to see how the Chevelle turns out. Keep up the great writing and photography as well as the modeling. -Your dad

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