by Pete Hagenbuch
One of my favorite Mopar models is the Ertl 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird. It's a very nice model at a very nice price. I bought mine in 2002 at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum Gift Shop for $30. Fit and finish are excellent. Exterior detail is also very well done. The windshield and back light are thin enough to reduce distortion to a minimum. The black vinyl top has the obligatory seams and a very convincing grain. Bright trim is limited to surrounding the glass areas and is done neatly. My only criticisms of the exterior include a radio antenna the size of a baseball bat, and the lack of any visible means of delivering fuel to the gas tank.
Unusual for low priced Ertl models is the opening decklid. Inside the trunk is a full size spare wheel and tire, reinforcing ribs in the lid along with a jacking instruction sheet, and a presentable black trunk mat. All very nicely done. In keeping with the lack of a gas cap is the absence of a filler pipe to the gas tank.
When you open the hood of a $30 model for the first time, you never know quite what to expect. Opening this one displays a 440 decked out in the correct shade of Omaha Orange. Despite the presence of the large RB Engine, the underhood appears empty though most of the necessary components are there. These include the battery, w/s washer reservoir, alternator, and radiator with hoses. I think the lack of heater housing and power brake vacuum reservoir are the culprits. It's a shame, too because the rest of the scenery is fine.
Interior details are well done for the most part. It is black with silver piping on the seats and a bit of bright trim on door panes. There is even bright trim on the sills, very unusual in a $30 model. There is no headliner detail beyond a pair of sun visors. The driver's seat has a seat belt anchor but nothing to connect with. The rest of the passengers are left unprotected. The front seatbacks fold a bit. On the downside are attaching screw bosses in body color. If the model were black they wouldn't bother me but in yellow
.. the proverbial sore thumb. A study of the floorpan tells me the boss could be moved rearward about 1 3/8" where it would no longer be visible. Or it could be painted black.
In summary, this is one fine model for the asking price. I have only a few other 1/18 scale models I consider equal to it. Ain't it great to get a bargain now and then? On the other hand, it wouldn't take much to make this model a real winner. If it's profitable as is, think how great it could be for, say, $50. Think about it, Ertl. I'm first in line!
In a previous article I told you about the forthcoming model of a Richard Petty Superbird . Well, it's here. The Petty blue is right on and the graphics are great. And I'm afraid that's the end of the compliments. Merchandising Incentives Corporation is the culprit on this one. MIC is one of several companies who contract with model manufacturers to produce small production runs of specialized models. Up until now they've mostly been drag racers like Color Me Gone, the Motown Missile or the Ramchargers' Candymatic. Because Ertl's American Muscle line covers so many muscle cars, it is usually the manufacturer of choice. Another popular brand for this sort of thing is Highway 61, a relatively new outfit which has grown to be a favorite source of middle priced models of excellent quality and detail. It is interesting to learn that Highway 61 is the creation of none other than F.F.Ertl III. It is my understanding that Mr. Ertl III left the family company because he grew tired of being associated with the unpredictability of quality in the company's offerings. I've told you before to look before you buy the inexpensive Ertl models; and how they can vary between great and grim.
I can't tell you who to blame for this model's disappointing qualities. A search of the box gives the impression that nobody's very proud of it. The bottom carries an RC2 logo which means Racing Champions. RC acquired Ertl a couple of years ago. And the backside of the box lists MIC as the source of more information with no claim to being the manufacturer. Well, I'll tell you, somebody decided to do this one on the cheap and pocket a bunch of profits. At their website, mic-store [editor's note: now defunct], you can buy the thing for $79.95! As near as you'll get to outright thievery! So what's wrong with it? How can it be based on a model I could hardly find a flaw with? Again I have to say greed for big profits; I can't think of any other obvious reason. Okay, here we go:
The paint looks like it was applied with a spatula, all but obliterating the details in the casting. The hood won't close all the way, it sticks up like it wasn't latched. The trim around windshield and backlite is done with silver paint. Windshield and backlite braces are clear plastic, integral with the glass.
If the model is accurate, King Richard went racing that year on F70 x 15 polyglass tires. The wheels are as molded in a vile shade of plastic purple. The color looked familiar and I found it. On another Ertl NASCAR model, a Petty Pontiac. They must have had a lot left over!
I have looked at a lot of photos from 1970 NASCAR racers and I didn't find one instance of safety netting on the drivers' side opening. Perhaps they put it there in a sorry attempt to hamper scrutiny of the interior. There isn't much detail in a NASCAR racer's interior; there's the roll cage, the instrument panel, seat and harnesses, some padding here and there, and maybe some ventilation aids. King Richard wouldn't have been very safe in this one; with no safety harness at all! Not even a seat belt! The fire extinguisher is plenty large enough but it doesn't look very convincing in all-over red.
As to the under-hood detail, the photo shows all there is. The air cleaner should extend back to the dash panel and mate with the cowl vent. This produces a little free supercharging. And the 426 Hemi isn't orange! Those exhaust trumpets under the left body sill would benefit from a dab of flat black in the open ends. It is obvious this whole project was a get-rich-quick scheme, done totally without regard for detail or quality. If you think I've been too tough on them, let me remind you that they're asking $79.95 for the pig! I got mine for $75 at one of my favorite mail order houses, Replicarz.
This is a model I must have in my collection. It will be displayed somewhere, I haven't decided where yet, but somewhere where it can't be seen at close range. I have a bunch of these. I call them my "Ten Foot Models" because anywhere inside of ten feet is plenty close enough to observe the flaws. If you still think I've been too hard on MIC/Ertl consider this: the rear view mirror is blue. Yes, Petty Blue. On the front and the back side!
Pete Hagenbuch, not content with designing the engines and fuel systems used in the actual cars, or in being a well-known slot car performance pioneer, has written reviews of numerous models:
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