Chevette Update 3: Foundations of Power (?)

Anyone can tell you that it takes a lot more than awkward looks and a rough ride to truly make a loser car loveable! One of the big things (well, okay, SMALL things) that plagued the North American automobile market in the 1973-1987 period (the Dark Ages) was pathetically weak engines.

Who are you calling feeble? From the left, you can see the separate oil filter, starter, intake manifold and carburetor on the might 1.6. Gotta love lots of separate pieces!

Who are you calling feeble? From the left, you can see the separate oil filter, starter, distributor, pans, intake manifold and carburetor on the mighty 1.6. Gotta love lots of separate pieces!

Coming out of an era where blistering raw horsepower was mated to totally inadequate brakes and tires, North Americans found themselves on the rough seas of a total reversal. The new small cars had better tires and brakes, and technically could handle better than the Muscle Cars of yore, but they had NO POWER. Gone were terms like “Ram Air” and “Big Block”. Displacements into the 5, 6 and 7 litre range disappeared almost overnight, giving way to engines almost lawnmower-like in their power and size.

The Chevette was no exception. The mill that pushed the ’79 Chevette from 0-60 mph in “forever” (okay, actually 13.3  seconds) was a 1.6L (98 cubic inch) that gushed 70 hp and belted out 82 ft.lbs of torque.  That’s not a lot, even given the state of down-tuned engines and smog control. The 1979 engine was, however, equipped with a new two-stage, two barrel carb as standard! That’s a lot better than the single barrel unit used in previous years!  As you can see from these stats, motoring was swiftly becoming about Point A to Point B travel, vs. the fun of the journey! Still, if you beat on it hard enough, I’ve heard that even the little Chevettes could provide SOME entertainment!

Breathe in, breathe out. Here's the exhaust manifold on the 1.6L dynamo that made the Chevette the legend it is. You can see the separate alternator, too.

Breathe in, breathe out. Here’s the exhaust manifold on the 1.6L dynamo that made the Chevette the legend it is. You can see the separate alternator, too.

The engine in this model is typical MPC, with lots of separate accessories and nothing moulded to the block. This is just how I like it; it allows for easy painting and looks fantastic when put together. I painted the block in a mixed blue that is close to GM corporate engine blue, and the transmission was done in Model Master Acrylic Aluminum. I used some MMA Aircraft Interior Black for the dark bits, as well as some MMA orange for the oil filter. The oil pan and transmission pan were MMA Steel; it’s hard to see the difference between the bell housing and the pan, but they are in fact different.

The ant's-eye-view of the Chevette motor shows the effect of using different metal shades on an engine. It's subtle, but definitely worth the time.

The ant’s-eye-view of the Chevette motor shows the effect of using different metal shades on an engine. It’s subtle, but definitely worth the time.

Of course, there’s no point in having all that power if there’s no place to put it, and the chassis is what holds it all together. The MPC 1979 Chevette is clearly derived from the earlier versions of the kit. This shows in the chassis most of all; the suspension and exhaust system, nevermind the drivetrain, are all moulded in. I’ve come to expect this from Japanese cubsiders, but this was a surprise for an MPC. The 1979 Omni 024 kit has all this stuff separate, which makes painting the chassis very nice and very easy. However, there was no such luck here!

Comes with everything you see here... literally! This chassis came as one piece! There's nothing glued on at all; it's up to the modeller to make this chassis work by picking out the subassemblies and making them stand out.

Comes with everything you see here… literally! This chassis came as one piece! There’s nothing glued on at all; it’s up to the modeller to make this chassis work by picking out the subassemblies and making them stand out.

I painted the chassis MMA Light Ghost Grey, and then put some overspray from the body onto the edges, to simulate the wraparound from production. I then painted the suspension in Black, and did the drivetrain in Steel. I did the gas tank in Aluminum, just for a change of pace. I also drilled out the pathetically tiny exhaust pipe, not that you’d really notice.  Once everything was touched up, I flat coated the entire pan with Delta Ceramcoat Matte varnish.

I was very pleased with how well the chassis came out; it really takes on a 3-D look, and by painting the brake lines and E-brake cable, as well as having a mix of other colours, it came alive. I’m used to doing chassis in all black, then sticking on a few metal bits. however, the primer grey with overspray is a great approach, and I’ll use it from here on in, I think. You can thank my brother’s goading me for that!

A good look at the pumpkin, exhaust system and gas tank, not to mention rear suspension. The light colour of the body's paint makes the purposely-done overspray on the chassis hard to see. Shoot.

A good look at the pumpkin, exhaust system and gas tank, not to mention rear suspension. The light colour of the body’s paint makes the purposely-done overspray on the chassis hard to see. Shoot.

Smile! I also have the grille done and black washed, to give the impression that there are "breathe holes" in there. The grille is nicely done on this kit. From what I can tell, the bowtie didn't have yellow on it on the Scooters. Yes, they were THAT cheap.

Smile! I also have the grille done and black washed, to give the impression that there are “breathe holes” in there. The grille is nicely done on this kit. From what I can tell, the bowtie didn’t have yellow on it on the Scooters. Yes, they were THAT cheap.

So, as you can see, it’s getting pretty close to done. Next it’s time to fit the engine to the chassis and start mating things together!

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