Lindberg 1/20 Scale Cars

A lot of people are of the opinion that bigger is better. Certianly, there are cases where that’s true (Lottery jackpots and all-you-can-eat buffets, for example – what were you thinking?); however there are also times when bigger isn’t necessarily better (imagine medical bills). When it comes to model kits, though, most kit makers have, at some point, dabbled in the “larger” end of the pool, and produced some larger-than-typical kits. This isn’t a new practice, either, in case you’re thinking of the current trend towards 1/32 and even 1/24 (?!) in aircraft kits.

No, the kit makers, have, for quite some time, been issuing larger kits on an infrequent basis. There were a couple of 1/32 Matchbox airplane kits, even, way back in the late ‘70s, and Bandai was known for doing it too. In the same era, AMT was quite into 1/16 and larger car kits.  Heck, even Movin’ Out is in that large scale, and it’s a Revell! However, as time went on, and the hobby began to constrict like a dehydrated sponge through the ‘80s, larger scale kits ceased to be the norm. Today, most car kits are the “normal” scales of 1/24 or 1/25, with only a few recent exceptions.

However, there was a time when the (now seemingly oddball) scale of 1/20 was something of a darling to the makers of car kits. Throughout the ‘70s there were a significant number of 1/20 cars from MPC (their Econoline vans and Corvettes come to mind) as well as the scale being adopted by a number of Japanese manufacturers, Bandai chief among them. Over the years, I’ve managed to acquire quite a good number of 1/20 scale kits, and I thought I’d just share these oddities with you! They’re not all that common now, so some of these might not seem too familiar to a lot of people.

Lindberg: Feeling it in 1/20!

Lindberg always was kind of a weird company. Their kits ran the gamut from great to “WTF?”; don’t forget, they made those weird (and oh, so awesome) 1/32 ’70s cars like the Granada!  Like AMC, who were muscled aside despite their best efforts to find a niche market for their automotive odditites, Lindberg was slowly, but surely, pushed aside by the “Model Big 3” of Revel/Monogram, AMT and MPC. That didn’t stop the owners of the Lindberg name (RPM) from issuing and producing model cars right through to the middle/late ‘90s, though. However, a lot of these kits were either knocked-down promos (like the Sebring) or, strangely enough, in 1/20.

Yes, Lindberg hung its hat on the 1/20 scale car as its ticket to scale model stardom. Well, maybe stardom might be a bit much; let’s just go with survival. As a result, Lindberg produced a great number of 1/20 scale kits from the early to the middle/late ‘90s. The subjects included GM’s F-bodies, Several flavours of S-10/Jimmy, the Jeep Cherokee and Ford Explorer. It was common to see a police variant of the models, too, although not all had one.

The boxes on the big Lindbergs are as pretty-much uninteresting as the small scale kits; just a photo of the subject on a white and red boxtop with black writing. As you can see in the photos below, the company/division’s logo was in the top left corner of the box, and every kit announced proudly that it was in “Big 1/20 Scale”. This last point is not hard to miss, though; the boxes are considerably larger than on a normal car kit in 1/24 or 1/25. It’s interesting to note the change in the Lindberg logo, too, from the “Yellow-White-Red” stripes to a more stylized “Blue-White-Red” on a black background.

Here’s my collection of Lindberg 1/20. I have other 1/20s, but from a variety of makers. At least the boxes stick to a theme, even if they’re a bit boring.

On the one side of the box there is usually a list of features. These aren’t spectacular, being what one would expect as the baseline on any car kit, namely: opening hood, detailed interior and vinyl tires. The other side of the box shows (sometimes) a different side-view of the subject, along with company information. This is the case on the top four boxes, which are also bilingual, likely for original sale in Canada. The Stealth though, you can see, is quite different, and there’s no French on it; that tells me it’s an American kit.

Here’s the one side of the boxes. Only the Stealth is unilingual; the rest are clearly for sale in Canada. Note that only the Camaro has a printed bottom!

The kits are all similar in that they seem to be well-detailed enough, although no extra efforts were taken when the size was scaled up to 1/20. There’s still no extra detail, no engine wiring, or anything like that. Still, the kits are solid and it’s neat to see what 1/20 parts look like in comparison to 1/24 or 1/35 ones. The kits are moulded in a very high-quality, shiny plastic, so the boxes weren’t lying. You can see that yourself from the Stealth Out of Box review!

One thing that a lot of the Lindberg subjects had going for them was oddity. Not too many other companies put out kits of this era’s Jeep Cherokee! Granted the Stealth and Blazer/S-10/Jimmy/Sonoma were kitted in other companies’ lineup, and Camaros are a dime-a-dozen. However, are they? This kit is of a Z28 SS, and that particular combination of options was ONLY offered for one year – 1996. So, in that way, the big Camaro they offered is pretty unique. Even more unique is the Z10. What is a Z10, you ask? Good question. Not even the internet seems to know. My guess is that it was what Lindberg thought GM was going to call the high-powered S-10. However, that just became an “SS”, with the “Z” moniker falling out of favour, it seems, as the ‘90s wore on. I can’t find any record of a “Z10”, yet the box is very insistent that it has factory lowrider parts. Huh. Well, I guess that makes it an automotive “What if”, eh? You have to admit, that’s pretty darned neat.

Here’s the other side of the boxes. In some cases, the picture is the same as the front, in others, different. What’s a Z10? You tell me!

These are the Cherokee and Z-10. These two kits fill the boxes pretty well, and while not super-detailed, they’re nice enough kits. Still the only model of a Z-10 out there, if that is even a thing you can say about a truck that never existed!
You can see that the Camaro is unique in having a hinged box lid. The chrome on these kits (when there is any) is also very, very shiny. Nice carpet detail in that Camaro interior bucket, too!
If you want to see more of the Stealth, you can check out it’s OOB review linked above. It takes up less of the box because many of the parts are already off the main sprues.

There are a lot of these kits. I’m really hoping to find a Firebird or T/A in this scale one day, because it would make a nice addition to the set.

Conclusions:

The market for 1/20 kits is not as big as it once was, if indeed it was every really that big at all. Still, while the market might not have been crying out for them, Lindberg certainly went the extra mile to answer a question few were asking.

The 1/20 Lindbergs may, at first, not seem to be much more than just big versions of smaller kits. It’s true that a lot of the subjects were available in the more conventional scales. However, I don’t know how many mid-’90s Jeep Grand Cherokee kits there are! Add to that Lindberg’s penchant for making kits of either things that don’t exist or were only offered for a single year, and these kits become a lot more interesting.

Not only that, but they’re perfect for new builders, especially younger ones for whom normal-sized kits might be too fiddly. Bigger pieces and massively strong plastic should make for an easy go of it, and I’ve found that these kits don’t usually sell for much at shows, so finding one as a “tutorial” project shouldn’t be too hard. For those of us with lots of experience, there’s always something fun about changing up the scale. Things look different when they’re bigger or smaller, and the challenge of getting a good paint job on something this big and showy just slaps you in the face with the proverbial white glove!

Overall, I’m really fond of these kits. I’m hoping one day to have a few more, although putting them on display will be a bit of a challenge, because the also eat up a surprisingly large amount of room. Still, if it’s “Go big or go home” time, these guys are definitely good to have on hand!

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