Monogram 1/24 1987 Pontiac Trans Am GTA

Poncho's head honcho for 1987 was the GTA! Combining slick European attitude (Where?) with (for the time) massive performance created a car that was an instant classic.

Poncho’s head honcho for 1987 was the GTA! Combining slick European attitude (Where?) with (for the time) massive performance created a car that was an instant classic.

When Pontiac restyled its iconic pony car, the legendary Trans Am, in 1982, it ushered in the first new design for the F-body since 1970. The old design had served well and seen a lot of changes, but there was no denying that it was in need of a change, to keep up with modern sensibilities. The first of the “third generation” Trans Ams certainly generated a lot of interest. Most people loved the design, although there were a few who wished they’d bought an ’81 when they’d had the chance.

Given the history of the Second Gen T/A, it was obvious that the third generation body style would be around for some time. The key would be keeping it fresh enough for people to want to buy year in and year out. Of course, minor tweaks to the styling will only go so far. The new, more muscular front and rear facias and a wrap-around spoiler were all popular changes to the T/A as the 80’s wore on. However, something more was needed. The folks at Pontiac knew that to really survive, the T/A needed a shot in the arm.

Cars were, once again, getting faster; American designers forced their way out of an emissions control-choked wasteland in which performance was simply either a dream or a sad reminder of better times. This meant that the T/A needed to keep pace. However, as was always the case, simply keeping up was not good enough for Poncho’s road warrior.  By 1987 the need, and the technology, were both in place to create a new breed of Trans Am, something that would go even further above and beyond.

That “something” was the GTA.

An abbreviation for “Grand Turismo Americano”, the GTA was designed as the ultimate T/A, surpassing even the “normal” T/A which, until then, was the top of the Firebird heap. With lots of European pretensions and generous helpings of old-fashioned American displacement, the GTA broke onto the scene and became an instant classic.

It’s no wonder, then, that all the major makers of kits were falling over themselves to make models of this new Pontiac supercar.  Monogram was one of the first to get a kit of the 1987 GTA out onto the market with their 1/24 offering.

The Monogram kit isn't as crisply- or as well- detailed as an equivalent MPC, but it is very interesting. This model is equipped with the "new" Euro-style paddle mirrors. This feature was swiftly discontinued on the real car, making the kit that much more interesting!

The Monogram kit isn’t as crisply- or as well- detailed as an equivalent MPC, but it is very interesting. This model is equipped with the “new” Euro-style paddle mirrors. This feature was swiftly discontinued on the real car, making the kit that much more interesting!

The Kit:

The 1987 GTA was one of the most exciting cars in North American in 1987. Monogram’s kit does a good job of capturing the basic elements of the car. Let’s start on the inside, and work our way out. It is, after all, what’s inside that counts, right?

In the GTA, you could get either the 305 (if you had T-Roofs) or the 350 (for hard-roofed cars).  Surprisingly, given the popularity of T-roofs (the F-bodies were the only cars still offering this in the mid 1980’s) the Monogram kit is a hard-roofed car. The 350 V8 is, for the most part, well-moulded, although it suffers from the same fate as other non-MPC engines; the starter, filter, and a number of other accessories are all moulded in.  This degrades the fineness of the finished product, and just reflects laziness on the part of the moulders. In addition, the oil pan is NOT a separate piece! This is the first car I’ve built (I’ve built 13 as I write this) that DOESN’T have a separate oil pan. This means there’s a lot of sanding to do on the engine. The rest of the motor looks good, though, and the bizarre high-rise of intake manifoldery and injector rails is nicely detailed.

Finally! A car that I've built that has a REAL engine! The 210 hp/ 315 ft.lbs of torque mill is the classic Chevy (by then corporate) 350. The filter and oil pan were moulded in, but the rest of the detailing wasn't. Look at all those air pipes up on top! Wild!

Finally! A car that I’ve built that has a REAL engine! The 210 hp/ 315 ft.lbs of torque mill is the classic Chevy (by then corporate) 350. The filter and oil pan were moulded in, but the rest of the detailing wasn’t. Look at all those air pipes up on top! Wild!

The engine compartment, however, is pretty weak. There are fluid bottles, a master cylinder, a battery and the intake box, but they’re all moulded in. again, this is something MPC got right by making them separate pieces. As a result, the master cylinder “drips” down the full height of the engine bay. The only choice is to paint it, but it looks dumb and cheap. This is, unfortunately, a typical Monogram weakness. Also, the headlights are moulded “down”, but there’s nothing to see under the doors, so if you look in from the side, it seems as though the headlight door covers are just hovering there for no good reason. Again, something that points to a lack of care and attention.

Strong engine, weak home. This view of the engine compartment gives you a good idea of the kit's primary failings. Look at the master cylinder "dripping" down the wall! There's also no headlights under the covers, so it's best to paint it black in there!

Strong engine, weak home. This view of the engine compartment gives you a good idea of the kit’s primary failings. Look at the master cylinder “dripping” down the wall! There’s also no headlights under the covers, so it’s best to paint it black in there!

The interior is minimally detailed, although it does have carpeting texture in the floor, and the “tonneau cover” for the rear storage area (calling it a “trunk” is a bit much) also has some texture to it. The seats are nice, and have the oh-so-80’s mesh on the back of them. The dash isn’t much to write home about, but it is generally correct, right down to the lack of glove box.  The inner door panes aren’t much to get excited about, though, and the door lock/pull handles are barely moulded in. Also, there should be a demarcation line just above them where a full-length panel would be, but its’ missing. I didn’t bother to scribe it in, since it would have been difficult to do and you don’t really miss it.

The outside of the car is better. The GTA emblems are all present, including the small sail panel birds behind the side windows. The glass on the car is tinted a smokey grey, which works beautifully for the tail lights, which are blacked out, as they have been on T/As since 1979. Unfortunately, this means the fog lights are also tinted, which will need correcting. The wrap-around spoiler, however, is a problem it doesn’t fit worth a toot, so that means that it has to be put on before painting. This allows it to be glued, plastic to plastic, ensuring a strong bond. If you try to glue it on afterwards, you’re going to be right out of luck, or worse.

Typical GM fit and finish? No! (Well, maybe...) This shows the spoiler and its "fit" onto the car. Glue that one down BEFORE you paint, boys and girls!

Typical GM fit and finish? No! (Well, maybe…) This shows the spoiler and its “fit” onto the car. Glue that one down BEFORE you paint, boys and girls!

One of the GTA’s most recognizable features is the wheels. GTAs rule the roads on a gold-lace wheel with a chrome trim ring. I love those wheels, and think they are among the sharpest wheels ever made. The Monogram boys did a good job on this detail; the wheels are excellent.  The tires, though, suck. They have a large seam and some flash around the openings, and on two of mine, there was a noticeable step in the tire at mid thickness, where the moulds didn’t line up! It’s nothing you can’t sand around, but it’s rather telling of the quality control at Monogram.

This is what counts: the lacy gold wheels of the GTA define a generation of Poncho performance machines. These are  beautifully rendered, and with Alclad Chrome, some gold paint and a nice black wash, they really come alive!

This is what counts: the lacy gold wheels of the GTA define a generation of Poncho performance machines. These are beautifully rendered, and with Alclad Chrome, some gold paint and a nice black wash, they really come alive!

Building and Painting the GTA:

The model comes in black, with tinted windows and the requisite chrome rack. Of course, I stripped the chrome with Easy Off oven cleaner as soon as I started the kit, since almost nothing on a GTA is actually chromed. I wanted to do the car in the colour I always associate with GTAs: Flame Red. This is a metallic red that is deeper than the normal bright red, but not as purple as Dark Cherry.

I found a 1987 GTA for sale online; it was Flame Red with a red interior. It looked awesome, so I decided to duplicate it! I used the same basic paint as I did for my Skyline, but added some more red and some Russet Metallic pigment to it. I used my Jacquard pigments to metalflake the paint; these work phenomenally, not only adding a coloured sparkle, but also tinting the paint.

For the interior, I used a mixed up maroon, based on Model Master Acrylic Guards Red, British Crimson and Polyscale DTI Cherry Red. I used Chevy Engine Red for the cloth parts of the interior, including the carpet. I textured the carpet with a darker red pastel, which I ground into the surface, and I also did a light wash of the same colour on the seats, to bring out their details.  This was a bit troublesome, and I would not suggest using pastels to make washes/filters; they don’t fully dissolve, and can give a gritty appearance as a result. A quick over-coat with very thin paint (itself a filter, I guess…) toned this down, though. The interior was coated with Ceramcoat Matte Urethane varnish. This gave the cloth parts a nice flat, textured look. For the (copious) amounts of hard (and cheap) plastics in the interior, the affected parts were given a light brush coating of thinned Future. This brought the shine up a bit, but not so much that they were really “glossy”.

This car is RED. Even the inside keeps the red coming, with red cloth seats and maroon plastic. Every GTA had the same grey center console, regardless of interior colour. Note the pastel lines in the seats, to give depth.

This car is RED. Even the inside keeps the red coming, with red cloth seats and maroon plastic. Every GTA had the same grey center console, regardless of interior colour. Note the pastel lines in the seats, to give depth.

The dashboard was done in Gunship Grey and my mixed “Virsago black” which is Gunship and Flat Black. This gives a dark colour that’s not quite black, so it’s not as stark, and is closer to the dark colour GM used on its cars.  The arm rests were, interestingly, separate pieces, and that made things nice. However, they interfere with the seats! It was tough to get the seats into the car, and they don’t sit quite flat on the floor!

Any colour you want it, so long as it's grey and black! Just like the center console, every Firebird got the same bland dash. The real thing is very "cyber"- ish, though.

Any colour you want it, so long as it’s grey and black! Just like the center console, every Firebird got the same bland dash. The real thing is very “cyber”- ish, though.

The engine went together well, and was painted in various shades of Steel, Aluminum and Jet Exhaust. The oil pan was black, the whole thing was given a light wash of Citadel Baddab Black and Devlan Mud to bring out the greys and browns in the metallic shades. The fit of the parts was commendable, and even the exhaust (painted in similar shades) matched up with the manifolds! Rare indeed!

Less well-fitting were the end caps, which had a.) no locating pins and b.) nowhere to adhere to! I fixed this by gluing in a couple of locator tabs at both the front and rear ends. This is an absolute must on this car; if you don’t, you’ll have a devil of a time getting the caps to stick when you’re done, and you’re likely going to make a mess of things getting them on.  Conversely, the body cladding on the sides of the car fit on very well, and didn’t need any surgery at all!

The body was primed using lacquer-based red paint, and left to dry for a few days, before the paint was airbrushed on. The paint, because of all the pigment in it, dried quite roughly. It was quite heavily Futured, and the whole thing was left to dry for a couple of weeks. The roughness was sanded down using Detail Master sanding cloths, all the way to 12,000 grit, and then the kit was re-Futured.

After another week, the body was sanded again, but only with 4000 grit. Then, I used Tamiya Fine and Tamiya Finish modelling scratch removers. DUDE!! That is the best approach I’ve yet heard to get the paint looking good! After the 4000, the body looks quite a mess, but the two scratch removers work like gold!!

This view gives you a good feeling for the shine on the car. Tamiya finishing prodcuts are awesome!

This view gives you a good feeling for the shine on the car. Tamiya finishing prodcuts are awesome!

I used Alclad Chrome to do the wheels, and as always, it worked flawlessly. Also, unlike chrome plating, the Alclad can be painted over with ease, and I used a home-made Model Master gold to paint the spokes. To make them “pop”, I washed the center of the wheel with my homemade MMA Flat Black, water and Future wash. This worked amazingly, if I may be boastful; the wheels look awesome!

Another key appearance cue on the GTAs is their blacked out taillights, as mentioned previously. The part is cast in the same smokey plastic as the windows, which is perfect. On the real car, if you look at the taillights, you can see some red and white showing through. The lens in the kit has raised squares to replicate the lights, so all I had to do was paint the back of the lens black, and then sand off just the tops of the squares. Then, I painted 3 coats of red and white where appropriate over the back of the lens, and it showed through the exposed smokey glass. The effect was amazing; spot on to the real thing!

A view of the rear lenses with the black paint scraped off the back side. You can see the light passing through the little holes, exactly like the real thing!

A view of the rear lenses with the black paint scraped off the back side. You can see the light passing through the little holes, exactly like the real thing!

The red and white for the lights was painted onto the back of the lens, so it would show through  when looking directly at the back of the car.

The red and white for the lights was painted onto the back of the lens, so it would show through when looking directly at the back of the car.

The end result! The tail lights and backup lights show through subtly thanks to the smokey glass.  The bird emblem is done in gold Bare Metal Foil.

The end result! The tail lights and backup lights show through subtly thanks to the smokey glass. The bird emblem is done in gold Bare Metal Foil.

Final assembly wasn’t too bad. There isn’t much undercarriage detail, and what there is, I just hosed black. It all fits in and around the exhaust pipes quite well, and the engine fits securely too. Amazingly, the radiator hose is a perfect fit, something MPC never, ever, gets right! The front window fits in no problem, and the interior/chassis combo fit into the body fairly well.

The problem was that the body was bowed, so it didn’t meet the chassis in most places! I had to clamp the car together while the glue dried, it was so bad. Also, the back window didn’t fit worth a toot; it is actually CA’ed in place! I never use CA on glass, but I had to on this one. It worked, mostly, although the window doesn’t quite fit into the trunk properly at the base. As expected, the hood is a mediocre fit at best, but it won’t hold itself up, so I had to cut a prop rod for it.

Conclusions:

The 1987 GTA is one of my very favourite cars of all time. When I was a teenager, I’d have killed for one, but of course, that wasn’t going to happen. Since then, I’ve driven some, and I have to say, I’m not in a hurry to get one. My G8 is faster, roomier, quieter, and more comfortable and has a trunk. Still, stylistically, the 1987 GTA is an awesome, awesome machine.

A wicked looking car in a gorgeous colour! The late 80's GTAs have always been a favourite of mine. Thankfully, now I won't have to buy the real thing!

A wicked-looking car in a gorgeous colour! The late 80’s GTAs have always been a favourite of mine. Thankfully, now I won’t have to buy the real thing!

This kit captures the 80’s spirit of the GTA very well, and with some patience builds up into a very nice replica of Poncho’s top-end performance machine. It’s not the most detailed kit, and it has its flaws in the engine compartment and interior especially. It’s also a bit tough to build properly, and the big rear window didn’t help.

I can’t recommend this kit for someone with a love of T/As but only casual modelling skill. It’s going to take some skill and experience to get this thing looking good. However, if you have said skill and the patience to work through the issues, this kit does make a very nice display piece.

After 25 years, I finally have a GTA of my own, and I couldn’t be happier!

The sleek lines and aggressive stance of the '87 GTA are prefectly captured by Monogram kit, even if it has some weak points.

The sleek lines and aggressive stance of the ’87 GTA are prefectly captured by Monogram kit, even if it has some weak points.

3 comments

  1. disabledcyclist · · Reply

    (Just posted on the thread at MCM as well),LOVE this build! I built one (not as nicely done) back in the early 90’s I think it was,one of my favorite older kits (I have a couple varients in the stash,from an ’85 TA,to this kit,to a few AMT varients as well). Very nicely done and thanks for the memories 🙂

    (I’m Olskoolrodder on MCM 😉 😛 )

  2. Nice build I’ve been looking for a kit for a long time now because this was my first car at 17. If you can pass along the kit number that would be excellent thanks! totalfinish@live.ca

    1. Thanks, man! Glad you like the build, and I hope I did it justice.

      The kit is Number 2743-0100. There’s an ’89 Turbo model as well, and it’s number is 2905M0100.

      Good luck finding one! It’s always great to build a previous ride.

      By the way; wicked first car!

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