Chrysler has a long and distinguished (?) history of reinventing itself right at the last minute of the eleventh hour. It seems that when the times are darkest, the Conjurers of the Five-Pointed-Star always manage to drag a crowd-pleaser in from the ether to save the company once again. The K-Car is one example; the well-selling 300/Charger family (plus the new Challenger) are another. However, there’s a middle child in this lineage that seems to have been forgotten. That branch on the family tree is the LH-series of cars.
Intrepids, Concordes and an earlier flavour of 300 were all LH Cars. These were immensely popular, and brought Chrysler’s newest concept, that of “cab forward design” to the public’s auto-buying minds The idea was to shorten the hood and trunk and increase the wheelbase to give a car that had a lot of room but wasn’t huge and unwieldy. It worked and the number of Intrepids still rolling around is testament to the sales success of the LH brand. . It wasn’t just those big cars that used cab forward design, though; even Neons used it! Between the Neon and the Intrepid, though, was a mid-sized car, the Sebring.
Debuting in 1995, the Sebring was a two-door coupe. In 1996, a convertible was added to the line. Despite sharing a name, the two vehicles shared little else in terms of architecture. The convertible was a very sleek vehicle with flowing lines and a very modern, almost futuristic, look to it. This replaced the previous LeBaron convertible, which had run to the end of its styling life. The folks at Chrysler pushed the Sebring convertible hard, and it was also a big success. There are still many driving today. They were an excellent “midlife crisis”car. They were sportily-styled and their convertible nature appealed to those who felt they had earned the right to a sporty car, while they were big enough to transport a family around town with no issues. This helped potential customers sell the car as a viable purchase to undoubtedly skeptical significant others.
To show off the car, Chrysler had promos made for dealers. The only versions I’ve ever seen of these promos were in the burgundy metallic colour with a tan interior. They are very deluxe promos, with multiple colours, chrome grilles and wheels, and good badging detailing. The burgundy colour was also very popular in real life; I think half of the ones I see still driving are this colour, and at least another quarter are in the dark metallic green.
Now, anyone who builds cars is familiar with the practice of making promos into model kits. MPC was a king of this, and JoHan was no slouch in this department either! However, this was, I thought, a practice that had fallen into the abyss. It turns out I was wrong. The people who own the Lindberg name resurrected this approach, and one example is the Super Snap Ultra Chrysler Sebring.
The Lindberg Sebring kit comes in a hinged, top opening box. This is annoying, since it reduces the structure of the box and takes up a lot of space. It’s also flimsy to start with, so making it have no ‘back wall’ is not the best plan. On the box, there is a picture of a (shock!) burgundy and tan Sebring convertible. I can’t be sure, but I’m 99% certain that it is a Chrysler stock promotional picture. It is not a picture of the finished kit, or if it is, it is very masterfully done: The box pic shows seat belts, and they are not included in the kit.
The box is nothing to write home about. It has a certain ‘90s minimalist charm, but that’s about it. The swooshy “Ultra” label would be just as at home on a New Kids on the Block record or a new-fangled dusty rose coloured touch tone phone, but other than that, there’s little to make the kit stand out. In fact, I didn’t even give it a passing glance in the hobby shop where I found it. If it hadn’t been for my brother pointing it out, and then telling me I “had to get it”, I doubt I’d have bothered, it was so boring. In short, the box is NOT of the MPC-level of scale automotive pornography I’m used to.
Another problem with the box is that, while there are pictures on all sides, they’re all the SAME PICTURE. This makes the box even more boring, and really gives an unprofessional look to the whole product. At this point, I didn’t know what to expect from the contents, and wasn’t feeling the need to find out. However, I did like the Lindberg Caravan kit, so I decided to give this one a chance.
Upon opening the box, I found the “promo as a kit” taken to the most ridiculous possible extreme! This kit IS the promo, just knocked down for reassembly. I figured it would be a curbsider, like the Caravan, but I wasn’t expecting it to be cast in the exact same colours as the promo my brother has. However, that’s exactly what I got. The model came very well wrapped in a thick bag, and inside where were sub-bags!
The bumpers, tires, windows/lights and seats were all in their own bags. If only MPC would have done this, a lot of us would have a lot less “tire burn” to deal with now. Still, it is an impressively packaged model, especially when you consider there are very few pieces!
The body was cast in metallic burgundy, and very shiny. The chassis is one piece, with moderate detail pressed in. The detail is at least as good as a Tamiya kit from the ‘80s, so kudos on that. The wheels are excellently attached and nicely chromed, and the glass is all clear and scratch free. Sadly, it is also totally clear. I was hoping that the black frames might be painted, saving me a lot of trouble. No such luck. Sadly, this also means the tail lights are clear. The real tail lights are red with long white backup lights at the bottom. There’s only the faintest hint of this demarcation on the inside of the lights, so painting these is going to be a real challenge
The fit of the parts will likely be very good, since the promo is very well made, and I don’t think that there will be any major concerns with anything being missing, warped or short-shot. All the pieces look good. The moulding on the interior is nice, although I would have liked some more texture on the carpeting. The seats are leather, so they look fine as they are texture-wise.
Instructions and Decals:
The instructions are on one averaged-sized piece of paper, and are very simple and clear to follow. The pictures are all very clear and it’s easy to see how things are going to go together. It’s not like some simple kits where the drawings on the instructions are vague and lead to confusion. This may sound silly for a simple kit like this, but there’s nothing worse than having to second guess the instructions on what looks to be an easy build. There is a small decal sheet with emblems on it. This at least tells us that this is a Sebring JXI, which was the highest trim level in 1996, the time the promo/kit was issued.
There’s no doubt that the 1996 Sebring convertible was a major success for Chrysler, and helped to re-assert the company’s focus on high-style, innovative products. Compared to other cars of the time, the Sebring convertible looks like it is a far more expensive vehicle that it really was; up-valuing a design is something Chrysler has long excelled at. Given the importance of the car, it really is nice to have a kit of it to add to my collection.
Since this is a “skill level 1” kit, and it has clear instructions and few pieces, I can’t see this model posing a problem for anyone. Well, I should qualify that; I don’t see it being a problem for anyone who doesn’t want to paint it. However, if you DO want to make a full model kit of it (which of course I do), then the kit does give me pause. My experience with this kind of plastic tells me that the burgundy on the body is going to bleed through most primers, making it difficult to change the colour of this car. I’d rather they have issued the model in just a single colour of white or light grey plastic. Of course, that would have meant a different production process and negated the “Ultra” selling point, so I get why that’s not the case. Still, I fear that there is going to be some work to do to get this car to be the colour I want it. I don’t know what that is yet, but I know it’s not burgundy.
Overall, then, this kit is a surprisingly double-edged sword, I think. It’s actually really nice as a kit; simple and fairly well detailed. However, it is going to make life tough for real modellers. That having been said, real modellers are going to be able to work around the kit’s foibles and I’m sure that this can be made into a very nice looking model of a significant car. Looking at it that way, I’m sure glad my brother insisted I pick it up. You should too!