Ah, the Automotive Dark Ages; such horrible, terrible, hopeless times for anyone considering themselves an automotive enthusiast. You didn’t need to even be in the market for a new car to feel the desperation of the motoring faithful as large, powerful engines and aggressively-styled bodies gave way to tepid four-bangers and tin-plate econoboxes that looked as distinct as rowhouses in a snowstorm. Gas crises, skyrocketing car prices and strict pollution controls choked all the fun out of new cars, and all that the Big Three could do to try and hold onto their past glories was to make cars that looked kind of sporty-ish and try and sell them to a saddened, spiritually-broken consumer base.
Into this hellish miasma of faded glory and broken promises came Ford’s “world car” Escort. A truly “global” econobeater, it had all the style of Cheerios box (my apologies to Cheerios, actually) with the power and excitement to match. Ford needed something, though, to capture the “youth” segment, and chose to develop the bug-eyed EXP; a sport coupe based on the Escort’s anemic and ill-suited running gear. This frog-eyed “masterpiece of design” hit the streets in 1982, and its polarizing design at least created some media buzz. It was big enough news that Monogram, Revell and MPC all produced kits of the car. No wonder one automotive author described the times as “the era of lowered expectations”! If the EXP is big news, you’re in big trouble!
However, there was more to the story. Just like Dr. Dre, people seem to forget about Ford’s upscale cousin; Mercury. Back in the ‘80s Mercury was still a big deal, and it was felt they needed to have some kind of upscale-ish econobeater as well. So, the Escort was given a mild facelift to become the Lynx. Why Lynx? Well, Mecury’s symbol was a cougar (since their main product was the very popular Cougar personal luxury coupe), and a lynx is just a smaller wildcat. They hoped the subtlety wouldn’t be missed. I think it was. Regardless: what were Merc buyers to do if they wanted to experience more sporty driving, but didn’t have the money for a Mustang-based Capri?
While, at first, this seems to be a question almost no one actually asked, it was definitely one that the good folks at the Blue Oval answered. If the Escort could get Merc-ified, then so could the EXP! Thus was born the LN-7. Just like the EXP, whose name means nothing but may evoke the Escort and then use “X” to sound cool, mysterious and powerful (Lies!), the LN-7’s name doesn’t really mean anything either. The LN is certainly “lynx-ish” sounding. But why 7? Well, the Cougar’s top model was the XR-7, so it was common for Mercs to have a “-7”. I don’t know if that’s exactly how the naming went, but it can’t be far from the truth.
The problem with the LN-7 was that it had to take an already polarizingly distinctive shape and make it MORE distinctive. Kudos to the guys at Mercury for figuring out how to do that! First thing they did was to take the front end and add MORE GRILLES. The EXP has two long, thin (almost Studebaker-like) “moustache” grilles. Well, if you’re going to be “upscale”, you need more grilles, so Mecury put in TEN. There are two rows of five small slots in the LN-7’s “wind-cheating” nose profile. Maybe the engine needs more cooling? Is it more powerful? Uh, no… dream on. If the rampant perforation of the nose section wasn’t enough to cause extra drag and slow down an already savagely disappointing performer, the Merc guys had another plan; a huge bubble-back rear window!
For some reason, in the ‘80s, Mercury’s design studios decided that they would make all their sporty cars sportier by adding large and heavy bulged rear windows. The Capri and LN-7 were both recipients of this treatment. In reality, it doesn’t look too bad, but the heavy glass only exacerbated the performance issues of the car. Also, the extra weight made opening the trunk hatch more difficult, and caused premature strut failure on many of the decklids. Overall, it was more “style over substance” and “form over function”; the battle cry of the Dark Ages!
Despite the buzz created by the EXP in the model kitting world, the LN-7 was largely ignored. This is typical; Mercury products are rarely kitted compared to their Ford equivalents. However, the folks at Monogram stepped up to the challenge and retooled their 1/32 EXP kit so that it, too, could be “Mercified” into an LN-7. Thus, the modelling public was subjected to the same choice in mediocrity that the full-scale motoring public was.
Monogram got on the LN-7 bandwagon early, issuing both the EXP and the LN-7 kits at the same time, in 1982. The box of the LN-7 is typical Monogram for that time period, with a retouched photo of the completed model on the front and sides. There’s nothing spectacular about the box, unlike MPC boxes, but the sheer bizarreness of the LN-7’s multi-holed visage is enough to snag the attention of one scanning boxes in a hobby shop or department store. The reddish brown background goes well with the red body, and there is a certain feel of being in a wood-panelled basement on a shag carpet just looking at it.
Because the kit is 1/32, it is small. There is enough room on the box sides for a few photos of the “excitement” within, as well as a short description. This is where it gets interesting. The English description just calls it “Mecury’s ‘personal sport coupe’”, but the other languages mention the word “popular”. They lie. The LN-7 was as popular as sneezing toddler in an ICU. Tellingly, the kit is made in the USA, so you know it’s old!
My box was beaten up when I got the kit second (or third?) hand, but the basics are there. Just like the real car, the box wasn’t designed to last forever!
Despite being of a supremely dorky car, the model itself is quite nice. It’s a bit basic, due to the scale and the limitations imposed on the kit by the need to keep things simple, but overall, the interior detail is nice and the engine is passable for this scale. The suspension is simple, but so is that on the real car. There are four black vinyl tires, and there is a chrome rack for the wheels and a few engine accessories. As always, there are NO chrome pieces in the real engine, so these will all have to be stripped.
I actually have two of these kits (I know, I need help…), and both are moulded in red. The plastic is nice, but brittle, so care will be required when cutting off some of the smaller parts. The windows were in good shape, and untinted; the large-bubble back window is faithfully reproduced as well, so you can see just how silly it looks! Compared to the EXP, the LN-7s body is almost identical, but there is more of the decklid removed on the LN-7 to make room for that massive rear window. The most amazing thing is the nose, though; not only is it restyled with all those vents, but Monogram’s engineers actually managed to get Mercury’s “cougar head” emblem and Mercury script on the nose. That’s a big deal in this small scale!
The interior is well-detailed, and the dash looks particularly nice. Sadly, there are rear seats moulded into the interior, and this isn’t correct for this car. I don’t think. Early reports said that there was some kind of option where you could get the rear seats, but I’ve never seen this in real life; maybe the idea was abandoned, but no one told Monogram. So, if you wanted to make a scratch-built ’82 Escort, you have a correct interior for that, at least. Still, while this seems like a major blunder, it’s not a kit-killer. First off, where else are you going to get an LN-7 kit? Secondly, at this scale, and with such a cramped interior, you can’t really see the back seat. Thirdly, the car’s whacked-out styling calls all the attention to the body, not the interior, and I doubt anyone will notice.
Instructions and Decals:
The instructions for the EXP and LN-7 are almost identical, although I do give a thumbs up to Monogram for actually changing the drawings to reflect the differences in the kit. The best part, though, of the instructions, is the writeup of the car. You can see that in the picture below. Reading that writeup, one really gets the sense that the folks at Monogram and Mercury honestly believed that the LN-7 was the second coming of the Cougar Eliminator. If by “eliminator”, you mean “one who poops”, then yes, I guess I can see it. However, when one compares the colourful wording of the hype to the dull-grey of actually driving this disappointing slug, the comedic value of the instructions can be immediately seen.
The instructions are clear and easy to follow, and the steps are few but simple. I don’t see any problem for any modeller in following these instructions. Interstingly, the instructions call out a tan interior on the red car, but the dashboard is still called out in black. One of the ‘upscale’ features of the LN-7 was a colour-matched dashboard, and I’ve seen a tan interior with a tan dash. The steering wheel, though, and column, are still black. Also, LN-7s could get nicer seats, and didn’t have the black “swoosh” in the door panel like EXPs did.
Even more ridiculous than the false praises heaped upon this awkward toad of a car are the decals that accompany the kit. For whatever reason, Monogram thought that the LN-7 would look better with differently coloured body panels above the beltline. Granted, it doesn’t look worse this way (After all, how can you make something this ugly look worse?), but it sure isn’t stock! The decals are one piece for the full length of the car, so positioning will be critical if you use them. They are shown on the box, but the builder of the box-car didn’t cut the decals over the door openings, making the box’s model look quite toy-like.
The LN-7 is, at best, an oft-forgotten footnote in automotive history. A pretentious version of a car with little more that sporting pretensions, the LN-7 was neither luxurious nor sporty; neither useful nor practical. It really was an answer to a question no one asked, but it got produced just the same, and it’s a miracle that there was anyone who thought enough of it to make a model. The Monogram LN-7 may be small, and hard to find, but it is a nice looking kit that will go together well. It’s an excellent kit for those new to car modelling and those who want something a bit different on their shelves.
I would recommend this kit to anyone with an interest in automotive history. As a kit, it’ll be great fun, and as a display item it’s about as distinctive as you can get. If you see it, grab it! If you see two, get ‘em both; I did!