The automotive world is all about competition and one-upmanship. Whether it’s a horsepower race, an efficiency race or the contest to see how many useless Bluetooth gadgets can be squeezed into a car, there is always some kind of arena in which automakers face each other head on. Interestingly enough, this holds not only for 1:1 scale cars, but toy cars as well!
When Mattel introduced Hot Wheels in 1968, it stood the world of small-scale (about 1/64) cars on its ear. Here were cars that not only looked like some of the crazy, wicked customs rolling out of California (and other places) but had the speed to match the looks! Up against makers like Corgi and Matchbox, whose cars were more realistic and definitely far, far slower, Hot Wheels dominated. They crushed the competition completely, and eventually all were acquired by Mattel. Hot Wheels ruled the 1/64 road with crazy designs, racing sets and those fast, fast axles for the next 12 years without any serious challengers emerging.
In 1980, though, Kenner struck back. Better known for their Star Wars toys than cars, Kenner’s entry into the 1/64 speed demon arena was a line of unique cars called “Fast 111’s”. This is pronounced “Fast Ones”, not “Fast one elevens”, in case you wonder. They trumpeted the fact that THEY were the fastest toy cars you could race, and so long as they weren’t abused, that seems to be true. A perfect condition Fast 111’s will roll far faster, farther and straighter than any Hot Wheels from 1980, and will still put a Hot Ones to shame.
Fast 111’s had a variety of crazy custom vehicles and a few realistic ones too. By and large, they were far wilder than even Hot Wheels, but there was more. The folks at Kenner knew they needed a hook; something to distinguish their cars from Hot Wheels. Enter Fast 111’s tag line: “One-of-a-kind Licence Plates”! According to Kenner’s advertising, each Fast 111’s car had a completely unique plate. That meant NO TWO CARS were identical. With all 50 states and 10 Canadian Provinces to choose from, I guess that’s possible, but I don’t know if it’s ever been proven.
Fast 111’s were more expensive than Hot Wheels, as I recall. Is a “one of a kind plate” really worth it, you might ask? Indeed, I’m sure many adults did ask. However, to a kid (Iike I was at the time), those plates were WELL worth it. No other toy car HAD a real licence plate. It’s something every real car had, but toys just didn’t. Well, now there were toys WITH plates, and it was awesome! Each car also came with an “ownership” or “registration” that kids could fill out with their custom plate number and collect. This could actually be useful in a schoolyard, too; should one’s “friends” decide to appropriate a car or two, it was easy to prove it was yours if you had the paperwork on you!
So, what does all this have to do with models? Simple: Kenner also took the brand into the world of styrene. They got MPC in their corner and produced four (to my knowledge) Snap-Together kits of some of the most famous Fast 111’s: Evil Eye (a racing rig), Piston Pusher (a Firebird funny car), Dirt Digger (a dune buggy) and Jet Vette (a ’79-‘80 Corvette). These kits were roughly 1/32 in scale and were advertised as “The fastest kits you can build.” I’m assuming that they meant in terms of building speed, because no snap kit rolls worth much, in my experience!
Fast 111’s kits aren’t common. Unlike the toy cars, which enjoyed short-term success, the models really didn’t go far. Kids were into models a bit more then than now, but it was more attractive to buy more Fast 111’s cars than the kits. After all, the cars were more colourful and ready to go right out of the box! As a result, you don’t see much about the Fast 111’s kits. I myself have only ever seen one in the flesh at a flea market, and I am unwilling to pay the price wanted for it, given its rather dilapidated condition.
Lucky me, though! Not long ago, I managed to come across TWO sealed Fast 111’s kits at a decent price! I couldn’t resist, and thus I now have Jet Vette and Evil Eye in my collection. Evil Eye was one of the first Fast ones I ever got (I think it was my fourth overall, actually), so I decided to take a look at it first. So, strap on your helmets and let’s see what the (lack of) fuss is all about!
The box is classic Fast 111’s. A Fast 111’s bubble pack was a red-white-blue striped affair. It was kind of like a British fin flash but in italic font, since it leaned to one side. The pack also had the shape of a licence plate and proclaimed the “One-of-a-kind”-edness of said plate. It’s no surprise, then, that the MPC box designers played it close to the vest when it came to designing the kit boxes!
In the upper left corner is the very large licence plate logo, with the traditional “speed liked” Fast 111’s logo, and the pronouncement of said plate’s uniqueness. Interestingly enough, right below that is the bolt printing informing you that each car has its own plate. I would have thought that was obvious, but then again Transformers also told you that the toys went from “whatever mode-to-robot and back” several times, so maybe there’s no such thing as too much repetition when it comes to toys. It’s very interesting to note the MPC logo at the top of the plate. Even if I wasn’t a huge fan of Fast 111’s (which I am) the fact that it’s an MPC would attract me!
The bulk of the box is, of course, a retouched photo of the real model. In this case, the very blocky and bold colours of the pack are accentuated by the only slightly rounded lines of the Evil Eye racing rig. Evil Eye is a very square design; its big, square cab, huge spoiler with equally massive support pylon and sheer cliff face-like sides add a lot of visual weight to the box. Add in a huge chin spoiler and enormous side pipes and right away you can see why MPC was the right choice for making these kits. Let’s face it, a lot of this freaky custom stuff was right up MPC’s alley; see Bear Bait and Gold Rush for details on that!
It’s important to remember that, like most MPC kits of the era, Evil Eye is a product of its time. That means that to be truly custom, you had to have things like massive spoilers and heavy racing wheels, as well as wild paint! Fast 111’s really excelled at crazy stripes and panels as paint accents. Evil Eye shows this to great success on the box front illustration. Even though the rig itself is red, the large, panelled “sunset stripes” show up really well! If that’s not how an ‘80s custom is done, then I have no idea what you were expecting…
Capping off the box lid is the traditional MPC “full size” picture in the top right. Normally, you find this on the side of an MPC box, but Evil Eye’s box isn’t thick enough for that. The Fast 111’s kit boxes are more the shape of airplane kit boxes; low and flat, rather than the more square boxes normally associated with cars. Thus, the full size image of Evil Eye won’t fit anywhere but the lid. Right away, you should get a feel for how small Evil Eye actually is. It’s clear that this isn’t going to be a whopper of a kit once it’s built up. This is no surprise, since it’s a simple snap kit for a child.
The one side of the box shows some of the features of the kit. What’s really cool is that it seems that both the cab and the rear shell are hinged, allowing the builder to put whatever’s inside on display. The photo is a bit murky, in the MPC tradition, so it’s not easy to figure out what is going on in there. Still, it’s possible to see an engine connecting to the massive side pipes, and there is a full frame under it all. The second pic is the “Money Shot” though; it is a close up of the most important part of any Fast 111’s car; the very distinctive “wedge” tail lights and licence plate holder.
Every Fast 111’s had this same kind of tail treatment. No matter what kind of car it was, real or fantasy, every single one had a chrome (or black, depending on age and manufacturing location) wedge with two red, square tail lights (sometimes they were rounded, but most were rectangular) and the coveted plate in the middle. It’s no surprise then, that MPC put the same thing on the Fast 111’s kit! Interestingly, the tail lights don’t quite look right; the lamps are a 90 degree bend, like a seat, instead of being flush with the bumper. I don’t know why. The other picture, a close-up of Evil Eye’s tough looking rims helps to date the kit just as much as the “1981” copyright. Note that this is both made and litho’d in the USA; that’s another indication that this is a relic of the good old days!
Just when you thought it couldn’t get better, the other side of the box has a “Builders (sic) Certificate”. Notice the heinous lack of apostrophe. Seriously? Get it right! Grrr… Still, horrifying ignorance of grammar aside, this is pretty cool. This is the modelling equivalent of the “ownerships” that the toys came with. Also, there’s a little info box, something the early Fast 111’s also had on their info cards! It’s quite interesting to me that the kit is moulded in yellow OR red and black. What, they didn’t know? I guess it was easier just to punch out both red and yellow kits and use the same box. Seems odd, but it does add another dimension to this whole package.
Which one is inside? Like I said, the kit was still factory sealed… There was no way of knowing what custom plate was inside, or what colour my Evil Eye actually was. Here was a kit that, for 35 years had remained sealed. It was part of a Fast 111’s collector’s personal collection. He’d preserved it all this time. What was I supposed to do? Would modelling etiquette even allow me to crack the wonderfully preserved cellophane on something this perfect?
Well, if you know me, then you know the answer to that is a resounding “Heck yeah!” (Replace Heck with other expletives for a more realistic feel, though.) I don’t care how old or rare it is. Models are meant to be seen and handled, and I wasn’t going to let perfect preservation stop me from seeing what was in that box. Not only did I want to know what colour of kit I had, but I had to get a couple of huffs of that trapped ‘80s air! Heck, the air in the box was from when my brother was just a newborn, and far before Transformers, Lego or most other things I collect even came into my life!
Slitting the plastic wrapping carefully from below, I was able to pop the lid off and keep the box top covered in plastic, and thus armoured against eventual scratches. I took a couple of deep breaths of the very musty air inside and it was awesome! It was my own little time machine! Opening my eyes after my brief journey through time and space, I was greeted by the sight of yellow plastic! So, that answered that question. I quickly took the parts out of the box to see what kids in the early ‘80s would have gotten.
Well, to put it simply, not much. Or rather, at first glance, the kit doesn’t look like much. There are two racks of coloured plastic; one yellow and one black. There’s also a chrome rack and some window glass that was in very good shape. A small instruction book and a large decal sheet are also included. More on them later.
The piece count in this kit won’t overwhelm you. There are very few yellow pieces; mostly just the big body shell and spoiler, plus a rudimentary engine block. The black rack consists of the frame, interior, suspension and tires. Yep, you read that right. The tires, like many small scale snap fits of the era are plastic, not rubber. The chrome rack contains the grille/headlight piece, the rear end wedge, the wheels and of course those massive side pipes. For anyone used to more complex kits, I will agree it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot to get too excited about here.
But that’s just the first impression. You need to really stop and take a look at the kit to get a feel for it. Once you do that, you start to notice a lot of things.
First: There’s a lot of cool surface detail on the rig. Just like a real truck, there are a lot of rivets and a few vents to break up the massive sides of the Evil Eye. The spoiler is also covered in them, and it adds a lot of character and ‘toughness’ to the kit. It will also make decalling hell, if the decals aren’t big on conforming to curves, but that’s a problem for another day. Note, too, the “non-slip” diamond-plate all along the back of the truck’s rear shell. This would look awesome in polished steel, instead of body colour. With a VERY LIGHT wash to highlight the detail this could really set Evil Eye apart. It’s not toy accurate, but then again, it might be the toy that lost this detail when it was scaled down!
Second: There’s actually some engine detail. The mounting bracket does include some kind of serpentine-looking belt detail, and the two differentials each have their own driveshafts that connect appropriately. That’s a neat detail I wasn’t expecting. The engine block is missing MPC’s trademark slew of separate piece accessories, but it does have nice texturing for the casting pattern. So, not a washout there, either.
Third: The tires, while plastic, are actually not terrible. They’re basically drag slicks anyway, and they’re far superior to those abominations AMT would give you. You know what I mean, those ungluable plastic half-tires that were the bane of all modellers everywhere? At least you can GLUE these ones! Also, they are lettered, and very pronouncedly so. I think the Evil Eye will look AWESOME with the letters whitened. Heck, until just recently we have a hard time getting expensive kits to give us lettered tires, so this little guy brings it strong in that department.
Fourth: The chrome looks nice. There are issues with how the rims are attached, as always. They’re attached at the front, so careful cutting and sanding will be needed to preserve them. The grille and wedge look great, though. Also, the valve covers and pipes are one piece, but overall they look good. I kind of want to paint the pipes white… I’ll have to think about that. However, they will need to be drilled out to look good. This will take some time and trouble, but for something this interesting, it’s well worth it.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the interior. I didn’t know if there’d even be one, but sure enough, there’s an interior bucket. It’s shallow to be sure, but there are seats and a central console and… a bed! Yes, if you look, Evil Eye is a sleeper cab, so a bed makes perfect sense. Well, sort of. The truck is a racing truck, so why you would carry the extra weight of a bed is boggling. However, I can only assume that Evil Eye can also be driven from race to race and is street legal. As a kid, this would be a big deal. I hated toy race cars because you could never ‘drive’ them in cities with your normal cars. However, if Evil Eye is street legal, then it means you can do whatever you want. This kit proves that’s the case, and for that alone, the bed is awesome! There’s some cool blanket texturing on the bed too; MPC did understand how to liven up an interior with textures, eh?
Instructions and Decals:
The instructions are on a small, thrice-folded booklet that opens once. It’s not an elaborate affair, but there’s not much to putting Evil Eye together. Because this kit is intended for children, the instructions are simple and clear. They’re well drawn and nothing is left much to chance. This is good. The booklet isn’t too big either, which is important for little hands. Too big a piece of paper (cough… Bear Bait… cough…) is hard to work with, and when your target audience is themselves 1:2 scale, it’s best to err on the side of compactness.
The decals, though, are all grown up. As you saw, Evil Eye sports some MASSIVE sunset stripes. In fact most of the rig is either striping or diamond-plate! The decals are supremely awesome. They are, of course, water decals. MPC didn’t get lame and provide useless self-adhesives. Back in the day, kids learned how to use decals just like grown-ups used, and were better for it. (We did it uphill in the snow both ways, too, you understand…)
The decals were in PERFECT shape. I’ve never seen old MPC decals so beautifully preserved. 35 years passed on the outside, but for these decals it was still 1981 in that box. I have since put them in a Ziploc bag to preserve them, lest they go all “Dorian Gray” on me. The decals have a minimum of film and are very shiny. I have great hopes for them; Gold Rush’s decals were nice, once they got some decal sealer on them, and I’m hoping Evil Eye’s will work just as well.
One other feature I’ve yet to mention is the licence plate. It is provided as a separate sticker. Yes, it is a sticker. It likely wasn’t worth MPC’s time to make a separate decal sheet for it, and making it a sticker allowed it to have a bit more of a plate-like heft to it. Also, if a kid didn’t want to use the decals, or didn’t’ have someone to show them how to do it, they would have been very disappointed if the plate was a decal. They wouldn’t have been able to use it, and the whole point of the Fast 111’s design would have been negated. Rather than pride in their unique model, a builder would just have felt dejected, and would likely have preferred a few cars with pre-attached plates to a kit. Thus, I don’t mind this too much. Just having a licence plate sticker I can put on myself is pretty awesome, and I’m sure kids back in the day would have thought so too.
Fast 111’s are an interesting footnote in the history of 1/64 toy cars. They were an honest attempt to create something wilder than Hot Wheels, and they succeeded in several ways, even if they didn’t last. I love my Fast 111’s to this day, and find them even more interesting than their rivals. The fact that they made Fast 111’s kits at all is, by today’s standards, rather surprising.
As far as models go, the Evil Eye kit is not representative of the pinnacle of the mould-maker’s art. However, its apparent simplicity belies a considerable amount of detail. It has respectable detail in the power train, the interior is simple but nice and it even has lettered tires. Add the rivets and diamond-plate to this and you actually have a kit that’s more than decent for what was intended to be a quick snap together for a child.
That, though, is the crux of the matter. If you go into this as a well-seasoned modeller, expecting the detail and fineness of some of the larger MPC kits of the day, you’re going to be disappointed. However, if you remember that the kit wasn’t made FOR YOU, but that it was made FOR KIDS, then all of a sudden, it’s not a big deal. The kit was never meant to be a show winner or a precise replica of something real. It’s an UP-SCALED representation of a toy car. Remember, kids with no modelling experience were the target audience. When you consider that, Evil Eye comes out looking pretty darn cool.
And that is the point. This kit was made when the target audience for kits was kids. They were meant to get kids interested in modelling and suck them into buying more elaborate kits later. The Fast 111’s kits were there to give beginning modellers something to cut their teeth on; something to build by themselves to gain confidence and skill, and to feel proud of when done. For that alone, Evil Eye and its brothers are to be praised.
At the end of the day you have a simple kit that I think is going to build up nicely. It was designed for novice hands, and so will make a great project with a junior modeller, should you find one of these models. If you’re a superdetailer, you can go nuts with this thing and make it truly awesome; the choice is yours!
All this potential AND a unique licence plate… there’s really nothing more to ask for!