It’s a long-standing tradition, in both literature and lore, that when a gathering of the mighty takes place, it is inevitable that there will be confrontation. From these melees of heroes, these cosmic throwdowns that resound from Heaven to Earth and back, will emerge the greatest of them all. Whether it’s Gods and Demons, or the grand stories of the clashes of empires, we know that there can only ever be one strongest. One best. One to rule them all.
Given this, then, can it be any surprise that the same feelings of excitement and tension, and the giddy thrill of the inevitable contest of strength, wash over us when we consider perhaps the greatest gathering of Titans in our time? What, you ask, could possibly be this epic, earth-shaking meeting of giants? It is, of course, the head-to-head comparison of all four of my MPC Monzas! What else could it be?! (I mean, c’mon… MONZAs, people!)
The time is now to pit these great styrene warriors against each other, to lay bare their secrets, strengths and weaknesses. It is time to strip them to their very cores, and find what it is inside each that may make it the One Monza; the Alpha and the Omega (not the Olds Omega, though) of malaise-era sporty econoboxery. With so many kits, each with so many gaudy decals, custom parts and badge-engineered similar differences, it could be tough. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for those who don’t have a special love of the endless varieties that only mould reuse, slight retooling and mix-and-match accessory inclusion can create. Do you have what it takes?
Well, don’t worry. Even if you don’t want to go to the lengths I have of buying a bunch of Monzas that are all almost the same (but not quite, kinda…), you can still get the answers. Why? Because I’m going to do it for you! (Who else is that crazy?) When I posted my Monza Mayhem article, a good friend suggested it would be neat to do a comparison of them to see how similar and/or different they were. This was wise advice, because as you’ll see, while they may all look like the same kit, they aren’t. Well, most of them aren’t, anyway! Instead, there’s a strange, almost heady mix of sameness and subtle difference that makes choosing the One Monza, the True Monza, more a function of exactly what you want at the time, rather than an absolute truth.
So, rather than bore you with three separate, but nearly the same, out of box articles that would be eerily reminiscent of Street Spyder, I present to you a virtual steel cage match of the Bowtie’s finest econo-rod, and a number of the many MPC variations of therein! Strap in, hold on, and get yourself a program… you can’t tell the players without a program!
This is a special event in honour of the Sprue Lagoon reaching 300,000 hits. Don’t say I don’t know how to party!
These MPC boxes are, as always, a great mix of cracked out, overdone and sedately bizarre.
The ’76 annual is the most “normal”, since it is an annual. Being the Bicentennial Year, the Spirit of ’76 is strong with this one. It’s got Red-White-and-Blue all over it, with gaudy stripes, louvres, side pipes and a weird raised hood bulge thingy. The other two models (stock and race) are shown in typical “annual” fashion in small pictures on the lid.
The next, chronologically, is Street Spyder, which apparently came out in 1977. As such, it and the ’77 annual are the first to have the “slot mouth” grille, vs the vents on the earlier H-body. You all know about Street Spyder, so there’s not much to say here.
After that is Black Max. It was released in 1978, and is NOT an annual. Like Street Spyder, Black Max is a custom kit first and foremost. However, like Bear Bait, Black Max can be built stock, as seen in the small photo just left of the clearly Germanically-inspired script calling out the car’s name. The box’s predominantly white colour makes a great background for the black and gaudy red/yellow/blue stripes of Black Max! Aggressively “comin’ at ya” with fat tires, mags, side pipes and a hole cut in the hood for bare carburetors (WTF? Bare carbs? Don’t ask…), it screams “RACE ME!”. Well, it may also be screaming because it’s ingesting flies, dust and other particulates directly, but that’s another story…
Finally is the apparently unloved “Long Shot” Monza. (For some reason, it finished dead last in the Monza Mania poll. No one liked Long Shot. Not sure why…) Released in 1980, this kit is a weird mixed bag of IMSA and Drag, not two styles you usually put together. The box is odd as it shows the car from the rear three quarters. I actually can’t think of too many cars that shake their booties in your face in quite the same way as this wide-hipped wonder! With wild stripes (thanks to Harry Bradley!), side pipes, louvers, rear side window intake/cover things, fat tires and fancy wheels, this thing is kind of too much of everything all at once! The block capital “Long Shot” is over what’s supposed to be a bull’s eye target, I guess. I wouldn’t say this was a precision machine, in any sense, though! With lots of orangey-brownish-yellow shades throughout, this box is as late ‘70s as they come!
The sides of Black Max’s and Long Shot’s boxes show either the obligatory “full size” shot (which I still love, and wish everyone did) or some of the awesome features of that kit in typical MPC style. The ’76 annual uses the slightly older approach, with one side showing all the boffo custom equipment (in drawing form) included with the kit, while the other side shows larger pictures of the other two options and a list of other ‘76ers you can get. Some of them sound awesome! Only Street Spyder is a dismal failure, showing the same “full size” art on both sides. You can check the article on it for more detail.
If it’s true that “It’s what’s inside that counts”, then this is going to be a very difficult comparison to make. In fact, that’s the reason I’m doing this, is because each of these kits is almost the same as all the others, but yet, isn’t. Sure, they all have the basic Monza inside, but there are a lot of other parts spread among these kits. If you think you can make each variant out of every kit, well, you’re wrong. But the question remains… HOW wrong?
The easiest thing to do is let a picture be worth a thousand words. Below are the parts layouts for all four kits. I personally love that Long Shot is orange. THAT is the colour of a great MPC kit!
Note that I’ve tried to arrange the parts racks the same way for each kits. Where you see empty space is often where another kit has a rack of parts, so it’s a visual clue as to what is, or isn’t, in the kit.
As you can see, the kits are all pretty similar, but there are a lot of differences. The most obvious parts that are present or not are the IMSA flares. Some have ‘em, some don’t. But, there are other differences. One that might escape you are the “Trans Am Extractors”; these are the small, raised lips that look like the fender extractors on a 2nd gen T/A, like Faust. These are very much in the J. C. Whitney vane, and I’m honestly surprised that some of these kits don’t have them; they wouldn’t cost much to make! It’s also odd to me that ONLY Black Max doesn’t have the dumb hood scoop/bulge.
When you get to tires and wheels, it gets even more confusing. The ’76 Annual (of course) and Black Max have four normal-sized tires. However, even if you want them on Street Spyder or Long Shot, you can’t have them! This is weird, kinda, since they’re not really “drag” cars. On that note, only Black Max has legit drag slicks, vs. wider rear tires. For wheels, things get even weirder. Only the ’76 Annual has the “honeycomb”-style rim, but both it and Black Max have stock wheels. However, Black Max also has 5-spoke mags, which look far better on a drag car, honestly. This is the only kit that has those wheels! As for racing equipment, everybody gets a roll cage, but only the IMSA cars get the “window mesh”. This is very thickly done and needs to be replaced with a mesh made out of tape or fabric, but it is there on these “street racing” cars, but not the drag car.
One thing that surprised me was that I thought Long Shot was a straight up copy of Street Spyder. I mean, they look like they have all the same parts, right? However, there are a few little ways in which they’re actually different. Street Spyder has those clear, flush headlight covers (as does the ’76 Annual) but Long Shot (and Black Max) doesn’t! Why? Who knows! Only MPC knows, and even then, I just imagine it’s because part of the tooling was destroyed after Street Spyder and it wasn’t restored. I could be dead wrong, of course. Another odd dissimilarity between these two be-flared brothers is that Long Shot has the T/A Extractors, but Street Spyder doesn’t. Why would Long Shot have these? They don’t fit on the flares! Oh MPC…
To make things easier, I’ve created a little chart that will give you a fingertip rundown of the major features that are present, or not present, in each of the kits. It makes for an interesting look, although I can’t say I always see logic to it. Hopefully, this will make it easier for all of us with M3S (Multiple MPC Monza Syndrome) to make sense of our lives and move forward with confidence.
It’s safe to say that it’s not many an MPC kit that escaped without some kind of ridiculous decal scheme. Even the Annual gets a big bundle of stripes, and its’ the “tame” one of the bunch! Again, pictures speak louder than words, so check out what you get below!
The ’76 Annual gets everything in red, white and blue, with a number of giant “4”s. Oddly, the blue is very much a French Blue, not the more royal blue traditionally associated with “Old Glory”. Huh… is that treason? Likely not, since I’d think the corporate sponsors portrayed as racing credits would likely be upset, so we’ll just say the blue’s a bit light and leave it at that!
Street Spyder specializes in sunset stripes and segmented spiders! Man, there’s a tongue twister for you! With extra Chevy bowties and racing credits, this IMSA rod is ready for the street, the track and the custom car show afterwards! Odd, these are not the most extreme decals of the four, and are almost tastefully over-the-top.
Black Max has some of the biggest individual decals of any of the kits. I’m not sure how they’ve aged, but I hope they perform (with some decal bonder) as well as Gold Rush’s did. The side stripes are all one big decal, and include the fender arch. I’m sure they’ll fit fine, unless they’re like the ones for the Pony Express! Still, you have to wonder about the colour choices. Red, yellow and blue? Talk about colours that DON’T go together… I also like that it’s “Black Max”, but none of the Blue Max shape is actually black. So, should it be “Red, Yellow and Silver Max”? That’s a question for higher powers that we mere mortals, I fear. For some reason, these decals seem to be the “muddiest” of the bunch, and the racing credits just look either out of focus or register… or both. Overall, the silver backing doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the decals that are on them. Solidly meh, MPC.
Long Shot has the most restrained decal sheet, at least in terms of colours. While, black and yellow, and that’s about it. Compared to some of the others, that’s pretty tame. Of course, that’s being too kind, because if you look at them, you can see they’re not tame at all! They’re Harry Bradley creations, and that guarantees gaudiness! It’s only when you put it all together that you’re going to get the full effect of that weird black-nose-and-yellow-eyebrow thingy. I love how the white panels add nothing, and are just tossed in there, almost as an aside!
So, after all this, what have we learned? Well, first of all, we now have definitive proof that when it comes to mixing and matching extras, no one can beat MPC. Squad Rod is another good example of this, but the Monza family has to take the cake, for my money. Secondly, we also found out that despite great similarities, no two kits in this contest are the same. I guess that proves you really DO have to catch ‘em all!
What it boils down to is that there ISN’T a single Monza to rule them all. There’s no One Monza… they’re all awesome, terrible, and awesomely terrible in their own, almost distinct way. Like hillbilly cousins, the resemblances are more than skin deep, but each one is still an individual. What it comes down to, then, is all about you, us, the modellers. Once you know what flavour of Monza you want, from mild to wild, then you can build the one that suits your tastes. Of course, you can further muddy the gene puddle by trading parts between kits, clearly parts from any will fit (or, you know, not fit, since it’s an MPC) on any of the others.
You might not need to buy as many as I have, or, you might need to buy even more of them. It depends on your frame of mind and your lust for H-bodies. Clearly, I’ve got the bug, and somewhere in this four-pack of pseudosport econobeater street/drag/show rods is the cure for what ails me! Hopefully, now that you’ve seen them all, you can decide which one(s) you want to add to your stash: it’s not like you can really ever have too many!