If there’s one thing that General Motors loves, it’s “badge engineering”. That’s the practice of taking one design and making it do for multiple different brands. You take a basic car, change the nose or tail, headlight shape, grille or something else relatively simple, and “Voila!” – a brand new car! Well, okay, it’s not new, but it’s different enough that you can sell lots of product without having to really work too hard at it.
The good folks at GM aren’t the only ones good at this; in fact there are lots of other products that follow this same example. However, GM really does have a knack for it, and it’s an art they developed to ridiculous heights (“depths” may be a better word…) during the ‘70s and continued ruthlessly into the… well, they still do it! Perhaps one of the best examples is the Monza. The Monza was created to give new life and style to the Vega. The Vega had had its day, and Chevy was eager to put the disappointment associated with that nameplate behind them. Thus, they designed a whole new set of bodies for pretty much the same mechanicals and heralded the coming of the Monza!
The Monza had a two door coup and wagon, as well as a much sportier-looking 2+2. Granted, for an econobox it was a pretty swoopy design, but there’s something about that 2+2 that seems to have appealed to modelling companies far in excess reasonable limits. Everybody, it seems, made a model of the Monza 2+2. The Town Coupe and wagon were largely ignored, as were other econoboxes of the same era. After all, there were no notchback Mustang II kits, no glut of Darts, no FIRE ARROW. (My eye teeth for a Fire Arrow or Arrow Jet!!!) But that Monza… Man, it was everywhere.
Proving that it’s not just “the General” who can badge engineer, the major modelling companies of the day were very quick to not only get on the Monza bandwagon (Because, why not, right?) but quick to turn out multiple variants. This was the height of the annual kit, so it wasn’t unusual to see lightly reworked kits from year to year, both an AMT and an MPC specialty. However, it was MPC, in typical fashion, that had a stylistic orgy with the Monza! Once the new grille debuted in ’78, it was ON! As with so many other moulds (EXP, Mustang, Nova, Cavalier, Supra, Corvettes-by-the-bunch, Omni, the list goes on…), MPC made major use of existing tooling to create a veritable army of very slightly different Monza kits.
To those familiar with this approach, it comes as no surprise that there were a slew of various Monza-based drag cars, customs and street/show rods. However, it seems to me that there were more variants of the Monza than any other MPC kit I can name. Not including the “Sportback” Monza, MPC made no less than NINE (Yes, 9!) variants of the Monza 2+2, and of those, only four are annuals! That means there are five crazy Monza customs out there! Of course, for me, it’s all about building something stock, so I have no use for some of the wilder customs, right? I mean, I’ve eschewed the customs for my EXP and Cavalier, so how many Monzas do I need?
Well, the answer is not as simple as it sounds. I can’t explain it, but the siren song of Chevy’s Vega-replacement is strong indeed. In the last few months (well, this year at least) I’ve managed to snag 4 of the 9 MPC Monzas. I could have had a fifth, but stupidly decided I didn’t need another MPC Monza. By the time I came to my senses, it was gone. I would be more upset, but I also had the chance to pick up one I’d constantly left behind at Ashbrook’s in Richmond, MI: the Revell Super Spyder. It seems to be much reviled, but very valuable. On top of that, I have the AMT ’77 annual that my brother gave me for my birthday years ago. So that makes 6 Monzas. Six. I don’t have that many models of any other car or plane. The only thing that comes close is kits of the RX-78 Gundam, and I have eleven kits of that thing in various guises. Wait. Twelve. I think. Regardless, I don’t consider myself an RX-78 fan any more than I do a Monza fan, but clearly, they both have a certain allure. Maybe it’s because I really dig variants, and there are just so many of each! The good news: Since I have at least one I can build stock, it’s open season on the others!
However, with great greed comes great responsibility. Now I am heir to a small Monza Empire, but like the great conquistadors of old, I don’t know where to begin with my plunder. Thus, I turn to you, to help me! Take some time to review this motley Monza crew, and then tell me which one you think I should do an Out of Box review on first! Let’s ring the bell on the great Monza showdown: a veritable melee of malaise-era mini-muscle awaits!
1.) Street Spyder – This is the most radical MPC of the lot. A crazy, IMSA-inspired street freak with flares, air dams, solid aero covers on the lights and scoops on the rear windows. Don’t forget custom wheels and crazy decals that take the “Spyder” motif to extremes! This one is moulded in white and has a lot of interesting stylistic touches. The wild decals really help this one deal an outrageous MPC 1-2 punch! It’s actually very close to portraying a Monza Mirage, too, although that would require the flares to be bolted to a ’77, which looks like a ’76. This kit is based on the ‘78+ Monzas with the slit grille.
2.) 1976 Monza 2+2 Annual – Well… speak of the devil! This Bicentennial bruiser is oozing with patriotic spirit! What better way to celebrate 200 years of the USA than to drive or model the car George Washington would have driven… if he were a broke, wannabe-macho teenager with lots to prove and no money to do it with? Pedigree aside, this Monza gives you three options – bone stock, Street Rod or as a racer! You get lots of red, white and blue decals, and, as you can see from the box, lots of other good stuff too! You gotta love that hood scoop!
3.) Long Shot Monza – This is another custom based on the ‘78+. It looks like it’s just Street Spider, and it is, really. However, there’s more to it than that! Harry Bradley kicks you in the eyes with some serious striping, and that giant “MONZA” along the side. It’s good to advertise what you’ve got; wouldn’t want anyone thinking it was a Ferrari, after all! This is a weird hybrid of Street Spider and Black Max: It has the flares of the Street Spider, but the drag tires and stance of Black Max. It’s an IMSA dragster, and it doesn’t get much more MPC than that!
4.) Black Max – This ‘78+ custom is all decked out for drag work. There are no IMSA pretentions here; it’s all one-quarter-of-a-mile at a time! With huge rear tires and side pipes, the Black Max is ready to tear it up! Add in a rollbar and rip a hole in the hood, and you’re ready to breathe fire! Or, you know, catch on fire. Your call. Something’s flaming here, though, that’s for sure! I do love the beefy drag slicks and tough looking wheels, but the best part is the Trans/Am like extractors on the front fenders! It always comes back to T/As, doesn’t it… Oh, dig the full interior, definitely something every drag racer wants to haul down the strip!
5.) AMT 1977 Monza Annual – The last of the “sieve grille” Monzas, this is AMT’s take on essentially the same car as the MPC ’76 (hence why they’re beside each other). Don’t let the placid pink box art fool you, this is one amazing machine, complete with CB! Man, AMT hitched their wagon to the CB horse and beat it to death and back, didn’t they? The tires in this kit are the ungluable ½ tires that AMT loved so much. Thankfully, years ago, some nice person (I forget who, sorry…) sent me a set of MPC wheels/tires, so I can get this one rolling on some quality rubber! This one’s utterly stock, though; no crazy decal options here.
6.) Revell Super Spyder – If the AMT is too plain, then you’ll love the Super Spyder! This thing CANNOT be made anything even close to stock. The flares are built into the kit, and the new nose and tail are the only option. This thing doesn’t really count as a replica of a Monza, since it has a full frame, generic interior and custom everything else. Only the body has some Monza to it. Still, lots of louvers, airdams and black/gold (back to the T/A again… cough…) makes one a raucous good time. If you’re into the rear view, then think “offensive novelty rap” (a la Friends) and check out dat whaletail spoiler! Junk on the Trunk!!!
To make the choice even harder, check out the obligatory “pile of parts in the box” shot below. This is just a sneak peek into the dark world of these Monza kits. I’ve got the spectrum covered from black to white; I just seem to be missing the colours in the middle. For some reason, most of these come in the two basic colours, but thankfully MPC stepped up to the plate to give us “Long Shot” in the eye-searing orange we’ve come to expect from the “Fundimension”. It can be hard to discern exactly what’s in some of these boxes, but at least you can see that all are complete.
The best part is that none of these suffer from any significant “Tire Melt”. You know, that terrible trait of MPC tires to touch windows and melt them utterly? One of them has it a bit, but it’s not horrible. I do love how the ’76 Annual doesn’t seem to take up its box, but Street Spyder barely fits in it’s; and it’s a bigger box! I guess there’s too much big-block, full-frame aggression in there.
So, now that you’ve had a look at the dessert tray, so to speak, which slice of Monza pie should I serve up first? Choose wisely below, and remember… with this many Monzas, you get what you asked for