Sunsets can be beautiful, inspiring and breathtaking. However, they are the last bit of grandeur before the onset of night, cold and dark, embraces the land. For this reason, sunset is often used poetically and in literature as a symbol for the last of the good times, or the winding down of one’s life. It’s ironic, I suppose, that something so beautiful can have such sad connotations. However, as is so often the case, it seems that life imitates art all too often.
A perfect example of this is what I call “sunset stripes”. In the middle to late ‘70s, one of the more common forms of automotive decoration was multi-coloured, layered stripes in various shades. However, more often than not, these stripes were in shades varying from yellow, through oranges into the reds or even maroons. Stacked in “ascending” or “descending” colour order, these stripes were very eye-catching, and remind me of a sunset. It is very interesting to note that such stripes were common parts of both customs, and of the appearance packages so common to the era which saw the transition from the Muscle Car Era to the Automotive Dark Ages. Thus, Sunset Stripes are, indeed, a sunset… the last gasp of motoring’s excitement warning of the impending, economy-driven, funless driving to come.
Because such stripes were so popular, it’s not a surprise that a lot of the car kits from this era actually sport such paint schemes as decals. Whether it’s a factory-accurate scheme, a nearly-accurate scheme or out-and-out custom striping, the yellow-orange-red part of the spectrum found a lot of styrene love back in the day.
Since this is the era of cars I love to build (Better than driving ‘em!), I thought it might be fun and instructive to put together a quick collection of the Sunset Striped cars that I have currently in my stash. I’m hoping I’ll get more, but you can never be sure.
It’s likely no surprise to anyone that the bulk of the “Sunsetters” I have are MPCs. Given their propensity for wild customs and crazy paint jobs, MPC kits are more likely than others to have some kind of sunset-themed decals in them. In fact, as you can see, five of the six I currently have are indeed MPCs. It’s hard to say which of these is the most period, because most of them are wild customs, at least paint wise.
You’ve seen Wild Breed and Vette Van before, and you know that both sport custom bodywork and crazy paint schemes. Wild Breed is typical MPC annual-to-wild-custom kit reuse, and the decals are supposed to make buyers forget they’d already picked up one or more of the exact same kit. As for Vette Van, the decals are almost secondary; the whole idea is as ridiculous as the Corvette America (I NEED that kit!) and will look “period” even without the yellow and orange stripes.
Voodoo Vette is another example of mould reuse; it’s MPC’s 1980 Corvette masquerading as a street rod. Sure, there are some custom touches, but the bulk of the “warm over” is from the striping. In typical, awesomely overwrought MPC-esque fashion, the name and execution really have nothing to do with each other. The thing is, I can remember a lot of stuff like that at my local car show when I was a kid, so this one is a real blast. A reissue, with nice new decals would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. (Besides, I need them to reissue the Monza notchback first. Hear me Round 2?)
Interestingly, the D-50 is very close to a real paint scheme offered, although the striping is a bit off. It might be hard to think about now, but there was a time when bright colours were thought to be a good replacement for displacement. Turns out, of course, that that’s not so, and that the “No replacement for displacement” mantra still holds true. Thus, giving a light-duty imported pickup fancy stripes and aggressive flares was seen as a good way to add driving excitement. Even though I normally build my kits stock, I am guaranteeing you I will be building the D-50 as seen on the box, more or less. The decals are in good shape, and I can’t resist!
Bad Company is the umpteenth take on that poor, so-often-pressed Dodge Tradesman van that started in the mid-1970s and continued unabated, it seems, until MPC’s demise. This kit is actually the Round 2 reissue, which didn’t seem all that plentiful when it was around. In typical MPC fashion, there are humungous stripes in the sunset vein. However, there’s a real nod to the whole fantasy-art subgenre of the vannin’ scene with a spell casting wizard, appropriately “sunsetted out” as well. Now, this might not be typical of a lot of the big mural vans, but I’m sure it would be striking in black, white, yellow or silver with those massive stripes, and being a reissue, you know the decals will work well.
The only kit that’s close to the D-50 in terms of being presented stock. In fact, the Capri is not as “sunsetty” as the other ones normally, but this kit sure goes the distance to change that. A real Capri Turbo RS only has the sunset theme in the “Turbo RS” writing and fender bulge decals. Ironically, the fender bulge decals aren’t included with the kit, but incorrect hood striping is! Oh Revell…
The Setting Sun:
So, there you have it. These are some of the fun and quirky cars from the true sunset of the Muscle Car Era. Soon, even this kind of fun would give way to lame neon splashes and boxy, sharp-edged two-tones pretending to be custom paint by the late ‘80s. While the idea might be a bit over the top, the Sunset Stripe and its derivatives at least tried to make things exciting and bright in what was really a dim, dull and depressing motoring landscape. Maybe that’s why I love ‘em?!