There’s a reason that they say something is “a hard act to follow”. History has shown, time and again, that trying to succeed by capitalizing on the success of something similar just doesn’t work. I mean, sure, it CAN work, but it usually doesn’t. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, sometimes imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery; sometimes, it’s just lazy copying. Whether you’re trading on past success, resting on the laurels of a famous name or “updating” a concept for a new audience, trying to recapture past glories can be quite the challenge.
Perfect examples of this are any Supermarine aircraft post-Spitfire, any car with a “II” in its name (Mustang II, Citation II), Galactica 1980, and trying to sell Corvette Summer by trading off Mark Hamill’s Star Wars fame on the movie’s posters. These all seem like cheap gimmicks, and they are. However, if there’s one word the ‘80s taught us all to fear, it was the simple, three-letter word that should get everyone excited: “New”. Yep. Remember “New Coke”? Well, it wasn’t the only thing in the ‘80s that stuck a “new” onto an established name and tried to get everyone to swallow it.
In 1987, a TV show about four guys who were also in a band premiered. In order to trade off the nostalgia factor (Yeah, that was a thing even then!), this group was called “The New Monkees”. If you just had a shiver down your spine, that’s good; it proves you still have a soul.
If you weren’t a fan of the original Monkees, then there was little reason to get excited about the prospect of a “made-for-TV” boy band once again rearing its ugly, highly-commercialized head again. If you did like the original Monkees, though, the “new” Monkees were so different that any interest would soon turn to uneasiness, and likely disgust, about the use of the name on this new band.
For, you see, the New Monkees were not at all like the old ones. Their music had that ‘80s light-metal/Euro-synthpop sound, and the show was rather trend-setting since it gave us a taste of what the “Extreme” ‘90s would consider selling points; namely overdone, overblown and under-thought style-over-substance sensory abuse. With an album few were listening to, and a TV show that shared virtually nothing with its namesake and thus failed to attract the desired (okay, any) audience, this new “build-a-band” faltered right out of the gate.
Thus, it came to pass that the New Monkees “New Coke’d it up” and never made the impact their creators had hoped. Yes, there was an album, but no single. Yes, there was the TV show, cancelled after 13 episodes. Yes, there was a car… “Wait… what?” you ask. Yes, they did (sort of) get that part right. After all, one of the most iconic customs of the ‘60s (besides the Batmobile) was the Monkeemobile, so it surely made sense to have a “New Monkeemobile”. If you’re worried that the storied original was resurrected and “new’ed”, don’t be. That would have taken effort.
Now, I didn’t ever watch the “New Monkees”, and I don’t expect that I ever will, besides suffering through some of one episode on YouTube, and that was only in the service of this article! However, I am always on the lookout for interesting car models, especially of ‘80s subjects. Thus, it was with great fascination that I came across the “New Monkees Mustang GT Convertible” kit at a local antiques store. I’ll admit, I already had the slightly later 1/24 Monogram 1992 Mustang GT Convertible, but the New Monkees one was so weird I couldn’t turn it down.
So, let’s fluff out our hair, get some keytars and get ready to mix Duran Duran with PeeWee’s Playhouse. Strap in for a Mustang so outrageous it could only belong to the New Monkees!
Monogram car model boxes of the late ‘80s and 1990s really sucked. They were a boring front three-quarters view of a built kit. The builds weren’t spectacular, and usually the only reason you’d pick up a kit with this art was if you already knew you were interested in the subject. There are no wild fonts or colourful graphics like so many MPCs, and there’s no real sense of excitement at all. However, this is where the power of the New Monkees comes through. These dudes were so radically tubular that they broke the mould, and their new car would be on what is likely Monogram’s most exciting box of the decade!
Looking at the box, you get a shot of a REAL CAR! Mind you, it’s a front three quarters view, but at least the car isn’t climbing the box on a weird angle, and there’s an actual background to it, not just literal white space. Not only that, but it’s the REAL New Monkees Mustang GT Convertible! Complete with four dudes in the interior and… some kind of… paint problem? I think. What?
When you get past the ‘80s hair and the fact that the back-seaters are sitting on the convertible top, you notice that there’s something really odd about the paintwork on this car. It looks… folded? There are shadow lines on it, like a weird combination of lightning and shade all rolled up and randomly applied to the car. This is definitely very late ‘80s, and points strongly to the geometric shape-loving 90’s with its penchant for hard-edged randomness. It also makes the car look like an extra from Jurassic Park; maybe those are Raptor scratches on it?
It’s definitely non-stock, which is kinda neat. Looking at the box, you can’t help but think that there must be decals for this; after all, to achieve this effect would be quite difficult for even an average modeller. Odd paintwork aside, the car is pretty much a stock ’87 Mustang GT convertible. It’s got the 5.0 badges on the fenders, and its light blue/light grey/white colour isn’t actually all that exciting aside from the weird lines on it. It apparently has grey interior and I assume a grey convertible boot. Sadly, whoever setup the shot forgot to put the boot cover on, so the two at the back are sitting right on the top itself!
In the top left corner is the awesome “New Monkees” logo. Note how many different shapes and straight lines are used? Methinks the way to the future was being strongly pointed! It’s not a very timeless logo, sure, but what’s really neat is that it is on the door, just under the handle. I admit that’s not as grandiose as “MONKEES” all along the side of the original Monkeemobile, but it’s a more mature subtle approach. Note: that’s about the only thing about this entire undertaking (show, album and kit) that is mature and subtle…
On the one side of the box, we get to see a nice big closeup of the New Monkees logo (Always a thrill!) and a picture of the band in action! Yes, I know it looks like a team up of Dana Carvey, Ben Stiller, Bea Arthur and a young David Spade, but hey, this is what “dreamy” was supposed to look like at the end of the era of legwarmers and shoulder pads. Why anyone interested in this kit would particularly care about the band is beyond me, but then I thought: “Man… does this thing come with a kit of the BAND??? That would be so awesome! Imagine what I could do with that!”
You also get to see a build up of the rather lacklustre engine (not really looking too impressive there, Monogram) and a side view of the car, fully loaded. Still no boot cover, mind you. Oh, you also get a close up of a wheel and tire. That’s hardcore. Well, okay, the tire’s not lettered, but it’s a cool replica of the rims on the real car, and that is rather impressive. Being Fox-platform based, even the GT doesn’t get five bolts to hold the wheels on, (That just looks weak, Ford…)
The other side of the box treats us to a view of the other side of the car, with people still abusing the retracted roof by using it as a seat! You can also notice that the “shadows” don’t continue to the bottom of the car, which tells me that this is supposed to be white/silver two-tone. The writeup says that the car is moulded in “Marbleized plastic” with clear and plated parts. So, then, it leads one to believe that the shadow lines are indeed provided; in fact, they’re moulded right in! Sadly, no mention of the bandmates being included as figures…
There’s nothing on the underside of the box (this isn’t a Round 2), and the endcaps just repeat the box-top’s art.
When I got this, it was sealed. Of course, it’s more valuable that way, and I was tempted to leave so. However, curiosity got the better of me, and I cut open the cellophane and popped the top on what was certainly one of the most “period” kits I’d ever seen. At first, I’ll admit I didn’t quite know what I was seeing. It was… noisy… very visually noisy. It looked like a Rorschach test in 3D! I carefully lifted out the bag of parts and continued to devalue the kit by pulling all the parts out of their bag.
So THAT’S what “Marbleized Plastic” means! The entire kit (save tires, plated parts and glass) comes in the weirdest plastic I’ve ever seen! It is indeed marbleized; the light blue of the parts is infused with a darker blue swirl that, indeed, mimics marble. It also mimics some kind of blueberry swirl ice cream, or the nightmarish appearance of milk left over after a bowl of Boo Berry cereal. Oddly, though, what it does NOT mimic is the strange, dark grey “shadow lightning” on the car shown on the box.
Actually, in very little way, shape or form, does the plastic even look like it was trying to capture that look. The marbleizing is very pronounced; it’s everywhere, and it varies from thick to thin quickly. It has no real weight; the dark blue seems to float on the light blue like a film of oil; like swirls of colour on a bubble or algae on a stagnant pond. Whereas the real car has relatively few lines of what seems to be dark grey on a while body, the kit has many swirly lines of dark blue on a light blue body.
In fact, the effect is so not even close to the box, that I can’t help but think the Monogram guys didn’t try to replicated it. They could have, and should have, made decals for the shadow lightning. But rather than go to that effort, they just drizzled in a different colour and called it a day. The effect looks phoned-in and cynical compared to the real car. When you realize that this treatment also occurs on all interior pieces, under the hood, on the underside of the hood, and on the chassis, it just adds a real “Aw… F’it… close enough!” vibe.
What I don’t get the most is the colour. The kit is clearly blue. The car on the cover really doesn’t look blue. It looks white, with a silver lower-half (which is stock, I believe) and some weird decals on the top half to make it look “cool”. WHY is the kit BLUE???? I mean, sure, the marbleizing doesn’t really work, but it’s not even the right colour! Clearly, this means you’re going to have to paint the kit to get it “legit” looking, and then there’s NO POINT to the marbleizing! Sigh…
As far as kit of an ’87 Mustang GT Convertible, though, the model looks solid. ‘Tis a Monogram, though, so that means there are some compromises. Clearly, chief among these is a less-than-detailed engine. In the Monogram tradition, it has few separate accessories, and no real texturing on the block or transmission. This is unfortunate, and is something Monogram traditionally sucked at; MPC kicked their butts on engines. Keeping the Monogram traditions alive we find a goodly amount of “bottle melt” in the engine bay, too. It’s not an ‘80s Monogram without moulded-in bottles and details that just seem to “drip” forever into the car itself. Again, other companies were so much better at this…
The chassis detail is passable, but just, and again, there’s no real texture to the mould. The suspension detail is minimal and largely cast as single pieces. There’s a front end suspension chunk and a rear end one that includes the differential and driveshaft. It’s all serviceable, but it’s not even close to the stunning setup on the Tamiya Ford XR4i. If you hose the chassis black, or maybe primer grey, and just put it all in there, though, it’ll do. It’s nice the exhaust pipe isn’t moulded in (I hate that), and frankly I was surprised to see it as a separate piece!
By and large, though, the interior looks decent. There are seat backs. Yes, Tamiya. Monogram and the New Monkees just spanked you. You feel ashamed? You should. The dash has some adequate detail on it, and there’s some carpet texture, too. The seats aren’t massively detailed, but they look “stuffed” enough that some shading with subtle pastels will bring out the best in it. The three pedals are moulded to the front wall, but that’s normal.
The glass pieces are nice, and since it’s a convertible, there’s not the usual “front-joined-to-back” moulded window piece. You get a front and rear window, headlight and foglamp lenses. You also get clear red tail lights. These are the “Vented” type, and will prove to be very, very difficult to get looking right, I feel. I haven’t yet figured out how to do it, and even when I do, I won’t guarantee its going to look great. Since the lights are in red, it’s going to be troublesome to paint over them easily. Maybe a paintjob and some light sanding will do the trick, like on the ’87 GTA.
The “chrome” rack is not very large. I used quotes because the “chrome” is not as overpoweringly reflective as on kits from the ‘70s. It has more of a polished aluminum look, and that’s perfect for the wheels! Sadly, like nearly every American car kit ever, the wheels attach to the rack at the FRONT of the wheel, where any chopping marks and nicks are immediately apparent. Japanese kits do this at the rear. You tell ME which one you think is better…
Because this was the mid-late ‘80s, the tires don’t have any real way to white letter them; that wasn’t a thing then (although my Daytona thought otherwise). The tires are lettered though, since this kit predates the current vogue of copyright infringement-avoiding featureless tires. You get four Goodyear Eagle VR50s. What’s amazing is that in the instructions (see later) they actually call out the side-specific nature of the very realistic tread! Despite this, the tires are standard black “rubber” (i.e., vinyl) that will need a good sanding to look right. That’s a trick many builders forget; to make a tire look right, give the tread a sand. Even if there’s no seam on the tread, having it scuffed a bit just makes the whole thing look right.
As for the soft top, you can build it up or down, and they give you a nice boot cover for the retracted top. For when the top is up, the “bucket” for the folded top is moulded in, so if you look into the interior, you’ll be able to see it. That’s a nice touch, and I’m impressed they went to that level of detail. The roof has some rough “fabric” texture to it, so painted and then matte-coated, given a bit of pastelling in the folds and then given a low-satin finish, I think it will look really good. Of course, almost no one will build it raised. Sadly, the kit does not come with an uncovered retracted roof, as seen on the box top; there’s no way to buy resin replicas of the New Monkees to re-enact the box-art pose unless you want to scratchbuild a folded top. What… no one wants to do that? Fine… be that way…
The instructions are on one two-sided, four-folded sheet. They predate any kind of CAD use, of course, and are typical of the era. They’re pretty clear, and the relative simplicity of the kit means that the instructions don’t have to be super-complex to get the job done. Like all instructions from this era, colour call-out information is limited to a small paint list, with colours denoted by letters. There’s no information on any stock colour combos, something that has crept into Round 2 kits, but which this early offering lacks.
There’s no paint plan for the kit, either. While that may not sound like a big deal, it actually is. Since this is a one-of-a-kind custom machine, you’d expect detail on how to layout and create the unique “shadow lightning” scheme. However, you get nothing. I can’t help but think that the real car was bone-stock save those shadowing effects, and you can make those up based on the box art, I guess.
Sadly, there are no decals. None. The one kit that would have benefitted tremendously from decals doesn’t even get license plates! This is very strange, to me. For one thing, the (surprisingly non-custom) plate is very prominent on the front of the car seen on the box, but there’s not even a holder for a front plate! The lack of proper shadow lightning was a very big let-down. I was looking forward to recreating this long-forgotten piece of media history accurately, as a warning of the dangers of corporate build-a-bands, but now… well, there’s just no easy way to do it.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that there aren’t even any “New Monkees” decals for the doors. This is the height of failing your subject material, Monogram! You could put the New Monkees logos on the box, but not create a couple of decals for the doors? This means I’ll likely have to do it myself…
The concept of the “New Monkees” was the result of fairly shameless greed on the part of those “in the business” who saw an opportunity to use the goodwill of an existing brand to generate new revenue for a largely unrelated product. At best, it was misguided, but at the worst it was cynical. Given the current penchant for all things “retro” though, the result today looks more quaintly messed-up than quite so obviously the cash-and-attention-grab that it was. Ironically, now the New Monkees are retro, so the cycle continues…
However, it’s easy to be less kind to this kit. As a model car, it’s actually decent. Don’t get me wrong. It’s as good as (and actually different from, I checked) the 1992 convertible, and for bothering to adjust what was needed, I applaud Monogram. This model has all the faults of a Monogram of this era, with “bottle melt” and minimal chassis/suspension/engine detail. However, it looks like a solid, relatively straight-forward build, and is easily attempted by those who’ve never built a car before.
It’s not actually the kit that’s the problem with this kit. (Stick with me here…) The problem is the branding; the wrapper is wrong, if you will. Monogram took a fine kit but then phoned-in the “New Monkees” part of it. With no “New Monkees-specific” decals, or even instructions for how to do the distinctive paint scheme, all Monogram did was box their existing kit with some New Monkees labels. The “marbleized” plastic, which is odd and really off-putting to a seasoned modeller, is a very lazy attempt to replicate the paint work and make the kit different from other, similar offerings. It would be a neat idea if they’d used grey swirl in a white plastic, but the “blue on blue” swirl just doesn’t make sense. To top it all off, you don’t even get a free mini-poster of the band!
I honestly thought there’d be something kitschy and hilariously ‘80s-bad in the box that I could really enjoy ragging on while loving the nostalgia of it at the same time. All I got was a Mustang GT with quality control issues in its plastic. There’s not a part in here that’s custom or kit-specific, and it makes the whole thing seem like one big exercise in bait-and-switch marketing.
If you want a kit of an ’87 Mustang GT Convertible, the New Monkees car is a good one, if you can find it. Built and painted properly, it will really look the part. I find Monogram cars have good shelf presence; the fact that they’re a bit bigger (1/24 vs. 1/25) makes a surprising difference on a display. There’s a lot of opportunity in this kit; you can teach or practice the basics, as well as having a nearly-unmarred canvas for anything you might want to do!
Still, I feel this kit is, at its heart, is something of a poser. With as much to do with the New Monkees as they, themselves, have to do with the original Monkees, Monogram has really done a disservice to a perfectly passable kit. If you’re going to jump on the bandwagon and really try to grab a piece of a brand’s pie, then you should at least try to make a product that’s got a bit of originality to it. Failing to really embrace the quirkiness of the brand just makes the other weird aspects of this kit (no decals, weird plastic) seem like shallow attempts to rudely cash-in on a shallow fad.
By and large, it’s a good kit that doesn’t live up to its advertising. As a piece of ‘80s nostalgia, it’s very interesting, and I can’t help but feel that building it will somehow make the kit less interesting. Without the box, and with the plastic covered by paintwork, you just get another car model. It seems like a squandered opportunity…somewhat like the entire New Monkees enterprise.