There are some nameplates in automotive history that have such a rich and long history that just the mention of the car conjures up all sorts of feelings. Usually, these nameplates are known in a good way; Corvette, Mustang, Camaro, VW Beetle; all of these evoke generally positive feelings of awe, excitement or at least a “Hey that’s cool!” kind of vibe. Of course, there are other nameplates that are known for the opposite reason: Citation, Pacer and Trabant all come to mind as being examples of names that are spoken through clenched teeth and with heads a-shake with pity and sorrow for previous owners.
Normally, I am a fan of the latter group more than the first. Everybody wants to build ‘Vettes, Camaros, Tri-Chevies and Lambos. They’re cars most dream of owning, and are most popular. I find myself drawn more to the cars we want to forget, to bleach from our collective consciousness. However, once in a while there is a car that is just so cool that I have to build it, even though it isn’t really a loser. Of course, there are also those black sheep; the “family secrets” of the good nameplates. These are the cars that, despite their glorious appellation and perhaps even direct descendence from greatness are, themselves, terrible cars. They may not look bad, but under the skin, they are no less failure-incarnate than some of their more reviled contemporaries. These cars are ones I also find hard to resist from a modelling standpoint.
One perfect example of this is the 1975 Corvette. It looked swoopy, shark-like and fast. It looked very little different from its well-loved and much-admired forebears of only a few years previous. Except for the post-’73 addition of large 5 mph crash bumpers (which were well-hidden under sculpted, body-colour nose and tail extensions), the ’75 was clearly from the same genes as the ’68-’72 Vettes. However, no amount of swooshy curves could hide the excruciating lack of performance under the hood. Gone was the 454 engine from ’74. Instead, the base 350 could only crank out only 165 hp. With this emissions-choked wheezer under the hood, the ’75 Corvette could only muster 0-60 in a sad 7.7 seconds, and only crossed the quarter mile at around 87 mph – and that was a full 16 seconds after it started! These are sad numbers for any car in this day and age, but all the worse when you consider they are attached to the mighty Corvette, “America’s Sports Car”.
Thus, while I don’t normally care for Corvettes as modelling subjects (Vette Van aside, of course), when I heard that MPC was going to reissue their 1975 Corvette Convertible I was very excited! I don’t like the curve of the flying buttress solid roof; I just find the whole affair rather awkward. However, the convertibles, I do like. Getting rid of the roof puts the window almost right in the middle of the car, and the lack of oddly-curving mass adds balance to the design. Since the 1975 Vette is also one of, if not the, slowest Vettes ever and an underpowered embarrassment to the Corvette family name, I get to both build a nice looking car, and a loser car, all at once! It’s a Two-fer!
So, let’s see what Round 2 has to offer us this time out, shall we?
This is a typical MPC box in so many ways. It’s so full of visual information you don’t even really notice that the background is just white space! The one sad thing is that the font used on the “Open Corvette Roadster” is not very inventive. It’s just there to tell you what you’re getting, in case you couldn’t have guessed. It doesn’t have the character of most other MPC’s of the very late ‘70s or early ‘80s (like Wild Breed or Gold Rush), but then again, remember, this is a 1975 kit we’re essentially looking at!
The main illustration is, of course, the customized version. As is so often the case, the good folks at MPC were hyping up their wild custom first, and then throwing in the boring and seemingly almost secondary “stock” version as a near afterthought. Thus, the main illustration shows a dark blue ’75 convertible with a wide red stipe on the hood that then wraps down around the body sides, fading “Cuda style” to the rear along the haunches. Overall, striping aside, it’s not THAT wild a custom. There aren’t the crazy flares, spoilers and other doo-dads that would later deface many an MPC in-house custom.
Behind, that, though, you can see that MPC has really upped its game. For starters, this is a 3-IN-1 kit! That means a Street Custom, a Drag Custom and a stock car, all in one box. This is a big deal, and MPC lets you know about it on the side of the box. However, you can tell that they weren’t phoning it in by looking at the illustration on the front. The Drag Custom, seen in silver behind the blue Street Custom, is wild! It has 8 ridiculously high venturi stacks sticking through a cut-out hole in the hood, big drag tires, steelie wheels, a partially-padded roll bar and the decals on it are much, much less restrained than those on the Street version. There are also the obligatory race credits, adding just that much more street cred. Behind that, and seen from the rear-three quarters, is a green stock version. It’s there, but clearly it’s not meant to be the focus of this model.
There’s some extra wording on the lid, too. In small font, features of the kits are called out. This is unusual for an MPC. I think it’s the same as on the original, but I can’t say for sure. One thing that is mentioned is real metal springs for the suspension, though. I would love to know if that’s original! Continuing to the one side of the box you get an advert for other MPC Customizing kits (It seems that ’75 annuals were big on this theme, and MPC was in a hurry to let buyers know) and a note about diorama building instructions. I wonder what that’s all about?
The other side of the box shows some of the Kool Kustom Kit Features that you’ll find in the ’75 Vette box. This includes awesome accessories like the padded roll bar, wide drag tires, the three kinds of wheels that come with the kit and a note about steerable wheels. This gives me some great pause; usually kits with steering wheels don’t work all that well and are very fragile. I’ll likely glue mine fixed. However, this is the first time we get an indication that SOMETHING IS WRONG. There’s a lot about the three different intake setups on the engine. That’s not the problem, though. The engine is the problem. The box calls out the engine as a 454. As far as my knowledge goes, there wasn’t a 454 available in the Vette in ’75. ’74 was the last year?
Now, it’s likely the case that this kit is a carryover from the 1974 annual, and as has often happened, MPC guessed that the same engine would be used. In this case, they got it wrong. It could make for an interesting What-If, or a custom, or you could find another kit and drop in the 350 from there. Regardless of that, it’s interesting that Round 2 didn’t bother to correct the mistake. Granted, most Vette builders would rather remember the 454 than the 350, so a lot of people won’t care, but for those of us who want to build a Smog Era Vette, it’s a bit disappointing.
One other thing that’s in the box, is another box! This kit comes with a kit of the kit’s box. Confusing, right? There is a miniature replica of the kit box that comes printed on cardboard. It isn’t perforated, so you have to cut it out, and then glue it together. Apparently, this is number 100 in this mini-box series. I have no idea if this is a new thing, an old thing, or what. I’ve never seen it in any of my other Round 2 MPC reissues, so it’s something of a mystery to me. It’s a cool extra, especially if you’re a fan of cool box art. This gives you a way to display your box and your kit together, without taking up as much room as keeping the entire real box!
This kit is typical of the MPC annual kits of the mid-1970s. Round 2 has moulded it in white, which is pretty much de rigeur for any modern car kit (save for Pony Express…) and it makes all the parts a bit harder to check out when it comes to detail. Overall, though, things look pretty good.
One of MPC’s traditional strengths is interiors. Given that this is a convertible, a good interior is a definite must. As expected, MPC comes through! The bucket is well detailed, although the “carpet” texture is a bit odd. It looks a little too coarse to be the tight napped carpet I’d expect, but I’m sure with a bit of a wash and some drybrushing, it’ll look just fine. The dashboard is quite detailed, and captures the “overstuffed” look of the oddly puffy vinyl-wrapped original. The gauges are seep set and the centre cluster of multiple small gauges is nicely represented. It will take some skill to pick it all out, but it is there for the taking if you want it.
The door detail is not that pronounced, or rather, it’s all very flat. The door pulls and “armrests” on the real car stick out a bit more, but given that this is ‘70s moulding technology, it’s not bad. You have to cut them some slack; making these features correctly would have required undercuts in the moulds or separate side pieces (which I’d prefer, actually). The three storage lids that form the bulk of a Vette’s trunk space are also represented nicely. The seats look good, with fine “leather” moulding in them, again, a great place for some washes and pastels to bring out the shadows.
The chassis is acceptable, but it is little more than a frame with an underpan for the interior bucket. The thing is, that’s about right for a Corvette chassis, so the kit is pretty accurate! The dual exhaust is separate pieces, as are the mufflers that go on each leg. The spare tire compartment is also a separate piece, which is nice for painting. The suspension detail is nice, too, but complicated due to the “turning wheels” gimmick. The engine bay is not much to write home about, though. There is no master cylinder or any bottles; just a fan shroud, the fender wells and the engine.
The chrome rack is pretty extensive, and includes a number of inappropriately chromed engine pieces as well as two sets of wheels. There are also the 8 venturis for the Drag Custom version and the grilles. As usual, most, if not all, of this chrome will have to be stripped and either Alclad Chromed or properly coloured, but it’s not an American car kit without this rack. There’s an interesting third part of the grille, too. This is pointed as if it supposed to replace the licence plate holder on the nose. However, the plate is moulded in. As always, then, there’s a bit of mystery in with a later-issue MPC “annual”, with extra bits in there you aren’t told about, or can’t always figure out the reason for.
A perfect example of this is the racing helmet that comes with the car. There’s no mention of it in the instructions, just like there’s no mention of the coolest accessory: the trunk rack! With such an inaccessible storage area, there was an option on the Vette for a trunk rack! You could tie your T-tops on there if you wanted to (just make sure the straps are tight!) to keep some space free inside. Of course, on a convertible, that’s completely pointless. However, I have seen pics of a ’75 convertible with the rack. It’s a pretty geeky option for a soft-top, and of course, I am very excited by that!
There are some cool surprises in the kit that really took me aback. The first was the metal venturis. As I mentioned earlier, there are eight chromed plastic venturis in this kit. These would be the “standard issue” ones from the original. However, the Round 2 guys also give you 8 very nicely done metal venturis, far higher in quality than what is on the rack. Apparently, Round 2 also sells these separately, but if you want a set, you may as well buy this kit, and get the bonus Corvette too! I think I’ll use them on Vette Van, since as I surmised in that review, it seems to be based on this kit. Another cool feature is the real metal springs. From what I can tell, this was something included with the original kit! That’s pretty advanced for back in the day.
One thing of which to beware, though, is that the box says there is “functioning front suspension”. From what I have read, though, the front end components on this car are based on the later annual variants, and aren’t properly configured for a functioning suspension. There are some pieces that are incorrectly shaped and so don’t engage properly. However, there are other pieces included in the box that will allow you to put the suspension together with the springs, it seems. I personally don’t care if the suspension works or not. That’s just a gimmick, and that’s not why I bought this kit! This may sound funny, but it’s not the ‘70s anymore, so we don’t need the gimmicks. Nice springs never go to waste, though!
The tires are not as nice as those on the Pinto or the Volare, though. They are nice enough, and you get six; four normal and two wide rears for the drag version. However, they are not pad-printed, and are thus not as “deluxe” as those on the other two aforementioned models. They’re perfectly acceptable, though; about on par with other tires you’ll encounter. What is really neat, though, is that they are also set up for whitewalling! It seems that whitewalls were a big deal on mid ‘70s Vettes, likely some kind of fallout from the obnoxious “neo classic” disease ravaging motordom at that point. Let’s see… whitewalls, a trunk rack and no power… sounds like a midlife crisis car indeed!
The window is nicely bagged in a separate bag from the other parts; this is a definite plus for anyone who knows about MPC tire melt! There are also four individual red tail lights, also separately bagged! Disappointingly, the engine is not as detailed as later MPC kits, and there aren’t anywhere near as many separate accessories. Actually, there are none. No separate starter, distributor, alternator, oil filter… no nothing. The engine is basically a sad, motor-shaped block, more reminiscent of a Revell or Monogram offering.
Instructions and Decals:
The instructions are more or less typical of what we’ve seen from other MPCs of this age. They are clear and generally well-rendered. There’s a list of paints, and a list of both exterior and interior colours. Sadly, they don’t say what colours of paint could come with what interiors; I’m sure you couldn’t get every variation. This makes the colour listing somewhat frustrating. However, there is an encouragement to check the internet for resources, clearly something that was NOT on the original sheet!
The most interesting part of the instructions is the last page. It is a bit of a tip for how to create a diorama so that your car model will have a setting and stand out. It’s very basic and really quite childish. It’s just saying to glue a picture of a building to a cardboard backer and then attach that to a piece you can use for a base. To a serious modeller these tips are not just laughable, but almost counterproductive. No one does it that way, and to encourage that instead of proper diorama building seems to be at odds with how the hobby had developed. In fact, Round 2 even seems to dissociate itself from this page, noting that it is only presented for nostalgia.
However, while we can scoff all we want at the concepts from the lofty perches of our experience and view this page hypercritically through our 20/20 hindsight, I think it’s actually pretty cool. I like that MPC wanted to encourage people to do more with their kits. Let’s face it, it’s only by doing that we get better; heck, that’s what modelling’s all about! If we remember the target for this kit was kids and young teenagers who were trying to improve their skills and take the next step, then these oddball, basic tips seem a lot more logical and important.
The decals are, as in the recent Round 2 releases, excellent. Some have reported that their decals are “blotchy” from being too tightly compressed onto the yellow protective paper. Mine weren’t. Also, I would assume most people would be gloss coating their final product anyway, so it won’t be an issue. The decals are all clear, crisp and in register (Not always something you could count on in an old MPC kit!). They are very intense, and if you decide to use them, they’ll look great. I don’t know how the new MPC decals work, but I’ll hope pretty well!
Sadly, it’s the 1975 Corvette Coupe that has the decals I wanted. This droptop version has “Corvette” writing you can put on the side of the car. The coupe replaces this with “Chevette”. Yes, you read it right. Chevette. Like the stock version of Bear Bait. It’s funny, because it’s a portmanteau of “Chevy” and “Corvette”, right? The problem is that in 1975 MPC though they were being witty in an “art-house” kind of way. Of course, when the 1976 T-body Chevette was introduced, the whole pun just fell apart. Maybe Round 2 will issue the coupe next?
As if to compensate for this, though, one of the licence plate decals is “2 SLOW”. I know it is supposed to be interpreted by others to mean that THEY are too slow, as the Vette leaves them behind. However, given that the ’75 is the SLOWEST Vette EVER they take on a nice double meaning. I don’t know if it was intentional, but it sure is funny!
There are a few things in the instructions that gave me pause. One was that the second step, that for constructing the engine, largely and loudly proclaims it is a 454. Uh, okay… there wasn’t a 454 in ’75. Again, this is a hangover from the ’74 annual, but it makes the whole prospect of doing a “stock” version rather impossible. To further this identity crisis, though, Step 6 shows the installation of the dual exhaust. True duals weren’t a feature of the ’75. In ’75, the Vette’s anemic exhaust fumes were further restricted by crossovers and cats, and there wasn’t any way to get true duals.
So, then, what is this? Well, what it means to me is that this is actually a ’74. All it needs is the split down the middle of the rear cap and you’re there! What, you mean you don’t know about the Vette’s case of “plumber butt” for ’74? Chevy had a problem figuring out how to do a single piece fibreglass component for the end cap that would hold up. To simplify matters while they sought a solution, they just used a two piece endcap. It was split right down the middle, giving an awkward finish to the last 454-equipped Corvettes.
Thus, it appears that this kit is more ’74 than ’75, but with the solid rear end, it really is tough to say. Still, the majority of the evidence points to ’74. This is actually a disappointment for me. I would very much have preferred to have the super-pathetic ’75 on my shelf, as a perfect testament to how far things fell in the mid ‘70s. Just like the Ferrari Rainbow is the perfect antidote to overzealous fans of that brand, the ’75 is the perfect reminder to rabid Vette fans to just sit down and check themselves. I like a model that can do that.
The MPC 1975 Open Corvette Roadster is something of a mixed bag of a kit. It’s a neat kit, for sure, of a swoopy and lithe vehicle whose pretentions to greatness were well appointed and most convincingly executed. It’s the perfect example of seeing what you want to see, and how you really can’t judge a book by its cover. However, it does have some issues.
There will always, of course, be the fit issues with an MPC, that’ll always be the case. I’m sure this kit will fit well, but not perfectly. I’m also sure it will require significant experience to get looking really good. There aren’t a lot of parts, and nothing seems too complicated, but anyone who’s built an MPC knows that doesn’t mean the coast is clear. Like the circling shark it so resembles, the MPC ’75 Vette convertible waits patiently to strike those modellers who attempt it unsuspectingly.
Without building it, it’s hard to say if the good will outweigh the bad.
Nice body lines
Metal Venturi tubes
Nice interior – important on a convertible!
Lots of custom goodies
New decals that look great.
Incorrect exhaust and engine for the year
Needs to have “plumber butt” installed to match engine and exhaust
Bare engine compartment
Suspension will cause issues
So, yes, there are problems, but overall I think that it’s a kit worth getting. It certainly isn’t going to be the best Vette kit out there, but it’s a neat subject, especially since it’s of that oft-forgotten “smog era” when even the hottest cars suffered terrible indignities.
Overall, though, it’s a Vette kit that I was excited to buy, and that’s saying something right there! If you like Vettes, or sad excuses for them, then it’s definitely one for the collection. It’s also a great kit to test your skills on, or to just pull an MPC on and go Kustomizing Wild! It’s not a cheap kit, and while it may not live up to the price in terms of absolute quality, you have to love it warts and all. That’s what this new wave of Retro Modelling seems to be about, and THAT is something I can definitely get behind!
Kudos to Round 2 for bringing this one back! Now go and grab one before they get away. Of course, if it’s a ’75, that means you can just wait for it to have to climb a hill, and you should be able to just walk up and grab it!