Revell 1/25 1992 Thunderbird SC Coupe (OOB)

The Automotive Dark Ages, that joyless stretch of time between 1973 and about 1985, were tough. They were tough on car buyers, car makers and car enthusiasts. So many storied nameplates failed to survive the emissions-regulations-choked, big-bumper-enforced, nanny-state-sponsored neutering of the North American automotive sector. The few that did survive rarely bore any resemblance to the cars they had been. Fewer still could be said to have emerged from that morass with their basic design philosophies intact. Perfect examples are the Eldorado, Road Runner and Nova, all of which were mere shadows of their earlier selves.

Gone were the fire-breathing muscle cars of yore, and while the three main pony cars (Trans Am, Mustang and Camaro) did survive in various forms, they had been replaced in the generalist sporting car role by such wheezing newcomers as the EXP and Citation X11. However, there was one category of car that actually came through okay. Maybe it was because the whole class of car really took off during the dark ages, and this made it immune? It’s hard to say. That particular type of car, though, was the “Personal Luxury” car.

During the mid-late ‘70s, personal luxury cars were effectively mid-sized 2+2 land yachts that did not bother with sporty pretensions. While some marques, like the Monte Carlo, Thunderbird, Cougar and Grand Prix may have started out as something else, by the time 1979 rolled around they were all very similar. They weren’t fast, but they weren’t slow. They were well-outfitted for the time, and most had some kind of neo-classic touches to their design. Long hoods, short decks and surprisingly un-roomy cabins where the norm for these middleweight boulevard cruisers. They combined a desire for luxury with a harsh economic reality, and hit a home run by mixing the palpable garishness of the era with slightly-less-than-terrible performance masquerading as refinement.

Of course, the great downsizing at the end of the ‘70s couldn’t leave the personal luxury cars untouched; it would have been stupid to have a 2+2 bigger than a full-sizer, so as the ‘80s dawned, so too did the era of more “personal” personal luxury cars. All of a sudden, it was realized (it seemed as if out of the blue) that if they wanted to compete with BMWs and the increasing numbers of Japanese cars in this class, the Big 3 needed to make cars that actually had similar merits to their competition. Yes, it is amazing that this simple lesson took so long to be understood, but these were dark times, remember!

Thus, the personal luxury cars of the ‘80s started down a different path; a path to more refined, driver-oriented performance. No one wanted a small whale – everyone wanted a sophisticated driving machine that exuded power and prowess through technology, not brute force.  Oddly, Ford seemed to get this the most, and the ill-fated Merkur XR4Ti (the American Sierra XR4i) and Mustang SVO tried this, sadly without too much success. The problem there, though was that the Merkur was an unknown, and people who wanted a Mustang didn’t want refinement, they wanted a small car with a big V8. But there was a segment that DID want what those other vehicles tried to deliver. Unsurprisingly, that segment was the one that had, against all odds, continued to support the Thunderbird and Cougar all through the Dark Ages; those that bought personal luxury cars.

So, Ford wisely decided to continue developing the breed, and the venerable T-Bird and Cougar gained ever more aerodynamic forms, more refinement and more performance. They didn’t look like fire-spitting 5.0 Mustangs and GTAs, but they had a quiet, dignified sportiness to them, and by 1989, they could put up very good number against much overtly brawnier competition. Like an experienced fencer against a younger, tougher-looking knife-fighter, they fought with little wasted action and no unnecessary flash. They competed with deftness and fineness of art. Where Pony Cars had again started to become brash, loud and garish, the T-Bird and Cougar gained slippery curves, high-tech engines and advanced suspension.

Did it work? Yes, yes it did. Through the Turbo Coupes of the Mid-80’s a new powerhouse T-Bird for the ‘90s evolved. This car was the Thunderbird Super Coupe, or SC for short. In 1992, the T-Bird SC received a new, further refined trunk lid with new, high-tech LED tail lights. It had four-wheel independent suspension, something no other rear drive car (save its stablemates the Cougar and Lincoln Mk VIII, and the venerated Corvette) had. It also wasn’t afraid to flex its muscles with a supercharged and intercooled V6. Adding unnatural aspiration to the 3.8L motor gave it 210-215hp and about 315 lb.ft of torque. This was pretty ballsy for a car that most people didn’t think of when “performance” motoring came up. It could apparently do 0-60mph in about 7.5 seconds, which is pretty darned good for the day.

(Just as a note. My 1980 Trans/Am weighs about the same as a ’92 SC. The Turbo 301, while generally unfairly hated, delivered similar horsepower but 345 lb.ft of toque more than a decade earlier. However, the T/A is no rocket in the 0-60, taking 9+ seconds. Still, not bad for a car that much older!)

That the T-Bird SC was a sleeper was no joke, but it was still not a car that choked up the roads. It wasn’t for everyone, but that’s how it was marketed; a refined, powerful car for people who wanted finer things and didn’t have to carry a family around… and wanted a Ford. Thankfully, there was 35 years of cachet built into the nameplate by this time, and since exclusivity had long been a T-Bird trademark, it being a Ford didn’t really hurt it.

It may seem surprising, though that the good folks at Revell decided to kit it. Sure, Monogram had a 1/24 mid- ‘80s Turbo Coupe kit, but the Revell in 1/25 was all new. That there’s a kit of this thing is almost as surprising as the real car’s nameplate surviving so long. By 1992, the market for car kits was moving away from “everyday cars” as fewer youths modelled and “everyday cars” of the era were pretty much boring as a can of condensed milk.  To get a kit of something as “mundane” (i.e. not a super car or a classic muscle car) as a T-Bird SC is something to be thankful for; with the demise of the “annual” kits, MPC and Jo-Han, the odds against such a model being green-lit were high.

So, let’s thank our stars and check out this interesting relic from a time that you could almost say corresponded with the start of an Automotive Modelling Dark Ages. I will admit I was surprised that this kit won the poll for my Christmas Haul 2020, but then again, it seems the T-Bird is often full of surprises!

The Box:

If you’ve ever ready any of my other out of box reviews, you know that I place a (perhaps inordinate premium on box art. Nothing dampens my excitement more than sad or lacklustre art, and that’s something this generation of Revell and Monogram releases have in spades. Just like many Hasegawas, a rather static photo of either the subject or a built kit is not going to get my adrenaline going. Of course, that’s exactly what we get here – a front three-quarters shot of a finished model kit. Now, there have been other boxes with finished kits on them; many are a fantastic MPC box thusly adorned.

This is not very exciting. Also, I have no idea why it’s an “SC” Coupe. Since the “C” in “SC” is “Coupe’. It’s like “Dollar Sign, Bowling for Dollars, Dollar Sign”. If you get that one, you’ve watched too much SCTV, by the way!

However, on those other kits, there’s colour, different fonts, crazy graphics, something exciting. Here, you get a car. You get a dark-fading-to-light background and a red bar with the subject line across the top. You’re told that it’s Skill Level 2. Revell is relying on the subject matter and data to sell the kit. They’re relying on it so completely that they’ve almost gone out of their way to make sure you can’t miss the car on the box, while totally missing the point of the car on the box. Cars like the T-Bird are emotional buys; so too are the kits. Thus, the box art fails. The kit is rather well-built and -finished, but the chrome on the wheels is too toy-like, as are the tires. You know right away you’re looking at a model.  I’ll also be honest about this; the angle is not that flattering to the T-Bird. The picture is taken at too low an angle, and the car’s overall aerodynamics and “foreign influences” are not on good display.

The side of the box is a bit better, in some ways. You do get, finally, to see what it is that you’re looking at, if you will. The one side shows a front three-quarters view from above this time, as well as a head-on view, also from a more elevated standpoint. THIS is what should have been on the front (the three-quarters one, at least)! This angle shows the car’s design and similarities to European and Japanese rivals in terms of aerodynamics and proportion. This is a good view of a good looking car. It also minimizes that protruding “lower lip” look of the bumper, which is the T-Bird’s only real weakness in my mind.

The T-Bird looks better from a bit above, like this view shows. Oddly, there’s some Acura Legend in it from directly head on…

The other side of the box shows the back end with its newly styled trunk lid, high-tech tail lights and the racy “SC” bumper with the vented valence at the bottom. This is a definitely beautiful aspect of the car, and deserves some attention. The tail lights channel the big pods and big lights found on most T-birds from 1964 forwards (and even the ’58-‘60 style, to a degree), yet do so in a modern, refined way. The other pic on this side shows the engine bay, and it is a very busy looking place. You’ve got hoses and bottles all over the place, and it seems like Revell has done a good job on this one. The detail level seems high and attention to detail great.  The only problem is that the box copy is DEAD WRONG. In a case of “left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing”, or maybe just sheer stupidity (they’re often difficult to tell apart), the box tells us it has a supercharged V8 engine. Uh… no. No, it doesn’t. It should be a supercharged 3.8 V6. Sigh…

The back end on these cars is awesome, and that engine bay looks pretty swish too. Now, if only the box copy had it’s story straight… That’s not a V8 in real life, and it’s not one in the kit, either.

The Kit:

In the end analysis, what’s in a kit’s box is more important than what’s on it (unless it’s a Matchbox plane or tank, and then it’s about equal). Popping the top off this oddball relic revealed… darkness. The box says it’s moulded in dark metallic blue, and they’re not kidding. It’s so dark that it’s almost black. However, there are very noticeable light-blue metallic sparkles in it. Sadly, those same sparkles will show up in the following pictures more as if they were dirt or dust on the parts than as metallic flecks. Just keep an open mind.

There’s enough going on in this kit to make it interesting, including two different front and rear ends, if you wanna go custom.

I will say that moulding in colour is nothing new for car kits – they weren’t all white back then, unlike most of today’s reissues. However, I’m not sure dark metallic blue was a great choice. It’s very dull, despite the metallic, and it gives a weird feeling of heaviness to the kit. I find it more oppressive that even some of my black kits honestly. I think that Revell was trying to mimic Ford’s “Twilight Blue Metallic”, which was an SC colour. However, Monogram tried the “metallic plastic” thing too, and it was a disaster, with dark swirls appearing on many blue metallic kits. Amazingly, and perhaps due to the darkness of the blue used, that problem seems to have been avoided by the T-Bird. I still don’t think you can just polish this plastic and be ready to go, though!

Despite not liking the colour, there’s not much else to dislike about this particular model. By this point, as mentioned earlier, Revell had its feces gathered and could bang out a nice kit. There are quite a few parts to this kit, there being five dark blue sprues, a chrome rack and the clear parts for the windows and headlights. There are four tires and two clear red tail lights. The body shell is typical; nicely moulded but with very little in the way of positive location for the bumpers. This will be a problem that will need solving with small locating tabs, but that’s nothing new if you’ve built a few older kits.

The detail on the engine bay looks promising, but thanks to their link to Monogram, this Revell kit inherits some serious “bottle melt” on some of the engine accessories. It’s not as bad as on some other cars, but it’s worse than I remember on the ’64 Chevy Fleetside. The actual engine itself, though, looks pretty good. It’s not quite as cast-textured as MPC engines, but then again, that is more of an old-school way of making engines, and especially transmissions, so I can see why it’s not as prevalent on a car this new.

You can see the engine and some of the belts here. Texture is okay, and there’s only the expected amount of flash. Not bad, really.

The chassis isn’t Sierra underside-detailed, but it looks passable, and the suspension that goes on it isn’t hyper detailed, but it isn’t bad at all. You can see the spare tire well and gas tank on the chassis, and there’s an intercooler on the rad for the supercharger. On that note, the exhaust manifolds are for a SIX cylinder, which is correct. Clearly, the box copy-writer got that gloriously screwed up, but the moulding department knew what they were doing!

Not quite up to an MPC standard of texture and detail, this is better than many ’70s and ’80s Revells, and is a good effort, by and large

Where this kit looks very good is in the interior. There’s a good amount of carpet texturing, which is always a good sign. The seats moulded into the interior bucket show that this is the leather interior. The telltale feature is the series of horizontal stripes across the seats. I’m not sure if you could get cloth in the SC or not; the brochure isn’t clear.  This model’s a bit weird since it has a full bucket, but it also has separate door panels. This must have been a Revell thing at the time, because the ’64 Fleetside Interior was the same way. I will admit, this will make painting those parts of the interior MUCH easier! 

Good carpet and nice seat detail, now this is what I’m talking about! The rear “walls” are a bit weak, but they’ll be very, very hard to see.
The dash is not as strong as the rest of the interior, and those instrument faces are just plain weak. Some of insets don’t seem quite square, either…

The door panels are generally well done; comparing them with cars for sale online shows that Revell got the patterns and textures largely correct, making this a lightyear ahead of the Sierra’s Interior! They even got that the SC doesn’t have the normal model’s chrome trim, and they remembered the white lights/red reflectors at the bottom of the door! Sadly, this attention to detail wasn’t adhered to with the same gusto for the dash. The dash is competent, but the gauges are mushy – I doubt they’ll come up cleanly with a pencil crayon when I’m done. Also, the radio and other accessories look soft and weak, and not always at quite perfect alignment. It’s a shame, but it is redeemed by the steering wheel! The wheel might be a bit pebbly, but Revell remembered the clearly unique “SC” badge in the center of the wheel! They even tried to get the controls that are moulded onto the wheel included, although they’re a bit soft too.

Nice work! These door panels are pretty much bang on to the real thing. Texture-wise and detail-wise, Revell has done a fantastic job on these parts!
Man, that’s cool! They even got the “SC” steering wheel right! The buttons are a bit weak, but the emblem isn’t!

Rounding out the interior are the front seats. These look killer. They look padded and the creases and lines will give these things amazing texture when they’re given a light dose of pastelling. More importantly, though (to me) are the seat backs. These are awesome. They have the right flatness to them, as well as beautifully done map pockets. Again, a light application of some pastel to bring out this sag in the pocket will be killer. THAT, Tamiya, is how you do seats, specifically the backs, but still. Take notes.

This is how you do seat backs, if anyone asks. Tamiya engineers, take some notes. You’ve been solidly owned by Revell on this one. Very, very solidly owned.

The chrome rack is the usual, in that most of the things there shouldn’t be chromed, including the wheels and engine bits. The moulding on the wheels looks good, and the pipes for the engine look fine too. Only the headlight bezels should really stay chrome, though! The tail lights are nice and red, although the birds moulded in them are FAINT and will be very, very difficult to paint properly. The tires are nice enough, but they’re black and round, and that’s it. Without lettering or anything on them, I didn’t even bother to take a separate picture of them. They’ll need a sanding to take the seam off, but they should look good shined up with the properly painted wheels in the middle.

Chrome racks don’t excite me much, now that I know that almost everything is inappropriately plated. Still, the parts do look nice.

Instructions and Decals:

The instructions are typical Revell for this age. This means they are pretty clear and fold out to a good size. Sadly, this also means they’re a bit impractically large for keeping on the modelling table. Everything is labelled, which I do like, and the car should not pose a problem for anyone used to working on this kind of model. The instructions are detailed but not so busy as to be confusing, which is a tough balance to strike, I will admit.

The instructions are quite good, and have all the detail you need, without being overbearing. I don’t know what colour “F” is supposed to be… “Metallic”, sure, but “metallic” what?? That’s kind of silly, Revell.

Since this car also has a “Custom Version”, there are some steps that show options. Clearly, you need to determine how you’re going to go; the custom version seems a bit weird, but it was the ‘90s so I guess I can’t be overly surprised, now can I? Those weren’t the best times for custom cars… One thing I did notice, though, that’s not immediately evident, but is made clear from the instructions, is that there is NO support for the tail lights. This seems to be a thing for T-Birds, since my ’87 Turbo Coupe didn’t have any either. This is going to make putting the lights in very, very tough. They’re going to be barely held on, so something’s going to have to be done.

The instructions are clear and detailed at the same time. No fancy CAD drawings or colour here, though. Check out those tail lights… that’s some unimpressive engineering there, giving them no support across the main span like that. Weak.
The tail lights are nice, although the body colour part in the middle will need some masking. The birds are very, very faint and supporting these things in the car will be tough.

I’ve used Model Magic in the past to make a lightweight support pan for the lights, but care is needed. It absorbs model glue and can actually melt/deform the trunk lid to which it’s glued. Now, using Tacky Glue might work… I can hear my brother rejoicing over that! Something to keep in mind, that’s for sure. This is why they always say to review the instructions before you begin your build. At least in this case the instructions are clear enough to show you a pitfall before you land in it… face first.

The decal sheet is very small; a couple of engine bay decals and two license plates (for those who want a front one). Sadly, there’s not even a gauge cluster. Normally, I don’t like instrument panel decals, but in this case, the soft moulding is going to make them hard to look good, and it would have been a nice option to have.

The decals aren’t much to talk about, but a few engine bay decals are always nice.

Conclusions:

Just like the T-Bird SC was a niche car, this is a niche kit, and would have been back in the day, too. That Revell made it at all is a surprise. Sadly, the demise of the “daily driver” model kit was not far behind this one, but like so many “end of the line”-types of things, this one is very good. All of Revell’s experience in product improvement really shows in this kit, which has a lot of good detail and accuracy despite still having some holdovers like bottle melt and a dash that’s a little bit vague.

This isn’t a super-complicated kit, but it’s not for beginners. The lack of good positive location for the bumpers demands experience with workarounds, and the tail lights will not be for the faint of heart. I have a feeling that the kit can be made to look pretty good, and it sets itself up well with good engine and very good interior detail. However, these will take skills to get the most out of. This isn’t the kind of kit you can just smack some paint on and it’ll look okay.

The aerodynamic shape is visually interesting, but it’s also dull as hell from some viewpoints. There aren’t many body contours and the SCs were all single-tone colours, so there’s not much to hide any painting mistakes. The interior looks easy to make boring, because like so many of this era, it’s almost all one colour. This is where advanced techniques will make the difference. I’d be afraid that a novice modeller might be unimpressed with the rather monotonous result of their build if they’re not prepared for it, or are used to flashier subjects.

Still, that aside, it’s also a nice kit of a nice car. It’s an odd subject and a credible automobile, and is a nice reminder that the automotive industry could and did pull itself out of the Dark Ages to create some interesting, even if not always well-known, vehicles. I personally love these T-Birds, and think they are an excellent evolution from the bloated, wallowing land yachts that some earlier T-Birds became. Despite having four seats, it’s much closer in spirit to what the originals were all about; a status car with some punch, but the comfort and reassuring familiarity of a Ford. This kit has some good details, with the reassuring familiarity of a good old American car kit.

I am amazed this thing won the poll against other, more retro kits. I’m glad there are enough people out there who remember these, and for any modellers who want to find a relatively obscure subject that won’t break the bank, this is a great option.

I’ve got mine, now you guys should go and get yours!

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