In the early 1960’s, plastics were the wave of the future. The Marbon Chemical Company believed that plastic could be used for the structural parts of automobiles, and to demonstrate this they decided to build an entire car out of ABS plastic. The folks at AMT were so taken by this concept that they not only released kits of the car, but also committed to build a quantity of the full-scale vehicles. The most famous of these was used on the TV show “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, where it served as the car driven by the main character and his sidekick, a pair of international spies.
The full-size cars never caught on, but the kits were popular, and Round 2 has recently re-released them. The first one out is the “Original Art Series” version of the “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” car, with original box art and a booklet full of color photos of the original vehicles, including the recently restored car from the TV series.
The kit comes in an oversize box featuring (of course) the original box art. The box is sturdy and everything comes neatly packed. After being shipped all over the country before it finally got to me, there were no broken or bent parts to be found. Parts are molded in a light blue plastic that is a good approximation of the real car’s color. There is also a tree of chromed parts and two trees of clear parts: one smoked and one clear. Oddly enough, there is no rear window provided. A red clear taillight rounds out the plastic bits.
Four tampo-printed tires are provided, and they are quite unique. On one side we have no-name red-line tires; on the other side, we find Goodyear Speedway blue-lines. A nice touch, and a difficult choice to make when building.
The decal sheet contains a number of stripes and other markings for various versions of the car, but no instructions as to where they should go. The only decals I ended up using were for the two main dashboard gauges. These did go on well and responded nicely to solvent.
At first glance, the kit appears to be nearly flash-free. But upon closer examination there is microscopically-thin flash to be found around the seams of nearly every part in the kit. Some of it I didn’t even notice until after the parts were painted. Take the extra time to do a thorough job of seam cleanup, or it will come back to haunt you later, as it did me.
This is billed as a skill level 3 kit, and for good reason. First, there is a lot of detail in this kit, and lots of little, tiny parts to assemble. Second, there are several operating parts, like the gullwing doors and the engine compartment cover. And third (and most importantly), this is a highly detailed kit with mid-1960’s engineering, meaning that nothing goes together very well. Every hole is too small for the pin that goes into it. The flash, if not removed, will prevent pieces from fitting together snugly. The directions don’t always show clearly how the parts are to be attached. And sometimes, the parts just don’t work very well.
Let’s start with the instructions. They are typical mid-60’s AMT fare, with assembly broken down into 5 steps. Surprisingly, there are painting instructions, and they are fairly accurate based on the photographs supplied with the kit and found online. As mentioned earlier, they don’t always provide good positioning information, and they are occasionally just plain wrong, but any modeler willing to take on a kit of this complexity will be able to figure out how to make things work.
The first step is the engine, which is a 29-piece Corvair unit with twin turbochargers. Much of it is chromed, and most of the rest is painted various shades of silver and steel. The fit of the oil pan on the bottom of the engine blocks is iffy, due mainly to the aforementioned flash, so a lot of trial fitting is necessary. The main issue here is with the exhaust system, which hangs out in mid air with no real support. The muffler exhausts and exhaust tips can’t be installed until the engine is in the chassis, as the exhaust tips have to rest on the edge of the lower body shell.
The second step is the lower body shell. Once the engine is installed, the mufflers can go on. Getting the chassis over top of these is a tight fit, but it can be done. Don’t do what I did and attach the upper arms for the rear suspension a few days ahead of time. The lower arms are molded into the lower body and will not move, so you need some play in the upper arms to get a good tight fit with the springs and rear uprights. The instructions don’t show it, but the uprights are keyed for left and right.
The front suspension is assembled as a unit before being mounted to the lower body. Again, the springs should still have some play in them so they can be guided into the holes provided for them in the lower body. The tie rod has no firm mounting points and must be threaded through the mount case after most of the rest of the suspension is in place. I couldn’t do it.
Step three is simply the assembly and mounting of the tires. The wheel outers are fine, but the wheel inners are smaller in diameter than the openings in the tires. Fitting the tires to the axles is an exercise in frustration. First, the lower body casting is too thick around the rear wheel openings, and so the tires wedge up against them; you will want to thin that area down before painting. Or not, because as it turns out the rear axle is not long enough reach through both rear uprights, so it is impossible to attach both rear wheels to the axle. I ended up just gluing mine to the upper and lower arms, and taking advantage of the tight body fit to keep them wedged in. The front wheels are only marginally better, as the front axles don’t really fit into the holes in the wheels very well.
Step four is the interior of the car. The glove box can be glued open (to show some “spy” gear), but there is no positive mounting point for doing so. There is also a portion of the center console that can be rotated to show either the stock dials or some additional spy gear. This portion just dry fits into place, but I don’t think you would be able to get your fingers in there to move it once the roof was in place. I ended up gluing the glove box shut and installing the center panel with the normal gauges showing. There are four chrome gauges to fit into this center panel, but the holes for them have to be drilled open or they won’t fit. By contrast, the two main dashboard gauges fit beautifully into their holes, and a pair of decals for those gauges sets the dash off nicely. The steering wheel cannot be installed at this point, because there is no positive mounting point for it; wait until the body halves are joined, then glue it to the bottom edge of the dash board and to the floorboard. While the instructions say to install the dashboard at this point, I would not recommend that until some other items have been taken care of first.
Which brings us to step five: the final assembly. There is enough stuff going on here for three or four steps, so we’ll take this in stages.
First off is the roof assembly. The gullwing door hinges are trapped in back by the “laser beam unit” and in front by the windshield. Follow the kit instructions here, and have a number of small pieces of tape ready to hold everything together while the glue dries. The instructions show the “bullet proof shield” being installed at this point, but if you wish to install it in the upright position, you’ll have to wait until the roof is on.
Once the roof is dry, you can try test fitting it to the body, at which point you will discover that the bottom edge of the windshield prevents the A pillars from fitting into their holes. The problem is that the windshield is designed to go UNDER the edge of the body, but the body needs to have slots cut out on either side to allow the windshield to do this. Once those slots are cut open, the windshield and A pillars slide into place like nobody’s business. At this point, with the roof temporarily taped in place, you can install the dashboard, being careful not to get glue on the windshield. Once the dash is dry, remove the roof and set it aside.
At this point, you can probably go ahead and install the front bumper and grille. Note that if you opt for the “weapon barrels”, you can’t install the grille bar. Make sure you also install the “turbo charged exhausts” now since you won’t have room to get to them once the upper body is in place. Once all that is dry, go ahead and install the upper body onto the lower body. Now you can install the steering wheel (delayed from step four), and finally the roof assembly.
At the rear of the car, the clear red taillights fit right in between the body halves. Some silver paint on the back of this assembly will give it the needed reflective appearance. The turbo exhaust doors can be installed either open or closed; but like the glove box door, there really isn’t a good way to mount them open. I installed mine in the closed position before painting. There is a pair of propeller shafts and propellers to be installed at this point, but again the mounting is iffy at best; I left mine off.
As you can see from the photos, I opted for a metallic blue over silver paint scheme similar to the one the restored car now wears, although mine is actually teal. Although red line tires are correct for the TV car, I felt the blue lines were just too cool to pass up. Bare Metal Foil “black chrome” covers the beltline molding, but semi-gloss black paint could work just as well here. The gull wing doors work, and if you look you will see the missiles installed in them; I painted them white with red tips and red fins because they would have been pretty much invisible had I painted them black as per the instructions. I opted for the clear windows to be more prototypically correct, but I was tempted to use the tinted glass for the doors. I painted the dash and steering wheel wood brown, to approximate the wood finish of the original. The stance of my car is problematic because of the tire fitment issues I had. The deck lid does not close all the way because the turbochargers interfere with it; I expect the engine probably isn’t installed exactly right.
So, what is my verdict on this kit? Well, on the plus side, it is a unique and stylish vehicle, and it has lots of detail and some very cool working features. On the down side, all that detail and those working features are done with 1960’s model kit engineering, so getting them right takes a lot more effort than many of us are used to with today’s kits. As the skill level suggests, I would definitely not recommend this for any modeler who did not have a lot of experience and patience. Having gotten this one under my belt, I am tempted to get another one to try and get it right. Hopefully some of you can learn from my mistakes and get yours right the first time.
My thanks to Round 2 for providing the review kit, and for bringing back this unusual piece of automotive history.
Do you have pics of where you made the cuts mentioned here?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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