Reviews, pictures, hints, and links 1/24, 1/25 car kits
’57 Chevrolet Bel Air
This is a review of the Monogram 1957 Chevy Bel Air #2225
I have wanted to build one of these legendary machines since I can remember. I can honestly say that I am only a fan in as much as I loved the flip-nose matchboxes they made back in the 70’s. Other than that, I have never had a love for these cars at all. I do, however, think they are exquisitely beautiful and carry as much hot rod heritage as a Hemi Cuda. I chose the Monogram as I purchased an AMT recently and had the shock of a lifetime. The famous chrome fin in the rear was replaced with a decal… very ugly and fake looking. I didn’t even bother to sell it. That said… I was not overly happy with this one either – though it turned out to look very nice. Of note: this one is completely molded in red!
These two Revell/Monogram models should be duplicate kits of the one I did save for the “wheels” version having better tires. I have only purchased three of these cars in my lifetime (2-AMTs) and really cannot say how any of these other kits would be. From experience I can gather they are close and potentially better. They may be molded in something other than brilliant red “cheap-o plastic” too.
The above AMT kits (and two or three more) are not only prevalent, cheap and easy to find, but are some of the worst kits you’ll build. The fit and finish is BAD; none of them come with whitewall tires (though pictured); and the two I purchased only had decals for the chrome piece in the rear. They are cheap.. and end up looking cheap.
CAR BACKGROUND :: The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air became the epitome of hot rod/muscle in the blink of an eye and is as coveted as any 4-wheel classic you’ll look for. As lovely as the ’55 and ’56 models were, it is the ’57 that has truly held the motorheads’ hearts in its hands. With a chrome grille made by the automotive gods, a set of fins that stretch on forever, and a fuel-injected 283ci, V8, the car was spectacular. Granted, the Bel Air (or 150, 210) was NOT fast by any stretch of the imagination. A ’57 with the highest carbureted engine (270hp) and a powerglide transmission only massaged a 17.5 second ¼mile for Motor Trend (with the speedo not even hitting 80mph!). To put that into perspective, the 2019 Toyota Prius takes 17.3 seconds through the ¼mile. Not very muscular. The fuel-injected version with the 3-speed manual would probably dip into the mid-to-high 16s, but let’s face the facts – this car is about style and image, not drag strips. That said, many owners have opted for 300-400 horsepower crate motors rather than stick with the 283.
BUILD NOTES : This Monogram model is as hit-and-miss as any model I’ve built. If a model is really bad.. it usually is from front to back.. not just in part. This one is completely nuts on one side and pretty nice on the other. Problems include ZERO firewall detail (more later), lousy undercarriage, questionable engine build, mismatched “street” parts, and missing parts of every kind. The good stuff… well – here we go.
The engine bay in this one is despicable. To start, the firewall not only has two gaping holes in it, but no master cylinder and ZERO detail. I filled the holes with cut pieces from the laughable hood scoop and it looks ok. However, no wires, no wiper motor, no heater box, or hoses of any kind is just awful. I added a full size battery (that I need to add some color to), and a master cylinder (from something much newer than the ’57). The engine shined up real nice, but I didn’t put too much work into this one as Monogram didn’t neither. If I built this one again, I’d swap out a 350ci from a 60’s Chevy or better still, maybe a 409!
With this one molded in red, I decided to not bother going to one of the other half-dozen ’57 colors and chose Tamiya Pure Red to match the ’57’s Matador Red. I have to say there is a dump truck load of trim to do and it had me cross-eyed by the end. I used the 5-spoke rims vs. the originals as this kit did not come with whitewalls and I didn’t have any in my parts bin. The “street” setup is ridiculous as well. There is an insane hood scoop and… that is IT. No slicks, race gauges, crate motor, headers.. NOTHING. Using the scoop would be like putting a spiked collar on a Pomeranian. The biggest gripe I have on the outside is that the bumper was too wide. There is a small gap between the bumper and the quarter panel and after painting, I cannot fix it.
I had quite a bit of fun with this interior. I used another Tamiya red and added the silver inserts. It seems silver and black were used a lot on these, but I liked the silver better. I deleted the powerglide stalk and added the 3-speed manual (the one from the kit is really, really nice!). The only thing missing was the rear-view mirror and I stole one from a early 60’s model kit.
From good to bad again, the underside is terrible. The exhaust is molded and doesn’t allow for exhaust tips past the bumper. I fitted some down-facing tips that look ok from the back, but it’d be nice to have them be more correct. There is hardly any other detail under here and it really could use some. It was kinda helpful as rigorous as the other detailing was, however, I wouldn’t bother with display glass.
I really love the finished product of this car, but I have to say that I will try and never do this one again. The amount of chrome detailing is crazy on this one and about wore me out. I think that the other Revell models may solve some of the above issues (red, missing pieces, etc), but they are also scarce and expensive. The above model is fairly priced (mine was $25), however, and is a relatively easy build. Just don’t expect to be proud of every nuance when you’re done.