- '80s radness, captured in 1/25 scale

Sometimes a fantasy...

Why do I collect model cars? Because they're usually good enough, and sometimes better

2w ago
1.6K

About three years ago, on my way to work, I spotted a car I hadn't seen in many years: an early Dodge Daytona, with the spoilers and badges that denoted it as the Turbo Z model, Dodge's answer to the Camaro Z28 or Mustang GT. It was in excellent shape cosmetically, maroon with black trim, and fine orange/red pinstripes dividing the colors. It even still had its 15 inch "Swiss cheese" alloy wheels.

I knew this car well. Back in about 1996, I owned a 1984 Chrysler Laser XE, the sister model to the Daytona. Mine was chocolate brown, with the same wheels, though the Chrysler variant had a somewhat tamer spoiler package. It was a fun car, but unbeknownst to me it was also a flood-damaged car, and had a host of electrical problems. (When you're young and foolish, you don't check things like that before you buy.) But still, I remember it fondly, and I still think the Daytona/Laser is one of the best-looking sporty cars of the '80s.

Mine looked like this, but in my memory it was darker brown. And I think it had the 4-lug wheels. Image: Barnfinds.com

Mine looked like this, but in my memory it was darker brown. And I think it had the 4-lug wheels. Image: Barnfinds.com

A few days after I first spotted the Daytona, disaster struck: someone stuck a "For Sale" sign in the window of it. To make matters worse, there was a price on it: $800.

Oh, dear.

So I had to at least check it out. It was 1985 model, with an automatic (like my Laser had been), and only 77,000 miles. But the owner said it had developed a noise that sounded like a rod knock. He had intended to overhaul the 2.2 liter turbo engine, but didn't have a place to work on it, and now he was moving, and couldn't take the wounded Daytona with him. He said he'd take pretty much any offer, as long as the buyer promised to fix it up and get it back on the road.

It was a terrible time for me to even be thinking about something like that. My MGB's engine was in pieces, and the other side of the garage was strictly the domain of my wife's car. My daily driver was a reliable but incredibly boring Saturn, which I had already decided to replace with a pickup truck. And we were shopping for an RV or camper. I had no time, no space, and no money to go monkeying around with a dead K-car, no matter how cool it was.

But I couldn't stop thinking about it. That maroon Daytona sat there for weeks, with the seller lowering the price periodically. I went back to look at it a second time, thinking maybe the noise he heard wasn't a rod bearing, but when I started the engine there was no doubt. It would need to be completely overhauled. But the asking price was down to $300 by then, basically scrap value.

I thought about buying it and just sticking it in the side yard until I had time to deal with it. But then I thought about the old guy who had lived across the street from my grandparents when I was a kid. He had a whole yard full of "classic cars" that he was going to fix up "someday." When he died, the rusting hulks got towed away and, likely, crushed.

My model kit collection was just getting started at the time, and while browsing eBay, I found a model that I had forgotten about: MPC's 1984 annual kit of the Dodge Daytona Turbo Z. It was new in an open box, appeared to be complete, and had a Buy It Now price of $25.

Problem solved.

I don't know what became of the marooned maroon Daytona. It disappeared off the street shortly after I bought the model kit. I like to think that the buyer found someone to take it, some kook like me who remembered the angular '80s coupe, who either had more space and time than I did, or less sense. But I know that it's far more likely that the seller ran out of time and had to give up and scrap it. It's a shame, but I suppose you can't save them all.

What I do know is that the MPC kit is still sitting on my shelf, along with a couple dozen other kits from the same era, just waiting for me to get around to building them, which I will eventually. And it will never need insurance, or an engine overhaul, and it isn't rusting away in some corner of my property, subject to the ravages of time and neglect and vandalism. I can't drive it, true, but I can sit back and admire it. And really, that's good enough.

Sometimes a fantasy, as Billy Joel once sang, is all you need.

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Comments (5)

  • These cars make me think of Frank Sinatra in "Cannonball Run II".

      11 days ago
  • Well said. Still haven’t finished my (ex) fantasy, an MPC General Lee kit (I’m not so much of a Dukes fan anymore, not for the reason you’re thinking of, but I won’t air that here), model cars are something you procrastinate over for ages, it’s a thing that happens, I and you will both get around to finishing those kits someday.

      16 days ago
  • ree

      9 days ago
  • "What I do know is that the MPC kit is still sitting on my shelf, along with a couple dozen other kits from the same era, just waiting for me to get around to building them, which I will eventually."

    I hear you:

      14 days ago
  • I thought the Daytona was an awesome looking car when it was launched. The fact it had the same pictured pepperoni pizza wheels as my '84 GLH didn't hurt...

      16 days ago
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