By on January 19, 2012

Last month, while I was judging at the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons, a team with a Billy Carter-themed Ford Fairmont Futura handed me something I’ve been trying to find for years: a gen-yoo-wine Malaise Era 1:25 scale Revell model kit of Billy Carter‘s customized Chevy Stepside. I am so happy!
I was 10 years old when Billy’s big brother, Jimmy, was elected President of the United States, and the beer-swilling, quasi-street-smart Billy made quite a positive impression on me and my peers (remember, Northern California in the mid-70s was all about the celebration of dissipation and substance abuse, preferably involving a Chevrolet truck). Billy posed in a suit of chainmail made from beer-can pull tabs and scammed the Libyans out of a half-million bucks while his wholesome, atomic-scientist, turn-the-other-cheek-Christian big brother dropped a big wet blanket on America by telling us we couldn’t have everything we wanted all the time. Yes, chronic screwup Billy was a big embarrassment to straight-arrow Jimmy, and I’m sure there was some head-clutching in the White House when Jimmy learned that Revell was going to turn a generation of American model-building boys into Southern-fried drunken gearheads in the Curtis Turner mold. Hell, Revell might as well have included a couple of Lynyrd Skynyrd 8-tracks, a church key, and a pack of Zig-Zags in every kit.
Some of the younger racers at Buttonwillow had no idea who Billy Carter was. “He was sort of like the Roger Clinton of the 70s, only more flamboyant,” I told them. Anyway, when the Redneck Power Pickup model came out, I was more into building models of sissified, moral-backbone-weakening European cars like the BMW E24 and never did pick up Billy’s truck at Alameda Hobbycraft (I would have ended up blowing it up with an M-80, fate of most of my kits, so it was just as well). I haven’t built a model kit since Max Tork’s Hooptie-Ass ’70 Impala 20 years ago, but I’m definitely going to assemble the Redneck Power truck real proper-like.
The Redneck Power Fairmont Futura of Team Billy Beer Malaise Forever Re-Election Racing looked great on the race track, and its million-mile 200-cubic-inch L6 engine lasted longer under race abuse (12 hours) than anyone expected.
The guys on Team Billy Beer Malaise Forever Re-Election Racing scanned the decal sheet from the Revell kit and had full-size versions made for their race car. Now that’s historical accuracy!
Check out the custom features included with the Redneck Power kit. It’s like a laundry list of truck fashion trends from Plains, Georgia, circa 1978.
I’m pretty sure the real Billy Carter wouldn’t have had cases of “soft drink can” in his truck bed. Maybe I’ll modify this kit to include a few dozen Pabst empties instead.
Perhaps Revell could revive this concept with a full line of Embarrassing Presidential Relatives scale models. How about a 1:25 kit of Onyango Obama’s Mitsubishi Montero, for starters? Jenna Bush’s college-student car (I’m picturing an Explorer, but maybe it was something Infiniti J30-grade cool) and the luxury machine Donald Nixon probably bought when Howard Hughes “loaned” him all that cash for his “Nixonburger” operation?
I’ll definitely be a big cheerleader for the Embarrassing Presidential Relatives Series, but for now I’ll be content to have a Redneck Power Stepside parked next to the collection of weird diecast cars that fills my office.

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52 Comments on “When Embarrassing Presidential Relatives Got Model Kits: Billy Carter’s Redneck Power Pickup!...”

  • avatar

    I can smell the Testors glue now.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    If they put a 302 in that Futura coupe, they got themselves a gentlemen driver right hurr

  • avatar

    I am definitely old enough to remember Billy Carter, although more for his Billy Beer than this truck model. I always liked this 70s short box style Chevy-maybe because Jim Rockford’s dad Joe drove one on TV.

  • avatar

    There’s obviously some censorship going on with the packaging!
    …”cases of oil and soft drink cans”…(!). WTF, Billy was certainly not into “soft drinks”. I guess Revell didn’t want to be accused of corrupting the moral fiber of the youth back then.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the Billy Carter tribute. Please do a follow up on how the build goes. These are the kind of surprises that keep me coming back to TTAC.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii


    Those decals are all dried up by now, thick as a beer can, or both.

    One would think “Redneck Power” would involve a 454, but I suppose the Malaise Era gelded bubba trucks too.

    How late could you get a factory wood bed?

  • avatar

    Don’t forget he had a beer named after him, too. My parents have an unopened can of Billy-Beer still in the fridge.

  • avatar

    Always liked Billy, his brother, not so much.

    Damn shame about the pancreatic cancer in the Carter family.

    He, his father , mother and 2 sisters died of it.

  • avatar

    The entire time I was growing up there was an unopened can of Billy Beer on a table somewhere in our basement. I didn’t know what it was for a long time, I just knew it was a special can of beer that wasn’t for drinking. I’ll have to find out if my parents still have it or if it finally got tossed when they moved.

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect that the lion’s share of Billy Beer was purchased for its novelty factor and was never consumed. I never sampled one myself, but I remember that it was considered poor even by the pathetic 1970’s American beer standards.

  • avatar

    the wooden plank bumper screams I’M A BAWS

  • avatar

    Revell got a lot of mileage out of those molds. Even as an 8 year old, I would have nothing to do with the Carter clan, but I had two models based on the same truck.

    • 0 avatar

      I guess the apple didn’t fall far from the tree…

      • 0 avatar

        I spent 1977-1978 in Dekalb County, Georgia. It was already no secret that Carter was a national disaster. We had songs about him in school to the tune of the Oscar Meyer commercial jingle and Georgians claimed they only voted for him to get him out of their state.

  • avatar

    Not Pabst, Billy Beer!

  • avatar

    I am guffawing at work as I write this. The model is pretty damned funny on a lot of levels, but the thought of Murilee as a delinquent kid blowing it up with an M-80 is like Proust’s madeleine for my own memories of the 70s. God they sucked!

  • avatar

    Billy Carter got used.
    His embarrassing brother jawed his way into the Oval Office as the antithesis of the southern characterature, then became President Malaise. As Americans threw up their hands and gave up on him, Billy Carter was made a scapegoat and a joke. It was a way to mock the White House without insulting the humorless prune sitting in it.

    Everyone dumped on Billy and he was kind enough and respected his brother enough to let them do it. He was a much bigger man than the one we elected mistakenly in 1976.

    We at TTAC know many great ,good heated men who serviced our vehicles and pumped our gas, and we know the difference between Billy and Jimmy Carter as a result.

    • 0 avatar

      You have a curious interpretation of the order of events during the Carter presidency. Billy tried to capitalize on his brother’s fame with Billy Beer in 1977, long before Jimmy’s star was fading. In my recollection, Billy willingly made himself a punchline in an effort to get rich, altho he was ultimately forced to sell his home to settle back taxes when these efforts failed. His Libyan misadventures were hardly a reflection of a retiring, self-effacing nature either. Whatever you think of President Carter, you can hardly blame Jimmy for Billy’s chosen path in life. More background here:

      • 0 avatar

        Six months after Inauguration Day, Jimmy Carter permanently disappointed most voters by doing a 180 regarding his old friend Bert Lance. Jimmy Carter sincerely told us that he would never make that kind of decision. Bert Lance exposed Carter as just another bag of hot air.

        Polls showed that by August 1977, Carter lost his 1980 re-election chances. He never recovered except for a moment after the November 1979 Hostage event when Americans rallied around their president enough to knock Kennedy’s challenge off it’s rails.

        Carter was such a poor president that Ted Kennedy and most Democrats believed he could keep Jimmah from being renominated. Carter was so unpopular, Kennedy couldn’t come up with a quick answer to the question, “Why do you want to be president?”. It was obvious that Carter was toast by this time. Kennedy didn’t even have a prepared answer for it.

        The Media began using Billy Carter as a symbol of his Malaise brother. Billy picked up the phone and the media world responded. Plains became a circus and a metaphor. When the Media discovered it didn’t like President Dill Pickle, their attention turned towards discrediting him through Billy and his faith healing sister.

        Publically thumping a Democratic president wasn’t in vogue during those years, as they are not now. But bashing a Democratic president through his family was acceptable, especially when they could fit the southern stereotype of hillbilly cracker. Many of us knew that calling Billy an idiot would get under President Malaise’s thin skin. It was more fun.

        Carter was a joyless, arrogant prune. Laughing at him just made him more sour. Publically laughing at Billy was good revenge.

        As for your link – PBS’s bio on Carter is lipstick on a pig. I’ve seen it a few times, just for laughs. To their credit, they say he didn’t connect as a president. To those who remember Carter and PBS, we don’t give them credibility. So, I need another source. Jimmy was the user, and Billy just gave up and tried to make the most of it.

    • 0 avatar

      Clutch has a point. Billy seemed pretty eager to exploit his brother’s fame. I personally think, though, that his financial dealings with the Libyans makes him more like his brother than different. I’m pretty verbose but words fail me when I try to express what a loathsome human being Jimmy Carter is. The definition of smug moral preening.

      • 0 avatar

        Miz Lillian famously stated that she always thought Billy “was the smart one”.

        Lyndon Johnson had a more compliant media. Sam Huston Johnson, his younger brother, was essentially kept under house arrest in the White House during Lyndon’s administration. And on the rare occasion when Sam did get loose, the compliant media didn’t report on his booze-fueled antics.

        In contrast, Carter’s was the first “reality presidency”. It didn’t wear well.

  • avatar

    VanillaDude, ya nailed it again !

  • avatar

    I’m pretty sure that’s John Candy.

  • avatar

    “Hell, Revell might as well have included a couple of Lynyrd Skynyrd 8-tracks, a church key, and a pack of Zig-Zags in every kit.”

    “Church Keys” were pretty much history by the mid 70’s. By that time we had pull tabs….which are history now. I can distinctly remember how pull tabs were left everywhere when I was a kid. The cans were easy to pick up….to trash or sell…..but the pull tabs were a major PITA to sweep up. Playgrounds, parking lots, sidewalks, streets….pull tabs everywhere.

    “I would have ended up blowing it up with an M-80, fate of most of my kits, so it was just as well”.

    Ah, childhood memories. Haven’t been able to buy a real M-80 for years now. Yup, a Rupp minibike, Crossman 760, Miller High Life in the kid sized “nip” bottles, Hustler Magazine, girls walking around in tube tops without bras and M-80’s. The 70’s was a great time to be a kid.

    • 0 avatar

      In the ’50s and ’60s, our parents bought us chemistry sets and soldering irons. My dad showed us how to set off “lady fingers” in your fingers without hurting yourself.

      Also, most things you bought could be taken apart and put back together. Today a flat screen tv might have 4 or 5 component modules with no user (or even technician) serviceable parts. Thank God for lawn mower engines.

    • 0 avatar

      The older kids on my block didn’t just blow up the model cars with M80s, they lit them on fire, sent them over the cliff (the embankment to the drainage ditch), and then the firecrackers inside exploded. Needless to say, Mannix was a strong influence on us. I was too young to be the chief pyro, but I had fun watching. I think I might have donated a model or two, perhaps under duress.

  • avatar

    “I would have ended up blowing it up with an M-80, fate of most of my kits, so it was just as well…”

    You and me both…Fourth of July in St. Louis in the 1970’s meant a steady supply of heavy duty fireworks, and as my modelmaking skills increased, I started nuking the old kits. The car kids were actually kinda boring – they’d just sort of disappear into zillion pieces instantly.

    Then I progressed to larger scale sci-fi stuff, like the Battlestar Galactica, and `the starship Enterprise. The most spectacular explosion was an Imperial Walker (AT-AT) that I stole from my kid brother so we could re-enact the battle of Hoth. We rigged it with smoke bombs, firecrackers, bottle rockets, and a couple of M-80s for the coup de grace. Damned if ILM couldn’t have done it better. Awesome.

    A couple of years ago, I saw an AT-AT just like the one we blew up selling for $300.

  • avatar

    Plastic models never looked as good as the picture on the box, although in this case that might be possible.

    • 0 avatar

      If I ever buy the Gunze kit of the Lotus Elan, I’ll pay a real modeler to assemble it.

    • 0 avatar

      With enough skill and materials, you can make it look as good or better. Problem is 1) you’re probably buying models from a dept. store, which are (usually) the lowest quality, and 2) weirdly, are the hardest to put together well. This is true today, maybe in the 70s Revell was better. At any rate, they had a competitor in Monogram, which by all accounts was a good manufacturer.

      And of course, when you are a kid money for all the stuff you need is pretty scarce.

  • avatar
    Mike C.

    Blowing up models with M-80s! I guess it was more common than I thought. This was a popular activity in my neighborhood for sure…

  • avatar

    I remember those times well, I was about the same age when ol Jimmy was voted into office and later the bizarre family all came out of the work and his own daughter Amy, if I recall right was often upstaging her own father.

    Poor Jimmy, he never could win, no matter what.

    Billy Beer, yeah, I remember the whole bruhahah over it back in the day.

    Have fun putting this together, have not done a model car in ages and used to spend hours doing just that as a kid.

  • avatar

    Well this certainly was a most humorous romp into the nostalgia. Please, please give us more when you find out what Donald Nixon was driving. Billy certainly was a much more flamboyant character than Roger Clinton. As for Pres O, he had some automotive hypocrisy

  • avatar

    Jimmy was the first President I voted for. I figured someone with a Phd in nuclear energy was smart enough to be effective as President. Wow, was I wrong! His brother would have made a better choice. I now believe Presidents shouldn’t be too smart and I’m worried now that Rick Perry dropped out.

    • 0 avatar

      Another myth. Jimmy Carter never earned a PhD in nuclear energy nor, for them matter, a doctorate degree in any field. He may have some honorary degrees at that level but, like I said, he didn’t earn them. I’m not even sure if his BS from Annapolis is even an engineering degree. After graduation from the Naval Academy he did some graduate work in physics at Union College. Yes, he worked under Hyman Rickover as Rickover was promoting nuclear powered subs and carriers. He probably knows something about physics. My friends who have engineering degrees and who are physicists, though, pooh pooh the notion that Jimmy Carter was some kind of nuclear engineer or scientist. Most of the people in the Navy’s nuclear program have been trained to operate reactors, not design and build them. That Carter has exaggerated his scientific or engineering credentials (or allowed them to be exaggerated without a public correction) is perfectly fitting for the world’s most immodest man.

  • avatar

    Nice Kit! The only problem I can see is all that wood is going to be extremely annoying to get right. If you are sufficiently crafty, Mr. Martin, I’d suggest just replacing the imitation wood bits with real ones. Car people know especially how well replacing wood with wood-simulated plastic works out.

  • avatar

    Also, a good site for these sorts of kits is:

    Just finding old kits you built as a kid on this site is a massive time-waster.

  • avatar
    Mike C.

    “No way. The plood has to stay for that authentic ’70s feel. Just needs some wood-grain piece of paper glued in the bed.”

    My sentiments exactly!

  • avatar

    I’d leave the kit intact. I just don’t think you can improve on something that has been kept in its original condition for so long.

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