Easy Front Spoiler For Pioneer Mustangs and Camaros

by Bob Ward

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The early TransAm rules didn’t allow the cars to use add-on aerodynamic devices such as front and rear spoilers, but as time went on and the rules loosened up just about all of those cars eventually received some aerodynamic upgrades.  You can add a front spoiler to your Pioneer Mustangor Camaro easily and inexpensively by modifying a spoiler from a Scalextric 69 Camaro.  All you have to do to the part to make it fit the Pioneer chassis is grind away some material as shown below so it will fit around the Pioneer car’s guide housing.  The front body posts are the same distance apart on both the Scalextric Camaro and the Pioneer pony cars, so the modified spoiler bolts right on.

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This photo shows the stock spoiler (l.) and the modified one.  I removed the material using a Dremel Moto-tool with a sanding drum.

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With care, you can modify the Scalextric part for a nice, snug fit onto the Pioneer chassis.  Some Pioneer cars have body mounting screws with heads too large to fit inside the spoiler.  If that’s the case with yours just rummage through your junk box for a pair of screws with smaller heads.  They are used on many different cars.

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The spoiler gives your car a different and more aggressive look from all the other Pioneer Mustangs and Camaros  on the track. If you don’t have one in your junk box the spoiler is available in the Scalextric W8813 parts pack.

Information and Advice For First-time Race Set Buyers

by Bob Ward

In this article we will show you the essentials of what slot cars and slot car race sets are, how they work, and what to expect when you or your child start out in the slot car hobby.

Thank you for choosing Victory Lap Hobbies as a place to shop for your first slot car race set. We want every new participant in the slot car hobby to have a fun, successful first experience with it. This is especially true for children, who need a careful introduction to slot car racing and some mentoring along the way to get the full measure of fun with the fewest problems. Adult beginners also can benefit from some advance information about what to expect.

If you aren’t familiar with slot cars from personal experience you may not know exactly what slot cars and race sets are. They are not the same as Hot Wheels or other forms of toy car racing you or your children may have played with, and we want you to know how slot cars are different and what it takes to get the most fun and satisfaction from them.

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A slot car is a miniature car powered by an electric motor. The slot cars we sell at VLH are 1/32 scale (4 to 6 inches long) or 1/43 scale (3 to 4 inches long). The slot car’s motor drives the rear wheels or, in some cases, all four wheels. Every slot car has a pin or blade-shaped guide that extends below the bottom of the car near the front. The guide follows a slot in the track surface, steering the car around the track, hence the name slot car racing. To the left and right of the slot there is a metal strip that conducts electrical current from a power pack that plugs into a wall outlet. The power pack steps down voltage from 110 to 12-16 and converts it from alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC). This makes the voltage and amperage completely safe for all users, including children.  Pieces of flat braided steel or copper wire on either side of the car’s guide pick up the current from the track’s metal strips to power the car’s motor and propel it around the track. The driver uses a hand-held controller with a trigger to vary the car’s speed.   Slot cars are powered and controlled by the same electrical principles as model trains, with which you may have experience.

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A slot car race set consists of assembled and ready-to-run (RTR) cars, a power supply, controllers, and a number of straight and curved plastic track sections that snap together to form a racing course. Most sets also include some accessories such as guard rails, overpass supports, and even, in some higher-end sets, a lap counter. All present-day race sets come with instructions for setup, operation, and maintenance that most people find easy to follow. All the components snap or plug together, with no tools required. With the exception of a few race sets that come without cars for people who want to choose and purchase their cars separately, your race set will have everything you need to begin racing, right there in the box.

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Many kinds of car racing toys use an external device, like powered rollers, to propel an unpowered car around a track. That’s how Hot Wheels tracks work.   Another common form of toy racing uses cars driven by internal batteries powering an electric motor. Neither requires any control inputs by by the user. You just put the car on the track and around the racing course it goes at its top speed, held onto the track by walls at the edges.

Unlike these toys, slot cars will come off the track if driven too fast around a curve.   Your child has to drive his car by using the controller to vary its speed, slowing down on the curves. The basic premise of slot car racing, the thing that makes it fun, is that you can’t just watch the car blast around the course flat-out. The winner is the driver who can drive his or her car closest to its limits at every point on the track without exceeding them and making the car spin out, roll over, or plow straight off. If your child stays with the hobby very long he will discover the added element of modifying the cars to make them faster, but to start with the object will be to drive the cars as fast as possible just as they are.

The essential point is that the racer does have to drive his car and that requires a learning curve. Children and even adults just starting out often can’t keep the car on the track for very long without driving it out of the slot. This can be frustrating, especially for children who have never encountered anything like this before. Sometimes it leads to tears or even tantrums and may make the parent think that slot cars are no fun or that the cars and track just don’t work. That can be upsetting to a parent or even to an adult beginner who may conclude that the race set was not a good purchase. However, if the beginner sticks with it he or she usually figures it out with experience and soon is making lap after successful lap and having a lot of fun.

Most children age 6 or over have the coordination, attention span, and general level of awareness they need to acquire the necessary skills in a reasonable length of time. I’ve seen kids as young as 4 who can handle it and some older children who just don’t quite get it yet. If your child gets frustrated and clearly isn’t getting the hang of it, all it usually takes to retrieve the situation is a relatively brief break from the slot cars followed by some gentle coaching. Worst case, you may need to put the race set away for a while until the child develops a bit more maturity.

I might add that I’ve seen children and adults with some degree of developmental challenge who have picked up the skill of driving a slot car quite readily and have become good at it. I’ve also seen that it’s a competitive enterprise that can work well for individuals with some kinds and degrees of physical limitations. If a member of your family has issues of these kinds and you think he or she would benefit from and enjoy racing slot cars it may well be worth considering.

You should be aware that for children (and even some adults) crashing is often the greater part of the fun at first. If your child is crashing every lap and grinning, that’s all right as long as you have equipped your track with cars made to stand up to it. VLH has lots of crashworthy cars and sets that come with them to choose from. After a while, the beginner usually gets over the crashing phase and then moves on to racing and winning.

More than anything else your child needs an appropriate degree of adult supervision until you are satisfied that he or she has is able to play with the race set properly and has enough driving skill to enjoy it. The best way to supervise is to race with your children. You will have as much fun as they do, and the time spent together is beyond price.

Because slot cars and race sets are mass-produced products they will experience the occasional random component failure. If this is going to happen it’s almost always soon after you start using the race set. Victory Lap Hobbies provides expert technical support that will resolve any problems and get you and your family back to racing as quickly as possible. The VLH team can also help you with any problems you may have in setting up and using your race set. Tech help is just a phone call or e-mail away.

Slot cars and race sets, unlike most of your child’s toys, will need some routine maintenance to keep working properly. The track and the cars need to be kept clean. The cars’ axle and motor bushings need to be oiled (though very sparingly and not often). The pickup braids on the cars need regular cleaning, adjustment and eventual replacement. This is all easy to do and VLH has all the needed parts and supplies. You can help your child learn responsibility by teaching him or her to maintain a race set.

Most race sets do not have to be set up exactly the way they are shown on the box or on our web site. You can put the track sections together in different combinations to build a layout that fits the space you have to work with, and you don’t necessarily have to use all the track sections. You can change the layout as often as you or your child wants to create new driving challenges, to make the layout larger or smaller and change the degree of difficulty, or to make it into a model of your favorite full-sized race track. The larger the set and the more track sections it includes the more layout options you will have.   You can buy additional track sections to expand the layout to any size and design you can imagine. Also, there are many different cars from a number of different manufacturers you can buy to run on it.

One thing that makes today’s slot car sets and track systems really user-friendly is that a slot car layout made up of snap-together plastic track sections does not have to be set up permanently. With a little practice even grade school-age children can assemble and disassemble most plastic track layouts quickly and easily with no problems. Most track systems are designed and manufactured to be used this way and will stand up to repeated assembly and disassembly even by children who may not always handle the components with the greatest of care. This means that the kids can change the layout as often as they like, adding to fun and long-term interest. If space is at a premium you can snap and plug everything together on the living room or bedroom floor, race for a day or evening, and then quickly disassemble and stow everything away until next time. The race set box serves as a storage case, and even larger layouts built from multiple sets plus added track sections do not require a great deal of storage space.

A carpeted floor (as opposed to a table) is actually the best place to set up the track when your kids are learning to drive and going through the crashing stage because it gives errant cars a soft landing and no dive to a hard floor. A bed sheet laid over the carpet before assembling the track keeps carpet fibers, cookie crumbs, pet hair, and similar common household debris out of the cars. Later on, if you and your family have the desire and the available space you can build a permanent detailed layout on a table or benchwork like a model train layout.

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If you have spent much time researching various slot car web sites you may have seen articles and forum posts that don’t speak well of racing slot cars on plastic sectional track using traction magnets (rare-earth magnets placed on the bottom of the car) to increase cornering grip. These articles and posts express the view that racing without magnets on a wood track you build yourself is the only way to go and better than any other kind of slot car racing. They have their arguments but the truth is that only 2 to 5 percent of all the slot car racers in the world race this way. This 2 to 5 percent, however, tend to dominate the popular slot car forums and they can easily give people the very mistaken idea that sooner or later they will have to go to the effort and expense of building a wood track. This is a project most people lack the time, skill, equipment, or motivation to tackle. It’s a form of slot racing you may want to try someday, but the vital thing to know is that the 95 to 98 percent who race on plastic tracks, with or without magnets as they may prefer, are having lots of fun. You can be confident that the race set you buy to start out with will serve you well for many years to come and provide you with a great deal of racing enjoyment.

Another mistaken impression you can easily get from the Internet is that mass-produced slot cars in general are nothing more than toys and that to make them really raceworthy you need to spend serious money, often more than the car’s original price, replacing many of its components with expensive aftermarket parts. I won’t go into a lot of detail on this other than to say that this is also very much a minority view within the slot car hobby. VLH carries a wide selection of aftermarket parts and if you really need them for the type and level of racing you are competing in they are well worth their prices, but the beginning slot car racer should understand that most hobbyists can achieve all the performance they are ever likely to need with no more than minimal car modifications, usually just magnets and tires. This is because unless you are going to race in high-level organized events your goal will be not to make every one of your cars as fast as you can but to make all of them as equal as possible with a performance level and driving characteristics that satisfy you. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on upgrades to do this. And even if you do get into anything-goes competition you probably will modify only one or a few of your cars to the required level, not all or even most of them. So, you can be assured that you can keep costs well in hand.

Slot cars and tracks can become a lifelong constructive hobby that grows and changes along with the hobbyist. A fun and successful first experience can lead to many years of enjoyment and satisfaction. We at VLH want to make that possible for all our customers.

If you have questions, as most first-time purchasers do, you can e-mail us at customersupport@victorylaphobbies.com or call us at 253-604-4351. We’ll be glad to give you all the information and advice you need. And if you already have a race set and just need help sorting out problems with it or deciding where you want to go with the hobby we can help you with that, too. Good racing and have fun!

Copyright ©2014 Robert M. Ward. All rights reserved.

Low-cost Scratchbuilding and Kitbashing With OEM Parts

by Bob Ward

It usually doesn’t take a new slot car hobbyist long to start thinking about modifying his cars to make them faster and better-handling or building unique cars not available from the manufacturers.

Many of the car-building articles on the Internet tend to steer the reader interested in such projects toward the use of expensive high-end aftermarket parts. In some cases this is the way to go, particularly if you are into non-magnet racing on wood tracks or building a car for advanced levels of competition in which cost is not an issue. However, most slot car hobbyists do not need that level of performance for home racing and even many club competitions, especially where magnets are being used and cost containment is an objective.

I’ve pointed out in other articles that most hobbyists who race on plastic track can bring their stock ready-to-run cars to very satisfying performance levels and driving characteristics with nothing more than magnet and tire modifications. The same is true when creating your own custom-built cars.

A great way to put a complete running chassis under a resin or static kit body is to buy an RTR car and use it as a “donor” car. Any time you can do this it is significantly less expensive than buying all the parts individually, especially since you can sell the body and get back part of the car’s price.  There are even some manufacturers who sell complete running chassis without the body. Also, many of the factory replacement parts for cars from Scalextric, Monogram, Carrera, Pioneer, and others offer effective and inexpensive solutions to your special projects parts needs.  If you look at all the factory replacement parts made for RTR cars you will find an abundant source of effective, low-cost parts for building almost any car you can imagine.

Here are a few examples of improved and unique 1/32 scale cars built with factory replacement parts:

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This model is a “TransAm” Chevy Lumina converted from a 90s AMT NASCAR static model body (two of them, actually).  The complete running chassis is a box-stock Pioneer Mustang chassis with wheels and tires made for a Fly Porsche 934. The bodywork done on this car is quite extensive but putting a chassis under it was simplicity itself. The Pioneer chassis, used on all their 60s Mustangs and Camaros, is an exact match for the wheelbase of the body. Swapping the wheels and tires was the only change needed to give this body the chassis, wheels, and tires it needs.

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Here’s a heavily modified Monogram Cooper-Cobra. It uses the complete stock Sebring chassis with wheels and tires made for a Carrera Ferrari 512BB and an upgraded guide from Slot It. This car is literally the stock Monogram RTR with a lot of bodywork done to it to make it look like a Cooper heavily modified in the early days of Group 7 (USRRC-CanAm) racing to take an American V8 engine and wide wheels and tires with bodywork mods needed to cover the tires and give the car some aerodynamic add-ons to cope with all that Detroit horsepower. Bodywork like this is cheap, requiring only some sheet styrene and body putty (plus a good deal of work by the modeler). The rear tires are Maxxtrac silicones but you may be just fine with the stock tires. Try the car with the stock Monogram guide before you spend the price of the Slot It one.

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This CanAm McLaren M12 is a 70s Aurora vintage body on a Fly plastic sidewinder chassis with wheels and tires from a Monogram Greenwood Corvette. The original Aurora bodies turn up on eBay fairly often and resin clones are available from a couple of cottage industry manufacturers. The chassis under this particular car is a much chopped-up unit from a Fly Joest Porsche, but the Fly Ferrari 512S chassis and sidewinder rear pod, both available as spare parts, are a perfect fit for the body’s wheelbase. A used/semi-junk 512S makes an ideal donor car and you can even use the Ferrari wheels and tires if you prefer, though you might want to paint them aluminum with black or body-colored centers so their Ferrari origin is less obvious. This project also works with the more recent Flyslot inline 512S chassis. Both chassis are available as spare parts. The Greenwood wheels and tires are also available as spares, though they come in axle assemblies. The rear tires on this car are Maxxtrac silicones, but experience on our Scalextric track reveals that the stock Monogram tires give plenty of grip for magnet racing.

All these cars were inexpensive to build and required only basic modeler’s tools to create, yet are all good performers on the track.  You can do your own custom car projects by using donor car chassis and combining them in creative ways with the many stock replacement parts we sell in our on-line catalog.  Of course, we also carry high-performance parts from NSR, Slot It, and many others for those who need higher performance for all-out racing situations.  Your choices for giving every car you build exactly the look and performance level you want are nearly endless.  That’s a big part of what makes the slot car hobby so much fun for so many people with widely varying skills, specific areas of interest, and personal goals.

Copyright 2014 Robert M. Ward.  All rights reserved.

Paint Stripping With Alcohol

by Bob Ward

A while back I bought two used Fly Lola T70s on eBay.  The two bodies had multiple coats of paint on them that had to be at least a scale inch thick, so my first task in refurbishing them was to strip them back down to bare plastic, or as close to it as possible.  Paint stripping has been covered many times on various slot car web sites, but as long as I was going to do it anyway I decided to describe the process on the VLH site for the benefit of readers who may not have seen it elsewhere.

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I went to the local home improvement bigbox and bought a can of denatured alcohol, which can be found in the paint department.  Then I went across the parking lot to Wal Mart and looked through the housewares department for a Tupperware-type container just big enough to hold a slot car body.  The container has a tight-fitting lid, which keeps alcohol fumes contained.  It cost about $2.00.  I placed a body in the container, poured in enough alcohol to cover it, and snapped the lid in place.  After 24 hours the paint was ready to peel off the body.  It all came off quite easily except for parts of the initial primer coat, which didn’t seem to be as strongly affected by the alcohol.  Another overnight soaking seemed not to make much difference so I washed the body off and wet-sanded away the rest of the primer with 400-grit sandpaper.  I repeated the procedure with the other body and the result is as seen below, two bodies ready for repainting.

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The alcohol can be reused after filtering it through a piece of cloth placed in the funnel to remove any paint flakes when it is poured back into the can.  The alcohol is somewhat discolored by dissolved paint, but is still perfectly usable for more paint stripping.  It takes off the paint and does not harm either the body itself or the container.

Copyright 2014, Robert M. Ward.  All rights reserved.

Carrera ’69 Camaro Chassis Transplant

by Bob Ward, June 12, 2015

Here’s an easy kitbash that can be done with any Carrera 1969 Camaro body.  By mounting the Camaro body on a Scalextric 1969 Mustang chassis you can create a Camaro TransAm car that has a better-proportioned body than the Scalextric 1969 Camaro and also gives any Carrera 69 Camaro a much better-performing chassis that lets it sit low to the ground like race car should.

NOTE:  Since this article was published Scalextric has announced that it will be producing its 1969 Camaro in this livery.  It’s supposed to be released in the latter part of 2016.  

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I’ve always particularly liked one aspect of the Carrera 1969 Camaro body better than Scalextric’s body of the same car. Carrera got the proportion between the greenhouse and the rest of the body much closer to that of the 1:1 scale car than Scalextric did.  It makes a huge difference in the way the two bodies look – essentially the difference between an accurate model and a toy car body that looks, well, a bit cartoonish.

On the other hand, the Scalextric body has its good points, also.  For one thing, Scalextric’s designers modeled it as a proper race car with the subtly but effectively fattened fenders all cutting edge TA cars were sporting by 1969 while the Carrera body is very much the unmodified road car.  This gives Scalextric’s version the advantage of a wider track front and rear and room for wider tires.  I really wish Scalextric would redo its body with Carrera’s greenhouse on top of its own fatter fenders.  That would be just about ideal.  Of course, if it’s a road car model you want (and that seems to be what Carrera is primarily interested in) Carrera’s body is much better.

Chassis-wise there is no comparison.  Up against the performance of Scalextric’s TA car chassis and Pioneer’s nearly identical unit the Carrera Camaro essentially can’t get out of its own way. Worse still, perhaps, is that Carrera insists on perching the body ridiculously high on the chassis.  Combined with the hugely oversized wheels Carrera uses the car looks like something intended for offroad racing.  When the body is painted as a classic TransAm car the overall effect isn’t just cartoonish, it’s insanely cartoonish.

Which brings us to the purpose of this kitbash.  Scalextric has been producing its 1969 Camaro since…well, forever.  By now they have done the car in practically every racing livery the 69 Camaro has ever been seen in. But there’s one notable exception.  That’s the yellow #64 car driven by Richard Sterbins in the early 1970s.  And, of course, the reason Scalextric never did that car is that Carrera did it first.  So, I did a Scalextric version of it myself.

I picked up a new-in-the-package example of the Carrera model (#25712) on eBay for a not-too-ridiculous price.  As soon as it came through the door I had the body off it and was test-fitting it to various chassis.  I quickly discovered that the body is a perfect fit for a Scalextric 1969/70 Mustang chassis if the chassis is trimmed a bit at the front and rear.  You can even use the Camaro rear body posts without having to move them.  The photos below show the trimming that needs to be done at the front and rear.

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Note that the rear body mounting points are completely drilled out, leaving two holes in the chassis.

To space the body up to the desired height I used shims with a total thickness of .120″ or 3mm.  You can shim the body up to whatever height you prefer.  The shims, shown below, are squares of sheet styrene.

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The Carrera Camaro body comes with a removable hood and some well-modeled engine detail.  Removing the underhood structure and gluing the hood in place is not absolutely necessary to do this conversion but it reduces weight at a point where weight is counterproductive and it simplifies the relocation of the front body posts to match the location of the mounting points at the front of the chassis. With all the unneeded material removed and the grille/front valence and the hood CA glued in place the underside of the body looks like this.  Note that the mounting lugs have been cut off the back side of the grille area since they will no longer fit over the body posts when the posts are relocated.

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And this is how it looks with the front body posts glued in and everything reinforced with an “industrial strength” adhesive known as E6000, available Lowe’s, Home Depot, and probably most other home improvement stores…

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The posts were molded into the underhood detail that was removed.  I cut them out and reused them but you could just as easily make your own posts from styrene or ABS tubing.  The E6000 adhesive holds the posts securely in place.  You could also use gap-filling CA or epoxy, whichever you have on hand.

I didn’t do it on this car – yet, anyway – but you can add strength to the front of the body by gluing sheet styrene between the posts and the back side of the grille/bumper assembly.  With the front posts in place the body is complete.  That leaves just the interior to be modified.

The Carrera car has an interior tub that is more or less full depth in the front seat area but only half depth or less from there back.  At least the back half of the interior tub has to be made into nearly a flat tray to clear the motor, especially if you are going to mount the body particularly low in the chassis.  I decided, however, to make almost the whole interior a two-step shallow tray in order to save weight and get rid of unwanted passenger car detail molded into the interior tub. Photo #1 below shows where to cut the interior tub just enough for a passenger car interior retaining the seats and full driver figure. #2 shows where to cut for a shallow tray with only a half driver figure.  Note that on both the full depth of the interior is retained at the very front to preserve the secure mounting of the dashboard, but you can cut that, too, if you really want to.  I used a razor saw to do the cutting but you could also use a Moto-tool with a cutting disc.

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Here you can see how I used sheet and strip styrene to complete the flat-tray conversion…

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You can see here that the tray has almost no depth as far forward as about where the seat backs were.  This is the area that has to clear the motor.  From there forward I made it deeper in order to accommodate a more complete driver figure with head, shoulders, arms, hands, and steering wheel. To get that driver figure we had to subject Carrera’s driver to this rather painful procedure…

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Yes, I chopped him off at the armpits, but now he fits perfectly in the shallow interior and he has a much faster car to drive. I cut a piece from a junk box steering wheel and glued it between his hands to complete his transformation. I also trimmed down the original roll cage and glued it into place for his safety and peace of mind.  With the interior painted and completed the project was just a matter of final assembly.

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Here’s the bottom of the completed car.  Note that the two rear body screws each have one washer under the head.  This lets them retain the body in place with the original mounting points removed from the chassis.

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The Mustang donor car came with Minilite wheels, but they were chrome plated and I didn’t wat to go to the trouble of painting them.  I had several sets of Pioneer 5-spoke wheels lying around so I replaced the Minilites and mounted the original Scalextric front tires and Maxxtrac silicones.  The Scalextric front tires are smaller in diameter than Pioneer’s and allow the body to sit lower at the front.  I like the dark grey wheel centers on this car.  Because the Pioneer wheels move the tires outward a bit I had to scrape some plastic off the inner edges of the front wheel openings for clearance.

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The car as it originally came is quite a contrast with the converted one.  By the way, Carrera’s 1967 Mustang fastbacks have this same problem and can be converted to a Scalextric chassis in essentially the same way.  Of course, you can just buy a Pioneer Mustang fastback and save yourself all the trouble, but Carrera has a few race car liveries different from Pioneer’s.

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Here is our kitbash car nose-to-nose with a Scalextric Camaro.  You don’t really notice just how big the differences are until you put them close together.  Both the Scalextric and the Carrera have their pluses and minuses, but this conversion project has brought together many of the best features of both of them.

Copyright 2015 Robert M. Ward.  All rights reserved.

 

Building the Frankenwedge, Part 2

Chassis and Running Gear

by Bob Ward

 

Every custom slot car body deserves a good chassis. That includes, of course, a chassis that fits it. Here’s a simple but effective chassis for my CanAm kitbash project.

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Here’s the chassis for the Frankenwedge. Many of my readers will recognize it as a chassis I’ve used in car builds before, a Fly Ferrari 512S sidewinder rolling chassis with modifications. As I always do with Fly sidewinder cars, I replaced the gears with Scalextric ones, the W8200 pinion and W8201 spur. The rear wheels are from an old Fly Porsche 934 rear axle assembly, modified with inserts from Fly Renault 5 Turbo wheels. This particular combination is not always available, but the Fly 04403 Porsche 934 rear axle assembly with BBS wheels has the same dimensions, and most people will probably think the BBS wheels look better. The rear tires on the car are Indy Grips 3008 silicones. At the front I used wheels and tires from a Carrera Ferrari 512 BB, but if you use the Fly 934 BBS wheels at the rear you can use matching front BBS wheels from a Fly B95 or 04402 axle assembly. Before ordering these Fly axle assemblies, check with VLH to make sure the centers match front and rear, either a silver or a gold color. Fly changes part colors and finishes from batch to batch without changing the stock number.

The two most challenging mods were moving the entire pod assembly .060″ forward in the chassis to make the wheelbase match that of the body and modifying the pod to accept a Scalextric, Pioneer, Slot It or Professor Motor bar magnet. The bar magnet upgrade, as I’ve described in previous car build articles, greatly improves the drivability of any Fly classic sidewinder car by providing magnetic downforce over more of the car’s width than the stock Fly cylindrical magnet does. Also, by using your choice of these bar magnets and shimming them by different amounts you can adjust the amount of magnetic downforce to give you a wide range of grip levels and driving characteristics.

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This photo shows what is involved in moving the pod forward. Compare the unmodified chassis on the left with the modified one on the right. The first step is to lengthen the rectangular opening of the front pod mounting point by .060″ toward the front of the chassis (red arrow). Next, cut off the cylindrical rear pod mount flush with the top surface of the chassis and slot the screw hole .060” toward the front of the chassis (blue arrow). You will be using a machine screw through both the chassis and the pod to hold the pod in place. Depending on the size screw you use you may have to widen the slotted hole, also. I used a 4-40, so I did have to make the hole wider, as you can see in the photo.

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The next step is to glue a spacer of .060″ thick styrene in place to positively locate the pod the desired distance forward of its original position. After this photo was taken I painted the spacer black to match the rest of the chassis. The chassis was then ready to install the pod.

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But first I needed to modify the pod to fit into its new location and to accept a bar magnet. In the above photo an unaltered pod is on the left, a pod with just the bar magnet modification is on the right, and the pod used on the project car, modified for both the bar magnet and relocation in the chassis, in the center. In order to move the pod forward I had to cut the forwardmost bar off the bottom of the pod as shown above. That can be done easily with a hobby knife. You can also see that on the completed pod I’ve shortened the tab that goes into the front pod mount. That is necessary because I’m moving the pod forward in the mount. The tab is still long enough to hold the front of the pod securely in place.

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Here’s the rig I use to machine the channel for the bar magnet into the pod. A Dremel Moto-Tool is mounted into a stand, also made by Dremel, that allows the Moto-tool to be used as a vertical milling machine. A piece of sheet brass is clamped to the side of the unit to provide a guide along which to move the pod for cutting a straight channel for the magnet.

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Here’s a closeup of the cutting tool and the modified pod. The tool is a high-speed steel cutter, .300″ in diameter, available anywhere Dremel accessories are sold. This tool cuts a channel just wide enough to take the widest of the bar magnets I use, the ones made by Professor Motor. Scalextric, Pioneer, and Slot It bar magnets are slightly narrower and require some layers of tape on them for a snug fit. I set the depth of the channel a bit deeper than the thickness of the thickest magnet I’m likely to use. This allows me to set the magnet height for the desired level of downforce by using a magnet that generates more than the required amount when placed right on the surface of the chassis and then shimming it upward to get the exact figure required. Setting the desired magnet downforce may require shimming both above and below the magnet. By the way, this modification does not prevent the original Fly cylindrical magnet from being used if required for a particular race. There is still enough of the original magnet socket left to hold the round magnet in place. I’ve found that when shimmed enough to be captured tightly between the pod and the chassis the bar magnet will not move from side to side, but if desired there is nothing to keep you from gluing in short lengths of styrene strip next to each end of the magnet to ensure proper location.

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Here’s the completed installation. You can clearly see the .060″ spacer and the machine screw with its nut and lock washer. You can also see the Scalextric gears installed in place of the original Fly gears. Also visible is the end of the bar magnet peeking out past the edge of the pod. Note also that the motor has aftermarket silicone-insulated lead wires installed. The entire rear axle assembly shown here is made up from inexpensive stock replacement parts for various 1/32 scale cars, but of course there is nothing except cost to prevent you from using high-end aftermarket parts including brass or bronze bushings, a drill blank axle, and set screw spur gear and wheels, especially if you are going to race without a magnet.

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So here it is, the completed Frankenwedge. As with all my project car articles, I have attempted to present ideas and techniques you can apply in building models of many different cars or in bringing to life your own original creations. If you have any comments or questions on this article please send them to bob@victorylaphobbies.com.  I will be glad to help you with as much information and advice as you can use. And if you have a completed car project you would like to show to the world, the VLH staff invites you to send us information and photos. You may see your creation in our newsletter or on our web site.

Copyright © 2013 Robert M. Ward. All rights reserved.

Building the Frankenwedge, Part 1

by Bob Ward

In this article I’ll show you how to take a common vintage slot car body and turn it into a unique, attractive addition to your slot car collection and a great performer on the track.img9663a-800.jpg

One of the interesting things about the original CanAm series of 1966-74 is how little development most of the cars got. It seemed like every year there was a new crop of cars attempting to challenge the series dominators, McLaren and then Porsche, but none of them achieved what their constructors hoped for. The cars usually arrived at the season’s first race, or their own first race of the season, with scant testing, even when they incorporated radical features that cried out for a comprehensive test program.   Instead, the teams all too often ended up using the races as test sessions, and this seldom if ever achieved the desired results. All too often the teams, from one season to the next, would abandon a promising but undeveloped car for a radically different one that simply repeated the cycle of inadequate development

McLaren, however, ran a continuous development program that enabled them to start with a winning combination and build on it from year to year. From the M6A of 1967 to the M20 of 1972 each year’s car was a logical and effective extension of what had gone before, incorporating all the lessons learned from previous seasons. This made McLaren the only team, until the arrival of Penske Racing and Porsche in 1972, that always showed up at the season opener with cars ready to race. This leads to an intriguing question. What would some of the other cars have achieved and what might they have looked like if they had evolved and been properly and professionally developed with an adequate budget over several seasons?

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One such car is the McKee Mk 10, more commonly known as the Cro-Sal Wedge. Like all of Bob McKee’s creations it was built and raced on a relative shoestring, but if any car other than a McLaren looked the part of the quintessential CanAm car the Wedge was it. As it happened, the one-off car, which was really just a rebody of an earlier McKee, passed through the hands of several owners, none of whom had enough resources to make it a success. Not that they didn’t try. The car went through several attempts to make it a winner, even including one in which it was fitted with, of all things, a dragster-type blower.

Pat and I actually saw this permutation of the car in action at Riverside in 1971. The thing had truly awesome acceleration. We saw it blow by Denny Hulme’s McLaren on Riverside’s long back straight as if Denny had an anchor out. Unfortunately, the dragster engine was either all the way on or all the way off, which made the car a moving roadblock in the corners. Hulme repassed the McKee in the next corner and just drove away from it. And so it went until eventually the Wedge passed into the hands of vintage racers who restored it to something close to its original configuration and its Cro-Sal livery. It’s now a distinctive and popular car in vintage racing.

But what if McKee’s concept for this car had emerged from a team that had the resources to keep developing it from year to year as McLaren had done with its design? What might it have looked like after a few years? Well, as it happens, I had lying around several examples of Strombecker’s late 60s Cro-Sal Wedge body, as sold then in the form of an RTR car. These bodies and cars turn up frequently on eBay at very reasonable prices, by the way. I decided to kitbash one into my idea of what the ultimate McKee Wedge might have looked like, using current-production components for the chassis and running gear. I’ve dubbed the result the Frankenwedge.img8469-600-2.jpg

Well, actually I used two Cro-Sal bodies because the first thing I had to do was to make the body half an inch wider to fit the chassis, wheels, and tires I wanted to use and to transform the Strombecker body’s somewhat toylike proportions to something more nearly accurate. The easiest way to do this was to cut up two bodies as shown below.

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Here’s the result, with the original car for comparison.

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You can also see in this photo that I cut out the cockpit opening and began to make some changes in the engine area.

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The joints between the glued-together sections of the body needed to be reinforced for adequate strength. I used .020″ sheet styrene. This shot also shows where the original body posts were removed and new ones installed to match the chassis I was going to use. The body now is 2.5″ wide, about the maximum practical width for racing on most 1/32 scale track systems. You can also see where I cut out the vents on the rearward face of the front fenders. Many race cars have air outlets of some kind in this general area to release lift-creating high-pressure air that builds up in the wheel wells. All of the fabrication was done with medium-thickness CA glue.

The next step in modifying the body was to add a wing. By 1970 wings had become more or less universal on CanAm cars and the Frankenwedge would have needed one. The problem with putting wings on slot cars is that they tend to be rather delicate and prone to crash damage, or at least their mounts do. When I do project cars it’s always with the idea that at some point they may be put onto the track and raced in earnest. Therefore, the wing installation has to be as strong as possible. 

There are basically two ways to mount a wing. You can either put it atop a vertical mount (or two of them) extending upward from the back of the body or you can put it between two fins. The problem with both of those is that you can’t get a very solid attachment between the wing and its supporting structure because there simply isn’t enough surface area where the wing joins its mounting structure to allow a really strong glue joint, at least not without some seriously non-scale reinforcing. You can either have a strong wing or a scale-looking wing but not both. I’ve found the best compromise between looks and strength to be a GT car wing with good-sized endplates mounted between fins. The surface area of the endplates offers lots of gluing area between the wing and the fins for a solid wing mounting. On the Frankenwedge, I used a GT car wing from my junk box. It was 2.25″ long including the thickness of the endplates. I used a Moto-tool with a carbide disc to cut two slots in the upper surface of the rear of the body spaced accordingly. I tack-glued two thicknesses of .030″ styrene together and cut out two fins to fit in the slots and extend 9/16″ back from the trailing edge of the body. Of course, I could have made them any size I needed to get the desired wing location. That’s one of the advantages of building a “phantom” car. I CA glued the two fins into the body and then glued the wing between them, being careful to spread CA glue onto the entire area of the wing endplates and set the wing straight, level and at the desired height and angle. If I had wanted to I could then have added some extra sheet styrene to the inner faces of the fins to blend in the endplates, though I didn’t do that.

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A number of CanAm, Group C, and GTP cars have a wing mounted between fins, and you can use this procedure to give any of them a much stronger wing installation. It’s simply a matter of finding a wing the right length to fit between the fins on your particular car. This is one reason why you should always save the broken-off wings from your wrecked cars, along with any other parts that may be useful in the future.

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This photo shows the assembled body with the wing in place and body filler applied and sanded. From here it’s just a matter of fine finishing to get all the body surfaces smooth and then on to painting and detailing.

I decided that my upgraded Wedge should have its original Oldsmobile lump replaced by a ground-pounding bigblock Chevy engine and have the long-stack injectors to go with it. So, I made this…

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The base is cut from .040″ styrene. A piece of .020″ thick strip down the middle separates the two banks of injectors. The lower part of each injector is a 5/32″ length of Plastruct 90604 1/8″ styrene tubing. You can make this part whatever length you want to get the desired overall height for your injector stacks. After gluing these in place, with the two sides slightly staggered as on a V8 engine, I drilled a 1/16″ hole through the base at the center of each.   Into each hole I CA glued a 9/16″ length of Plastruct 90102 plastic coated wire, tapered down to the diameter of the wire at the upper end. I then pressed a Parma #622 brass ferrule down onto each piece of wire, adjusted the angle of each ferrule, and then put a drop of CA glue down each one. The result is an injector assembly that has 26 parts in it but is far stronger and more crashworthy than any similar part molded in solid plastic. This car will not have injector stacks breaking off it. Here’s a closeup shot of the finished and painted assembly mounted on the car.

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To keep this project as simple as possible I painted the entire body in one solid color and did all the rest of the livery with decals.

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The overall body color is Testor 52713 Boyd’s Dark Yellow. However, I wouldn’t recommend using this shade now that I’ve seen it on a completed car. The problem with it is that under bright incandescent light it is a beautiful, rich shade of yellow, but under fluorescent light or at lower light levels it looks somewhat muddy. It would be fine on a 1/1 scale race car, which always runs outdoors in daylight (and nobody cares what it looks like the rest of the time), but slot car tracks often are located in rooms with fluorescent and/or inadequate lighting, and there this color doesn’t look so good. The stripe decals are from an eBay copy of the decal sheet from a Matchbox Porsche 917-10K as are the numbers and the Die Hard decals. The Navy decals are from an eBay Brumos Porsche decal sheet. The MAC tools decals are also from eBay. The ASR class designation is something I printed up on my computer using an HP Photosmart printer.

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The openings in the front fenders and the rear of the body are filled in with fine-mesh brass screen. Screen of this type is available in many model train shops and at good-quality hardware stores, where it will be less expensive. The exhausts are Plastruct tubing and the taillights are salvaged from a Scalextric L88 Corvette.

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The interior tub and driver figure came from a junk LeMans prototype body. The tub received a bit of reshaping along its upper edges to match the contours of the Frankenwedge body. The mirrors are two that had broken off a car. I saved them for a project such as this. I drilled a 1/16″ hole in the bottom of each and CA glued in a stalk made of the same Plastruct coated wire I used in the injector assembly. The car now has much more crashworthy mirrors. The only remaining unmodified parts of the original Strombecker body are the windshield, the roll bar (metal, by the way) and the two gas caps.

Of course, no one knows what might have been done with Bob McKee’s most famous design if the budget and resources had been there to keep developing the concept aggressively, but I think it’s not unlikely that the result might have looked much like this. In any case, it’s fun to combine creativity with history to imagine in miniature what might have resulted.

NEXT- Frankenwedge – Part 2, chassis and running gear

Copyright © 2013 Robert M. Ward. All rights reserved.