My Metal Chassis Cars, Part 3

More Hardbody Cars

McLaren M8D
As you may have guessed, I really like CanAm cars.  Here is one I built in the late 90s or early 2000s, back when I still had my routed track.
This is supposed to be a McLaren M8D but you can see that the proportions are noticeably off.  It’s a lot longer than it should be.  The body came from an atrocious Japanese kit that was, unfortunately, about the only M8D available in 1/32 scale at the time.  It took endless hours of work just to get it to the state you see here.  Every part of the body has been modified in some way or another.  In hindsight, I should have gone the extra mile and shortened it to the proper length.  If I had done that the car would actually look pretty good, though not to the standard of current and recent production M8D slot cars.


If you look closely you can see in this chassis the much-modified center section of a Parma I-32 car.  Everything else is scratchbuilt.  The FK130 motor is soldered directly to the chassis.  I removed the motor bracket so I could properly position the motor in relation to the spur gear and the tires.  You can also see that this car uses my snap-on body mounting system as on the Lola T70 and the Ferrari 612.


Not long after I built the car there was a race at Pacific Raceways with Dan Gurney as the featured celebrity.  I was overseeing a slot car track at the event for a local hobby shop so another local slot racer volunteered to stand in line for the better part of an hour to get Gurney’s autograph on my model.  I didn’t get to meet him but at least my car did.  However, I have met a number of racing notables over the years.  They include, in no particular order, Mario Andretti, Mark Donohue, Tony Adamowicz, Tony DeLorenzo, Bill Morrison, Parnelli Jones, Phil Hill, Elliot Forbes-Robinson, Dominic Dobson, Bob Riley, Sam Posey, Amy Ruman, Tony Ave, Greg Pickett, Jim Derhaag, Monte Shelton, Paul Gentilozzi, Klaus Graf, Doug Fehan, Vic Edelbrock Jr. and more.  You spend enough time around race tracks and sooner or later you meet a lot of interesting people.
1969 TransAm Camaro
Here’s a car with a long history.  It began as a Monogram snap-together kit.  I built it as a static model around 1980.  Later I converted it to a slot car.  It’s been through at least half a dozen paint jobs and who knows how many races.  It’s now semi-restored and retired but it still runs.


The goal in building the original static model was to capture the look of a 69 Camaro TransAm car as it might have looked in the late 7os, just before the tube-frame era began.  By then these cars had been through years of evolution to wider tires, flared fenders, and more aggressive aerodynamic add-ons.


The fender flares and front air dam are sheet styrene blended in with body putty.  The paint is Floquil model train colors.  I’ve tried lots of different kinds of paint over the years.  If I remember right this black and yellow paint scheme is from some particular railroad or another.  The sponsor, Staley, is, or was, a chemical company.  The paints and the decals were matte, but several layers of Glosskote made the car nice and shiny.


The wheels are from JK with yet more Cox BRM F1 wheels turned down for inserts.  The interior uses just the very top part of the original model kit’s interior tub with sheet styrene on the bottom and a roll cage made from Plastruct wire-filled tubing. The driver figure is a modified Ninco part with a Scalextric head.


The chassis is another variation on the lead sled concept but with provision for more flex.  Like the chassis of my widebody Corvette, it’s not sophisticated but it got the job done in its day.

1990 TransAm Camaro

The tube-frame era in TransAm and IMSA racing, which began around 1980, greatly changed the character of the cars competing in these series.  It had been common car building practice for years to construct what amounted to a tube chassis inside the unit body.  Finally, somebody asked why not save time and money and eliminate the unit body?  There were already steel tube chassis readily available at reasonable prices for short-track oval racing cars the same size as TransAm cars.  These chassis designs could be inexpensively adapted for road racing.  At the same time the oval track world had developed a thriving industry making easily repairable and replaceable fiberglass bodies for these cars, many of which were the same makes and models as TA cars.  Making bodies to TA specs was not a difficult step to take.
It didn’t take long for tube fames and “plastic” bodies to take over, and by the mid-80s they had been thoroughly optimized for road racing.  The bodies soon came from the mold with all the changes to the production car shape needed to optimize aerodynamics and fit over wide racing wheels and tires.  All these features were smoothly integrated into the overall shape, eliminating the tacked-together look of the previous generation of bodies while still retaining the brand identity of their production car siblings even though every line and contour was different to one degree or another. This makes these cars challenging and satisfying to model.


The production Camaro shape remained essentially the same from 1982 through 1992, but during that time the racing body shape evolved considerably.  I modeled my Camaro body as a car from around 1990, at or near the final configuration of this generation Camaro.  The body is made from two of Monogram’s 1984 Camaro 1/32 scale glue-together kits.  Construction of the body began with cutting the sides off one of the bodies and gluing them to the sides of the other body.  This effectively widened the entire body.  I radiused out the wheel openings so the tires could come out to the full width of the body.  Then I added a deep front air dam, a hood hump, and a large rear blade spoiler made from sheet styrene.  With all these elements in place I used body putty and a lot of sanding to blend everything into the well-integrated shape you see here.


The interior tray is fabricated from sheet styrene with a roll cage made from wire-filled plastic tubing.  The driver is a Ninco figure with a Scalextric head.  You may have noticed that a lot of my cars have Ninco driver figures.  This is simply because I acquired a lot of them a long time back and they can be used, depending on what kind of head you put on them, in flat-tray interiors on cars of many types and eras.  There are, of course, many driver figures from many manufacturers that will serve the purpose quite well.

The decals are a mix of 1/32 scale waterslides and peel-and-sticks from 1/12 scale R/C car decal sheets.  The secondary and contingency sponsor logos for 1/12 scale cars make great primary sponsor decals for 1/32 scale cars and on many 1/12 scale decal sheets there are enough of them to make them well worth the price.  In addition, the sponsor logos too big for your slot cars can be used to make signage for your track, so essentially all the decals on the sheet can be put to good use.


You can see that this chassis is a direct descendant of the one used in the 1969 Camaro but with some improvements based on experience, mostly to provide more flex.    The wheels are from JK with Cox 1/24 scale Chaparral magnesium wheels turned down to serve as inserts and painted gold to look like early BBS wheels.   The gears and guide are from Parma.
This car also rests in retirement but remains ready to go back on the track.  I also have more of the Camaro bodies, which still can be found on eBay, and I would like to do an improved version of it on a Scalextric or Pioneer TA car chassis.
1979 Camaro TransAm car
The version of the Camaro that began in 1970 remained in production through 1981.  Both the road car and the many race cars based on it evolved continuously over that time.

My 1979 Camaro represents the evolution of the cars just before builders began using fender designs similar to those used on the Greenwood “Batmobile” Corvettes and just before the tube fame era began.  Cars looking more or less like this were quite common in SCCA racing, including the TransAm in the latter half of the 1970s. Fender flares, air dams, and spoilers were bigger than in 1970 but had come to be blended into the body shape more cleanly.  The cars were still build from unit bodies but much of the bodywork consisted of fiberglass parts made for racing with all the body modifications designed in.

I began with the Monogram 1979 Camaro snap-together kit, which is still being made in one version or another.  All the versions of the kit, right to the present day, are identical except for decals and/or pad printing and packaging.  The fender flares, air dam, and rear spoiler are all made from sheet styrene and blended in with auto body spot putty.  The Friar Truck’s and TropiKai Resorts decals were my first attempt at printing decals with my computer. The interior tray and roll cage construction are similar to that used on my 1969 and 1990 Camaros.

The chassis, however, is quite a departure from my previous practice.  Instead of brass strips held together by a fairly minimal framework of spring steel wire this one is made mostly of brass bar stock and square brass tubing.  The rectangular structures connected by lengths of steel wire beside the FK130 motor function something like torsion bars connecting the front and rear parts of the chassis and allowing it to flex more as a unit.  This design delivers considerably better handling than the two “lead sled” designs shown above.  Not also that this chassis incorporates a machined brass rear end bracket rather than a stamped one.  It provides greater strength and a more stable gear mesh.  This car also used 3/32” axles instead of 1/8” as on the previous cars.  The wheels are from Pro-Track with Cox Cheetah (American Racing Equipment) 5-spoke magnesium wheels turned down for inserts.
I built two more of these chassis after this one, one another inline and the other an anglewinder.  I completed them to the point of running chassis but neither has ever had a body put on it.  They are probably the last of my metal chassis slot cars, at least for the foreseeable future.  But who knows?  One should never say never.

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

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