Work In Progress March 30, 2017

Corvette C6 GT1 conversion

In the last WIP post I showed you images of the Corvette C6R-C6 GT1/TransAm conversion I’m woeking on and also the sheet of decals I made for it.  Now I have all my homemade decals on the car and it looks like this…

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Here’s a shot of the other side that also shows the GT1-style single large exhaust installed.

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All of these decals, except for the racing numbers, are waterslides that were printed on my HP inkjet printer.  The numbers came from an Ultracals peel-and-stick sheet for 1/43 scale cars.  Now that race cars all carry timing and scoring transponders the numbers don’t have to be as big, leaving more room on the body for sponsor logos.  The numbers on the 1/43 scale decal sheets turn out to be just the right size for a contemporary GT1 car.

There are still some decals I need to make, including the TransAm series logo, and others to be added from various decal sheets in my decal box.  When all these are in place the body will receive several coats of Krylon clear and then be polished out to a smooth, glossy finish.

The original C6R windows, taillights, and interior will be used unchanged in this project.  When the body is completed I will install the magnet, motor, and lead wire/guide assembly into the chassis, mate up the chassis and body, and the car will be ready for the track.

More posts on this car to come.

Toyota Supra GT1

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I’m always starting new projects even before the ones in process are completed.  I recently acquired a Ninco Toyota Supra Japanese GT Championship (JGTC) car for not too outrageous a price and I was able to begin a conversion I have wanted to do for a long time – A Supra GT1/TransAm car.  There never has been a supra in TransAm or GT1, though a US car builder built a Supra somewhat like a GT1 to be raced in a GT championship in Central America.  All present-day GT1 cars are a carbon-fiber body on a tube frame chassis with a pushrod V8 engine.  Most GT1 cars use NASCAR 358 engines, very often bought from the NASCAR teams.  Toyota has a NASCAR engine and any number of companies could produce the body and the chassis, so there’s no doubt that a Supra GT1 could have been built and raced.

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These photos show the Ninco body sitting on a modified Scalextric TransAm Jaguar chassis, wheels and tires.  The chassis has been modified by moving the front axle mounting aft a bit to line up with the body’s wheel openings.  With a bit of trimming, which I’ll show you in the next post, the Jag chassis looks like it was made to fit the Supra body.

The car will get a few body mods, and a complete repaint as well as the same wing installation I’m going to use on the Corvette, mounting an NSR Corvette C6R wing into two vertical tubes.  I’m making that wing the spec wing for all my GT1 conversions, for now at least.  Later, I will have a 3D printed wing made especially for these projects.

More to come on this one, too.

V8 Stock Car Project.  

Here’s something I’ve been working on for a while now.

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Back on the East Coast there is a racing series  know as the V8 Road Racing Series.  It’s sanctioned by the SCCA and mostly runs as part of SCCA race weekends.  Most of the cars in the series are some form of tube frame V8-powered stock car, ranging from all-out TransAm/GT1 cars to cars resembling and often converted from short-track late models.  Some classes run wings, some not.  Some use wide, GT1-style wheels and tires, others use the common NASCAR-style steel wheels.  Most of them more or less resemble some kind of tube frame stock car but each class offers racing at a different level of cost and technical sophistication.  Some classes also accommodate cars built from actual road cars, including Corvettes and other sports and GT cars.

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What you see here is a prototype for a 1/32 scale winged V8 Stock Car.  It uses a sort of generic pre-COT NASCAR body on a complete, readily available running chassis.  VLH has several hundred of these bodies in a few different colors and access to an unlimited supply of the chassis.  We’re in the process of getting the wing mass-produced along with a couple of other parts that will allow us to put these cars together quickly and economically on a simple assembly line.  The wing on the car is a rough prototype I made to prove the concept and show the company that will be making them the general idea of what we want.

There will be several variants of the car in addition to the one shown above.  There will be one with NASCAR wheels and tires and no wing, and one with GT1 wheels and tires similar to the ones on the Corvette and Supra shown above, offered with or without the wing.

There will also be this one…

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This will be a very basic version with completely stock RTR chassis and mechanicals and the lowest price we can offer (pricing is yet to be determined).  This will be perfect for a club “spec” stock car class and a good, durable car for beginners and children.  It will also be comparable in performance to Scalextric and Pioneer classic TransAm cars.

Watch future blog posts for more information.

Your comments and questions are welcome.  You can post them below or e-mail them to bob@victorylaphobbies.com.

R.I.P. MAP

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We’ve known for a while now that this had to be coming.  Here’s the release from Slot It’s US distributor, Hornby America:

“In September 2016, Hornby America in agreement with Slot.It and in consultation with many of our retail partners, initiated a MAP (minimum advertised pricing) policy related to the Policar and Slot.It brands.  We agreed to a six month trial in an effort to try to protect and maintain the value of both of these premier brands.

“After reviewing the program with Slot.It and the feedback received from many of our retail partners and consumers, the decision has been made to discontinue the MAP policy April 1, 2017.

“Many of the comments we have received highlighted concerns that the S.R.P. for the cars were prohibitively expensive for North American consumers and that in many cases, those consumers were able to purchase the cars for much less from online European retailers who were not subject to the MAP policy.  This concern was brought to the attention of Slot.It and as a result, a plan has been put into action that hopefully will encourage those consumers to purchase these brands from our North American retailers.

“Therefore, effective April 1, 2017, all new Slot.It standard cars will be released with a new S.R.P. of $59.99 and will not be subject to a MAP policy.

“We will continue to honor the original MAP pricing on cars released prior to April 1 and they will continue to be offered on the Hornby website at their original S.R.P. of $69.99 through the original MAP expiration period.”

 

We really hoped this would work ,at least to some degree.  Unfortunately, it appears to have made things worse.  It was intended to keep certain US Internet dealers from blowing newly-released cars out at $10 or less over cost, making it impossible for local hobby shops and raceways to be competitive.  It was hoped that this would encourage more retailers to stock and sell the Slot It product line.

However, it didn’t take into account the fact that price competition is worldwide, not just within individual countries.  To have any real effect a MAP policy would have to be worldwide and there is no way such a policy could be established and enforced, as it is illegal in many countries, including, we understand, the entire European Union.

While I have genuine appreciation for the US distributors, some of whom I have done business with for decades, the problem is simply bigger than they can overcome.  As long as US retailers can’t buy slot cars at the same prices European dealers pay all US retailers will have to do business at a built-in price disadvantage.  This is not keeping Victory Lap and a number of other US slot car retailers from succeeding, but it is a big part of the reason why the slot car hobby has never reached the size and popularity it should be enjoying here in America, the world’s largest consumer market.  It presents the many local hobby shops across the country with a disincentive to embrace slot cars as a product category the way they do with radio control. model railroading, and plastic model kits, among many other kinds of hobby products.  There are simply too many other hobbies for which they can make a better business case than they can for slot cars. As a result, the slot car hobby simply does not get the wide exposure at the local level that it needs to take hold and become an American hobby industry mainstay.  Until some way can be found to keep retailers 3000 to 6000 miles away from being able to undersell Joe’s Corner Hobby Shop, even with the cost of trans-Atlantic shipping added in, the situation is not likely to change.

Meanwhile, I want to express my thanks to Hornby America for making the effort to find a way forward.  They are trying to look after their dealers’ best interests as much as they possibly can, and their efforts are appreciated.  I also want to thank all of our loyal customers and friends who have been essential to victory Lap’s success thus far. We are glad to be able to serve you.

Why Don’t They Make? #1- Mazda Miata

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This is the first in  what I will try to make a regular series of posts highlighting cars that slot car manufacturers should produce but don’t.  I have no idea whether anybody who works for any of the manufacturers reads this blog. I suspect that certain ones don’t really take any kind of meaningful input from anybody outside their own house, at least not anybody in America, but that’s a subject for another whole post, or several, all by itself.  But perhaps these posts will, if nothing else, encourage my readers to make their own “why don’t you make” requests to their favorite manufacturers.

I can’t think of a better car to start with than the Mazda Miata.  It’s arguably the most popular sports car in the world and certainly one of the most affordable.  And, as Mazda itself never tires of reminding us, on any given weekend more Mazdas are being road raced than any other make of car. Most of those Mazdas are Miatas. Spec Miata is usually has the biggest field of any class at SCCA or NASA races, and there are similar and similarly popular classes for the Miata at races around the world.  It’s hard to believe, but the Miata has been around since 1990.  That makes the first two years’ production already eligible for vintage racing.  Several vintage racing organizations have established classes for them and participation is high and growing.

The Miata’s popularity as a race car gives it a vital attribute as a slot car product candidate – the availability of countless colorful liveries for a slot car maker to model.  This ensures maximum opportunity for a fat payoff on the cost of research, design, and tooling.  And it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that more slot car racers own a 1:1 scale Miata (or want to) than any other 2-seat sports car.  That level of consumer awareness, popularity, and aspiration should guarantee that the many possible slot car variants will be well received by hobbyists.

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If the tooling is well thought out a Miata slot car would have lots to offer to slot car racers.  Can you imagine better entry-level race set cars than a pair of super-resistant (high-impact/crashworthy) Miatas with hardtops in bright spec Miata liveries like the ones pictured above?  And four of them in different colors would make a perfect IROC set for any club or ideal cars for use in public-participation events.

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Remember these two cars, Scalextric’s Audi TT and Porsche Boxster?  They were the very first Scalextric “high impact” (now called super-resistant) cars and for all-comers public slot car racing promotions they are still the best.  We have a fleet of these cars we still use, 15 or so years after they were last made, because nothing else does the job as well.  We have used them with great success to introduce thousands of people to slot car racing.  What makes them so good?  They are small, light, great handling with stock tires and magnets, and nearly (alas, only nearly) indestructible. Scalextric has never made anything else quite like them and neither has anybody else. Somebody needs to; they won’t last forever.  The Miata is a small car.  In 1/32 scale it would the same size as these cars.  It would be the perfect replacement for them.

Now imagine a Miata slot car with the entire greenhouse made as a separate part from the rest of the body.  With several interchangeable greenhouse options we could have multiple versions of the car in addition to a hardtop with blacked-out windows, including:

  • Hardtop with clear windows and full interior (road or race)
  • Convertible with top up and blacked-out windows
  • Convertible with top up, clear windows, and full interior
  • Convertible with top down, stock windshield and full interior
  • Race car with no top, low windscreen, full interior, and an endless variety of roll bar/cage variations.

With wheel, tire, magnet, and motor options a car like this would offer something for hobbyists of every skill level and price range.  You could make your 1/32 scale Miata look and perform any way you could possibly imagine – just like people do with 1:1 scale Miatas.

Maybe even something like this:

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Cool, huh?

To see a sampling of the possibilities, check out our Miata photo album at https://victorylaphobbies.smugmug.com/Mazda-Miata-Race-Cars/

Your questions and comments are welcome.  Post them here on the blog pages or e-mail them to bob@victorylaphobbies.com.

 

Work In Progress 3-22-17

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This is my latest kitbash project.  It’s a Corvette C6 TransAm/SCCA GT1 car.   This is an easy conversion from a Scalextric Corvette C6R.  Here’s a photo of what I started with:

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Of course, the actual car was not a new one like this but one that was looking very secondhand, having led a hard life as a rental car on a local track open to the public.  Such cars, as long as they are reasonably intact, make great raw material for kitbashes.  In the case of the Scalextric C6R it doesn’t take much to make a GT1 car out of it.  The biggest change was gluing strips of sheet styrene into the edges of the wheel openings to decrease their size.  The GT1 wheels and tires, which are from a Scalextric Michael Lewis TransAm Jaguar, are smaller in diameter than the C6R wheels and reducing the size of the wheel openings snugs them in around the tires, helping give the car its charateristic GT1 aggressive look.

The most noticeable change, however, was the addition of the hood hump, formed from sheet styrene, CA glued in place, and blended in with auto body spot putty.  You can also see that I made one large front radiator opening from 5 smaller ones, as is typical on GT1 Corvettes.

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At the rear I’ve removed the diffuser and trimmed back the chassis to the lower edge of the body.  I also filled in the opening at the rear of the body with sheet styrene.

The two round appendages sticking up from the rear deck are my solution to keeping a wing on the car once it encounters the hard knocks of competition.  Most 1/32 scale RTR cars with wings use a mounting consisting of tabs on the ends of the wing struts press-fitted into slots in the body.  Sooner or later the wing breaks, usually right at the surface of the body, leaving a broken tab that’s almost impossible to remove neatly from the slot.  If you want to change to a different wing with different strut spacing it’s really a chore to make new slots neatly and cleanly.

My solution on this particular car starts with using a wing from an NSR C6R.  It is made of a more resilient and crashworthy material than the car’s original wing and has relatively small mounting tabs on the strut ends.  I found the diameter of styrene tubing the tabs will press-fit into and drilled two holes in the body, the same diameter as the OD of the tubing and spaced the required distance apart.  I then CA glued lengths of the tubing into the holes. When I am ready to put the wing on the car I will simply press the tabs on the wing into the tubing.  Holes are much easier  to drill than slots are to cut and if (or perhaps when) the wing breaks I can simply use a piece of piano wire to push out the broken-off tabs and then press in a new wing.  The tubes don’t look as “realistic” as one might like but they are a lot more convenient and nobody will notice them when the car is on the track

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Here’s a decal sheet I made on my computer and printed out on waterslide decal paper using an HP 8610 inkjet printer.  In the next blog post on this project you’ll see the car with decals from this sheet and others from my decal box in place. I’ll give you more information then about how I made these decals.

Your comments and questions are welcome.  Post them here on the blog page or send them to bob@victorylaphobbies.com.

Scalextric’s TransAm Javelin

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Our shipment of Scalextric’s long-awaited 1/32 scale Penske TransAm Javelin just came through the door.  Of course, everything in the shop ground to a halt while we pulled one out of its case, oiled all the appropriate points, and put it on the track for a test drive.

This is a well-rendered model of the iconic TA Javelin that Mark Donohue drove to the 1971 TransAm championship.  We can’t swear that every line, contour, and dimension is faithful to the 1/1 scale original, but it certainly looks the part and the standard of fit and finish is excellent.  Initial test drives reveal that it is a  smooth runner with lots of power, at least on our small in-store test track.  The grip is above-average for stock tires, too.  

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The tires are different from any we have seen on a Scalextric car before.  They have the look of having been turned down on a tire truer.  They have a very straight tread surface providing the maximum tire contact patch.   The motor may be an upgrade, too, as it has a green endbell, possibly indicating a new iteration of the familiar Scalextric FC130.   Everything else is pretty much standard Scalextric, though on this car the familiar components give the impression of adding up to a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

The designers made the area between the rear wheels as narrow as possible while still providing space for the familiar Scalextric 24mm long bar magnet.  That’s good because it makes it possible to install the widest possible wheels and tires within the width of the body.  Unfortunately, the designers wasted some of this space by making the front and rear track narrower than necessary – or so it looked, anyway.  Then we took a rear tire off the car and found that the Minilites on the new Javelin are not same ones that have been fitted to Scalextric TA cars since the first 1970 Mustang around 20 years ago. They are wider overall and have a wider center rib.  They also have the correct center configuration for the Penske car as well as being much more crisply and accurately molded overall.  The fronts appear to be about the same width as the old rears.  Still, there is extra space at the front, so a longer front axle and some spacers are in order.

It struck us that the rear wheels looked a lot like the rears on a Flyslot or Slotwings Porsche 917 or Lola T70, though, of course they are a different style.  We went to the shelf and grabbed a pair of Quick slicks CB49S tires, specified for the Flyslot classics and, sure enough, they fit like a charm and instantly gave the Javelin another 1/16″ of rubber on the road on each side as well as filling the fenders completely.  They just barely clear but they do clear with no problems and give the car a lot of extra grip on our Scalextric Sport track.

That got us wondering about something else.  To our eyes, which have seen the real car up close and personal on a number of occasions, the fenders just don’t look wide enough. A quick measurement showed the Javelin to be about 58.5mm wide through the rear fenders.  For comparison we measured a Scalextric 1970 Camaro.  It is just under 62mm wide at the same point.  By 1970-71 the Transam bodywork rules were being stretched ever farther, and we strongly suspect that either the Javelin is too narrow or the Camaro is a shade too wide.  A search of the Internet didn’t immediately turn up the dimensions of the full-sized cars, but we’ll keep looking.

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A feature of this car we really like is that it has a shallow tray interior instead of a full-depth interior tub.  Collectors may not be happy but anyone who races these cars knows that the tray interior saves weight and frees up a lot of volume for digital chip conversions other than for Scalextric’s built-in pocket for its plug-in chip. Carrera chips, for instance, are bigger and bulkier and the extra space comes in handy.  You can’t really see the difference when the car’s on the track, so why bother with the full-depth interior in the first place?

The car weighs in at a svelte 74 grams, vs. 81 grams for a Scalextric 69 Camaro and 88 for a Pioneer Mustang.  That is a useful weight and mass advantage.  Our Magnet Marshal gave a net magnetic downforce reading of 173 grams.  That’s a net downforce to weight ratio of 2.34:1. To get the same ratio the 69 Camaro would need 190 grams and the Mustang would need 206.  2.34:1 is not far off our preferred ratio for classic TA cars of 2.5:1, so this particular Javelin, at least, is close to being competitive in net downforce right out of its plastic case and probably wouldn’t need much more than slightly smaller rear tires (thereby lowering the magnet a bit) to be right up to the limit.  Quick Slicks makes tires in three smaller diameters tho fit the wheels.

The Javelin has working taillights.  This is a nice feature but we would have preferred to see them wired to a capacitor and an inertial switch so they function as brake lights.

All in all Scalextric’s new Javelin is about as well-made and capable as anyone could expect a basic slot car of its type to be. It’s well worth the price, especially since Scalextric reduced the US MSRP of most of its cars from $55 to $50.  

Now, with that said we need to address what we consider to be the Scalextric Javelin’s one major failing…

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The jungle-drums rumbles to the effect that this car was going to be an inline turned out to be true.  All of Scalextric’s previous classic TA cars had been sidewinders and  we expect that changing the TA Javelin chassis layout to an inline will needlessly complicate the task of equalizing its performance with all the previous cars in the series, the cars it will be expected to race with.  

As you would expect with an inline car, Scalextric gave this one only one magnet position, right under the rear axle.  It should be a no-brainer that ALL the cars in the classic TA series should have the same overall configuration to maintain competition parity, but Scalextric was determined to go all-out with their “pro chassis” project, now abandoned, and their designers apparently concluded that pro chassis compatibility required the stock chassis to be inline.  One “orphan” TA car with an inline motor is part of the fallout.  We can only hope that Scalextric won’t repeat this aberration and that the 3D printing cottage industry will be quick to offer sidewinder chassis for this car.  Meanwhile, racers will have to figure out how to balance performance between two types of chassis, one with its only magnet location under the rear axle and another with no magnet pocket in that location ,at least on some of the cars, as well as different weight distribution.  A single spec snap-in magnet location (the one just forward of the sidewinder motor) is now no longer possible

The different wheel width and substantially lighter weight (due primarily to the elimination of the full-depth interior) compound the problem, especially since the new wheels will not be available as spare parts with which to upgrade the other Scalextric TA cars on which they can be made to fit.  At least some of the other Scalextric (and, perhaps, Pioneer) cars will accept them, but not all.  Getting a set of comparably sized wheels will likely require the use of aftermarket parts or Flyslot wheels that belong on a Ferrari or a Porsche, not a TransAm car.  This may not be much of a problem if stock tires are required, as the stock tires on the other cars can be and almost always are trued and the Javelin’s original rear tires are about the same width.  However, aftermarket tires available for the Javelin’s wheels are substantially wider than any that fit the older TA wheels, so there is no longer one spec aftermarket tire that fits ALL the cars.

Of course, non-magnet racers won’t be affected nearly as much by the changes, but for the other 95 to 98 percent of the slot car hobby enough things have changed to make the rules enforcer’s task more complicated.

There is much that Scalextric got right on this car and really only one big thing we believe they got wrong.  Your views on the matter may differ.  On balance, however, for a great many hobbyists this car is well worth buying.  If you really need a sidewinder. wait for Pioneer’s version of this car or for a 3D printed chassis.