Why Don’t They Make? #3 – Formula 5000 Cars

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There was a time, in the 1970s, when formula cars powered by American-made 5- liter  pushrod stock-block V8 engines were as fast, and in some cases faster, than formula 1 cars  We’re talking here, of course, about Formula 5000.  F5000 was every bit as much of a worldwide formula as F1, with big grids of cars showing up for events in the US, Canada, Britain, Europe, and Australia.  As top-level racing goes, F5000 was the best speed-per-dollar bargain to be found anywhere.

Huge crowds turned out  to see many of the world’s best drivers, such as Brian Redman, Al Unser, Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter, David hobbs, James hunt, Tony Adamowicz, Vern Schuppan, Graham McRae, Peter Gethin, Sam Posey, and more.  Today, F5000 is one of the most popular categories in historic racing.

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In recent years slot car manufacturers, notably Scalextric and Policar, have produced excellent models of F1 cars from around the time of the F5000 era, including the McLaren shown above and the Lotus shown below.  Many of the components used in these models, including motors, gears, wheels, tires, wings, driver figures, and basic chassis design, could be carried over or adapted to F5000 slot cars very easily.

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Compare, for instance, the photo below of a McLaren M10 F5000  car with the McLaren F1 car above.  You can see that the cars have many similar features.

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I have several favorites among the historic F5000 cars that I would like very much to see produced for 1/32 scale slot car racing.

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Eagle Mk5.  This particular one carried Tony Adamowicz to the 1969 US F5000 championship. a similar car also won the 1968 championship.  Lots of colorful liveries and wing variations for this car.  The 1968 Eagle Indy car is almost identical except for the engine and aero add-ons.   Much of the tooling could possibly be made to serve for both F5000 and Indy cars ,including Bobby Unser’s 1968 Indy-winning
Eagle-Offy.

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Eagle 74.  Not the most successful of the F5000 Eagles but one of the coolest-looking F5000 cars of all time.

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Chevron B24.  This one was raced by Peter Gethin.  I’ve always liked the “sports car” nose.

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McRae GM1.  Graham McRae drove a similar car to the US F5000 championship in 1972 and 1973.  That’s an elegant, slick-looking body shape.

And of course…

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The ultimate and by far the most successful F5000 of them all, the Lola T332.  The one pictured here is one of the T332s in which Brian Redman dominated the US F5000 series for four straight years.  Many of these cars were built, and there would be no shortage of really attractive variants and liveries to model.

Feedback from customers is that the Scalextric and Policar historic F1 cars are fun to drive and seem to work well with few problems.  If those qualities could be carried over to F5000 cars there would be a long term worldwide market for them, as historic racing will keep introducing new generations to these exciting and powerful cars.

What cars would you like to see produced?  Your thoughts are welcome.  You can leave your comments below or e-mail me at bob@victorylaphobbies.com.

Work in Progress 7-20-17

Toyota Supra GT1

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The decal work is finished!  All the decals on this car, except the racing numbers, are my own creations.  I downloaded the various logos from the Internet, sized and edited them in Photoshop, and printed them on an HP inkjet printer at 4000 pixels per inch.  The numbers, as on my C6 Corvette GT1, are from an Ultracals peel-and-stick 1/43 scale sheet.

The orange paint, by the way, is the same Krylon spray can color as on the Corvette, and the Scalextric TA Jaguar wheels and tires are the same. also.  The match between the wheel centers and the body color is not quite perfect but it’s very close, and the paint color is a perfect match for the Gorilla Glue logo’s orange.  The wide stripe around the back end of the car is made up entirely of decals.

I picked Gorilla Glue as the car’s primary sponsor because I really like their gorilla graphics and also because I have been impressed with how the glue has performed in recent projects. The product also seems like one that might logically be promoted via a racing sponsorship.  And, of course, one can easily imagine Toyota getting on board with a GT1/TransAm car powered by one of its Toyota Racing development NASCAR pushrod V8s.

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I might add a few more small decals but beyond that what remains to be done is to clearcoat the body and get it all nice and shiny, install the headlight and taillight pieces, complete the interior, install the motor and electrics in the chassis, and complete final assembly.  That shouldn’t be too long from now.

Work In Progress 7-7-17

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It’s finished!

I finally got the Corvette C6 GT1/TransAm car completed.  You’ll recall that his is a conversion of the Scalextric Corvette C6R.

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This isn’t really a perfect GT1 conversion. That would involve much more body and detail work, most of which would not be evident to any but the most expert observer.  I do think, however, that his car does a good job of capturing the aggressive character of a GT1 Corvette.  It looks the part quite well and wasn’t really all that hard to do.  The chassis remains unchanged except for trimming off the rear diffuser and adding a deeper airdam at the front.  It doesn’t look like it in the photos but the airdam does clear the track.

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The wider but smaller-diameter wheels and tires, from a Scalextric TransAm Jaguar, fit under the body without the fenders having to be widened.  The wheel arches were reduced in size by adding sheet styrene, snugging them in nicely around the tires. Performance upgrades include a Professor Motor guide and magnet, a 21.5k Piranha motor and silicone tires.  The Piranha is really just for testing.  It will eventually be replaced with a motor delivering around 30,000 rpm.  1:1 scale TransAm cars typically run NASCAR 358 engines that crank out around 850 horsepower, and I want my 1/32 scale version to have power to match.

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Added details such as the hood hump. made of sheet styrene, and the rear wing, an NSR part that looks more like the GT1-spec wing than the original C6R wing does, help complete the GT1 bad boy look.  The car retains the C6R interior and windows, though I cut out the driver’s side window and added a window net CA glued to the roll cage.  A more complete kitbash would involve scratchbuilding a different interior and roll cage, but for my purposes the original looks more than good enough on the track.

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All the graphics, with the exception of the numbers (from an Ultracal peel-and-stick sheet), and the logos tampo-printed on the window assembly, are waterslide decals I made in Photoshop and printed on an HP inkjet printer using Bare Metal decal paper.  The paint is from Krylon spray cans purchased at Walmart.  You can get big cans of Krylon there for around $4.00 each and the selection of colors is quite extensive.

Like most of my kitbashes I made no attempt with this one to create a museum-quality model exact in every dimension, contour, and detail.  My goal with these projects is to turn out a car that captures the character and overall look of the type of car I’m building and looks good on the track, all without putting so much time and effort into it that I wouldn’t put it on the track and race it if the opportunity came along.  The rivet counter will find endless nits to pick but I don’t think anybody will have trouble figuring out what kind of car it’s supposed to be.  And that’s good enough for me.

Vintage Racing (1:1 scale) At Pacific Raceways

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I spent Saturday, July 1, out at out local road circuit, Pacific Raceways.  It’s nice living half an hour from a place where all kinds of motorsports takes place, everything from karting to drag racing to road racing for many different kinds of cars.  My favorite event of the year is the Pacific Northwest Historics, conducted by the Society of Vintage Racing Enthusiasts (SOVREN).  It’s their biggest event of the year and always draws an eclectic mix of cars spanning all eras and types of racing machinery.

One thing that keeps me going to vintage races year after year is the prospect of seeing in person and photographing particular cars I’ve seen in magazines and on the Internet.  Last year’s big catch was the iconic Lou D’amico Corvette.  This year I had the good fortune of meeting up with another Corvette, a car I have been chasing for years but never caught up with.

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This is Greenwood Customer Car #2010, one of a small run of Corvettes built for SCCA racing, in particular the TransAm series.  These cars had many of the features of the well-known Greenwood widebody cars raced in IMSA but were built to SCCA rules, the most visible feature of which was less extreme bodywork.  Way back when Pat and I were SCCA corner workers we watched John Greenwood win the 1975 Portland TransAm on his way to the championship in a car very similar to this one, and I’ve been interested in the Greenwood SCCA Corvettes ever since.

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#2010 spent most of its life on the East Coast.  I’ve been to a number of East Coat vintage races over the past several years, but this car was not at any of them.  So, you can imagine that I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s now owned by a vintage racer right in our local area, so I expect I’ll see more of this car in the years to come.

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Racing is full of “one-offs”, cars of which only one was ever built or raced.  The CanAm Series had more than its share of them.  One such car is the “Open Sports Ford”, designed by Len Bailey for the CanAm and built in 1969 by Alan Mann Racing.  It was based in part on the Ford P68 endurance racing car but you’d never know to look at it.  This beast is all CanAm car, shoved down the road by a Ford Boss 429 “cammer” engine.  The single overhead-cam 429 was intended to be Ford’s killer NASCAR power plant.  It was intended to take NASCAR engines to the same kind of extreme the Dodge and Plymouth “Winged Warriors” had taken aerodynamics.  Fitted into Torinos with aero enhancements it was all set to one-up Chrysler in NASCAR’s escalating factory arms race.  NASCAR, seeing that the factory wars were taking speeds into scary figures and pushing  budgets and technology beyond the reach of too many of its teams, decided to ban both exotic engines and spacecraft aero before the cammer could have its shot at stock car racing glory.

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But engines had already been built, and Ford looked for other places to use them.  One of those places was the CanAm.   By 1969 big-block V8s ruled, and this big-block looked like it could be the baddest one of all. Unfortunately, AMR’s CanAm project suffered from the all-too-common woes of too little time and money to give both the car and the engine the development they deserved.  A third place in the 1969 Texas race with Jack Brabham at the wheel was as close as it came to road racing glory.

The restored car is a brutally beautiful piece of racing history and engineering. We can all hope it keeps providing eye and ear candy to vintage race fans for many years to come.

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Not all the cars that capture my fancy at historic races are ground-pounding V8-powered monsters.  The car above is a Japanese and European market subcompact that, when it came to America, became the Toyota Corolla.  The 4-cylinder engine displaces all of 1200 cc’s but it sounds marvelous at full song on the long front straight.  The paint scheme is perfect for the car’s scrappy personality and the overall aggressive look makes one think of a small dog who isn’t afraid to take on an opponent twice his size.

You can find 135 photos of race cars from the 2017 Pacific Northwest Historics on my Smugmug page.    Enjoy!