We here at VLH have long been fans of Scalextric’s classic TransAm cars ever since the first two, the 1969/70 Mustang and the 1969 Camaro. These popular cars, produced in a huge number of colorful liveries, have made up an excellent racing class. They have, for the most part, been easy to drive, easy to tune to almost any reasonable performance level using simple and inexpensive techniques, and easy to equalize for a level playing field. The addition to the classic TA mix of Pioneer’s very similar 67/68 Mustang and Camaro has only added to the fun.
However, the three most recent Scalextric TA cars, while they are welcome additions to the field, have emerged with issues that need to be corrected. This article, the first of three, will cover the Mercury Cougar.
Our main disappointment with the Cougar is the way the front end of the body, in stock form, rides too high, making the car look as if it’s constantly experiencing a huge amount of aerodynamic lift at the front. It has the nose-high stance of a drag race car with a gap between the tires and the body, not a proper attitude for a road racer. A separate but related issue is that, in a departure from their previous TA cars, they put the same size tires on the front as on the rear. It just cries out to have the front end lowered. So… we did. Here’s the result, nose-to-nose with an unmodified car.
We actually did the revision on two Cougars, a red #98 and a green #41. You can see above how much better the green car on the left looks than the yellow unmodified car on the right. Getting the most out of the project required backfitting the Cougars with the smaller diameter front tires used on previous Scalextric TA cars. If you don’t have a supply of the smaller front tires lying around you can turn down the stock front tires to the required diameter or just shorten the front body posts a little less to get the front end as low as possible while retaining the original front tires..
The first step in this upgrade, after disassembling the car, was cutting the front valence off the chassis and CA gluing it securely to the body where it belongs. We suspect the reason for this irritating quirk in Scalextric’s design philosophy has to do with simplifying the tooling and reducing its cost, but it adds complication to projects like this as well as to simple tuning techniques such as running the car with loosened body screws to let the body float.
We might add that a too-high stance and body elements as part of the chassis have been recurring flaws with many different Scalextric cars over the years. Google photos of any of their Mustang FR500C’s for one of the more egregious examples.
The second step was to shorten the front body posts by about 3/32″. You might decide to shorten them more or less, depending on what front height looks right to you and whether you use the front tires that came on the car or switch to the smaller ones.
The next step is to cut off the two round structures sticking down from the bottom of the interior tub, as indicated by the red arrows above. You may also need to take a little off the ends of the two pegs on the flat area at the rear of the interior tub. These press down on the top of the motor to keep it firmly in its mounting on the chassis but we have never found anything like this to be necessary on Scalextric sidewinder cars, so you could just cut them off completely if you prefer.
The Cougar body has a piece glued into the inner body on each side just forward of the interior tub. These need to be cut away to allow the body to be lowered over the chassis.
With these changes made you can re-mount the body on the chassis and go race. Our Cougars, however, have a few additional improvements, seen in the photo below of our red #98.
Two of the upgrades were on the cars when we acquired them, gently used, from another shop that went out of business. One is the replacement of the stock guide and lead wire assembly with a Slot It guide and silicone-insulated lead wires, eliminating the DPR-related components. This is fine with us because we don’t plan to convert these particular cars to digital. The other is a pair of Maxxtrac silicone rear tires for a major grip improvement on clean plastic track surfaces.
As you can see in the photo, we added a smaller additional magnet atop the car’s stock magnet to bring the total downforce up to the same level we have maintained on all our classic TransAm “runners” for quite some time. The extra magnet came from our junk box. It’s a Professor Motor 1063 with part of it broken off, and it just happened to be the right size and strength for the task. Never discard used or even broken magnets. You never know when they might come in handy. When stacking magnets like this nothing but magnetism is usually needed to hold the stacked magnets together.
Also visible is the front air dam, from a Scalextric 69 Camaro, that we added. This, of course, isn’t “period-correct” for a 1967 TA car and it doesn’t affect performance, but it does give the car a more aggressive look we really like.
This bottom view of the chassis shows how we fitted the air dam in place and mounted it securely. We used a Dremel tool with a sanding drum to remove material from the air dam so it would fit around the Cougar’s guide housing. When we got the fit we wanted we tacked it in place with CA glue and drilled holes into the chassis at the mounting points so we could secure the part with two self-tapping body screws. We have also done this mod on Pioneer Mustang/Camaro chassis where it can be mounted via the front body screws just as on the Scalextric Camaro. The green car has an air dam from a Scalextric TA Mustang.
So, here are our two modified Cougars. Both are impressive performers on the track and now look the way proper TransAm cars should. Here are a few more shots…
Not totally period-correct but easy to do and we love the way they now look. And, as it happens, we ran across this photo, taken at a recent vintage race…
So, it looks like our Cougars are period-correct – if you pick the right period.
NEXT – Dodge Challenger
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