Why Don’t They Make? #5 – Indy Cars

by Bob Ward

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This one should probably be called “Why Don’t They Still Make”, since Scalextric made Dallara IRL cars, such as the one below, for several years.

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In addition, Ninco made very well turned-out Lola and Reynard Champ Cars some years back.  Here’s one…

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The last couple of semi-spec Indy Car body designs drew a lot of flak from Indy Car fans who wanted them to look more like the Champ Cars and less like a 70s Formula 5000 car with too many aero add-ons.  They especially disliked the large air scoop atop the engine and the DW12’s  fairings behind the rear tires.

Personally, I didn’t mind any of the recent Indy Cars.  My only real criticism of them was that they had too many fragile body elements that proved too vulnerable to contact damage.  It seemed to me that too many drivers’ races were ruined by body damage from seemingly minor incidents.  Lots of “too manys” there, but it kinda sums up the bodies of those cars.

In any case, the new-for-2018 design, which will remain until 2021, seems to have answered most of the complaints, including, to some extent, mine, and produced a body shape that is drawing a lot of enthusiastic fan support. It’s a significant reason, though not the only one, that Indy Car’s fortunes seem to be on the upswing.  So now, in my opinion, it’s time to bring back 1/32 scale Indy Cars.

The 2018 car has what should be some very attractive qualities for the slot car manufacturers, including:

  • One single tool needed for ALL the cars
  • Design stability for four years
  • Many colorful, attractive liveries available.
  • Rising fan support, race attendance, and TV viewership should increase the potential customer base.

There are now fewer permutations of the body shape for different tracks.  The car owners requested this as one way to hold down costs.  There are now really only two configurations, road course/short oval and high-speed oval,  A slot car manufacturer could produce each new version of the car with fully painted aero parts for both included in the package.  Some ingenuity in making the parts easy to swap out would make every car completely configurable by the consumer.  Hobbyists could race or display the car either way or with a combination of elements from both.  Making the wings and other appendages more durable would help, too.

There will be no shortage of liveries to choose from.  When you add in multiple primary sponsors for some of the cars, changing from race to race, plus one-offs for the Indianapolis 500 there should be, at a guess, around 50 different liveries in 2018 alone. The slot car makers would have an embarrassment of riches where liveries are concerned.

Here are just a few of my favorites:

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Newgarden

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Jones

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Kanaan

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Bourdais

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Rossi

Verizon IndyCar Series

Sato

Any of the mainstream slot car manufacturers could certainly produce models that would do full justice to the 2018 Indy Cars in both appearance and performance. What’s more, Indy Car seems to be on a roll for the first time in years.  Now is the time to bring back slot racing Indy Cars.

Oh, and not just the new 2018 car.  American open-wheel oval racing history is full of amazing cars just begging to be modeled…

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The 1972-75 Eagle, perhaps the single most influential Indy Car design of all time.

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The McLaren M16, the Eagle’s greatest rival.

And many more.  Think of the legendary drivers who  have won the Indianapolis 500 just since the mid-engine revolution began: Jim Clark, Graham Hill, A. J. Foyt, Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Mark Donohue, Gordon Johncock, Johnny Rutherford, Tom Sneva, Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, Bobby Rahal, Emerson Fittipaldi, Arie Luyendyk, Al Unser Jr., Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran, Dan Wheldon, Sam Hornish Jr., Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, and Tony Kanaan, among others.  And those who didn’t win but could have and should have, people like Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Tony Stewart, Dan Gurney, Jackie Stewart, Jack Brabham, Fernando Alonso, and on and on…

Many of these drivers were champions in Formula One, sports cars, and other top-tier races and series,  Has there ever been any race that deserves to have the cars of its champions and contenders modeled as slot cars and one that probably has as large an untapped customer base?

There is no form of racing that has been woven into the life of heartland America for more than 100 years, as Indy Car, in all its iterations, has been and continues to be.  The 500 still draws the largest attendance of any single-day sports event in the world.  The highest attendance at a NASCAR race is somewhere between half and two-thirds of what Indy now draws and F1 doesn’t come close at any circuit in the world.  And no other form of racing has drawn the greatest drivers from around the world to anything like the degree Indy Car has at various times in its history.

It will probably take a genuine American slot car manufacturer who understands American racing and American race fans to see the potential and do something with it.  Where that manufacturer will come from I have no idea, but let’s all hope it happens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How They Should Have Made It – Recent Scalextric TransAm Cars – Part 2, Dodge Challenger

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What’s wrong with the above picture?  Well, to begin with, as you might have guessed after reading about our work on the Cougars, it’s mainly the body sitting way too high on the chassis.  This is supposed to be a model of a race car but it has the stance of a road car.  For comparison, here’s a photo of the real thing…

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And here it is from another angle…

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Quite a difference, isn’t there?  Check this out…

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The one on the right is how Scalextric modeled the car.  The one on the left is how they SHOULD have done it.  And the frustrating thing is that, as on many other cars they have produced, there’s no reason why they couldn’t have.  So, since they didn’t we did.

If you have a keen eye you’ll note that we made more changes to the car than just getting the body down out of the stratosphere.  We’ll get to those as we go along.

We started with a used car that had been raced hard and was somewhat the worse for wear as a result.  We prefer to start our modification projects with preowned, even junk cars, mostly because they can often be acquired quite cheaply and we then aren’t out the price of a new one if the project goes south on us and we end up scrapping the car.  There’s also the challenge of taking a wreck and making a winner out of it.  This one wasn’t that bad, but the project did include some necessary repairs as well as the upgrades.

As with our two Cougars, the project began with cutting the front valence off the chassis and CA gluing it to the body.  On this project we also had to do it with the rear valence.  We cut it off just aft of the rear body posts.  This left part of the chassis still painted green, so we sanded the paint of that part of the chassis leaving it all black and looking much more like it came that way from the factory as, we emphasize, it totally could have.  We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it – THE FRONT AND REAR VALENCES AND THE BUMPERS NEED TO BE PART OF THE BODY, NOT THE CHASSIS!

The rear bumper appeared to have been broken off and rather hamfistedly glued back on.  We couldn’t get it back off so we never did get it back on right, but we did get the front and rear valences securely attached to the body. Then it was on to the next step.  That was shortening all four body posts by 1/8″.

The next part of the car requiring attention was the interior tub.

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The first step was to cut 1/8″ off the two pegs that hold the rear axle bushings in place, followed by removing the driver figure and the steering wheel and column  Then we applied CA glue to all parts of the roll cage that touch any part of the tub.  When the glue set we marked off  and cut 1/4″ from around the bottom of the tub.  The gluing of the roll cage allowed it to stay solidly in place even with most of its original mounting points gone with the tub floor.  We cut out a new floor for the interior from .020″ sheet styrene and glued it in place.  We painted the entire tub assembly gray (not brown, as it looks in the photo above).  We now had what might be described as a 2/3 depth interior.

Of course, the original driver figure now sat too tall to fit.  Searching the junk box for a replacement we found a complete driver from a modern GT car.  Because he sat in a much more reclining position he actually fit the cut-down interior with his head below the roll cage.  However, he created a bit of a period-correctness problem, as he wore a very modern-looking full face helmet.  So, we decided to exercise a bit of creative license.  We decided that our Challenger would now be a model of the car as it might looks today in vintage racing.  To add to the modern-day vibe we added a window net cut from a sheet of plastic mesh sold in craft stores.  The window net is not strictly period-correct even for the 21st century.  The life-sized car races in Historic TransAm where, as far as we are aware, window nets are not required.  However, we like window nets so we’re modeling the car as it would have to look if it ever turned up on an SVRA Group 6 grid where all the modern safety gear is required.  So, with authenticity suitably bent we had an interior ready for our lowriding TransAm car.

Then there’s the front air dam.

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The problem isn’t with the way it looks.  It’s more or less period-authentic, and if that is the most important thing to you, you won’t want to change it.  However, if you’re going to race the car seriously, you’ll find out it won’t last long.  It’s just stuck out way too far and there’s no real way to make it less vulnerable.  The one on our car had already been broken and glued back together at least once before we got it. Of course, you can just take it off before you run the car and save it to put back on after the car earns an honorable retirement.  We, however, think a 1970 TA car just doesn’t look right without something in the way of a front air dam, but we’d prefer one a lot less vulnerable.  So, once again a bit of creative license, again related to present-day vintage racing.  Some vintage racing groups are much less picky about aero enhancements than others, so we were pretty much free to design our own.  What we came up with is simplicity itself.

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You can’t get much more basic than a piece of .020″ sheet styrene, CA glued to two pieces of  1/4×3/32″ styrene strip.  A little bit of drilling and two self-tapping screws and we have a simple, but strong air dam.  Most important, it’s tucked back under the nose,  out of harm’s way.  This mod is only possible because we cut the front valence off the chassis and in the process left a gap just wide enough for the air dam to fit down through.

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This photo shows the completed chassis with the valences removed and the new front air dam in place.  It also shows the other mods the car has.  It came with the aftermarket guide and lead wires installed, along with a pair of Maxxtrac silicones.  You can also see the small “junk” magnet we stacked onto the stock one to top off the magnetic downforce to the desired level as well as the axle spacers on slightly longer axles to get the tires out to the full width that will fit under the body.

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Here you see a box-stock #77 Challenger (top) and our modified car below.  This shot really shows the mess the previous owner made with the rear bumper. All you’re supposed to be able to see of it from the bottom is the license plate housing.  Oh, well, some things you just can’t fix.

Check these views of the finished car.

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Time to go racing.

Next – Javelin.

Have questions or comments on this article?  Post them below or e-mail them to bob@victorylaphobbies.com