Getting Back Into The Hobby

My first new slot cars since closing down VLH – and More

A couple of days ago I received the first new slot cars I’ve bought since I closed down the shop. They are the Scalextric 1/32 scale 1980s NASCAR Thunderbird and Monte Carlo. These cars have been out for a while and I had been eyeing them as starting points for kitbashes into TransAm or IMSA cars.

The 1980s Thunderbird appeared as a tube-frame car with fiberglass/carbon fiber bodywork in both the TransAm and IMSA GTO and actually won several races. As best I can determine these racing T-birds were built on chassis with a much shorter wheelbase than their roadgoing counterparts- perhaps as much as 10 inches shorter. The body also sits lower over the wheels. This really changes its proportions from the production model, shown below for comparison.

The difference in wheelbase is due to the T-bird body being altered to fit a tube chassis originally sized for a Mustang or Mercury Capri body. The body proportions owe some of their differences to the race car’s aero tweaks to increase downforce and reduce drag.

Scalextric’s model does what I think is a good job of capturing the stance of a 1980s NASCAR T-bird and I believe it will prove to be a good starting point for the IMSA kitbash. The Basset-style NASCAR racing wheels, BTW, are quite nice. The spec NASCAR wheelbase at the time was 110″, and may still be the same today – I haven’t been able to find the current figure. In any case, Scalextric got it exactly right. and you can see by comparing the above photos that at that figure the NASCAR T-bird is quite a bit longer than either the road car at 104″ or the IMSA car, which is probably not much more than 100″. I’m not yet sure how much I will shorten the model’s wheelbase-perhaps just enough to fit the Pioneer Mustang/Camaro chassis I’m going to put the body on. That chassis measures out to 106 scale inches. There are other IMSA/TA T-birds that look somewhat different than the one pictured and they might look better on a 106″ wheelbase. I’m not a rivet counter. I just want to capture the look and character of a car without putting so much work into it that I wouldn’t risk it on the track in a race. I want it to look good going around the track. Also, several of my other TA/IMSA kitbashes are built on that same chassis and there is something to be said for having them all on the same wheelbase for whatever it may contribute to more equal performance.

As for the Monte Carlo Aerocoupe, I found a photo of one that ran in one TransAm race, ending up looking, as you can see, rather second-hand. Still, as far as I’m concerned that makes the Aerocoupe eligible for my tube-frame TA car collection. However, I think I will put my own imaginative livery on it.

Here’s a side shot of the Monte Carlo. I’ll be writing more about it another time but right now I want you to notice how thin the A pillars are, especially compared to the T-bird model shown above. They may be in scale, but I think they illustrate one of my perennial gripes about slot car manufacturers. They tend not to understand when they should compromise scale accuracy a bit in the interest of real-world durability. Broken A pillars are a common type of damage on slot cars, especially on cars that get crashed a lot as race set cars usually do. I mentioned in an earlier post that I might buy the coming Scalextric IROC Camaros as replacements for the very rugged Porsche Boxsters and Audi TTs I’ve been using on my portable track layout for over 10 years now. I was also considering the two NASCARs for that role but now I’m eliminating the Monte from consideration. I have doubts about those A-pillars standing up to the tremendous beating they would get at public events where they are driven by children who often don’t grasp at first that they can’t just pull the controller trigger all the way back and watch the car go around.

I’ll be writing more about these projects as they go along, with photos to show you the steps in the process. I’ve also got lots of other topics to write about. Another post will be coming soon.

I welcome comments and will respond to them. you can leave your comments below or e-mail me at bob@wardsylvania.us. You can see all my blog posts at https://blog.victorylaphobbies.com/. If you have requests for topics you would like me to write about, they are welcome and I’ll do my best to cover them.

More Comments on the Scalextric 2020 Product Line

Hello, again!

This is my second blog post since closing down the shop, and today I’d like to make some additional comments on Scalextric’s just-announced 2020 product line.

The car pictured above, the Scalextric NASCAR Thunderbird, is the second car in the company’s historic NASCAR category that began, around the time we closed down, with the Chevrolet Monte Carlo Aerocoupe.

The pictures shown here are the two additions to the category scheduled for 2020 release. The T-bird is C4088 and the Monte Carlo is C4079. I could go on at length about these cars’ problems where scale accuracy and chassis design are concerned and I will at another time, but today I want to write about what Scalextric got very right about them.

If you are familiar recent slot car history you know that several manufacturers, including Scalextric, Carrera, SCX, and Revell-Monogram have produced 1/32 scale NASCAR slot cars of varying eras since the turn of the century. Of these, only Scalextric and Carrera are still doing it and both are concentrating on vintage/historic cars. One significant reason you aren’t seeing any current or recent NASCARs being modeled is the enormous complication and expense of licensing for the cars. If a slot car manufacturer wants to do a current Cup or Xfinity car it has to go through an involved process of getting every aspect of the model licensed and signed off on by NASCAR, the car manufacturer, the race team, and all the sponsors, even the contingency sponsors with the little decals on the front fenders. Any of them can and often do demand revisions where their trademarked logos and trade dress are concerned. All this adds to the cost of bringing a NASCAR slot car to market, eating into profit margins for the slot car maker. In addition, NASCAR is constantly making changes large and small to the design of the cars and expensive slot car tooling can be made obsolete between one season and the next. Several manufacturers have simply decided it just isn’t worth the trouble and cost for the sales the models can generate.

However, if you go far enough back into NASCAR’s history the whole thing becomes a lot simpler and less expensive. Licensing issues are generally much less of a problem. The slot car maker can determine in advance how many different liveries of a given car configuration can be produced and know that figure won’t change; it’s set in history. That’s the approach Carrera appears to have taken with continuing success, getting years and years of profitable new versions from its Ford Torino and Dodge Charger tooling.

Now Scalextric, much to its credit, has taken the next logical step-eliminating most or all of the whole licensing hassle by producing cars in liveries that look like they could be real but are entirely fictional. All that takes is an artist in the design department who can look at photos of historical liveries and produce original but highly evocative paint schemes with imaginary sponsor names and logos. That can go on forever.

The possibilities here go beyond the recently introduced Monte Carlo and Thunderbird. Scalextric has tooling for several recent generations of NASCAR cars that could be brought back under the same plan. These cars are highly accurate, detailed models in ways and to a degree that the Monte and the T-bird are not, and going the fictional livery route with one or two of them each year would be a way to get continuing profitable use from the tooling while keeping a supply of the cars available for those hobbyists who want to paint and decal them in “real” liveries by using the many decal sheets available from cottage industry decal makers. The generation of cars just before the COTs would be a good place to start. Will enough people buy these cars? Yes, I think they will as long as the liveries do a good job of capturing the basic NASCAR character and are bright and colorful. And if some of the logos are close enough to historic ones without stepping over the line into copyright or trade dress infringement that a sheet of eBay decals can make them “real”, so much the better.

A few words about the body shapes of the Monte and the T-bird: While I have been involved elsewhere for the last year and a half I’ve really only looked at photos of them. That can be deceiving; there’s no substitute for looking at the actual object up close when making judgments about issues of scale accuracy – something I intend to do soon. However, trusted sources tell me they both have significant problems in this regard. I don’t consider this as great an issue as one might think. The cars appear to me to have been designed to be “race set cars”, that is, cars intended to be sturdy, simple, with as few parts and possible and therefore ecomomical to produce while still looking the part of the full-sized car when running around the track and standing up well to the beating and banging they are likely to get. In other words, just what at least 75 percent of the actual and potential market needs and really wants. I believe they will be a long-term success for Scalextric and very much want them to be exactly that.

The ford Mk4 is not my favorite Scalextric car of all time but it’s good to see it being released in all the various colors in which the 1:1 car was raced. It’s an American car from an American manufacturer and seems to be doing well. The more American cars that do well the more different ones will be produced-at least I hope so. This one, C4031, is the car raced by Denny Hulme and Lloyd Ruby.

Here’s another American car, this one as it appeared in an American race, the 2019 Daytona 24 Hours, driven by Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon, and Ryan Briscoe to 12th overall and 3rd in GTLM. Stock # C4151.

This Couugar, C4160, is a model of a car active in present-day vintage racing. To see my blog post on “How they should have made it”, go to https://blog.victorylaphobbies.com/2018/04/23/how-they-should-have-made-it-recent-scalextric-transam-cars-part-1-mercury-cougar/

The rest of the 2020 product line, while many of the models in it will be of interest to hobbyists worldwide, is not particularly focused on the US market. I’m going to try to concentrate as much as possible on new cars that have specific US connections. You can see the whole 2020 Scalextric lineup at https://www.scalextric.com/us-en/shop/new-for-2020.html

I want to let all my readers know that I welcome your comments on any of my posts and also any questions or requests for additional information. I would like my blog to be a resource to slot car racers and a means of establishing and maintaining ongoing conversations about any aspect of the hobby and industry you would like to talk about. Especially, please let me know if you have a specific subject you would like me to write about. You can e-mail me at bob@wardsylvania.us or use the comments section below.

More coming soon!

Bob

Bob Ward’s Blog is Back!

Hello, Everybody!

A year and a half after closing Victory Lap Hobbies I’m getting involved in the world of slot cars again. I have several projects in mind and lots of things to write about, some of which I couldn’t deal with before for business-related reasons. Now I have a lot more freedom to tell it like it is, giving praise where due and criticism where it’s needed.

As I work my way up to full speed in getting blog posts on line I’ll be working on new kitbashes, tech articles, and product reviews as well as observations on the current state of the slot car hobby and its direction. I will also be issuing my newsletter again. I still have the Victory Lap Hobbies website but now have deleted the e-commerce part of it. That leaves the blog and the link to my Smugmug gallery, which continues to grow as we attend more 1:1 scale races and photograph more race cars.

To start, Here’s a bit of an overview of where I am and what I’m doing now. My charming wife Pat and I are retired and still living in Puyallup, Washington where we have now lived for 34 years. We were all set to move to Oregon and even had a house bought there when family concerns derailed that plan. We will be staying put for the foreseeable future, but we expect to have the time to attend more races and have more time for the actual slot car hobby than we did when we were running the business. It will take a while to get everything moving again but over time you should see an increasing number of blog articles and newsletter editions.

Enough about me – today, here are my initial comments on some of the cars in the 2020 Scalextric product line that was made public just this morning.

This, in my opinion, is far and away the best new car choice they have announced for 2020. It’s the IROC car based on the 3rd generation Camaro that was introduced in 1982. IROC ran this body style from 1984 to 1989. This car has enormous potential both for Scalextric and for slot car hobbyists. The IROC has a unique and lasting place in American motorsports history, which should generate healthy sales over a period of several years. There were 12 drivers invited to participate each year, and each of the 12 cars was painted a different color. If Scalextric does 2 colors per year that’s 6 years of sales to all the hobbyists who want to collect the whole set. In addition, many of the IROC cars went on to new racing lives after their IROC days, usually with body modifications. The earliest iterations of Gen 3 Camaro TransAm and IMSA cars looked very much like the Gen 3 IROCs except for widened front and rear fenders to accommodate the wider wheels and tires allowed in TransAm and IMSA GTO. All Scalextric would have to do to model these cars would be to tool up a body with the widened fenders and a set of early BBS wheels inthe correct diameter and width plus a set of tires to fit them. With only those two changes the car could go on generating sales for decades to come. That said, I truly hope Scalextric will resist any temptation to turn out “on-the-cheap” unmodified IROC cars in the liveries of TransAm teams.

The other great thing about the IROC cars as manufactired is that they will make ideal “house” cars for shops and clubs and for anyone who takes a 1/32 scale track to public-participation events. With identical cars in 12 different colors it will be easy to have cars with body colors corresponding to the track’s lane color coding or vice-versa. These Camaros will make excellent race set cars and will undoubtedly be offered in race sets for years to come.

You can see from the photos that the driver names have been left off, possibly due to licensing concerns or the fact that each driver drove a different car in each race. However, you can expect decals for all the drivers to appear on eBay before long, possibly even before the cars are released. That should enable you to amass a set of IROC cars with every driver name and car color if you have a mind and a budget to do so.

Stock numbers, by the way, are C4073 for the red one and C4145 for the blue one.

For the kitbasher these cars will make it easy to model the early Gen3 Camaro TA/IMSA cars. Only the fenders were widened on these cars, not the whole body. The doors remained at stock width and the fenders tapered toward them. Here’s an example:

This is one of the DeAtley Camaros that dominated the TransAm series in 1983. Drivers included Willy T. Riibs, David Hobbs, and Jerry Brassfield. The DeAtley cars, with different owners, drivers, and liveries, went on for several more years in essentially unchanged configuration. You can see that the front air dam is different, the rear spoiler is wider, and the whole front end of the car sits quite a bit lower, but these things are not all that hard to change. A look around the Internet will find quite a number of cars resembling the IROC Camaros closely enough to make relatively easy kitbashes. In fact, you will probably find TA cars that are even closer to the IROCs and even easier to model. The IROC Camaros themselves went on to post-IROC careers in other liveries. You may even find that it won’t be all that hard to model an early 80s Firebird.

I think I will have a few quibbles with this car once I actually get my hands on one but for now I have to give Scalextric an A grade on it just for producing it at all. Something like this is long overdue and should fill a profitable niche in the slot car market and make a lot of American hobbyists happy.

Another car that is raced in America is the GT4 Mustang. There are, if my information is correct, at least two professional series and a number of amateur classes and stand-alone events in the US where these cars can be raced or soon will be. Scalextric has an all-new GT4 Mustang coming this year in two liveries. Both, if I understand correctly, are liveried as cars racing in the British GT Series, but this one, stock number C4173, at least carries the name of Multimatic, a North American organization and one of its drivers, Scott Maxwell, is well known in the US. We can hope that Scalextric will do this car in some US series liveries next year. Meanwhile, If you are into repainting you will probably find that the Internet decal makers will soon be producing decals for cars racing in the US. So, I at least have to give Scalextric credit for producing another car that at has some NA connections. The stock number of the other GT4 Mustang isC4182.

I’m not a great fan of non-racing movie cars, but this one, the Back To The Future Delorean (C4117), is certainly an icon to countless American film fans and has at least a chance do well in the US. It may even introduce some cinema buffs a new hobby. in It looks to me as if they have made the rear tires too big; as far as I know Deloreans came with the same diameter tires on all four corners. However, fans of the flick will probably neither notice nor mind. I do hope they did the tooling so that a stock Delorean can be made later. I can imagine some significant percentage of this car’s buyers going to a lot of trouble to remove all the sci-fi add-ons. There are race set possibilities here, though I don’t know what the other car might be.

I don’t know enough about the 1:1 scale car to offer much in the way of a critique of the model, but If I were designing it I’d put Dr. Brown in the car with Marty McFly.

Here, again, is a car that one would think has primarily US appeal, but not exclusively so. Scalextric again deserves credit for producing a car with appeal on my side of the Atlantic, but I’d be a lot happier if they would do a US-specific race car instead.

I guess the Scalextric designers think the Brumos name will sell VW vans in the US – I doubt most of the rest of the world has even heard of Brumos Porsche – but I’ll give Scalextric credit for trying. But for cryin’ out loud, if they are going to pay Brumos a licensing fee (or are they?) why not do a Brumos race car? Not to knock the Scalextric VW van itself. It’s a nicely done model by any standard, but it’s next to useless on the track. They should do what they have done with a few other slot cars – make a static model version that we can all buy for much less than the slot car version to populate our pit areas and parking lots.

The Scalextric C3 Corvette just keeps rollin’ along. They will keep making and selling them as long as they can find new liveries to put on them. This car has to be an all-time cash cow for Scalextric. The tooling has to have paid for itself several times over. This version is the car Ike Knupp drove in 1973. Applause to them for making this car which nobody outside America except for diehard Corvette fans has ever heard of instead of another one that ran in Europe. As welcome as this car is I do wish Scalextric would do a new C3 Corvette tool with a much more accurate body, a flat tray interior, and the motor moved to the rear. I’d also like to see a C3 coupe and more different bodywork variations. The C3 Corvette I’d really like to see is this one:

This is the notorious Duntov “funny car” corvette built for SVRA Group 6. This has to be the leanest, meanest C3 Corvette going, even more so, in its way, than the Greenwood widebody Corvettes of the 70s. Unfortunately, this car would require all new tooling to get it right. Please, Scalextreic, don’t try to do this one with the existing tooling!

This is getting a bit long and I’m still not through all the cars I want to comment on, so I’ll save several cars for another post later this week. If any of you out there are interested in re-establishing contact with me I can be reached at (253) 820-9017. That’s my cell phone. The old store number is no longer in use. If you don’t get an answer please leave a message with your name. phone number, and something to tell me you are calling about slot cars and I will get back to you as soon as I can. I would really enjoy talking with you and I will still be happy to give you as much as I can of the kind of information and advice I gave when I was running the shop

Until later,

Bob