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!

A Couple of Cool Road Cars

Our home town, Puyallup, Washington, is teeming with amazing cars.  It seems like every industrial or business park in the area has a shop full of talented people building and maintaining hot rods, custom cars, or race cars.  On any sunny weekend day you can find all kinds of automotive eye and ear candy on local streets and roads as owners exercise their prized possessions, and there is hardly a vintage sports car race in the US that doesn’t have a transporter  load of cars from at least one of the local prep shops in the paddock.  Here are two examples of local automotive creations I’ve encountered in the last few weeks.

Falcon Sprint rally car tribute

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If you follow motorsports history you may recall Ford’s Total Performance initiative of the early to mid 1960s.  Ford launched itself full-bore into every kind of motorsports, spending unprecedented sums not only to win races and championships but also to stamp indelibly into the minds of car buyers its image as a maker of word-beating high performance automobiles.  Win on Sunday, sell on Monday was the company’s guiding imperative.

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One of the earliest arenas in which Ford competed was European rallying.  With classic events such as the Monte Carlo Rally attracting a vast following in Europe Ford saw a way to expand its presence internationally while adding European glamor to its image at home.  The company’s compact car, the Falcon, became its first weapon of choice.  Though overshadowed by their replacement, the Mustang,  Ford’s rally Falcons gave the company its first experience and initial successes, providing a solid knowledge base on which to build greater successes.  Other Falcons, looking very much like the rally cars, competed in European circuit racing.

The car you see here is one I ran across in an industrial park while looking for possible locations in which to expand Victory Lap’s store space.  It appears to be a tribute car, memorializing those Falcon rally cars that took on Europe’s best in about 1963.  It’s a Falcon Sprint fastback fitted with all the 60s rally/race car visual cues.

Wouldn’t one like this make a great slot car?

Model A pickup street rod

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How’s this for retro cool?  Real vintage tin (well, most of it, according to the owner), a smallblock Chevy, whitewall tires, and lots of chrome.  I discovered this old-school gem parked about 30 feet from our store when I came to work one morning.

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Hot rods aren’t really my thing, but a well-crafted car of any kind deserves to be appreciated, and this was the kind of car build all my friends drooled over when I was in high school (but not me; I was already into sports cars).  This is what hot rodding used to be like back when people built hot rods and actually drove them regularly instead of storing them in climate-controlled garages and trailering them to car shows where they may or may not be started up and driven out of the trailer and back in.  This one’s owner had driven it that day as simple transportation to his daily appointments, but with added enjoyment of a kind no modern car with all its sophistication can offer.  Oh, and as he drove away it sounded really mean, too.

It’s one-of-a-kind cars like these that make the world of the car enthusiast so rich and varied.  Ain’t it grand?

Work In Progress April 7, 2017

Corvette C6 GT1 car

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The decals are now all on the car.  Every decal except the numbers is one I made on my computer and printed on an HP inkjet printer.  This shot shows the NSR Corvette C6R wing I’m using with a big Budget decal in place.  The wing is pressed only a small part of the way down into its mounts, just enough to hold it in place for the photo.  When the car is completed the wing will sit quite a bit lower.

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Here’s a shot from a different angle. For many modelers one of the deterrents to modeling present-day race cars is the lack of commercially available decal sheets with logos for contemporary sponsors, both major and contingency, in 1/32 scale.  Decals for Optima Batteries, Tilton Clutches, and VP Racing Fuels, to name just a few, along with current sanctioning body and race series decals, are very hard if not impossible to find.  The decal manufactures just don’t keep up.   At the same time, nobody seems to be making sheets of logos for companies that logically might be primary or secondary sponsors.  Those that can be found are all sheets for specific cars, mostly NASCAR.  You can end up buying multiple sheets and taking only one or very few elements from each just to get what you need to do one car livery, either real or fantasy.  You can’t buy a sheet of just car rental or computer or beer logos, each with several companies,  from which to get primary sponsors for your cars.

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That’s where printing your own comes in.  And it’s not as hard as you think.  I won’t write a how-to here.  There are already lots of good ones available online.  Just search under Decal Making and you’ll find them.  The key point is that it’s easy to learn and after you’ve done it a few times you will be amazed at the results you can get.

 

Supra GT1 car

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I now have the chassis surgery completed and the chassis has been successfully mated to the body.  The big challenge was getting the rear end of the original Supra chassis grafted solidly onto the Jaguar chassis.  This was the starting point…

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And here’s where it is now…

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The white areas are pieces of sheet and strip styrene glued in for reinforcement.  I did the gluing with a combination of CA and Gorilla Glue.  After some work to make everything look neater I’ll paint the whole chassis satin black.  Here’s a bottom shot of the chassis and body together:

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It was a pleasant surprise to find that the sides of the Jag chassis, with just a bit of work with an emery board, are a near-perfect fit for the Supra body.  As in the top shot you can see where I added styrene reinforcing to make the glue joints extra-solid.

The next step is to install all the mechanicals in the chassis and do some track testing.  Once any necessary modifications for performance are completed it will be on to bodywork, paint, detailing, and final assembly.

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

Why Don’t They Make? #2 – Corvette C2 Roadster

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When the iconic Stingray version of the Chevrolet Corvette, which came to be known as the C2, was introduced for the 1963 model year it came in two body types, the famous “split window” coupe and a roadster, or convertible if you prefer.  Both the coupe and the roadster have become classics in street and race trim, but for some reason the slot car manufacturers have made a number of 1/32 scale models of the coupe while completely ignoring the roadster.

Among the companies that have made 1/32 scale C2 coupe slot cars are Revell, Eldon, Mongram (in Grand Sport configuration) MRRC, and Carrera.  There have also been static models of it from AMT and MPC but, alas, never a C2 roadster.  I think this is a major oversight that needs to be corrected.

Early C2s, both coupes and roadsters, raced with completely stock bodies and steel wheels.  The SCCA, where most of them competed, had strict rules prohibiting most body modifications at the time, while light alloy wheels were still considered somewhat exotic and were an added expense many Corvette racers chose to forgo.

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This is a shot taken at an SCCA race in 1965.  The car looks severely basic compared to the highly developed present-day vintage racer at the top of the page.  The rules and the racing technology of the day meant that Corvettes and many other sports cars could almost be driven straight off the showroom floor and onto the race track.  An interesting feature of this car is the removable hardtop, not often seen on the track.  Note that the bumpers are still in place.  A Corvette like this could easily have done double duty as a road car and a race car.

Of course, it didn’t take long for racers to discover all sorts of ways to make the cars faster, some of which were even within the rules.  The cars began to evolve into much more intensively prepared racing machines.  Soon the standard fit for an SCCA production class Corvette looked more or less like this…

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This is Herb Caplan’s 8-Ball Cobra Killer, a ’65 big block roadster.  It enjoyed several years of success in the mid-60s, driven by Caplan and Corvettemeister Dick Guldstrand.  This photo was taken within the last few years at a vintage race, but the car looked exactly like this back in the day, with a low windscreen, stout single-hoop roll bar, Torq-thrust magnesium wheels, big side pipes, and no bumpers.  You can see, however, that the body was still stock width,  but that didn’t last long.

Throughout the 60s tires kept getting wider and wider.  Corvette racers made room for the fatter rubber within the stock body dimensions by such tricks as notching the rear suspension trailing arms for more tire clearance.  Soon, however, they reached the limit of what could be done inside a stock-width body.  Then, in 1968, Chevrolet introduced the C3 Corvette, and one of the first performance upgrades offered for it was a set of fender flares included in the famous L88 options package.  Soon we began seeing C3 Corvettes that looked like this…

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With all that extra fender width available the C3s could race not only with wider tires but also a wider track overall.  The C2 owners had to keep up, and the rules were relaxed to allow it.  By the mid-70s a great many C2 roadsters looked very much like this…

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The fenders weren’t the only parts of the car that had been evolving.  This photo gives a good view of the full roll cage that became more or less standard in SCCA racing.  The cage wasn’t just for safety.  Racers quickly discovered that it could be tied into the frame pretty much wherever it would increase chassis stiffness, enhancing handling.

Some car builders took a more subtle approach to widening the C2 body.

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Here’s the C2 of Bill Morrison, a highly successful SCCA Corvette driver.  Note how the fenders have been seriously widened while still maintaining the classic C2 belt line through the fenders.  Looked at directly from the side the body looks almost stock — well, except for the whole front clip having been tilted down noticeably to improve the car’s aerodynamics.  In this photo you can also see the very common practice of raising the trailing edge of the forward-opening hood to vent off air from the engine compartment, improving cooling and probably reducing front end lift at speed.  Except for not having the full roll cage Morrison’s car arguably has the most “evolved” design of any C2 SCCA race car in existence.

As you can see, the possibilities for modeling the C2 roadster as a 1/32 scale slot car are almost endless, though they would take more than one body mold to do. It actually mystifies me why none of the companies that made C2 coupe slot cars ever simply cut an additional body tool and made a roadster.

In the present day the quickest route to a C2 roadster slot car would be for Carrera to rebody its C2 coupe.  Their chassis, however, is a less than optimal platform.  It leaves too little space through the fenders  between the chassis and the body, needlessly limiting tire width even with a wider body (a shortcoming it shares with Scalextric’s C3 Corvette).  It also leaves something to be desired in its magnet installation.  Still, they have the chassis, and once you’ve done the CAD work to design a coupe body you’ve done most of the work to design a roadster.  It’s worth noting here that all the evolutions of the C2 roadster as a race car were also applied to C2 coupes.  Carrera could offer widened bodies in both coupe and roadster form.

A more promising approach would be for Scalextric to redesign its venerable C3 Corvette chassis with the motor moved to the rear (requiring a highly desirable change to a flat tray interior) and the chassis narrowed between the rear wheels so it is only just wide enough for the standard Scalextric bar magnet to fit in between the motor and the rear axle.  If they then redid the front of the chassis so it did not incorporate any part of the body and moved the guide aft a bit to fit the C2’s shorter nose, along with trimming the rear a bit to fit the C2 body, they would have, in addition to a C2 Corvette chassis, a much-improved chassis for their C3 Corvette to go with a long-needed retooling of the C3 body.

I’ve actually done such a conversion.  Here’s what it looks like…

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I’ve actually built two cars with this conversion and both are a whole world faster and better handling than the original front-motor design.

I don’t expect either company to take up my suggestions, at least not any time soon.  I think it’s more probable that some other manufacturer would start with a blank  computer screen (nobody designs on paper any more) and create both a roadster and a coupe slot car on a chassis incorporating the improvements described above.  There’s no knowing what the chances of that are.

Still, hope springs eternal in the heart of every slot car hobbyist.  Less likely things have happened.

To see lots of cool-looking C2 Corvette race cars check out our photo album at https://victorylaphobbies.smugmug.com/C2-Corvette-Race-Cars

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