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.

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