One of the best things, if not the best thing to happen to 1/32 scale slot car racing in recent years was the entry of Ninco into the market. This small company has set new standards for ready-to-run home set cars. It has raised the bar for the entire industry, forcing the larger manufacturers to invest in major product improvements while reducing prices across their lines. Ninco's success undoubtedly encouraged the establishment of Fly Cars, another small manufacturer that has helped force the state of the art to new levels. The resulting competition has been nothing but good for the hobbyist.
It's appropriate, then, that Ninco's latest release in its vintage car line is a model of the Jaguar XK120, a revolutionary car that established the Jaguar legend and defined the modern high-performance sports car. From its debut in 1948 the XK120 was a sensation. Its looks and its performance on both road and track became the standard by which production sports cars were judged. The new Jag was a record setter and amassed a long string of race and rally wins. It was also the direct ancestor of the mighty C and D-Types that scored five LeMans victories in the 1950's.
From the beginning the Ninco vintage cars have been a delight to look at and to drive. They are far from the fastest cars available but for driving fun they're hard to equal. What's more, all of them are beautiful scale models, with the possible exception of the recent Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. That car, placed side by side with my 35 year-old Strombecker, looks like it's had more than a few too many helpings of linguini. But whatever the Ferrari's shortcomings, the new Jaguar more than makes up for them. It is absolutely Ninco's best vintage car yet.
The XK120 has been released initially in two versions, an ivory-colored car, stock #50159, with racing number 17, and a rich green car, stock #50160, bearing race number 39. These are not just the same car molded in two colors. There are significant detail differences between the two cars.
The ivory car has a driver figure dressed in blue with an old-style soft leather helmet. It carries license plate number JHK318. The green car , license number NUB120, is outfitted as a rally car with both a driver and a navigator dressed in white with blue Bell-type helmets. The navigator holds an actual paper full-color rally map. In addition, this car has two extra driving lights, mounted on the front bumpers, and Liege-Rome-Liege Rally plates fore and aft.
On both versions of the car the level of detail is outstanding. At the front, the headlights are clear lenses in chrome bezels. Turn signals, bumpers, the classic Jaguar grille, and even a tiny round Jaguar emblem above the grille are all separate chrome-plated parts. The V-shaped windshield is a work of art, with a chromed frame, windshield wipers, and rear-view mirror as individual parts. The deep, though not full, cockpit, molded in black, has driver and passenger seat detail. It allows 3/4 driver and navigator figures and a full 4-spoke steering wheel. The steering wheel, true to the prototype, is large and nearly vertical. The instrument panel is detailed with a decal of the tachometer, speedometer, and three smaller gauges. One absent detail that could easily have been added is a shift lever. The taillight housings are separate plated parts with jewel-like clear red lenses. The bumpers and license plate frame are also plated parts. The only significant detail missing from the rear is the exhaust.
All this fine detail may prove prone to crash damage, even with cautious adult drivers. The windshield, especially, looks vulnerable, although we rolled the car several times during our track test with no harm done. However, a slightly delicate nature is the price you pay for the car's show-quality appearance and few of the Jaguar's likely purchasers will mind the tradeoff.
The overall appearance of the Ninco Jaguars is one of quality and craftsmanship. While we can't say whether every line and dimension is right, the unique character of the XK120 is there in full measure. Panel lines are deep and crisp and the superbly molded wire wheels, shared with all the other vintage Nincos except the Speedster, look right for the car, though perhaps just a little small in diameter. All but the most finicky Jaguar expert should find the cars visually pleasing. Another feature enthusiasts will find pleasing is the reduced price. The Jaguar retails in the U.S.for under $50.00 (msrp).
The chassis and mechanicals follow the familiar vintage Ninco pattern, a deep center, allowing the inline NC-1 motor to sit low, and raised outer sections. The separate motor mount and the guide, gears, axles, and snap-in brass rear axle bushings are all standard Ninco.
The car for OWH's track test, a green rally car, was furnished for our test by Fantasy World Toy and Hobby in Tacoma, WA. Fantasy World is a full-service A Day At The Races dealer and carries an extensive stock of Scalextric, Ninco, Fly, and SCX, including sets, cars, track, parts, and accessories. If you are looking for a source of 1/32 cars and supplies, Fantasy World offers mail order service and ships within 24 hours on credit card orders. They'll accept your VISA, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover Card. You can call them at (253) 473-6223.
The test car came straight out of the well-known Ninco plastic case package and onto our test track with just a drop of Trinity oil on each axle and motor bushing. The track was the recently extended Fantasy World 4-lane 20 X 10-foot Scalextric layout. From the first lap, the car impressed us with its quiet smoothness, easily the best of any out-of-the-box euroscale car we have ever driven. The XK120 needed essentially no break-in.
After some gentle familiarization laps we turned on the Dislot timer and began exploring the performance envelope. Immediately the Jaguar impressed us with its remarkable drivability. We had recently raced a pair of Ninco Porsche Speedsters on this same course in a Puget Sound Slot Racing Association (PSSRA) race, which gave us a good standard for comparison. The Speedster is a sweet car to drive, but the Jaguar stole our hearts away in just a few laps.
The track has a twisty back section that immediately sorts out the good-handling cars from the ones that can't get out of their own way. The XK120 took this section with poise, translating applications of throttle into wonderfully controllable cornering angles. The soft, almost sticky-feeling tires gave just the right amount of grip. At the limit, the rear end would slide predictably and forgivingly. We could hang the tail out at hilarious angles and still gather it up and continue on. This is a great help in crash-and-burn racing, where it keeps all but the grossest driving errors from being fatal. Of course, the best lap times come from keeping the car as straight as possible, and the XK120 impresses there, too. This is the most stable of the vintage Nincos we have driven. We believe much of the car's stability and its forgiving qualities are due to its relatively long wheelbase. The Porsche is a short car and for all its appealing responsiveness it has a certain nervous quality happily absent in the Jaguar. The XK120 excels on the straights as well as in the curves. Our test car was noticeably quicker in a straight line than other Nincos we have driven.
On our first one-minute timed run we recorded a best lap of 9.742 seconds. This was faster than we qualified the Porsche for the PSSRA race, and it was just the beginning. In successive one-minute runs we improved to 9.742, 9.576, 9.542, and finally, 9.391. There is still more speed to be gained, and we expect the XK120 to become the car to beat in the remainder of the current PSSRA vintage car series.
There is little we would suggest to improve the car other than the addition of the few missing details mentioned above. A top-up version, as was done with the Speedster, would be a welcome future release. American collectors might enjoy an SCCA production class car with a roll bar, small racing windscreen, "mag" wheels, and deleted bumpers.
Ninco's market niche has always been the serious adult enthusiast, and the vintage Nincos, with their wealth of delicate detail, are certainly not kids' cars. But these cars, the new Jaguar especially, impress us as cars created less for serious racing than for simply enjoying the pleasure of driving. The Jag is the car we would choose for a Saturday afternoon of fun with a few good friends, one of those sessions where everybody has a controller in one hand and a Coke or a Bud in the other, and nobody is keeping track of the lap totals.
For more info, & to find a retailer near you, check out: A Day at the Races. (Be sure to check out their cool "Spotlight in Motion" animated photo of the new Jags!)
Also check out the Ninco Web site.
If you are looking for a source for your 1/32 scale racing needs, give Fantasy World Toy & Hobby a call at (253) 473-6223.