The Old Weird Herald

Joest About Perfect

OWH Tests and Drools Over Fly's Best Yet

by Bob Ward

Photos stolen, with good intentions...

(*see note below)

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Fly Joest Porsche

To win the 24 Hours of LeMans is the achievement of a lifetime for both a driver and a car constructor. Only a few exceptionally skilled, determined and fortunate ones ever make it. A very few, like Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell, pull it off several times. Yet even they spend decades doing it. Win or lose, there are usually lots of next years to go at it again.

Not so for a car. The pace of development is such that most cars get one real shot at it -a year later they are obsolete, if not junk. Designs carry on from year to year. The Ferrari Testa Rossa won LeMans four times, the Jaguar D-type and the Porsche 936 three each, and the Porsche 956 / 962 more times than anybody can remember. But, it was a different individual car every time. The odds against any particular car winning even once are high. The odds against one car winning twice are astronomical.

Still, two cars have done it. The first was Ford GT40 #1075, in 1968 and 69. The other was the Porsche WSC95, racing number 7, campaigned by Reinhold Joest Racing. It was especially appropriate that as Fly's models of the Porsche were being shipped to America the 1/1 car was at LeMans again trying for a three-peat. Accident damage cut the 1998 effort short, but who's to say the car won't be there again in 1999?

The Fly cars we've driven in the past have often been a tantalizing combination of cutting-edge virtues marred by maddening flaws. Fly's first effort, the Dodge Viper, set euroscale performance and appearance standards no one but Fly has fully matched to this day. Yet, the early Vipers' front tires rubbed on the fenders and the drive shaft bearing popped out of its mount at extreme cornering angles. One distributor was spending countless hours correcting problems on every Viper in stock before it went out the door. Fly's Porsche 911, in all its rapidly mounting number of versions, is a beautiful, lightning-fast car, but the chassis-to-body fit problems around the rear wheels left us thinking, if only, if only...

Most of us bought these cars anyway and we're enjoying the heck out of them because there is simply nothing else remotely comparable on the market. But, it's fair to say that Fly's record has been one of stunning designs sometimes marred by equally stunning lapses in execution. Not this time. The Joest Porsche at last fulfills the promise of all the Fly cars before it. This is the car we always knew they could build.

Fly Joest Porsche, again

First impressions

The Joest, as we'll call it, has been released in two versions, the blue and orange 1996 LeMans winner, stock number A41, and the white 1997 winner, stock number A42. Both come in Fly's standard and by now somewhat mundane looking plastic case with a blue paper insert forming a background for the car. The "first look" of these cars is breathtaking, the simplicity of the package serving to frame the car's glossy near-perfection. More than ever, these cars could be easily mistaken for high-quality diecasts. In fact, if a skilled photographer were to set this model against the right background under the right lighting, from some angles he might take a picture that would be hard to tell from a photo of the real car - it's that good.

Body and markings

What sets the Joest apart from previous Fly efforts is the very precise fit of all the parts. The exquisite two-piece plated wheels, carried over from the 911 GT1, are exactly centered in their openings. The clear headlight covers fit almost seamlessly into the fenders, though on our test car one of them was a trifle loose in its mountings . The free-standing rear wing sits straight on its spindly-looking, though perhaps quite sturdy, mounting strut. Everything is in its place and looks right, something very simple to say but elusive to achieve in a mass-produced model. There is no flash, no sink marks, and no visible part lines to be seen anywhere on the body.

Twin chromed headlight lenses reside under each clear headlight cover, mounted in a removable black part that forms the headlight pockets. The racer who wants to install working lights will appreciate this feature. Louvers and vents atop the front fenders and on the body sides are neatly molded. Panel lines are crisp, uniform, and of just the right depth. Twin rear-view mirrors and slender rear brake scoops are separate parts that seem to be quite strong and solidly mounted without being too heavy in appearance. The mouths of the scoops are quite deep, making it easy to flow some flat black acrylic paint into them and create the impression that they are completely hollow. The large radiator air intakes on either side of the cockpit are actual openings, filled with black plastic insets that are part of the cockpit assembly. The two-element rear wing is a minor modeling triumph all by itself, though we see a problem looming in the way it's mounted, about which more when we get to the chassis. At the rear, tiny clear red taillight lenses fit perfectly in their places.

Overall, the lines of the body appear quite accurate, with the possible exception of the cockpit area. Some European observers, who received the cars sometime before we did, have criticized this part of the body as being too high and bulky. This is not greatly apparent to us from just looking at the body or even comparing it with photos of the 1/1 car from our research archives. (Isn't that a great name for a big stack of old car magazines?) One thing that does lend credence to the critics is the fact that the driver figure and seat are borrowed unchanged from Fly's full-interior GT cars. These cars typically have a more upright driving position than an open-cockpit prototype, so it may well be that Fly fudged the height of the cockpit area to keep their upstanding (upsitting?) plastic driver from looking like Dan Gurney driving a go-kart. Still, the car as a whole is so knockout, drop-dead gorgeous that we can't find it in us to quibble about minor discrepancies in sizes or shapes. As we said of the Ninco vintage Jaguar we recently tested, we don't know if every line and dimension is right but the look and feel of the real car is there in abundance.

Mr. Joest must be a practical man who doesn't want his employees spending time on things that don't make his cars go faster, like elaborate paint jobs. Both the '96 and '97 color schemes are little more than a single overall color with minimal trim and lots of revenue-producing sponsor decals. Both cars carry a German flag and racing number 7 on the nose and sides, certainly a lucky number in this case.

The 1996 car, my favorite of the two and the one we used for our track test, is molded in a rich, dark, almost midnight blue with areas of orange on the nose and an orange roll bar and wing. This color combination presented a challenge, as it is difficult to paint or tampo-stamp a light color over a very dark one, and the orange, along with some of the other colors, comes out a bit dark as a result. The markings, all tampo-stamped, are wonderfully sharp and accurately placed. Some of the lettering, including the drivers' names on the cockpit sides, is too small to see with the naked eye (mine, anyway, at age 49, sigh...) but under a magnifying glass it's perfectly readable.

There were two minor flaws in the blue car's finish, both of them in what appears to be some kind of clear coat that produces that deep, glossy, almost wet look. The wing had some noticeable orange peel on it, and there were dust specks in several places, though, to be fair, you really have to go looking for defects to find them. The first run of Scalextric's NASCAR stockers had far worse clear coat problems, perhaps on as many as 20% of the cars. We're guessing the finish can be rubbed out, like Testor Glosscote, and that's what we're going to try. If that doesn't work, Fly has replacement wings available through our local dealer and the supplier of our test and review cars, Fantasy World Toy and Hobby in Tacoma, Washington.

Fly Joest Porsche - a view of the office

The 1997 car, molded in white with transverse red stripes across the cockpit and a black wing, is the more visually striking of the two, and at least initially has been the more popular. There are no color problems on this one, the F.A.T. International, Hagenuk, and other logos standing out brightly. The photos speak for themselves more eloquently than words ever could.

The only complaint we have ever had about the full cockpits on previous Fly cars is that they were all under roofs where they were really hard to see. On the Joests, the driver in his "office" sits out in plain sight and all his glory. Fly has taken advantage of the improved view by adding even more detail. There is an instrument panel with tampo stamped gauges and an electronic "black box", in this case silver, on the floor beside the driver. The driver has a tampo-stamped helmet, presumably duplicating the helmet design of one of the three named on the cockpit sides. We Yanquis, not into all the details of European racing, would have appreciated a sticker on the package saying which of the three is being portrayed. Better yet, how about three snap-on, snap-off driver's heads, one for each member of the winning team?

Chassis and mechanicals

In doing the tooling for their Porsche 911 GT1 Fly also prepared to produce all the underpinnings for the Joest except the chassis platform itself. The innovative sidewinder rear pod unit, which holds the motor, rear axle assembly, and round chassis magnet, is identical, as are the wheels. The tires are also the same except for being stamped with the Goodyear name instead of Michelin. Everything else is from the parts bin.

The rear of the chassis incorporates some attractive exhaust, gearbox, and rear suspension detail. It also incorporates the only significant problem we see on the whole car. The mount for the rear wing is molded into the chassis plate. The wing itself is attached to the mount by two plastic pins which have been secured in their holes by the hot-melt method. Only time and real-world experience will tell how many of these cars will end up with with broken wing mounts that can't ever be securely reattached to the chassis, but free-standing wings on Scalextric and other formula one cars, as hard-crashing as a Fly car can be, have proved notoriously vulnerable. We would have been happier if Fly had made the wing mount structure a separate replaceable part. Fly, by the way, is not alone in this potential problem. The new SCX Ferrari 333SP, under testing for a future OWH review, is designed in much the same way.

Fly Joest Porsche - the view that your competition will see!

Driving the Joest Porsche

How many of you scrolled down and read this part first? If you did, give yourself a slap on your mouse hand and type out 100 times, "I will read all OWH product reviews in the proper order."

We tested, as always, at the Fantasy World 4-lane Scalextric track, to be joined sometime this Summer or early Fall by a Ninco layout. Fantasy World is constantly expanding its 1/32 scale slot catalog, and on our test day, Dave Kleinman, the owner, told me it was now up to 37 pages and still growing. You can request the FW e-mail catalog by emailing me at bobward@oldweirdherald.com. Be sure to say whether you want it in MSPublisher or MSWord format. Dave also promises several more formats soon. If you prefer, you can phone the store at (253) 473-6223 and request the print catalog, also available soon.

We have added a new element to our at-the-track evaluation routine, the magnet test. We set the Joest Porsche on a piece of Scalextric straight track and began tilting it forward until the car began to roll or, in this case, made it all the way over and hung upside down by its chassis magnet. We wonder how much more powerful the Fly magnets would have to be before we could tack a track up to the ceiling and race upside down. This might make any visitors from Australia feel right at home.

Moving right along, we gave the Porsche the usual preparation and break-in, consisting of drops of Parma bushing oil on the axles and motor shaft, a check of the braid, and enough laps to satisfy us that all the moving parts were getting comfortable with each other. Actually, the driver needed more break-in than the car. Going to a Fly car from any other euroscale vehicle involves a major recalibration of the eyeball-trigger finger interface. You have to make yourself drive it through the corners as fast as it wants to be driven. Then, when you switch back to your familiar Scalextric or Ninco, you have to throttle yourself way back to keep from crashing on every corner.

After a couple of timed runs with our baseline car, a well broken-in Fly GT1 that turned a best time in the 6.30's, we put the Joest on the Dislot timer. Successive 1-minute timed runs produced the following times:

1.

6.676

2.

6.951

3.

6.706

4.

6.768

5.

6.722

6.

6.566

7.

6.871

8.

6.717

Normally, a track test consists of 10 timed runs. This one was cut short after eight - 4 1/2 hours after we started. The reason? The store was closing and we had spent most of the time talking with and giving test drives (with Ninco Renault Meganes, not the Porsche) to Fantasy World customers, all new to slot racing, who gathered around open-mouthed every time we put the Fly car on the track.

Though the times were slower than the GT car's, the Joest felt more stable and forgiving, due mostly, we think, to its longer wheelbase and, probably, a slightly lower center of gravity. There were no real surprises in the handling department. All the Fly family traits were there, for good or ill, depending on your tastes. We have found that the times we get with a brand-new car with only a small amount of break-in tend to be about half a second shy of what the car will ultimately do with lots of track time and a driver thoroughly familiar with its nuances. That would put the Joest down around six seconds flat - a very respectable time indeed.

All said, we have to conclude that Fly is really on top of its game with this car Everything works, everything fits, the looks are beyond gorgeous, and the problems almost nonexistent. The Joest is one euroscale car I have lusted after since the day it was announced, lusted after like Bill Clinton lusts after...no, we won't go there today, not in a family publication. Anyway, this car was the first, and so far the only, euroscale car to make my "gotta have" list. And now that I've got it, does the reality measure up to the dreams of anticipation? Well, let's just say that when I get to Heaven, this is the slot car I expect see the angels racing on their coffee breaks. As the title says, Joest about perfect.

Bob Ward

Mailboxemail: bobward@oldweirdherald.com

For more info on Fly, Scalextric, Ninco, SCX, etc., & a list of retail dealers, check out: A Day at the Races web site.

If you don't have a dealer near you, or are looking for a source for your 1/32 scale racing needs, give Fantasy World Toy & Hobby in Tacoma, WA a call at (253) 473-6223.


Editor's Note: *Photo credit: These excellent photos were "borrowed" (stolen) off a web site, and we have been unable to locate that site since, in order to properly acknowledge the photo credit and provide a link to the photographer's web page. I beleive it was a personal Scandinavian web site. It is my normal practice to contact fellow webmasters, and ask permission prior to "stealing" their work, and to give proper credit and links to the contributer. ;-) If the photographer sees this, or if any of you readers can identify the URL where these came from, please email paulk@oldweirdherald.com

Lawsuits served to: lawoffices@oldweirdherald.com - these will be forwarded to King County Jail, where our attorny is currently awaiting sentencing on prior convictions.

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