Subject: MRRC Ferrari article Sent: 6/12/98 12:23 PM Received: 6/12/98 1:32 PM From: Bob Ward, robertmward@earthlink.net To: Paul Kassens, paulk@oldweirdherald.com Hello, Paul,

The Old Weird Herald

You Can't Go Home Again

But You Can Get Pretty Close

OWH Reviews the MRRC / Monogram Ferrari 275P

By Bob Ward

Chrome Bar

MRRC Ferrari 275P

Photo ©1998 - used courtesy of A Day at the Races

Ferrari came reluctantly to the mid-engine party. The Scuderia had dominated international endurance racing in the 1950's and early 60's with its front-engined cars. Ferrari's record included LeMans wins in 1958, 1960, 1961, and 1962 by various models of the Testa Rossa.

By 1962, however, more nimble and efficient mid-engined designs had taken over grand prix racing. Ferrari itself had won the world championship in 1961 with a mid-engined car. In sports car competition, British designs, such as the Lotus 19 and the Cooper Monaco were beginning to embarrass front-engined cars with much larger engines.

Ferrari's first foray into mid-engined sports cars was the 196 / 246SP of 1961-62. These relatively small-displacement six-cylinder cars proved effective on circuits where handling, rather than straight line speed, was most important. Nevertheless, through 1962 Ferrari's racing department saw them as a backup to the big front-engined cars.

For the 1963 season, however, Ferrari committed itself fully to the new scheme of things and set out to marry the mid-engine layout to its phenomenally successful V-12 engine. The result was an immediate success. The 250P, Ferrari's first"big" mid-engined car, won three major endurance races that year, including LeMans. The following year the 3.3 liter 275P repeated that success, again winning LeMans and two other major events. Ferrari's P series had become the dominant force in endurance racing.

It was about that time that the slot racing boom reached its height. Virtually every major American hobby manufacturer got involved, each one working overtime to bring out new models of the latest and hottest racing cars. Monogram was one of many that produced a slot car replica of the early P-series Ferrari. Its model, produced in both 1/24 and 1/32 scale came labeled as a 275P, though it could just as easily have been a 250 or 330P, as the external differences among the three were practically nonexistent. Monogram carried over its usual high standards of accuracy and detail to its slot car bodies, also issuing them as static kits with a simple chassis platform.

Over the years, Monogram's cars have taken their rightful place among the elite of slot racing collectibles. With the current surge in popularity of 1/32 scale cars and the high prices Monogram cars and bodies are fetching, it was inevitable that someone would arrange for Monogram to bring the body tooling out of storage and resume production. This is what MRRC has done, and the Ferrari is just the first in a series that will include the GTO/LM, the 330LM, the Chaparral II, and possibly all the others for which usable tooling still exists.

Packaging and presentation

The packaging of MRRC's new series is a leap forward from their previous offerings. For the first time they have adopted the industry-standard plastic case. The MRRC case, as is fitting for a series of nostalgia car models, has something of a retro look, with rounded corners. There is a Ferrari shield logo sticker in the center of the clear top and a sticker with the logo and the words Ferrari 275P beside the car on the black base. Surrounding the case is a full-color cardboard sleeve with a punch-out window. The car comes attached to the base with a Phillips-head self-tapping screw that looks big enough to take the place of a railroad spike.

Body, finish , and detailing

Our track test car, provided by Fantasy World Toy and Hobby, in Tacoma, Washington, was molded in yellow. There is also a white one. The first question on the lips of several Fantasy World customers was, "Why didn't they mold it in red?" The mold quality reflects the body's 60's origin, with flash, prominent part lines, and sink marks over the body mount posts carrying over uncorrected from the original Monogram cars.

Most of the detail parts of the original kit remain, but the exceptions are significant. The most noticeable is in the wheels. Monogram's original aluminum wheels and finely molded and plated "wire" inserts with separate knockoff nuts have been replaced by press-on one-piece plastic wheels lacking knockoff detail. The tires are noticeably too skinny, even for a 1963 race car. The wheels and tires, quite frankly, look like something we would expect to see on an old Eldon car or one of the cheaper Strombeckers. Another point at which MRRC could have done better is the exhausts. They are molded into the rear of the chassis, and, sticking out as far as they do, they will not last long before they break off. Once that happens they will be nearly impossible to glue back on securely. MRRC could easily have made them a separate replaceable part.

The markings are sparse, typical of the era before massive sponsorship turned race cars into rolling billboards. They include numbers on the nose, rear deck, and both doors, Ferrari insignia on the nose and sides, a license decal on the rear, and two sponsor decals on each side. This is about as much as Monogram's original waterslide decal sheet offered, but MRRC uses neatly applied stickers.

The interior, molded in black, has a painted driver, though the choice of colors could have been better. It must have been cold at LeMans that year, because our test car piloto appears to be wearing a brown leather jacket. He also has a brown smudge on the front of his red helmet. We couldn't determine whether this was a slipup by the painter or intended to represent the grime of a long race, though we note that the car itself is quite pristine. Our driver, as painted, also isn't wearing gloves, probably a serious no-no even in 1964. For all that, the painting is very neatly done, especially the steering wheel detail. There is room on the dash for an instrument panel decal, and one would have been welcome.

None of this will put off most of the Ferrari's likely purchasers. Those who look on the car as a substitute for the vintage Monogram they can't get will simply take the car apart. They'll sand the body, paint it, and detail it to their taste, then replace the wheels, and maybe the whole chassis, with something more like the original. We suspect that many MRRCs will be bought for bodies to put onto original or repro Monogram chassis, since, at $37.95 retail, the whole MRRC car sells for less than some people are paying for an original body kit. Everyone else will simply be pleased that another racing icon of the 60's has been brought back in ready-to-run form compatible with their Scalextric tracks.

Chassis and Mechanical

The all-new part of the product is the plastic chassis. The new chassis, molded in black, places MRRC squarely in the euroscale mainstream. It breaks no new ground, except for having installation points for the snap-in chassis magnet both in front of and behind the motor.  This allows greater flexibility in tuning the chassis to a particular track or driver's preference.  And, of course, it opens the way for a twin-magnet car. The magnet in our test car was stronger than a Scalextric magnet but nowhere near the strength of a Fly magnet or a Ninco supermagnet. We tested the car as delivered, with the magnet in the front position.

We've devised an unscientific but interesting test to compare the strength of chassis magnet installations.  We place the car on a Scalextric straight track section and gradually tilt the track"downhill" until the car begins to roll.  The steeper the slope before the car begins to roll, the more "stuck down" the car is.  Of the cars we've tried this with to date, the results have been:

Scalextric NASCAR Thunderbird

15 degrees

Scalextric Indy car

30 degrees

MRRC Ferrari 275P

40 degrees

Scalextric Ferrari F-1

45 degrees

SCX Jaguar Gp. C

80 degrees (almost vertical!)

Fly Porsche 911 GT1

180 degrees (upside down!)

The champion of this contest, so far, is a Fly Porsche 911 GT1, which made it all the way over, 180 degrees, and hung upside down.  This means, of course, that the attractive force exerted by its chassis magnet is greater than the weight of the car. 

Our MRRC Ferrari began to roll at 40 degrees.  This is enough to keep the front end of the car planted over bumps in the track and make the car less prone to tilting but not enough to to suck it down like an HO car.

The motor mount is integral with the chassis and holds the Mabuchi can motor with the usual tabs engaging the can bearing and the indentations where the can grips the endbell.  Both the crown gear and the pinion, as well as the rear axle bushings, are plastic.  The fit of the chassis to the body is exemplary.  Somebody took a great deal of care here.  The creation of a plastic chassis specifically fitted to each body is quite a departure for MRRC, whose previous cars have either used the body itself as the chassis or employed their excellent adjustable brass chassis.  By the way, MRRC could make a lot of racer / builders happy by producing a set of mounting brackets to mate their brass chassis to Monogram and Revell body posts.  How about it, gentlemen?

In mounting the body, MRRC did make one upgrade that places it ahead of the whole euroscale pack  The body mounting posts are fitted with press-in threaded brass inserts that accept Phillips-head cap screws in place of the customary self-tappers biting into plastic.  No more stripped-out screw holes.  This is a feature that should have been the industry standard all along, and we hope Scalextric, Ninco, Fly, and SCX will adopt it on all newly-tooled cars immediately.  We can suggest one further improvement, the use of socket head cap screws in place of the Phillips.

On the Test Track

We originally intended to make this article a head-to-head performance comparison between the MRRC car and a Monogram original.  We changed our minds for two reasons.  First, the two iterations of the car were made for different kinds of tracks.  The Monogram, with its brass chassis and 16-D motor, would have a major advantage on a wood track,  while the magnet-equipped MRRC with its low-amp motor is optimized for a plastic track.  There was no way to come up with a track equally favorable to both.  Second, the only available example of an original Monogram 275P had been thoroughly "massaged" by an expert builder, and would not have provided a fair comparison.

So, we took our test car off to the Fantasy World 4-lane Scalextric layout for the fun part of our evaluation.  As always, we ran the car "out of the box" with only a drop of Parma bushing oil in each of the motor and rear axle bushings, a check of the pickup braid to ensure good contact, and a general inspection for binding, misalignment, or other obvious problems.

We have been impressed with the smooth, quiet performance of all the euroscale cars we have tested lately.  The Ferrari was no exception.  It was not as quiet as the Ninco Jaguar XK120 we recently tested, but it ran well and cornered smoothly from the beginning.

Our first impression was that the MRRC Ferrari drove very much like a vintage Ninco, but with the straightaway speed of a Scalextric.  There was a Ninco Renault Megane running on the track during the warmup and break-in phase of our test, and the MRRC consistently pulled away by about two car lengths per lap on the 16-foot main straight. 

With break-in completed and the track to ourselves, we began a series of timed performance runs.  On the very first one-minute run we saw a time of 9.354 seconds on the DS timer.  In a further 10 timed runs, we were only able to improve to 9.279 seconds.  Clearly this is a car that enables its driver to find the limit quickly.  We found that we could run comfortably at a steady pace of about 9.4 to 9.5 seconds per lap.  These figures put it in the ballpark with vintage Nincos, and it would not look out of place racing with them.

The Ferrari was not as forgiving as a vintage Ninco.  This is due to part of its cornering power being derived from magnetism, which loses its effect abruptly when the magnet is not directly over the track's steel contact strips.  It also did not have the delightful aplomb through the twisty bits of the Ninco Jaguar XK120, nor the Jag's sense of grace and balance.  Nevertheless, it is a fun car to drive and looks good on the track.  Like all of MRRC's cars it invites the hobbyist to improve its performance through the application of some basic tuning skills, and this is part of what slot racing is all about.

MRRC's 275Ps should be at your local dealer as you read this.  If you don't have a local source for MRRC and other euroscale cars, sets, parts, and accessories, our friends at Fantasy World will be glad to supply you by mail order.  You can get their 35-page 1/32 scale slot racing catalog by calling (253) 473-6223 or by e-mailing at:

bobward@oldweirdherald.com

The MRRC / Monogram cars are going to be ideal replacements in all the carless 1/32 race sets floating around out there.  In looks and performance, they are very much like the inexpensive home set cars Monogram, Revell, Strombecker, and others produced in the 60's.  Since Monogram and Revell are the same company now, perhaps MRRC will have an opportunity to revive all the Revell 1/32 scale cars, too.  We have long believed that the first company to put the old 60's cars back into production with modern chassis and motors would be on to something lucrative.  Now, we'll find out if we're right.

Bob Ward

Mailboxemail: bobward@oldweirdherald.com

To find a retailer near you, check out the dealer list at: A Day at the Races.

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.

Chrome Bar

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