The Old Weird Herald

Scalextric Does NASCAR

The First Product Review Published Anywhere

Of the New Scalextric Stock Cars

by Bob Ward

(Photos stolen from Scalextric-USA Web Site)

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Mark Martin's Valvoline #6 Ford

#C2020 - Mark Martin -Valvoline #6 - Ford

Get ready to rock 'n roll, all you 1/32 scale NASCAR fans! The Scalextric Winston Cup cars are here, and they are worth the wait!

The stock cars, two Thunderbirds (Mark Martin and Jeff Burton) and two Monte Carlos (Sterling Marlin and Terry Labonte), are Scalextric's first products aimed specifically at the American market. They are the first concrete results of a years long effort by Hornby Hobbies, Ltd., the manufacturer of Scalextric, to bring scale 1/32 racing, long the mainstay of slot racing in England, to these shores. Hornby has worked hard to research and understand what American consumers want, and also to create a distributor and dealer network that can establish Scalextric as a staple category in the U. S. hobby industry.

The four stock cars show that Hornby has really done its homework. Not only the look, but also the feel of the full-size cars has been captured in these new releases. The new cars are quite basic, with blacked-out windows and no interior. To keep down costs, Hornby dug deep into the Scalextric parts bin. The chassis is the same one used on the bottom-of-the-line DTM cars, except for the addition of two tiny round magnets just aft of the motor. The wheels and tires are the familiar Formula One car fronts on all four comers. The body is really the only new part on the car. And yet, the finished product looks great and works well on the track. The whole is more than the sum of the parts.

The good impressions start with the packaging. Each car comes in a plastic case with a full-color cardboard wrapper that matches the paint scheme of the car. No more generic packaging - each package features the car's racing number and basic information about the driver and team. The car is fastened to the case's black plastic base by a brass screw with a knob that is both knurled for turning with one's fingers and slotted for a screwdriver. On one side of the base, the car's number appears along with the names of the driver, sponsor, and team. The base has two sockets to hold the customary spare guide flags with braid securely in place.

Hornby's biggest challenge in making these cars was reproducing the very intricate paint schemes and markings found on Winston Cup cars. Scalextric cars have been well-known for the high quality of their tampo-stamped markings. On these cars, however, the many tiny contingency sponsor decals were more than the stamping process could handle. So, the cars come with a combination of painted, stamped, and sticker markings.

Jeff Burton's #99 Exide Ford

#C2021 - Jeff Burton -Exide #99 - Ford

Our test car, the #99 Exide Batteries car of Jeff Burton, comes molded in black with bright purple sprayed onto portions of the hood, roof, and sides. The numbers and the large Exide logos on the hood, rear deck, and rear fenders are stamped. All the rest of the markings are self-adhesive stickers. The painted and stamped bodies are sprayed with a clear coat that gives them a beautiful glossy finish. A few of the cars in the initial shipments have runs, dust specks, and orange peel in the clear coat that can be quite noticeable, at least until you get all the stickers on. If you're a stickler for finish quality, you may want to check your car before you buy it.

The sticker sheet for the Exide car has 30 separate stickers, all die cut and ready to peel and apply. It took about 45 minutes to place them all. They are quite pliable and follow the car' s contours well, though a few of the smaller ones proved a bit of a challenge. There is an instruction sheet for sticker placement, but it doesn't show the painted and stamped elements of the car' s markings, so the locations of some of the stickers are a bit vague.

In the box, the car looks a little bare, but with all the stickers in place it comes alive. On the Thunderbird, Hornby did a good job of capturing the overall shape and stance of the prototype. The wheels are properly located in the wheel openings, though the wheelbase is slightly shorter than scale to make the body fit the existing DTM chassis. Surface details include hood and rear deck pins, window net, roof rails, windshield and rear window straps, and deep, crisp panel lines. Details conspicuous by their absence are the roof flaps, fuel filler, and the screening in the air intakes. Overall, the car's appearance should be more than adequate to satisfy all but the most exacting scale purist. Certainly, it is good enough to make NASCAR fans take a look at slot racing.

I tested the T-bird on the four-lane Scalextric road course at Fantasy World Toy & Hobby in Tacoma, Washington. Dave Kleinman, the owner, provided the car for our track test. Dave stocks one of the largest selections of Scalextric anywhere, along with Ninco, Fly, MRRC, and SCX cars and Dislot lap counters. Fantasy World offers 24-hour shipping on most orders and free shipping on orders over $50.00. You can use your VISA, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover card. If you don't have a local source for your 1/32 scale needs, call Fantasy World Toy & Hobby at (253) 473-6223, seven days a week. (Editor's note: I believe their hours are 10AM to 8 PM Mon-Fri, and 10 AM-6PM Sat-Sun, Pacific Standard Time - PST is GMT-8hrs)

Sterling Marlin's Kodak Gold #4  Chevrolet

#C2022 - Sterling Marlin -Kodak Gold #4 - Chevrolet

The car ran smoothly and quietly right out of the box, with only a drop of oil in each of the motor and axle bushings. This was a surprise, as several DTM cars I have driven were noisy and rough running. Within 50 laps #99 had broken in nicely. As you might expect, the stock cars, as they come from the box, understeer big time in the turns. The car corners like it's on rails, right up to the point where it goes straight off into the wall or over on its roof. The stickiness of the Formula One tires contributes to his condition. After a while, though, I found I could consistently drive the car right up to the limit. The car's smoothness helps a great deal.

Where the rules allow, the Scalextric stock cars should benefit greatly from some self-stick lead in the front of the chassis. The motor has more than enough power to haul the extra weight down the straights, so the tradeoff will be well worth it. Another approach would be to try some harder tires on the rear. These cars are not likely to outhandle sports and gran prix cars, but since they are most likely to be raced only among themselves, it won't be a problem.

All Scalextric cars are designed for running on plastic track, but just for grins I tried the T-Bird on a routed track with a polyurethane surface. The car's tendency to tilt was even more apparent, but I was impressed with the tires' grip and the car's smoothness. With some weight in the right place and a deeper guide flag this car would be a lot of fun to race on a routed track.

Terry Labonte's Kellogg's #5  Chevrolet

#C2023 - Terry Labonte -Kellogg's #5 - Chevrolet

I also had the chance to examine a Monte Carlo, the #4 Kodak car. The Monte Carlo body has the roof flap and fuel filler detail the Thunderbird lacks, but in overall shape, it does not make quite as good an impression. The shortening of the wheelbase to fit the DTM chassis is more obvious, giving the car a look that seems more like an ASA car than a Winston Cup car. The rear wheels seem to be located just a bit too far forward. The nose sits too high on the chassis, but this can be fixed by trimming about 1/16" off the front body mounting post. These problems are minor, and will not bother most of the people who buy these cars. The bright, colorful markings and the cars' performance on the track will more than make up for them.

The cars are long, with lots of rear overhang, so there will be beatin' and bangin' and nerfin', especially on narrow Scalextric tracks. But hey, that's part of the fun of slot car racing. Four of these cars together on a track with good drivers will be a blast! And don't forget, the Scalextric track is flexible enough to take on a respectable amount of banking if you screw it down to the right kind of supporting structure. How about a six-lane half-mile banked oval in your rec room to run these cars around on Sunday afternoon while you watch the real thing on television?

Scalextric's first American-market cars are not perfect, but they are beautiful to look at, fun to drive, and at $37.99 retail they are an exceptional value, especially considering the complexity of their markings and the high licensing fees Hornby most likely had to pay. These cars should open up the American market for Scalextric and lead not only to more stock car releases but many other kinds of American cars as well. We hope Hornby will add clear windows and an interior to future releases, even if it means a price a few dollars higher. But even as they are, these first four stock cars show that Hornby is serious about America and dedicated to turning out attractive, reasonably priced products.

 

Bob Ward

Mailboxsend email c/o: bobward@oldweirdherald.com

(Bob's not online yet - but I'll be sure to forward any comments to him! - OWH)

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