Cox “La Cucaracha” prototypes unearthed!

October 16th, 2010 · 27 Comments

We have taken for you, the true enthusiasts, detailed pictures of the models that recently surfaced at auction, and acquired by the LASCM.
One of the cars is indeed an early factory test shot of the most celebrated slot car thingie on the planet.
It was located in Tustin, California, only a few miles from its place of birth, a 440-ton injection-molding machine right off Warner Avenue in Santa Ana, in March of 1966.

Designed by a lady engineer by the charming name of Fredrica M. (for Millie) Naef, it was inspired by the Lola T70 and approved by Cox vice president Bill Selzer.
Several prototypes were built, including some with a specially produced clear-plastic vacuum formed body. Recently, Millie as she likes to be called sold original prints of the body and one of the clear bodies, as well as a very early production model and various paraphernalia.

The injected clear car came from the son of a former employee at the R&D department. Below is part of the body design, one of the very few such drawings that survives today:

Without further due, here is the beast:

And yes, it is translucent, but not quite as much as a vac body!

The chassis is standard early fare, except in few details.

The front axle cross tube is nickel plated. Was it supposed to be produced that way? Both ends are machined, not simply hacked with a Dremel disk, so one wonders… Cox of course introduced a whole rack of nickel plated brass tubes and shapes the same year. The LASCM will pay good money to anyone who will sell such a rack in excellent condition.

Note the early chassis with no body-mounting side tabs, machine-screw affixed pivot, ball-bearing (VS later needle-bearing) front wheels and very narrow gray sponge tires.

Now we have these three early models:

From left to right: the early vac body, a translucent orange early test shot in the as yet to be complete mold (there are no holes yet for windshield, roll bar, gas caps and under the chrome injectors) and the “Tupperware” body.

More and clearer pictures of the vac body for the usual “body snatchers”.

The LASCM Museum curator was able to interview Millie Naef on October 11, 2010.  Now 76 years old, Millie was amazed and impressed by what she saw, was able to drive (and quite well at that) a modern slot car on the LASCM great track, and is seen here holding the very toy she designed in 1966:

PdL 2010/10/16

Tags: News

27 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Richard L. Hofer // Oct 16, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Very cool! Slot cars will live forever, thanks to the efforts of the LASCM! I hope to visit the LASCM(again!) when I come out to L.A. for the 2012 Checkpoint Cup.

  • 2 Kim Lander // Oct 16, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Thank you Millie for such a wonderful car, I hope you get as much out of this as we Cuc lovers have …thanks again…Kim

  • 3 Gary Stelter // Oct 16, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    You mean a (gasp) WOMAN designed the most famous thingie slot car in history? Who would have thought it. Seriously, I hope Ms. Naef understands how much happiness she brought to so many kids and now adults. This is really great news that she can see the LASCM and know that her work 45 years ago still lives on in the hearts and minds of many.

  • 4 Gary Stelter // Oct 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    May I add that THIS 59 year old kid STILL races his Cucaracha and it’s STILL a blast!

  • 5 Ray Fellows // Oct 17, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Did Millie design the frame too ? Very interesting to know that she did the original design. She brought a different perspective to the designs of the day. Did she have influence/design later versions of the cuc ? Like the Supercuc concept ? Will be looking forward to the book versions-Thanks
    Ray

  • 6 Chris Hale // Dec 20, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    The Iso Fulcrum chassis was designed by John Hale, ( my father) owner of Santa Ana Raceway and a Master Model Maker for Cox, with the assistance of Jerry Gaston, a regular customer of the shop. John Hale aslo did the masters for the Cox Ferrari Dino 206sp ( now in the hands of a private collector in Yorba Linda, Ca. ) and the Cox Chaparral 2D which is in the LASCM.

  • 7 Ron Pitner // Jan 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    What a great design ! I have 3 la cucarachas.One with original box. I also have the chassis of the early design. This has the nickle plated rack. The others have brass. I didn’t know there was a difference till I found this site. Great site, informative. Thank you Millie!!

  • 8 jeff // Jan 3, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Very neet car – I would like to buy a nice used one – If you have any please email me coachman281@sbcglobal.net

  • 9 Marc B. Greenwald // Jun 26, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Good Morning,

    I’d be interested in contacting Chris Hale, I have a question about his Dad. It’s remotely possible that my Dad & I were at there home in the late 60’s.

    Regards,

    Marc

  • 10 Dan Kline // Nov 20, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Are there any manufacturers using this chassis concept presently?

  • 11 Museum33 // Nov 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Dan,
    Not that we know of, but there were many copies in the day. Problem is, this chassis is rather weak and would bend too easily, deranging the gear mesh and destroying the brass pinion rather rapidly. However, a careful addition of machined spacers and the replacement of the original needle bearings by flanged ball bearings goes a long way to alleviate that issue.

  • 12 Pete Schuerhoff // Aug 12, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    I received one of these for Christmas in the mid sixties and go to drive it at Empire Hobby in South Seattle for about 10 minutes until some kid lifted it off the track 9stole it) and ran out the door with it. I was running old, slow slot cars at the time, but for 10 minutes I got to compete with the big boys.

  • 13 jim // Dec 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Just happened on this page. Kudos to Naef, Hale, Selzer and all the rest of the team on the La Cucaracha. A few brass tubes skillfully placed took care of the original chassis’ flex issues. Later, when I re-wound the motor with silver wire, I had to replace the aluminum chassis with a soldered brass tubing duplicate but the car ALWAYS handled great! Most of my mid-teen best memories are down at Fred’s in the Heights racing our brains out and coming home smelling like wintergreen. Thank you.

  • 14 Don West // Apr 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Thanks for the memories. Want to add one to my collection)

  • 15 Joe // May 24, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I’m retoring a 1/24 scale Cox La Cucaracha and was wondering if anyone knew if that car came from the Cox factory with water slide or peel and stick decals?
    Thank you Joe

  • 16 Kai Nebendahl // May 30, 2013 at 3:56 am

    Hello,
    i´am a Cox Slotcar Collector from germany. I have two Cox La Cucaracha 1/24 . One, i buy it on a slotcar wallet. The Colour is orange translucent. It is a very fine slotcar in my Cox Collection. The lascm
    website is very fine.

    Best regards from germany
    Kai

  • 17 Sheldon Brunn // Aug 18, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    I’ve got two different chasis for this car. One that matches the photo in this story, and one that the motor mounts a little higher. The body will not mount correctly,( to high ) is this chasis for a different body?

  • 18 Roddie // Aug 31, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    My Grandfather gave me a “Cuc” about 20 years ago. There is no “driver” in the cockpit, but other than that; it’s in great shape. The owner at “Modelville Hobby” marveled at it; when I brought it in to show him. He said that the bodies are usually “hacked”… where “mine” shows no signs of mods/damage. He hooked me up with new rear tires; as the orig. white ones were hard and brittle. (I still have the old tires) I took a pic today of my “Cuc” to post on a “Cox “Engine” forum I’m a member of. LASCM is great! Thank you for preserving fond memories!

  • 19 Kai Nebendahl // Oct 28, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Hello LASCM Team!

    I´ am from germany and a great Fan from COX
    Slotcars. This website is very good an informative.

    I have any Slotcars from Cox 2 La Cucaracha
    1 orange and 1 one Orange tranclucent in good Condition. Is this the earlier?

    I have a Chaparral 2E Magframe chassis Original with
    a New Cox 2E Body Kit mint on Card Blister!!

    What is this worth? When i was selling them?

    Thanks and best regards from germany

    Kai Nebendahl

  • 20 mark // Jan 17, 2014 at 8:28 am

    I’ve been racing slot cars since 1965. My dad bought me a new Super Cuc in 1968 and I still have it with ORIGINAL closed can motor. Runs awesome. Also, around 1998 I bought a green Cuc from Philippe de Lespinay at electric dreams. He personally set it up for me with brass spacers on the rear axles to firm up the fragile rear end, a hot motor, flanged ball bearing and lot’s more. Still have the car. If I sent him pictures he would remember I bet. I also need to send him a scan I promised of rare box art for a Cox 1/32 GT 40 with 16d motor. Somebody please send me contact info.

  • 21 Jim Dowd // Oct 23, 2014 at 8:32 am

    When I would go to Modelville hobbies in Framingham Mass they had those as the rentals. Then switched to the whisperjet belt drives .

  • 22 Don Powell // Jan 12, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    hi there grew up in the motor city i use to go to royal oak mi. tiny tims hobby to race in the early 70s i had lacucarachas loved them . lost them over the years . so i just bought one from italy and i got the e.t. mag wheels for it with knockoff spiners very cool i love it . wish i could have that clear body one on here alsome thank you for this car love it

  • 23 Kai Nebendahl Germany // Jan 19, 2017 at 4:56 am

    Hallo LASCM Curator,

    i have 2 La Cucaracha, but 1 of this 2 is a Orange
    translucent orange early version! ? in good condition. It is a buitifull slotcar in my Cox Collection.
    P.S.
    A very good website for collectors!!
    best regards from Kai

  • 24 Museum33 // Jun 26, 2017 at 10:34 am

    The translucent orange body, fitted to the early chassis with no aftermarket body mounts on its sides and ball-bearing (VS needle bearings for the later models) front wheels, is the earlier version.

  • 25 Museum33 // Jun 26, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Only one chassis center section design was offered by Cox, but if a Mabuchi FT26 motor is installed, it will not clear a standard “La Cucaracha” body.

  • 26 Museum33 // Jun 26, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Peel and stick, never water-slide.

  • 27 Museum33 // Jun 26, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Fred/Millie Neff designed only the body. The chassis was the work of John Hale and Jerry Gaston, from an idea by Bruce Paton.

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