Cox “La Cucaracha” prototypes unearthed!

October 16th, 2010 · 11 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

11 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.

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