1960’s Rare Thingies Revisited

July 10th, 2008 · 7 Comments

Larry Shinoda was a senior designer for General Motors under Bill Mitchell, then for the Ford Motor Company. In his vast portfolio are the designs of the Corvette Sting Ray, the Mustang “Boss” and the cast-alloy multi-spoke wheel that was later outrageously copied by the German wheel manufacturer BBS.

Shinoda, an American-born citizen of Japanese origins, was also a fan of slot cars in the classic period, and designed a series of fantastic slot car bodies. Through an arrangement with a cottage-industry manufacturer, aptly named “Thingies”, these bodies were produced in confidential quantities in 1967. Run at famous raceways such as “The Groove” in Chicago, and Tom Thumb in Detroit, they were fitted over home-built inline component chassis often using a Dynamic motor mount. Most of the motors used were local-production units, basically Mabuchi FT16 and FT26 motors rewound by Dyna-Rewind and fitted with better magnets and brass sleeves over the end bells spring posts.

What made these bizarre slot cars so famous for the vintage enthusiasts are two stories published in Model Car Science and Model Car Racing. In the MC&S issue was told the story of the second “Summer Tour” by the famous Team Russkit. Mike Morrissey and Ron Quintana toured about 30 raceways in 2 weeks, and encountered serious opposition from these low-slung bugs. Indeed, the almost-scale Lotus 40’s of the team were beaten by the thingies. Nothing really amazing there, as the locals creamed the western cars with a clear advantage in the handling department and what appeared to be at least equal power to that of the Russkit rockets. A bit humiliating, but the MC&S story was politically correct and never mentioned the actual result…

Are these the only surviving body tags? More are needed to figure all the bodies names…

An array of Shinoda designed “Thingies” bodies with some of their original tags.

The “Arrow”. There were several versions of these, narrower, wider and with different details.

The “Big Bus” is really impressing by its huge size.

The “Small Bus” in unpainted form, showing the rather crude molding and details. The quality was very poor, and most bodies found nowadays show cracks and defects…

The “Bullet” showing its poor forming quality.

A narrower variation of the “Bullet”.

Lampray was one of the most used bodies, seen in many period pictures.

Larry Shinoda, right, and Philippe de Lespinay on front of Philippe’s wheel company booth at the 1993 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Larry died of a heart attack a mere five years later.

The MDC “Bat” has a clouded history. Indeed, there was an injected body, supposed to be mounted over a ladder magnesium chassis. Stay tuned for more on this mysterious car…

The Detail Models “Tarantula” is blow-molded. It is one of the most bizarre “thingies” ever produced.

Tags: Vintage Slot Cars

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rick Bennett // Apr 21, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Great article! I’ve been thinking about these for about 45 years–nice to see I didn’t just dream it up. Lots of memories and this designer was a real artist!

  • 2 richard leighton // Jul 3, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    i remember seeing larry’s cars at the track in the irvington district of fremont back in the 60’s and thinking how cool they looked back then. i have recently read that larry used to race there though i do not rember meeting him. i am starting to collect the thingi bodies and they are just as interesting now as they were then.

  • 3 Dave Howard // May 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    I remember racing “Thingies” and Don’s Raceway in Downey.

  • 4 chris // Jun 20, 2013 at 11:16 am

    im gettin the original dmi tarntula i,ll try postin a pic .

  • 5 Charles deGruchy // May 9, 2015 at 1:17 am

    ust wanted to add that I have a Tarantula in Red. Does not look like paint. Looks like the plastic itself is red. ?????

  • 6 car design thread - Page 177 - FerrariChat.com // May 7, 2016 at 10:41 am

    […] in a text message it would blow his mind (as they say) XP-819? I did find this: but no pics http://lascm.com/Vintage-Slot-Car-Bl…ies-revisited/ Last edited by Prugna; Today at 11:53 […]

  • 7 Museum33 // Jun 26, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    We would be interested in seeing this model, as it would be unique. Possibly a test shot in red plastic, or simply well painted with material looking like plastic? Only a close inspection would tell. Please feel free to send it to Electric Dreams for inspection and appraisal.

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