A Beautiful Thing…

July 10th, 2008 · 1 Comment

Time to time, something very special shows up at
auction, and keeping his nose on the ground, my buddy Jack picked up this
gorgeous hand built, original-engineering car. It dates from 1969 and virtually
everything is hand made!

The body is a Lancer McLaren M8A, superbly painted and decorated.

Mirrors and roll bar have been expertly added.

The injectors are spun aluminum…

Detailed exhausts and taillights.

This is something else: a gorgeous hand-cut brass chassis with unique
engineering features, and it looks hardly ever used. Also check this motor out:
looks like a Mura “B” can, but not like any I have ever seen!

Beautiful finish inside and out…
How do you replace anything like this, it is pure automotive art!
Its story is also interesting, as the man who made it is not your ordinary
slap-and-solder person. Indeed he is a careful craftsman, and probably had a
tough time to sell something in which he placed so much effort.

Let’s hear its story by the gentleman himself:

“You asked about my McLaren slot car and, possibly, a brief history of me might
help.

I was fortunate to have a father who was the most knowledgeable and best all
around craftsman I’ve ever known. He was very active in tether car racing in the
Detroit area back in the 1940’s. He always designed and built his own cars (and
even engines), and had good success with them including holding the world record
on several occasions. I hung out in his workshop and learned a great deal about
building things. I also inherited the modeling gene. As a kid I designed and
built airplanes, boats and cars. My Dad built a beautiful O-gauge train for a
Christmas gift for me and later we built a layout in our basement together.

I received an HO scale slot car set for Christmas in 1962 and was immediately
hooked. A slot car raceway named Tiny Tim’s, near my home outside Detroit, had
an HO track and I started competing there weekly. My business was electric motor
sales and service, which involved rewinding motors so, naturally, I had to try
rewinding my HO scale slot car motors. The increase in performance was amazing!
Talk about an unfair advantage! The one fact I remember is that the Aurora
motors had 475 turns of very fine wire on each pole.

I then switched to 1/32 scale and raced AMT and Atlas cars that I rewound, and
then started designing and building my own cars to try to be more competitive. I
also rewound, balanced and otherwise modified my motors for better performance.
The first car of my own design was a two motor 4-wheel drive chassis that I
built to fit a Monogram Ferrari body that I had painted and decorated. My racing
buddies told me that two motors wouldn’t work because the motors would fight
each other, but I rewound them exactly the same, and the car turned out to be
very competitive. My next design was a 4 wheel drive white Cobra roadster that
had a motor for which I made a longer shaft so that the motor could drive both
axles. I rewound and balanced the motor and installed stronger magnets. I also
balanced the gears. This car was VERY competitive. The acceleration and braking
were outstanding and I found that I could even race with most 1/24 scale cars.
It was obvious to me that the serious racers were running 1/24 scale so I
switched to that. By this time, I had begun picking up some ribbons and an
occasional trophy.

I had also built a three-lane track in my basement to run cars for testing and
to practice my driving, which was my weak point. This track had routed slots and
banked turns like the pro tracks and had a 75-foot lap length. With friends, who
were also full-scale midget race fans, I built and raced some rewound 1/24 scale
Monogram Midgets on that track and had a ball.

The next car that I built to race was a 4 wheel-drive 1/24 scale Ferrari with an
aluminum plate chassis and some modified commercial chassis parts that had
suspension.

I machined a special coupler so that I could drive a ball bearing mounted
extension shaft to the front axle. I rewound and balanced the motor and added
high strength magnets. I also balanced the gears. I had some success with this
car but thought I could do better, so I built another 4 wheel-drive car, this
time building a piano-wire and brass-plate chassis for a Ford Honker body. This
car had a similar motor and I used precision ball bearings on the axles and
front drive shaft and also balanced the gears and rear wheels. This car was
better and I won a few ribbons and a couple of second or third place trophies,
but decided to abandon 4-wheel drive.

I had begun racing at a track called the Groove Raceway also, where the areas
best drivers raced. I ran there for a while with mixed results until I built the
next car.

My next project was to try to design a 2-wheel drive car that would be capable
of winning consistently. This car was a blue and black McLaren. All of the cars
at that time were built with 1/16th brass rod. I got the idea that a 1/32” brass
plate chassis would lower the CG just that little bit, so that’s where I
started.

I also decided to use the new angle-winder motor mount design to put more weight
on the drive wheels.

I built the car so that there was a little bit of movement in all three axis for
the body and the outer chassis plates. This seemed to help the handling. I had
also been thinking a lot about electric motor design. The magnets in the motors
were a significant amount longer that the armature iron, which was wasted energy
and extra weight above the CG, so I asked a friend of mine who had a diamond saw
to trim the new high strength magnets to just a hair longer than the iron.

Then I rewound the armature with aluminum wire of an appropriate gage and number
of turns for high torque rather than highest rpm. I also used an aftermarket
high temp end frame with high silver content brushes with heavy gage shunts. I
shimmed the magnets to minimize the air gap.

The lighter armature resulted in two things: a lower CG, and quicker
acceleration and braking. I also pressed the commutator a little bit closer to
the iron and with shorter magnets, could trim a bit off of the motor case making
the motor lighter yet. As usual, I mounted the rear axle in precision ball
bearings and balanced the gear and wheels.

Another thing I did was to run triple wires from the wiper pickups to the brush
holders to minimize voltage loss.

The result of all of this was a car that won the feature races most of the time
and won most of the six week series that the Groove Raceway had while I raced
this particular car. The car gave up just a bit on the long straight but was
better everywhere else.

The Groove also ran an open wheel class, so the next car I designed and built
was a Lotus Turbine Indy car painted yellow and black. I used basically the same
design and motor as the McLaren and had the same degree of success with it. This
car was the only car that I built for open wheel.

The next and last car that I designed and built was a red Lola. In this car, I
attempted to build as light as possible to try to gain an advantage. I had the
minimum amount of structure and had two brass strips that could slide sideways
for weight transfer.

The motor was different in that I removed some of the iron laminations to make
the armature shorter. I again used aluminum wire and trimmed the magnets and
case. This resulted in a very light motor that still had good power. I also
mounted the motor with the brush end forward, which put more weight on the rear.
This car handled about the same as the angle-winder. I had success with this
car, but it wasn’t as good overall as the McLaren.

Another important point to mention that helped in the successes that I had was
that I always went completely over my cars prior to each race to eliminate any
mechanical failures that might have prevented finishing a race.

And then, after about 5 years of racing, I just quit. I tore apart the
racetrack, re-arranged the tables, and starting building an HO scale model
railroad. That layout disappeared in 1970 when I moved. I’ve been building and
flying RC airplanes off and on since the mid 1970’s and have designed my own for
the last few years. I also designed and started a new HO scale model railroad a
few years ago.”

Signed: DM

A true craftsman, with original ideas. My kind of person! I am very happy that
this beautiful car will be in a place where others will be able to appreciate
its beautiful and well thought-out engineering. That it was also successful does
not hurt a bit.

Tags: Vintage Slot Cars

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Jake // Dec 22, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Many thanks and Please retain updating your Web site. I is going to be stopping by every single time you do .

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