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300 SLR #104 A 53 year journey

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  • 300 SLR #104 A 53 year journey

    It was long ago in another country” – well, not exactly another country but, to a young man born, raised and schooled in the Northeast, Southern California in 1963 certainly felt like another country. The story actually begins a couple of years earlier when I sent 2 cars to compete, by proxy, in the first Whitehaven Grand Prix. The cars neither disgraced nor distinguished themselves finishing as I recall, somewhere mid-pack. Comments were made in the writeup of the races that the US cars, mine and others entered by a group in Michigan, were hampered by their lack of steering leading to delicate handling. I did not, at that time nor to the present, believe that steering made much of a difference slot car behavior. Instead, I ascribed the less than acceptable handling to the fact that the Pittman motors, common to all of the US entries, were much more powerful than the typical Triang or K’s powering the home based entries.

    Having had some success in building 1/24 cars using the Pittman 703 motors as sidewinders with very predictable handling I decided to see if it was possible to use the same approach in a 1/32 car. A comparison of motor size versus the plans of the Mercedes 300 SLR in Model Maker suggested that it might just work.

    A block of balsa wood, a set of knives and gouges and some sandpaper yielded a reasonably acceptable pattern. A mold was made and a fiberglass body laid up. (A note in passing – mold making in those days was rather different from today with our conveniently available two part silicone rubber. One painted multiple layers of latex suspension on the pattern followed by layers of cheesecloth set in more latex and repeat until a sufficiently strong mold emerged)

    With the availability of a very well-equipped university machine shop, a chassis was made up from sheet stainless steel cut, bent and spot welded. with a scratch built Teflon guide, it was set to go.

    (shown with later guide)

    Life, career, and moves intervened and the model rested in a box, untried, for almost 40 years.

    It emerged in 2000 for the 2nd Rad Trax slot car convention in Las Vegas. Gratifyingly, after all this time, its first outing resulted in a victory! I should note that the races at these events tended toward the informal with little scrutineering other than a recognition that the car looked about right.. Certainly no one worried about details like ground clearance – a good thing since the massive Pittman motor cleared the track by no more than a millimeter.

    After a few years rest, the model reappeared from storage to be fitted with a pin guide (and make the trans-Atlantic crossing for which it was first built) to compete in the 2005 Walkden Fisher Memorial race. I know it was there because I saw it in one of the photos but could not find it in the results table. Perhaps it was DSQ due to the above-mentioned meager ground clearance.

    Fast-forward 11 years to the present: I came across the announcement of the Greater Vancouver Slot Car Club Targa Florio event. Although I was in the throes of a move and had little or no idea where my tools, cars and parts were located, it seems like a good idea. My first impulse was to enter the Ferrari Testarossa that I had built for the “Tassie Targa” but my recollection was that it was not a particularly successful entry so something different seem to be in order. Having been experimenting with sidewinders built around standard slot car motors and further discovering that a 300 SLR had won the race, this seemed a logical path. Obviously, a whole new chassis was required to meet specifications.

    I trotted out the old warrior again and took a good hard look. Today’s standards and the now readily available wealth of photographs revealed all the problems and errors in the old body. Despite this, I decided to give it one more go – history, nostalgia and all that you know.

    Motor choice in this event is open but I heeded the caveat that the tracks were, in the main, short and tight. I chose a Pioneer 18 K motor – only moderate speed but good torque. Time will tell whether I have seriously underpowered the model. Given the chosen gearing, a very shallow angle winder set up was required to get good mesh. The motor is an integral part of the chassis which makes for a very compact structure but, of course, carries a disadvantage that a motor change means a chassis rebuild. The chassis was completed with a “hybrid” rattle pan that carries the body and the guide.

    All was not well with the body. Preliminary pairing of the body with the chassis showed that the wheelbase was, along with other accumulated errors, too short. This required a detour down the plastic card and Milliput Lane to reshape the wheel openings. Closing my eyes to the other imperfections, the body was mounted, chassis and wheels check for clearance and final preparations begun. Clearances were tight but with careful contouring of the tires it all rolled well.

    What follows is an object lesson in the dangers of leaving preparations to the last minute.

    There is an often used comedy routine that goes something like this:

    Bespectacled seated (as for example in a movie theater) gentlemen drops his eyeglasses.
    Said gentleman stands up to retrieve eyeglasses
    Ominous “crunch” is heard.

    Yes, that is more or less what happened; unfortunately not involving my glasses – I always keep a spare pair around.

    Molding a new body was quite out of the question after I checked my resin supply and found that it was too old to gel properly. Rummaging around through boxes of bodies turned up a trial casting that had been done some time ago. There was no time to go the plastic card and Milliput route on the wheel openings so straightforward reshaping was all that could be done. A couple of quick coat of paint and the installation of the rescued driver and into the box and off to the mail.

    Not really happy with the result so I request that it be charitably viewed as representing the dust, dirt and stone chips acquired in traversing the Sicilian terrain.

    Last hurrah for this one – when it returns (with its shield or on it) it has a place in the retirement garage for very old slot cars.


  • #2
    That is such a cool story, thank you for taking the time to share it and good luck.


    • #3
      What an awesome build, the second chassis is definetely more 21st century looking.
      Yet retains '60's scratch built flavor.
      Shame about the first body, though.


      • #4
        Great story!

        Great pix!

        Thanx for sharing!


        • #5
          Pure cool. I don't even know what car it is but love the stance in the last pic. The dust and stone chips gave her a soul. Reminds me of something I heard a long time ago about a race horse in the late 20's or so. Triple crown champion. Someone offered a million bucks to buy it and the owner turned it down. When asked why, He replied "Anyone can have a million dollars but not just anyone can have this horse".


          • #6
            Very cool.
            I too was just getting into slot cars in the 63/64 time southern California.

            Fast Wheels Raceway was my main racing shop.



            • #7
              Targa 2 Proxy Merc

              Just read this thread and enjoyed it very much. Having unpacked and had a look at all the cars that have arrived (all but one that is en route from not too far away) I would have to say, unfortunately, that Al's Merc is unlikely to win the concours prize.

              That said, my reaction to the chassis was, "this is going to be a good one".

              The first action on the track will be qualifying, which is my job, and then the first race on Luf's Targa will be the following week.

              We hope to do seven races in about a month and get the cars home before the Christmas rush. Thanks to several sponsors, each car will return with a an extra item or two in the box.

              Watch for the results in the Targa 2 proxy thread.