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Revisiting the TycoPro

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  • Revisiting the TycoPro

    When the TycoPro first hit the market, back in the 1960's, it really made an impact. The TycoPro's were the first HO slotcars to really challenge the dominance of the Aurora Thunderjet 500 cars.

    Pat Dennis had done a masterful job in creating a chassis and drive that was truly race-ready and highly competitive. I have great respect for him and his work. But...

    The one place where the TycoPro's were deficient was their pickup system. Pat had designed a true guide shoe system for the car, and it worked great -- for a while. Problem was the thin foil pickups wore out very quickly. The power rails would grind slots in the foils and then they'd lose contact -- sometimes in little more time than to finish a race. The replacement parts were not as available as they should have been, and the foils were difficult to replace without breaking the tiny plastic projections that held them in place.

    Given the issues Tyco took a second swing at the pickup system for the TycoPro, this time using brass eyelets as the pickups with tiny coil springs to provide contact force. In my experience this system never worked well. And I can't tell you why. All I can think is the geometry made it likely the eyelet would bind rather than float.

    I believe the pickup issues ended up being fatal. When the cars stopped running well people lost interest in them rather than trying to refurbish them. The Aurora pickup system, which had plenty of faults of its own, was not as troublesome and was more durable, so folks stuck with the T-Jet.

    That's the history as I see it. Others can disagree.

    And again, no disrespect to Pat Dennis. He still single-handedly upset the entire HO applecart and pointed the way to the future.


    I happen to have a several old TycoPro's and greatly enjoy running them. They are terrific little gravity cars, not to mention fine scale models.

    I have resolved their pickup issues by replacing the original TycoPro guide shoes with Slide Guides. The Pickup Wire system of the Slide Guides turns out to be far more durable and reliable than either of the original Tyco pickup systems. The Slide Guides also are a great fit to the TycoPro chassis. Couldn't have been much better if they had been designed for it.

    Lookee here...

    Yes, the Pickup Wires look scrambled, but that doesn't keep them from making good contact. There are 40 of those wire strands in each pickup, and a few of them always manage to make good contact.

    Also note that the Slide Guide on the left-hand car has a narrow blade. It has been cut-down to run in the 1/16'" slots of conventional HO plastic track. The other two cars have the wider blades designed to run in the 1/8" slots of my routed tracks.

    Here you can see how the Slide Guides are mounted and wired up. The crossed wires make for a compact installation while still allowing free motion of the guide. They also allow the cars to run the right direction on tracks wired positive-right -- which is used for every scale of slot racing EXCEPT HO. That is how I've wired my routed tracks.

    Battle-scared veterans, proud and still in the fight. This just shows you that the Slide Guides fit invisibly under the bodies.

    Dunno how many TycoPro's are still out in the wild, retired due to failed pickups. It would be great to see some of them revived.

    It should be noted that these days folks have the option of designing and printing their own pickup systems for their TycoPro's. I'm not going to get huffy if they don't use the genuine, original, world-famous SLIDE GUIDESTM. I have to admit I am always interested to see the alternatives that others come up with. Even those that are complete rip-offs. Imitation and flattery you know.

    Ed Bianchi
    Attached Files
    Last edited by HO RacePro; 08-01-2020, 08:56 AM.

  • #2
    I have always found HO cars with braid will give up rail contact at just the wrong moment, costing a race win.

    OK, it has only happened twice. But that for me is 'always'.

    I used to own some TycoPros, with some kind of modified front design. I think it was either from the Riggen resurrection guy or one of his many contributors (his site was both jaw-dropping in it's scope and sheer beauty and migraine-inducing in it's complexity to navigate). I never took any images, sadly, but it had shoes that never seem to snag or wear, and it was a missile.

    Sadly the gravity scene here never really happened, so I sold them in a junk job lot. A mistake.

    The one time I ran a TP in stock form, I hated it. As with Ed, no disrespect to Pat (who is still around and pops on on the Matchbox and other Facebook pages), but it would not complete a lap.

    Last edited by NicoRosberg.; 08-01-2020, 12:11 PM.


    • #3
      I still have a bunch of old Tyco Pros hanging around. If one of those still has good pickups I will put new tires on it and take it for a spin. I only have the original cars with the leaf pickups, I have never tried a car with the button pickups. If the leaf pickups are worn out I may have some thin phosphor bronze sheet that I can use to make new ones.
      I was never thrilled by the Tyco bodies.


      • #4
        Hey Ed,
        That's a great fix for replacing the original pick up assembly. Do you still sell the slide guides and if so do you make one with the 1/16 blade for plastic track?


        • #5

          I still have some nos oem foil wipers

          Last edited by bluesguy; 08-01-2020, 10:19 AM.


          • #6

            Yes, I still sell Slide Guides, and yes, I have them for the 1/16" slots.

            I need to do a quick check on the 'zackt part number you'd need. How many would you be looking for?

            Ed Bianchi


            • #7
              Probably just a couple to start with, then maybe update the fleet a few at a time.
              Thanks for the quick reply.


              • #8
                By the way, the orange car shown in my first post is a replica of the Mercedes C-111 development car, from the 1960's and '70's. It was unique in being powered by Mercedes own experimental Wankel rotary engine -- similar to the rotary engine that powered the Mazda RX-7 and its successors.



                Back then it was common wisdom that the Wankel engine would replace the old four-stroke piston engine. But that was just before the first oil embargo hit. When the cost of gasoline spiked one of the Wankel's few weaknesses came to the fore -- it got poor gas mileage. Interest in the Wankel engine tanked.

                While the Mazda RX Wankels have always had two rotors, the C-111 had a three-rotor version and a four-rotor version. The four-rotor version produced 350 horsepower and could reach 186 miles per hour. (And that by the way was real (brake) horsepower, not the phony "developed" horsepower Detroit promoted for their muscle cars.) Not up to the insane power ratings of today's supercars, but gobsmacking at the time.

                Rumor has it that Mazda will reintroduce their Wankel soon. There has been a ton of development on that engine in the last 50 years. It may yet grab some elbow room versus that old reciprocating design.

                Ed Bianchi


                • #9

                  Yes, you are right. Braid isn't all that reliable on rail tracks. That is why I only recommend, use and sell Pickup WireTM for HO cars.

                  Pickup Wire is a different beast entirely. While originally developed for taped and braided tracks, turns out it works just fine on rails. Our mutual friend Gerry Cullan discovered that for me.

                  Ed Bianchi


                  • #10
                    Where to start?

                    I have a scant few myself, a zip-lok bag of spares, and a good pile of can motors. One of my favorite cars to run is an ucky puke green Muira, with the box motor converted to a Tyco 440 armature and magnets. The cool thing is that you can run right up the Wizzard performance parts chain if you dare.

                    I always try to put the spirit of the Tyco pro into all my scratch builds and oddities. Essentially it was a 1/24 pan chassis that fit in your shirt pocket. Arguably the coolest thing to ever happen to H0. Aside from the pancake ala Rube Goldberg, the other H0 chassis had been cheese box motors on a Radio Flyer wagon, with roughly the same CG as the wagon. The introduction of the Tycopro marked where the rubber met the road, and zippy inlines began the interplanetary journey to light speed. My first one was the red white and blue Supermodifed. I had the Corvette roadster too. Flog the straights, glide the corners, while eating a sandwich, laughing and waiting for the Auroras to catch up. It was fun while it lasted, until the gravity defying magnas allowed little Johnny to pway slotcahs, stay in his Power Ranger jammies watching 'artoons, stuffing high octane sugary cereal in is pie hole while jumping up and down on the couch, and never go off the twack. sigh

                    The only version that really worked/works for me was the early drop arm version. Unbeknownst to most users, that weird skinny high profile front tire is the key. That added fractional height is the difference between having a drop arm with the proper dangle, or a drop arm with compromised travel. Imagine for second that PD had it right on the nut, and that the ride height is already correct. Gum scraper low is NOT always better. IMHO the arrangement is right at the ragged edge of not having enough downward leeway. The slimmer cross section of Ed's slide guide addresses some clearance issues. Here, the drop arm Tycopro works best when set up as a bit of a tail dragger. Forward rake makes them arseoverteakettle twitchy; rather than laid back, getting the tail out early, and piling into the corner and sorting it out. Of course a fair amount is subject to personal preference and driving style.

                    Note that all the successors sported a different pan with a raised goose necked pick up mount. The new variations affixed the pick up's height, and only allowed the pick up to swivel. The result of which further closed what was already a tight travel window all the way down to nutten'. My observation is that neither the foiled hammer head with the slug, or the tragically comic dualing pogo sticks seemed able to get on plane like the drop arm models. The nonexistant pick up "travel window" of the hammer head turned what was an exotic, slung out miniature race chassis into a rigid, often spastic, sputtering, pit box filler. While the tragic pogostick pick ups featured good vertical travel, the perpendicular arrangement was contraindicated when applied to a high speed linear current transfer function. To my eye they scrubbed speed at an alarming rate. As a tuner since the golden age, it's still agonizing to watch a pogo. giggle

                    Either the braided or foiled, later, hammer head arrangement, similar as seen on Riggens; worked great on the right track. Plop one on a higglety pigglety toy grade sectional track at home, with the topography of a Supercross track; and the disappointments fast begin. As Ed has tried to teach for years, there's nothing wrong with the cars per se, it's the track evolution that has stalled. Sprung hard shoe pick ups arent the problem, they are merely a neccessary antidote.

                    The short term demise of the TP? Soldering. Period. Well beyond the skill set of inexperienced kids and ham handed fathers. Properly approached, one would use the modular approach and replace the whole pick up "tail". The foil, wire, and shunt tab assemblies snap right in. Hindsight is always 20/20. Regardless, the reality of the day was that although the cars were stocked out west in the boondocks, the spares were unobtanium for the most part.

                    Long term demise of the TP? The pick up issues werent really lethal, just frustratingly annoying. A broken plastic chassis/frame was game over. Specifically the front control arms breaking off, or shearing some where along the front lateral frame connector. If it was just a broken control arm(s) the AJ's conversion pan was available, although it used the fixed goose-neck; which automatically turns the drop arm model into a "stiffy". Any cracks on the motor surround were essentially fatal, as Super Glue was a ways off yet. Models with open front wheels should be sported carefully, because the control arms can be exposed to undue leverage during carnage. On the other hand, I've never broken the plastic chassis frame on a model with full body work/overhang. The jist of which is dont highball a bare chassis, and start crying when you doink the chassis. The laws of physics havent changed much in 50 years, and the plastic has dried up a bit. Speeking from experience.

                    In the same vein as the plastic chassis, unless absolutely unavoidable, leave the pot metal pan dogs alone. They are easily fatigued, and can break off, if you give them an angry look. If I manage to get one apart with the dogs intact, I usually just use black RTV to retain the pan and clamp it overnight; instead of trying to restake them. This way you still have the dog grabbing the RTV in the chassis pocket.

                    The weird four lug rear hubs were light weight, but prone to cracking, more so as they age. Combined with a sloppy old "white boot" silly, or a sacked black stocker, they can really upset the apple cart's handling. When they get up on the pipe, they start bucking like an angry bronco. You have to be strong and toss the old junk, if you actually expect them to run them at speed.

                    The hypoid gears arrangement was a really cool tricky bit that put the CG in the sub-basement. Tycopro gears are softer, so it doesnt take much to gall a tooth. An attribute for gear heads that like to lap, but easily knackered up if your not careful. Always make sure your thumb or finger isnt binding the armature when you snap the rear axle in. Ideally one pushes gently and simultaneously rolls it in, rather than crunching it in like Magilla Gorilla. True for all open frame inlines, I suppose.

                    Compared to the foils, braid works great for the drop arm chassis. The right braid that is. I like tinned glaziers braid. You comb it out old school drag racer style, so essentially it's the same arrangement as Ed n Gerry's shunt wire.

                    Im sure there's more I've forgotten in the way off pitfalls and trix. I look forward to hearing other perspectives and intel.

                    Last edited by model murdering; 08-01-2020, 04:45 PM.


                    • #11
                      What is pick up wire? such as in guitar pick up?


                      • #12
                        I don't know either, but I found it to be just as temperamental as braid.


                        • #13
                          Um, Deane, you don't know what Pickup Wire is but you've "found it to be just as temperamental as braid?"

                          Pickup Wire is instrument wire -- wire designed to be flexible and durable for applications where flexibility and durability are paramount. Its insulation is made of EPDM rubber. It's wire core is made of 40 strands of #45 wire.

                          The extremely high strand count makes it ideal for pickup duty. Each strand is an opportunity to make contact with a track's power conductors. It is hard to avoid good contact with that many strands.

                          The proof is how long a Pickup Wire installation lasts. There is minimal spark erosion because good contact is maintained. That makes for very long life.

                          You don't know about spark erosion? Try this. Make a circle of track, put power to it, and run a car on it. Do this in a room you can darken and turn off the lights. Get your eyes down to the level of the track and watch the sparks. Every spark means that contact has been momentarily lost. And every spark blasts a small amount of metal off the car's pickups. That is spark erosion.

                          If you try this test with Pickup Wire you'll wonder where all the sparks went. Few sparks mean great electrical contact.

                          Even so, Pickup Wire does wear. And you will notice that the Pickup Wire on one side of the guide shoe wears faster than the other. This is due to the polarity of the power. There is an electrical action that selectively pulls metal ions off the 'anode' Pickup Wire. This is a slow process similar to electroplating, except it doesn't require an electrolyte.

                          When the anode Pickup Wire has worn down to half its original length it is due to be replaced. But that takes quite a long time. And you will not see a noticeable loss of performance until that Pickup Wire is half gone.

                          Early in the development of the Slide Guide I tried using braid for pickups, both conventional braids and the super-fine braid used for desoldering. I wasn't happy with any of it Deane. As you said, it wasn't reliable. When I finally checked out instrument wire I discovered it worked wonderfully well. It isn't cheap -- the good stuff isn't. But all the cheaper wires didn't work nearly as well. So I stuck with instrument wire and I have supplied it to all my customers.

                          Nobody has ever complained. And I do get a lot of satisfied feedback.

                          I don't remember selling any to you Deane.

                          Ed Bianchi
                          Last edited by HO RacePro; 08-02-2020, 11:35 PM.


                          • #14
                            Ed's Pick-up Wiretm is a very flexible multi-strand wire. The strand count is WAY higher than normal stranded wire of similar gauge. It is very flexible and and the wire strands dress out very nicely. When I first tested these on railed track, I anticipated a dismal failure, but performance was excellent. Wear was on par or even slightly less when compared with a nominal pickup shoe. So it does work, and nicely at that.
                            Last edited by gmcullan; 08-03-2020, 08:16 AM.


                            • #15
                              I'm getting notifications of replies from Ed and Bill but I cannot see them.

                              Can others see them?

                              The Ed one starts ''Um, Deane, you don't know what Pickup Wire is but you've "found it to be just as temperamental as braid?"

                              Pickup Wire is instrument wire -- wire designed to be flexible and durable for applications where flexibility and durability are paramount. Its insulation is made of EPDM rubber. It's wire.....''

                              and the Bill one starts ''Where to start?

                              I have a scant few myself, a zip-lok bag of spares, and a good pile of can motors. One of my favorite cars to run is an ucky puke green Muira, with the box motor converted to a Tyco 440 armature and magnets. The cool thing is that you can run right up the Wizzard performance parts chain if....''