Grand Prix Classics
 

Before multi-million dollar drivers contacts, before 6-point safety harnesses, before International TV satellites, before sand traps and safety barriers, before any of the modern day technologies we now take for granted, there was Formula 1 racing.

 

Shortly after World War II, while large parts of Europe still lay in ruin, Formula 1 racing was re-born. Single-seat, purpose-built race cars thundered around the great race tracks of England, the European continent and America. In hopes of attracting American racers and fans, even the Indianapolis 500 was part of the Formula 1 schedule in the early post-war days of Formula 1 racing.

 

Intended as a test-bed for new post-war designs and technology, the great pre-war manufacturers, along with newly formed racing works competed, on some of the fastest and most challenging racing circuits the world has ever known.

 

In 1950 a World Drivers Championship was instituted. In each of the seven events on the Formula 1 calendar, points were awarded to the drivers based upon finishing position, and then at the end of the season a World Champion was crowned.

 

Drivers like Juan-Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Phil Hill and Mike Hawthorne became legends driving the Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Vanwall and BRM race cars of the day.

 

The much anticipated Scalextric Sport Grand Prix Classic cars have finally arrived. First introduced at the 2004 Goodwood Festival of Speed, they offer the slot car racer a glimpse back to the early days of Formula 1 racing and a chance to own two of the most famous race cars from those early years of the modern Formula 1 era.

 
 
Maserati 250F
 

First in the line-up is a beautiful red Maserati F250 as piloted by Juan-Manuel Fangio in the German Grand Prix of 1957 at the Nurburgring. Maserati had enjoyed much success racing in the years prior to WWII. The new 2.5 liter post-war formula was thought to be ideal for their new chassis design.

 

Gioacchino Colombo, the chief engineer at Ferrari, was hired to design an inline 6 cylinder engine to complete the package, and with Juan-Manuel Fangio driving, the Maserati 250F won the 1957 World Championship.

 
  Maserati F250 - Juan-Manuel Fangio
 

Maserati financed its international factory racing operation by also selling its cars to privateers. Stirling Moss, along with a number of other accomplished racers owned 250F models that they raced throughout Europe in the late 1950's. Hopefully, in the future, Scalextric will produce some of the other cars that Maserati built for their customers.

 
 
Vanwall F1
 

Second in the line-up is the British Racing Green Vanwall F1 racer driven by Stirling Moss. Vanwall was one of several British works teams created after the war to compete in Formula 1. Colin Chapman, who would later go on to establish Lotus Cars, designed the revolutionary space-frame chassis the Vanwall utilized.

 

Colin Chapman, an aeronautical engineer by training, designed a space-frame chassis for the Vanwall and proved its viability in a race car. At the time, most other manufacturers still used a ladder frame tube chassis, but the space-frame approach with each chassis tube in either tension or under compression, but never a bending load, created a much more rigid, and light-weight frame.

 
Vanwall F1 - Stirling Moss
 

The Vanwall F1 car enjoyed limited racing success during the 1957 season, and the following year the factory was closed. Colin Chapman, the brilliant English designer, went on to found Lotus Cars in subsequent years after proving the efficacy of his space-frame chassis design for racing cars.

 

Scalextric has chosen to reproduce the Vanwall F1 car as it appeared at the 1957 German Grand Prix driven by Stirling Moss. The Vanwall F1 car along with the Maserati 250F driven by Juan-Manuel Fangio provides a pair of cars equally matched in performance and handling.

 
 
Construction
 

Both the Maserati and Vanwall historic GP racers employ a clamshell chassis design with the motor mounted at the front of the chassis in an in-line drive configuration with a short driveshaft powering the rear wheels. This approach allows for a full driver figure, while still maintaining proper body height and overall proportions of the original cars.

 

A small neodymium button magnet is placed just forward of the rear axle assembly. Both models ride on beautifully detailed wire wheels and narrow rubber tires accurate for that period. Motor gearing is the standard 9/27 (1:3) found in most modern in-line Scalextric slot cars.

 

A full driver figure and cockpit interior details round out the new F1 historic offerings.

 

The new Scalextric round guide flag plate and tin-clad copper pickup braids get power from the track to the motor. This new power pickup assembly takes some getting used to, but it does allow for a wider swing angle and better contact with the track power rails. The new pickup flag is molded in black instead of the blue plastic formerly used, making it opaque to most side-looking infra-red photo-cell devices used to count and time laps.

 

The drawing below illustrates the construction of the Vanwall F1 car. The Maserati 250F is essentially the same, only the body shells differ.

 
Vanwall F1 Chassis
 

Scalextric offers both models in Limited Edition Sport packaging and the normal retail display case. Sport packaging includes a Limited Edition box describing historical facts and achievements of the car, numbered edition card, and most importantly, machined bronze rear axle bearings. The standard plastic display case version uses the normal molded plastic rear axle bearings.

 
 
Performance
 

The Sport version of each model was purchased for this review. The machined bronze rear axle bearings were the overriding reason for choosing the Sport version over the normal and slightly less expensive display case version.

 

Right out of the box, both cars performed remarkably well... smooth, quiet and remarkably fast in a straight line. Overall chassis balance was superb, but driving too deep into a corner and getting off the power more often than not resulted in a spectacular barrel-roll crash!

 

With some practice though, both cars became much easier to drive. The narrow rear tires and higher than normal roll center required a much smoother application of power when exiting a turn. Not unlike the real cars these models recreate, a finer touch was required, and before long both were powering through the turns with just a slight amount of throttle oversteer.

 

The neodymium button magnet has a limited effect on cornering... slide the rear end too much and you loose forward momentum, or worse yet risk a crash. Powering through a turn works better than going in hot and then trying to scrub off the excess speed.

 

These cars can not be driven the same way a Scalextric modern-day Formula 1 car such as the Renault R23 or even a Dallara IRL car is driven. They require much more finesse if one hopes to get through the turns smoothly. Modern-day cars, with their wide rear tires and strong traction magnets, are much more forgiving than these F1 classics, but smooth driving and judicious throttle control will reward the driver with fast laps.

 
 
Tuning
 

The narrow rubber rear tires were the first item to get some additional attention. When lightly sanded to remove the high spots and molding sheen, they performed much better. Scalextric must be commended for their precision molding of wheels and tires, but a few moments sanding and truing the production rubber is well worth the effort.

 

Lap times were improved several tenths by simply truing the rear tires, but the largest gains in performance came though practice. Learn to drive one of these cars smoothly, and you'll be a better racer with any car you drive.

 

Indy Grips has announced that they will be offering silicone rear tires for these cars in the coming months.

 

Mike Fischer of Pastimes, LLC graciously allowed us to test fit several existing replacements in the hopes of finding a set of silicone tires that would fit these cars in the interim until the new Indy Grips become available. It was found that Indy Grips for a Carrera Jaguar D-Type were a perfect fit.

 

With Indy Grips fitted, we returned to the track for more testing. Silicone tires  substantially improved the handling. Now the rear end didn't slide in the turns nearly as much, and it was also much easier now to get power down on the exit from a turn.

 

Upon closer inspection it also became evident that the neodimium button magnet could be placed closer to the track power rails by removing the lower cup on the molded magnet pocket. With the button magnet removed from the chassis a ream was used to remove the excess plastic restricting the magnet from protruding flush with the underside of the chassis. With a drop of GE Silicone to hold the magnet in place and flush with the bottom of the chassis the traction magnet was lowered a full 1/16 of an inch.

 

Back on the track our efforts were further rewarded. Not only did the rear end stay planted with silicone tires fitted, but now the lowered traction magnet also improved the handling performance in tight turns. The lowered magnet had a negligible effect on straight line speed, but made a big difference in the corners.

 
 
Pricing & Availability
 

As mentioned earlier in this review, both models are available in Sport and Standard packaging. The only differences being the display box itself, and the addition of machined bronze rear axle bearings in the Sport versions.

 

Both Sport and Standard boxed versions are now available from your local Scalextric dealer.

 
Maserati 250F - C.2551/A
Maserati 250F  C.2551/A
Red - No. 1
Juan-Manuel Fangio
1957 German Grand Prix
 
$47.95 - 30.00  (Sport)
$42.95 - 27.00  (Standard)
 
Vanwall F1 - C.2552/A
Vanwall F1  C.2552/A
British Racing Green - No. 10
Stirling Moss
1957 German Grand Prix
 
$47.95 - 30.00  (Sport)
$42.95 - 27.00  (Standard)
 
 
Guide Flag Plates - C.8299
Round Guide Plates C.8299
Package of four (4)
  
$2.99 - 2.00
 
IndyGrips IG-7006 (Carrera Jaguar D-Type)
IndyGrips   IG-7006
Silicone Rear Tires
New Compound
Carrera Jaguar D Type
  
$4.50 US
 
 
Conclusions
 

The new Sport Grand Prix Classics are a welcome edition to the already impressive line-up of 1:32 scale slot cars manufactured by Scalextric. With the growing interest in vintage racing meets at venues such as Goodwood, Monterey and Road America, Scalextric's market timing couldn't be better.

 

The early years of the modern F1 era were some of Motorsports most exciting. That Scalextric should choose that era to introduce the first of what will be many classic race cars is encouraging. While earlier Scalextric slot cars from the late 1950's and 1960's do still exist they are quite expensive, and not nearly as well executed as these modern productions.

 

Slot car manufacturing techniques have improved substantially since the first Scalextric slot car sets appeared in the late 1950's. Scalextric has brought these new technologies to bear in their current Grand Prix Classics series. Modern molding techniques, painting and tampo printing advances, not to mention the heightened level of detail that modern slot cars enjoy have all contributed to make these excellent examples of the 1:32 scale state of the art.

 

Both racers and collectors alike will appreciate the extensive historical research and modern production methods used to make these new releases possible. Scalextric is attempting to fill a market niche that up until now was the sole domain of small resin casters producing very limited runs of expensive and hard-to-assemble kits.

 

If your tastes include vintage race cars from a bygone era, or you just want to own a piece racing history, then these new Grand Prix Classics are a perfect addition to your collection.

 

As was stated earlier in this review, these cars require a certain finesse and smoothness to drive quickly, but your efforts will be well rewarded, and the driving technique you develop will make any other style of car you drive improve.

 

You may want to purchase one of each model so as to have two cars that are equal in performance and that were raced in the same era. No other car in the current  Scalextric catalog except perhaps the Lotus/Caterham 7 models drive and handle like the new Maserati and Vanwall GP cars.

 

Scalextric has promised to make other Formula 1 cars in the future, although at this time they are keeping specific model choices under wraps. One can only hope too, that the Maserati 250F customer cars are also produced in the near future.

 

In the few short weeks since these cars were first introduced they have been selling very quickly. If you are even the least bit interested in these cars then buy them now while dealers still have stock.

 

Raced as-is or with after-market silicone rear tires, these cars are as exciting to drive as the era in which they originally competed.

 
 
 
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