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A consumer's view of Retro kits


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#1 Michael Rigsby

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 09:51 AM

Good morning to all,

 

I am going to post this with the hopes that it will be constructive, and I want no name bashing or lambasting of anyone. No one need feel offended as I am only speaking from my experience and talking about a problem I have been experiencing the last couple of years.

 

I have been involved in slot cars since the early, early '60s when I was a kid. I went through the whole period, just like everyone else, using pre-built cars from Monogram, Revell, Champion, built my own from scratch, wound my own motors, pretty much everything that everyone on here has done. I did it for enjoyment, and believe it or not, it taught me a lot about chassis dynamics and engineering.

 

But through all this, I have always considered myself an end consumer and appreciated the quality that was put into something. If it worked without me having to rebuild it, that manufacturer got my loyalty. If it broke, which I expected it to because I was not gentle with my toy cars, I fixed it, because that's what we do.  Now comes my point, and I know the slot car business is very fragile right now, and we should be grateful for anyone serving as a manufacturer or vendor to keep this hobby going, and trust me, for the most part, I fully participate in that ideal.

 

But if a manufacturer or vendor is going to put out a Retro kit, primarily one designed to produce a chassis, the parts need to be workable without the end user (me) having to re-engineer the stuff you pounded into a bag and called a chassis kit.

 

Case in point. My lovely daughter who moved to Cali is in town visiting her brother and I, and I have been spending time with her. She wanted to spend time with friends yesterday, so I reunited myself with my 40+ year old Ungar put back together with updated parts and set to building. Now in the past couple of years, I have had a problem with one particular vendor's kits. I have had to re-do everything in the kits basically to get them to fit right. Pans are cut crooked. Nose pieces are cut wrong with slots crooked, and we won't even get into motor brackets. I quit using this vendor's kits, and told anyone who wanted me to build for them to pick another kit, I spent too much time on building this assortment of thrown together mess called a chassis kit.

 

Well, low and behold, a racer from the track asked me to build them a car, and they supplied what? Yep, a kit from this vendor. I had been putting it off for a few days, but couldn't any longer, so I opened this kit and got to inspecting it. Yep, same as always. Nosepiece bent and slot channels not cut straight. Pans... bent to smithereens and pin tube uprights cut wrong. Motor bracket... bent completely wrong with bushing holes off by 3/32"... yep that much. I shook my head in disbelief.The vendor has the ability to package this "kit" and call it a "kit". It should be called a labor of Hercules.

 

I made a decision at that time, I would build this kit, and another from spare parts and brass that I have an ample supply of and time the building time of each one. Good way to try out my rebuilt Ungar.

 

To make a long story short, in the time it took me to fix this vendor's kit, by fixing and leveling the nose piece, fixing the pans, and straightening and rebending the motor bracket (and praying it would not break), then filing and sanding everything nice and flat for soldering, IT TOOK ME MORE THAN TWO HOURS MORE TO BUILD THIS KIT THAN TO SCRATCHBUILD ANOTHER CHASSIS THAT ONLY HAD A PRE-BENT MOTOR BRACKET.

 

To the vendors: if you are going to market a chassis kit, please check the quality of your components. Some kind of adherance to tolerances must be made on your part. An end user or buyer, such as myself, should not have to expect to spend a lot of time fixing mistakes like this. Honestly, how are you supposed to make a motor bracket fit in a jig correctly when the side legs are off that much? Might be good for a stock car build if you want to build in rear steer for an oval, but not worth a hoot for a Can-Am car.

 

If I have to re-engineer a chassis like this, whenever it is listed on the tech form it is not going to be listed a an "XXXXX", it is going to be listed as my own, because basically it is, I had to fix everything, and I told this chassis buyer to do just that when he races it.

 

The new owner is happy with the chassis, and I am happy with how it eventually came out, though I spent way too much time on it. The new owner was not happy when he wanted to give me an F1 kit to build and it was this vendor's F1 kit. I wouldn't even take it out of his hand. I told him NO. Told him if he wanted me to assemble a kit to go buy another kit from one of two vendors I recommended since I consider my time precious.

 

Now please, no name calling or anything. I appreciate all the vendors who supply our hobby, and I know most of them have more than one job. I deal with a lot of people on here, and I seek out advice from those on here who have been more into Retro than I have the last couple of years because I want my cars to run, look, and perform well. I am writing this just to get it off my chest as it has been bothering me. Perhaps it is all me and I shouldn't expect miracles, but being a buyer on a budget and a racer on a budget who does all his own building for the most part, if you put a part in my hand and say it's supposed to be "x", it better dang sure be "x".

 

Please do not PM me and ask me to reveal who this vendor is, I will not do that. I'm sure some folks have great luck with their kits and don't mind all the work it takes to go into them and make them right. This is strictly my experience and should be taken as such.

 

Thank you, I'll step off my soap box now.


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#2 Samiam

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 10:35 AM

Who made the soap box? :laugh2:


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Sam Levitch
 
When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything is a nail.
Support your local raceway, or you won't have one.
Slot cars are quad-pods.
Support your "Local Racer."
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#3 ejgehrken

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 11:03 AM

Mike,

 

All of the kits made require some rework/blueprinting to properly build a chassis. The only chassis kit I have encountered that does not require any rework is the Duffy War Beaver kit which retails for $69.95.


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Eric Gehrken
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#4 MSwiss

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 11:03 AM

Michael,

 

It's a matter of pride.

I don't ship a C/R chassis part out until I've put it on a flat surface and checked that it's flat. If I see any appreciable light under it, I adjust it until it's as flat as I would have it, before I would use it to assemble a chassis for myself.

It takes time, which I could be using for something else, but as I'm sealing the box, I'm not grimacing.


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#5 Michael Rigsby

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 11:23 AM

Mike,

I expect to have to flatten some things, but not to re-cut nose pieces or motor brackets on a consistent basis in every one of this particular vendor's kits.

Eric,

All kits require some work... yes... but should not require major revamping to make them be what they are supposed to be. As a consumer I should NOT have to do that.  If you don't mind re-engineering and making a primary component work the way it's supposed to, that is your choice. I work on a small scale in my spare time and prefer not to. Should I have to re-cut slots in a front nosepiece to make them straight to lay wire in when they are cut 21 degrees off (measured and doublechecked this)?  Should I have to toss a motor bracket because it is so bad Edward Scissorhands could not make a chassis with it? Nope, and I'm not going to. I can make my own much easier.

 

As Mike alluded to, it's a matter of pride in giving the consumer a useable product, and the other three kit makers I use give me that product.


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#6 jimht

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 03:24 PM

Such complaining is just whining when the subject of the complaint is anonymous.

 

Either take it to a personal conversation with the guilty party or air the dirty laundry with a name attached.

 

Please allow the accused party to defend themselves &/or allow other similarly afflicted parties to chime in.


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#7 Samiam

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 03:41 PM

Michael, I got to agree with Jim.
 
And just because these are niche hobby products does not mean you can't return them as defective. Got something unacceptable?
Return it. Ask for a full refund or a replacement with a good kit. This is a very small community and I'm sure the manufacturer does not want a bad name. Did you even try to return anything?
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Sam Levitch
 
When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything is a nail.
Support your local raceway, or you won't have one.
Slot cars are quad-pods.
Support your "Local Racer."
:laugh2:

#8 Duffy

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 06:15 PM

All of the kits made require some rework/blueprinting to properly build a chassis. The only chassis kit I have encountered that does not require any rework is the Duffy War Beaver kit which retails for $69.95.

 
Actually that's FIFTY-nine ninety-five. Stiff but not brickbat.
 
Blueprinting may be looked at as something a guy who knows will do; and by that time, he's a scratchbuilder. So, we tried to make something that the less-informed builder won't find a lot of surprises in.
 
It was our belief, and maybe only ours, that a kit should be friendly to guys who're maybe not yet fully immersed in the craft and skills: that they're buying experience, something they can learn with. The new builder ought to get a sense from that building experience of what he should be looking for, so that he'll start thinking about what to do if/when he encounters something else - either after the hard knocks of racing, or in the next build. That was the intent.


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#9 Rob Voska

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Posted 08 January 2015 - 09:07 AM

Has not the very same issue been brought up with regards to motors about a thousand times???

#10 slotcarone

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Posted 08 January 2015 - 09:30 AM

This post has nothing to do with motors!! Totally different issue.
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