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"Unca Frank" Eubel's enduring legacy


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#26 Cheater

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 04:06 PM

Mr. Smoooth Votes For The Brick

3 July 2003

 

Those of you new to these pages may not have caught the gist of some of my relationships with a few of my slot car drag racing friends. For example, if the object of the game is to go quicker than your little friends, what you don't want to hear any of them say is the following quote:

 

"I don't care if it's .015 slower than a Camaro, I'm not runnin' any #$%^& Chevy body."

I'm not trying to be whiney here, but geeze, even Mopar guys (whom we all know are generally in need of serious professional help, but whom we love nonetheless, right?) have a better selection of decent kit bodies than the Ford guys. If it's not square and boxy, it's big and heavy. Yep, plenty of track-hugging styrene to be found in those blue oval boxes. So Mr. Smoooth and I play this game in my shop every so often during discussion regarding what his next possible Hot Ticket car might be. He picks out a sled from my collection of Ford kits, I put the basic body parts on the scale, and then we stare at the results. Then he says "Well, you could lighten it."

"Yes, and if I could flap my arms fast enough, I could fly, too. I hate eating plastic dust."
"It'd look real good."
"Uh huh, and it'd need a Saturn 5B rocket strapped to its ass to go fast. There's a reason God made raindrops with a round part at the front, and a reason you never see any of them a foot in diameter, either."
"It'd look real good."

It goes on like that for a while, and we end up with a compromise: I get to work on the least objectionable subject I can sell him on while he signs off on the fact that the car just might be a real stone. Remember, this is the guy who wantedto run a '72 Mercury Comet. So, for his next Hardbody Nostalgia Pro Stock car, it came down to two choices: what you see below, a '75 Mustang II or a Pinto. While the Pinto may be less of a "packaging" problem - that sucker is wide - it still has the wheelbase of a classic Fuel Altered. Scale tires? Short wheelbase? Yowza! Put those scale casters on the roof and pull the trigger, Wild Willy.

We saved the Pinto project for a later date (Unca Frank translation: like never, for example). The result demonstrates that the boys in Ford Styling must have had Pinto pictures taped to their walls when they designed this heap. Stretch the chassis, stretch the body... hey, where are those old Mustang grille pictures?... poof! Either a) an early Pinto Funny Car, or b) something that every middle-class young lady in the mid-'70s would love to have in powder blue with a white, padded vinyl top. Think I'm kidding? You had to live through it. "Ghia" my ass. At least Smoooth opted for a color other than baby blue. Yea, black, always a good choice for a guy who hates painting. Turns out it runs pretty well, whenever, that is, he remembers what motor he had in it when it did run pretty well. Someday, however, Smoooth and I need to have a long discussion about the true meaning of the phrase "turning a sow's ear into a silk purse."

 

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#27 Cheater

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 04:12 PM

One Quick Take...

3 July 2003

 

Yawn. Yep, yet another Corvette, the latest in a seemingly endless line of cars where I continue to pursue the Absolute Minimum Shaped Sort Of Real Looking Car concept. Save for the fact that I like the appearance of blowers instead of Pro Stock-style hood scoops for this kind of car (and that Bizarro-World cowl hoods aren't legal for most SDRA Classes), it's about the least car I can do that still resembles a real car. Kinda. I know, I know – a lot of you don't consider anything a real Pro Mod model unless the spoiler is big enough to land a scale helicopter on, the ever-popular El Camino Tonneau Cover Conversion, so to speak. The customer wanted an SDRA Pro Mod that had the potential to run reasonably quickly. As he didn't opt for the Klingon Kruiser style, this is what he got.

 

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 04:16 PM

...And Then Another

3 July 2003

 

Below is what you get when you want a Mountain Motor Pro Stock that's something like a Chevy Beretta, only different. Yes, the headlights are pretty lame, but you should have seen the first set before I ruined them. Or the second. Proof that the third time in not necessarily The Charm, huh? And no, the paint isn't really as bad as it looks. Turns out my digital camera manages to find every refraction angle possible in the base coat of the metallic paint, making it look alternately "pebbly" or like I flocked the car with white fuzz. How special.

 

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 04:20 PM

Back In The (White) Saddle Again

23 October 2002

 

Sometimes even your best ideas just don't work out the way you expect (which, in retrospect, means either they really weren't your best best ideas, or you pretty much didn't get it in the first place). Take this little chugger, for example. I'd had a few Vega promos for quite some time. Periodically, I'd haul them out, stare at them, and envision all manner of weird and wonderful cars based on them. I traded a few away for various kits, and ended up with only one left. Times passes. More time passes.
 

Whence comes the recent orgy of Hardbody Nostalgia Pro Stock building. Hey, what better way to whip up on their sorry asses(said sorry asses being anyone but me) than with some Secret-Mission Bill Jenkins-like Vega Pro Stock? Yowza! OK, so it would have the wheelbase of a classic Fuel Altered; no big deal - been there, crashed that. OK, so the angle of the windshield would advance about 15º as the rear went up to clear the mandated Monster Meats. Hey, that's what they really looked like, right? Time for a mockup!

 

Oh. Instant Monza and Horizon flashbacks (like the 60s', only with less color and no munchies). Given 1.000" total tire width and the tuckunder of the body, even an inline would be... uh, tight. As in "How do you add windows and an interior and not have the tires hit everything?" tight. Not impossible, just a pain. Oh. Well, poo. I was not in the mood for yet another Last-Minute Challenge. As in: let's fit 3.039 lbs. of crap into a 3.000 lb. bag. Sigh. On the other hand, the Horizon was still the only true Super Stock car I still owned (not counting my Bizarro-World GT Class cars). Hmm. Besides, I was getting a little nervous, not having painted a car white for weeks

No chainsaw, no modifications (unless you consider ball-milling the living crap out of the inside of the body to save a few grams a "modification." I tend to think of it as an "improvement," thanks). Granted, there was the "What sticks what to the inside of this Swine?" part of the deal, only meaningful if you like to put the windshield and front and rear windows in with something other than bubble gum. Then again, from what I can see/gather, many of you think the aerodynamics of some of these sleds are actually improved without side windows. Uh, no, particularly when the body comes from the "motorized cheese grater" school of design popular in the '60s and '70s.

 

Swell. Instant (or as instant as things get here at the Home of the Glacial Pace of Building) SS/D car. So Mr. Smoooth and I go testing before our last Race. Results? To quote Smoooth: "That's the ugliest-sounding gear mesh I ever heard," and he was being charitable at that. Not slow, but certainly not fast enough. And loud. Really friggin' loud. It's not bad enough that I tend to build really mediocre Super 16D motors. Now I have one in a car that even sounds slow. Oh joy. Another "project car," like I need more of those. No, it didn't qualify last at the Race (3rd or 4th as I recall), but it certainly didn't run the way I hoped. Sigh. So it's hanging there, waiting for the Miracle Cure or the Monster Motor or both. And the odds of either? If such things interest you, stay tuned for the next installment of Unc's usual "Pearls Before Swine Festival," coming soon (you already know what "soon" means around here, I presume) to this very space.

 

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 04:29 PM

Revenge of the Blue Oval

23 October 2002

 

As it turns out, the redoubtable Mr. Smoooth isn't the only guy I know to have Ford Fever. Must be more common than I thought. Below is a customer car I built for a fellow sufferer, a Ford Probe prepared to SoCal Mountain-Motor Pro Stock Rules. The odd thing about it is the effect it had on non-Ford guys.
 

Granted, Smoooth threw his body across the doorway and begged like a disappointed puppy for me to simply hose the customer and sell it to him. No, I still have some semblance of honor left. I did, however, take it to the track with me during a test session for a little "show-and-tell." And no, I didn't hot-lap it until the com fell off, either. I never run customer cars unless specifically asked to, for fear of having to make another one of those "Remember the car you used to have but never saw? I destroyed it" phone calls.

 

Strange. Even the Chevy guys, the ones who tell me their box would catch fire if they put a Ford in it, thought it looked pretty neat. For a Ford, of course. And maybe if they had a metal-lined space in that box, it might look pretty good there. Maybe. And, uh, well, about how much would you charge me to build one like it? Hmmm. Kind of reinforces my theory about racers, deep down, liking cars that look like cars.

In the Event You Thought You'd Get Away Without Unc Whining and Moaning About Something... Sorry – One of my true regrets: I'll never have the opportunity to personally harangue the first person who convinced everyone elsethat we should stop racing cars that looked - mostly - like the real things and start running stuff that was "better." Woo hoo! We can look to our, you should excuse the expression, "wing car" brethren to see what happens when we go out to the tip of that dead-end branch of the slot car evolutionary tree. Sure, microscopic, single-spoked vinyl circles mounted horizontal to the track are "front wheels," and moving that clear part in the center another quarter inch back turns it into an Audi, not a Peugeot. Ooh! And that rib thingie is bigger, too! Wow, it looks just like a...

 

It looks like a friggin' doorstop is what it looks like. Albeit a fast, colorful, really expensive doorstop. A lot of things it is, but a real car it ain't, nor is a replica of anything. It's even a stretch to call it a "caricature" of a car.

 

To drag myself back, kicking and screaming, to some sort of point here, I'll just suggest that all other things being equal, most people seem to prefer "realistic" to "nonrealistic," at least in the general sense of what we can manage to accomplish with slot cars that a) have to race, and b) have been known to destroy themselves on occasion. I'll bet that given the opportunity and means - zero labor and identical cost and/or performance - a vast majority of slot car drag racers would prefer to run scale-appearing cars in various Classes, presuming everyone else did/had to. Don't think so? Ask around. Then take a look up that slot car evolutionary tree again, way out there at the tip, and tell me that'swhat you want slot car drag racing to turn into.

 

If you want to go that way, fine, more power to you. It would seem that some of us are almost there already. As for me, uh, no thanks. I've been on that bus before. Being the aging and doddering fool that I am, and with short-term memory supposedly being the first thing to go, I don't want to catch myself in the middle of some project, wondering what on earth it is that I'm building is supposed to be.

 

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#31 Cheater

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 04:47 PM

Unc The Slacker Cranks One Out 

18 July 2002

 

Those of you who have had the good fortune/made the terrible mistake of ever trying to pry a car out of Unc's House of Fine Rides in exchange for green rectangular dollars know that projects hereabouts frequently age like a fine wine. Nothing visible happens for a long time, save that the deposit check gets cashed real fast, and you get to hear really colorful stories, usually over the phone on your nickel, about why you don't have your car. Yet. Ever?

 

How It Really Works – A typical customer call: "Hi, Unc! How are you?" (translation: "Where the hell is the car I ordered, you lowlife scum?!")
"(unintelligible mumble while Unc tries to remember who it is on the phone and precisely which unfinished project he has to start lying about)"
"What've you been up to?" (translation: "... besides hosing me like a house fire and pissing away my money?")
"Stuff. You know... this and that. Working on your car." (followed by a coughing jag to buy more time to recall which dust-covered hulk it is that has to be quasi-described in enough detail to prevent death threats)
"So how's the car coming?" (You know, the one you already blew the deposit money on? The one that my great-grandchildren will have to take delivery of? Unless the sun cools first?)
"Yea. Just fine. I was working on it today. (if it's the one shaped just like a TV remote control or a coffee cup, that is).

 

Then I mentally spin The Unc Wheel of Guilt; half the wheel has stuff like "Spend three hours making hood scoop fit hood properly - lose money," "Spend 2twohours adjusting ride height so car actually works - lose money," and "Spend an hour and a half with spacers, tires and the body maximizing track without body or interior problems - lose money." The other half has things like "You told him it would take a while, right?," "Hey, he's getting Mercedes quality at Taiwanese labor rates," and "If you told him how many hours you really spent on the swine already, he'd die laughing." For some bizarre reason, the wheel always comes up on "Shut up, take it in the shorts, and get the piece outa here so he won't call any more."

 

I bring this matter up simply because not that long ago, Mr. Smoooth visited Casa Unc on some mission or other. In the course of discussions on various unfinished projects of angry slot car drag racers across the country, Smooth drops The Big One.

 

"So how's my Hardbody Nostalgia Pro Stock coming?"
"What friggin' Hardbody Nostalgia Pro Stock?"
"The one you were gonna' build for me before our next race."
"The next race, like the one that's (consults wall calendar) 16 days from today?"
"Yea."
"For the benefit of those in the audience who may not have heard: what 
friggin' Hardbody Nostalgia Pro Stock?"

 

Smoooth Makes His Move – Whereupon Mr. Smoooth commences some absolutely solid guilt riffs, knocks off a few variations on his usual "you slacker" theme, pops a few sniveling rim shots about "hooking a brother man up," and segues straight to the Fine Whine: "Man, the only reason I'm going is to run Hardbody Nostalgia Pro Stock. If I don't have one, I probably won't go."

 

Now: he knows this is crap. He knows I know this is crap. Heck, my cats know this is crap. Nevertheless, it strikes the appropriate resonant chord on my Guilt-O-Meter. The thought of possibly not having Smoooth there to run the Race means someone else will have to do it. Which is work or madness or both. Trapped like a rat, albeit a really lazy one (hey, those idiots might figure I should run the Race. Uh, thanks, no), there commences the Concession/Selection Festival, wherein we both fake it like he was right and not lying through his teeth while trying to figure out which Ford sled to victimize. Oh, I tried a few "You realize your cutting in line ahead of other people here" feints, but Smoooth has no shame, at least as far as getting slot drag cars, anyhow.

 

My goal was simple: easy assembly, and I didn't much give a damn beyond that. Then comes the next whine: "I want it in a color."
"For all intents and purposes, white is a color. While technically, white is the absence of..."
"I don't want white. I don't want black. I want a friggin' color. Something bright"
"White is bright."

 

Mr. Smoooth was having none of it. To quote the Beach Boys: "Listen to 'em whine, whine, whine." He even mentioned the dirty words "air brush." Sheesh. Talk about unbecoming. So I copped a plea and agreed. Goodbye primer, hello Tamiya spray lacquer. Neat colors (for those who care about such things, a much better range than, say, Duplicolor auto touch-up lacquers), thin and light, all things considered, fast-drying, and not that expensive. Until Black Gold/House of Color stuff is available in my neck of the woods, my choice for... colors.

 

So he got his car, the Comet pictured below, and he got his color. And how, pray, does he repay me for this Herculean effort? How indeed. TQ, new Track Record (by a measly .003 over his close, personal car-building friend, one might add). With some old wheezing Unc motor from another one of his Fine Fords. There is no joy in Mudville, not to mention justice. On the upside: when people call these days, I blame all the delays on Smooth, and suggest they call him at home at some convenient hour like 3:00 AM to discuss it. I always remind them to mention "color" frequently, too.

A Weak Explanation of Why It Take So Long – Those of you who can, or have at least seen or heard of people who can crank out chassis, motors, and/or complete cars in a matter of hours have obviously never met me. A lengthy discussion about my membership in the Anal Retentive Hall of Fame can be found elsewhere in these pages, but I figure a small example might be useful. You'll note that the Comet, above, and the Camaro, below, have a small spoiler. What you don't note, unless you've actually seen one of the cars I've built with one, is that the cantilevered styrene spoiler is not glued to the car. Rather, it's both adjustable and removable. No, it doesn't fall off, yes, it holds any desired angle without deflection, and yes, it's a real pain in the wazoo to make. I put them on every hardshell car I build that permits a spoiler. Some are relatively simple flat-plane devices and some are compound-curve nightmares. They take between 1½ to 3 hour to make and fit, depending. Why bother? Because simply gluing a thin styrene part on edge to a body that will be subjected to a fairly stressful life is just dumb, that's why. Not to mention the need for the occasional angle adjustment, safe shipment, and the ever-popular "WTFITSTB" factor (see Geo Storm GSi story elsewhere for an explanation). And because, all things considered, it's the best way I've figured out to do it.

 

It frequently turns out that the best (or at least better) way to do something may not necessarily be the quickest way to do it. Surprise. Add up a lot of those and you get a lot more time than people think is actually needed. That, and a lot of time just looking at stuff, answering the question of how best to accomplish a given goal within the guidelines of Rules and the reality of competition necessities like strength and weight. It take me a while, but then, I've never mislead anyone that it didn't. Not an excuse, just an explanation. You see, I figure that when someone lays out a fairly sizeable amount of money for a car based on hearsay and/or reputation, they better bloody well be impressed with what they get even before it turns a wheel or I've pretty much lost them. I want them to open the box, unpack the car, and mumble "Holy crap! Look at that friggin' dealie!" I want them to say that about a lot of dealies, actually. It's what the British commonly refer to as "good value for money," and it means that if the car doesn't turn out to be a dog, performance-wise, they might, just might, trust me enough to build more stuff.

 

Whereupon, of course, we can start the drill all over again. Not the easiest way to keep myself afloat in slot drag racing, I'll grant you, but it's what people like me do for what passes for "fun." Mostly, I figure it's like doing those gajillion-piece puzzles some people are fond of, only you get to misuse electricity on a fairly frequent basis and the pieces hit the floor a lot faster when you mess up.

 

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 04:54 PM

Unc Spreads His Not-Very-Hidden Agenda

18 July 2002

Hmm, you're asking yourself, why does he suddenly post two lumps on one day? After nothing for six months? 'Cause he's been busy building shit, that's why, besides having what passes for a normal life to deal with. And because he has An Agenda to spread.

 

The Problem – Part of the last six months I've spent selling off surplus stuff on eBay to regain some space in my shop; the rest of the time I spent buying stuff on eBay that took up more space than the things I got rid of. Net result: fewer bracket and Index bits, fewer sports car kits, more American sedan/coupe kits, less space. Gee, that worked out well. What I started looking for (and ended up with a boatload of) were kits that could be converted to Hardbody Pro Stock cars. A chainsaw can make anything into a Pro Mod or Nitro Coupe, but Pro Stock... uh, no, not really. The Bad News: both Camaros and Firebirds are going away, so are their stock kits, and the kits probably won't be reissued for what I figure is a minimum of three-five years as "nostalgia" pieces, if that. The Revell Olds Pro Stock kit is gone, and the Summit Firebird will be soon. Those molds won't see the light of day for a similar period, and then probably as "Pro Street" cars, much like what the companies have done before with "competition" bodies/molds.

 

Will anyone ever do a newer Pro Stock kit again? Based on the number of cars Revell got out of the Olds tooling (3) and the Firebird tooling (2), what they spent on them and their shelf life before they were obsoleted, take a look at the stock market and tell me how eager you think they are to try a Cavalier or Grand Am mold. Even if they reuse 50% of the recent kit tooling, it's a big chunk of change. Besides, like NASCAR kits, people have discovered that if you buy a diecast car, it's already painted and somebody put the decals on for you. Promos? Have you ever tried working with those pieces of ****? Like a bad kit only worse. I've got promos that required tests with 5 different solvents before I found something that would attach styrene to them. Butyrate? Acetal? ABS? Who knows, but I bet it was cheap. It's one of the reasons I started collecting useful kits. Like I mention somewhere below, if we don't pay attention, some of our Classes are going to turn into the exclusive providence of Obscure Kit Collectors. Hey, I'm in great shape; wanna' buy one of these for only 500% more than it cost me? Laugh now, bunkie, but don't lose my phone number.

 

A Solution? Maybe, Maybe Not – While the current bodies may be (or may soon be) a pain, what's left? What's on the shelf for most people in most places at reasonable prices is what's left. The cars everybody really likes, but can't find a place to race. Old stuff. Enter Hardbody Nostalgia Pro Stock. I knew that they'd had a brief fling with the concept in SoCal, but (in my not-very-humble opinion) picked the wrong motor. OK, we can fix that. So I borrowed ("stole" is such a... harsh word, don't you think?) most of the basic concept, added a few rational modifications and permissions and ended up with what turns out to be a really... OK, I'm going to use a word I promised I'd never use on this site, an overused but absolutely precise word in this case... cool - there, I said it - looking car that runs pretty well and is a ball to race.

 

Why inline only? Because anyone with a Ferret motor box, a piece of wire and a pair of pliers can make one. Every chassis manufacturer makes a decent inline kit if you have the soldering iron but lack the pliers. Besides, it prevents weasels like me from figuring out how to jam "scale" tires and a sidewinder motor under a body you can't get. Why scale tires? Because they look far more realistic and are available from at least 4 different manufacturers (in re "realism:" I don't know about you, but I've seen enough styrene doorstop-wannabe cars to last a lifetime. Lots of people should pay a little more attention to those IHRA TV shows and put the chainsaw down for a bit). Note to those of you whining about how scale tires are impossible to race on: get a grip, make sure the suckers are round and the same size (surprise, huh?), and gear it the right way. I've been messing with them for going on 9 years now, and I figured out those things 8½ years ago. Since you're smarter than I am, It should take you less time, right? Besides, we added a small spoiler so you don't have to look at the underside of the car periodically as it goes down the track. Yes, I know Bill Jenkins, Don Nicholson, Ronnie Sox, et al, never had a spoiler on their cars. They also never had to drive the cars directly over a slot in the track using electric motors, so let's retain some perspective here, huh? The spoilers can help, so they're permitted. I stopped short at diaplanes - uh, no thanks - so count your remaining blessings.

 

Why a Group 12? Simple answer: because the SDRA was/is in danger of turning into the Scale Group 20 Racing Association, and we don't race enough 12s. Beyond Pro Mod and Factory Mod (and outside of SoCal), zip. We all have them, in varying degrees of performance, so why not haul the suckers out and race them in something? One more thing: if you can't get a 120 gram car with a .500" wide tire to stop in the average shutdown area, you are Doing Something Seriously Wrong. Remain calm and consult others. Remember: the tires actually have to be in contact with the track for any significant retardation to occur, a lesson even the wise and learned Mr. Smoooth had to learn during one of his "I'll bet this sucker can run with absolutely no glue on the track or tires!" experiments. Uh, no, not all that well, as it turns out.

 

We had a fair turn-out for our first HN/PS event, considering no one had ever even seen one before. What I did note, though, is that everyone loved the crap out of the cars, enough to start building their own, in fact. Which is kind of the point, isn't it? Novas, Barracudas, Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers, Firebirds, Darts, Chevelles, Pintos, Monzas - you name it, they're building them. A few rare ones, mostly easily-obtainable kits, it turns out it doesn't matter all that much - they're all pretty boxy compared to current cars, and all run pretty well. We're running them again in September and at "Hardshell Havoc II" in December.

 

While Mr. Smoooth was harassing me into painting his car a color other than white, he went for the long ball and convinced me to paint one of my cars some different color. Gulp. Uh, OK. Seven zillion cans later, a Screaming Yellow I can live with. Maybe. I liked the period scoop on his Comet enough to make a styrene replica for my car. I really do know what the period-authentic "Grump Lump" looks like, but I figured a smaller unit with the opening on the bottom would convince people it was somehow not appropriate (translation: "Unc, you cheating a-hole or some such), so the bigger scoop went on. The jury is still out on overall appearance, but at least it's done. Now, if I can just remember where I put that other Vega promo...

 

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#33 Cheater

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Posted 26 May 2015 - 05:01 PM

"Mr. Smoooth" Joins the Pooch Parade

30 January 2002

 

If you're a frequent or semi-frequent reader of these pages, you know that occasionally I venture rather far afield, as it were, in pursuit of the not-all-that-common project. This one came about during a discussion with Mr. Smoooth late last year, where we were kicking around some ideas for his next Pro Mod or Nitro Coupe project. His current Bad Ride, in a least one definition of the term, was what I called the Gangster Limo, a black '90 Cougar with a mild wedge job and not much else. Granted, it was a bit smaller than an unmodified Chevy Suburban 4x4, but I swear the body weighed almost as much. So there we sat, looking at Unc's collection of Blue Oval Victims, discussing the merits and drawbacks of various projects, with Mr. Smoooth making faces every time I brought up some non-Ford idea.

"Dodge Viper? Stealth? '70 Cuda?"
(sound of man making extended "blah" sound)
"OK, Ford crap. '69 Mustang? '65? '66? '71? '63 Starliner? Longer than the Merc and only twice as heavy?"  Uh huh, so it's newer stuff. "New Mustang? So what if it looks like a Macy's Day Parade float? Probe? Don't make me do those windows again, pleeeeeze. Besides, you've got, what, four or five of those already, right.?"
"One GT/D car, you sniveling whiner. You promised..."

 

Yowza, we're playing that song again. Time to get his mind off what I'm supposed to be doing and towards something more entertaining. Ah! The Secret Mission Stash Kits. SMSK: a collection of kits selected/collected precisely for their scarcity, competitive potential, and general WTFITSTB quality (that being when unveiled at the local track, they cause ordinarily sane and knowledgeable slot car drag racers to exclaim "What the hell is that supposed to be!?" That, and the way I figure it, the way some of these guys want Rules to go, it's 'gonna be a The Guy With The Most Weird Kits Wins deal real soon, so I might as well get ready, right? Anyhow, I saw the sucker bai..., uh, ideal car candidate right away. Three of 'em, in fact.

 

(Unca Frank Rule: do not take the chainsaw to the last Flaming Gerbil GT Coupe kit in the universe; rather, take it to the second-last one so you have a spare in case something goes wrong and/or your irrational success causes everyone to want one. Should such be the case, sell it for whatever profit you can wring out of the turnip and go on to another candidate. As a result, you wouldn't believe how many strange kits I have three or five unopened example of, all purchased at closeout rather than collectors prices. The spirit of the Dead Squirrel Theory lives on here.)

 

"How about an '82 Ford EXP Coupe."
"A what?"
Oh, yea. This was 'gonna be a real easy sell on the WTFITSTB value alone.

Ah, the gleam in the eye of he who has heard something that truly intrigues him! Mr. Smoooth was interested, and it was time to set the hook.

 

"An EXP?"
"An EXP."
"An EXP. You have one?"
"I have three, and one is perfect for this deal. Partially assembled by some kid with the wrong glue and totally salvageable, including the glass."
"Expensive? Those are pretty rare kits."
"Not if you consider $4 expensive."

Note: pause to consider for a moment the difference between "scarce" and "rare." To be ultimately simplistic, "rare" means they made three of them, and you don't have one. "Scarce" means they made one hundred thirty-two thousandof them, and you don't have one. It's a question of inherent or imbued value, long-term time span, source and quantity, rather than current availability, a concept that eventually dawned on comic book and sports card collectors, and will eventually make its way to Beanie Babies (if it hasn't already) and  – gasp! – car modelers. Think of it another way: snowflakes are scarce in August, at least where most of us live. January and February demonstrate that they are decidedly not rare. Remember that the next time some guy asks you to pay a 100% premium for a kit that was just discontinued a few months ago. While you're being hosed, there's one sitting on a 30%-off table somewhere that no one wants. Just food for thought, is all.

So Mr. Smoooth goes down for the count, and it dawns on me that now I have to build one of the little suckers. Hah, I sneer at such challen... Oh. I'm not sure if you recall what the front of an early EXP looked like, but it wasn't like the car above. Much. Hmm. No place to mount the body. So I made a place, basically fabricating everything from the bumper lip down. A very mild wedge, and everything else is mostly stock, the remaining differences being fairly unobtrusive but functionally meaningful. And yes, the rear spoiler is both adjustable and removable.

(Ah. Those of you who are wondering why you can call something without a rear spoiler the size of an El Camino bed a "Pro Mod" haven't been paying attention here, have you? And you're wondering why the windshield isn't laid back almost horizontal, huh? Go to the blackboard and write "Frontal area and cd2" several gajillion times. I'll get back to you.)

Before it was primed and painted, I have to admit the only thing I could think of was the front of a bus with the windshield painted body color. When completed, however, the little slug kind of grows on you, sort of like a '79 Mustang that shrank in the wash or such. I actually liked it, which is rare (see above) when I'm dealing with Mr. Smoooth's body choices. He of the "I don't care if it's .015 slower than a Camaro, I'm not runnin' any #$%^& Chevy body." When he stopped by to pick up the finished car, he decided that it was worthy of the motor in the Gangster Limo, a wheezing piece I must have built for him about 3 years ago. Oh, and he liked it so much he want a few more. The joy never ends at Unc's, does it?

Special Mind-Numbing Bonus Factoid – Guess which of Mr. Smoooth's cars has TQd in Pro Mod at the last two events? The first one without ever turning a wheel before qualifying? If it were mine, it would have blown up and caught fire, at the very least. Go figure.

 

OK, those of you at the blackboard can sit down again, 'cause the next part just might apply. Or not.

 

exp_01.jpg

 

exp_04.jpg

 

exp_02.jpg

 

exp_05.jpg

 

exp_03.jpg



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Posted 26 May 2015 - 05:09 PM

Just In Case You Think I Make This Stuff Up...

30 January 2002
 

I'm sure there are those among you who take what goes on here with at least one, if not more, grain(s) of salt. A wise precaution these days, to be sure, regarding most anything someone you don't really know is trying to convince you of. There are those who figure I make most of this stuff up, particularly the parts about the steaming piles of crap that wander through my shop in search of... whatever. Oh Yee of little faith. Unc may occasionally translate, periodically polish for effect, and intermittently embellish just the teensiest, weensiest bit in search of The Moral of the Story, but Unc does not lie. To underscore that fact, we're going to take a little break from our normal format. Instead of blowing smoke up your nether regions regarding an endless procession of monochromatic stuff I've built, I'm going to share with you some of the stuff other people have built which, one way or another, has shown up on my doorstep. I should also add that these examples don't belong to the Blonde Bomber, although the style and degree of... whatever, seem to show traces of the BCCS (Blankenship Car Care System) I've come to know and love. The pictures below are a little larger than the normal file size I try to use here, so that I can share some of the details a bit better. Have a look.

 

example_01.jpg

example 1

 

Example 1 started out life as a GT/D car, and was living an unhappy life as an Index car by the time it got to me. It was accompanied by a note that said, in essence, that "it used to work, and then it didn't, so I fixed it, and it still didn't." I had a few questions, among which were whether the foam tires had been changed in the owner's lifetime (no), whether "fish" tires had ever been used (no), why the ever-nifty 1/8" axle, 48-pitch gears (the aluminum 64-pitch stuff was too expensive), why the motor had been soldered in – slightly askew - to the screw-in motor box (he always did it that way), what he used for soldering flux (some stuff), whether he always mounted a hardshell body solidly to the chassis via brass tubes across the rails and - not shown - the wheelie bar braces (yes), and what he did to repair it (added the brass brace from the motor box to the right side chassis rails, as shown in the picture). Oh. OK. Could I fix it and make it competitive? Uh, how, other than saving the body, which wasn't in all that great shape, either, and replacing absolutely everything? Some people are still unaware of the term "cost-effective." So it stayed an Index car.

 

example_02.jpg

example 2

 

Example 2 is an illustration of something I really don't know how to do. Our little friends at Parma may not exactly squander their money in the selection of space-age steels for their chassis, but the plating is usually pretty decent. God knows they make enough of them to have figured it out. What I don't know is how to get an Edge chassis to rust like that shown, at least without purposely abrading it and dousing it with flux. A lot of flux. An awful lot, particularly given the fact that the only items soldered anywhere near there are two pieces of 1/16" brass tubing. If I put the flux on with a spray can and at least wiped some of it off, I still couldn't get surface rust like that on a plated surface. This just tells me that there are some construction techniques that I still haven't learned, no matter how hard I try.

 

example_03.jpg

example 3

 

example_04.jpg

example 3

 

Examples 3 and 4 - and the hits keep on acomin'. Those of us who use in screw-in motor tabs for everything up to and including Top Gun cars need to pay attention here. The motor mount is a clear example of the "More is Better" school of soldering, and no, the screw holes in the motor can weren't stripped, either. Nor was the chassis even remotely straight, symmetrical, or... you get the point. If you don't, Example 4 shows you a nice example of the Bad Engineering Mantra: "Think again, there must be a harder way to do it." Too complicated, not very repairable – one touch of the soldering iron and way too much stuff falls apart – and even at that, you'd have to chisel the glorp off the chassis to find the joints anyhow.

 

If these look like your cars, a mini-lecture: So now some of you are thinking "Unc, you insufferable blowhard, that looks just like my stuff! What's wrong with that?" Well, if it's the first one you've ever built and/or you have absolutely no pride of ownership and/or workmanship, absolutely nothing. But if it isn't and you do care about doing it better every time, then shame on you for not trying harder or caring more, whichever. Look, the Wright Brothers didn't get it right the first time, nor did Henry Ford, nor did any of the God's Gifts to Slot Car Drag Racing that hold court at your local track. Anybody in this hobby who tells you he never made a mistake, turned out a total dog, followed a blind alley, or came up with a glorious idea that fell flat on its face is lying to you, pure and simple. It happens. A lot.

 

You get better, however, by trying and doing, and, almost inadvertently, learning along the way. You do not get better by ever – ever – being satisfied with what you can do and what you have. Look, this isn't life, or even a metaphor for life; it's a hobby, and the cost of occasional failures isn't your livelihood or family. If it appeals to you, it's something you can work at that's reasonably inexpensive, and wherein you can be pretty good if you try – trust me on this. As long as you continue to promise yourself that the next car or motor or body or whatever you build is going to be a nearly perfect as you can make it, or at least envision it, and you continue to at least strive for that unobtainable goal, then you won't go far wrong. Honest. End of lecture.



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Posted 26 May 2015 - 05:12 PM

This is the end of the archive of Unca Frank's slot car material and I'll be locking this thread down after I split off the discussion, simply because I want this to be as close to Unca Frank's work as I can make it.

 

It's very sad that Unca Frank has left us, because it is abundantly clear there is so much more knowledge he could have shared.


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Gregory Wells

Never forget that first place goes to the racer with the MOST laps, not the racer with the FASTEST lap






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