The first three pictures outline similarities and differences in Le Mans car design starting in the early 1990's. The first is Tamiya's Nissan R90V that ran in Japanese Group C racing in 1990. A development of the R89C that ran at Le Mans in 1989, the car features a twin-turbo V8 of 3.5 litres. I built it box stock, except for the omission of the decals which are related to Japanese specific sponsors.
The second is Tamiya's Jaguar XJR-LM that won at Le Mans in 1988. Substituting cubic inches for sophistication, the 7.0 litre V12 is naturally aspirated and has only one cam per head, not two as in the Nissan. That being said, the aero bits (venturi-shaped floor pan, rear wing, air intakes and radiator openings) are remarkably similar. Again I built it box stock but painted it in an approximation of British Racing Green instead of the horrible purple and white livery of the Silk Cut-sponsored race winner.
The third is a newer build, Tamiya's Porsche 911 GT1 that ran to 2nd place at Le Mans in 1996. The motor is an evolution of the classic Porsche twin-turbo flat 6 of 3.2 litres. Here I applied all the decals, a challenge given the curved nature of the body that can be solved with lots of gentle rubbing and plenty of liquid decal set. Again the motor is different from the first two but the aero aspects are similar, limited in this case only by the rules requiring something more closely resembling a production road car.
I've got a raft of unbuilt Le Mans cars: Aston Martin DBR1, Ford GT40, Porsche 956, Sauber Mercedes C9, Toyota TS-One, Audi R10 turbo-diesel, even the Mazda 787B rotary that won in 1991. The basic idea of the collection is to illustrate the wide range of engines allowed at Le Mans, but also that aerodynamics always seems to lead to the same shape. Too bad Formula 1, or NASCAR for that matter, don't allow engine designers to go wild ...
Tamiya kits are complex but once you get a feel for dealing with small parts, they go together well, and the well-defined creases arising from their typically clean injection molds reward both a steady hand with the paint brush and minimalist glue application.
The next picture shows a couple of challenging builds from Revell. In the back is Tony Nancy's classic front-engine dragster, with a blown Mopar 426 motor. This would have been state of the art in 1963, generating quarter-mile times of just over 8 seconds at 180+ miles per hour. Pretty scary, given the driver straddles the driveshaft and final drive... I wouldn't want to be sitting there when the crown and pinion disintegrate.
In front is a Kurtis Midget racer, designed for short dirt track ovals. The motor is an Edelbrock modification of the classic Ford flathead V8. The date is not given in the kit documents but Kurtis built over 1100 of these, from the mid-30's to the mid-50's, with not much change over that period. Again the driver straddles the driveshaft (although not the final drive, which is under his backside).
Both Revell kits are very finicky to get right, even more so than Tamiya's kits. The molds are not as crisp as Tamiya's, meaning there are lots of very small parts but detail is not as fine.
Changing gears, the next few pictures show chophouse efforts based largely on the standard, relatively easily built AMT kit series of big American iron. The first is a modified 1960 Ford Starliner. I've always thought this was a clean shape and admired the way the curve of the front fenders rises past the headlights, quickly turns horizontal, and flows in a beautiful straight line all the way to the vestigial fins, unlike the Impala of the same vintage where the fins seem tacked on as an afterthought. That long low rear deck inspired me to see how far I could stretch it ... the result has the cockpit, narrowed to seat only two people due to intrusion of the front wheel wells, shoved forward into what was the engine bay. The cockpit has also been shortened by removing the back seat, thus lengthening the rear deck even further.
The Thunderbird 390 motor with tri-carb setup lives under the back window and connects via a very short driveshaft to the independent rear axle from a recent-generation Nissan Skyline. (A solid axle wouldn't work with the short driveshaft, and I didn't have the patience to cast a Hewland transaxle for this purpose). The pics are carefully selected to mask my somewhat sloppy finishing job; most of the effort went into engineering the chassis to get it all to fit just as it would in real life, not in sanding the deck perfectly smooth to hide the joint where I spliced in some sheet styrene.
Next is a pair of modified Chevy Nomads. In front, the AMT AlterNomad kit, a modern Caprice with Nomad wagon rear, has been turned into a pickup truck using the complete chassis and bed from AMT's Chevy 454 pickup which, coincidentally, has the same wheelbase. Call it an 'El Caprice' ... the 'El Nomad' in the back is similarly modified, and includes drag motor and chassis scrounged from the parts bin. Both have gotten a top chop, the El Caprice's being somewhat cleaner.
Next are a pair of stock cars from overseas. In front is Tamiya's Volvo 850 as run in the British BTCC series in the 1990's, and in back is a 1970's Datsun Skyline with a 2 litre straight 6, a Fujimi kit of an early predecessor to today's fearsome Nissan Skyline. Unfortunately both are curbside kits, meaning no engine detail, so assembly is pretty quick and overall quality of the build rests entirely on the finish.
Back to the chophouse ... This Chevy Vandura is a Revell kit, which also included the race car trailer used in the El Nomad setup above. Here a horizontal section has been taken out of the body at about the boundary between the orange and black paint; at full scale, the cut would be close to a foot. Lots of fun cutting and gluing this up, and unlike the Revell racers above, the kit is an easy build if you choose to go the box-stock route. The picture was taken before I had finished tidying up the grille and headlights.
Lancia is a brand with a lot of history, but has been part of the Fiat empire since the mid-70's. The next picture shows two Lancia racers. In the back is an older build of the 1979 Beta Monte Carlo that finished first at Le Mans in the 2-litre class. (A Porsche 935 run by Kremer won overall that year). The transverse mid-mounted motor is a turbo 4; the kit, by a little-known firm named ESCI, is molded in clear plastic allowing a lot of the chassis bits to be visible. The period Martini decals were dried out when I got the kit and are now flaking off. An obscure kit of an obscure car.
In front is the Lancia Stratos that ran in the European rallye series in 1978, this particular one being the one entered in the last race of the season in San Remo. The Pirelli sponsorship was new for that race, earlier cars had green and white Alitalia livery. The Hasegawa kit is very detailed, except for the engine, which is a shame as the motor was the 2.4 litre V6 out of the Ferrari Dino 246, and it would have been nice to build it. Like the Beta, the decals are peeling in spite of the multiple coats of clear I applied to lock them in.
More chopping: The twin turbo V6 out of the AMT Dodge Stealth kit fits nicely in the back of this Deuce Coupe, allowing a pretty deep section to the body without having to make room for a V8 up front. I probably cut up half a dozen of these Dodges, in order to stick the engine and 4WD drivetrain in a range of unfamiliar locations. I don't remember where I got the Deuce body; the wheels come from AMT's Porsche 935 which I chose to cannibalize rather than build once I discovered it had no engine detail.
One of the Dodge Stealth bodies got cut up as part of the design exercise shown next. The engine and complete front-wheel drive drivetrain have been lifted from a Japanese kit of the late-80's Honda Prelude and transplanted in the rear of a scratch-built mid-engine chassis which demonstrates engineering potential if not beauty. Essentially it's a Honda version of the Toyota MR-S. There's even a briefcase-sized luggage bin behind the motor.
This Chevy pickup from the early 50's was converted to 4WD using bits from the parts bin. I got carried away and fabricated the spark plug wiring and fuel lines for the overhead valve 6. The stake bed was taken from a 1920's Ford Model T pickup. Various tools accumulated over the years are stored in the bed of this shop wagon, which has vintage Sinclair decals.
Finally this Vickie has had the cockpit shortened and moved way back to allow room for the Revell Parts Pack 283 motor, with the blower mounted in front of the crank instead of the more usual location in the V of the block. The intake scoop on the left of the blower was scratch built.
So there you have it -- a quick overview of some of the better past builds. If you read this far, you're a real keener. Stay tuned ...