Classic buildings in miniature

After cornering the market in ultra-refined models of classic GT racers to go on your 1/32 slot racing track, Graham Poulton has done it again with a collection of iconic trackside buildings.

There are many schools of thought when it comes to decorating a slot car track, from minimalist to full-on scale model venue. It’s always nice to have something dressed to fit the era or type of cars that you particularly like to run – and for historic fans, Graham has produced just the sort of set dressing that is going to go down a storm.

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Scenic slot tracks can vary in scale of ambition

Reims, Goodwood and the earliest post-war Silverstone buildings feature large in the collection, which come as flat pack assembly kits with all the hard work of decorating them done for you.

Compared to the price of cars these days, the buildings look extraordinary value and can be ordered direct from Graham or via Pendle Slot Racing. Here’s some of the loveliness that Pendle has on sale:

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Reims pit boxes (could double for Brooklands)

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Bumper box set of Goodwood timing tower and pit boxes plus the grandstand

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Another Goodwood icon: the SuperShell building

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Typical of the wartime buildings at Silverstone for its first 40 years: the original timekeepers’ hut

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The original press box from Silverstone faithfully recreated…

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…along with the press box from Reims

We’re sure that there will be many similar additions – Le Mans is always a favourite, maybe some pit scenery from Monza or Spa would be fun too. Well done, Graham – keep up the good work.

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Christmas shopping for Aston fans

Some people have a passion for a particular rock band or author, others for an aeroplane or yacht. Graham Poulton’s passion is Aston Martin, and he lavishes it upon replicating the finest of GT cars as 1/32 models for static display or high end slot cars.

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The DP214 in all its (miniature) glory

The devil is in the detail when it comes to miniaturisation. Aston Martins are somewhere between two and ten a penny in the model making world because, as beautiful things, lots of people want them. But Graham’s keen eye wouldn’t rest until there was something spot-on, which led him down the path to whittling and crafting his way towards perfection.

That doesn’t just mean the bodywork, by the way. Exact replicas of the unique Aston Martin wire wheels are available and Graham has even colour matched his own paint – although Ford Forest Green from Halfords will often suffice.

Now you too can own one of Graham’s little masterpieces. They are available in kit form – and even a halfwit could make a decent fist of them. Alternatively, GP has been known to turn out fully-finished models to order. They’re well worth the asking price, especially when you look at what is being charged for mass-produced and inaccurate die-casts these days.

Upcoming models include the DB5 in various guises and even some other non-Aston models. Already available are the DB4GT, DP214, DB4 GT Zagato and – oh, blasphemy! – a Ferrari 250 GT SWB.

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Graham’s kits are user-friendly and take only enthusiasm to get right

So why not head on over to GP-Miniatures to drool awhile, then get your chequebook out and have one of these magnificent little beasts in your life?

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The DB4 GT Zagato is always popular – for very good reason

A splendid enterprise

Christmas shopping need be a chore no longer, thanks to Marlon Foakes. Well known in the model car racing world for his exquisite scratch built Grand Prix machinery, Marlon is now letting people share in his glory by producing a range of kits and ready-to-race slot cars representing some of the finest cars of the 1920s and early 1930s under the name Shadowfax.

For those not versed in Tolkien, Shadowfax was Gandalf’s chosen steed: the Lord of all horses from the race of the Mearas, the greatest horses of Middle-earth, who was said to run faster than the wind. So there you go.

The bare bones: a Shadowbox Alfa Romeo P2 in kit form

First out of the blocks are a trio of Portello’s finest offerings: the Alfa Romeo P2 in both 1929 and 1930 guise and, for fans of the Thirties, there is the 1938 Alfa Romeo 308 – sleek, streamlined and the best non-German car of the 3-litre era.

Not only has Marlon carved and cast the bodies, details and drivers but he has also developed an adjustable chassis that can allow the models to sit correctly and steer with the front wheels turning in harmony with the guide. As a result, your miniature Varzis and Nuvolaris will be able to drift correctly around the track.

The Shadowbox chassis can be adjusted to fit various cars

A raft of new types is expected to follow shortly – these include Bugattis, Delages and Maseratis of the kind that graced grids from Brooklands to Buenos Aires. For further information, contact Shadowfax here.

The finished product! Achille Varzi’s 1929 Alfa Romeo P2

The real thing to compare with its new replica

Fitting AVUS into the living room

Flat-out in Berlin – and in miniature

We love a bit of slot car racing here at the S&G – be it Scalextric, Carrerabahn or anything wild and wacky. Not much can compare with this layout in the latter stakes – a recreation of Berlin’s mighty AVUS circuit in its 1930s prime.

At the time of opening, AVUS was 19½ km (12 miles) long – each straight being approximately half that length. Before the 1937 AVUS-Rennen the North Turn was rebuilt to become a towering banked curve made of bricks and tilted at 43 degrees in order to maximise the speed of the cars. As the AVUS race did not count towards the championship, the use of streamlined cars, similar to the cars used for high speed record attempts, was permitted.

Given their vast weight and speed, all of the streamliners had holes cut into their bodywork to allow drivers to check on the condition of their Continental tyres. Blowouts were one risk to life and limb but so too were the aerodynamic forces at play – in practice Hermann Lang’s streamliner was fitted with covers over the wheels and, while doing roughly 390 km/h on the straight, enough air became trapped under the to lift the front wheels lifted from the ground.

While Mercedes struggled to configure its cars appropriately, the Auto Union team had a much less dramatic time and Bernd Rosemeyer set a time of 4m 4.2s (averaging 284.31km/h or 176.7mph). Such feats and glorious spring weather prompted a crowd estimated at 400,000 to witness the races – staged in two heats and a final – from which the overall winner would pocket 12000 Reichmarks. The winners of the heats would get 2000 RM, second place 1000 RM.

That prize ultimately fell to Lang for Mercedes in an event that has rightly been set into legend – and now it has been recreated – in spirit at least – for smaller scale racing.

The daunting North Turn at AVUS in 1937

There’s clearly still some work to do on the scenery, but even at this early stage it’s clear that a masterpiece is taking shape.

A day’s racing at Brooklands

Who would have thought that some 70 years after the likes of Prince Bira and Earl Howe set the pace around the Byfleet Banking, the opportunity would arise to go racing at Brooklands. Well, back in 2009, the offer of taking part in a race for cars which used to thunder round the banking and skitter round the infield circuit seemed too good to miss – even in 1/32 scale.

On the balcony of the Brooklands clubhouse with the lovely Alfa Romeo 8C/35

This was to be the Feature Race of the Slot Car Festival at Brooklands. BBC Top Gear presenter James May was there making his Toy Stories programme about Scalextric, setting a world record for the longest track in the world by running around the full length of the old Outer Circuit. There was drag racing and a massive Airfix stand where kids of all ages could have a go at building and painting something exciting and a gigantic swapmeet to enjoy.

The Feature Race rules insisted that a full-size version of the car you intended to race must have raced at Brooklands in period. My collection is not huge but fortunately the Swiss racer Hans Reusch campaigned an ex-Ferrari Alfa Romeo 8C/35 in the Mountain Championship of 1937 – the same car with which Reusch and Dick Seaman won the 1936 Donington Grand Prix, so this was to be my mount for the occasion.

Bright and early on race day, I joined a trail of grown men carrying boxes of toy cars past the somewhat bewildered-looking staff. The race was being organised by Pendle Slot Racing, from where Sean and Nic were to be found Concorde as an imprmptu workshop to plumb the regulation Scaleauto motor. Everyone was required to have the same powerplant – a rorty little number capable of spinning up to 25,000 rpm – so they were doing a roaring trade.

Sean from Pendle was busy with the soldering iron while sitting under Concorde

Then came to mounting the body and, lo and behold, the end of the new Scaleauto motor was fouling the front body post. With the clock ticking towards the end of scrutineering and little progress being made chipping away at it, I gave up and pulled the mount out of the body completely, leaving me with only the rear mount. Nevertheless the big Alfa sailed through scrutineering – aided by my first edition copy of Bill Boddy’s History of Racing at Brooklands, whereby our eagle-eyed ‘scroots’ could find, on page 316, provenance that Reusch had in fact campaigned it here.

The scrutineers pass their eagle eyes over the assembly

Next up was the concours. Among the scratchbuilt drivers, clothes, chassis, bodies on display my efforts were very much on the average side. Victory in the concours ultimately went to the fabulous Morgan 3-wheeler.

Concours d’elegance taking place as the builders show off their creations

The Alfa scrubbed up rather well but was still a long way behind the standards of other builders…

A gaggle of beauties including a Bugatti, streamlined Bentley and pair of Napier-Railtons

Beautiful Talbot T700

Concours-winning Morgan – it ran rather nicely too

Then came the track action. The Alfa suffered some serious overheating problems in the heats, but mustered a couple of fourth place finishes which weren’t too bad. The problem was fixed by a seasoned hand, Steve Francis, who walloped the motor with a screwdriver – whatever it did worked a treat.

This in turn, however, meant mastering new cornering speeds, and there were a few too many incidents before I managed that, including terrifying several small children who were standing at the end of the main straight and had to duck as the big Alfa whistled past their ears. Little by little the Alfa shed its finer detail parts and by the end of my running was held together with gaffer tape.

Having endured a few issues in the heats, my Alfa was rather sorry-looking for its last few races

I was looking carefully at all the other entrants on the track and in the ‘paddock’ and feeling rather like the new boy. Steve Francis came to my rescue again, talking me through his fabulous Alfa P3: balsa body, ride height the lowest permissible and weighty rattle pan chassis. It seems one can build a winner on the track or a winner in the concours but there is a degree of mutual exclusivity! Steve’s car was a joy to watch, poised, driftable and kart-like in its responsiveness. That’s what everyone needs to aim for – as his deserved victory proved!

Steve Francis’s extremely rapid balsa Alfa Romeo P3

All in all it was a fantastic day’s racing with plenty of camaraderie among the builders and racers. Hopefully there will be more of the same before long – Team S&G is ready to go racing again! Meanwhile here are some more of these glorious little racing cars to enjoy…

Barnato Bentley in fine fettle

Beautiful Bugatti T35

Bentleys were very popular

Another lovely Bug

And another Talbot is ready to race

 

A gaggle of entries showing the different shapes and sizes on show

 

A regular Renaissance man

Martin Field is someone who’s turned a love of the most elegant, powerful, competitive and evocative machinery of the 20th Century into a whole raft of little gems. He’s turning his career as a technical illustrator and model engineer into a ‘fun consultancy’ for those with an eye for the fine things in life.

It’s always fun catching up with Martin’s latest project… which could be anything from modelling a traditional wooden motorboat to capturing the beauty of a canal boat engine on paper or carving the master mould for a 1/32 model kit. Among the many projects he’s been busy with recently are a slot car model of the unique Ferrari 126 C2 from the 1982 US GP West at Long Beach:

Completed slot car kit: Gilles Villeneuve, 1982

Completed slot car kit: Gilles Villeneuve, 1982

A 1/43 Raysoncraft drag boat and custom trailer kit:

Lovely little combo!

Lovely little combo!

A watercolour of the delicious Supermarine S6b Schneider Trophy winner:

A vision in blue: Martin's S6b

A vision in blue: Martin’s S6b

Martin’s always on the hunt for an interesting project, so if you’ve got an idea for anything that nobody else does, and want it done better than most people would manage, why not check out his website.

‘Scalextric’ cars with a difference

Lovespeed's exotic slot cars

Lovespeed’s exotic slot cars

Yes, it’s a trio of 1/32 scale model cars. Yes, they’ve each got an electric motor that picks up power from a slot in a track through metal braids and a guide flag to steer it round. But this is, as you will already have noted, far from being a standard ‘Scalextric’ car – or Carrerabahn, for our German readers!

This is a long-since deleted series of models by a German company called Lovespeed. It’s a faithful reproduction of that rarest of beasts, the Porsche Typ60K10. This was intended to take part in – and win – the proposed road race between Berlin and Rome in 1940.

These sleek two-seater sports cars were built by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche and his team at Zuffenhausen from standard Volkswagen parts and some exotic extras such as larger valves and higher compression in the motor and plastic windows to save weight. The aluminium coachwork was by Reutter and proved to be more efficient than any future Porsche for several decades.

The Porsche family's wartime runabout

The Porsche family’s wartime runabout

Although the celebratory Berlin-Rome race never happened, three of the cars were built. Chassis 1 became the Porsche family runabout and was written off during the war. Chassis 2 was used as a development vehicle, but destroyed by US soldiers in the immediate post-war period. The final car survived the war and was used to develop the Porsche 356 before being sold to a private racer who won his class on the 1959 Alpine Rally with it.

If not quite as rare or valuable as the real thing, the Lovespeed models are without doubt some of the most sought-after slot cars in the world. If the baby Porsche doesn’t quite do it for you then how about the 1940 BMW 328 coupe? If you can find one, you generally need to have more than £200 to hand even for a rough example of Lovespeed’s brilliance.

Money well spent, I’m sure you agree…

Lovespeed also made the glorious BMW 328 coupe

Lovespeed also made the glorious BMW 328 coupe