The Little World – The Race Car Race

model-cars-2014-40I visit the Super Model Car Sunday every year and marvel at the 1:24 and smaller plastic kits that people have built up – hot rods, custom cars, stock cars, trucks. The modellers have more patience and finer fingers than I seem to be able to muster these days.  I also get a chance to speculate about some of the larger and wilder displays.

The ones that impress me the most are the trucks outside and the petrol-driven race cars inside. Leaving the first aside until another time, have a look at some of the static display items inside.

model-cars-2014-44These seem to be tethered cars from an earlier era – I think they were raced individually on a steel wire attached to a metal post – probably on a portable circular track. the contests would have been timed affairs of one car against the clock. There is a good deal of metal casting in those bodies and quite large diesel and glow engines. I’ll bet they were a dangerous spectacle to see hurtling around the central pivot.

dscf2724The 1/4 scale sprint cars are radio controlled, and probably just as dangerous, but in lots of different directions. Bigger engines, petrol powered, and much more sophisticated suspension systems and control mechanisms. And able to race on dirt in packs. They look to have sponsors, and this may be reflected in a higher build price. I did not ask the costs as I did not want to start sweating in a warm room.

dscf2726I did not see any, but I would be willing to bet that there are Formula 1 grand prix scale models that race under radio control, as well as the drift cars and stock cars. I know I’ve seen kits and components for them in the hobby shops. What I have never seen, however, are open-wheel vintage car racers – models of the Auto Union, Mercedes, Alfa, or Talbot cars of the 20’s and 30’s. Indeed I have never seen scale Indianapolis racing for cars of the classic Offenhauser era…yet I’ll bet that they would be equally popular if offered.

dscf2727A scale Brooklands or Indianapolis circuit could not be all that hard to construct and would beg for annual races. I’d go to that.

The Question Of Race


I went to a wonderful museum last year and wandered at will amongst the cars  – they had apparently been collected by a local mining magnate and were stored in a country town about an hour out of Perth. The collection was an eclectic one, and I was unable to fathom why some of the items were of interest to the owner. But I got in cheaply on a seniors ticket and looked my fill.

The most puzzling of the cars were the racers – mainly because they were such a mixed bag and there wasn’t clear story of how they fitted into the story of local car racing. I puzzled out a few things for myself, but have probably gotten it wrong.


This imposing beauty may well be a replica of something that raced elsewhere in the world. I think it a 1904 Samson Napier from the sign but the condition of it seems too perfect. The really impressive part is the use of the copper tubing to form both an engine compartment and a cooling radiator. No seat belts or windscreen seem to make the position of the mechanic more perilous that need be as he is denied even the comfort of the steering wheel to hang on to.


Smaller, lighter, weirder…this yellow boat tail seems to have a motor-cycle engine partially buried in the front of the chassis. The front axle has the same sort of steering action that we used to see in billy carts or soap-box racers – albeit with a vertical spring to rest on.

The final drive is also a thing of interest – is it really going to go forward with just a rubber vee belt and two pulleys? Not with that particular belt, I imagine…

And the single light at the front…acetylene, one supposes, and certainly an elegant little brass accessory. But it argues that this mechanical confection was let loose on the open road after dark. A midnight apparition.


Now we’re getting somewhere…but unfortunately we never did. This special is the partially – built remainder of a project that was to have been the salvation of a young man of good family. Alas, it did not succeed.


Here is a racer! I am assuming an Offenhauser under that bonnet and mag wheels and all the trimmings that made American speedway racing great in the 40’s and 50’s. I am at a loss as to how it got here or exactly what tier of racing it competed in over there. Was it an Indianapolis car?


Here is an Australian car of the 50’s and 60’s. Home made but to a quasi-continental style for circuit racing in the eastern states. It almost echoes a Mercdes style, though the engine is likely to be American or Australian.

I wish I knew more. On another visit I will get more information. Please note that there are wilder birds seen at other Perth exhibitions from the early days of motor sport in the state. Few of them ever look good, but they do attract the eye.



The Model Brickyard


I have a secret ambition – to collect as many of the classic Indianapolis Speedway model cars as I can without selling a kidney to do it. So far I have managed two of them due to bargains on the shelf in two model stores.

Collectors will recognise the Carousel 1 models in the pictures – 1:18th scale cars from the great eras of the raceway. They are the best evocations of these cars I have ever seen, but I am still nostalgic for the Aurora model kits of the 50’s and 60’s. I owned a Gilmour Special from this firm and I wish I had it now – as well as some of the other models from this firm. I doubt we will ever see them in cast form.

Of course there were some other plastic models that qualified – Monogram made a superb Indianapolis car kit and I discovered how to do realistic tyre painting when I built one. Again, it has long been given away to the Marines and I have not found a replacement. But back to the Carousel 1 models.

I believe they have shut up shop now – probably flooded the market, or the Chinese firm went bust. I got a Federal Special at $ 149 and a Dowgard Special for $ 99 at separate shops – they were the bargains. I covet the Vukovich car but have not seen it at an affordable price.


One wonderful thing that I discovered was the brick pavement roll that Lemac toys make for their Christmas display villages. I intend to get more if I can this year from Myer. It is as cheap as chips if you want to face a model building  or make the Indianapolis track. I daresay there are structure kits out there as well or at least plans that one could use for a diorama.


Why Indianapolis? Ask any American where the real race track is and they will not mention LeMans or Mount Panorama or Nurburgring. Or Goodwood or Watkins Glen or Monte Carlo. It is Indianapolis on Memorial Day. In the heat and the smell of suntan oil and gasoline. 500 miles on an oval track turning left all the time. Leader gets a bonus for each lap he leads. Prize money at the end. Advertisement money for the rest of it. Colour, graphics, girls, and big engines. Big names. And a new pace car each year to model…


Now that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms to open up. How many kidneys do we have…?