Die Cast Insider - January 1999
© 1999 Paul M. Provencher
|What is a car worth when it
weighs around 1600 pounds, has a ground effects, carbon fiber monocoque structure, a 4
liter V-8 engine capable of displacing 700 horsepower and attaining speeds in excess of
200 mph? If you guessed a number in the vicinity of $300,000 dollars, you are on the right
track. And you probably follow the Indy Racing League (IRL). If you have one in your
garage, you probably still have a big smile stuck of your face from the last time you went
for a spin.
The IRL was established five years ago for open wheel, open cockpit, single seat Indy-style cars, with an emphasis on oval tracks. Naturally the Indy 500 is the basis for the league and the racing series. No longer does an Indy racing fan have to wait for Memorial Day weekend and travel to Indiana. Races in the series are also held in Florida, Texas, Arizona, Delaware, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, and Nevada.
It took a few years for the league to get organized, but in late 1995 the current formula was finalized. In December of 1995, the engine formula (4.0 liter production-based, normally aspirated, dual overhead cam, methanol fired 8 cylinder) was announced. By the middle of February, Oldsmobile and Nissan had stepped up to the plate with engines Olds with the Aurora racing engine and Nissan with the "Infinity Indy", based on the engine found in the Q45. Goodyear and Firestone, both with the league since the beginning, provide two tire design choices for each wheel position on the car (primary or secondary). Size options for front tires are 25 inches minimum and 26 inches maximum. Rear tires may be either 26.5 inches (minimum) or 27.5 inches (maximum). Tire sizes are rated at 35 psi. Firestone tires took the checkered flag for the 50th time when Arie Luyendyk won the Indy 500 in 1997.
Three constructors currently provide chassis to Indy teams G-Force Precision Engineering Ltd with new headquarters in Denver Colorado; Dallara Automobili da Competizione in Varano Melegari (Parma) Italy since 1972; Riley & Scott Incorporated, based in Indianapolis, Indiana. All three companies would best be described as high tech outfits with a history of winning designs. Overall length of the cars is limited to no more than 195 inches, no higher than 38 inches and a maximum of 78 inches wide.
Not your fathers Oldsmobile for sure. But despite the potential for performance these cars are among the safest cars on the race circuit to date. Even the spectacular crashes at speed, with parts flying in all directions, many drivers come away with minimal injuries. I can remember watching Indy races in the 60s and recall that most crashes were considerably harder on the driver, even at lower speeds.
Which brings us to the subject of this column, four cars representing drivers in the 1998 Season. Team Menard is represented by two cars, the Johns Manville/Menards Special and Glidden/Menards Special. Team A.J. Foyt Enterprises gives us the Conseco AJ Foyt Racing car. The field is rounded out by the Team Panther Racing LLC Pennzoil Panther G-Force. Theres a mouthful for you. Try and fit that on a baseball hat.
These cars come from the Ertl American Muscle / Pep Boys Indy Racing League series. They are 1:43 scale die cast with black plastic bases, rubber tires on chrome 12-spoke wheels that roll on black axles. The cars are put together with small Philips-head screws. Each car comes attached to a display case with clear plastic cover and black plastic base. The display cases are stackable. But they display better lined up side by side.
The Dallara cars are 4 ¼ inches long, 1 15/16 inches wide and 7/8 inch high. The G-Force cars are 4 ½ inches long, 1 15/16 inches wide and 15/16 inch high. Interior detail on all cars is minimal. There is a suggestion of detail in the seating area. Beyond that a simple steering wheel is the only other feature in the cockpit. A different base is used on each and embossed "Ertl", "1/43" and the maker name. Minimal detail on the base includes the ground effects tunnels and a scattering of "rivets". Holes are provided for locating the cars to the display base one for alignment and one for the screw.
Johns Manville/Menards Special
Robbie Buhl took the seat of honor in the Team Menard #3 car. With one career Pep Boys IRL victory, and his best finish this season sixth, he ended the season 17th in the standings. But the Menard team as a whole did much better, finishing 3rd.
The car is very colorful, mainly blue with red, orange and yellow stripes down the sides. The major sponsor names are white. The tires are Firestone Firehawk, with 12-spoke chrome wheels and center lug. This car is the G-Force chassis with Aurora engine. The paint is great it covers the whole casting, its shiny and uniform, and is a good match for the real car. The tampos are incredible for a car of this scale (1/43). They are full color, crisp, and properly located. Only the markings normally found on the trailing edge of the front and rear spoiler are missing, probably because the trailing edges are missing as well. The suspension is black just like the real car. The casting used for these cars most accurately replicates this team car. Small variations in other cars in this series might not be captured in the "generic" casting used for the series. The windscreen is clear with little rear-view mirrors molded into the sides. The latter are painted to match the car and have the correct sponsor tampos on them.
Driver Tony Steward is the 1996/97 IRL Champion and 1996 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year. He won the 1995 national championships in USAC, sprint AND midget categories the only driver ever to do so in the same year. He placed third in the 1998 IRL season.
His ride, #1, owned by Team Menard, is bright yellow with orange and red striping on the sides of the body. The suspension is black with free-rolling wheels. The inside and outside side-walls of the rubber tires are marked with white "Firestone Firehawk" lettering. The wheels are 12-spoke chrome, with molded in center lug nut. The model is based on the G-Force chassis, with the Olds Aurora engine (not visible on these models).
The paint finish is great nice and shiny with no imperfections. The tampos are sharp and printed in full color. As far as I can tell, the size, location and color of all sponsor decals is correct when compared to photos of the actual car. The only decal variation from the real car is due to the absence of elevators on the front and rear wings the "Gliddens" marking is missing from the front wings and "Menards" is missing from the rear. The windshield is clear with molded-in rear-view mirrors, the latter painted to match the car.
Conseco AJ Foyt Racing
Billy Boat drove this Dallara-chassis to two PPG Pole Awards in 1998, and one victory in the True Value 500 in Texas. He drives for team owner and four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt.
This car is nice. The dark green color is not quite the color of the real car, which is more of a British Racing green, but its close. The major sponsor name and car number (11) are white. Goodyear Eagle are the tire of choice for this team the side-walls are correctly lettered in yellow. This car has the same wheels as all the other cars in this series, but they are not technically correct when compared to the actual car.
This car also runs the Aurora engine. Paint finish is very good. I like the tampos on this series. Even as small as they have to be to remain in-scale, they are crisp, clear and colorful. And they are accurate. Again, the flaps on the spoilers are missing, so some artistic license was taken with the markings. The rear-view mirrors on this model are molded into the windscreen but they are not painted, so they look a little funny because they are clear right through. In any case it would have been hard to replicate the real ones because in this scale they would have been too frail.
Pennzoil Panther G-Force
Scott Goodyear ran the controls of the Number 4 car for Team Panther Racing LLC. He scored no wins this season, and finished 7th in the standings. But winning isnt always everything he did bring home $953,000 dollars in prize money. Its hard to say if it paid the bills for the season, but then racing isnt always about profit. With sponsorship, I have a feeling they managed to make ends meet.
I think this is my favorite car of the four covered. It is decorated in the classic Pennzoil colors, yellow and black, with a trace of red. The Number 4 car for the 98 season, it also runs Goodyear Eagles and the Aurora engine option. As with all of these models, the casting is used to represent the general shape of the chassis but does not replicate individual features of team cars. In this case the air intakes are nowhere near the shape and size of those on the real car.
The Panther Racing striping that runs down the sides of the car is present but is curved on the model, straight on the real car. Notwithstanding, the tampos are again very good, colorful, correctly placed, and more than adequate for such a small model. This car might be more correct without a windscreen. In photos of the real car, I cannot see one. I could be wrong though, because I cannot imagine going down the straight doing over 200 mph without SOMETHING .
The wheels appear to be a close match for those actually run on the real car. But the suspension struts and axles should be bare metal colored and not black as they are on the model. This is something I am sure could be corrected easily since these models are assembled with screws and not rivets. In fact it would not surprise me if some folks spent some time detailing these cars. I am tempted myself. But that is not saying much I am tempted to mess with just about every model I see .
Sherman set the WAYBACK Machine
In 1969, Mario Andretti won the Indy 500 driving a Hawk/Ford with a race speed of 156.867 mph. The Chevy Camaro was the Indy 500 Pace car for the second time in two years. A Dover White 1969 SS Convertible was driven by Jim Rathmann. Two Pace Cars were actually used. Both were specially prepared by the Chevy Engineering Division. The cars featured the 396-375HP L89 engines that had been blueprinted. The Turbo 400 transmissions (automatic) were also given the once over. Special rear end ratios, torque converters, suspension, drive shaft, battery, alternator and radiator components were also special items. Beyond the performance items and a couple minor mechanical tweaks, the car also got some hardware added to hold flags, grab handles for the use by the "bignitaries" and even special fasteners to make sure the convertible top didnt blow off the car at speed. Special hood locks, two way radio and four-wheel disc brakes rounded out the modifications made in preparation for race day. Mario Andretti received a third car after winning the race.
A relatively large number of Pace Car replicas were sold by Chevy. Although not run at Indy, the Pace Car replica was also available in coupe form. For those of us who did not order one, or dont want to hunt for the real thing, this model is a pretty good substitute.
Ok, so its only 10 inches long. But modeled in 1/18th scale, there is plenty of detail to keep one busy for a little while. The doors open. The seats fold forward. The hood opens to reveal a fairly well detail engine with correct markings on the air cleaner. The inside of the hood is painted black. Surprisingly, the trunk does NOT open. That may be due to the fact that the rear deck plays host to a small spoiler that probably would have complicated the trunk mechanism.
The car is painted to match the original Dover White. The racing stripes running from stem to stern are a dead ringer, both in color and in proportion to the real car. I have commented about headlight detail on other models in the past. This model gets way with any serious criticism because the clear portion of the headlight is covered by the white slats found on these cars, very correct, and quite handy for covering any lack of fidelity in the lamp area.
The nose is well done. The grill, bumper, "SS" logo, and parking lights are also spot-on. The tail section is pretty good. I think the chrome accent on the taillights could be a little bit better. And the back-up lights were crooked out of the box. It was easy to straighten them out but I did worry about breaking them off and losing them in the carpet, swallower of many a stray model part.
The interior is prominent in this model for several reasons. Its easy to see it because the convertible top is supplied in the permanent down position. The boot cover is the same color orange as the interior. I have a feeling this may be correct but could not find a photo to confirm my hunch.
The rest of the interior is also a combination of orange and orange houndstooth "cloth" seats, with black carpet and dash covering, wood-grained dash accents, chrome console shifter and steering wheel spokes. The driver and passenger sear flip forward for easy access. The instruments in front of the driver include those recessed into the dash and an array of four more mounted on the console. The interior is rounded out by chrome window winders and handles, rear view mirrors, and a black sun visors.
The exterior of the car is very detailed. Numerous "Camaro" scripts are present in all the right places. Chrome door handles, drivers side rear view mirror, rocker panel trim strips, "vents" just in front of each rear wheel, surrounding the windshield, and wipers. The side marker lights are painted amber in the front and red in the rear. And of course, the Official Pace Car pronouncement is emblazoned upon the doors. It looks completely outrageous but it is 100% correct. Apparently this decal was supplied to buyers of Pace Car replicas and attached only upon request. Id have taken mine without, thanks. The wheels are the familiar Rally wheels with Goodyear Wide Track rubber. The tread pattern is good. The car is great. They probably wont last long.
There is no shortage of web sites to visit to get more information about the Indy Racing League or the Camaro. I wish you luck trying to find a web site that lists the Camaro wheel base, but short of that, there is enough to keep you online for hours!
Links for more info about the IRL
http://www.indyracingleague.com/ Indy Racing League Homepage
http://www.indyracingleague.com/retail/page13.html - die cast cars
http://www.rileyscott.com/index.html Riley & Scott Constructors Home Page
http://www.icr.com/links.html Indy Racing Links
http://www.indy500.com/ Indy 500 Site
Indy Pace Car Links
http://holisticpage.com/camaro/camaros/69pace.htm 69 Camaro Pace Car Info
http://www.geocities.com/MotorCity/7966/maccshow/69pace1.htm 69 Pace Car Shot
http://www.ertltoys.com/ Ertl Company Home Page
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