The Slot It Porsche 956 Short-tail
The Porsche 956, along with its variant, the 962, was the car that established the pattern for the entire Group C / GTP category of race cars, a pattern followed for the entire duration of that era of endurance racing. Designed originally to dominate endurance racing’s premier event, the 24 Hours of LeMans, the 956 went on to win countless races on road courses large and small around the world.
The 956 gained its greatest fame at LeMans, a high-speed circuit where low drag and high-speed stability are essential. Thus, it’s not surprising that the car is most often modeled and most familiar to hobbyists in its long-tail configuration as used in the 24-hour classic. However, most of the car’s other races were lesser-known events on shorter, tighter circuits where cornering grip and downforce ruled, even at the cost of higher drag. For these events Porsche provided an alternate set of bodywork with a much shorter tail incorporating a higher, larger wing. A team contesting the entire season needed both configurations to be competitive.
Slot It, after producing several long-tail 956s has now started in on the short-tail versions with stock # SICA09A, the bright orange Brun Racing car as driven by Hans Stuck and Stefan Bellof at Imola in 1984. In addition to the high wing this particular 956 also has a small add-on airfoil above the nose between the headlights. This is a strikingly colorful model that’s easy to see on the track and stands out on the shelf. The MSRP on this car is $49.95.
Slot It has introduced two new features with this car that will be welcomed by racers and collectors. The first is a clear vacuum-formed bubble that fits in between the top of the car and the top of the plastic case to hold the car firmly in place even if the hold-down key should work loose. No more cars damaged from rattling around inside the case during shipping. The more service-conscious dealers will appreciate the bubble because it means they no longer have to open the case and put tissue paper inside to protect the car. The labor saved can now go toward improving service in some other area. This is an amenity all slot car manufacturers should adopt immediately.
The second feature is the inclusion with the car of a pair of 19 X 10 mm silicone rear tires. This is especially welcome in view of the low grip level and poor handling afforded by the stock rear tires. The silicone tires, welcome as they are, only solve part of the problem, however. The stock magnet remains too weak and covers too little of the car’s width to produce the kind of out-of-the box handling a model of a Group c car should have. As an interim measure Slot It needs to make the more powerful “racing” magnet standard equipment on these cars. A full solution will require replacing the current magnet design with a Scalextric-type bar magnet that provides magnetic grip over much more of the car’s width and keeps the magnet over the track rails at greater cornering angles.
This does not mean the car should be stuck down like an HO car to the point where one can drive it around the track by simply holding the trigger at full throttle. It simply means that the car should offer enough grip over enough of the car’s width to provide the consistent handling that allows it to be driven aggressively. Alternate magnet positions and changes in magnet height and strength will allow the car to be tuned for the degree of grip each individual desires.
As it is now the stock grip level of Slot It cars is so low they make a very poor initial impression. That’s unfortunate because a simple change in magnet and / or tires transforms a Slot It car completely. It would cost the company little or nothing to equip their cars with better tires and magnet to begin with and make a much more positive first impression on the consumer.
Appearance-wise, however, our test car made an outstanding first impression. The paint was glossy and speck-free. The tampo-printing was of a very high order. The fit of all the body parts was tight and precise. Panel lines are crisp and uniform, if a shade too wide, and all the small details we have come to expect in Slot It cars are there. I continue to be impressed with Slot It’s driver figures. The one in our test car looked remarkably life-like with an elaborately striped and decaled helmet and printing on the seat belts.
I found two flaws in the build quality, one minor and the other more serious. The lesser of the two is the obvious part lines and small areas of roughness in the body surface just forward of the two fins at the rear. You really have to look for these to find them, however. The more serious problem is a noticeable warping of the entire car, which causes the right front wheel to ride considerably higher than the left front. I have not encountered this in other Slot It cars I have driven, and I don’t think it is typical. I would have preferred to use a different car for testing, but this example was the only one available at the time so I went ahead and tested it anyway. In the end the warping did not seem to affect performance significantly, but it was there nevertheless.
The chassis and mechanicals are unchanged from the long-tail 956, except for the changes at the rear necessary to mate with the short-tail body. They are also essentially the same as on the Sauber C9 reviewed recently. The wheels, as usual for Slot It, are aluminum with set screws at the rear and press-on plastic at the front. The BBS inserts with front cooling fans are exquisite, and the Dunlop lettering on the tire sidewalls is very neatly done.
In out-of-the-box trim the 956 recorded a best lap time of 5.402 seconds on the Electric Dreams Scalextric Sport test track. It ran smoothly and had good straightline speed but suffered badly from a lack of cornering grip. The first step in remedying the situation was to install the silicone tires that came with the car. That brought the lap time down to 4.709 seconds.
Next, I checked the magnet installation and found, as I have on every Slot It car I’ve tested, that small amounts of excess plastic in the magnet pocket were keeping the magnet from mounting properly. Some scraping with a hobby knife allowed the magnet to fit down into its proper position, getting it a bit closer to the track. While we were at it we loosened the four motor carrier screws about ¬¨√¶ of a turn each. That got the car down to a 4.643.
The next step was to replace the stock magnet with an SICN04 “racing” magnet. Lap times immediately dropped by more than a full second to a low of 3.449. With this magnet I could drive the car the way I felt it should be driven – deep into the turns and powering out of them. I no longer had to wait until the car was pointed perfectly straight to apply the power.
As with the Sauber I decided that laps in the 3.4s and 3.5s were faster than the car really needed to go on the track. I brought it back into the same performance range as my other Slot It Gp. C cars by putting the stock rear tires back on. This resulted in a lap time of 3.805 and gave the car a bit more of a sideways component in its cornering tat I found quite enjoyable.
There is clearly a lot more performance to be extracted from this car and other Slot It Gp. C cars. The racing magnet and silicone tires could easily put down more power than the stock motor delivers. However, few home racers really need that level of performance unless they are going to race in an organized program with liberal car preparation rules. The mods we have tested deliver plenty of speed and handling without unduly increasing crash impacts and maintenance requirements. I can only wish Slot It would equip the cars with the racing magnet to begin with and deliver this kind of performance right out of the box for even the most casual racer to enjoy.