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Not Quite Stock: Easy Mods For Monogram Vintage NASCARs

October 7, 2008
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by Arie Viewer

Monogram 85-4891 Ford Galaxie

Historic NASCAR is a growing part of both slot car racing and 1:1 scale vintage car racing.  Monogram’s contributions to the genre, their 1963 and 1965 Ford Galaxies, are great-looking models that do an outstanding job of capturing the character of these famous NASCAR racing icons. 

We recently spent some time with a #85-4891 Wood Brothers ’63 Ford. This is a model of the car that won the 1963 Daytona 500 with Tiny Lund driving, although Lund was a one-race substitute for regular driver Marvin Panch, and the model has Panch’s name on the door.  This car rates a 10 for looks, but after driving it we had to give it a somewhat lower score in the handling department. 

The car has two main problems, a center of gravity a lot higher than it should be and a general dearth of grip.  Between them they make the car a somewhat inconsistent handler, more prone than it should be to both spinning and rolling over without any consistent pattern.  The cure for the first problem is simple – just add some weight in the very considerable space between the bottom of the chassis and the track surface.  However, adding weight adversely affects straightline performance.  Because the chassis sits so high off the track and the deep interior tub leaves little space the weight needs to be attached under the chassis, not on top of it.  This looks tacky and is illegal under many clubs’ racing rules, especially if you add the amount needed to do the job in this particular case.  But there are a couple of quick, easy, and inexpensive things you can do to cure the lack of grip, and one of them will also help compenste for the cars topheaviness. 

The first modification we made was to put a pair of Maxxtrac M10 tires on the rear wheels.  They improved the grip noticeably, but were a bit wider than the stock tires and rubbed on the inside of the body.  We carefully scraped some material off the inside edges of the rear wheel openings with a hobby knife but the tire still rubbed on the right side.  We solved the problem by removing the right rear wheel, removing the spacer that goes between the wheel and the spur gear, and grinding about 1/32″ off the end of the axle.  That allowed the wheel to move inboard just enough for the wider tire to clear. 

Checking the Ford on our Magnet Marshal we discovered that it was only getting 218 grams of magnetic downforce, compared to out-of-the-box readings of over 300 on several recent Scalextric TransAm cars we checked.  We have discovered that magnet grip of 250 to 300 grams (depending on the type of car) makes a car stick well enough in the corners to be easy for a beginner or casual racer to drive without making it so stuck down it bogs a stock motor or essentially doesn’t have to be driven at all.  Done properly, a magnet installation can make a car handle a lot like a non-magnet car with high cornering limits (although non-magnet fanatics will consider this heresy). 

Monogram’s stock bar magnet is smaller and not as strong as Scalextric’s, and on this car it sits too high to do a lot of good, even though it’s placed in a housing that juts downward dramatically from the bottom of the chassis.  Fortunately it’s easy to lower the magnet to a more useful level.  Start by taking the body off the chassis, removing the rear magnet (take the front one out, too, as you won’t need it) and cutting out the two bars across the bottom of the rear magnet housing, leaving it as shown below.

Next, cut a 5/16″ by 1 5/16″ rectangle of .010″ or .020″ sheet styrene and use plastic cement or CA glue to attach it to the bottom of the magnet housing. 

Now you can press the magnet down into the bottom of the magnet pocket and it will sit about 1 mm lower than before.  In terms of magnet downforce this is huge.  With this modification the Magnet Marshal reading went up to 280 grams.  If you want a little less downforce you can glue pieces of very thin sheet styrene into the bottom of the magnet pocket to shim the magnet up a few thou.  On our test car the magnet was a snug press fit into the pocket, but if yours fits looser you can put a drop of CA glue in the pocket to hold the magnet securely in place.  Just be sure you have adjusted the magnet height for your desired amount of downforce before gluing the magnet in. 

You can see in the photo above that we cut off the two little lugs that held down the magnet in the original installation, but you don’t have to.  It just makes the magnet a little easier to get in and out. 

280 grams was actually more downforce than the car would need if it had a properly low center of gravity.  If that were the case a figure of 250 or less would do.   But those extra grams really help to keep the car right-side-up, and with the Maxxtrac tires’ mechanical grip they keep it pointed in the right direction, too.  With this modification the Ford will turn lap times on our test track a little slower than a Scalextric TransAm car.  This is about right, as even back in the 60s the TA cars were faster on a road course than the NASCAR taxicabs.  More important, the car has become much easier and more consistent to drive.  The total cost of this upgrade is $4.49 for the tires and a few cents’ worth of sheet styrene and CA glue.  If you race on a plastic track with steel contact strips it will be money well spent. 

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please contact us at support@www.electricdreams.com.

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