Mike Steube 1967 F1 Rocket
Next project on deck is this surviving car built by the famous Checkpoint ace Mike Steube and used in the last 1967 Car Model race. Terry Schmid won the championship as Mike could not qualify the car as it had been apparently… stolen, then found, but missing its motor. The hurriedly-built motor meant that Mike was unable to qualify for the race. The car was then sold to Bruce Paschal and saw little or no use ever since.
After inspection, it was taken apart and cleaned, and now awaits re-assembly.
The chassis is period-typical with tapered design, but shows fine detailing such as a body brace as well as a conduit for the lead wires. All the rails are brass rod, but unusually, all the motor-mount bracing is steel wire. The chassis also uses flanged ball bearings, quite unusual at the time when most were content with the Russkit mount, using brass tubing as bearing surfaces.
The original lead ballast was left untouched as the thing was so original that only a mild cleanup was necessary. All original parts including braided contacts will be retained except for an end bell-bearing replacement.
The Dynamic Eagle body was painted by Kovacs and is in excellent condition. Its sides are finely trimmed and cut out, possibly to provide more cooling to the motor. The original painted driver is also intact.
Lead wires are Cox Superflex, the guide a Cox “quick-change” fitted with stiffer braided contacts.
After a mild cleaning, a name appeared, engraved on the drop arm, but it is not Mike’s. The mystery will be resolved when I will contact the involved parties. It is not impossible that this car may have been built for someone else, then retained and used by Mike for that race. Bruce Paschal ended with it as he usually did, and the name “Froggy” on the body clearly defines previous ownership. Indeed, Mike’s nickname WAS “Froggy”.
The motor is a Mabuchi FT16BB (ball bearings at both ends) with a Champion cycolac end bell. Bill Steube Sr. then applied his usual magic: the brush hoods were sliced then soldered to the heat sinks. Champion shunted brushes and springs were used over brass-sleeved spring posts. The arm is made of Mabuchi blanks fitted with a drill blank shaft, wound with #27AWG-wire and a Kirkwood commutator. It was then machined and balanced. The can is fitted with contoured and shimmed ARCO magnets. The end bell was also shimmed so as not to rotate inside the can and the can and end bell machined to fit the 4-40 retaining screws.
The great Mike Steube did NOT qualify for the race, and this is why. In fact, the story may have been slightly different than reported. Indeed, there is strong evidence that the entire car had been stolen, the young thief having already scratched the “Froggy” nickname of the body and engraved his name on the drop arm. The car was recovered, but the good motor was long gone, as the accomplice of the thief had already left the raceway with his ill-gotten booty. Mike installed a hastily-assembled motor presently in the car, but did not qualify for lack of speed. Why that? During the
motor’s teardown, we found the end bell bearing, a stock Mabuchi sheet-metal, non-caged ball bearing, crushed, the little steel balls unable to turn.
|It appears that Bill Steube may have put together this motor a bit too fast and did not leave enough space for the armature, causing the commutator to bend the fragile bearing housing. We did replace this by a Champion sintered bronze unit placed in the original end bell.|
After this disappointment the car returned to the Team Checkpoint’s home and remained unused. After that, it had a checkered history as there is another name on the drop arm. So it is possible that the car changed hands (in which circumstances?) before, or more than likely after Bruce Paschal got hold of it. One fact is certain, Bruce got it back again. Was it also briefly stolen, engraved with its “new owner’s” name, but retrieved?
Some evidence seems to point out to something like that: Mike’s nickname on the sides of the body had been scratched from both sides with a razor blade. But applying ultra-violet light on the body revealed the “Froggy” name
as it left its mark, just like on a retouched old painting. So today I painted it back… the way it was.
A few more pictures of the car as restored:
I repaired the roll bar and re-fitted it in its original location and repainted the “Froggy” name on the sides. The rest of the body was flawless. Note that the body brace supports the slightly raised exhaust. There were two reasons: one was improved aero, the second was… to clear the Cox 29-tooth crown gear!
Another interesting detail: the car used Dynamic self-adhesive numbers as seen on a “Bandit” or “Super Bandit”! One was missing, so I made one using a bit of Photoshop magic and my printer.
Note the cutouts on the body sides, that help cool the end bell and brushes. Also note that there are reinforcing clear plastic “bubbles” where the mounting pins are fitted. The detailing is impeccable. These guys were
I fitted a new, unused set of genuine Steube wheels and tires (dried up and fossilized, but nevertheless perfect for the car) and cleaned up the original fronts. I did not have the heart yet to do the sidewalls in black as they used
to in those days…
I kept the car as original as possible, only replacing the end bell bearing that was damaged, cleaning the commutator and fitting new Champion pig-tail brushes identical to the original. I could have used a brand new Champion 507R end bell but kept the original. The motor runs strong on the dyno and I am confident that the car should be still quite fast even in modern terms. My previous experience in Bordeaux in 2003 with Warmack’s 37-year old BRM told me that these old motors really go a LOT faster than many people would think today…
The following pictures show a similar car that ran in the same races at the same time, that of Bryan Warmack. Bryan still owns his car and has kept it in superb condition all these years. The chassis differs slightly with less rails in the tapered section, also using a plate drop arm. The race after this one saw cars made entirely of plate, deleting the use of rails altogether. Previous cars had composition wire drop arms. Note that both cars were painted by Brian “Bob” Kovacs.
In those days, most Car Model readers were wondering what these cars really were like. Nearly 40 years later, we now have a window on these machines, thanks to the pack-rats of the world… and I for one, am not disappointed: the motor still runs great, the workmanship is really first class and every detail is well thought out. A true professional job by talented teens, and a very attractive machine, even if the scale purists (and I am one) cringe a bit at the squashed look.