In Slot Car Reviews

If you could poll the entire world’s population of racing fans and ask them “What is the most beautiful and charismatic race car ever built?” a great many of them would vote for the 1962 / 63 Ferrari 250 GTO. There is a mystique about this car, a timelessly perfect blend of form and function that transcends technology and enters the realm of pure art. The GTO has captivated car lovers for more than 40 years now, and its reputation, founded on legendary competition successes in the days before wings, slicks, and ground effects and endlessly renewed by its continuing presence in vintage racing, just keeps on growing. Whole generations of motorsports enthusiasts, seeing and hearing it at speed for the first time, have fallen in love with it on the spot.

The GTO’s design took advantage of a provision of the FIA GT class rules that allowed special bodywork to be fitted to production GT cars. The resulting car could end up looking quite different from its assembly-line siblings and still be considered the same make and model under the rules. The manufacturer was supposed to build a specified minimum number of cars with the revised bodywork, but that provision of the rules was widely winked at. Ironically, this paragraph in the rule book was the same one Carroll Shelby used to get his Cobra Daytona Coupes into the GT class in 1964 and beat Ferrari for the world GT Championship in 1965, but when the 250 GTO appeared those events were still two and three years in the future.

The GTO’s shape is a quintessentially Italian distillation of aesthetics and the racing world’s then nascent understanding of aerodynamics. It represents, perhaps, the apex of a brief, shining era in race car design that flourished just before the tyranny of the wind tunnel descended upon the world of high-performance automobiles and turned them into something more closely resembling aircraft, both aesthetically and technologically. The low, sloping nose, Kamm tail with its perfectly rendered spoiler, and the various vents in the bodywork came together to define for decades to come the very picture of what a fast car ought to look like. For many it still does.

One thing that has helped to keep the original 250 GTO so special is that, unlike its equally iconic contemporaries, the Cobra and the Ford GT40, it has largely resisted, with some help from the Ferrari legal department, attempts by kit car makers to clone it. Aside from a run of Datsun 240Z – based fiberglass caricatures the only real cloning of the GTO to date has been done by rebodying actual Ferrari 250 GT chassis, which is essentially how the original GTOs were built. Some of these replicas were so faithful to the original it was hard to tell them apart without an in-depth expert inspection, but there were never going to be very many of them because the supply of chassis is so limited. Even that effort succeeded only in duplicating the original in detail whereas some of the Cobra and GT40 clones and recreations are, in significant ways, better cars than the originals. In any case, there has never been a horde of GTO kit cars and low-buck replicas, so when you see the unmistakable shape of a Ferrari 250 GTO you are much more likely to be looking at the real thing. For that reason you are far less likely to see one, not to mention own one, except in miniature.

Which brings us to the slot car track (I hope you knew I’d get us there sometime) and Fly’s new 250 GTO. For starters, there has already been Internet comment about the lack of Ferrari logos on the car’s fenders. The car is a model of the GTO raced at LeMans in 1962 by Leon Dernier and Jean Blaton, who raced under the pseudonym of “Beurlys”. The car is modeled exactly as it looked at LeMans and the absence of the Ferrari trademark from its fenders has nothing to do with licensing issues. The name Ferrari does appear on the bottom of the chassis and the famous prancing horse emblem is part of the chrome trim on the car’s front air intake. Neither would be there if there were any significant licensing issues. The yellow dots and stripe were most likely identifying marks applied by the team to make it easier to identify its car at a distance in a field with numerous red Ferraris. This was a common practice then and continues to this day.

Here’s a shot of a diecast model of the car and one of the real thing.

All that aside, the Fly model’s appearance is fully worthy to represent one of the greatest cars of all time. This is not to say it’s perfect, but it’s a huge step forward in overall build quality in general and paint quality in particular as compared to most of Fly’s efforts over the past few years. The paint, especially, is impressive. It’s uniformly smooth and glossy with not a speck, run, or orange peel to be found, something almost unheard of on a Fly car. And the shade of red is to die for, a blood-red hue that screams “Ferrari!” The tampo-stamping is sharp and opaque.

I did find one significant tampo stamping flaw in my two review cars, however. The windshield and window frames are picked out in silver, but the silver does not come all the way down to the glass. You can see red between the silver and the clear parts. This is only apparent upon close examination, especially under magnification, and appears to be common to all the cars, but the obsessively anal among us may be put off. A fastidious modeler could probably take the car apart and fix the problem with silver paint and a fine brush, but most purchasers probably won’t care or even notice.

All the various body openings are faithfully rendered, including the three “nostrils” in the top of the nose. Fly does need to pay a bit more attention to what’s behind the openings, however. The three openings atop the nose reveal the chrome piece that mounts to the chassis and incorporates the two headlights. The part behind the openings, no doubt, is intended to represent the car’s radiator and should, therefore, be painted silver rather than left in the chrome plating. A worse mistake is the omission of any structure behind the vents in the sides of the fenders just forward of the doors. It’s possible to look all the way through both sides of the car, which one shouldn’t be able to do, revealing nothing at all in between. A couple of squares of styrene sheet, painted black and glued in behind the vents, will fix the problem.

By the way, watch out for the photo-etched hood clips when handling the car. They’re sharp. I cut a finger on one of them.

Another problem area is the right windshield wiper, which rides well off the windshield on both review cars. This not only does not look good but also makes the wiper more vulnerable to damage. A fix for the problem is simply to rotate the wipers upward on the windshield, partway through their arc, until they reach a position where both are flat against the glass.

More significant is the misalignment in the fit of the front valence. On both my review cars the part was offset slightly to one side and there was a slight gap between the parts on the left side. The severity of the misfit seems to vary between cars, so this one thing may be worth going through your dealer’s stock of the cars (if he’ll let you) and picking out the best one.

The interior is nicely done with correct seats and instruments, switches, and shift lever. The driver figure, however, is a disappointment. He’s a parts bin component, made for use in much newer cars and therefore dressed in the kind of bulky firesuit and thick gloves which are common today but still in the future in 1962. The helmet is also of a design not seen until many years later. In addition, the driver is wearing a full 5-point quick-release safety harness. I may be mistaken about this but I believe that in 1962 the GTO was equipped only with a lap belt. The effect is to make the car look like one being campaigned in present-day vintage racing with the upgrades required to comply with current safety rules. It’s possible that Fly, in researching the car, had access to one or more GTOs updated in exactly this way and didn’t realize that some of the safety features may not have been part of the original fit. That said, the belt assembly, which is a separate part from the driver figure itself, is beautifully done and most likely will be seen on other cars where it may be more period-authentic. Those wishing to complete the vintage-racer look need only equip the driver with a full-face helmet and a HANS device to bring him up to the cutting edge of safety. One welcome positive is the excellent fit between the driver’s hands and the steering wheel.

The GTO’s wheels and tires have also come in for some criticism, at least some of it justified. To begin with, the tires are slicks, definitely out of place on a car from the early 60s. The wheels, though nice looking, do not match the real thing, as seen in the photos below.

The photos speak for themselves.

There have also been complaints that the car rides too high, especially in front. I think there is room for honest disagreement here, as an examination of photos of 1:1 scale GTOs reveals some that do appear to sit lower to the ground than others. Two factors may be at work. First, it’s quite possible that the cars may have been set up higher for some circuits than others, especially for races on public roads that may not have been as billiard-table smooth as modern race tracks tend to be. Also, the 250 GTO appeared right at the beginning of an era in which tire construction, widths, and profiles changed rapidly, and changes in tires may have affected the cars’ stance. In any case, I lowered the front end of one of the review models by simply shaving about 1/16″ off the front body posts, and there’s room to lower it even more if needed. While you’re working on the body posts, another mod you can do is to reinforce the posts with styrene tubing. I used Evergreen 15/64″ o.d. tubing, available at most hobby shops. This will pretty well ensure that you will never have a broken or cracked post to fix. You could get the car still lower by installing lower-profile tires, but if you do you’ll have to start trimming off protrusions from the bottom of the chassis to maintain ground clearance.

It’s Fly’s standard practice to put each model’s motor in the same general location as the engine on the 1:1 scale car, a policy going all the way back to the first Dodge Viper of 10 years ago. This, of course, allows the models to be made with a full-depth interior. On the GTO, however, the motor seems to be even farther forward than it needs to be. A look through the aforementioned side vents reveals empty space that looks like it could have been used to move the motor farther aft. Whether that would have made it possible to use a solid front axle instead of the none-too popular plastic stub axles remains to be researched for another article.

The front motor does make the car’s handling heavily magnet-dependent, and Fly has made sure the rear end stays firmly stuck down by using a very strong neodymium magnet placed just forward of the drive shaft bushing. The result is consistent lap times on the Electric Dreams Scalextric Sport test track in the 4.2-second range with a best time of 4.036. That makes the car about half a second too fast for my scheme of things. My Corvettes lap in the 4.5-second range, and the GTO should be a tenth or two slower. Yes, you read that right. A 250 GTO is actually slower, at least on shorter circuits, than a well-prepared SCCA Corvette. There’s a saying among vintage racers: What’s a 5 million dollar Ferrari good for? It’s the best seat you can have for watching $30,000 Corvettes go by.

So, Fly’s GTO is fast. But, it’s not all that much fun to drive. It’s simply too stuck down for the amount of power it has. Thus, on the test track the fast way around involves holding the trigger all the way down except for three quick blips of the throttle per lap. That gets boring pretty quickly. In addition, the motor reaches dangerous temperatures in just a few minutes even though everything is properly lubed and turning freely.

Fortunately, it’s easy to up the fun factor and increase motor life while getting the speeds down to a more reasonable level. As it happens, there is room just forward of the original magnet position to glue in a wider, longer Scalextric or Slot-it magnet, as shown in the photo below. This gives you less total downforce but spreads it over more of the car’s width. You will still have magnetic grip, though not quite as much, but more important, you will have it over more of the car’s width and, therefore, at greater cornering angles. The car will be somewhat slower but much more entertaining to drive. In short, you will be setting up your Fly car essentially as Scalextric cars come from the factory.

With this modification the car turned a best time of 4.972 seconds. That’s a couple of tenths slower than I was aiming for, but the car is now much more drivable and fun. It should be no problem to gain those tenths with either a Slot It magnet, which is a little stronger than the Scalextric, or with silicone tires. By trying different combinations of three factors, magnet strength, magnet location, and tires, you can tune almost any group of cars to a common performance standard.

As always, I decline to state whether the car’s dimensions are precisely to 1:32 scale. However, Fly has done a truly wonderful job of capturing the look and character of the 1:1 scale car and presenting it to a quality standard that should please almost everyone. Fly has even done a good job of making the car sturdy and crashworthy. After all the testing for this article, including the usual quota of crashes, not a single part is missing or even showing any damage. The car’s driving characteristics will not be to everyone’s liking, but it has the very useful virtue of being easily tuneable. After years of Fly products that have often fallen well short of justifying their prices, here’s one that, even with its shortcomings, offers excellent value for the money.

Review car: Fly A1801 Ferrari 250 GTO, Lemans 1962, Dernier / Blaton.

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  • Chris Black

    I agree that many people find the GTO to be one of the most beautiful racing cars of all time. However, there is probably an equally strong contingent who would vote for the front engined Scarabs. I have a rear engined Monogram kit but haven’t ever seen anything of the early Lance Reventlow cars.

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