In Newsletter Archive 2011

Just for fun…

The McLaren M12 is finished!

“It’s been a long road, gettin’ from there to here…”   Yup, but we’re here, or rather our Aurora/Fly McLaren M12 is. So here’s a recap and wrapup of the project.  We started with this…

This was an original, unmodified Aurora 1/32 scale McLaren M12 body made around 1970.  A bit of history is probably in order here.  The M12 was McLaren’s customer car for the 1969 season.  It had a body similar to that of the M8A and a chassis based on the 1967 M6B.  Most M12s used Chevrolet V8 engines but some purchasers fitted other engines.  Among the more notable campaigners of the M12 was Chaparral Cars, which purchased one to race when the development of its own new car was delayed.  Others included Lothar Motschenbacher and George Eaton.  SCCA racer Jerry Hansen used one to win the A-sports racing class national championship race in the fall of 1969.  Other M12 CanAm drivers through 1972 included Jerry Titus, Graeme Lawrence, Ron Goldleaf, Stanley Szarkowicz, and Frank Kahlich. The M12s were progressively updated with larger spoilers, wings, and bigger engines as time went on and were seen in many different variations.  After the end of their CanAm careers they gravitated to amateur racing where they did battle into the 80s. Several of them survive and now turn up at vintage races.

Aurora’s M12 came as part of race sets in the early 70s, along with a Ferrari 612, Ferrari 312 coupe, and a Mirage coupe.  They had a plastic chassis with a motor that looked like something out of a Motorific car.  Just as the bodies were scaled-up HO car bodies the chassis was, in many ways, a scaled-up HO car chassis, especially the shoe-type pickups, a design that worked passably well on an HO track with very narrow contact strips but was far inferior to braid on a 1/32 or 1/24 scale track.

Clearly, this kind of chassis was not going to get the job done in the 21st Century.  One of the chassis we considered was the Monogram/MRRC Sebring chassis.  The Sebring is actually our favorite kitbash platform because of its versatility, and we even went so far as to set one up for the McLaren body.  But we envisioned the completed McLaren racing against Fly sidewinder cars and decided to give it a comparable chassis. We were about to adapt a Fly Ferrari 512 or Porsche 908 chassis when we noticed the Fly “Starter” kits, in particular the Joest-Porsche chassis.  It used the same pod arrangement as the Fly classic cars, and we had lots of them on hand.  With a little well-planned surgery it became an excellent platform for our kitbash.

This photo shows the modifications we made.  We had to shorten the chassis to fit, which required just a couple of transverse razor saw cuts and some Evergreen strip and sheet styrene (the white parts of the chassis in the photo) to reinforce the joints.  We also modified the pod to accept a bar magnet, giving the car downforce over a greater portion of its width.  You can also clearly see the Monogram Greenwood Corvette wheels with stock tires on the front and Maxxtrac M13 silicones on the rear.  They were the perfect width and diameter for both appearance and performance.

With the modified chassis painted we enlarged the front axle holes slightly and CA glued in a brass front axle tube to provide maximum front axle stability and to keep the rather fat silicone-insulated lead wire from rubbing on the axle.  The guide is from Slot It and the motor was one we had left lying around from some pre-production testing we did for a manufacturer that will remain nameless.

We installed some body posts inside the body, checked for proper fit to the chassis, and then got to work on body modifications. The first thing we did was to give our McLaren a more aggressive rear spoiler.

We CA glued a piece of .020″ sheet styrene onto the back of the original spoiler.  The extra thickness makes it stronger and we made the spoiler a bit higher in the process.  Next we made some sheet styrene fences for the end of the spoiler and two more to be placed farther inboard as shown above.  This not only strengthens the spoiler, which was somewhat fragile but also gives it a more aggressive look.  Next, we cut out several of the body openings.

This photo shows the opened up cockpit which eliminated the molded-in original driver figure.  We also cut out the molded-in injector details and added some bits of sheet styrene to reduce the width of the opening.  We also drilled out the holes molded into the body to the right of the cockpit.

We cut out the three openings in the top of each front fender.  On the full-sized car these serve the purpose of venting high-pressure air from around the front wheels.  We also added canard spoilers to the front fenders.  On each side we drew a line on the fender and cut along it with a Moto-tool fitted with a carbide disc to make a slot.  We then CA glued in a rectangle of sheet styrene and used an emery board to trim it to the desired shape.  We also cut out the center one of the three rear body openings. (Not shown here but see photo of the rear of the finished car below.)  With all the body modifications completed here’s how the car looked in primer.

It’s hard to see in the photo but before beginning to paint we CA glued a narrow strip of sheet styrene to the top edge of the original spoiler, It sticks up slightly above the piece we glued to the rear face of the spoiler and helps give it a 3-dimensional look..

We chose Testor Model Master Boyd Red as the overall body color.  It;s a deep, rich red, a bit darker than one would want to put on a Ferrari but just right for a CanAm car.

Here’s the painted car with just the number decals applied.  The red and some areas of black were the only colors painted on the body.  All the rest of the car’s livery was done with decals. The numbers are from a vintage 60s decal sheet that originally came in a Russkit 1/24 scale slot car kit.   In this photo you can also see the injector  assembly we made for the car.

We had an old intake manifold in our junk box.  We drilled 1/16″ holes in it where the injector stacks needed to go.  We then CA glued short bits of 1/16″ plastic tubing into the ends of Parma 622 1/16″ i.d. long axle spacers to serve as mounting pins and glued them into the manifold.  We glued the manifold onto a rectangle of sheet styrene (not shown) to fill up the opening in the body.

From there it was just a matter of decaling, clear coating, fabricating a simple tray interior, and putting everything together.

The black stripes are decals from a Pioneer Models TransAm Mustang kit decal sheet.  It took quite a bit of cutting and piecing together of the stripe decal to get it to fit properly over the body’s contours.  We used up all the black striping on one sheet doing this model.  The white stripes are just blank white decal paper, clear coated and cut to size with a sharp hobby knife.  The ASR SCCA class decal is one we printed on our HP printer.  The rest of the decals came from leftovers in our decal box.

We chose Coca-Cola as the car’s primary sponsor for several reasons.  First, it is the perfect sponsor for a red car.  Second, it is a uniquely American brand, just as the CanAm was a race series uniquely American in spirit and character.  Finally, we could easily imagine the owner of a local Coke bottling franchise being well-to-do enough to afford to own and race an ex-CanAm car in SCCA amateur competition back when a McLaren M12 would have been just a used race car and not a stratospherically priced collector’s item.

Note the black strip along the top of the spoiler.  This is the small styrene strip we glued on.  It gives the impression of being adjustable to trim out the car’s handling.

The roll bar is wire-filled styrene tubing and the driver’s head is a Cartrix spare part

The finished car is a bast to drive on our Scalextric Sport track.  The wide silicone tires provide lots of grip, giving the model CanAm-worthy handling with relatively modest magnetic downforce. You probably don’t have an original Aurora body to build your own from, but resin clones are readily available on line from boutique manufacturer RMS Resins at

If you have any questions or comments on this article please send them to


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