MRRC'S CHAPARRAL 2F

(AND MORE...)

 

 

Childhood memories can imbed deeply, and mine have left a persistent nostalgic connection to Jim Hall's Chaparrals from the 60s. Of my handful of childhood 1:24 scale slot cars, I was especially fond of Cox's magnesium-chassis Chaparral 2 slot car kit and their ready-to-run Chaparral 2E because they looked really neat. Forty-plus years later, I can remember odd details about their construction, like the 2's brass motor clip, tapered axles, and asbestos washers. They didn't survive my family's travels, so when my interest in slot cars was recently reborn in 1:32 scale, I was naturally on the lookout for 1:32 scale Chaparrals.

Apparently, I'd missed MRRC's release of the Chaparral 2. Unlike most of eBay's usual "nouveau rare" collectibles, these are genuinely hard to find; they're probably in the hands of those greedy collectors instead of those altruistic speculators. Darn. Hopefully though, Monogram/Revell will release their version sometime in the not-too-distant future, although this year's projected release has been pushed back to 2007.

On the other hand, if you write about how unavailable these are, vary your eBay search keywords, and are willing to spend a stupid amount of money, a Chaparral 2C may wind up on your track sooner than you thought. I believe it's an example of the old adage, "Time is Money"; "A fool and his money..." also comes to mind. Despite MRRC's calling it a 2C, it doesn't have the moveable rear spoiler. There's lots of confusion and inconsistency in the naming of these early Chaparral 2s, and I'm not a historian. It seems to me that there are more variations in these early Chaparrals than there are letters between 2 and 2D.

 

Shortly after rediscovering this hobby, I found a Spanish Scalextric/SCX Chaparral 2E/G (a.k.a. "Chaparral GT") on eBay. Being a hybrid, it's not an accurate rendition of either, but it's unmistakably a Chaparral, with its high wing and classic curves. The look is somewhat toy-like, and its inline motor configuration isn't a good choice for a an open cockpit slotcar... unless you like the look of a driver wading chest-deep in a pool of plastic. But I felt better about it after I worked on it, opening vents, adding mesh grillwork, wheels, and a new motor). The right-hand pic shows some recent bodywork, to make it look a little more like the 2E version, with new decals to make it represent Jim Hall's #66 Chaparral. I wasn't ambitious enough to attempt a sidewinder conversion.

From eBay, I learned that there were offerings from old companies that I wasn't even aware of, like Strombecker-- they produced 1:32 scale Chaparrals in 2C and 2D incarnations. Most of the eBay offerings looked pretty awful in photos, with yellowed plastic, missing parts, bad glue jobs, and spastically applied decals--looking very much like stuff kids had put together a long time ago. However, if you could ignore that, the bodies looked substantially accurate, with an acceptable amount of detailing. Out of curiosity, I picked up a maroon-colored Chaparral 2D body at a reasonable price, thinking that I'd eventually find a chassis for it. It was a little worn and the quality and detailing was better than I expected, but none of the chassis that I had on hand seemed to fit. It was a low priority project that moved to the back burner, until MRRC's recent release of the Chaparral 2F.

 

MRRC announced the release of their Chaparral 2F at a European trade show at the beginning of this year, and so it's seemed like a long (but actually short) wait to see it hit the retail shelves. From the fan-buzz, it appears to be one of the most eagerly-awaited releases in recent times. I'm simply a casual fan, and not an expert, but I'd have to say that MRRC did a great job with their release of the 2-car "limited edition" set. With this set you get a fancy schmantzy sleeved silver foil box and two Chaparral 2Fs, numbered 7 & 8. Besides the numbers, the only differences I noticed between the two were the license plates and the tape around the headlights: #7 has matte black tape, and #8 has silvered tape. MRRC is slated to release single car sets of the 2F, with different numbers. If you can excuse my exuberance, here are my initial impressions (with minor edits), posted at Home Racing World:

 

After waiting so long, it was impossible not to rip off the tissue, put my greasy fingerprints all over that silver foil, and put one through its paces. It was well worth the wait.

Performance-wise, heck... does it really matter? It's a CHAPARRAL! But it ran great out-of-the-box, without even adjusting the braids. It's light, fast, with skinny tires, and heavily magnetted. With its high-wing & high COG, I wouldn't run it any other way (and you can still tip & tumble at curves). The gear mesh (plastic on plastic) is a little stiff & noisy, but it makes for an unusual road whine-- this probably goes away. It's also interesting to see a different style of length-adjustable chassis, instead of the familiar pan-style. After punishing it for a while, I can say that it's probably not a good idea to push this one at high voltage for an extended time, since the motor gets too hot (like SCX's version). Great job, MRRC!

Gears- 9:27 plastic, with some play. There's a little bit of slop between the motor shaft & alignment groove, which can make the gearing feel rough when the gear mesh is loose.

Axle- 2.5 mm diameter, plastic bushings

The motor is a tiny thing: 15.5 mm wide, 27 mm long (case) with no vents, no markings. I don't know what else would fit without some cutting & repositioning. Clearly, the Boxer 24 is too long and too wide for a drop-in fit.

The two screwed-on pieces which run parallel to the motor are plastic spacers which fix the length of the adjustable chassis.

The braid is similar to Carrera's, with the double-feed thru construction. Guide flag depth is 6 mm: short, but didn't cause problems for me, probably because of the two magnets.

IMO, this isn't a good candidate for magnet removal & major performance tuning. The high-wing design is more of a liability in small scales than in 1:1, where it serves a genuine performance-enhancing purpose. Because of this, I don't think it could be made to be truly competitive with a low-slung racer like a Slot.It Sauber Mercedes. But it looks neat, which I think is the whole point: The target audience for this is the die-hard Chaparral fan, who's been waiting for any Chap for a long time.

I'm partial to the more curvy Chap designs, and one of the great things about this release is that the chassis seems to be a near-perfect fit for the Strombecker 2D bodies that have been floating around on eBay (Mounting posts need to be re-worked).

Although this is supposed to be a review of MRRC's Chaparral 2F set, the Strombecker angle is what really grabbed my interest. The MRRC 2F chassis' fit on the Strombecker 2D body was like a eureka! moment, so that project moved to the front burner. I vacuformed clear plastic headlamp covers and a windshield (to replace the cracked original), then cut out the headlight area and backfilled it with epoxy putty. The headlamps were made from stamping thin sheet metal over a lead block with a punch. I decided not to use the vacuformed windshield since I feared it would yellow; I really didn't have any other choice with the headlamp covers.

I don't like painting glossy mechanical things like this because the standard for perfection is pretty high. However, I didn't see this as an option: Chaparrals are supposed to be white. After some heavy coats of gloss Krylon (to take advantage of the paint's self-leveling qualities), I was satisfied with the smoothness & gloss. I searched the Internet for decal graphics without much luck, and ended up photographing the 2F's Firestone logo, plus the Bosch & Shell logo from the 2E/G (which I didn't use). Finally, I sprayed a coating of Krylon Crystal Clear Acrylic to protect the decals... big mistake! The spray caused the maroon plastic's pigment to bleed through the white paint, resulting in a gawdawful light pink color. Waaaaa! I was so disgusted that I just sprayed another heavy coat of white over it, applied decals again, and painted them with Future acrylic floor finish. Not too bad. Some of the details were lost under the heavy coats, but on the plus side, most of the scratches and surface marring disappeared as well. It would take a pretty brutal road mishap to scuff through the paint layers to the bare maroon.

Which brings us back to the performance aspect. Shortly after my initial impressions, I removed the front magnets from both chassis. Chassis #1 was attached to the #7 Strombecker body and chassis #2 to the #7 MRRC body. At the HRW forum I wrote:

1) Chassis #1 is quieter, probably because it's had more road time. So the gears do get broken in fairly quickly (but still feel rough when rotating them manually). (note: Chassis #2 didn't get much quieter after running many laps. The poor gear mesh is probably the weakest point in these cars' production, and may be prone to premature wear and stripping.)

2) As expected, removing the front magnet makes the cars even more responsive, with better acceleration. Braking is likewise reduced, but still very good (and produces an audible gear whine, which probably isn't a good thing). I got a few oversteer deslots and had to be more careful when accelerating in curves. It's actually more fun, and dealing with this will probably improve driving skills.

3) That tiny motor is a rocket! I never hit over 3/4 throttle, and still managed to deslot, jump lanes, spinout & tumble. Like a rocket though, it seems to heat up too quickly. Removing the front magnet reduces the motor's load, which lets it run a little cooler.

4) I'm reluctant to remove the rear magnet because then I'd need to buy new wheels and tires (always such a PITA to figure that stuff out). The stock tires aren't nearly as grippy as Ortmanns (I've seen 'em spin on hard acceleration), and without the rear magnet, it would probably become a fishtailmobile. This is an aesthetics issue too-- the cars look so nice with their skinny Firestone-printed tires. (Other mfgs could learn a lot from MRRC about durable printing on tires...)

In my test runs, the Strombecker 2D handled better than the MRRC 2F. The MRRC seemed to do more tipping, flipping, and backsliding than the Strombecker. This also showed up in the fastest lap speeds: MRRC =200 scale mph, Strom = 207 scale mph (neither are outstanding speeds for magnet cars, but with only one rear magnet, these can be considered moderately magneted). While it's tempting to attribute this to body differences, we can't assume that the chassis are identical. The cumulative effect of slight differences in the tires, wheels, gears, magnets, and motors can make a noticible difference in the performance of seemingly identical chassis. I'm not tuning these for competition, so I didn't explore this more fully. To satisfy my curiosity though, I removed the 2F's wing for a few laps, and it didn't seem to make a noticible difference. I suppose the point is that there are many factors which contribute to a slot car's performance. In a casual setting, there's not much pressure to consider and optimize each of these factors. In a competitive setting where everything counts, that's what it's all about.

In conclusion, I think these make great & fun home racers, that can turn in a respectable performance against Ford GT40s and Ferrari P4s. I don't believe that they're worth spending a lot of time tweaking for competition, since the body design is an inherent competitive disadvantage. Enjoy 'em for what they are: Kewl-looking slot cars with a compelling historical vibe. --07/21/06

 




 


EXTRA STUFF

MRRC CHAPARRAL 2   I did my usual Internet research, and didn't find any photographic evidence of a Chaparral configured with this one's specific features. It's similar to some of the smooth-fender versions, but lacks the ugly hood mounted air-scoop, moveable rear spoiler, and grillwork at the rear. Therefore, I'm concluding that it's a hybrid or composite. Nevertheless, that didn't stop me from tinkering with it, using those photos for guidance.

One of the first things to go were the wheels and tires. I briefly considered using BWA's wheels and inserts (used on my Chaparral 2E), but really liked the Chaparral 2F's better-- the detail is more dimensional, plus the tires have lettering. By the time you've bought the parts individually, you've spent a significant chunk of change-- I'd rather put that money towards another 2F and get all the other parts. Although the knock-off hubs aren't temporally accurate for a Chaparral 2, that's easy to fix with an Exacto knife-- like I said though, it's a hybrid and I think the knock-offs look good.

Minor cosmetic alterations included replacing the hood grill with a painted brass screen, adding a rearview mirror, flaring the ends of the intake stack tubes, toning down the shiny chrome, and painting the windshield trim. The front light area was copied with thermoformed clear plastic to make lenses; the area was cut out and fitted with rectangular stamped metal lamp housings.

Since I was "in the neighborhood", I fitted them with tinted SMT LEDs and added my usual home-brew goldcap lighting circuit (an easy fit, with lots of interior room), along with an in/out switch mounted in the front magnet pocket. The rear lights were more of a problem since I didn't want to destroy the molded/painted lights. Unfortunately, no matter how well you mask the area surrounding the aperture, the white plastic diffuses the light that passes through it, after the mask. This produces a larger diameter glow around the circular aperture. I decided to make the rear lights very faint and perhaps revisit this later with a better solution.

Another thing that I hoped to do was fit this body with the lower profile 2F motor/chassis. This would let me trim away some of the cockpit plastic and make it deeper. (I really don't like the driver chest-deep in a pool of plastic.) Unfortunately, this would be a one-shot, experimental conversion: Prior to that, the body would have to be lowered a bit to make the tire height look right, which would lose some potential cockpit depth. I really didn't have a clear idea of how this would ultimately look, so I put this off for a time when I feel more committed. In the meantime, I'm content to run this car with the minor alterations.

It's a very fun car to run, too. MRRC did a great job with this-- it's a fast, well-handling car with a single rear magnet. The chassis is a single piece, designed specifically for this body and fitted with a standard Mabuchi motor. The plastic gears mesh well and are very quiet. It compares well against their recent 2F "Sebring" chassis, although the 2F's design gives more interior room for cockpit detailing with its lower-profile motor and dropped drivetrain. My on-track trials showed this car getting better performance than the 2F with a single magnet, mainly due to fewer rollovers when taking curves too fast.

 


MORE EXTRA STUFF - SLOT.IT'S CHAPARRAL 2E

Slot.It Chaparral 2E set

12/21/11- Back when I first wrote this article, I thought it was odd that MRRC produced the Chaparral 2F instead of the 2E, since to me, the 2E was a much more iconic design, and was probably more desired by slot car enthusiasts. After writing the original portion of this article, Racer came to the rescue with an accurate, resin-bodied 2E... but with a pretty steep price tag that kept it out of the hands of most Chappie fans. Fortunately, a year or two ago, Slot.It came out with a very nice rendition of the 2E at a much more reasonable price. Word is that they run well (which isn't surprising, considering Slot.It's track record) but I wouldn't know from personal experience because these guys live in their display box! My track's been boxed for even longer because of space issues, but the Chaparral has deep personal nostalgic roots... so I had to get 'em. They're certainly nicer than my attempt to accurize the generic Scalectric Chaparral! (And I wish Kyosho made Chaparrals in their RC Mini-Z lineup...)

 

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