Monday, October 01, 2007

Spirit Porsche 936-review

Think back for a minute to the days before high torque long can motors, the days before the Slot It's and NSR's were the hot ticket for racers...back when the Fly Classics were the cars to have (yes I know it wasn't really that long ago but you get my point). The Spirit 936 is more throw back slot car than another contender in the arms race.

There's no pod, no high torque motor but there are a few details that are desirable in a modestly fast slot car. First let's start with the finish and body molding.

The car does have generally correct lines for this version of the Porsche 936 as raced by Jackie Ickx in LeMans in 1976. The body made be just a bit too square but that's really being a bit overly picky, it's close, certainly close enough for most slotters. Where the Spirit 936 does feel a bit lacking is the printing on the car.

The colors are very nice and when you compare the slot car to the color photos available the Spirit car certainly does fall into the solidly "good" range. The red's, blue's and the white used for the body are nice. The detail printing is uneven. Several places on the body the printing fails to get into the mold lines, so at a body seam there may be a gap in printing. This may be just my car since many of the photos I've seen of other Spirit 936's, the Martini livery seems to be well represented. But there are lines printed on the front fenders are supposed to represent the vents, that printing is done poorly.

A number of comments have been made about the masking around the headlights. If you look over all the photos in the gallery at the Jacky Ickx fan site you'll see a number of photos that appear to be later in the race (LeMans '76) where the headlights clearly have tape around them. The slot car is a model of the late race car, with the tape around the headlights. I haven't asked Spirit about this but it's clear from the photos that this is the case.

Inside the car we see the driver is perched on the seat and thankfully Spirit hasn't tried to over do the detail inside the car. There's nothing more useless than details that drive up cost that can't be seen without taking a slot car apart.

The front axle has adjustment screws above the axle as we as underneath it. But to adjust the screws under the axle you must remove the axle (you can't get to the screws from the bottom of the chassis). Removing the axle is not a tough thing to do since the wheels are only plastic press-on's but still it's a bit odd to have to pull a wheel to do this adjustment. The screws do really allow you to set the axle just where it's needed, and the screw ends provide a nice smooth surface that the axle can ride on. The front wheels however on my car are pretty out of round and wobbled more than I'd like, especially in a car lacking a magnet. My car came without a magnet, I'm sure this is a mistake since other reviews have mentioned having one.

The brushes on my car were horribly out of shape, they looked as though they'd been used for quite some time. I examined the plastic spur gear and tried to adjust the set screw in it. But the screw just spun in the hole, it just doesn't tighten.

But the surprise came when I looked at the motor. The soldering of the wires that come from the guide to the motor was rough. But I figured that maybe everything was ok inside so I put the car on my track and tried to do a lap...nothing. The car wouldn't move. Technical Editor Robert Livingston tore the little motor apart and we found that one brush arm was broken inside the housing of the motor. The remnant of the brush arm had been mounted in the brush holder but didn't reach the commutator. So the motor never would have worked. The wire was soldered on the short broken end of the brush arm and during the soldering job was irregular and the top of the plastic end bell were melted. So the only way to get this car to work is to replace the motor with another end bell drive motor from another company since this motor isn't yet available as a separate part from Spirit.

We replaced the brushes (with the brushes from another brand of motor) and did a lot of tire truing on the rear tires. Laps are around 5.8 fastest on the ENYR 62-foot wood track. Which is not very fast, but about average for a box stock Fly Classic. The motor has average brakes and feels like a standard Fly motor. I really was expecting the motor to be overpowered. I was pleasantly surprised to drive it and find out it felt like most every Fly Classic I've ever driven. So it's got sort of an old school feel to it.

The Spirit 936 is a car that does have some flaws, certainly in my test there are problems. But anyone that's lovingly brought a Fly Classic car from a troubled out-of-the-box car to a solid racer will find the Spirit Porsche 936 to be a pleasantly uncomplicated car to work on and fun to drive.

Thanks to Cal Kimrey at Kimrey Enterprises for the car to review!

Dave Kennedy
Publisher, Slot Car News


dr vanski said...

Great review of the 936. I appreciate your honesty. As much as it sounds like a dud I just can't pass it up. Keep it real, DK!

DaveKennedy said...

Thanks Van, I appreciate it a lot.