Friday, August 13, 2010

Carrera D132 Porsche 917/30 (model #30521) - Carrera Evolution M20 (model #27328) - Carrera D132 McLaren M20 (model #30524)

Can-Am. The mere mention of those two syllables conjures up images of unlimited horsepower machines – perhaps the ultimate road racing cars. The original Can-Am series started in 1966 and ran until 1974 when the fuel crisis and other economic factors led to its demise. Can Am is short for the ‘Canadian American Challenge Cup’. Originally a six race series sponsored by Johnson Wax taking place in both Canada and America, and sanctioned by the SCCA and CASC. Rules for the series were based on the FIA’s Group 7 regulations which embodied an ‘anything goes’ mentality. Exotic materials, active aerodynamic aids, and turbocharging are only a few examples of the innovations that were race proven in Can-Am competition.

Carrera has jumped onto the Can Am bandwagon with their most recent releases, and they’ve done so with a splash. The cars Carrera has chosen to model represent the end of two separate lines of development for the Can-Am land missiles: the McLaren M20 and Porsche 917/30.

By the end of the 1971 season, McLaren had racked up 5 Can-Am championships. Peter Revson and Denny Hulme had wiped the floor with their competition running the M8F ‘batmobiles’. As 1972 dawned, a new competitor arrived on the scene: Roger Penske with the backing of the Porsche factory and it’s turbocharged 917/10s. McLaren had a turbo program of its own though it was unsuccessful. They elected to run the car that was to be powered by their turbo motor in 1972: the M20. At its peak the M20 was powered by a 9.26l engine which was good for 787hp in qualifying trim. This was enough to power Peter Revson’s McLaren past the Porsches for poll at Riverside that year, but there was not enough in race trim to keep him there once the checkers dropped. In the end, the 917/10s were too much for the McLarens and George Follmer ran away from the competition scoring Porsche’s first Can-Am championship with 130 pts. His closest competitor was McLaren’s Denny Hulme with only 65 points. The McLaren team decided to call it a day at the end of the season and their cars were sold off to privateers.

For 1973 the Penske Porsche squad took the performance of the 917 to the next level and debuted the 917/30. In the words of Mark Donohue, the 917/30 had ‘more of everything’. In race trim the Porsche’s 5.4l turbocharged engine provided 1100hp. This could be cranked up to 1500hp for qualifying runs using a cockpit boost knob. Competition for the Sunoco sponsored Porsche came from the Black Label liveried Roy Woods Racing M20 driven by David Hobbs. The M20 was the best of the rest of ’73. Mark Donohue’s Porsche 917/30 won another championship with 139 points followed by a gaggle of customer 917/10s. David Hobbs finished the season in 7th with 39 points.

So enough with the history lesson – what about the Carrera cars? The Carrera Can-Am models are available in both Analog and D132. The paint and detail on the cars looks great: nice sharp lines, good exhaust detail, and a pan interior leaving plenty of room for the electrical workings. Mark Donohue's spaceman helmet is a little on the funky side though. The tires on these cars are huge, with the Porsche’s being the widest I have ever seen on a 1/32 scale slot car. The wheels and axles on my test cars were all straight and true, though all the cars have some play between the rear axles and their bushings. Both the McLaren and Porsche have stub axles for the front wheels. This was most likely done to make room for the digital circuitry and guide mechanism. The digital cars both came with the Carrera ‘Special’ guide in the accessory pack so I swapped out the stock guide keel for the shorter, narrower version for running on my 22m Scalextric Sport test track. It would be great if Carrera included the ‘Special’ guide with all their cars. However, it is available separately (part #85309) should one wish to retrofit it to a car released from 2007 onwards.

The guts of the D132 Porsche.

The D132 McLaren

The Evolution McLaren – note the brass bushings for the front stub axles.

The 917/30 and Black Label cars I tested are both digital – and my test track is analog - so I needed to be able to test the two D132 models in analog mode. Converting them couldn’t have been easier: I placed the D132 car on the track, I blipped my controller three times, flicked the switch under the car, and the Digital 132 cars were good to go. While Can-Am cars of this era never ran with lights, the Black Label car is equipped with an orange glow in the exhaust when the car is under power. This feature still works with the car in analog mode. A small yet subtle touch that looks very cool as the car is racing along.

On track both McLarens and the Porsche both ran well. The current guide design aside from allowing for an interchangeable keel offer approximately 170 degrees of rotation. The two traction magnets each car was equipped with made them easy to drive at speed though they would step out if pushed in the corners. I brought a few other Can-am models to the test track with me that day in order to compare lap times. Here’s how they stack up:

  • 6.088 NSR Porsche 917K

  • 6.107 Revell/Monogram Chaparral 2A

  • 6.590 Alfa Romeo T33/3

  • 6.703 Carrera D132 Porsche 917/30

  • 6.759 Carrera D132 McLaren M20

  • 6.788 Carrera Evolution McLaren M20

  • 6.906 Chaparral 2E

  • 7.124 Fly Porsche 908 Flunder

  • 7.812 Fly Porsche 917PA

  • 8.855 HSRR McLaren M8D

Even though the Porsche and McLaren have different motors – the Porsche a standard S-can and the McLaren a slim FF can – the cars are very comparable in performance.

After running the Carrera cars with the magnets in place, I decided to remove them and see how they ran without. Both cars have two longish bar magnets mounted in the chassis. Carrera mounts them inside the chassis on these cars as opposed to attaching them to the bottom of the chassis in plastic housings held in by screws. To get them out, the body had to be removed as well as the motor, rear axle, and digital chip assembly.

This sounds harder to do than it actually is. I used a small screwdriver to pop the retaining clip on the rear magnet, reassembled everything and was ready to do some non-magnet running in about 5 minutes.

  • 10.268 Carrera D132 McLaren M20

  • 10.394 Carrera D132 Porsche 917/30

  • 10.416 Carrera Evolution McLaren M20
In non-magnet form these cars all ran surprisingly well given that I had done no weight or tire tuning at all. The generous amount of guide rotation offered by the current design was a big help though the keel could snap out if the car was pushed too hard in the corners. This is probably better than the guide breaking though. The Evolution M20 had a bit of wheel hop which could probably be cured by either installing aftermarket tires, or truing up the stock tire/rear axle assembly. Eliminating some of the rear axle/bushing play would help some too. My race tuned Fly Classics lap my test track in the 9.6s range with stock wheels and aftermarket tires, and around 8.8s with BWA wheels, gears and aftermarket tires so there is definitely room for improvement. The basic design and build of the Carrera cars are good so those lap times should be achievable with some work. There is lots of room in the sidepods for weight tuning. Carrera also seems to have put these cars on a diet as they weigh in at 85g (including magnets) for the Evolution McLaren, 90g for the D132 McLaren, and 100g for the Porsche. Magnetic downforce measures at 173, 172, and 175g respectively. Knock 8g off the weight if the magnets are removed. Downforce from the motor in non-mag trim is a negligible 1-3g. Given the anticipation thats built up around the release of Carrera’s Can-Am cars it shouldn’t be too long before aftermarket tires are available for them.

Overall, these models are a welcome addition to my stable of 70’s prototype racers. Carrera’s price point makes them very affordable especially when compared to the price of building up a resin kit. Hopefully Carrera will bring us a few more cars that populated the Can-Am grids of the 70’s

Thank-you to Mini Grid in Toronto for the use of their track.

-Van LaPointe

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