Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Carrera Digital 132 Opel GT Steinmetz – Tourenwagen 1972 (30519)

Carrera’s foray into digital slot car racing seems to be building up a critical mass among home racers. No doubt this can be attributed to Carrera having released a steady stream of track parts, accessories, and cars for their Digital 132 system. A recent D132 release that I’ve been given to review is Carrera’s ’72 Opel GT ‘Steinmetz’. I should start off by saying that I don’t race D132 in my club or at home, but I do have a few D132 cars in my collection. Running them on an analog track is simple: flick the switch on the bottom, put the car on the track and pull the controller trigger three times in succession. Lo and behold – you now have an analog slot car.

One aspect of Carrera’s slot car release strategy that I’ve come to appreciate since I’ve started racing slot cars is that the cars come out in competitive groups. In the past we’ve had classic sports cars like the Maserati A6GCS, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Jaguar D-Type, and the Aston Martin DB3 and DB5. Carrera has also released a series of 70s silhouette racers like the Porsche 935-78, Ferrari 512 BBLM, Opel Commodore, and DeTomaso Pantera. Carrera’s latest kick seems to be smaller European touring cars like the Ford Capri RS3100 and Opel GT. It’s great
to see Carrera continue to provide slot car racers with whole grids of cars that are competitive with one another. I am curious to see which other small displacement GT machines they choose to model.

The Opel GT was first sold to the German motoring public in 1968 through Opel dealers. In America, the GT was available through Buick dealers, which like their German Opel cousins were a subsidiary of GM. The GT was originally sold with a 1.1l engine, but by far the greatest numbers were built with 1.9l under the hood. The GT appealed to tuners of the day as its engine, transmission, and other parts were easily swapped with parts from other cars
in Opel’s lineup. Add a tuner to the equation, in this case Opel specialist Steinmetz, and we have the makings of a race car. The car Carrera has reproduced for us is a ’72 vintage Steinmetz race tuned machine with its characteristic bulging fender flares. In my research I could only find mention of the GT in a few races – but they were significant races. Namely the annual 1000km race at the Nurburgring, and the Targa Florio. Carrera seems to have done a good job of replicating the mini-Corvette curves and proportions of the full size Opel GT on their D132 model. Typical for Carrera cars is the excellent paint and finish as well as the very crisp tampo work. Like any Carrera D132 model the GT has a tray interior to accommodate the digital components. Also typical are the independently rotating front wheels on this car. All four plastic wheels on my test car seemed to run fairly true and concentric. Since the plastic track I race on is Scalextric Sport, I swapped the stock guide keel for the Special Guide Keel (85309).

The Carrera Opel GT has two substantial bar magnets which are mounted from the top of the chassis. Together these provide significant magnet attraction on plastic track systems. My test car pulled 252g of downforce on my Magnet Marshal and weighed in at 84g. On my 20m test
track the GT had a best time of 7.728s which puts it in the zone with their Capri RS3100 model. My test model ran great right out of the box. All I did was fluff the braid, change the car from digital to analogue, and let ‘er rip. As the downforce numbers seem to indicate, the GT is very stuck down but not to the point where full throttle laps are possible. This car needs to be driven through the corners. As with all D132 cars that have working lights, these also function in analogue mode.

On a wooden track in stock trim the Carrera Opel GT was drivable but would need additional work to be competitive. My test car would hop under acceleration and hard cornering. If driven conservatively the stock tires hooked up very well. My best time on the 22m wood track was 8.528s. For the sake of comparison, tuned Scalextric Trans Am cars can lap this same track around 7s. Eliminating axle play is the first thing I would look at in terms of getting the Opel GT to run more smoothly and bring those lap times down. The wheels on my test car are of a convention design with solid centre rib, not the ‘finned’ design seen on some of their other models with wider tires.

If you’re looking to add a unique car to your collection, Carrera’s Opel GT is certainly an interesting choice. Despite its diminutive size, Carrera has managed to cram digital circuitry and working driving lights into this very small package. Carrera has even taken the extra step of painting the inside of the body black around the tail light LEDs to help minimize light spill. The accessory bag in the back of this car’s case includes spare braids and spare mirrors. The extra body parts are appreciated as it helps racers keep their cars in like-new condition and provides extra bits for scratch builders. Magnet racing performance is typical of Carrera’s other cars so it will be competitive with other D132 models and it’s a great runner out of the box. It will take some tuning to improve the performance of this car for wood track racing, but at least the round wheels and straight axles make for a good starting point.

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