Fly - Fiat Grande Punto
Review by Nick Garton
A sleeping giant returns...
Once upon a time Fly was the connoisseur's choice. From the Porsche 917 to the Audi Quattro and Dodge Viper, Fly became the byword for slot racing nirvana, renowned for its photo-etched detail and magnet-enhanced performance ... right up until the global economic crisis could no longer be spun as just a 'credit crunch' and everyone ran out of money.
Fly all-but disappeared, replaced at the premium end of the market by Italian stallions from Slot.It and NSR. Yet in 2011, against the odds, Fly has bounced back. Although reliant on Chinese-made repops of its back catalogue, a new car arrived this summer with a very peculiar shape: the Abarth Grande Punto.
Abarth Grande Punto S2000
Why bother with the Abarth Grande Punto at all? Well, it was the first of the Super2000 generation of rally cars. S2000 means cars with unblown engines and four-wheel-drive systems stripped of all the electronic gizmos that virtually killed off the WRC. It is brilliant.
The Punto dominated its inaugural season in 2006, when genial Italian driver Giandomenico Basso claimed both the European Rally Championship and all-new Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Although it was quickly outpaced by an influx of second-generation S2000s including the Peugeot 207, Skoda Fabia and Ford Fiesta, the Punto remains a firm favourite for privateer drivers to this day.
Fly's model Punto
Fly's Punto comes in the familiar old crystal box, albeit branded Flyslot these days. It's well screwed in and should arrive safe and sound through the post.
In its everyday guise the Fiat Grande Punto is an anonymous little Eurobox but as a rally car it grew curves and bulges in all the right places - all of which Fly has faithfully sculpted. It's hardly a glamourpuss of the kind that Fly used to specialise in, but as rally cars go it's still one of the sexiest.
While the bodywork may be every bit as accurate as Fly's more celebrated offerings, what's underneath comes as a shock. For a start that celebrated Fly treatment of the interior is gone - no longer is there a full detail cockpit with individual fire extinguishers and pots full of photo-etch. We have a shallow black plastic tray and that's yer lot.
Beneath the body and interior lies the chassis and, once again, Fly's trademark setup of exhaustively-detailed and painted exhausts is no more: replaced by a solid, practical piece of plastic. The sole purpose of this chassis is to give the motor somewhere to sit - and WHAT a motor.
In days of old Fly prided itself on putting the motor where it was in the real car. Evidently pride comes before a fall because in this car the motor should be at the front driving all four wheels but what we have is a mid-mounted open motor driving the rear wheels only. In other words as pure a slot car design as we will ever see.
Without fancy wrappers what we have is a long open can motor rated, according to the lettering on the side, at 17,300 rpm at 14 volts. A slow-revving motor, therefore, with heaps of torque - turning it by hand reveals a formidable amount of resistance, even after giving it an Olympic dose of lubricant.
The gears look a bit flimsy and have the traditional 'Fly graunch' when spun, but with a dab of toothpaste and some patience a reasonable seat can be achieved. I'd have to question their longevity with a torquey motor, but for now they'll do the job.
Even Fly's reliance on magnets has gone out of the window. Fitted as standard are a pair of pencil thin magnets which would not trouble the lodger under the bed, although getting them out of the car proves to be a massive chore because of Fly's apparent paranoia of these ferrous fiends slipping free.
And yet with persistence they do come out, which is the only way to try a rally car on the track. I put the Punto on a short oval with parabolic curves at each end - a standard curve leading into a hairpin and exiting via another standard curve. The entire loop was placed at an angle of 30 degrees and I ran my best non-mag rally cars on it to gauge the pace over 10 laps.
What a fabulous little car! With its four-square stance and soft compound rubber it's completely composed and controllable even at the ludicrous speeds that can be achieved in such close confines. Weighing in at just 76 grammes without the magnets, most of which is down low and dead centre in the form of the motor, there hardly seems to be any need to add weight.
It's noisy. Make that VERY noisy, but nothing seems to impede the little Punto in the slightest.
Oh all right then...
Throughout this review, those people with the power of sight will no doubt have been asking the same question: WHAT'S HAPPENED TO THE PAINT JOB???
The simple answer is this: it's a complete mess. Somehow the Spanish instructions got mistranslated into Mandarin, with the result that the tampo went on back-to-front. There are lots of gorgeous little decals on this car but they've been covered with dayglo orange. The other livery available is peachy, but this is definitely the worst I've seen anywhere.
All the great racing engineers from Ferdinand Porsche onwards work on the 'less is more' principle. There is no excess fat anywhere on this model, and the performance shines through as a result.
In many ways it is everything that the old Fly wasn't: it's not showy, there are no tricky setups and the paintwork is a nightmare. But it has charm, its lines are perfect and if you're looking for a fast modern 2WD rally car this is it. Welcome back Fly.
|Lo-Fi Version||Time is now: 23rd May 2013 - 18:43|