SlotForum banner
1 - 20 of 30 Posts

· Registered
4,591 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Now there are a lot of things I should be doing, and this isn't one of them. But it's raining outside, I've been rummaging through my bits box, and felt the irresistable urge to do something utterly pointless and indulgent. The last car I ever built in my '1st phase of slot racing' (ca 1965-1971) was a radical 'straight Sidewinder'. After Bob Emmot's big Tottenham Open win in 1969, the next American 'Big Gun Pro Racer' to visit North London was Champion's Ed Lewis. Although less successful, he introduced the idea of the 'Straight Sidewinder', taking the trend to reduce the 'angle' in anglewinders to the logical limit. Now this style really caught on in 1970/71 in both scales, until the disadvantages began to be realised (more on that later?), and indeed, the fashion never really made a mark in the U.S. itself as far as I'm aware.

Anyway, with the intention of getting the mass of the motor as close as possible to the rear axle, and to minimise the 'conflict of rotational forces' between the back axle and angled motor, and other fancy theories, but mainly slavishly copying Ed Lewis and Barry Magee, me 'n my mates immediately jumped on the bandwagon. Now to achieve the 'zero' angle, a lot of the motor can has to be removed, and indeed, a slot has to be cut into the magnet for axle clearance. My abiding memory of the time is sitting with my mate in his garage, listening to John Peel on the radio, and hacking into my precious Mura 'B' can with a needle file. It did indeed take all weekend, but we were happy. Fuelled by R. White's and the occasional fishpaste sandwich provided by Tony's mum. Bless her.

I made a conventional brass chassis around the butchered Mura, and used it to about as much success as I ever managed- decent result at the next Nordic Open, good runs at my regular Richmond Vineyard club- me 'n Tony thought we were pretty cool. But about a week later we both sold our entire slot boxes in order to get tooled up with amps 'n axes to form our spotty faced answer to Hawkwind and tour the free festivals with adoring women clutching at our flared jeans and cavorting naked on stage. Which never actually happened. For me, anyway.

But back to the rummaging about. I found a 'Model Cars' report on the January '71 (I think) Tottenham open, which was dominated by straight sidewinders, and won by Ronnie Spencer jr., racing a beautiful Jim Empson steel chassis with a cool mash-up motor of Mura arm and Champion can. I've never tackled a steel chassis, and have always wanted to give it a go. And what's this in my bits box? A beat-up reject Champion can. A Mura arm and endbell. And a sheet of stainess steel. Fire up the Heat Wand! Fresh needle files over here! Quick quick, before the mood passes....

We're leaping ahead a bit here, cos I got too excited to take photos. The Champion can had already been cut up a lot so I didn't feel bad about razoring through one side with the Dremel. I would like to say that it was a simple job to solder on the axle tube, but it wasn't.

The can sprang apart in a twist, and I had to spend a lot of time with vice, hammer and vernier to bend it straight again. But after taking a lot of measurements, I realised that by using the Champion case shim, 3/32" (rather than 1/8") axles and the same 7:36 Cox gearing that all the Tottenham finalists used in that race, I wouldn't have to cut the magnets. Using a Mura can without inner shim, 1/8" axle and smaller 7:34 gears as we did back at the time made the whole job a lot harder. And would have saved a lot of R.Whites & fishpaste.

More to follow if anyone's interested.

· Registered
4,591 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
OK world... well, Kev anyway. Here's the news, hot from the bench.

Main inner rails 18 SWG piano wire. First section of stainless steel plate, all soldered direct to the can. Main rails run up the back and onto the axle tube.

You'll notice that the rail is soldered to the end face of the can. It's thicker than the can material, so a slot has to be filed in the endbell to accommodate it. It's a nice Mura 'bell by the way, with all the bulletproofing hardware. I didn't have one of those annoying Champion endbells with the screw-on bushing retainer. I wonder why I never retained one myself???

The 'bell is a nice snug clip fit now, but access to the brush gear is limited. In th'old days, the axle tube was terminated at the edge of the can to overcome this, but it means the distance between the bearings is quite small, and might lead to a bit of 'whip', so I decided to go for the max after making sure that it really is possible to thread a shunted brush and spring in there.

As I said before, the old Champion can was a disaster- the can bearing was missing and the supporting web was damaged. So I sawed the end off an old Mura can and soldered it on. The new piece sits nicely on top of the main rail, and the whole thing feels quite sturdy already.

Why am I doing this? No time for an existential crisis... Onward to Sidewinder heaven....

· David Collins
2,560 Posts
I love your stories, Howmet - especially the 'hard-boiled' ones - but how about being more generous with the pics? There's plenty of room, and bigger is better, coz we want to see the dirty bits up close!


· Registered
2,785 Posts
Hi Joel,

When soldering steel sections together we used to use an acid flux cream, known cos of the smell as fishpaste.

Putting a coating of the flux between two components resulted in a "fishpaste sandwich".

This flux was supplied by a German engineering company run by Tony Smumblesser.

I hope this explains Howmet's use of the phrase "fishpaste sandwich supplied by Tony Smumblesser".

vbr Chris A.

· Administrator
11,819 Posts
Thanks Chris, was wondering about that myself!

No Eddie, no real plans to run this under Bordo vintage rules, I'm waiting for a Summer of 69 anglewinder competition... did run it a bit at our old club in Paris, with regular foam tires and a bit of moo, and it's a good runner!

Looking forward to your build Howmet.


· Premium Member
3,088 Posts
QUOTE I'm waiting for a Summer of 69 anglewinder competition
You missed the first one this year. The Spring Festival at Wellingborough was the week before 'Double Trouble'
The next one, the Summer Festival, is at Raceway 81 (Newcastle) in August.
Loan of D3 cars for the other classes can be arranged if you fancy coming over.

Looks good so far.
Hope you can get to Newcastle again this year.
We look forward to seeing it run.

· Tony Condon
3,014 Posts
Hi John
Interesting project ,i,ll be keen to see how it progresses .MR secchi has got some genuine tottenham s/winders if you want a peek
Now I seem to remember that for a brief period of time around 1970 those cars that had a lump carved out of the centre section (drop arm) were known as "Frogbiters"
does anyone else remember this ,and if so what was the origin of the rather strange name?

Cheers tony

· Registered
4,591 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I know about Tuning Forks- that's next on my list, but Frog Biters? I need help with that, Tony...

Anyway. Lots to do at work today so I ignored it all and carried on with my 'Sidewinder of Steel'.

Outer rails of 16swg (I think). Stiffer stuff. The rails are closer together than a normal anglewinder, so maybe need to be a bit stiffer? Front axle supports all done and dusted.

Trackside up! Rails needed a bit of tweaking after heating and cooling, got everything nice 'n flat & straight. As long as I make sure only to show it to people with acute astigmatism.

Now here's the drop arm. Bent up the nose piece old style by sticking two chunks of 1/16" brass plate on either side with double-sided tape, then banging it all in the vice. Lean real hard on the handle....
Solder the Plumber hinge tube in place, and thread the plumber rail through. Now I know the trick thing is to make this in two pieces and solder a bridging wire across, but, well. Why make it easy? It took a loooong time to get this sitting flat and square, with a little kink at the front compensating for the thickness of the hinge tube, so that the rail does lay flat all the way. But I have time- customers not exactly beating the door down now. Perhaps they all gave up and went home. And Oh dear- I must have accidentally knocked the phone off the hook this morning. I hope no-one has been trying to get through to me, like that nice chap from the bank. By the way, as a little bit of history, 'Plumber' is a slight misnomer, it should be spelled 'Plummer', after its inventor, the well-known actor Christopher Plummer, who thought it up during a break from filming 'The Battle of Britain'. Good movie. My next build will incorporate a 'Brando' hinge, a little known device, but with a similar back-story...
Hoopla! flip it over...

Pans sawn... how we going to hang them?

Mail in your own suggestions, or tune in later to see what a mess I make by myself.

· Registered
1,452 Posts
QUOTE Now I seem to remember that for a brief period of time around 1970 those cars that had a lump carved out of the centre section (drop arm) were known as "Frogbiters"
does anyone else remember this ,and if so what was the origin of the rather strange name?

Yes Tony I certainly remember the term "Frogbiter" but I think by then names for chassis design had stopped having any logical meaning and were just plan weird!

· Registered
2,785 Posts
Hey Guys,

in pre-victorian navies, the depth of water was measured by dropping weighted rope into the sea and gauging where the weight hit the bottom. Of course in real time this meant throwing, or "swinging" the weighted line forwards of the ship's travel to get a measurement at the current position.


Anyway, this was regarded as "swinging the lead" and those responsible for doing so were known as "Les Plumbiers" !!.

When, years later, and in a totally different context, the concept of "swinging the lead" was resurrected, in slot-racing, then the chassis so constructed were deemed to be the anglicised "Plumbers".

Reverse Plumbers came into being when the lead was being swung from behind !!??.

vbr Chris A.

ps: We today unfortunately have many "les plumbiers" having nothing to do with the navy or slot-racing !!.

· Russell Sheldon
2,846 Posts
Hi Guys,

I've never heard the term "Frogbiter" but wasn't Mike Steube, one of the best slot racers during the mid to late 1960s, called "The Frog"?

Beautiful workmanship, as ever, Howmet! The sidewinders also caught on in South Africa, after seeing the article on the Tottenham race in Model Cars magazine. The Ed Lewis car is one that I've been wanting to build myself. Would it be legal under the "Bordo" rules and therefore eligible for the Presto Park International Vintage Meeting next year, Don?

This superb replica of the Ed Lewis chassis was built by Phillip Nyazi a few years ago:-

Although Team Champion's Ed Lewis won the Gasparilla 1/24th Pro event at Stan's Hobby Shop in early 1970 with a sidewinder, Howmet is correct in that sidewinders never became fashionable in the USA.

Ed Lewis first appeared with his sidewinder at the Kingsways Special race in November 1969, where local racer Greg Bertram beat him. Model Racing Journal described the chassis as "technically interesting" and had a picture of it in the January 9th, 1970 issue.

Lewis brought his sidewinder over to England for the Tottenham Open race in March 1970, where he qualified a rather lowly 36th (out of 115 entries, but he was a Team Champion Pro driver...!) and failed to make the main race. The race was reported in the June 1970 issue of Model Cars magazine.

No doubt inspired by Lewis, Roger Willimott (Eltham Models) also built a sidewinder for the Tottenham race (he qualified 42nd) and his chassis was featured in the same June 1970 issue of Model Cars magazine. Meanwhile, the June 1970 issue of Car Model ran a feature on the Lewis car. So although the sidewinder enjoyed lots of publicity, it hardly produced spectacular results.

Despite this lack of significant results, and regardless of the fact that the top US Pros continued to race with anglewinders, a number of top British racers, in particular Barry Magee, began to build sidewinders and sing its praises.

In 1/32nd ECRA racing, many of the better-known racers were also building sidewinder chassis and getting good results, most notably Phil Enos, who produced special space saving 'boss-less' rear wheels under the 'Top Gear' name. Barry Magee even built a very interesting 1/32nd sidewinder for the Tottenham 1/32nd Open in June 1970, with the pinion located inside the can.

The September 1970 issue of Model Cars magazine featured a 1/32nd sidewinder chassis construction article by Phil Enos, and also this article by Barry Magee, that I believe sparked the sidewinder frenzy: -


Speeds at Tottenham Raceway have soared in the last few months, due to one major thing - the sidewinder chassis.

At the last Open Meeting I was very impressed with the handling of Ed Lewis' cars, with their flat, grippy stability on both very tight corners and the loop, which on some lanes is almost as long as the main straight.

A week later I decided to build one for myself, in stainless steel. The finished car, which had a much-lightened Mura B can motor, weighed 4½ oz, which is full ounce lighter than my previous car. On the track, however, it seemed incredibly stable and quick down the straight, but not until I raced it did I realise that it was making up most ground coming out of the corners and going around the loop.

The reason for this is that with a straight sidewinder, you don't get the twisting effect caused by the torque reaction that you do with an inline or even an anglewinder. Both rear wheels break traction at almost the same time, which makes the "snatch" less as you come out of a corner. The "snatch" can be reduced even more because the heavier rear end tends to swing (when pushed very hard) as opposed to tipping; therefore a narrower rear track and more goop can be used. The lack of torque reaction also makes the car more stable in a straight line and it is less prone to lifting its nose.

And we blindly followed, cutting cans shorter, shortening endbells, cutting comms in half and grinding axle slots in magnets..... But it was fun, and I certainly miss the lack of technical innovation these days.

With kind regards,


· John Roche
4,390 Posts
Nice work as usual john.

Hi Russell that chassis is basically OK for Presto or Double trouble but would need modifying to fit scale wheels and tyres and probably narrowing as handling bodies are banned. It's a fine example of the time just after the era we are trying to capture in our meetings.


1 - 20 of 30 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.