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1971 Tottenham Sidewinder

5997 Views 29 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  superhornets
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.
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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,

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Thanks for that, Dick. I have been incorrectly giving Mr Enos the credit for years....

Sincere apologies to Mr Greaves.

With kind regards,

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