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1971 Tottenham Sidewinder

6010 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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Thanks for all the chat, chums. Philip Niyazi's chassis looks the bizz!

Anyway, a very busy day at work today, so I said to myself, stuff it. I'm going to finish Sidey. Hangin' the pans, as they say in th'hood. I took a random example from the Model Cars Tottenham report and just filed notches in the pans for pin tube hinges. Filed a little relief at each end of the notch so that the piano wire hinges would lay flat on the pans. I wanted to use stainless steel tube for the tubes, keep it all looking real 20th cent Sci-Fi steel sharp, but couldn't find any, and didn't have the patience to wait...
So here it is, making sure all the wheels an 'ting go in the right places. A little bit of tweaking necessary here and there, then I'll bind the front axle supports, start fettling the horsepower, and choose me a nice sharp new bod to wrap it in.
Then I'll spray gobs of ugly coloured paint over badly applied masks and ruin the whole bag o'nails. Or I could get someone nice to do it for me.. (The emoticon for someone coyly chewing their fingertip looks ambiguously suggestive to me, so I'll leave that one out, Steve.)

Well, I'm quite happy. Working with steel wasn't as scary as I thought, and the solder doesn't show up half so bad when it flows way from the joint (not that that ever happens, of course). So it cleans up nice 'n easy. Weighs a lot less too. But somehow, it doesn't have that golden bling that nice polished brass has. Gotta do a tuning fork next. And if anyone has any idea how a 'Frogbiter' should go, I'm willing to give it a bash. Dedicate it to my cat. Anyone got any old and unloved 'Orange Pickers' lying about?

They were happy days. And I hold my little steel sled in my burnt and blackened fingertips, and I get a little flash of them again. In the words of the Sensational Alex Harvey;
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Actually, all that satin finish steel and black tyres makes it look like a 90's stereo. Phillip Niyazi's frame is proper 70s- polished brass, orange tyres, orange endbell- I see colours, man!
Very nice J.H.! I wish I had the time to start yet ANOTHER project and build one too... but no time.
I wish you could post bigger pictures tho...
Fantastic, Lord H.
Good to see you building with real scratch - it's great stuff, you can make anything from it.
QUOTE most notably Phil Enos, who produced special space saving 'boss-less' rear wheels under the 'Top Gear' name

Sorry Russell, but it was Fred Greaves who produced the Top Gear products, not Phil Enos. I actually won my first big open meeting at Oaklands using Fred's tyres and raced under the Top Gear banner for a bit. Fred was a character (so was Phill Enos) and he called his ready tyred tyres "Long John's" because everybody else at that time called them Combies..short for combinations.
Thanks for that, Dick. I have been incorrectly giving Mr Enos the credit for years....

Sincere apologies to Mr Greaves.

With kind regards,

What thickness of stainless steel did you use? Barry Magee appeared to use 18swg (0.047") for his drop arms and 21swg for pans.
Where can you get s/s sheets, and what did you use to cut the sheets accurately?
Hi Rod

I used 0.7mm (0.027") for the drop arm and pans. I got it (as I do all my material) from the ever helpful Folkestone Engineering Supplies. They have a website. When they say 'no order too small', they seem to mean it and are very patient with the likes of me. I'm definitely going to use some more.
It's obviously too thin for the authentic Magee drop arm you specify (I hope that's not going to be a costly error), but I don't fancy bending much thicker stuff. I cut it mostly on my cherished Proxxon MBS 240E mini bandsaw (with a fine tooth metal cutting blade, obviously), then with the usual variety of files. It didn't seem that much more difficult to work the stainless steel than it does to shape hard brass. The Dremel makes light work of it too, but I'm not so confident of making neat straight lines with it freehand. You could (and I have done in the past) make up a pretty effective jig-board to do it though.
The finished chassis feels pretty rugged, and much lighter than I expected.
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Hi John
It should be light using that gauge of stainless steel which i think is less dense than brass
Re the frogbiter chassis I think the emmott article in model cars shows you how to build a frogbiter I,ll check it out and give you the month and year of the magazine
Seem to remember its a pretty difficult chassis to build

Cheers tony
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