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Ninco just released the NINCO 1 PLUS Mercedes SLS GT3 "PostBrief". This is, hopefully, the first in a new series of NINCO 1 cars that feature an enhanced chassis design that includes the adjustable ProRace motor mount in angle winder configuration, previously found only in recent Lightning versions of the SPORT series, and the NC-9 Sparker motor instead of the usual NC-11. This car has already been reviewed quite thoroughly and effectively but I was curious and excited to test its performance and potential as an N-Digital racer. So that is what I will concentrate on here.

NINCO 1 cars have shown themselves to be ideal for N-Digital racing. The cars are designed to withstand the more frenetic digital racing environment while still maintaining a relatively high level of detail, they have ample room to install the N-Digital decoder chip and the NC-11 motor seems to provide just the right balance of speed and torque, especially for smaller digital home tracks. So, the first question that came to mind was: how will this new NINCO 1 version stack up against the existing fleet of NINCO 1 cars -- especially for N-Digital racing? The motor pod/angle winder drive train and increased power of the NC-9 motor in the NINCO 1 PLUS Mercedes (and presumably others to follow) represents a significant departure from the original NINCO 1 design.

I decided to perform a straight forward N-Digital conversion and test the car first in its stock configuration comparing performance to that of "standard" NINCO 1 cars. Then replace the NC-9 motor with an NC-8 Thruster to see if the car's performance can be brought closer to that of the existing line of NINCO 1 cars. The photo below shows everything needed to perform the conversion and tests.

Below is the chassis in its "box stock" configuration. Quite a different site when compared to the in-line configuration of prior NINCO 1 cars. They look almost "tame" by comparison.

The N-Digital conversion couldn't be simpler, primarily because there is ample internal space for the decoder chip. I performed the usual operations for a basic N-Digital no-mag conversion:

- Removed the magnet.

- Lubricated the guide post, front axle holders, rear axle bushings, motor bushings and gears (this car appeared to be already well lubricated).

- Loosened both the body and motor mount screws about 1/2 turn, which always seems to work well on Ninco track.

- Installed the Ninco ProRace suspension guide and ProRace braids.

- Installed the N-Digital decoder chip. The NINCO 1 cars have a short mounting post specifically intended for this purpose.

The following photos show the relative simplicity of the installation and how uncluttered everything appears.

My home N-Digital track is about 60 feet in [lane] length with a lot of R2 turns and one main straight section that is about 8 1/2 feet long. I tend to describe this track as technical in nature. I have four NINCO 1 cars (two Corvettes, a Mustang and a Lamborghini). They are normally run using the professional throttle profile with the N-Digital Progressive controller. Average lap times for these cars are quite close and consistently in the 8.75 - 8.95 second range in test runs alone on the track. The Lamborghini usually records the fastest laps at about 8.40 seconds.

The first track testing of the Mercedes was done with the NC-9 Sparker motor. The red plastic angle winder gears are very loud but the gear mesh is improving rapidly as the drive train breaks in. This is nothing unusual for these particular Ninco gears. The response and feeling of the car were good, relatively smooth and controlled, as are NC-11- equipped NINCO 1's. Average lap times soon became consistent at about 8.45 seconds with a fastest lap of 8.15 seconds. I'm sure that these times will continue to drop as the drive train breaks in. This level of performance, although not overpowering when compared to the NINCO 1's, will preclude the ability to match this new NINCO 1 PLUS version against the existing NINCO 1's for competitive racing in stock configurations. The NC-9 is rated by Ninco at 20k rpm and 145 gcm torque @ 14.8 volts. Compared to the NC-11's 16k rpm and 100 gcm torque at the same voltage. The validity of the Mercedes' lap times is somewhat born out by the fact that these numbers are very close to the Ninco Lotus Exige which uses the same drive train/motor combination, albeit without the motor pod.

I expected a more pronounced difference in performance between the NINCO 1's and the NINCO 1 PLUS. However, it is likely that the NC-9 would show more of an advantage on a longer, more sweeping layout. Also, the specifications for both these motors are stated at 14.8 volts. When running N-Digital, even in the professional profile, it should be noted that the maximum voltage at the motor terminals is less than 12 volts. It's possible that the performance gap between the two motors is less obvious at lower voltages where the more powerful motor can't really show its legs.

The second round of testing was performed after the NC-9 was replaced with an NC-8, shown installed in the photo below. I chose the NC-8 for several reasons:

- Its form factor is identical to the NC-9, so it is a true drop-in replacement.

- Its published specifications are very close to the NC-11 (same rpm, slightly less torque).

- I happened to have one laying around.

Also, when the NINCO 1's first emerged they immediately showed themselves to be ideal cars for N-Digital racing. But in the beginning there were only two Corvettes. I wanted to have a class of race cars right away that kids and inexperienced guests could enjoy, and that I would like to run. So, I took the two N-Digital Porsche 997's that came with the N-Digital Starter Box set and replaced the NC-6 (yes, the 23.5k rpm/350 gcm torque NC-6 Crusher!) that was stock in these cars with the NC-8. That change worked very well, allowing the NINCO 1's and Porsche 997's to run very close races. Therefore, there is a precedent for using the NC-8.

Testing the Mercedes with the NC-8 yielded average lap times of 8.76 seconds, placing the car squarely within the competitive range of the NINCO 1's. The fastest lap recorded so far is 8.49 seconds. Performance and handling with this motor were very smooth and there was a strong feeling of control.

In summary:

• There were no physical modifications required by this conversion. All stock parts are in tact, allowing the car to be returned to absolute stock condition at any time.

• The new NINCO 1 PLUS chassis design provides very good performance on an N-Digital track, allowing a more powerful class of "resiliant" cars with advanced tuning capabilities to be included for the unique requirements of N-Digital racing. This should also be applicable to other racing environments where control, rather than speed and power, is the preeminent criterion.

• I don't believe that it will be feasible to match this car in its stock configuration with the existing NINCO 1 cars. However, the car performs very well on its own merit as an N-Digital racer and appears to be a reasonable competitor for the Ninco Lotus Exige and quite possibly other manufacturers' cars that are similarly equipped. I think it is safe to assume that other NINCO 1 PLUS models will be forthcoming so that a true racing class should eventually emerge.

• Ninco touts the flexibility and upgradable nature of the new NINCO 1 PLUS design, and rightly so. For example, with the proper adapters, the motor mount system can accommodate a wide variety of motors from Ninco and other manufacturers with relative ease. This flexibility also allows those who really want to include this car in the existing NINCO 1 class to do so now by installing a less powerful motor such as the NC-8, that still provides good performance on the N-Digital track. Of course this adds the expense of another motor, so I'm not suggesting that everyone who buys this car should run out and buy an NC-8, but it's worth knowing that something as simple as a motor swap can eliminate this issue. And now there are a number of less expensive motors in this performance range that are worth a look. It is also worth noting that the adjustable motor mount may represent an advantage for the PLUS series that simply cannot be compensated for. Time will have to tell as my limited testing did not address this question.

• Another option for those who would rather maintain the higher performance of the new NINCO 1 PLUS Mercedes, but still want to race competitively against existing NINCO 1 cars, is the new Ninco 1 NC-13 EVO motor. This motor is a direct drop-in replacement for the [longer-shafted] NC-11 in the NINCO 1 cars and has performance specifications very close to the NC-9.

The bottom line is that, like the all the NINCO 1 releases before it, this car is a great addition to an existing N-Digital stable. And with the enhanced level of flexibility in its design there should be plenty of opportunities, both now and in the future, for fun, competitive racing.

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