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156866 Views 649 Replies 77 Participants Last post by  Spurman
Maybe these days with just about every dream car you can think of available as an RTR or kit from some manufacturer or other, is it time we revived the Thingie?

I know they almost tore the hobby apart back in the old days, but I must admit to a high degree of admiration for those imaginative souls who designed wholly orginal shapes for slot cars. What would be the perfect shape for a slot car these days, if all prototypical accuracy was ignored?
Lets carve some wild cars, suck some zombies in those home-made vac-formers, get the creative juices flowing into some wild shapes and bizarre colour schemes!

Back then, I seem to remember some pretty serious real car designers threw up some shapes for commercial track slot-racers. Why not try it again now, when the hobby seems to have hit new heights? Or are we just scared of a new schism?

By the way, this is actually just a very thinly disguised ploy to get some more vintage slot car pics posted. Where are those great West Coast Thingies of yore?
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Interesting question.... no pictures here, but look at a couple of my cars in the site....

Unfortunately, the answer to your question about the ideal shape for a modern no-holds bar slot car is the current wing car - you just can't get any more efficient than that!

There were actually two currents to the Thingie trend - one, and here you're thinking of the Manta Ray in its lessor form, or the Testor Marauder or BZ Banshee in better form, is the "dream car", or an exercise in style to show what a real car could look like if designed by the perpetual cool teenager. You would include the Cucuracha and most other commercially made thingies in this category. Early on this meant huge rear tires, spaced way out.... later, the tires shrunk, but they stayed way out.

The other trend, which started way back in the Round The Pole era, is, do whatever works! ie, low, wide and nothing to get in the way, then aerodynamic devices once speeds were high enough. Here, you're probably thinking of the Choti type bodies from Northern California, being raced when all the SoCal racers you saw in the magazines were still racing good-looking semi-scale bodies. These were already aerodynamic devices, with super-light frames, super-wide back tires and tiny front o-rings. The Choti bodies still have a little style to them, but very soon the wing car bodies lost any aesthetic sense at all... There were also the Shinoda bodies from Detroit way, done by the automotive designer, and these were sort of the same idea, but much nicer looking....

All thingies, but very different... and if I'm not mistaken, a very American phenomenon... Of course, curiously enough, thingies seem to be accepted very early on as standard race cars in Italy and Switzerland, right Edo? the period photos I've seen are dominated by Asps and chopped Cucs, followed by their own home-grown Mini Dream Cars - beautiful beasts!

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A few people have blamed 60's era socio-ecomics factors for the slot racing bust too - doesn't mean it's true!

I know you're just kidding, but we all should remember one thing: the slot car boom of the 60s was largely a thingie influenced phenomenon! If you look at any random sampling of cars from the time, I'd guess about 3/4 had thingie characteristics! Face it, there just aren't enough pure hobbyists/scale builders around to sell the millions of 1/24 commercial cars that were sold in the boom period of 65-67. This happened because there were lots of RTRs that kids or adults could buy and plunk on the track - and if they went better with 3-1/2" tread and marble silicone tires, so be it!

Everybody gets all nostalgic about the wonderful 60s, with a track at every corner, etc. (me among them...), but don't forget that a lot of junk was being run, without bodies, or with unpainted bodies, goop-infested tracks, junky equipment (say what you will, the Flexi is an excellent running chassis), etc.

Also, don't forget the push for performance: that's what most people at the time wanted, not scale cars. Maybe we had to take this to its logical extreme before getting some perspective on the whole problem.

I wasn't really all that keen on Thingies either (although I did have a Cuc at the time), until I started doing some research to help an American friend who was planning a book. The more I looked into it, the more interested I got in the phenomenon, although it still isn't what I prefer to run. Going to be very interesting seeing the vintage Thingie race in Turin next year...
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Yep, absolutely love that Super Cuc II Larry! Looking at it closer this time, I noticed the Chevy logo, an interesting touch, and moving the driver to the right-hand side, leaving room for ... his lunch box? a propane tank? a Roots supercharger?

I give up - what is that thingie?
Yep, I agree Graham, not one of the better examples of Thingie-dom! But it's very rare, so we'll find out the desirability/market value of something that's rare yet 'orrible! Do let us know Phil...

I have a feeling this was designed just before the big slot bust, when the manufacturers were still thinking: "those dumb kids will buy anything...."

I rather like the other Pactra thingie, their asymmetrical Astronaut, but this one looks like a bad knock-off of the Classic Astro-V....

Funny how years later these things all seem a lot clearer than at the time....
I beg to differ...
It was the "Riggen Special" RTR, available starting back in 68, as a low-cost version of the other Jad cars, with unanodized wheels.... "Body is an original Riggen design".

That was from the 1968-1/2 Auto World catalogue; In the following years it was the same price as their other cars, $9.50 in 69 then $8.95 as a low cost Group 12 in 1970.
In 1969 there's another real thingie listed, the "Mach 1" - I've never seen one of these in the flesh tho...

Riggen also did a lot of loose interpretations in this line: the Chappie-XL, Ferrari Custom Coupe, Riggen Spyder and some very flat Lola T70, Ford MkIV, Porsche 917, Ferrari 612, etc. -- whoops, same bodies, but by 1970 they used either the flat pan brass chassis and 26D motor in the low cost version, or a Group 12 anglewinder chassis.

Thingies - love em or leave em... can't live with em can't live without em... seen one seen em all...
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Edo, they're Dyna-Rewinds, but in Champion cans.... actually I didn't realize about the Champion cans till Bertil questioned Ronny and we got to the bottom of things! See for the whole story... And there are period pictures posted by a Swede on another forum/thread - can't remember which, but I think Scratchbuilt has the reference in there.

Kind of hoping I'll be able to race this against a Shinoda bodied thingie in Turin... clash of titans and all that jazz!
and speaking of memory loss, forgot to answer your real question! They're 16D size...
Edo, that's a real body so you can't use it! But it's a Classic chassis for their Serpent Thingie - the same series as the Gamma Ray with the mechanical brake that we're all trying to restore. Electric Dreams does a very nice repro body, if he still has any left.... (and where's our instruction sheet for the Gamma Ray, Philippe?)

I'm not so clear on the rules either, if they mean just commercially produced thingies (which is probably the case), or if the scratch-built thingies also count.... (like my flat-iron, which would not be eligible in that case). I'll ask Ezio for clarification. Actually, even if it's just the commercially manufactured thingies, I'd still like to see at least a demo run of the wilder models, from Shinoda, to Cut Cucs, to Choti wedges, etc. And then there's Floyd Manley's (The Thingie Man) "Gittin' Thingie'! (he was from the south, in case you're wondering....).

Blue tires do not a thingie make.... after all, Jim Hall used blue tires on his Chaparral 2K, didn't he?

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Who saw Turin? We were racing slotcars!

Actually, it's got a very nice Museum of Cinema, in an amazing building, and also some very serious eating places! Good gnocchi and like everywhere in Italy, the ice cream and coffee are incomparable! Nowhere near as beautiful as Rome, but what is?
Bravissimo Edo!

Definitely one of the neater looking Thingies, and it should go pretty well too, with a little added weight. Not sure if those are the original Pactra wheels - could be the Riggen silicones, but they're pretty similar to the originals.

This was just one of the many thingies that absolutely went under our radar screens in 1967 or so, because we were all building scratch-built tube and rod with rewind cars by then.... I may have seen an ad for one of these in the mags, but paid absolutely no attention to it. Not only was the Cuc the only Thingie I bought at the time, it was also the last one I remember really paying attention to... The others were kind of jokes, but must admit that some of them hold up well over time....
"Stop Making Sense"

Actually, your comments sound very logical Edo... and I agree with you 98%...

When the Italians first announced this earlier this year, they actually called them "Les Monstres", which sounds rather intriguing as well....

But I guess Dream Cars is the most appropriate... Who's going to race a Batmobile? I've got a repro Green Hornet I'd be glad to sell for $5K or so... After all, it's RARE!

We can't wait! Gotta see those apples....

Actually, what PdL didn't tell you is that the best part of the Garvic cars is their boxes - great illustrations, much better than the cars!
That is in fact a copy of the Choti body, from the San Francisco bay area, ca 1967.... I have an original one of these, with kind of the same paint scheme but much the worse for wear! (ie, chipping inside). But strangely enough, it's got a very heavy brass chassis, with floppy body mounts, a Champion 607, etc. As Edo points out, these mostly had very simple and lightweight piano wire chassis, plus very low, wide tires, etc. Very definitely the precursors to today's wing cars!

If the Dok is lurking, he might be able to fill you in with a little more info.

I'll try to send Edo a pic of mine so he can post it, or if you can wait a week for the Turin meeting, you'll see more Thingies than you can shake a brass rod/tube piano wire stick at!

Seems there was a bit of a war in the mid-60s, between the SoCal racers, who raced scale to semi-scale cars, and got all the ink, and the NorCal racers, who ran a lot more cars like this...
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Hey LowRider, don't underestimate the power of an educated trigger finger and a garage full of Ferraris when you want to woo the ladies - just don't tell them what scale it's all in!

Actually, we were all pretty "mature"; talking at the dinner the night before the race, a whole group of us were born in 51-52-53; but it was the two youngsters Brad and Ezio who took all the marbles!

I didn't really win anything here (came in 10th or so, but there were lots of trophies and wine - one of the advantages of racing in Europe), but I had a great time, and the 1/32 scale Formula 1 cars were a blast too. Love to see four of those beautiful little cars on the track at the time.

Thanks for the photos Edo - it was great seeing you again, and getting together with all the guys.
But Brad's already back home with the first place trophy, so guess we'll have to wait for the IOC ruling!

A quick explanation for those of you who don't know how they score it in Turin: these are the combined results for the 1/32 and 1/24 categories. And the winner in each category is actually determined by a combination of Concours points and race points. The Concours winner gets 40 points (second 25, etc.) and the race winner gets 25 points (second 20, etc.). So you have to do very good in Concours here, and have a decent race showing if you want to win the whole thing.

There are also penalty points; for instance, Turin is for production slot cars only, so a scratch-built like my Swedish Flat-Iron, was penalized 8 points. In their usual races, a vac-formed body is penalized 3 points, but this obviously didn't apply to the Thingies, and non-original parts are also penalized.

The penalties are not always applied very equitably (especially the non-original parts, not always easy to see), but the system is fairly clear and simple - except for counting up all those points!

Anyway, we had a great time!

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Which brings us full circle back to Shinoda!

Thanks for the article and all the pictures Edo! I think Howmet was just referring to the general reputation of Italian design (vastly overrated of course, next to a Humber Snipe!) - us Anglo-Saxons are very impressed by all things Italian, including design and pasta (and Sophia Loren for us older pervs). But I guess the Italian design is more known for flair than strictly for elegance, so maybe these thingies would fit....

What I still find curious is that while the English and Americans had many qualms about chopping bodies and making Thingies, the Swiss and Italians just plunged in and cut up all those Cuc bodies! Is this something to do with our Puritan streak?

Howmet, just a bit more info (not "infos" Edo...) on the book: only the intro and a few other sections are translated into English (and not very well), not the parts on the companies unfortunately. It's a great reference for stuff like the Italian cars, and some pretty obscure European brands, but there are a few too many pages of color catalogs from Scalextric and other common companies... and, my personal bugaboo - no chassis pix!
Great stuff Edo! And many thanks to Lucio for opening up Pandora's box! (shoebox that is...).

Very creative packing on those cars as well. Love that transparent Nylon chassis; there really was some different kind of design going on in Italy - makes Cox et cie look pretty tame....

Edo, all I can say is, "Amazin'"

great find, be curious to see how it runs, and if that body glitters in the neon lights of your slot room....

Origins of the word "Thingie"

In some earlier posts, people were wondering when the word "Thingie" was first used... I believe it actually dates back to some of the contraptions used in round the pole gas car racing, especially in the late 40s when all resemblance to actual cars disappeared, but for slot, I just ran across this quote in the first issue of Model Car & Track, Winter 1963, in an article about drag racing, in a legend under a picture of one of the early "Magwinder" type cars:

"Typical of West Coast drag machinery is this long-nosed "thingie" that, while fast, has no prototype. Configuration is dictated only by machinery."

Don't think you can get any more accurate than that! In any case, it definitely predates the manufactured thingies like the Manta Ray, which were never labeled as such by the manufacturer, but rather, "Outlaw", "Dream car", etc. I rather like the British designation of "Formula Libre" as well....

Nice Bandit, Edo! The rewind Green Hornet goes to the Super Bandit with the Dynaflex frame of course, but looks good in this car. And I believe the original tires were knife-edge, but these may have been the originals turned down to lower the front...
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