I wanted a Plymouth Barracuda 1/32 slot car way back when SCX released them (#42 and #48) a few years ago. But I never pulled the trigger and the price for them now is in the stratosphere — if you can find one. So I was pleased when I learned that Scalextric was releasing the Gurney model and this time I didn't hesitate.
First, my impression of the car as a Scalextric box-stock racer in the Trans-Am class with little to no tuning or modification.
Even if this slot car does not achieve epic runner status, I'm glad that I have it because it is an iconic race car and I feel that Scalextric has done a fine job with the model visually. It appears to be relatively scale accurate and the fit & finish are quite good. First, a few interesting observations:
- This car is a sidewinder. The last Trans-Am release (the AMC Javelin) was an in-line. This was in keeping with recent Scalextric releases which have been in-line but deviated from all previous Trans-Am cars which were sidewinders. So the Barracuda fits very well in the existing Trans-Am class.
- The Barracuda is fitted with the larger diameter wheels with a 5 mm rib which is characteristic of the recent Scalextric in-line models. This allows the use of better quality tires from companies like Slot.It and NSR, however, this deviates from the existing Trans-Am class which uses a smaller diameter wheel with a 4 mm rib.
- There are no head or tail lights. No surprise as this is typical of most of the Trans-Am series.
- The stock tires on this car are the best I have seen on a Scalextric slot car in a long time. Non-magnet grip is very good. The compound feels like silicone, however, I don't know for sure.
On the track, with the magnet, the car handles just as I would expect from a Scalextric — which I feel is good. It's easy to keep in the slot, not stuck down and with decent braking. I did not record any lap times but I'm confident the Barracuda will be in the pack with the other Trans-Am's when it comes to performance.
Without the magnet, in otherwise stock configuration, the car performs surprisingly well. I had no trouble staying in the slot while running somewhat aggressively into and out of turns. Fishtailing was evident but controllable.
In conclusion I feel that most casual slot car enthusiasts will be satisfied with the appearance and performance of this slot car. Especially if it is being added to an existing fleet of Scalextric Trans-Am 1/32 slot cars. It requires little to no tuning and runs competently without the magnet.
Next, tuning and modifying the Scalextric Barracuda to compete at a higher level.
My racing buddy (we are alone in the slot car wilderness) and I have a number of Scalextric DPR racing pairs (or series) that utilize my N-Digital DPR decoder, so they can be run seamlessly on his SSD and my N-Digital tracks just by popping in the appropriate DPR decoder. This includes several Scalextric Trans-Am slot cars.
There are basically four tuning/modifications that I make to every car in our Scalextric racing series which have consistently resulted in measurable performance increases and facilitate non-magnet racing.
1.) Replacement of the stock Scalextric guide assembly with the Sloting Plus Universal EVO guide and Slot Car Corner copper braid. This has proven to be a very effective combination for both N-Digital and SSD, and a significant improvement over the stock Scalextric guide.
2.) Replacement of the stock tires with Paul Gage PGT urethane tires. These tires seem to perform very well on both the rough surface Ninco track and the relatively smooth Scalextric Sport track.
3. In some cases weight (ballast) is added such as Tungsten putty.
4. Body float (decoupling from the cassis) is always introduced. This almost always requires some body/chassis modification, usually in the form of sanding or grinding chassis edges that contact the body. Occasionally, the only thing required is loosening the body mounting screws. In the case of the Barracuda achieving adequate body float will be a challenge.
I'm always frustrated when I see parts of the body that are attached to (or part of) the chassis. The following photo shows that the front and rear body rocker panels of the Barracuda are integral parts of the chassis. In addition the front spoiler is screwed to the chassis through the front mounting holes. I spent ten minutes trying to reassemble the front end before I discovered that the front mounting screws are smaller than the rear!
I assume that there are reasons for doing this, perhaps to aid in the manufacturing process. The problem for the serious racer is that body float, which is essential to increasing non-magnet performance, is impossible to achieve without some modification. Sometimes serious modification. In the case of the Barracuda the front and rear rocker panel edges literally "clamp" the body to the chassis in several places. And the front spoiler in its current configuration will defeat any attempt at body float.
The areas of the rocker panels that contact the body can probably be filed down but I'm not sure how that will affect the appearance of the car. The only possibility for the front spoiler is to cut off its mounting bracket (the part that fits in the chassis mount holes) and glue the spoiler directly to the front rocker panel. It may also be necessary to cut the front rocker panel away from the chassis and glue it directly to the body (where I believe that it belongs).
But before any of those drastic actions are taken I will test the car with the first three tuning steps in place. The Barracuda has a relatively low stance and is wider than most of the other Scalextric Trans-Am 1/32 slot cars. This may account to some degree for the surprisingly good non-magnet performance of the car in its stock configuration. It is, therefore, possible that the Barracuda could be sufficiently competitive with the other Scalextric Trans-Am series cars without body float and the attendant modifications required to achieve it. We will see.
Anyway, I like this car.