AUTOart Citroen Xsara

AUTOart Citroen Xsara

Postby wixwacing » Sun 27 Jul, 2008 9:37 pm

AUTO ART CITROEN XSARA

with Board Track test

By Phil Wicks


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I must be a sucker for a good paint job and tidy wheels. This time it happened to be an Auto Art Citroen Xsara smiling at me from a hobby shop shelf whilst I had a newly won $50.00 note burning a hole in my pocket. Whilst out on a totally unrelated shopping trip my wife and I passed by the local hobby store and suggested we took a look inside??

Whilst basking in the multifarious objects and products on display I was hailed by my good lady to the other side of the shop where it was pointed out to me that there was a couple of lone slotcars sitting in obscurity at the end of a shelf. It was also pointed out to me that one in particular was ‘pretty’! I’m not prone to impulse buying and being a scratchbuilder I would rather pick up an obscure body like a Lotus Thirty or an Aston Martin DBR1 and work magic upon it. This gives me far more pleasure than ‘popping one out of the box’!

Well, having collected about thirty or so models (I’m NOT a collector!) I always maintain the collectors ethic that you don’t try and pre-empt some thing to be collectable but just buy something you like! So, after being drawn buy its ‘prettiness’ and virtually having the green light from ‘er in doors’ I made an impulsive purchase and feeling like a dog with two tails we made our way home.

There has been a lot of non committal reviews on Auto Art’s products since they were first released here some 18 months or so ago. I have heard personal stories of cars purchased with expectations and moments of despair and eventual abandonment. I felt there was a campaign by those who should know better against a company renown for its diecast modes and scale reproductions and I was going to challenge the myth! I had been tracking a 206 Peugeot on ebay and had put on a half hearted win or lose bid which had I won would have been a cheap model. But it wasn’t to be and I wasn’t particularly bothered.



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The Citroen at AU$45.00 was probably going to be the same price as the Pug after exchange rate conversion and International shipping so I decided that this was to be and it didn’t matter if it was a Pug or a Xsara!

Returning home late, I sat down with a screw driver and took the model apart and started to check out my purchase. First impressions were mixed but mostly positive. The body is held on with four VERY short screws. Not long enough to do serious body tuning. Something longer may have to be found to substitute them. More audio cassettes will need to be sacrificed! When the body is detached, the lighting wires coil up from the chassis to the body. Auto Art have thoughtfully put a miniature plug in the line and separating this will allow the body to be fully detached.

First QC issue was that the assembler had speared through the black pick up wire with a front body screw and pinched it between the front mounting posts. Not a major problem and apart from some bare wire in an out of the way place not expected to give trouble.

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The chassis is very robust and simple in execution. Front and rear axles AND the front propshaft mounted in brass bushes! + + + ! The motor is very firm in its mounts too. Also, the motor recess has a vent grid one side much like some other makes. The reason I like this is not because it can cool anything usefully but because it helps to stop the motor torque reaction turning the motor in its mount. Some models with open motor bays, like Ninco, SCX and some Scalextric, are more prone to motors moving in their mounts. Probably not a big issue on magnet tracks but certainly a vital feature of non magnet racing. Loose and twisting motors can cause severe axle tramp or hopping under hard acceleration and gluing becomes essential.

The motor is a Mabuchi “S” can which I rate probably alongside the Scaley and standard Fly motors. The front axle is driven by a spring coupled propshaft much like some makers drive the rear wheels of their front motor models. Moving back, the motor has the now standard radio interference devices. At the back is another potential problem. The pinion is a 10z plastic full length tooth type. Scalextric learnt about these the hard way. These are prone to splitting along the tooth valley and a first mod would be to put a Scaley collared pinion in its place.


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The crown wheel or contrate is also unusual, it is moulded in two pieces and until such time as it needs to be changed I can only assume the black collar is some type of clamping device.

There is a good strength rare earth magnet placed either side of the crown. The theory with this is that in a straight line, the magnet strength is reduced by the fact that the magnets are not directly over the rails and during cornering the model will move over, positioning one or other of them directly over a rail. In practice I’m not so sure. People like Hornby have approached this in a different way. They have profiled bar magnets across the chassis with the thinnest part over the rails when going straight and the thickest ends coming into play in corners.

Lastly, I’m not ecstatic about the magnets being almost under the rear axle. Scalextric sidewinder models like the DTMs, V8’s and GT40’s have a position for magnets hard under the axle and these are far from ideal as the front of the models become very light out of corners. Time will show how good this one will be.

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Wheels are true and flash free and the tyres have been made to be scale replicas of the real thing. In doing so they have been made VERY thin and narrow too. They also sport a full tread pattern and full sidewall detail. I feel this could be troublesome. The guide is their own design. There isn’t enough meat on the upper side of the guide and there is little there to help push the braid onto the rail. The guide is sprung loaded like the Ninco guide but another disappointment was that it is very loose in its hole. Front to back and sideways slop is, in my view, excessive. When running on the track, and judging by the marks to the front of the braids, there is a tendency for the guide to tilt back and the braids to make contact on the front edge rather than the whole braid. This manifests itself also as a peculiar scraping noise over track joints.

Changing the guide and reducing the play shouldn’t be a major job and therefore I wouldn’t condemn the model because of this.

Lastly, onto the body detail which was one of the governing factors in buying this model. This doesn’t fail to please. The Tampo is faultless, the colours are bold and the appendages are secure. We get three aerials with this model so we are expecting some, if not all to become casualties eventually! The lights are good and Auto Art have blacked out around the inside of the rear body to stop extraneous light from illuminating everything at the back. Even with a full interior Auto Art have cleverly modelled the driver’s tray around the motor without too much intrusion into the cabin space. A mastery of the optical illusion! The front propshaft also sits comfortably in the transmission tunnel.


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Door mirrors and rear wing are very sturdy but in the long term I would expect the door mirrors to eventually succumb to the rigours of racing even though they are moulded in a more pliant material than the body. The Smothers Brothers are driving and co-driving this model with their detail being OK but not stunning. Also, unlike some other product leaders, they have chosen to forgo dash detail but I can live with that!

One thing to watch for when reassembling is to make sure the light plug and wires don’t foul the moving parts before screwing together. It is easy for the body loom to run against the front contrate as the light circuitry is fixed to the body almost directly above it.

Track Test

Stage 1

This test is for timber and board surfaces, It will be a little while before I can run a plastic track test but I will be looking forward to it.

There was an informal gathering of the South East Queensland “Slot Car Legends” this week at my local board test track and apart from some good racing, there was an opportunity to run the Citroen objectively and to get the feed back from other skilled local racers. The car, as always was taken in SOOB condition onto Red Lane and set on its way at a pace. The track had already had a good hours racing on it and was in tip top condition for testing.

Settling down to a steady pace, the model showed similar characteristics to other four wheel drive models and although the tyres were fresh, the model did some impressive side ways out cornering manoeuvres. Straight line speed was good but there was plenty of wheel spin on initial acceleration. Braking too was not hot, much like some of the new Carrera models so braking had to be carried out earlier than normal. The body emitted a couple of strange sound. One was gear noise and the other was what turned out to be the front edge of the guide doing all the work! Forty laps or so later the fastest lap time was recorded at 7.730 secs. Fair to middling and about the same as an SCX Rally RX81 on this track.


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Stage 2

Tyres where given a light sanding, there’s not much of them in the first place and with the raised boss on the wheels being above normal I was afraid of passing straight through the rubber. YES, THAT’S HOW THIN THE TYRES ARE AT THEIR CENTRE!
The chassis screws were backed off as much as I dare, less than one turn. The screws are really that short too! The chassis is pinched by the body quite hard so it wasn’t possible to get a good decoupling but we persevered with what we had. Back on the track and quickly up to speed.

Immediate impressions were the dramatic reduction in body noise generated by the contrates (although the contrates were bedding in quite nicely anyway) and the apparent increase in smoothness which accompanied it. Acceleration had picked up (tyres) and straight line speed was good. A good overall feel and stability into corners and out the other side. There was a tendency for the car to lift the inner wheels on hard corner acceleration and later was proven to be a tyre problem. Again, after forty laps or so we managed to settle on a best lap of 7.527. A good drive and no real stress but no demonstration of instant zip that would be required to make it competitive. The poor braking also played its part and whilst running against a Ninco NC1 Peugeot I had to let up several inches before the Peugeot to make the corners! Swings and roundabouts?

Stage 3

This was to become a non event, stage three basically involves fine tuning stage one and two actions and cleaning the tyres with hydrocarbon. There was no improvement to be made of the tyres and I hadn’t gone equipped to carry out major body alterations to nullify the pinch effect on the chassis which was holding things up.
So tyre cleaning only it was to be. Out on red lane I placed the model and sped off into the distance. Heaps of grip, a good take off and WHOOPS! First bend, roll over deslot. Marshall to the rescue, next bend WHOOPS roll over deslot! After several of these I decided the tyres and model centre of gravity where joining sides and ruining a potentially good run. It became necessary to run the cars tyre on the dusty floor to take a bit of grip out of them and to get the model to behave. Back on the track the car settled in again but with lap times marginally better than stage two ( a 7.522) it can be said that there needs to be some serious evaluation of road rubber and weighting.

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Not to worry, at a best lap of 7.522 it is not a lost cause. Another three tenths off would be needed to make it competitive against Scalex and SCX Pro Turbo Rally cars on this track. It has all the basics and feel of a good slot car but as these reviews are aimed at what you can do with RTR models without extra expense from here on it falls outside the parameters. Not to worry, I wouldn’t condemn it! Not at all. Two main drawbacks are the tyres and the C of G, The guide, in spite of its looseness seems to work fine but I would be inclined to replace it anyway. The purchase and modification of a couple of SCX Rally axles would almost surely solve the Wheels/tyres dilemma. The motor as mentioned before is in the 18000 rpm range as far as feel goes but the braking is below par. The 2.8 : 1 gearing will be contributing towards this.


Statistics.

Overall weight 97 grams
Front Axle load 34 grams
Rear Axle load 63 grams
Front/Rear Weight 65% / 35%
Wheelbase 79.0 m.m.
Front Axle width 56.0 m.m.
Rear Axle width 55.0 m.m.
Pinion Fr and Rr 10z
Contrate teeth 28z
Overall gear ratio 2.8 : 1
Tyre dia Fr and Rr 20.0 m.m.

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The one universal comment by those present was how stunning it looked on the track, This model has bold colours and it shows, enhanced by a deep clear lacquer. It was also agreed that apart from a minor lack of performance it was good to drive and at AU$45.00 it wouldn’t cost that much more than a Scaley to get it to perform as well!
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When I'm not racing slotcars,
I'm out in the back yard, burning food!!

When I win, it's because of my talent, not my car or my controller!
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