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Accurate Miniatures 1/24 scale McLaren M8B Can-Am cars

ca_mclaren-m8b-2.jpg (24401 bytes)The 1969 Team McLaren M8B as driven by Bruce McLaren (#4) and Denny Hulme (#5)

 

 

 

ca_mclaren-m8b-1.jpg (23124 bytes)The #11 McLaren M8B as driven by Lothar Motschenbacher in the 1970 season

 

 

 

ca_mclaren-m8b-3.jpg (21231 bytes)The #54 car of the Polish Racing Team driven by Oscar Koveleski and Tony Adamowicz during the 1971 season.

 

Review By: Norm Cabana

 

This is Laguna Seca and the corkscrew looks the same. It is that infamous sequence of turns that has thrilled millions of race fans over the years. The chain link fence isn’t there, the concrete barriers are gone and for much of the track, there are no barriers at all.

You can hear the thunderous sound of engines. Lots of engines! But these aren’t wimpy turbo charged 3-liter engines that have to rev to 15,000 rpms just to build enough horsepower to move. Oh no, you could tell that these were engines that pumped out coffee can sized slugs of exhaust into the air with each stoke of the piston. This was the sound of 20 or 30 thunderous American V-8 engines.

As the cars top the hill, the sunlight flashes on the surface of polished aluminum wings. Big tall wings shuddering under braking as the drivers slowed their mounts to make the turn. "Made the turn" does not adequately describe what these cars were attempting to do. Slamming into the turn is a much more apt description. Attacking the turn is even better!

The first two cars through are bright orange. Number 4 is in the lead from #5, then comes a dark blue #48, followed by a white #0 Porsche.

As each driver slammed his car into the corkscrew and then dove off the top of the hill, you could easily see that they were fighting to maintain some semblance of control over their beasts. When each car was forced through the right hander, you could hear the drivers grab a bunch of throttle and explode down the hill into the left hand turn that leads to the flat land. The sound and fury of these cars was like a physical force assaulting you.

Welcome to Can-Am! The Can-Am, or Canadian-American Challenge Cup Series, was the most awesome, in your face, unbridled racing series ever created. Imagine a racing series where the only rules were that you had to have two seats, at least 4 wheels, and a minimum of safety equipment in the car. It was a racing series that thrived on competition, but grew because of ingenuity and creativity. Not every idea was successful but, for a while, no one would stop you from trying out any new ideas.

Unfortunately, the Can-Am days of old are long past. We have very limited means of experiencing the excitement of those cars today. For most fans, they are limited to blurry action video on television or occasional visits to an historic race. However, you and I are far more fortunate than most, for we are modelers and we can make our own excitement happen!

ca_mclaren1969-built.jpg (24049 bytes)There are very few visible differences between the three cars in this series of kits. For this review, the 1969 McLaren M8B of Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme will be the baseline vehicle and all changes will be assumed to be changes to this car or referenced to this car. My major reference for this review is the book Can-Am, as written by Peter Lyons. As you can see from the box tops, all three cars were painted very differently: the #54 car having the most complicated paint scheme. The other visual differences were a result of rule changes for the 1970 season. Can-Am mandated the shortening and repositioning of the wing uprights, the fenders had to extend down behind the tires and the windscreen (windshield) had to be symmetrical in shape and had to provide equal protection for the driver and his nonexistent passenger.

ca_mclaren1970-built.jpg (23345 bytes)The boxes these kits come in are big, measuring 9" x 15" x 4" and are well done. With the exception of the #54 car, the box art appears to be 100% accurate. I’m being a bit of a nit picker, but the box cover shows the #54 car with staggered length velocity stacks, and during the 1971 season virtually every Chevrolet powered Can-Am car had adopted the staggered length velocity stacks as shown. In case you are unfamiliar with the term velocity stack, they are the eight vertical pipes that are positioned on top of the engine. The kit, however, is supplied with equal length stacks and the instructions indicate that you should build it this way. Because the four inner velocity stacks supplied with the kit are joined, you cannot just cut the stacks to make them different lengths. If you wish to build staggered velocity stacks you will need to make them out of aluminum tubing and replace the ones from the kit.

ca_mclaren1971-built.jpg (26081 bytes)Accurate Miniatures has included on the box bottoms some very nice photos of the completed models, displaying the cars with all body panels on and with the body panels and doors removed. This is a nice touch and can be very helpful to the modeler as a reference for what the completed model should look like.

Opening the box reveals 4 bags of plastic parts, one bag of vinyl parts, and an instruction manual. The instructions are very well done. They are clear, concise, easy to follow and have beautiful line illustrations of what the car looks like during each stage of construction. Suggested paint colors, and special painting instructions, are included on each page and each item to be painted is referenced by its tree number. If you follow the instructions exactly and work carefully, I cannot see how you could turn out a poor model.

ca_mclaren-decal.jpg (24764 bytes)ca_mclaren-kovaleski-decal.jpg (23530 bytes)A review of the box contents reveals that the decals and the clear parts appear to be missing, but fear not, Accurate Miniatures has included them underneath a beautiful x-ray style line drawing of the completed car. The box insert serves to protect the decals and clear parts.

The decals are crisp, clear, and have virtually no extraneous decal film. The decals for the #11 car even include extra pin striping, in the event you make a mistake. Nice touch! The neat part about building cars of this era is that they were not rolling billboards and the decal and paint schemes were fairly simple. There is one noticeable omission from the decal sheet, however, and that is the Goodyear lettering for the tires. Fortunately, they are not needed and why they are not needed will be explained later.

ca_mclaren-windscreen.jpg (26370 bytes)This is a scan of the clear and red parts that come with the kits. The windscreens, or windshields if you prefer, are the only plastic parts that are not the same in each kit. The windscreen on the left is for the #11 and #54 cars and the windscreen on the right is for the 1969 cars. The other clear part on each tree is the instrument panel. There are only two items of red plastic, the two tiny brake light lenses.

Installation of the windscreen will depend upon how you plan to display the completed model. If you wish to display the model without removable panels or with the front panel and doors assembled and removable in one piece, then you could simply glue the windscreen to the body with white glue. However, if you wish to have all panels to be separate and removable, then you will need to carefully cut the side portions from the front windscreen at the recessed line. You will then need to glue each side panel onto its corresponding door. You could use white glue for this process but if you anticipate handling these pieces often, I would suggest using odorless CA glue or clear epoxy to provide an extra strong bond.

ca_mclaren-tree-5002-9000.jpg (13770 bytes)Bag 5002-9000 holds the tree that contains most of the major upper body panels. All are molded well with no apparent sink holes or visible ejector pin marks on the outside surfaces. On the inside there are numerous ejector pin marks but they are not especially severe. As these parts will be painted black on the inside, the marks should not standout. You could attempt to remove them but you will need to be very careful in how you do this since even moderate sanding will remove the fiberglass rope details. A possible approach to conceal these marks is to create some form of fiberglass patch and make it look like these areas were repairs to the panel. None of the panels have much flash and a sanding stick will remove what is there in very short order. There is a very thin ridge of plastic (mold parting marks) on each of the pieces where the top of body panels go from vertical to horizontal. You will need to very carefully remove these marks as they are not part of the body detail.

ca_mclaren-tree-5002-9100-1.jpg (35347 bytes)Bag 5002-9100 contains three trees. The first tree has the wheels, wing, wing fittings, valve covers, wheel nuts, seat belt fittings, mirrors, front radiator air deflector, and fuel caps. The wheels are molded in two pieces and while the rear wheels appear to be done well, with very little clean up work required, the front wheels are incorrect. The front wheels have heavy webbing on the four spokes and are not similar to the real wheels. The webbing could be cleaned out with judicious use of needle files, narrowing the spokes. However, the wheel offset, or dish, is far, far too shallow for the front wheels. Because the tires have ridges molded into them to position the wheels "properly" the wheel offset is a problem that cannot be easily solved. If there are any after-market wizards out there reading this, here is a golden opportunity for you, especially if you can also make a correct set of tires. ca_mclaren-tree-5002-9100-2.jpg (29537 bytes)Regardless, care must be taken with the outside wheel rim as it has valve stem detail molded in. That little piece of plastic sticking up from the outside rim is not a piece of flash. It is all too easy to overlook this detail and remove it accidentally. Detail on the rest of the pieces on this tree is excellent. Very little clean up is required but special care needs to be taken with the wing. There is a lot of very fine rivet detail here and it would only take a quick swipe with a sanding stick to eliminate it.

The second tree in the bag has the engine cover, door hinges, various body panel pieces, fender fences, rear fenders and grille, belly pan bottom, and belly pan side pieces. These are fairly thin pieces of plastic and as a result, there are some problems. Of particular note is the large bottom belly pan piece. It has a lot of fine raised rivet detail along with three or four sink marks. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to fill these areas without damaging the rivet detail. There are similar problems on some of the other parts and care will have to be taken with these parts as well.

ca_mclaren-tree-5002-9100-3.jpg (29297 bytes)This is the third tree in this parts bag and it contains the engine halves, cylinder heads, injectors, transaxle end plates, shift linkage, two sway bars, rear uprights, three sets of roll over bars and braces, front uprights, brake calipers, pedals, reservoirs, upright braces, fire bottle, and instrument gages. Detail is good and the engine/transaxle halves have some fairly detailed engraving. I am not sure if it is accurate, but it is quite detailed. There is little flash on any of the pieces and that is a very good thing. Since there are many very small delicate parts on this tree, trying to remove flash would be difficult at best. I must mention the cylinder heads for this kit. I have personally worked on several big block Chevrolet engines, including ones with aluminum heads, and I have never seen heads that look like these. I understand that the Revell L-88 engine has a much more detailed set of heads that could be used to replace these and that is an option you could use.

ca_mclaren-tree-5002-9200-1.jpg (35459 bytes)Opening the next parts bag, 5002-9200, we pull out two part trees. The first tree has a lot of very delicate parts. We have the long and short wing uprights, radiators, various transaxle braces, engine braces, rear a-arms, front a-arms, battery, steering wheel, springs, starter, belts, oil tank, seat back, steering rack, and velocity stacks. Again, very nice detail and, little flash. Very few ejector pin marks and no sink marks at all. These parts are so small you would need a magnifying glass to find any flaws that might be there. Take particular care with removing flash and defining the shape of the springs.

The second tree in this bag has the parts for the foot wells, the belly pan (or tub) top, engine mount/rear bulkhead, headers, transaxle cooler, front radiator ducting, front tub bulkhead, half-shafts, magneto, fuel pump, and the brake hubs ca_mclaren-tree-5002-9200-2.jpg (31607 bytes)and rotors. The headers will need a careful application of a flexi-file to clean up the flash. Each radiator duct side piece (item #70 and #71) has one small sink mark. Care must be taken handling these pieces as they are fairly fragile and there is some very small rivet detail that could easily be sanded off when you are filling the sink mark. The engine mount/rear bulkhead will need a bit of attention with fillers. There are four sink marks and two shallow sink lines that will need to be filled, on the front side of this piece. On the back side of this part there are at least six ejector pin marks and one small sink mark. You will need to do some test fitting to determine if any of the flaws on the back of the part will need to be filled.

The brake rotors deserve special mention. They are supposed to be a vented, but not cross drilled, rotor and hub combination. Each rotor/hub is made up of two pieces and requires some careful assembly to achieve the desired effect. There is a ring of very small indentations in the hub that models a series of bolt heads and this is supposed to be there. However, on the outside of the rotor there is a ring of very shallow sink marks that would need to be filled to make these smooth rotors. Delicate work at best.

ca_mclaren-tree-5002-9300-1.jpg (26221 bytes)Opening bag 5002-9300 we take out two trees of vinyl, one black and one gray/silver. The gray/silver tree holds all of the liquid plumbing lines. This is a rather clever way to provide the lines and hoses without resorting to expensive after-market parts. With the exception of the two large tubes (items #155 and #156) all parts represent stainless steel braided lines with anodized aluminum end fittings. With regards to the large coolant tubes, it might have been better to mold these in hard styrene as the real tubes were hard metal not flexible. Accurate Miniatures instructs us to not paint the lines and only dab on red and/or blue paint to simulate the fittings. If they had molded these parts in a brighter silver color I would agree, but they are too dark to accurately model stainless steel braid. The image of this tree makes the parts look darker than they really are, and that is already too dark. I believe that Tamiya makes a silver acrylic paint that will stick to this material and would give a better appearance. The other option, although costly, is to substitute after-market braided stainless steel line and fittings for ones with the kit. One thing is certain. By the time you have glued all of these pieces on, you will become very adept in the use of CA ca_mclaren-tree-5002-9300-2.jpg (21142 bytes)glues. Normal styrene cements will not hold these parts in place and will instead melt them into little blobs of gray and black vinyl!

The second tree contains all of the spark plug wires, fuel injection lines, fuel line standoffs, transaxle cooler lines, vent lines, and brake ducts. There is not much to say about these items except be VERY careful removing them from the tree. They cut very easily and once cut, are very difficult to repair. Flash removal on the brake ducts will be challenging.

The final bag in the kit, 5002-9500, contains the driver seat insert, front tires, and rear tires. The seat insert looks like soft supple leather and should fit very well. Very nice! The tires, however, are not so nice. I positioned the tires in the image this way to show some of the flaws I noticed. The two tires showing their side walls illustrate the relative diameter size difference between the front and rear tires as well as the Goodyear markings. Rather than raise the lettering, Accurate Miniatures has instead pressed or engraved the lettering into the side wall. Since the real tires had white lettering you can simply fill the letters with white paint and wipe off any excess. Nice touch.

ca_mclaren-tree-5002-9500.jpg (11913 bytes)Unfortunately, this nice touch may be wasted. In 1969 the tires used on Can-Am cars were lightly treaded regardless of the manufacturer. That means that the grooves in the tread were very narrow and shallow. In 1970, the tread on the tires was hardly more than a lot of wear indicator holes. By 1971 these tires had so little tread left, they were virtually racing on slicks. The front and rear tires supplied with the kit look like rain tires and have far too much tread and groove depth. Not only is the tread exaggerated, the pattern for the front and rear tires is different. Is this wrong? I am not 100% certain but I have never seen cars at this level of competition use different tread patterns on the front and rear tires. To correct this problem, you could just chuck the tires into a Dremel tool and sand the tread off. I had anticipated suggesting doing exactly that, until I looked closely at the shape of the rear tires. I don’t know if I simply received a bad set of tires in my three kits, but looking at the image you can see that the rear tires are not cylindrical. They are tapered in diameter from the outside of the tire to the inside. I am concerned that if I try to sand the tires smooth I will wear the tires down too much attempting to remove the taper.

Final Impressions

First let me say that I think Accurate Miniatures has done a great job making these kits. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, I would rate this kit as a 9.2-9.5. I am certain that some will think that I have been too critical of the kit, even nit picky. Every kit has its flaws and sink marks and ejector pin marks are to be expected. No kit is perfect and minor flaws should not take away from the enjoyment of building a prized model. That is what modeling is all about.

However, with a kit from a company of Accurate Miniatures caliber and reputation, every flaw is noted simply because normally, there are so few of them. Unfortunately, this fantastic kit has been marred by the inclusion of some less than optimal wheels and tires. This problem knocks this kit down from being fantastic, to simply great.

For the average to skilled modeler, these can turn out to be some of the best kits you have ever built. Be patient though, for these are not kits that can be built over the weekend. Expect to spend weeks and months to do it right. For the master modeler, they will provide you with the basis for turning out a true work of art. For the super detailers, there isn’t a whole lot for you to do but I’m sure you will find something! Replacing the kit springs with photo-etched coil overs might be a good starting point, then of course the brakes could use a touch up…you get the idea, I’m sure. There is already one company where you can buy a detail set for this car. If you go to www.f1m/f1m/f1cg.shtml you will be able to see what is offered. I have not purchased this detail set nor am I endorsing the product. I am simply providing the information for those who might be interested.

These are NOT, however, kits for the beginning modeler. There are far too many small, delicate parts that can easily be broken or lost. The painting requirements virtually mandate the use of an airbrush and the use of CA glues can really cause problems for the unwary. I can easily see some of our young modelers getting very frustrated trying to build one of these kits and I would like to avoid that if possible.

All in all, I know that I am going to have a ball building these cars!

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