Thursday June 14, 2007

ASCARI. The name may not mean much to some of you, but if you search online of the history of this company you should be impressed. Like many all new models from NINCO this Ascari KZ1 has been highly anticipated by many enthusiasts and I could not wait to test one. Upon arriving safe and sound from MRC I was immediately pleased with what I saw and this was just with the model still in the box.

This is the kind of model that appears as if it is going 100 miles an hour sitting still. The overall shape and design of this car really appeals to me and NINCO has done a fair job bringing it to us in our scale. Tampo stamped markings were very crisp with no fading noticed throughout the model. The red and black stripes really look fantastic. The red is very deep and glossy with no signs of bleed through while the black accent stripes are crisp all along the sides.

I noticed a very clean clear coat as well, but also perhaps even an increase over prior models. All the markings and paint have a very nice gloss finish to them that I cannot say all models in our hobby have. Again, I cannot confirm this and it is most likely just the paint color combinations (or my eyes getting older) but when you see one in person I think you will understand. I compared it to the recent Mosler and although it too has a full coat of clear, the Ascari just appears to have a slightly heavier, more robust finish.

One thing I did notice was a distinct mold line along the front fenders of the model. Nothing too bad really, but worth mentioning for those that care about these small details. It doesn't take away too much from the model but they are visible. Detail levels are more than enough for my tastes with a nicely done interior that has visible roll bars, fire bottle and even the mid engine intake system. Overall it appears NINCO gets more than a passing grade on this effort from my eyes, but only you can decide if they have succeeded well enough for your taste.

Wheels and tires are standard NINCO and were fairly round and true. As with most models these will see some tire sanding to get them where I like them. Up front I noticed the tires were not seated very well on the wheel so I hand formed to the best fit I could. When I was doing this, it felt like the front axle assembly had a slight drag to it. It would not spin as freely as I expected. I did not notice any tire rub so I figured the issue was inside. Perhaps the lead wires rubbing or something of that nature. First though, it was to test this car out of the box!

After a quick braid adjustment this car was ready to go...and go it does. I posted lap times in the average of 4.2 seconds which is right with the Super GT cars such as the NISSAN and Supra. It performed like I hoped it would with crisp braking and acceleration that most of you will appreciate. Diving deep into the corners was a great deal of fun with this model as it felt very forgiving if I got a little heavy on the throttle. I saved the car many times in a slide and this control factor made me an instant fan of this car. Gear mesh was fair, there was some slight noise but the car does deserve more break in time to smooth out. Some of my prior NINCO models now are almost whisper quiet after a few 1000 laps on them. In the end, this car right out of the box gets a thumbs up as it functioned as intended.

After this testing was completed I normally open up the car and get started with fine tuning. However, I stood back and allowed my 10 year old to give it a good thrashing and while he was having fun it occurred to me that I could stop right here and do nothing more. I just enjoyed racing this slot car the way it was and as I type this my son is yelling that he just broke his fastest lap. Of course I knew that as Laptimer 2000 has an audio "bleep" that lets you know you just turned the fast lap.

Perhaps this is why I feel the out of the box test we perform is so important. Not all of us who enjoy this hobby need to tear these things apart and rebuild them to make them run "properly". Of course we can perform some slight tuning to adjust matters here and there which we do with all of our models, but watching my son having a great time enjoying a slot car just the way it is was a refreshing site. The quality of NINCO models, along with others, has improved so much in this scale that basically there is very little we have to do in order to enjoy them. With this said, for some of you out there you have seen and read all you need to form an opinion. If you decided to choose this slot car for your collection, be prepared for serious fun to follow.

Taking a closer look underneath we see this model is equipped with the NC-5 Speeder motor that is rated 20,000 RPMs at 14.8 volts. The motor has a 12 tooth pinion installed that drives the 32 tooth spur gear. We also see that it is mounted in the angle winder configuration that many feel is the optimum set up for best performance. 3 screws secure the body to the chassis and were removed easily to expose the inside.

Here we see things a little closer, and it revealed the slight front axle bind I noticed before the initial test. However, it was actually a welcome surprise! For years NINCO has been notorious for have front axles that would have a large amount of both horizontal and vertical free-play. Looking back at past reviews will show you how we adjusted this issue with shims or axle trimming. But this chassis is all new of course and it appears they have finally cured these issues, at least for the most part.

The slight drag I felt was that the inside of the wheel hub was rubbing the front axle mount. I loosened the wheel a little by twisting it and this cured the drag we were feeling. You might want to remove the front wheel and slide the complete axle out so you can lightly sand the edges of the axle mount. This way you can re-install the wheels completely and secure them with adhesive for added durability. I did this and it took only a few passes with an Emory board over the edges to make things just right. I am very happy to see this change and I think most veteran enthusiasts will as well.

Since I was working with the wheels and tires, I decided to sand them to get them as concentric as possible. I performed this using methods we have used in the past. I first remove the rear tires and then while applying power to the model I used 2000 grit sand paper and placed it over the inner rib of the wheel as well as the outer edges. This cleans up any slight flash molding you might find and it allows the tires to be seated cleanly on the wheel. After this I sanded the tires and headed back to the track for more racing.

The model was smoother and I posted a fast lap of 4.012 seconds which is pretty impressive for this series and style of models. The button magnet is more than enough downforce for my driving taste and there is a decent window of time to correct a slide. However...while racing it I was watching it very closely and I suddenly noticed something out of place.

The left side wheel was sticking out quite a bit further than it should. After looking it over I had a couple choices to make to correct it. I could adjust the entire gear assembly and shift the axle over to try and even things out, or trim the axle slightly and re-mount the wheel.

Guess what I did? Yes, I used my cut off wheel in my Dremel and slightly trimmed the axle so the wheel would sit as evenly to the body as the other. Some racers will frown on this method, but the amount was so slight that it only needed very little trimming and this was by far easier to perform than try to move the spur gear and axle free-play shim. I just took the thickness of the cut off wheel as a start and this was just the right amount to seat the wheel where it looked right to me. Performance did not change after this fix, but things just looked better overall.

*NOTE* After talking with other enthusiasts it appears my model is a very isolated one. None of the other owners I spoke with have this issue so most likely your model will be void of it. Issues like this happen with all models and most of the time they are very few and far between and such is the case here.

Summing It Up

This is just one more nice model from NINCO that should please most of you in our hobby. It would be a great choice for the beginner or seasoned veteran. It has a lot going for it in both the right places: scale detail and performance. Out of the box it was a fun model and with just a slight amount of tuning it just became better. I think anyone should look closer at this model and consider adding it to your collection. Not just because it is a very nice slot car, but that combined with many of the recent releases could create an impressive field of cars for you to compete with.

- Harry

As always feel free to contact me about this article or just the hobby in general at, or better yet drop into our Message Forum and share your thoughts with other enthusiasts!

Thanks Go To MRC For Providing Us With This Sample!