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Pioneer Legends
#1

So what is a Legend car and how did they get started?
In 1992, the officials of the Charlotte Motor Speedway noticed the need for a low cost race car. At first, they found a small open wheel car manufactured in Arizona. But they wanted a car with fenders. They then found a small replica car made in North Carolina. A sanctioning body was formed and was called INEX – which stood for inexpensive racing. The first Legend car debuted later that year at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

A Legend race car is a 5/8 scale replica of American built automobiles from the mid-30’s to early 40’s. Some examples are a 1934 Chevy coupe, ‘34 Ford sedan, ‘37 Dodge coupe, ‘40 Ford coupe, ‘37 Ford sedan. The cars weigh 1300 pounds and are 10 feet, 6 inches long. They have a 73 inch wheelbase and are powered by an inline, four cylinder, double overhead cam Yamaha motorcycle engine of 1250 cc or 1200 cc producing 140bhp.
   
Their popularity has spread around the world and Legend cars are now racing in the UK, Europe, Mexico, Australia, and Russia. There are more than 2,500 races at over 300 different tracks each year. They regularly feature at the many USA dirt track races on Saturday nights and several NASCAR drivers started their careers in them including the Busch brothers and Joey Logano.
The UK championship is usually run at at Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Donington, Croft and Pembrey. The racing is close, often four wide and very entertaining to watch, with their high revving engines they sound like a swarm of angry bees rushing towards you.
   

The slot car
After possibly the longest gestation period for a slot car ever the Pioneer Legends finally reached the shops last November. They were first announced in 2010 with a projected release date of the 3rd quarter of that year! Perhaps Jules could enlighten us as to the reasons for the delay, although the repatriation of production to the UK from China must have played a significant part. Anyway, they are here at last and selling well by all accounts. Were they worth the wait? Let's find out.

There are two body shapes available,  '34 Ford Coupe and '37 Chevy Sedan, both available in RTR form and as a white kit to decorate yourself. The technical specifications are:
Scale 1:30
Length 113mm
Height 45mm
Wheelbase 65mm
Front and rear  Track 65mm
Weight 80g
Motor Typhoon 18,000rpm 
Motor Mount Sidewinder
Pinion/Gear 12/33
Scalextric DPR compatible

The reason for the larger 1/30 scale is that the 1:1 cars are very small and it would be difficult to fit the mechanicals in if they were made to 1/32 and they would look quite tiny at that scale. So long as you only race these cars against each other then the scale difference will not really be noticeable.
For comparison purposes here is a Legend and a Carrera 1/32 hot-rod of the era.        

The car I bought is Ref# P067 '37 Chevy Sedan No.2 Red. As I am a cheapskate I went for a 'paint defect' version from Inaslot at a considerable price saving. As it would be played with and not put on a shelf I can do without the box and other bits of the full retail price version. Pioneer must be very picky with their quality inspection because I had to go over the thing with a magnifying glass to find any paint blemishes. To the naked eye the finish looks perfect.

       

I assume that this one and all the cars released so far carry fictitious liveries, although I stand to be corrected if you know different. It is very unlikely that multinationals like McDonalds and Gulf have their logos on Legend cars which usually carry sponsorship from small local firms. Plenty of scope for real liveries if Pioneer would care to do them though, the UK series alone had 22 different ones to choose from in 2019.

Under the bonnet
The body is secured by three screws and lifting it off reveals the standard Pioneer layout and mechanicals:
   
It is nicely put together, wires are taped off where necessary and all components are solidly mounted. Quality control is up to their usual high standards. The front and rear bumpers are not fixed in as they are the most likely things to get broken in racing incidents and can be easily replaced, assuming they become available as spare parts.

I am not a fan of Pioneer's guide blade assembly though, it wobbles about too much and the braids themselves are far too stiff and springy. For club use I would change it to an aftermarket version but it can be improved for home use so I have left it in place.

On the track
My home track is copper taped wood so I couldn't test the car on plastic but this may give a clue to its performance on this type of surface:
   

No, the picture is not the wrong way round! The magnet is so strong you could race the car upside down without it falling off. This leads me to expect that it will circulate at very high speed on plastic track until the magnet lets go and a truly enormous accident follows.

Before giving it a run I did some basic preparation:
Lightly oiled axles and motor shaft.
Greased the gears with Parma Homeset Lube.
Reduced the guide blade slop by inserting a 2mm grub screw down the middle of it which expands the collar and tightens things up.
Applied liberal amounts of Pendle's braid conditioner to the braids to soften them up and splay them out a bit.
Slackened the body screws to provide a small amount of body rock. They are a bit on the short side so may need replacing with longer ones or they are liable to fall out during use.
Ran the motor and gears in for half an hour at low voltage.

It was now time to try it out. First run, with stock tyres fitted was an absolute disaster, marginal grip and an extreme case of the 'Ninco hop' if you accelerated too fast but this is nothing unusual with manufacturers' tyres on wood. I replaced the rears with a trued set of urethanes and tried again, a great improvement, much better grip and the hop disappeared.
Performance was still not good though, it was extremely twitchy and I had great difficulty controlling it through the bends with a lot of barrel rolling incidents. It also had a tendency to lift the front end out of the slot under hard acceleration. After a lot of fiddling with the knobs on the controller I managed to tame it a bit but the corners were still difficult and the best lap time I could achieve was 6.4 seconds which is pretty poor on my 50ft track. The basic problem was the short wheelbase combined with a very responsive motor, it was far too easy to upset the cornering balance with a bit of over exuberance from the trigger finger.

Time for a cup of tea and a ponder. A eureka moment followed. I usually run at 13.8 volts which is fine for most of my cars but I wondered if a lower voltage might help things. I turned it down to 12 volts and the car was transformed, much easier to control and cornering vastly improved. Within a few laps it was circulating regularly in the mid 5.9 second range with low 5.8s possible with a bit of effort, well on a par with Scalextric and SCX saloons. It was now fun to drive and accidents were very rare unless I did something really stupid. There is still a tendency to lift the front end under acceleration so I may need to add a small bit of weight to eliminate it but overall I was very happy with the performance.

Unfortunately my fun was cut short when the car suddenly stopped, accompanied by a loud screeching noise. The sidewinder spur gear had ceased talking to the axle and was merrily spinning on its axis. This is a common occurrence with my Scalextric cars but the first time it has ever happened to me with a Pioneer car so I assume it is rare. No problem though, Pioneer customer service is second to none, a PM to Jules received a very quick response and a replacement rear axle will shortly be arriving in the post.

Conclusions
Yes, well worth the wait! They look cute and are hugely entertaining to drive. Pioneer are to be congratulated for producing something different to the usual mainstream offerings. Once the initial problems were overcome I really came to like it and will be buying a stable mate for it in the near future. I am not into digital but, if I were, six of these racing with a bit of 'bump and run' would be a real blast.
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