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"Die Cast X", October 1, 2012

TRUESCALE MINIATURES LOTUS 56B

by Bill Bennett

Under the nose is a wealth of detail, including the batteries, fire system, pedals, reservoirs, and a wired binnacle.

1:18 | $195

Andy Granatelli narrowly missed winning the 1967 Indianapolis 500 with the four-wheel-drive, STP-Paxton turbine-powered “Silent Sam” race car driven by Parnelli Jones.In 1968, he returned to the Brickyard to give the turbine a second shot at the laurels — but this time, the monster was sheathed in a radically new, wedge-shaped car penned by Lotus’s Colin Chapman. Once again, Lady Luck — in the form of a broken fuel pump shaft — denied him the win. USAC, who oversaw the Indy rulebook, soon sealed the deal, and any chance of realizing the potential of the car at Indianapolis was quashed when it was effectively legislated out of contention. But Colin Chapman was not to be deterred, and continued the development of the 56 to race in Formula 1: a move that was in line with Chapman’s desire to front a singular design that could be raced both at Indy and on the F1 circuit. With drivers Emerson Fittipaldi, Dave Walker, and Reine Wisell, the car was entered in three races during the 1971 F1 season. In the wet, the car’s exceptional traction and aerodynamics occasionally gave it the lead; on dry pavement, however, the 56B proved uncompetitive to its relatively heavy machinery.

Nonetheless, the design was revolutionary, and TrueScale Miniatures will be bringing us both the Indy and the Formula 1 versions of the Lotus 56 in 1:18 scale diecast. First to be introduced will be the car Emerson Fittipaldi brought to an eighth place finish at the 1971 Italian Grand Prix — the best finish the car ever had before it was permanently retired. This is exciting stuff; it’s a brand-new tool that will yield a model with greater detail and features than those of the old Carousel 1 models to which it will invariably be compared.

It took a little string pulling (and a road trip to Chino), but DCX managed to borrow the only pre-production sample outside of China to show readers a preview of what they should expect. Here’s the deal: although there are still issues to be addressed, collectors will be getting a beautiful piece. Done in a sponsor-free black and gold livery, the first car’s main difference from its soon-to-follow Indy brother is a bulging waist, which was necessary for the oversize tanks that were fitted to carry the additional fuel load. Under the removable nose, both models will feature operational rack and pinion steering, a fully wired instrument panel, and an authentic battery and fire extinguishers forward of the pedal cluster. Getting to those sights is a technophile’s dream: as with all of the removable panels, the nose is held in place with tiny, hidden neodymium magnets, and it snicks back into place on the car as if by magic.

The Pratt & Whitney 500hp STN6 turbine engine is a derivative of the PT6 family of powerplants used to motivate aircraft and equipment. Here, in its historically unusual fitment, the Lotus’ shell hosts the gas turbine perfectly — so much so that it’s a natural for open-body display. In addition to a detailed main section, the engine’s exhaust is a complex casting and its intake, though not finalized here, will come to market as a photo-etched stainless piece. TSM has gone to great lengths to get the plumbing and wiring correct and complete, and at either end, the suspension components and four-wheel-drive elements are executed with a feel for true precision.

This F1 version is scheduled to be available in July, and we can expect Graham Hill’s Indy car in August. Make room amongst your racers. Like the real car, TSM’s latest offering represents a giant leap forward from much of what has come before it, and comes across as a magnificent piece at this price point, or at any price point, for that matter. We’d call it a winner.

SOURCES

TSM Model tsm-models.com

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