Let’s start with two videos that will raise our adrenaline levels…..
(I know, most of you will have missed the Sierra RS500 in this DTM compilation, you’ll find it around min. 3:00, leading a pack of angry Bimmers and Mercs.).
These were high performance saloon cars. Their purpose was to demonstrate the technology and performance capabilities these brands could offer, under Group A regulations, and afterwards, on the DTM. These cars had spectacular speed around the most famous racetracks worldwide, and in the hands of professional drivers, provided a show that was a delight for all car race enthusiasts.
They represented the pinnacle of the saloon sport cars scene of the 80’s and 90’s, and were an excellent display of what these three brands could offer in terms of technology and racetrack optimisation. Ford chose the turbocharged way for it’s 2.3 liter, 4 cylnder multivalve engine developed by Cosworth. BMW & Mercedes instead chose the normally aspirated path for their high revving 2.3 engines (later upgraded to 2.5 liters in their Evo versions).
In opposition to the vast power and brutality of the Ford Sierra, the BMW M3 chassis was conceived from the very beginning as a racecar, to perform both in a racetrack and/or in twisty roads, typical of the European Rallying discipline. The Mercedes formula was similar to BMW’s. For Mercedes, the 190 represented, together with its group C brother Sauber, their return to the racing scene.
Doing a double check on my magazines from the 80s, to verify which was released in first place, it was the Mercedes the one that took its first step. It was presented in 1983, being the M3 and the Sierra Cosworth introduced to the public 3 years later, in 1986.
Let me share with you some pictures taken from a spanish car magazine, “Automovil”, covering the Sierra Cosworth (1987), Sierra RS500 (1987), tests of the first versions of the M3 and 190 2.3 16 v (1987), presentation of the M3 Sport Evo (1990), and a test between the M3 Sport Evo and the 190 2.5 16v Evo (1991). This will provide you some extra historical context when looking at the magazine covers.
These are three obvious choices for slot car industry. Luckily, we can access their 1:32 versions to recreate in our hometrack those fierce battles from the 80’s and 90’s.
These three slotcar versions are based on troublefree materials and components from three experienced manufacturers: Ninco, Superslot and Slot.it. Straight out of the box, we’ll be able to emulate Klaus Ludwig, Steve Soper, Roberto Ravaglia, or Kurt Thiim, to name some of those drivers who really grabbed these bulls by the horns.
What kind of cars were the Ford Sierra RS500, BMW M3 and Mercedes 190 2.5 16v Evo?
These were high performance saloon cars brought into Group A specifications, and in the final M3 & 190 iterations, upgraded to DTM specs. Ford & BMW were the first to exploit their racetrack performance in the 1987 WTCC, 1988 ETCC, and from 1989 on , they engaged the DTM and various european national championships. The DTM is were we would finally see the Mercedes’ best version, joining the BMW’s in an era that very few car enthusiasts will forget.
Between 1987 & 1988, Fords and BMWs offered fierce battles to the audience, race after race. On paper, the Ford was superior in terms of power and acceleration, but BMW teams and drivers were masters at their own game, in terms of maximizing the M3 nimbleness and chassis efficiency against the Sierra’s raw power. It wasn’t after all, an easy task for the M3’s. BMW managers at first felt the Sierra was no match for their refined M3. The fact that Ford won the 1987 championship was a reality check for BMW.
The RS500 spec for the Sierra wasn’t a random number. It represented the horsepower output. Some drivers claim the Sierra with the right gear ratios could reach a top speed of 198 mph.
Mercedes decided to return to the racetracks in official form in the 1980s. The Group C Sauber Mercedes and the 190 2.3 16v represented their comeback. Initially it was intended to use the 190 2.3 16V in rallying after the Group B had been banned. In fact, the Sierras and M3’s were succesful in rallying, but that wouldn’t be the case with the 190, which obliged Mercedes to reorient its high performance saloon car to racetrack duties, to achieve the success they were seeking.
That became the right call for Mercedes, and the 190 became a top star, as well as the M3’s arch-enemy. It’s evolution, the 190 2.5 16v Evo represented its final consecration. BMW had to develop an Evo version of its M3 as well, in order to fight back the Mercedes.
By the time the Merc’s & BMW Evo versions had been presented to the public, Ford had already pulled out the plug from the Sierra program.
Significant sporting success?
More than that. You’re looking at the three absolute references from the Group A & DTM during the 1986-1992 era.
These three are killer, no filler. Neither the Ford, nor the BMW or Mercedes were brought in to make up the numbers. To justify this, there were attempts from other manufacturers, that simply were no match. Let me name just two of them as an example: Maserati Biturbo from privateer teams, and Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo teams backed by the factory. They simply didn’t stand a chance against the Sierras and the M3s.
Obviously, these three athletes deserved their slot version. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Slot cars evaluation
The three versions here represented are:
- Ninco’s Ford Sierra Cosworth (“S” line)
- BMW M3 by Superslot
- Mercedes 190 2.5 16 Evo by Slot.it
At first, the Slot.it brand might suggest that these car will be extremely superior to the Superslot or Ninco in terms of performance. Not really. But lets address that later. First, let’s take at the quality, finish and attention to detail from each one of these brands.
In terms of proportions, detailing and finish quality the three cars look very well executed. The Sierra from Ninco is the oldest of these three, but it stands very well against the test of time. The Superslot represents perfectly the simplicity of the BMW M3, with its boxy but muscular looks. The Warsteiner-Ravaglia version is an absolute delight. And the Mercedes represents Slot.it’s “savoir faire”. It’s the newest of the three, and even the characteristic rear lights from Mercedes are so well defined. The Diebels Alt is a great hommage to the DTM’s good times.
Ninco’s Sierra is very fast on track, it gives you the feeling it has immense potential, but with its original tyres, regardless of the tremendous grip, if you exceed their limit that’s it. I prefer a more progressive behaviour that allows me to make the car slide, making it more realistic. It’s the only drawback. But the stopwatch doesn’t lie. This slot car is fast.
Superslot’s BMW M3 combines lightness and the right gearing to extract the maximum from its limited Mabuchi engine. With the magnet removed, its very rewarding, drivable, and so easy to make it oversteer… In a twisty track it’s great fun.
The Mercedes, in terms of dynamics, straight out of the box, and with the magnet removed as the only change, is very noble, predictable, and like most slot.it products, smooth and vibration free. In this sense, I must add that the Superslot & Ninco do very well regarding this matter, without any loose components or strange vibrations that require your attention as a mechanic.
What other slot versions are there available?
In the case of the Sierra Cosworth, because of its versatility, you will find a plethora of both rally and racetrack versions from manufacturers such as SCX, Superslot and TeamSlot. To name some examples, you will be able to recreate the World Rally Championship versions driven by Carlos Sainz or Didier Auriol, the official Texaco team WTCC / ETCC / DTM version, or the ones used in the BTCC, and in the Australian Touring Car Championships.
In the case of the BMW M3 we have a similar case to the Sierra, a car that could win both on the racetrack, and out of it as well. FLY, Superslot & SCX provide a vast range of references. Fly’s finish quality is undoubtedly one of the best; in the Superslot range there are very remarkable versions such as the Warsteiner – Ravaglia version which I included in this article. SCX had also a vast array of versions which you can buy on the second hand market.
In the case of the Mercedes 190, strangely, there is not much we can choose from. Apart from the new version Slot.it has recently launched, I could only locate this vintage Scalextric version with its advanced (for its day) SRS chassis.
Here you have the Ford Sierra RS500 winning the manufacturers WTCC championship in the last round, Bathurst (Australia)
Here, one of the most chaotic races in the following year 1988; BMW defeting Ford at Zolder.
I sincerely hope you enjoyed this article and found it entertaining. Here you have a whole set of pictures I took of these three icons. Please press the like button if you liked it. See you in my next blog entry.