Product Lab - June 2007
Published: May 14, 2007
|F-22 Raptor fun for novices and aces|
Product: When my dad first got me into flying, we had to decide which trainer plane and engine to buy. One common thing about the planes then is that they all looked the same, sporting boxy fuselages and high wings with lots of dihedral. The F-22 Raptor PTS is light years ahead of what I started with.
Just about everything needed to fly comes in the box, including a JR Sport SX600 6-channel radio system and a flight simulator so customers can practice flying the F-22 on their computers first. Five servos are pre-installed, with the option of installing two more for use with the flaps. The package is completed by instructions for both the plane and radio that explain everything from assembly to trim settings.
Assembling the plane is a breeze, and shouldn't be too much trouble even for beginners. Since the plane has to be turned over to install the landing gear, you might want to recommend that the customers use the Styrofoam for the radio as a cradle to keep the plane's covering from getting marred or punctured. You assemble the tail section using hex-head screws, and the wrench is included with the kit. You attach the wings to the fuselage via tubes and nylon bolts, which is easy to do.
One complication you'll want to warn customers about is the placement of the receiver battery. In a traditional layout, the battery is located somewhere near the receiver and flight pack. To make the Raptor balance, Hangar 9 put the battery way back in the fuselage, behind a hatch. There is also no mention of the battery's size, which could become a problem with multipurpose field chargers.
Performance: With both batteries fully charged, I fueled up the F-22. After a quick check to make sure the control surfaces were all moving in the right direction, and a test of the radio's range, I turned over the Evolution engine, which started almost right away.
I pointed the F-22 into the wind; off it went. With the wing configured with the Progressive Training System (PTS), it will make a long takeoff roll, so the pilot must be patient not to try to horse the F-22 off the ground. Once in the air, the plane was very docile and easy to control. I gained some altitude and tried to stall it, but it just nosed over and kept on its way.
After a couple of flights, I decided it was time to take off the training wheels. The NACA droops are a little tough to remove; they're fastened with tape on the outside and with double-stick tape inside. I also added two extra servos and made the optional flaps operable.
With the wing "clean" and flaps retracted, the Raptor was a completely different plane. It was much faster and a lot more responsive. With the flaps down, I was able to get it to practically hover in mid-air.
Overall, the Raptor PTS is great for beginning pilots. It will allow them to learn on a docile plane, and then upgrade to something fairly aggressive, all without having to buy another model. I wish I had this when I started out!
Marketing: Some Raptors have experienced severe damage from hard, nose-first landings. Fortunately, Horizon offers a package of pre-cut, plywood doublers to reinforce the nose structure.
Your customers can make the flaps functional, which means add-on sales for you. I suggest that they do this while installing the wing. They'll require two servos and a Y-harness that has the ability to reverse one of the servos.
Finally, first-timers will still need all the tools of the trade: a field box, starter and battery, glow driver, battery tester, fuel and the usual collection of miscellaneous tools that every flyer needs.
Reviewed by Paul Daniel
Product: F-22 Raptor PTS
Maker: Hangar 9
Stock No.: HAN3825
Availability: Horizon Hobby
Very complete RTF
Good for novices and aces
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|Venom's Night Ranger 3DXL performs well under pressure|
Product: With competition in the micro-electric helicopter market as fierce as ever, Venom Air Corps' Night Ranger 3DXL makes a good first impression.
The packaging is eye-catching and features full-color photos of the 3DXL in flight.
The ends, top and bottom are a bright, lime green, which match the heli's fuselage, and the front panel displays a full list of the 3DXL's specifications. The transmitter frequency number is indicated on the boxtop next to the convenient carrying handle.
Inside is a fully assembled helicopter with a 6-channel transmitter and eight AA alkaline batteries, a 3S 1500mAh 10C LiPo battery, and 2-3 cell balance charger, all secured in clear, molded-plastic compartments. The full-color, 23-page pilot's handbook provides an excellent overview of transmitter operations and important mechanical aspects of the aircraft.
To get into the air, all customers have to do is unfold the rotor blades, install the AA batteries in the transmitter, and charge and install the LiPo battery in the helicopter.
Performance: The 3DXL's fuselage is sturdy, constructed of stamped-metal and molded-plastic parts. It has an Electronic Cyclic Collective Pitch Mixing (eCCPM) control setup, and the transmitter is pre-programmed for eCCPM mixing.
Although the transmitter is a true computer radio, programming is done through a series of tiny DIP switches located on the back of the case and by rotating knobs on the front. This is a bit unusual, but it is explained well in the manual. Dual rates, exponential, pitch curves and gyro sensitivity functions can all be adjusted using the DIP switches.
The 1500mAh battery is a tight fit between the side frames. Care must be taken not to puncture the pack's protective shrink-wrap. Balance can be fine-tuned by sliding the pack fore and aft, but the tight fit limits choices for aftermarket batteries. The LiPo charger is easy to use, but requires almost two hours to charge the battery.
When spooling up the rotor head for the first time, the nose of the 3DXL lurched 30-40 degrees to the left. Some initial right tail rotor took care of this, and with the rotor up to speed, the blades tracked perfectly.
While bringing the heli into a hover, the 3DXL wanted to roll hard to the right. I immediately landed and inspected the swashplate and control system for misalignment. Everything appeared normal, so I made a second attempt, with the same results, only this time I added more pitch and was able to get a smooth, stable, 2-foot hover. Still, something wasn't right.
Taking a closer look, I noticed that the ball link on the right cyclic servo was twisted just enough to bind against the servo arm a little before half-stick. A tiny adjustment eliminated the problem.
As is typical with small helicopters, the receiver antenna is wrapped around the skids. Under certain conditions, this will cause interference, which I encountered. I unwound the antenna and ran it through a small, plastic tube under the tail boom.
The glitches disappeared, but the free end of the antenna caught on the tail-rotor shaft. I landed the heli without damage, but needed help fixing the fouled tail rotor. A conversation with technical support at Venom helped me get the 3DXL repaired in minutes. They also advised me to replace the lower screws on the aft cyclic servos with slightly larger ones, or 2mm bolts and nuts, to keep them from coming loose or falling out.
Marketing: Overall, the Night Ranger 3DXL has been a blast to fly. It is stable in a hover, but is agile enough to perform 3D aerobatics.
The street price might seem high, but remind your customers that they're getting a complete, 3D-capable helicopter that is RTR.
For the intermediate or experienced heli pilot, the 3DXL is an excellent entry into micro-electrics. With training gear, it can be used by beginners, but another heli, like the Night Ranger II, might be more appropriate.
Reviewed by Don Coe
Product: Night Ranger 3DXL
Maker: Venom Air Corps
Stock No.: VENF-6230
Street price: $499.99
Patient setup is worthwhile
Fully RTR and maneuverable
Excellent technical support
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|Fly the virtual skies with Hangar 9's FS One simulator|
Product: Hanger 9 boasts that FS One, its entry into the R/C flight-simulator market, "feels as real as it looks." I have to agree.
FS One sports 25 different flying sites: five 3D-generated flying fields and 20 beautiful panoramic sites. After selecting the flying field, users can choose from 42 different aircraft, including airplanes and helicopters, with nearly endless possibilities for adjusting their flight characteristics.
FS One includes 31 planes and 11 helicopters, divided into categories such as trainers, scaled and 3D. All the aircraft are nicely rendered and wonderfully detailed. Also included is an aircraft editor that allows users to adjust flight and power characteristics for each model. It's also possible to edit the graphics and decals of any of the variants you create.
Although the editing requires a third-party tool (almost any photo editor will do) and is performed outside of the FS One application, the process is pretty straightforward. I was able to make a Model Retailer-branded Bell helicopter in about five minutes.
If you are into creating your own aircraft, but not interested in messing with all of the physics parameters, FS One includes a "scaling wizard" that leads you through the process of creating any aircraft, from the tiny to the jumbo. Although the scaling wizard is a great start, I found that I still needed to adjust and tweak some of the parameters when scaling aircraft to the extreme.
As an added benefit, Hanger 9 includes a number of fun features with FS One, like pylon racing, multiple players, and my favorite, the bomb drop and bottle rocket launcher. This last is part of a shooting game in which players score points by bombing land targets or shooting targets suspended in the sky. Seemingly simple, it's surprisingly difficult.
Lastly, FS One includes seven basic and 25 advanced training videos.
Performance: FS One comes with four computer CDs and takes about 45 minutes to load onto a Windows XP system with a 3.2-GHz processor; a little longer than I had expected.
Once installed, the simulator is enjoyable to fly. The graphics are quick, and each aircraft responds quickly and appropriately to the TacCon radio's inputs.
There are two bugs that I was never able to resolve. The first: for some reason the Blade CX model in the simulator wouldn't fly. It was as if the default weight for the heli was set too high. The second: the prop and jet sounds on the airplanes (not the helicopters) would periodically cut out. Although slightly annoying, it had no impact on the performance.
A drawback to any R/C simulator is that it's incredibly difficult to simulate your peripheral vision and that 3D feeling you get only when standing in the field. Although Hanger 9 did not solve this problem, FS One does include a number of on-screen aids to assist flyers.
The map that displays an aircraft's relative location to the flying field and the Variometer are especially helpful when circling the field and preparing to land.
Except for those bugs already mentioned, FS One performed very well. From the comfort of my chair, I was able to practice some touch-and-gos, get towed in a sailplane behind a Piper Pawnee, and brush up on my 3D heli stunts. All of this stick time has really built my confidence and anticipation for the summer's flying season. Now all I need to do is get my hands on a real 3D heli and see if I can walk away with all the parts intact.
Marketing: Flight simulators are one of those products that can attract a lot of attention if customers can play them. That's how the electronics sections in big-box stores rope in potential sales.
Another cool idea would be to include a few customized aircraft with the hobby shop's logo with each sale of FS One. It could make for a good Internet step-by-step extra!
Reviewed by Jim Schweder
Product: FS One flight simulator with TacCon USB controller
Maker: Hangar 9
Stock No.: HANS2000
Availability: Horizon Hobby
Pick from 42 aircraft
Many variable flight conditions
Beautiful flight venues
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|Schumacher's Rascal is rugged and raring to go|
Product: Robin Schumacher, managing director of Schumacher Racing, told me at the 2006 iHobby Expo that the Rascal "was built to go fast." My ears pricked up at that, and I made sure to get on the list to receive a review sample.
One can't help but notice the heft of this little truck. Small wonder, considering the 4mm-thick, purple-anodized aluminum chassis upon which everything is built. The stock wishbones, hub carriers and yokes are fashioned from "Swiss Virgin Polymers," while the top deck, radio tray and shock mounts are tough S1 carbon composite.
A sharp-looking, XM 18 engine with rear exhaust and two-needle valve carburetor delivers power to a single-speed, rear-wheel drive transmission. A single disc brake is placed just inside the 61-tooth spur gear.
With the battery box in the rear, the Airtronics receiver is housed up front in a sealed compartment, with a plastic grommet that allows quick, if cramped access through the top deck.
A pair of Airtronics 94102Z heavy-duty standard servos that provide steering and throttle, and a very basic, Airtronics Blazer Sport 2-channel radio with dual rate, trims, and servo reversing round out the controls.
Also included is an assortment of wrenches customers will need to work on the Rascal, as well as a D-cell powered glow igniter.
Performance: After gassing it up, the Rascal took a bit to start, but eventually kicked over and guzzled down three tanks in short order.
One problem to watch for is overheating. Customers should definitely keep an electronic temperature gauge on hand to take regular readings.
I started to get temps over 220 degrees and had to let the engine cool. After making sure that the Rascal was exposed to a good breeze, temps stayed well within tolerances.
Like other micro-nitro cars and trucks, it's easy to get sidetracked by the Rascal's size. At 1:16 scale, it has a certain "cute" factor, in a pit-bull sort of way. However, the Rascal does want to go, and the high-pitched yell of the engine lets you know it right away.
The little truck handles moderate-sized jumps quite well, and the weight distribution keeps it pretty balanced in the air. Even the few times that I rolled it end over end, the Rascal took the punishment without so much as a hiccup.
Customers should be aware that the battery box is placed directly beneath the rear exhaust. While this keeps oily residue off the tires and body (mostly), blowby can drip down and leak into the battery box. Customers should tightly secure the battery box.
As for going fast, the top speed we recorded for the Rascal was 28 mph - short of the 40+ mentioned on the box. However, the engine just pleads for a second gear to shift into, and it just so happens that Schumacher makes a two-speed gearbox (No. U3094, $59.99).
Marketing: Because it was safely nestled in a compact box, freeing the Rascal from its box was a breeze, and for some customers, that can be a selling point.
Many companies tend to strap their cars into the package as if they intend to send it to the moon. Schumacher dispenses with all the plastic zip ties and wire harnesses, opting for easy retrieval instead.
The alloy hop-ups are not only good-looking, they really add to the truck's durability. Definitely stock them.
Installation shouldn't be a problem for experienced drivers, and novices, with some patience, will accomplish the task in a couple of hours. The two-speed gearbox is a good upgrade to have on the shelf as well.
Reviewed by Tim Kidwell
Product: Nitro Rascal stadium truck RTR
Stock No.: K066 (also available in red, No. K065 and blue, No. K064)
Additional parts: Alloy front hub carrier (No. U3090, $39.99/pair), alloy front yokes (No. U3091, $29.99/pair), alloy rear hub carrier (No. U3092, $29.99/pair), two sets of alloy wishbones front/rear (No. U3093, $29.99/pair), four DuraTrax AAA NiMH 1.2-volt 750-mAh batteries (No. DTXP2100, $3.95/four-pack)
Tough little truck
Cool alloy upgrades
Dependable, rugged engine
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|Bachmann's Shay offers realism on a large scale|
Product: This three-truck, 1:20.3-proportion 3-foot gauge Shay from Bachmann gives large-scale fans an action-packed logger complete with Digital Command Control. A SoundTraxx Tsunami decoder adds realistic steam sound effects to this Spectrum-series locomotive.
Performance: This model uses much of the same tooling as Bachmann's two-truck Shay from 1997, including the cab, boiler, trucks, and running gear, coupled with a new water tender for the three-truck Shay. It also sports a new coal bunker behind the cab.
The model has a plastic body riding on cast-metal trucks and running gear. The mechanism accurately captures the flailing action of a real Shay.
Like Bachmann's first Shay, this engine is designed for No. 1 gauge track, which represents 3-foot gauge in 1:20.3 proportion.
Our sample came decorated for Little River Lumber Co. No. 2147. Paint coverage is smooth; the white lettering is opaque. The builder's plate has serial number 2940 and a built date of 1917, the same information found on Bachmann's first 36-ton two-truck Shay model. Piping and handrails are separately applied. Running boards have molded wood grain. The cab interior includes a lighted-red flickering firebox.
When run on DC, at 4 volts the locomotive's headlight shone, and compound air compressor sounds began to pound. At 8 volts the engine began to chuff. As programmed from the factory, the whistle sounds twice before moving forward, once when the locomotive is stopped, and three short toots before reversing. Other sounds, such as the bell, can be programmed to trigger in DC mode according to throttle settings.
When operating with a DC transformer, I didn't exceed 20 volts, as specified in the instructions. The decoder is rated for 27 volts, but prolonged higher voltage can damage it. Sounds will cease at 21 volts as a warning. At 18 volts the model chugs along at 14 mph, which is fast for a Shay.
Using a DCC cab, I operated all eight function buttons, including the bell and dynamo sounds.
By virtue of a powerful and well-enclosed speaker, the sound quality is impressive, with no distracting buzzes or rattles. In DCC the model's Dynamic Digital Exhaust feature changes the intensity of the chuffs according to the engine's load.
A note on chuffs: The model includes an Auto-Exhaust feature, which requires the user to manually synchronize the sounds to the motion of the crossheads using Configuration Variable (CV) 116.
With realistic sound and an operating smoke unit that produces a steady plume from the stack, this Shay is an impressive addition to Bachmann's 1:20.3 logging fleet.
Other features of the 1:20.3 Shay include a die-cast metal drive train including trucks and wheels (mounted in gauge), engineer and fireman figures, lineside detail parts and a two-disc DVD user's manual with historical information.
Marketing: This model falls in with the rest of Bachmann's big-scale logging releases, so be sure to ask if your customer needs more log cars, flat cars and other rolling stock.
Geared locomotives are a sensual treat. The sound and motion of this good-looking beast are something to behold. if you can put one out for everyone to hear and watch, by all means, do so!
Reviewed by Dana Kawala, associate editor, Model Railroader
Product: Three-truck 3-foot gauge Shay steam locomotive
Maker: Bachmann Industries
Road names: DCC-and-sound-equipped: Little River Lumber Co. No. 1247 (No. 82697); West Side Lumber Co. No. 4 (No. 82698); painted and unlettered, black with red and white trim (No. 82699); DC only: Meadow River Lumber Co. No. 7 (No. 82496); Oregon Lumber Co. No. 110 (No. 82494); painted black and unlettered (No. 82499); black with red and white trim (No. 82498).
MSRP: $1,200 with DCC and sound; $1,000 with DC
High-quality sound features
Operating smoke unit
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|Atlas O captures an 'Alligator' with Trainman RSD-7/15|
Product: Locomotives have always been built to haul heavy tonnage, not to win beauty contests. One you will never see wearing the crown is Alco's RSD-7 and visually identical but more powerful RSD-15.
Developed in the mid-1950s and early '60s, railroads could order them with high or low short hoods. Fans dubbed the latter "Alligators" for their distinct profile. Several units worked into the late 1990, and a few still run today in museum and tourist-train service.
The Atlas O Trainman version definitely captures the bulk and look of the real thing. The models feature high or low short hoods as appropriate to the railroad, separately applied wire grab irons, etched metal grille detail and directional lighting. The 3-rail Train Master Command Control versions have prime mover, horn and bell sounds and electro-couplers.
Performance: Atlas has done a fantastic job in its Trainman line of providing a very acceptable level of detail and affordability. This locomotive even has a few niceties customers won't really expect at this price point.
The wire grab irons and handrails are well executed and durable. The walkways feature a diamond-tread pattern and wipers are molded into the windows. Nice extras are the fold-down metal drop steps on the front and rear with real chain across the openings, moving wire cut levers, and fan on the long hood (blow on it, it moves) covered by the etched-metal grille.
Under the hood, customers will find a stamped-metal frame and a powerful motor driving each truck. It's not fancy, but it works effectively and quietly. DCC installation is uncomplicated with the included harnesses.
Atlas O recommends minimum O-45 and 40.5-in. radius curves in 3- and 2-rail, respectively. Our sample negotiated curves as low as 36-inches with no problems.
Marketing: At this price point and level of detail, you'll not only get customers who want to run them, but also those who just want an RSD-7 or -15 for their display shelf.
Emphasize the value in with this product and keep a good selection of Trainman rolling stock for add-on purchases. DCC decoders are another item to suggest to buyers.
Reviewed by Hal Miller
Product: RSD-7/15 locomotive
Maker: Atlas O Trainman
Stock No.: 20040005 (Santa Fe No. 806, 2-rail DC version
Other road names: Chesapeake & Ohio, Pennsylvania, Southern Pacific
MSRP: 2-rail, $239.95; 3-rail, $239.95; 3-rail TMCC, $389.95
Great value for the price
Nice level of detail
Popular roadnames available
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|Revell-Monogram's Chaparral 2 lives up to its looks|
Product: Driver Jim Hall founded Chaparral Cars in Midland, Texas, and was noted for his use of aerodynamics and advanced materials in an attempt to improve racing efficiency and performance.
The Chaparral 2 (No. 66) that Hall and team mate James "Hap" Sharp drove to victory in the 1965 Road America June sprint race is the subject of Revell-Monogram's latest 1:32 slot car. Like the original, this car is a sprint champion in its own right.
Performance: Revell's car captures the look of the original Chaparral 2 and features a number of details, including engine pipes, roll bar, driver and steering wheel. The gauges in the cockpit have printed markings, which are a neat touch, and the paint and decal work is crisp.
The car simply looks fast, and it met my expectations immediately when I took it out for test laps on my home track. It may very well be the best-running Revell-Monogram slot car I've ever driven. I posted times comparable to some of the fastest cars I race, which includes Scalextric A1s, and that's fast! The car is very stable, and I couldn't shake it loose from the track without driving it recklessly.
The secret to the Chaparral's success is under the hood. The model has a cross-mounted motor along with front and rear bar magnets, placing the balance point for the car smack in the center. The combination of magnets and balance makes the car an excellent performer, and I can't wait to compete with it.
Marketing: Even if it weren't so fast, the Chaparral is an attractive model. While modern racing is cool in its own right, the cars are all very uniform.
In the 1960s, car designers put forward a vast array of body styles in an attempt to find an edge over the competition. This is one of the reasons why this genre of cars is so appealing, and the Chaparral 2 in its clear plastic display box should be an easy sell - especially once the word gets out on how well it runs!
Reviewed by David Popp
Product: Chaparral 2 slot car
Stock No.: 85-4883
Great subject, good details
Superb balance, speed
Solid plastic, metal construction
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|CMC's Ferrari 500 F2 delivers on details|
Product: I don't care who you are, people like Ferraris, especially red ones, especially historic ones and especially incredibly detailed ones that look like they could start and run, despite being 1:18 scale.
CMC smacks another home run with its Ferrari 500 F2, the car that Alberto Ascari drove to two consecutive World Championships in 1952 and 1953, when Formula 1 was a baby and Ferrari was just getting its legs. The blood-red, cigar-shaped 500 created by Aurelio Lampredi, Ferrari's chief designer, was mechanical beauty in its simplest form. It is again now, thanks to CMC.
Ascari became a national hero in Italy when he won six of seven races in 1952 along with five poles. He followed that with five wins and three poles in 1953 when Ferrari claimed its second title. In 26 races this legendary Ferrari 500 won 14 and set fastest lap 13 times; all that from a simple 185-horse, 4-cylinder inline engine that gave the car a top speed of nearly 165 mph.
Even after the formula for F1 racers changed in 1954 to 2.5-liter/750cc supercharged engines, the then-underpowered Ferrari 500 raced competitively until 1957.
Performance: One can argue that CMC die-cast models perform better than almost any die-cast because they feature so many functional parts and inspired details. Here's a short list:
The steering works. The windshield flips up and features accurate, tiny brackets that hold it, all with real steel rivets. The Ferrari has an air duct that opens in front of the windshield. A chrome gas cap opens behind the driver's seat, as do two other fluid filler doors: one in the nose and one in the tail. Real springs and clasps hold the hood on. The wire wheels are extraordinary, with nippled spokes, and all the body panels can be unscrewed and removed to expose the chassis and internal portions of the car, all of which are detailed.
You'll also find rivets all around the body, just as in the real racer. In fact, the stainless steel gas and oil tanks have 526 rivets (I'm taking CMC's word on that!), and are held in place by leather straps.
The Ferrari's suspension works; the brakes are highly detailed; all wiring and plumbing for the engine are in place; and there's a metal heat shield on the exhaust pipe by the cockpit. This interior is exquisite too, with a velour corduroy seat, leather-look steering wheel with prancing horse logo in the middle, plus realistic-looking gauges, shift levers, foot pedals and a brushed metal dash.
Note there is no roll bar or seat belt because they didn't believe in those at the time. Ironically, when Ascari crashed into the sea during the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix, that lack of a belt may have saved him, as he easily got free of the car to swim to safety. Less than a week later, though, he was tossed from the seat of the Ferrari sports car he was testing for a friend, literally dying on the track at Monza.
This Ferrari is simple, with a welded-tube ladder-frame chassis, a double-wishbone suspension up front and de Dion axle in back. But CMC recreates it in stunning detail, with 1,463 hand-assembled pieces.
Making this model all the more appealing to those who enjoy racing history is its lack of markings. There's no number on the body, leaving it beautifully uncluttered, with only the Ferrari logo on either side. Without a number, the car represents the 500 as it was driven, not only by the champion Ascari, but other famous racers of the day: Mike Hawthorn (1958 F1 champion), Giuseppe Farina, Luigi Villoresi and Piero Taruffi.
Marketing: Being unmarked actually broadens the market for the 500 F2 in your store. Certainly as with other CMC models, the details alone could sell this quickly. But there's a rich history, and ultimately you're displaying and selling one of the premier Ferraris of all time, the first World Championship Ferrari and first to win back-to-back titles, while driven by an Italian no less.
Does your community celebrate its Italian heritage at some point each year? Put up an Italian flag, display this and other die-cast Ferraris, slot cars or models in the store window or your main display case! Note: Tell customers who are fans of top-end die-cast to start saving for the next CMC, a 1957 Maserati 250 F, the one driven to a World Championship by Juan Manuel Fangio.
Reviewed by Mark Savage
Product: Ferrari 500 F2 (Double World Champion 1952/53)
Stock No.: M-056
Many moving parts
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