28 FEB 2015

1/32nd Scale Pioneer 1967 Camaros

The latest releases by Pioneer are hitting the shelves and this time around I thought it was time to take a closer look. It has been quite some time since a new release by this brand has been added to my stable, but some recent changes to the models had me curious.

Pioneer has went through some changes over the past couple years and I have read many articles focusing on that. If that is what you are looking for here, you are in the wrong place. Although getting to know our manufacturer's is always fun and interesting, it is THE CARS that the enthusiasts acquire that really matter to me. Many newcomers and even some veteran's are really only concerned with the models that they have in their hands, and that is just what we are going to focus on here.

These latest efforts are interesting as they represent an actual car that raced in the 1:1 world and 1 that is purely fictional. Fictional or "fantasy" based liveries have become popular in our hobby and for good reason: They simply look the part. Adding to it is the slot car collector. Pure collectors of the series do not care much about 1:1 authenticity. It is just another car in the series and usually that is enough. And the collector is where this brand has plenty of appeal. Given the lower production numbers and the constant "factory specials" they release from time to time, Pioneer has quite a following in this regard.

For the pure Trans-Am aficionado's however, these fantasy based models are meaningless. And although I respect and appreciate scale authenticity, I still enjoy seeing a fictional paint scheme as long as it looks "right". How can it be right if it's made up? Only the eyes of the classic race fan can answer that for you. For my eyes it comes down to styling. Are the numbers similar to the actual ones? Do the sponsors and smaller contingency logos appear to be placed realistically? Does the paint color and theme seem to follow those used during the time period?




The first model we will look at is such a model. Defined as a "Club Sport" model this livery is basically a reversal of the famous Alan Green model. Although the scheme will not appeal to everyone, overall I think it looks the part well enough.



The paint work here is very well done and I could not find any glaring issues. Pioneer has had some challenges in this area in the past but as I look around the car it appears they have addressed them. Of course how well this finish will stand up over time remains to be seen.



Earlier release of the Alan Green model (far left) shown for reference.
Our second model represents an actual car that was originally driven by Warren Fairbanks and is still doing battle today in the Historic Trans-Am Series with Ron Tribble behind the wheel.


The packaging is nicely done and should appeal to most of you. I liked the new vehicle data card placement at the bottom as a pull out.
Underneath the bottom is a bag that contains a 13 tooth pinion, extra braid, and a guide keel that is a little deeper for tracks with deeper slots.


Again, the paintwork seems very well done. Lettering and color appear very crisp and opaque with no bleed through that my eyes or camera can see.

Overall I am pleased with both cars thus far. They look very good and looked forward to looking closer.
I asked Pioneer directly if there were any mechanical changes to these models and this is the report I received:

Improvements implemented since the Fall of 2014

1. Pinion and Spur gear plastic is now a special blend of polymer. Self lubricating, no oil required.
2. Wiring loom is improved with better contacts, this is our ‘PurePower’ loom. Better joints, better power.
3. The size of the axle carrier bearing internal diameter is relaxed by a thousandths or so to prevent any binding.
4. Braids are now a little thinner and softer to help the guide sit down better in the slot.
5. Guide post/blade is made from same polymer as gears – a more ‘slippy’ material.
6. Magnets are now nickel plated to prevent ‘flaking’.
7. Axle shims are improved. Cut from flat sheet nylon material.
8. VDC (Vehicle Data Card) where supplied, now a new size that is easily pulled out and replaced under base.


So there are no real dramatic changes that sets them apart from prior releases. The chassis is identical to previous models as well as identical to the early Mustang releases. You can actually mount a Mustang chassis under a Camaro in case you were wondering.

But we will give you a closer look anyway. One item I liked to see is that the 2 smaller screws that secured the chassis to the bottom of the interior were not installed. Notice I did not say missing. I always felt they were a hindrance anyway and most enthusiasts remove them to allow much improved body float.
Pioneer started omitting them long ago and glad they still do.

Wheelbase - 83.75 MM
Width - 55 MM (At rear wheels)
Weight - 92 Grams
Height - 40 MM


In the rear you notice the brass bushings. The fit of these bushings on the axle are very precise and there is basically no excess free-play. Pioneer can use these higher quality bushings because they do not knurl the axle ends. But this is an area that leads to some issues and you must decide if it is a good thing, or bad. One one hand, the smooth axle ends allows for these bushings, but on the other hand it does allow the wheels to pop loose under operation.

From my own view, I prefer the bushings and smooth axle. It only takes a small drop of glue on the end of the axle to secure the wheel and you are good to go. I would rather do this than have the loose fitting bushings that allow the axle excess free-play. Over size bushings cause excess chatter, hop, and even poor gear mesh.

I also prefer them because upgrading to better quality wheels is easier. If I decide to keep the stock gearing, I can just slip on after-market wheels and get back to racing.

Gearing does seem a little smoother than my earlier Mustangs and I am sure some break-in time will make them even better.
BoxStock Track Test
MidMo International Speedway
4x16 - 3 Lane Routed MDF - Satin/Flat Latex Surface
Slot Car Corner Braid - Pyramid 26KX Power Supply @ 12 Volts
Professor Motor 2110 & Diflaco Control

The models ran as I expected. There is some chatter in the corners and noticeable wheel hop on acceleration. But that can be said for 99% of the models we test on our track. On plastic track with the magnets doing what they do best, the models run pretty well.

Lap times were not that impressive due to chatter and hop, but I saw potential. I knew I could get them to run much smoother just as we have done in the past with the Mustangs.

There are a few simple things you can do to make these models run better on a wood track, and the work here will help for any track system. I feel these models do need some attention for my own personal use, so I will just share a few quick techniques that my models receive.

One thing that I personally do not like is the body to chassis fit.  The body is basically clamping itself to the chassis sides and the front is also a tight fit. This negates any float you want to try and have by loosening the screws. Although it is not a modification many of you will want to do, I sand (radius) the entire chassis to allow the body to rest on the chassis cleanly, with no pressure on any sides.


Another item is the lead wires that sometimes get in the way between the interior bottom and chassis. This is a long reported issue and does cause binding in some cases. My solution is to sand the bottom of the interior down flush with the rest of the interior bottom. I do this as there are side ribs that come down and can also cause unwanted contact between the 2 parts.

Finally you need to check your wheels and tires. I have seen some reports of badly mounted wheels but my models seem to be fine in this area. As with any brand, you get good and bad.

The main thing I see is flash molding on the inner rib of the wheel that causes the tires to mount unevenly. This in turn causes that hop we talked about. You can clean this off easily with sandpaper and then remount your tires.

Those enthusiasts with a tire truing machine will make good use of it with these models. I trued both front and rear wheels and then mounted and sanded the fronts as well. Makes a big difference as the guide is mounted a little too high into the chassis, allowing too much weight on the front tires. So if these front tires are out of round, we have even more hop.


My preferred tire is Paul Gage XPG and I installed the standard size made for these models. The fit of the 22103XD is very good and will only need slight sanding to get a full contact patch.
With these simple changes the model runs much better. Most of the chatter and hop is eliminated and the car is just more fun to drive overall. Lap times tell the tale as I went from a dismal 4.89 to a 4.11 average. On our smaller track that is a big difference come race day.

And race them is just what we do. When I hear people ask how they compare to other brands, both in performance and value, it's not that difficult to answer: They are just as good as any other offering. Behind these new cars in the above photo are models that vary in tuning modifications. Some have needed full rebuilds using every after-market part there is, while others have little more than a tire change. The difference in quality control is as varied as the decorations. In other words Pioneer isn't any better...or any worse than any other brand.

Pioneer have had some troubles in the past and today their releases are viewed by many as a collector brand. Given the low production numbers and higher price tag will usually earn you that title in our hobby. Is that really a bad thing? I suppose not. The same can be said for other brands like SRC & Flyslot that need as much or even more in the tuning department and they cost as much or more. It all boils down to just how much you want a particular model and what you are willing to do to make it run to suit your own needs.

Overall I am pleased with these models as they did not require a lot of additional investment to get them to run the way I like. They fit right into our existing Trans-Am series nicely and look forward in racing them. Having more classic American race cars is usually a good thing for my hobby and if you enjoy this era then you should certainly think about trying one yourself.

-Harry

Feel free to contact me anytime about this review or just our hobby in general.

Review Sponsored by Pioneer




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