Back in September, while visiting family in Italy, I was a very lucky boy indeed. Not only was I lucky enough to have a meeting with Maurizio Ferrari and spend a little time with him at Slot.it HQ, but I was also lucky enough to be given a pre-production model of the Policar Ferrari 312PB as a birthday gift by the man himself! As a thank you to him, I thought it’d be nice to write a little review of the car for the site.
So, even earlier this year…
…the return of the famous Policar brand was pretty big news, not least of all because their first release, the Ferrari 312PB announced back at UKSF 2013, was to have a few tried, tested and proven Slot.it components. We already know that Slot.it doesn’t own the Policar or Politoys brands themselves; APS GmbH, an independently owned and operated business based in Darmstadt, Germany, can lay claim to that. What I didn’t know was that APS was the name of the Italian company producing Policar back in the 60’s – to be fair, a bit before my time – but, keeping that name alive is a subtle nod to some serious slot car history…
…and another nod is the packaging – the simple, bright red and yellow cardboard box with clear plastic window and grey card base is certainly nostalgic! I do have to admit that, although I initially thought this might be a backwards step from the more conventional hard-plastic plinth and cover, there’s something about this style of presentation that just looks ‘right’ with such a classic icon on the inside. Well played, Policar.
On face value, aside from having a lower rear spoiler, the car itself doesn’t outwardly appear any different from the KF01-series Slot.it versions I’ve raced against in our Le Mans Classic series… which is no bad thing; the paint finish is excellent, the open cockpit is well detailed (despite being very light in weight), and the decals are solid and sharp. A real plus for me was that this model had a full complement of proper Ferrari badges – other examples I’d seen in online articles had either had these omitted or covered over, to avoid licensing issues outside the EU.
However, it’s what’s underneath that shell that’s probably most intriguing. The branding on the underside of the chassis may proudly state ‘Policar’, but the outline of that motorpod is unmistakably ‘Slot.it’. Here sits the 0.5mm offset, sidewinder configuration pod similar to the Slot.it Classic range; although this one in particular is a CH62 Evo6 version, featuring additional ‘lugs’ to allow up to six fixing points on the chassis for increased adjustability. The adjustable front axle setup is equally familiar – and Maurizio was kind enough to show me his recommended axle grub-screw positions, not only for the standard tyres – but also for the extra set of low-profiles he’d snuck in the box for me to try out.
Continuing the Slot.it theme, there’s the usual MY06 orange-endbell motor, axles, and 11/32 gears (sidewinder spur is the plastic GS1832). On noticing that my example had no traction magnet, Maurizio explained that the Policar models are being aimed at non-magnet racers and, although a magnet is being included, it’s of a different and slightly weaker design than the usual Slot.it offering – obviously, user-upgradeable if that’s your thing.
The big break from Slot.it familiarity for me, however, was the wheels… they’re plastic – all of them! Now, it’d be pretty easy to dismiss plastic wheels just for being, well… plastic, but a few laps on track proved that to have done so would’ve been a mistake. Honestly, these have to be some of the nicest, roundest and downright bestest plastic wheels I’ve seen! So, say what you want about plastic wheels, but I’ll be sticking with these ones. Other than an increased ease of adjustment, I doubt there’d be any huge advantage in swapping them out for the aluminium equivalents.
Well, one thing those plastic wheels have helped to achieve is to keep the RRP of the model low. Available (at Pendles, for example) for £34.99, this model represents seriously good value for money, offering a decent saving over similar classes of Slot.it model that it obviously shares many parts with. These quality components ensure it can hold its own against such higher-priced machinery, and for that reason I reckon it’d make a fantastic investment for new and/or budget-conscious club racers… half the bits under the bodyshell are the kind of components that many racers, myself included, choose as upgrades to their cars from most other manufacturers such as Fly, Sloter, etc.
…out on track.
Straight out of the box, with all the screws nipped up evenly, the car ran smoothly and quietly. Although the rear tyres fitted to my pre-production example (nb: not the liveried ones pictured and fitted to production examples) wouldn’t have been my usual choice for our Carrera track, they eventually worked very well indeed. Their profile was quite rounded, so a little ‘scrubbing-in’ on a sandpapered section of track squared them off a little and increased the contact patch a smidge – and, after that, the more laps I did, the better they got! Dammit… laptimes are already below that of my Slot.it-kitted, race-prepped Fly Ferrari 512.
A second session, this time running the bodyshell and motorpod screws very slightly loose, as I usually do with my Slot.it GT40, provided a very predictable, more nimble and ‘punchy’ driving experience. Reducing tightness in the motorpod allows the chassis to flex and do it’s thing to soak up imperfections in the circuit – the car remained responsive, but felt more planted, so I could get the power down even earlier than before. However, having grown accustomed to driving zero-grip or coated front tyres, I find the car a little ‘tippy’ if pushed too hard into a curve, but that was solved with an adjustment to my trigger finger, not the car! Switching to a slightly slower-in, faster-out rhythm got immediate results, building speed up before blasting out of one corner and braking heavily into the next. There go another couple of tenths.
Third and final session, this time with those afore-mentioned low-profile zero-grips and the front axle adjusted accordingly. The nose is now a little lower, pushing a tiny bit more guide in the slot, and there’s a noticeable change in character. The car now changes direction through the back esses section much more willingly and can be buried deep into a corner without that ‘tippy’ nervousness I felt before. Result? Two tenths quicker, a very respectable laptime that’s slap-bang in between those of my aforementioned Fly and my Slot.it… and, I’ve no doubt the Policar would lap faster still with some thinner braid, a little well-placed ballast, and more practise. In other words, nothing that would require going to any great expense.
I believe that last point explains what this model is all about – getting up and running round your track, quickly and competitively, without breaking the bank. Granted, thirty-five quid is not ‘cheap’ – but, this is not a ‘cheap’ product; it’s a value for money product – you’d be hard pushed to find anything of a higher quality and performance for the same price.
It’s fantastic to see a trusted and renowned manufacturer like Slot.it behind APS Politoys with their re-launched and rejuvenated Policar brand – it breathes new life into an important Italian slot car marque that I have memories of from my childhood. In Italy, the name was as synonymous with slot cars as Scalextric is in the UK.
Further, I’m excited to see what models in this particular range will be coming next. This #3 Ferrari 312PB and its #2 stable-mate from the 1972 Monza 1000km seem to have been priced to offer an entry-level model choice – and with the highly-anticipated Vintage F1 models expected next year likely to fill a slightly more expensive niche in the market, it looks like Policar will soon have a wide range of slot-racers covered, regardless of budget!