SlotsintheCity.com EXCLUSIVE First Review!
Having recently put The Area71 Koenigsegg through a few shakedown laps on the club track, I’d like to share my thoughts on the initial build and driving experience!
Always a special moment, opening a much-anticipated package for the very first time!
The Area71 products arrive in neat, unassuming little cardboard boxes – quite a contrast to the revolutionary, high-tech nature of their contents – subtly labelled to inform you of the individual serial number of your car inside. Popping the lid open reveals that the main components are all individually wrapped in protective paper, keeping them from coming to any harm during transit. A small envelope underneath all this contains the detail parts; clear, chrome, and fine detail parts such as the wiper blade. Rustling through the paper reveals the 3D-printed parts of the Koenigsegg, and this is when you get your first impression of the true ‘artisan nature’ of The Area71’s work.
Parts feel light in the hand and are nicely detailed, but the finish initially looks a little odd due to the post-production work done prior to despatch – each part is primed and hand-sanded in order to make the painting process easier for the modeller. So, while their patchy-looking appearance might initially cause surprise, it’s by no means an unfinished job; The Area71 has actually given you a head start!
The outer panel surfaces of the bodyshell are flat and smooth, and while it might’ve been acceptable to head straight to a final cleaning and spraying stage, it was clear that a little extra hand-finishing would provide an even better final finish.
Marco has assured me that, while their process is being refined and improved with each model that leaves their factory, new owners should be prepared to put a little work into the bodyshell prior to painting it. Doing so will really improve the finish along edges and inside vents – essentially, the smaller details that escaped the factory hand-sanding. Again, following feedback from these early pre-release cars, The Area71 have developed their finishing process and further reduced the work for their customers.
This need to perform a little hand-finishing is also apparent on the chassis – a few minutes with small files and fine wet’n’dry paper was well spent, as it helped smooth the inside edges of the front axle carrier, guide holder and screw holes, ensuring that all the components I’d chosen to fit would locate easily and move smoothly.
Anyone who owns NSR or Slot.it cars will find The Area71’s chassis designs reassuringly familiar. I’d chosen to build the NSR-ready chassis first and, aside from the colour, the only differences you’ll notice are that the ‘guide drop-arm’ has been omitted and that, instead of the usual NSR grub screws to adjust the front axle height, Slot.it sized ones are used instead. It was at that moment, as I carefully wound those tiny M2 grub screws into the front axle carriers, that I really began to appreciate the fine tolerances that 3D-printing can now achieve – impressive stuff! But what impressed me even more was how well the front axle sat and span in the carriers once installed. Even the most die-hard NSR fan would have to admit that there can occasionally be a little too much fore/aft front axle movement present in their plastic chassis – I can honestly say that it simply isn’t the case here; the front axle spins and moves vertically as freely as it should, and yet there is no movement in any direction other than that intended and ‘dialled-in’. I used 5mm of spacers on each side to achieve the wide, arch-filling track that I wanted.
Fitting the motorpod provided no challenges or surprises – I’d opted to add the rearmost two of NSR’s three-point suspension mounts, and found the movement to be just as controlled and smooth as in a conventional NSR model. The motor wires clipped neatly and securely between tabs in the chassis and run under the axle to the guide exactly as in a conventional NSR model. When I commented that it would’ve been nice to have been able to route the wires through a couple of 3D-printed loops (indeed, as you can on the Slot.it-ready chassis) in order to stop them from moving around and possibly touching the axle, Marco took this on board and immediately amended the design… how’s that for customer service and making the most of this new manufacturing process?
…it’s a setup!
With the chassis sat on a setup-plate, it was easy to see just how flat this 3DP chassis was… there’ll be no need to ‘bake’ this one! I’d already trued a pair of front tyres to ∅18mm and, with the axle set to ride as high as possible in the arches, there was easily still 1.5mm of ground clearance at the front end and no tyre/arch clearance issues. At the business end of the CCX, it was clear to see that Marco is a big fan of long suspension travel – and, to explain why, I quote the man himself: “…the room for suspension travel at the rear is to increase traction as, the more traction there is, the more the car squats, grips and rockets out of a turn – at least, this is what I have designed for.” As a result, the car sits slightly nose-down on ∅20mm rear tyres and, even with 2.5mm of travel (generous, for me!), there was still 1mm of ground clearance at full compression and no risk of tyre/arch rubbing.
Putting a brand-new slot car on the track for the first time is always an exciting moment, but as I lined up The Area71’s Koenigsegg CCX at the start line, there was a little less ceremony and excitement surrounding this occasion than is usual. This unfinished kit, still in scruffy primer-grey and with no glazing or interior yet fitted, was largely overlooked by other drivers as their bright, shiny racers zipped round our club circuit during practise night earlier this week. A few gentle laps to check all was working as it should didn’t raise any eyebrows, either – no squeaks, no rattles, no problems.
A quick taping to clean off the tyres followed by a more spirited approach to throttle application soon changed all that. Suddenly, the other drivers all wanted to know what this curious battleship-grey missile was… the CCX is very smooth, very easy to drive and very, very quick. To be fair, I’d installed a slightly more pokey motor than I normally use – an NSR King 21.4k – and it took me a little while to adjust my timing and put in some decent lap-times. To offer a comparison, our NSR GT3s can put in 9.3s running 17k Babying motors – but with that extra rpm and torque under my trigger finger, I managed to consistently put the CCX round in under 8.9s… which, for shakedown laps on this 38m Carrera circuit, is pretty good going.
The Area71 have created a very well-mannered slot car – no ballast was required to balance the chassis, as it showed no tendency to understeer – and oversteer only happened if I was heavy-handed or too early delivering the power on corner-exit. Smooth driving resulted in the fastest lap-times, and a very rewarding part of this brief driving experience was holding my own against some heavily-tuned magnet-running Carrera cars… even through the bends.
And there’s potentially more to come – The Area71 chassis could easily handle extra power. As Marco explains, the Koenigsegg CCX has been designed to “…match, in scale, the behaviour of the real car; an impressively powerful and brutal, but drivable machine.” I’m sure there will be The Area71 owners out there who aim to fully exploit this power-handling potential of this chassis – but I’m personally more interested in carefully fettling it to make the most of the equipment I’ve already installed. I’ll experiment with lower, softer suspension and a slightly taller gear ratio first; changes I’m confident will help tame the torque and encourage the car to ‘squat and rocket’ as its’ designer intended.
…to be continued!
I like the Area71 concept; a light, robust and technologically-advanced product that owners can equip to their exacting requirements – sure, they’ll need to do a small amount of finishing work in order to get their purchase looking its best, but it’s clear that the result will be well worth the effort. With this first release, their product has proven surprisingly quick and easy to build, a very rewarding drive, and the potential to be a hugely capable slot racer. With The Area71 already committed to reacting to customer feedback and working so hard to continually improve their post-production technique, it’s looking like the company will quickly build a loyal following.
The next stage for me will be preparing the body so that my CCX looks as good as it goes!