I’ve always been a fan of the E30 BMW M3 – a handsome, track-inspired road car from one of my favourite eras of both British and German touring car racing. So, having a scale model to race is a must – and rumour has it that the slot racing model from Fly owes its scale-accurate good looks to one of the companies’ managers, who encouraged design staff to spend hours in the company car park measuring his own M3!
But while the 1:32 version looks the part, it’s often a challenge to get the most out of one on-track – the standard front-motored chassis gives the model a weight balance and grip level quite unlike conventional rear-motored slot racers, and although a lot of fun, they’re really best enjoyed when raced against other Fly M3s or models with similar chassis layouts.
…enter João Pedro Ferreira of Olifer!
Olifer Racing was founded in the late seventies as a slot race team, participating in hundreds of competitions in their homeland of Portugal, and abroad. The decades of experience gained are now being combined with the latest technology, and Olifer are 3D-printing performance parts for slot racing enthusiasts via their Shapeways store.
João kindly offered to send SitC one of their chassis to try out, and this presented the ideal opportunity for us to turn a spare M3 bodyshell from a Fly ‘Duo kit’ into a street-strutting, track-day, ring-tool!
The chassis arrives direct from Shapeways (hot off the press, so to speak…) in a fetching blue colour, and is designed to make us of the popular Slot.it inline motorpod and other components already familiar to slot racers. It’s a very simple, clever bit of design that will also fit the Ninco Sierra RS Cosworth cars, and was very easy to assemble.
I chose a Slot.it CH49 -1.0mm offset inline motorpod so that I could fit large wheels and tyres and still give the car a low stance, then set about making the only modification necessary – trimming off the L-shaped part of the pod that normally fills the space in a Slot.it chassis for a sidewinder-mounted motor. After that, the only tools needed for the rest of the build were a screwdriver and an allen key – I had the chassis assembled and installed under the body in minutes. The components list was simple: 4x CH106 screws for the motorpod, an NSR Evo King motor running Slot.it 9/28 gearing, a pair of 51mm axles, 4x PA40 grubs for front axle adjustment, and some racy-looking wheels and tyres… first, I tried some off of a Sideways Gp.5 car, but I eventually settled on a gorgeous set of gold-anodised Scaleauto SC-4034E Jaramas.
All this meant I could get straight to track-testing – the Olifer chassis is a little lighter than the standard-fit one so, now powered by a torquier NSR 21k motor running 9/28 gearing, I’d accidentally turned this M3 into quite a convincing drift car! A quick rummage in the pit-box produced some grippier 30-shore rubber tyres from BRM – and, once fitted, it soon became clear what a rapid little machine this was.
Other than the obvious ability to upgrade to Slot.it components, the main advantage that the Olifer chassis provides is that it eliminates the unpredictable handling caused by the wobbly stub-axle arrangement supplied as standard – fine adjustments to the ride-height and control over the amount of vertical movement are now possible. Lap after lap, I experimented with small adjustments to the front axle and to the four screws that fix the motor-pod until I reached a setup that allowed the car to turn in and corner quickly then put the power down without slewing too far sideways.
On rubber tyres, a 10.0s lap is the benchmark for Sideways Gp.5 cars around our 38m Carrera track… the Olifer-chassied M3 is running consistent 10.5s/10.4s – impressive, but as it’s taller and thinner, it’s not the easiest car to achieve these times with. Not a fault of the Olifer chassis, of course – just simple physics! Care is required not to over-enthusiastically tip the car on corner entry, although a little ballast to the side pans on the chassis did help reduce this tendency a great deal.
For a bit of fun, I had a clubmate give chase in one of my other 3D-printed slot cars – the TA71S Koenigsegg CCGT… we had a lot of fun dicing with each other, watching as the Beemer steamed past the Koenigsegg on the straights, only to be caught through the bends as the handling characteristics of the lower and wider car allowed it to sneak past!
…so, in conclusion?
The Olifer 3D-printed chassis is a keenly-priced upgrade that will quickly, easily, and greatly improve the performance potential of your Fly original – and, all without requiring any complicated or non-reversible work.
In fact, the only part of building your own Olifer M3 that might present a challenge or require any specialist tools or products would be the interior – of course, you could easily fit a universal lightweight lexan interior but, at the very least, you’ll need to modify the standard one to clear the repositioned motor.
I happened to have a couple of spare interiors lying around in my spares box, so I opted to reduce the height of one to make it a good clean fit in the BMW and keep as much detail as possible. This involved carefully removing the driver and interior details from the original moulding using a scalpel, and a Dremel to clean off a good few millimetres of material from the bottom of the interior tray – then, I glued in a new flat ‘floor’ and reattached the transmission tunnel, fire-extinguisher and surgically-shortened driver I’d previously salvaged.
Available now: check out the Olifer store at Shapeways!
Big thank you to João at Olifer for sending one of their first examples out to test – I’m very pleased to have one of these in my collection! Thanks also go to my clubmates at SRMH-Mülheim for track-time on the circuit.