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Altered States – 2

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Winged Express.Probably best known of the Fuel Altereds, the Marcellus & Borsch “Winged Express” was driven by “Wild Willie” Borsch. He earned the name honestly, usually driving one-handed while holding onto the body with the other. The huge wing mounted above the roll cage made the car look like the “World of Outlaws” had decided to go drag racing. This blown Chrysler-powered car was famous for sideways launches, crossing both lanes of the drag strip with “Wild Willie” never lifting. It was often said that it took Willie a half-mile of driving to go the length of the quarter-mile track. Willie once bumped out Don Garlits in qualifying for Top Eliminator at a major meet. The other dragster drivers went to the race officials and said they’d pack their cars up and leave before they’d run side-by-side with “Wild Willie”. The “Winged Express” turned a 202.70 m.p.h. with a 7.29 second elapsed time in 1968.

Pure Hell.Rich Guasco’s “Pure Hell” was named as such because he had some temper “issues”. The car started out with a blown small-block Chevy but was soon fitted with a blown, 392 cu. in. Chrysler Hemi when Rich decided he needed more power to run with the “Big Dogs”. Dale “The Snail” Emery was the car’s best-known driver and it set speed and e.t. records up and down the Pacific Coast. In August of 1968 the car turned 208.80 mph with a 7.68 second elapsed time.

Mondello & Matsubara.Joe Mondello of Mondello’s Porting Service and Sush Matsubara teamed to build two Fiat Topolino Altereds. This is the first car that was often known as the “Purple Car”. Joe built the engine and Sush built the car and handled the driving chores. Power came from a 427 cu. in. blown Chevy “Rat Motor”. Best times were 200.88 mph and a 7.25 second elapsed time.

Pure Heaven II.Leon Fitzgerald, with his partners Richard Rockman and R.T. Reed built this car in Orange County, California. Its name was a take-off on Rich Guasco’s “Pure Hell” car and they had occasions to race….. “between Heaven and Hell”. The car was powered by a 6-71 blown big-block Chevy “Rat Motor”. Fitzgerald was the primary driver and Rockman took some turns at the wheel, as well. Leon still owns this car and it is seen at the annual NHRA “Cacklefest” at Bakersfield’s Famoso drag strip. The rest of the time, the car is kept at the NHRA Museum at the Pomona Fairplex. The car’s best performance was in the low 200’s with 7.30 e.t.’s.

The Engines.Four cars and two types of engines: Two Blown Chrysler “Hemis” and two Blown Chevy big block “Rat Motors”. The engines on these cars are extremely convincing. If you look closely and compare the engines with the pictures on the boxes, you’ll see that PM’s done an amazing job of getting all of the details right. Not just the pieces, but the finishes. If the car had a polished blower case so does the model; if the case was sandblasted, then the model’s that way too! The injector hats or scoops have been made as a single piece giving them a really authentic look. The plumbing of the fuel system going to the injectors is the most accurate I’ve seen….. it’s just remarkable all the little tubes, hoses and valves! And the blower drives and exhausts look good enough to work!

The Bodies and PaintThis series has one Ford Model T, a Fiat Topolino and two Bantams. When I spoke with Leon Fitzgerald about his Bantam-bodied “Pure Heaven II”, he said several times, “Make sure they put the rear fenders on the Bantam!” This would have been an easy detail to overlook. By the time they got to “Pure Heaven II”, Precision Miniatures had already done “Pure Hell” a Bantam which didn’t use the rear fenders. But the folks at PM re-tooled the body so Leon could have his tiny fenders and the car is much better for it. Each body captures the car at a time in its life with beautiful accuracy. The paint and the tampos are unbelievable in their faithfulness to the 1:1 cars. You can take a magnifying glass and read names and phone numbers off of tiny decals that were even tiny on the full-size car. Just amazing! PM really sweats the details! I know they lost months sending prototypes back and forth to China trying to get the gold-leaf lettering on “Pure Heaven II” just right…….. they did and it’s gorgeous! All the grain of the metalflake paint is a perfect scale presentation. Look at the fish scales on the Mondello and Matsubara car…… perfect.

Suspension and Chassis.Each one of the chassis of the four cars is different. And the model front suspensions have to support the weight of the diecast car……. so much for having spindly pieces. But PM has been able to create the look of the chassis and suspension while still having components that are robust enough to survive shipping and the day-to-day life of a diecast model. The front suspensions may be a little modified, but they get the job done and you won’t end-up with a box full of broken parts. The tires and wheels are the best I’ve seen, as always! They’re scuffed and look totally believable.

Updated: June 30, 2011 — 11:25 AM

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