Tamiya 1/24 Porsche 911 GT1 model

Tamiya’s Porsche 911 GT1 represents the first year, 1996, factory racing cars that finished 1st and 2nd in the GT1 class, at Le Mans. This excellent debut was slightly bittersweet, the overall winner was a Porsche, but the previous generation, the 1995 World Sportscar Championship Prototype that Porsche had developed with Tom Walkinshaw Racing. but hadn’t raced. Long term Porsche customer Joest Racing borrowed the Prototype from the Porsche Museum, used the 962 engines they were familiar with, and beat the factory team! They would repeat this performance in 1997 as well.

Still, the 1996 GT1s did finish better than the McLaren F1s and every other manufacturer, as they were designed to do. Toyota, Nissan, Lister and Chrysler/Dodge GT1 efforts all came to naught, Mercedes Benz followed Porsche’s lead and produced purpose-built racing cars justified by a single streetable example. Porsche responded in kind, the factory team winning Le Mans overall in 1998 with their GT1 motor in a carbon-fiber Mk II chassis, while Mercedes Benz won most of the races other than Le Mans. The GT1 class was discontinued.

23 street versions of the 911 GT1 were built and sold to civilians, and apparently two of the customer racing cars were made street legal during recent restorations. So the idea of a road car that could compete at Le Mans wasn’t completely wrong.

Tamiya’s kit is molded in white, black and “chromed”, with an extensive decal sheet for the exuberant Mobil 1 sponsorship markings. Besides the 1996 factory Le Mans cars 002 and 003, and the bare carbon-fiber test mule 001, it can be marked as all but one of the customer racing cars, which were delivered with the first year bodywork. Only the last customer car was built with the 1997 “Evo” body, though most (but not all) were later converted for better aerodynamics.  “Evo”s can be recognized by their 911 (996) / Boxter common form headlight and turn signal assemblies. The Rohr team were notably successful with their round-headlight GT1 in yellow, as were the G-Force / Blue Coral team with their dark blue with black and yellow trim on chassis 101. Chassis 101 was originally in dayglo red and white, for cigarette sponsorship. Chassis 104 enjoys Larbre Compétition‘s busy FATurbo markings with round headlamps.

The kit has 21 construction steps, the first 9 for the engine, transmission and rear suspension, with 45 parts and 2 decals. 5 more steps (11-14 and 16), cover all 22 parts of the interior / driver’s compartment, except the 6 of the roof duct, body shell and clear parts.  Step 10 creates the front suspension, mounted on the front carbon fiber undertray. Along with the interior, step 11 crosses the length of the underside of the car, includes fixing the undertray and front suspension to the lower front chassis, adding radiator, nose air intake, and adding pivots for the engine cover.  Step 12 adds powertrain and rear suspension to the chassis, behind the firewall.  Step 15 is a pure play in paint and decals for the wheels, and slipping the tires on them. The last 5 steps, 17-21, build the body shell. A separate sheet shows how the Mobil 1 decals cover the body, most to be applied between steps 19 and 20. Other decals are applied in 9 other steps.

The decal sheet has 60 numbered images, and the kit has 132 parts, including a stretched part-tree radio antenna, 4 soft tires (with maker’s markings) and 4 soft-plastic “Poly caps” that pins molded inside the wheels plug into. Masks are provided to simplify painting the edges of the windshield and door windows semi-gloss black.

A clear body version was released later, but only front and rear body shells are clear, the aft edges of the front fenders, lower aft of the rear fenders, and rear fender air scoops are all white plastic. The roof scoop underside and single horizontal splitter are black plastic.

The crankcase, cylinders, and lower head, (intake and exhaust ports) are 2 pieces, split top and bottom, with reasonable molded-on top-of-engine coolant plumbing.  The transmission case is split left and right, with a third piece for the top of the case,  and final drive. Each bank of 3 cylinders has a separate cam box, intake and exhaust manifolds, exhaust and compressor turbines with restrictor air box, waste gate and bypass, exhaust tailpipe and tip, and compressed air pipe to the intercoolers. The two intercoolers and intake “logs” are a single piece shared by both sides, as is the air intake for the inter-coolers and turbo-compressors, and the engine front serpentine belt pulleys with oil and water header tank. The alternator, 3 piece oil tank and a mysterious small radiator behind the driver’s seat, complete the purely “engine” parts.

The talented part A34, the transmission top plate, concisely incorporates four space-frame “tubes” along a horizontal line, that link to horizontal “tubes” in the frame molded in relief on the back of the firewall.  They are really solid rods, but representing tubes on the real car. Indulge me. Another 2 tubes molded in the same part, carry the space frame back to the top of the transmission, and support the rear suspension spring and shock rockers. The broad, vertical, “bulkhead” that carries suspension loads directly to the space frame, first seen in the 956, are also included in part A34. Two additional “V” shaped tube pairs, A25 and A26, join vertical tubes in the frame on the back of the firewall, complete the 3d linkage of firewall tube frame and the rear suspension bulkhead.

Its probably a kindness that all this complexity is molded into one plastic part. Consider a loose bulkhead linked to the firewall by 4 loose V shapes. Not unlike building biplanes with wings and struts, and no 3D structures. Possible, but difficult. Nicer if the struts are long enough and strong enough to hold the wings in a fixed relationship. And absolutely depending on the geometry of the holes in the wing. Count on using the chassis bottom as tooling to hold the firewall and transmission in perfect alignment while the space frame to firewall joints are drying. Put plastic wrap or wax paper on the tray under the engine, and where the firewall would glue to the driver’s floor re-enforcement.

The rest of the rear suspension is equally concise, one piece for lower “A” arms. one piece for the upper parallel links, with a diagonal brace. The rear suspension push rod, rocker and spring/shock absorber are one piece for each side. Two sets of external shock absorber reservoirs are provided, one pair molded on the anti-roll bar cover and a second pair molded at the top front of the final drive, with adjustment knobs as part of A34.  The drive shafts are integral with half the rear hub. A separate “other half” makes a full hub, which locks between the lower and upper suspension arms and plugs into the transmission final drive.

Structure is similarly concise: 2 pieces make up the tube frame that braces the exhaust pipes, contains the breather catch tank, supports the air-jack connection point, supports the external adjuster for the rear anti-roll bar and serves as the lifting eye for the back of the car. Helped by a little bas-relief on the catch-tank. Off the part tree, each transmission side is actually 6 or 7 half-parts. Left and right transmission sides, left and right rear air-jack halves, left and right halves of the catch tank. Up at the clutch end, each side has the body of a shock absorber reservior. The left transmission side includes the external transmission oil filter and the hoses leading to and from it, in bas relief. 2 or 3 pieces depending on how you count. The right transmission half has the solenoid and starter in bas relief, 1 or 2 pieces depending on how you count.

The radiator is supplied, the guide vanes for hot air that exits through the trunk lid, and the air intake in the nose, with lifting eye. But nothing else from inside the front body shell is provided. No radiator exhaust duct, front brake cooling ducts, stock 993 front chassis sheet metal, fuel cell and filler/vent hardware, or any of the fiddly suspension or fuel system bits.

The “chromed” parts should mostly be painted bare metal- aluminum for the air intakes, stainless steel for the exhaust. No clues are provided for the extensive hoses and cables that should dress the engine and transmission, the instruments, console controls and passenger seat area. A few details are wrong or misunderstood, but most detail is correct. There’s just a lot isn’t present, in some places.

The ugliest problem built into the kit as the inside of the rear brake cooling air scoops. It should be a large, rectangular cross section air duct on each side.  Instead, there’s a bizarre and inaccurate insert that makes a 90 degree turn in the airflow, then very odd “duct work” that assembles to join the 90 degree bend with a hard, white, plastic piece representing the “soft duct” that connects to the cooling air director on the rear hub. The “soft” pieces can be used. The ducts and scoop fittings should not be used.

The next inaccurate detail is the catch tank. Its provided as a parallelogram, fore and aft edges parallel, top and bottom faces parallel, corners between them more or less than 90 degrees. The actual part is a rectangle, I’ve photographed it, its a translucent blow-molding, with a 930- (911 Turbo) part number and can be seen easily in engine compartments from 917s to 962s, as well as GT1s.

After that, the sins are mostly omission. Few of the cables and pipes/hoses in the engine compartment are provided or suggested, except for a bas relief drain tube on the catch tank. and an oil-return that stops suddenly among the top-of-engine coolant plumbing. None of the cables in the passenger side of the cockpit.are provided or suggested. No engine management box, no Bowden cable from accelerator to throttle butterfly valves. No computer or power connector.  One fuel filter is on one intake manifold, but not the other, and the suggested injector rail and hoses are small and unconvincing.

So lets stop by saying, the kit shows all of Tamiya’s hall marks, lots of parts, well engineered, it looks convincing. Jewel-like in some places. Even when you know its not quite right. Just like that 1/48 Harrier I built in 1974. Anyone not suffering from Advanced Modeler’s Syndrome would build one, be happy and put it proudly on a shelf. You could “improve” it with only some paint and finish research, hollow-out the ends of the driver’s fresh air ducts and drill out the ends of the 2 tubes the rear suspension rockers pivot on. You could practice by drilling out the 4 tubes that serve as attachment bosses where the rear sub frame meets the transmission. The seat belts are supplied on the decal sheet, cut them out carefully, paint the paper edges and use that as a 3d version, instead of slicking it down, on the plastic. Pre-painted paper, or styrene, could make the buckle and adjusters look 3d too. Or copy the decal with ribbon and plastic/paper/aluminum/photo-etch parts.