Model Factory Hiro 1/43 Lancia D-50

KIT #: K-395
PRICE: 13,000 yen
DECALS: Three options
NOTES: Exquisite detail, high parts count, interesting subject, very limited production

Lancia & C. Fabbrica Automobili was founded on 27 November 1906 in Turin by Fiat racing drivers, Vincenzo Lancia (1881-1937) and his friend, Claudio Fogolin (1872-1945). Lancia quickly became known for it's engineering excellence. By 1950 Vincenzo's son, Gianni was in charge and he felt the company would benefit from a strong showing in competition. To that end, staff engineer Vittorio Jano designed spectacularly successful racing versions of his Aurelia coupe and a series of sports-racers for the 1953 World Sports Car Championship with an assault on F1 to follow.

Jano's F1 design, the D50, had a 2.5 litre DOHC V-8 that was angled in the chassis to allow a lower overall height and let the drive shaft run at an angle through the cockpit to a 5 speed transmission mounted directly to the rear axle. The engine was rated at 260 BHP and at only 620 kilograms the car would be the among the lightest F1 cars of its time.

Significantly, for the first time in F1, the engine was a stressed member of the space frame. This made for more centralized mass and a lower weight. The car also featured innovative sponsons between the wheels containing the fuel tanks. Carrying the fuel load on both sides of the car instead of in one large fairing at the rear enabled a better balance to be maintained as the fuel burned off with less deterioration in handling over the course of the race.

The front suspension was by a transverse leaf spring and upper and lower wishbones with the upper wishbones having rocker arm suspensions operating on inboard shock absorbers. Another transverse leaf spring suspended the rear axle.

Lancia was able to obtain the services of one of the greatest F1 drivers of the day, Alberto Ascari and he brought his close friend and mentor, Luigi Villoresi along to the team. Lancia was able to provide two D50s for the last race of 1954, the Spanish Grand Prix. Ascari put his car on the pole and he led the race from the third lap. Unfortunately, neither car finished the race with Villoresi dropping out on the first lap and Ascari retiring eight laps later. It had not been a great start for the team, but it was a promising one.

For 1955, a promising new driver, Eugenio Castellotti, joined the team in time for the first race of the season, the Argentine GP. Ascari qualified third and led 10 laps before crashing out of the race. His two team-mates did not finish either. Ascari would win two minor non-championship races in Turin and Naples respectively with his team-mates racking up top five finishes in the same two races. For the first European World Championship event, the Monaco GP, Ascari started in the middle of the front row between the Mercedes W196s of Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss. At just before half the race's distance, Fangio dropped out with Moss in the lead over Ascari by a minute. On lap 80 Moss' engine blew up, but before he could actually pass Moss on the track, Ascari overshot a chicane, went through a guardrail, and plunged into the harbor. Ascari survived the dunking only to be killed 4 days later while testing a Ferrari sports car. Without Ascari as the lead driver, Lancia's F1 fortunes began to Falter. Lancia entered one car for Castellotti in the Belgian GP. Castellotti took the pole and was running third when the transmission failed. By this time Lancia's competition program had pushed the company to the brink of bankruptcy. While accountants attempted to sort out the firm's finances, the Lancia family sold all of their shares to a group of industrialist investors. Enzo Ferrari sensed an opportunity and, crying poor, declared that defending Italy's honor and reputation in Grand Prix racing was ruining him financially. His ploy worked and the new owners of Lancia passed over six D50s, all the spares and castings, the transporters, and the services of engineer Jano. Ferrari modified the D50s (removing most of the innovative features in the process) and rebadged them as Ferraris. Juan Manuel Fangio would use them to win the World Driving Championship in 1956.

The kit is comprised of 100 white metal parts, 24 turned aluminim parts, 64 photo-etched parts, a metal screw, a small sheet of acetate for the windshield, four rubber tires, and a teflon washer. Decals include numbers for both Ascari and Castellotti's cars in both race and qualifying trim for the 1955 Monaco GP along with two (out of registration) Lancia badges for the nose and steering wheel. The thirteen step instruction sheet features detailed illustrations of each assembly step and includes an actual size template for the windshield. To say the kit is detailed is an understatement as it appears that every major part of the real car is faithfully reproduced in miniature. The high parts count is significant due to the fact that most of them will go inside the body shell of a model that is only 3 1/2 inches long.

The kit uses a sockets and pins to connect many of the individual parts. Before beginning the assembly process I drilled out all of the sockets to remove burrs and casting imperfections and also to make them a little deeper. I also drilled out the holes on the body and sponsons where the mirrors, windshield, fuel lines, struts, and and hood latches would attach.

Step one is the assembly of the twenty part engine. Every mating serface needed to be filed to insure evenness and minimize gaps. The D50's ignition system used wires running from twin magnetos into the ends of tubes with the individual wires exiting through holes arranged at even intervals over the length of the tube and terminating at the spark plugs. MFH provides the tubes as solid cylinders with the wire exit locations indicated as indentations. The wire exit location on the magnetos is also indicated by an indentation on the top of each magneto. I drilled out all of the wire exit locations, made the ignition wires from black Pro-tech detail wire, and ran a bundle of eight individual wires (the real engine had two spark plugs per cylinder)from the magnetos into the end of each tube, and then ran short lengths of individual wires from the exit holes in each tube to holes corresponding to the spark plug locations in each cylinder head. The magnetos are cast integrally with the upper cam covers and they go through holes in the firewall to reside in the forward part of the cockpit. I had to slightly enlarge the holes in the firewall to accomodate the ignition wires. I made a fuel block from a scrap of white metal and used some Pro-Tech yellow detail wire to simulate fuel lines running to the four carburetors. I glued the fuel block to the back of the engine. I also made a throttle linkage from lengths of .04 mm stiff wire and some scrap photo-etch bits. I did not add the turned aluminum intake trumpets at this stage as the instructions called for because I felt that doing so would result in them being knocked off during the construction process.

Step two is the assembly of the four piece transmission. I cleaned up the mating surfaces, but didn't make any additions or alterations to the kit parts.

Step three is the construction of the basic chassis and cockpit enclosure. The base of the chassis is a rectangular frame upon which four vertical lattice like pieces are attached to the sides. A 'Y' shaped cross member connects the rear most vertical framework and a smaller rectangular frame attaches to the tops of the lattice like pieces to form the upper perimeter of the cockpit enclosure. The firewall is attached to the front of the cockpit enclosure and the brake, clutch, and throttle pedals are attached to the firewall. Three photo-etched panels go inside the cockpit representing the sidewalls and rear bulkhead. An additional photo-etched panel is folded three ways to form a long rectangular 'U' shape for the driveshaft tunnel and was glued to the floor of the cockpit. This stage of the cockpit assembly is completed by the addition of the shifter linkage and what appears to be the handle for a weight jacking device. The engine, driveshaft, and transmission are then attached to the frame assembly to finish the step.

Step four is the assembly of the front suspension. The lower wishbones are attached to the chassis and the front of the engine and connected to each other by a transverse leaf spring. The upper wishbones are connected to each other by another transverse leaf spring and twin shock absorbers are attached to connect the assembly to the lower wishbones. The tie rod slots between the upper and lower wishbones and attaches to the spindles that are molded integrally with the brake drums. The wishbones also attach to the spindles ensuring the brake drums are perfectly vertical when viewed head on and are parallel to each other.

Step five has the half shafts inserted into both sides of the differential, the dampers attached to the rear of the transaxle, and the transverse leaf spring and sway bar connected to the trailing arms. The rear brake drums are then glued to the outer ends of the half shafts
and the sway bar.

Step six would have you attach the rear oil tank to the part of the frame immediately above the transaxle. However, I anticipated an issue with clearance when it came to attaching the body shell later and did not install the tank. It turned out that I was correct.

Step seven has photo-etch mesh grills attached to both the front and back sides of the radiator shroud and the completed radiator assembly attached to the front of the lower frame. Hoses are glued to the bottom of each side of the radiator and routed through the front suspension and under the front of the engine. The hoses exit just behind the front wheels and the outer (rearmost) ends will later attach to brackets on the inner sides of the sponsons.

Step eight has the completed chassis/engine/interior sub-assembly attached to the belly pan and the seat glued to the floor of the chassis. The bottom of the seat has channels that the drive shaft tunnel and a chassis cross member slot into and they must be lined up precosely or the seat will not drop into place.

Step nine has the body cowl that surrounds the cockpit attached to the belly pan (the lower edges of the cowl has pins that are inserted into sockets on the upper edges of the pan. The five cockpit gauges are glued to the dash that is cast integrally with the forward edge of the opening for the cockpit. The gauges have photo-etched bezels with decal faces. I put a drop of white glue on each face to simulate a glass cover. This step also calls for attaching the headrest padding and the headrest braces, but I held off as I was concerned that the headrest padding would get knocked off during further assembly and that there would be clearance issues with the braces. This step was completed by attaching the latches to the hood.

Step ten calls for attaching the exhausts to the engine and the body pan, but again, I held off as I anticipated the likelihood of them getting knocked off during future assembly steps.

Step Eleven starts with assembling the grill from three layers of photo-etch; one each of mesh, vertical bars, and a surround and attaching the grill to the opening in the nose. The step is completed by assembling the tail fairing from upper and lower halves that trap a vertical bulkhead inside.

Step twelve is for the assembly of the steering wheel from a white metal shaft, photo-etched spokes, and a white metal rim. The rim on the real car was wood and I simulated the wood grain with a base coat of ivory, followed by a thin and streaky wash of burnt umber oil paint, and topped by a final coat of a 70/30 mix of Tamiya Clear Yellow and Clear Orange acrylic paints. The step is finished by cutting the windshield from the of clear butyrate provided to the size and shape of the template printed on the instruction sheet. Photo-etched brackets are attached to each lower corner of the windshield. The brackets will later be attached to .008 mm steel pins inserted into the sides of the top of the cowl immediately in front of the dash.
I painted the chassis with Tamiya LP1 black and I painted the body with Tamiya LP21 Italian Red. I left the remainder of the parts unpainted to simulate the various natural metal finishes of the real car. I applied a dark gray oil paint wash on the engine and transaxle and sealed all of the unpainted metal parts with a coat of Future (or whatever it is currently named) to eliminate tarnishing. The kit includes decals for the 1955 Monaco GP for both Ascari's race and qualifying cars and for Castellotti's race car. I went with the markings for the car Ascari drove in the race.The decals performed flawlessly and I sealed them with a couple of coats of Tamiya TS-13 rattle can gloss clear lacquer.

The last step starts with assembly of the wheels. Each wheel has six layers of photo-etched spokes (two of which have to be formed into shallow cones), three turned aluminum rims, a turned aluminum hub, and a photo-etched knock off spinner. I regarded building the wheels with much trepidation, but as it turned out, it was one of the easier construction tasks. After the wheels were completed, the tires were slid over the rims and the wheel/tire assemblies were attached to the brake drums. The tail fairing was then supposed to slide over the rear suspension and transaxle and be glued to the belly pan and cowl. However, despite my having test fitted all of the body panels for clearance of the interior sub-assemblies and to obtain even panel gaps, when I pushed the tail fairing into place, I began to feel resistance as if I was compressing a spring. I stopped and checked to see if any of the rear suspension parts that are externally visible were being distorted and/or moved out of position. When it didn't appear that any were, I went ahead and glued the tail fairing into place. Each sponson attaches to the cowl at six points by two white metal tripods and also attaches to the belly pan in four places with two very thin white metal pins on each side. Since the sponsons were relatively large and solid white metal pieces, I didn't think the white metal pins would be sufficient to support them in position over time and I replaced them with rods that I cut from some .04 mm stainless steel straight pins. The twin oil coolers were trapped between the sponsons and the cowl with the forward ends attaching to brackets on the sponson and the rear ends inserted into slots in the cowl. While attaching the sponsons and adjusting their locations to get the proper clearance and alignment with the tires, I managed to break the rear suspension loose. When I pried off the tail fairing to re-attach the suspension to the belly pan, I found that most of the rear suspension parts had been distorted when I had earlier forced the tail fairing into position. After trying unsuccessfully to bend the parts back into the proper shape and position, I resorted to desperate measures. I replaced the 'to scale' white metal half shafts with lengths of steel rods cut from sewing needles. I also replaced the sway bar with one that I fabricated from a piece of steel wire that I found in my wife's jewelry making supplies. None of my replacement parts has the detail that the kit parts had, but they are a lot sturdier and, besides, are almost completely out of sight when the tail fairing is in place. After making minor adjustments to the positioning of the modified rear suspension for alignment with the rear wheels and for clearance with the tail fairing, I anchored the suspension/transaxle assembly in place with a big wad of Apoxie Sculpt that I later re-inforced with super glue. After letting the glue and putty cure for a few days, I re-attached the tail fairing. I finished the model by attaching the steering wheel, rear view mirrors, exhaust pipes, fuel filler caps, intake trumpets, and the windshield. I made a base from a 5" x 1/8" pine disc that painted with a spray can of Rustoleum semi gloss gray paint. I added a Lancia sticker that I bought off of Ebay to give some reference to the manufacturer of a somewhat obscure old race car.

I'm a sucker for detail and I hold Model Factory Hiro in high esteem for their uncompromising approach to producing the most accurate and detailed kit possible for a given subject. However, I feel that same approach combined with the small size of the model, the extremely close tolerances, and the high parts count created a challenging and very fiddly building experience. Nearly every single part had to be modified for fit and I think some of the individual parts could have been combined into fewer, less detailed parts for the sake of easier assembly. Particularly in the cases of the sub-assemblies that were hidden under the body. I'm pleased to have built a Model Factory Hiro kit, but it may be a while before I take another one on.


Reference: Lawrence, Mike: Grand Prix Cars 1945-65, Motor Racing Publications Ltd, 1998

Rob Hart

October 2021

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