Automodelli Hi-Fi 1/43 Lotus 98T

KIT #: 81
PRICE: $25.00 'used'
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Cast metal with rubber tires and vac windscreen (which wasn't needed).


The Lotus 98T was a Formula One car designed by Gérard Ducarouge and Martin Ogilvie and built by Team Lotus for use in the 1986 Formula One World Championship. Development of the previous year's 97T, the car was raced by Brazilian Ayrton Senna, in his second year with the team, and Scottish newcomer Johnny Dumfries.

The chassis featured a lower monocoque than the 97T as a result of a regulation change stipulating a reduction in fuel capacity to 195 litres. The powertrain consisted of the new Renault EF15B turbocharged V6 engine, driving through a six-speed, manual transmission by Hewland.

The EF15B was to appear in two forms, the standard engine and the "D.P." engine which featured pneumatic valve springs for the first time. At the end of the season Renault introduced the revised EF15C which in addition to the D.P. valve gear also boasted common rail fuel injection and much-revised water cooling through the cylinder head reducing the likelihood of pre-ignition (detonation). Power figures for this period of F1 history are largely speculative as most engine manufactures freely admitted that their testbeds would not have a sufficient power rating to measure the 1.5-litre turbo's output at above 4-bar boost. It is claimed that the Renault EF15B in its pinnacle increment was claimed to produce in excess of 1000 HP at unrestricted boost pressure, thus making it one of the most powerful engines ever used in Formula 1 history. 


I don't think I've built anything by these folks, but it follows a similar pattern to the few FDS and Tameo kits I've done. The majority of the kit is cast metal. This includes the upper body and lower pan. Other smaller parts are the rear suspension that includes the gear box, forward suspension pieces, and the two wings. There is little to the interior other than a seat, instrument panel and steering wheel. Though the front suspension looks fragile, my experience shows that this will be very solid when all is together. The four tires are a sort of softish plastic or hard rubber compound. Thanks the the large full body of the time, there is no engine detail as all that is hidden. A section of screen is provided though it is not shown in the instructions. Same for an attached pair of flat rectangles. There is a vac windscreen, but it is tiny and would probably not be missed if it was omitted.

As you can see from the parts image, the instructions are pretty basic. It is an exploded view and while all the parts are listed, it is in Italian. The kit provides a large (for 1/43) decal sheet for one of two cars. Either the one driven by Ayrton Senna or Alan Dumfries. This sheet also includesa seat harness. A smaller addendum sheet is provided with the tire logos in white along with smaller car numbers. Not sure if this is because the main sheet ones were printed the wrong size or if at another time during the season these were changed. I'd be surprised if the decals are still viable, so when I build this one, I'll be giving everything a coat of Microscale decal film to be sure they don't fall apart. Both liveries are overall black with the gold JPS markings. Interestingly, this year (1986) was the last of the all black Lotus cars.


Construction is fairly straight-forward though the fit of some of the parts is fairly poor. Probably the worst fit are the front and rear suspension pieces. I had to cut down the upper front A arms several times to get them the proper length and even then the result is not very pleasing. The attachment of the forward brake ducts/fairings is not well documented in the instructions. Neither is the placement of the side radiators.

I had to open all the holes for the rear brake ducts and for the mirrors. Speaking of the mirrors, do not install these until AFTER you apply the decals. Other areas that need to have some attention are the instrument panel piece and the seat. There are, believe it or not, decals for these, something the instructions don't point out and these decals need to be attached before gluing and after painting. Don't even bother to try to have the front wheels steer as the mounting points for the front hubs are so large as to make this an impossible feat. I should also mention that the axle stubs are quite a bit smaller than the openings in the wheels to which they attach.

I painted everything black and did detail painting afterwards. The wheels were painted chrome using a chrome pen with the inside portions painted gold. Instructions call for the side radiators to be painted aluminum, while photos of the real car showed these to be black. Despite their age, the decals went on fairly well. Some of them curled and required multiple applications of strong solvent to stick properly. This was a particular issue with the tire logos. Some of them broke into sections and had to be pieced together. I stupidly installed the mirrors before the large upper body decals so those had to be cut apart. I also neglected to apply the seat harness and instrument decals during assembly and those were all my error.

Eventually I got everything on, but as mentioned, not without some issues. I will confess that a few of those issues were due to my not thinking ahead, but it wasn't helped by the minimal instructions. I then glued on the wheels/tires and after a bit of bending and tweaking, got them to pretty much fit flat.


This is not my first metal car kit, but based on my experiences I won't be building any more from this company. The final product looks OK, but won't be entered in any contests. Some of the issues were overly large attachment openings, malformed rubber tires, parts that were too long and a general mediocre fit. There are a lot of good 1/43 kit companies out there. This isn't one of them.


12 January 2024.

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