Tom 'The Mongoose' McEwen Rail Dragster

Published on
June 7, 2012
Review Author(s)
Product / Stock #
Company: Revell, Inc. - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Revell, Inc. - Website: Visit Site
Box Art

Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen is one of drag racing’s icons. He is still one of the most popular drivers in the sport of drag racing. He has raced both funny cars and rail dragsters and set more speed records than any other driver. He earned the nickname “The Mongoose” from racing his arch rival Don “The Snake” Prudhomme during the 70s, which many consider the Golden Age of Drag Racing. This model kit represents the rail dragster that Tom McEwen drove during the 70s. The kit was first released in 1974 and, in spite of being 38 years old, has held up quite nicely. This kit has been released 3 previous times since 1974 and I for one am happy to see it come out again. The molds have held up well and the kit is filled with all kinds of extras, making it worth getting. There are plenty of aftermarket decals available, making it worth getting more than one. The kit comes with a detailed engine, 1 piece frame, removable body panels, roll cage, seated driver, oil and fuel lines, and vinyl tires. The kit comes with a fair share of chrome plated parts. There is even a standing crew figure and starting timer (Christmas Tree). The instructions are in a 12 page booklet format that includes a full paint guide as well as a comprehensive list of the part numbers and the actual name of the part. Reminds me of when I was a kid and the kit’s instructions always had the name of the part included.

Construction begins as usual with the engine. Care needs to be exercised and dry fitting is a must. In the bottom of step one, the instructions show a dotted line for placing the timing cover. The dotted line actually goes to the wrong hole in the engine block. Test fitting will show the obvious. The plating on the oil filler tube (part 68) was thick and should be stripped off completely. They can be repainted after attaching to the engine block. I deepened the holes in the end of the header exhausts. They already have a depression molded in them, so it is easy to use a pin drill to deepen them and it looks a lot better. I suggest cleaning up the headers before cutting the plastic bar from between the pipes. This makes the header a little stronger for the cleanup.

The kit comes with a set of ignition wires. They are molded in a black vinyl. I painted mine yellow to match the wires on the box art. What I did discover is they should be painted after mounting to the engine. I painted mine first and handling them to get them mounted on the engine chipped and damaged the paint job, requiring they be repainted. In retrospect, if I build another, I would cut the vinyl wires off and replace them with a small gauge yellow insulated wire. The vinyl wires supplied with the kit are just too stiff and do not hold a bend very well. They were very hard to get under and around the blower belt. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get all four left side wires under the blower belt. In looking at the box art, it seems like the fourth wire goes across the front of the belt. Anyways, that’s what I had to do in order to get the blower belt mounted to the front of the engine. I painted all the oil and fuel lines silver, again copying the engine on the box art. I also think, for a rebuild, I would replace the fuel lines from the fuel pump forward to the fuel tank. These were also a little stiff and caused some interference when placing the frame into the lower body tub. The headers are molded with a narrow plastic bar between each of the 4 pipes.

The one piece frame is solid and was not warped. I assembled the rear axle without the slicks and attached it to the rear of the frame. I didn’t add the side spoilers as suggested, holding them off until later in the construction. The spoilers themselves are painted white and the cross bar the same blue as the frame. Keeping them separate made painting and masking much easier. I assembled the roll cage and, after sanding the seam, I added it to the frame before painting. This made it easier to clean up and fix the join between the frame and the roll cage. For the purpose of painting, I used white glue to attach the frame cross bar (part 42) and the front bulkhead (part 49). Once the frame was dry, I removed both pieces and added them later in the construction. The cross bar needs to be added to the frame after the driver figure is added. Otherwise, his legs won’t fit under the bar. The frame was then painted with Model Master Acrylic Arctic Bleu Metallic Paint and set aside to dry.

The rear slicks are two-piece affairs with the seam between the two parts at the edge of the sidewall. The two parts fit together well and the seam was virtually invisible. However, I have read online that the rear slicks are a bit too wide for this style of racer, but they do look alright in spite of that. The front wheels fit the rim with no problems at all. I held off on adding the wheels until the end of construction, as I thought they might be in the way of placing the decals if added too early. I assembled all the spoilers and prepped them and the body tubs for spray painting. All the spoilers and both the upper and lower body tubs are painted gloss white. For this, I used Tamiya X-2 White.

After the paint dried and was set up, I assembled the frame to the lower body tub and began the decaling. The decals really need to be added before the rest of the assembly. The decals that go on the side of the lower tub would be impossible to place correctly if the radius rods are in place. Unfortunately, this is where the real problems with this 39-year-old kit started. The instructions have you place decals numbers 2 and 5 first. There is a notch printed on the decal for placement around the radius rod attachment point on the lower tub. This is the correct order but the decals were at least 10mm too long. The printed notch ends up 10mm too far forward. I got the decal placed as best as possible at the back end and worked it forward, aligning it as I smoothed it out. Then at the front of the tub by the front axle, I cut the remaining decal off and smoothed it out. The next decals added in sequence are the two for the sides of the top tub, decals numbers 3 & 4. The same problem holds true for these two decals. Both were at least 10mm too long. I did the same thing as the lower tub. I aligned the decals at the back end by the windshield and smoothed them forward cutting off the long end at the front. The last decal added to the tub is the top of the upper tub, decal 8. Unlike the other four tub decals, this one was the right length and fit with no problems. After the decals had dried, I touched up the offending areas with gloss red paint.

Another area where problems with the decals cropped up was with the rear spoiler. There are four holes molded on the bottom for the spoiler to be mounted to the uprights. On the bottom of the decal, there are four holes printed and the decal is to be mounted with the printed holes over the actual holes. They fit perfectly. However, when the decal was folded around, the “Fly Navy” was backwards, facing to the rear instead of forward like the real racer. I was able to peel the decal off and turn it around. Fortunately, the decals are strong enough to handle that kind of abuse. The last problem with the decals was that the side spoiler decals were too wide. I cut off the inner white side stripe and relied on the gloss white paint job to replace the missing stripe. After the decals had set and dried, I completed the assembly.

I painted the driver figure with Metalizer Non Buffing Aluminum to replicate the fire suit worn by the driver. I painted the racing harness blue and the helmet gloss white. According to the box art, the driver should be wearing a silver fire proof face mask and not a full face helmet. The Mongoose only wore the full face helmet when he raced front engine vehicles.

After finishing the paint and decaling, I discovered that the top body shell does not fit tight to the lower tub. The bulkhead (part 49) that fits just behind the fuel tank needs to be trimmed for a tight fit.

In spite of its age, this kit still builds into a nice model. The aftermarket decals that are available make it worth getting and building. The kit does come with a few extras. In addition to the wiring and engine plumbing, you also get a Chrondek timing tree and a standing crew member covering his ears with his hands. Nice additions if you want to build an interesting display for the finished model. As my present interest is allied armor, this kit was a nice diversion for me and I had fun building it. On occasion, I like to take a step backwards and build an older kit. I find it a challenge to build a 30-year-old kit.

Thanks to Revell Models for the review sample and thanks to IPMS/USA for allowing me to build this kit.


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