Chris’s tribute to Drag Strip

This is Drag Strip. He’s a Transformer, a Decepticon, a member of the Stunticons, and one of the most memorable little toys I’ve ever owned. Not only does he provide a much needed limb for Menasor and turn into a pretty cool little race car, but he has six wheels. Why does he have six wheels? Click the pic and I’ll tell you all about it.

Images courtesy of Seibertron.com

I’ve had Drag Strip since I was a kid back in 1986, and I’ve always wondered about the weird six-wheel design. I never complained about it, mind you. Drag Strip is one of the most unique looking of all the realistically styled Transformers, and his car mode is pretty fantastic. But as far as that realistic styling was concerned, I always thought he was kind of a cheat.

There is no such thing as a race car with two sets of front wheels, right? All the other Stunticons were clearly modeled after real vehicles. Why was Drag Strip different? I mean, six wheels on a Formula 1 racer? What the hell is that about? Growing up I assumed that this was something the people at Hasbro had done to differentiate him from other race car toys. Little did I know that Hasbro had nothing at all to do with his very unorthodox, very true to life design.

TRANSFORMERS TRIVIA: Most Japanese Transformers, no matter their size, are sold in boxes. In America we would (and did) get Transformers this size on a printed card with a thin plastic bubble glued on. This is done to save on manufacturing and packaging costs, and also to make it easier for large scale American retailers to display the toys hanging on hooks rather than sitting on shelves. They’re usually not much more costly than the American versions, so if you can find some Japanese Transformers in their original boxes for a decent price, definitely buy them. They look spectacularly cool displayed among your collection.

All of the early Transformers were designed by the Japanese toy company Takara. As a matter of fact, most of the Transformers ever made have been designed by Takara. If it were possible for me to make love to an entire corporation, Takara would be the first one I’d wine, dine, charm, and disarm to get into those sexy little Japanese pants. They have made my life so much better than it would have been without them that I simply cannot imagine a world in which they never existed. It would be like asking a person who was born blind to describe what they imagine the color blue looks like. It’s just not possible.

Try telling a deaf person about the wonder of a child’s laughter. They’ll never understand. Why? Because they can’t hear you. Deaf people are terrible listeners.

Despite Takara’s awesomeness, even they are not ultimately responsible for Drag Strip’s very cool design. No, that honor goes to Tyrrell. Note the two r’s; this is not the same Tyrell that builds Replicants. I’m talking about the the Tyrrell Racing Organisation, an auto racing and Formula One construction team. Then again, maybe they are the same company; there’s definitely some weird sci-fi-esque time displacement going on if their legal info is to be believed. According to what they’ve posted, their website was copyrighted in 1958. I’m no history whiz, but I am fairly certain that predates the invention of HTML.

Inside their website things get even more confusing; they only have listings for events that took place in one of two years, 1971 or 2005. That’s pretty strange in and of itself, but its even more fucked up when you consider that the organization was sold off and raced their last race, the Japanese Grand Prix, in 1998. According to my research, Tyrrell ceased to exist after that. How in the hell can they have a 2005 schedule and racing team info? Somebody needs to call Doc and Marty to go check into this. Something’s not right.

Leading the racing world in impossible chronology since 2057.

Fortunately for Tyrrell their cars are better than their calendars. In 1976 the team set out to build a car with small front tires to reduce both wind resistance and drag. Smaller tires would have resulted in a loss of contact between the rubber and the road, making the a car far less maneuverable and a lot more dangerous. To compensate, their design was given four specially manufactured 10-inch diameter front wheels. A special suspension was constructed, allowing all four front wheels to be steered. Toss in one high performance Ford V8 racing engine, and thus was born the Tyrrell P34, the world’s most successful six wheeled Formula One race car.

Note that I said ‘most successful,’ not ‘only.’ There have been others, to be sure. There are always others, are there not? Even in a life as short as yours, other six wheeled race cars have been built. But my research, although admittedly inexpert, shows that the P34 is the only six wheeled Formula One that ever had two wheels up front. All the other six wheelers had two rear wheels designed to place more power on the road, just like the rear drive wheels of modern semi tractors do.

NON-TRANSFORMERS TRIVIA: In 1948, the Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser KK500G, better known as the “Pat Clancy Special,” became the first six wheeled car to compete in a Formula One race. The KK500G was a four wheel drive with power going to both rear axles. It was amazingly fast, but extraordinarily difficult to steer.

Unlike six wheeled cars made to deliver more power, the P34 was designed with two wheels up front to provide superior handling. And as well as it worked on paper, it proved to be even better in live races. The P34’s first race was the 1976 Spanish Grand Prix, where it proved to be very competitive. Driver Jody Scheckter went on to win the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix driving the P34, making him the first and only driver ever to win a Grand Prix in a six wheeled car. He is shown above driving the P34 on 31 July 1976 demonstrating how the four front tires could grip the road even during high acceleration turns that lifted the P34’s rear wheels off the track. Pretty cool stuff. Additional pics show the P34 in action, dates and drivers unknown.

So how did the Decepticons get their hands on the Tyrell P34 design? Simple, they stole it. It all took place in the 1985 two-part episode “The Key To Vector Sigma.” In what was the most wonderfully graphic display of the Decepticons utter disregard for human life, Rumble descends on a race track in the middle of a competition and snatches a car. What’s so great wasn’t that he threw the guy out of the car and into the oncoming race traffic. The really great part is that he picked the driver up by his fucking throat.

I remember seeing this episode for the first time at my grandparents’ house when I was a kid. I was dumbfounded. It struck me, even way back then, that there was absolutely no way this guy could have lived. Even if the other drivers missed him, his neck was snapped. They could show whatever they wanted after the toss, it didn’t matter. Anything they showed to prove he was okay was done because there were little kids watching. I knew the truth. That guy was fucking dead. They just showed a Decepticon murder somebody, and to my ten year old brain that could only mean that Transformers was the most hard core goddamned cartoon on this planet. That’s a big deal to a kid. Is there any doubt as to why I’m still a fan to this day?

TRANSFORMERS TRIVIA: “The Key To Vector Sigma, Part I” debuted on 25 November 1985, but Formula One regulations outlawed six wheeled cars in 1982. Either Rumble stole this car from a non-regulation exhibition race or the Tyrrell racing team is pulling more of their time travel shenanigans.

Here’s the deal: Megatron, who was – in glorious 1980s cartoon fashion – not at all thinking his shit through, was pissy that the Autobots had all the cool car vehicle modes while the Decepticons were stuck transforming into stupid cassette players and useless pistols. And, oh yeah, heavily armed supersonic fighter jets. The incredible advantage one would have with a force of nigh indestructible giant robots that turned into warplanes didn’t mean much to him. He wanted to rule the roads as well. So after stealing the P34 and a few other cars and converting them into Transformers, Megatron takes the mindless robots to Vector Sigma, the supercomputer at the core of Cybertron.

Deep in the bowels of Cybertron, it is revealed that Megatron has obtained the key to Vector Sigma, with which he can command Vector Sigma to give the Stunticons personalities and intelligence. Megatron did this presumably because he did not want the Stunticons to be Specialneedsicons like the Dinobots, whose primitive minds were programmed by Wheeljack. Vector Sigma zaps the P34-bot with his purple Frankenstein lightning bolts, and Drag Strip is alive… IT’S ALIVE!! So what kind of personality did Vector Sigma give Drag Strip? Click the tech spec below to find out.

So if the P34 was awesome enough to win a Grand Prix and be made into a Transformer, why aren’t they still around? At the end of 1976, Goodyear stopped all research into making better high performance ten inch tires for the car. Also, because Tyrrell was apparently unable to leave well enough alone, they decided to tinker with the design and fix what wasn’t broken. And they broke it. The P34 was redesigned in 1977; the aerodynamics were better, but the car was wider and heavier than before. The added weight of the “improved” front suspension system lowered performance, and, along with Goodyear’s decision to stop making better tires, the P34 design was abandoned altogether for the 1978 racing season. And that’s how the sad, sad story of coolest looking race car ever comes to an end… almost.

In recent exhibition races, restored Tyrrell P34s running on newly manufactured Avon 10 inch tires have performed exceptionally well. In 1999 and 2000 the resurrected Tyrrell P34 raced on British and European circuits in the FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix series. Driving Tyrrell P34 No. 6, Martin Stretton won the 2000 Thoroughbred Grand Prix.

Will there ever be another six wheeled Formula One car? Doubtful. Since its against one or more of the sixteen zillion regulations enacted by the FIA and FISA to race anything but four wheeled cars in modern Formula One races, I hardly see why anyone would spend millions of dollars designing and building one. Seriously, you should check out this massive list of restrictions these racers have to contend with; I’m almost surprised there’s no rule against speeding. No, I think with a governing body this anal and clearly opposed to things that totally rule, the days of the very cool six wheeled speed machines are regrettably gone forever.

So what the hell is Drag Strip supposed to do? Sure, he can combine with the other Stunticons every now and then and be Menasor’s arm or leg, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s stuck in a vehicle mode from the ’70s. Lots of other Transformers have been given updated vehicle modes reminiscent of their original designs. Hell, the Transformers: Binaltech/Alternators line is built on that very concept. But there are no modern equivalents to the P34. Its unique six wheel design is lost to high performance cars. There are no more six wheelers designed for delivering raw speed and racing performance. It’s a hopeless case. That is, it was hopeless until 2004.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 2004 Covini C6W. That’s right, an honest to Primus high performance, modern six wheeled car with four steerable front wheels. It will come as surprise to nobody that the Italians designed a really, really expensive car that goes incredibly fast and makes insecure men think that, if they buy one, shallow women will be more likely to fuck them. What may come as a surprise, though, is the laundry list of ways the two extra wheels make this thing more awesome than Optimus Prime’s suicide charge on the Decepticons invading Autobot City.

First, and most importantly to me, it just looks incredible. I mean god damn, that’s a cool looking car. Its the perfect blend of sports car and spaceship, with just a little Blade Runner thrown in for good measure. I predict Dan will love this thing to death; it looks like something straight out of Shadowrun. Secondly, the extra wheels make it a lot safer and more maneuverable, which is handy considering the car tops out at around 185 miles per hour.

If you think that’s too fast for the average driver on a typical street, you’re probably right. But you don’t have much to worry about; Covini is only making one of these every month. Since 2004, assuming they started production in January, that comes out to only 46 Covini C6Ws in the world. So, mathematically speaking, you’re not too likely to run into one of these. Besides, they start at around $700,000, so its not like your neighbor’s kids are gonna be tear-assing around the neighborhood in one after their sweet sixteen. This is a car for people who are WAY too rich to live in your neighborhood.

They even gave it a V8, just like the Tyrrell P34 had.

Last, this gives me hope that, on the off chance they put Drag Strip in the TransFormers sequel, they’ll use this design. Not only will it keep him true to his Generation One heritage, but seeing one of these sweet ass rides on the movie screen will make me feel a little less bad about blowing my cash on what I’m sure will be a bad movie. By the way, if you’d like to join the push to have Drag Strip appear in the sequel as a Covini C6W, go out and find the Transformers discussion groups who are talking about it and make your voice heard loud and clear. I’m not gonna link the one group I found who are pushing to have the Stunticons in the next movie because, quite frankly, I didn’t bookmark it and now I can’t find it. But its out there. Pinky swear.

TRANSFORMERS TRIVIA: A member of the Transformers: Alternators line was released supposedly in homage to Drag Strip*. Presumably because the term “drag strip” is an established part of the English language in common use and cannot be trademarked, Hasbro released this new toy under the painfully lame moniker of “Decepticharge.* ” What the hell ever. Only four wheels, no red racing stripes on the car mode, no purple or blue anywhere on the face or head, no visible chrome engine parts on the torso, an unbelievably awful name… this is a poor tribute* at best. Click the pic to see more image of this really great toy that unfortunately makes a really shitty Drag Strip.

* 2021 UPDATE: Wrong. Wrong. All of this is wrong. Past Chris was clearly misinformed by fan forums and his own sloppy assumptions. Decepticharge was a completely new character, wholly unrelated to Drag Strip. I apologize. Click the pic to find out who Decepticharge really is.

That’s pretty much all the fascinating Drag Strip info I’ve got for you, folks. But, as if all that wasn’t wonderful enough, guess what? This is…

THE SCI-FI GUYS 100th ARTICLE!

Yep, we’ve hit the big C. And in celebration, I see no other option than to rock the fuck out. That’s right, my bitches; throw your jean jacket on, tighten your headband, and crank the Mötley Crüe up to 11 — its time for a celebratory air guitar jam!

The venue: Wembley Stadium, London, England. The date: Tuesday, November 13, 2007. The event: a sold-out international air guitar concert held in honor of The Sci-Fi Guys 100th article.

Legendary air guitar virtuoso Pink Lloyd opened the show with a blistering 12 song set that concluded with his seldom performed, near mythical rendition of Van Halen’s “Jump.” Backstage he said about The Sci-Fi Guys, “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. I mean, I’d still have the moves, and the look, and the killer chops. But not the pants. These were a gift from Chris. He wore them to his senior prom, he wore them to his bachelor party, and he wore them to the funerals of all four of his grandparents. Then he passed them on to me. You can’t buy that kind of history, man. You can only let it rock through you.”

Deep Purple lead singer Ian Gillan, top left, and his entourage took the stage in an unscheduled surprise appearance, wielding his nonexistent axe with rock-god perfection. Interviewed after the gig, Ian reported, “The blokes love the SFG [a commonly used European abbreviation for The Sci-Fi Guys]. The Guys have ripped out more great reviews than Ritchie Blackmore has ripped off other people’s riffs. They’re solid, man. Fucking solid.”

A newcomer on the air guitar scene, Tokyo pop sensation Midori stole the show with her wild performance of “Heat Of The Moment.” After the concert she had this to say, “There’s no tears on the bus. The Sci-Fi Guys is such a beautiful thing is always good that it is fascinating. However, a good thing is beautiful always, even to protect yourself from the risk of those hawkers and criers. May their excessively high charge with the characteristics of the driver.” Midori’s translator could not be reached for comment.

The evening concluded with an unprecedented 3½ hour encore, culminating in an impromptu all-star jam session. Played during the encore were fan favorites “Flirting With Disaster,” “NIB,” “South Of Heaven,” and a fiery, furious air guitar rendition of Leon Redbone’s “According To Our New Arrivals,” more famously known as the theme from Mr. Belvedere. Also featured were the albums Appetite For Destruction, The Essential Waylon Jennings, and Joe Satriani’s Surfing With The Alien, all performed in their entirety.

The Sci-Fi Guys would like to thank Wembley National Stadium, Inc., The London Metropolitan Police Service, and the Queen’s Guard Concert Security Division for their invaluable assistance during the performances. Most of all, we extend our deepest love, respect, and gratitude to all of our loyal fans who have made all of this possible. We look forward to another 100 articles and to rocking your face off yet again. Until then, rock out with your Spock out, keep on keepin’ on, and may The Schwartz be with you. ‘Til all are one!


ARTICLE UPDATE: November 16th, 2007, 7:25 pm

Hey, kids. Deep in my heart I know that, although you are too proud to admit it, you can’t possibly live without more Drag Strip in your lives. So I’m here to help you. It’s all about the love with me. I was way too tired to add this info last night, but just in case you haven’t had your fill, I’ve got some more six wheeled goodness for dat ass.

If you want your very own Drag Strip but don’t want to shell out the cash for an original toy, you can always go the criminal route. No, I’m not encouraging you to steal one. I’m talking bootlegs.

This is “Containercar,” a completely unauthorized remake of three Stunticons and two Technobots. As the holidays approach, you’re going to see these bootlegs more and more if you frequent the low rent types of stores that I do. Are these legal? Depends on who you are. It’s legal to buy them, so if you’re a shopper you’re in the clear. It’s legal to give them away, so if you want to give one as a Christmas present go for it. It’s probably legal to sell them, but it’s definitely not legal to manufacture them.

These toys are produced using unlicensed copyrighted and trademarked molds and images from Takara and Hasbro. Then again, trademarks and licensing traditionally don’t mean much to the Chinese, who pump out cheap plastic rip-offs of decent toys faster than Michael Bay pumps out cinematic feces. But at $5 for the whole set, they’re a hell of a lot cheaper than buying a real Drag Strip all by his lonesome.

In my set, Drag Strip is called “Shooter.” On this box he is “Brain Man.” I long ago gave up trying to apply logic to bootleg verbiage. That way lies madness. Just ignore it and move on with your day. Anyway, I have a Containercar of my very own, and I am pleased with the quality. He stood upon my desk at work for quite some time and even fell over once or twice, and is still intact. Almost.

If you give Containercar as a gift, be aware that you’re giving someone a handful of cheap Asian plastic that will probably crumble into dust if handled even remotely as though it were a plaything. As a collector I expect bootlegs to be fragile, but children just expect a toy, and there will be tears when they break these things as they are opening the package. Keep that in mind if you’re buying for the kids. Also be aware that anyone in the know about Transformers will instantly spot these toys as low priced bootlegs, and your gift will be irrefutable physical evidence that you’re a cheap ass. Just FYI.

2021 UPDATE: Spoiler alert – the next two paragraphs will make no sense. They refer to a picture that has long ago been derezzed by the evil MCP that runs the intertubes. I’d love to recreate the picture for you, but my Containercar is equally missing. Sometimes life is like a box of chocolates: you open it up and there are no pictures of bootleg robot toys inside. To ease the sting, please enjoy this kitten.

See anything weird about that picture? Yeah, that’s a bootleg Scavenger where bootleg Drag Strip should be. A lot of folks don’t know that Scavenger attaches to the rest of Devastator by a flat peg that is almost precisely the diagonal width that the pegs (usually the smaller robots’ heads) the Scramble City style combiners like Containercar use to attach their limbs. That means Scavenger can sneak his way onto these robots as a super cool looking arm that, unlike the other Scramble City style limbs, actually has a working elbow joint. Fortunately this property holds over to bootleg copies as long as they are roughly the same scale as the originals, and Containercar is.

So why is Scavenger there? You know how I said Containercar had fallen over before and was almost intact? Guess which bot broke in the fall? That’s right, Drag Strip/Shooter. Containercar fell and snapped Shooter’s little head right off inside the shoulder socket. In a moment of weakness I gave the decapitated bot away to a coworker’s four year old son who thought he was the coolest little car in the world. I kept the head, though. I’m convinced I can find something interesting to do with it.

Got some interesting info on the Covini as well. Turns out that the C6W and the Tyrrell P34 are a lot more connected than I originally knew. The original idea for the C6W was conceived by Ferruccio Covini in 1974, two years before the Tyrrell team would design and build the P34. Like the P34, the 1974 concept for the C6W ran into trouble with the front tires. The designer decided to use ten inch front wheels, just like the P34, because no suitable low profile tires existed at the time, but the project was eventually shelved in favor of another design.

In the 1980s a workable hydro-pneumatic suspension for the four front wheels where devised to optimize weight distribution, but project costs forced the project to be abandoned yet again. The arrival of consumer interest in safety technologies and airbags in the 1990s pointed Covini in the direction of new research into active and passive safety, and once again the project was revived due to the inherent safety of the four front wheel design. What’s so safe about it? Not surprisingly, Covini has a list:

• In case of either front tire deflation or blowout, the vehicle control is guaranteed by the wheel next to it.
• Four front disc brakes provide a greater braking surface, meaning less overheating and a higher braking efficiency.
• Vastly lowered risk of hydroplaning, due to the two foremost front wheels clearing water from the road and allowing the rear front wheels to grip instead of ride on the surface of the water.
• Comfort is improved and need for maintenance is reduced with a four wheel front suspension, which divides shock and jolts from rough roads and potholes between the four front wheels, reducing the shudder and shock that would otherwise be transmitted to the chassis.
• Improved road grip by having twice the normal front tire surface area in contact with the road.
• Directional stability is improved; any change of angle due to slack in the steering mechanism is compensated for by the second set of wheels.

The worries about handling and hydroplaning may seem a bit much, but this car is very lightweight, which increases the need for anti-hydroplaning technology. Especially at the speeds this thing is capable of. Even with the extra set of wheels and the added suspension it takes to use them, the C6W only weighs about ⅔ of what a Ferrari Testarosa does. It’s fast, light, agile, futuristic, and drool inspiring. What else could a Sci-Fi Guy ask for?

This is a video of Patrick Depailler testing the Tyrrell P34 before a race. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know dick about cars or racing, but this is easily the ballsiest display of sheer chest hair having, meat eating, Chuck Norris lumberjack manliness I have seen in a very long time. They’ve taken what appears to be most of the body of the P34 off completely so the camera can see how it works when driven. He’s driving around at full speed on the streets of Monaco, essentially strapped to the fame of a car with a racing engine installed in it, and he’s calmly narrating the whole thing. Your cock is huge, sir. I salute you.

The clip below is driver Jackie Stewart and some random, unintelligible French ’70s hottie talking about the P34. The clip is labeled 1975. Everything I’ve ever read says this car was designed, built, and tested in 1976, but this is a Tyrrell video, so who the fuck knows when it was actually filmed. They may, via the magic of Tyrrell’s time travel technology, actually be filming this as I watch it for all I know. Doesn’t matter; it’s a great clip and the guy seems to know what he’s talking about. Enjoy.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Chris’s tribute to Drag Strip, after these messages!

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