Recent Finds: Brass Pan Cans
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Cars from AJ Hoyt

This picture and the detailed ones below were recently shared with me by Doug Morris. Doug (as any reader of this site knows) is one of today's top class brass builders WITH a true "vintage" heritage.

I am ever hopeful that Doug will recreate these brass pan can beauties for our collection......


Here is the story: (December 2008)

"Back in the day we were the Flint club and another strong club in the state, maybe the strongest at the time, was the Westland club (suburb of Detroit). One of the racers went by the name of AJ Hoyt and he built some beautiful can motor cars, in fact he was a diehard, he campaigned his can motor cars all of the way through the Brass Wars era. He now lives in Colorado and we have talked through email quite often but he doesn't own a camera and I was never able to get pictures of his cars. Yesterday we had a club race, one of our newer members is an old racer from the Westland club and a good friend of AJ (we are all the same age). Well AJ had some air miles to use so he flew in for our club race! And, he brought 3 of his scratch built beauties (his entire running collection!) AND, he loaned them to me to measure and photograph."

!!!!!!!! More details from AJ Hoyt !!!!!!!!!!!! added February 2009

The cars that you took pictures of (and now are gloriously displayed on the Riggen site) need some additional caption.

The first car has a good description, my best can design car for the local MI HOPRA racing. It should be noted that this car dominated the local CO "Nostalgia Brass Wars" class to the tune of a 10 lap victory in the last race of the series about two years ago - even with the ORIGINAL orange and green Mabuchi (Tyco Pro) magnets still installed. On today's tracks, I imagine about half of that lead could be removed as a good compromise. It still has NO brakes - just gliiiides into the corners. Real fun, brings back many memories!

The second car is derivative of the features that seemed to work on the top car and was my construction. That is the very same car that qualified second to Gary at the Parma Nationals race. Today's tracks are routed tracks so this car runs really well on them.

Credit should be awarded where it is due. The third car was made by the tall dark haired kid in the MAR article photos. The article reminded me that his name is Don Andrews. A couple of weeks before the race, a number of MI racers made the trek to Parma to try out our ideas as it was well understood that our rail cars would not even make a lap on a braided routed "C" track. I made two of the middle example chassis for that trip.

When we got there, all the local hot dogs seemed to have an Andrews chassis. They were available for sale in the counter but were expensive. They were probably worth the money as Andrews' workmanship was stunningly good - I would venture to say the best I have ever seen in HO scratchbuilts anywhere. Not surprisingly, there were none available at the counter when we left

He and I were just two young geeks exploring our scratch-building ideas. He took a liking to my chassis design and we "bonded". He helped me get my guide flag and "fuzzies" working and, with just a little more lead, my car was very, very fast. He was intrigued enough with my chassis design (and I with his) that we exchanged bare chassis before parting.

His was so pretty that I never put it together (plus, mine better suited my driving style and there is a pride element to running your own car) so the Andrews chassis stayed pristine for 30 years until our Brass Wars series here in CO. It, also, runs really well on today's tracks. If there is a way to get that information on the Riggen site, I would like to see Don Andrews get his props.

I didn't recall qualifying second but it doesn't surprise me as my car was very fast at that track. I think most people had tipped me to win the race based on the earlier pace. I recall Don Andrews kept telling me that, trying real hard to "psyche me out". I had raced too many times with Bill Thayer, a master of the psyche-out, to let another teenage kid get under my skin. I think I broke a lead wire or spun a pinion or crown gear late in my Semi and had the lowest total laps from either side so I finished 12th. As I recall, the first four segments demonstrated that I was on pace to easily make the move-up. I think I recall that the totals were higher than anybody - as the saying goes, "The older I get, the faster I was." The second place in qualifying backs up my story because I was getting better with additional laps on the track (as was everyone that was not a "local").

I think the Twinn K nationals (at their factory in Indianapolis) was about a month or two before this race and I had been "scored" second to Tony Porcelli's DOMINANT new Super II (but dominant only in HIS hands as none of the rest of us could drive those things after the production version came out). It seemed a bit unfair that he was racing a car that was not available to the rest of us yet but every car was virtually a hand-tailored scratch-built prototype back then, anyway.

I said "scored" second because I was actually "double counting" and I knew it. Dan Sullivan made his first HOPRA main ever at Twinn K and was the legitimate second place finisher (which was as good as a win because it was Tony's factory effort and then the rest of us). His second place was not the first "loser" but was actually first among us mortals. I offered to give the second place trophy to Dan but he wouldn't accept it - he was just too peeved. (I told him I was keeping the second place prizes, though! I think every entrant got an Oscar the Track Cleaner!) And there was Dan again, in the top 12 at the Parma race!

I'll just bet that most people on that list have collected something of nostalgic value. I would LOVE to see the MAR article about the Twinn K race (or ANY of the MI HOPRA races)! I, for example, still have a very aged article from the Detroit News about our Westland club. It has some great pictures of the whole gang (except Bill Thayer, I think he was at work or something) including John Hart, Rick Gilliam, then "Bogus Bob Haze", Raisin Garrett, Scott Hebron, Bob Lieder, myself and even Big Dean Gainer, all wearing our WHORA red shirts! I have a scanner - I will try to dig it up and put it on the blog site!

I think I even have some old 8mm movies my dad shot at Flint of Steve Brown qualifying in his purple shirt, flipping his hair on each lap at the end of the straight leading onto the "inclined turn" (this was our WHORA "dig" at what the Flint folks called "the Bank").

Keep it in the slot,


Car 1; scratch built,. Note flex in the middle and the 45 degree angle wire on the side of the motor cans, that wire actually supports the entire front half of the car, the pans are then hinged off the front half.

Car 2; scratch built with possible Riggen tongue

Car 3; Riggen base Don Andrews car...

I was at that race (and in the picture) in 1972. A bunch of us from the Westland, MI club (WHORA) went to Parma a few weeks before the race on a "reconnaisance" trip, to experience a routed, banked and braided 8 lane "C" track for ourselves; very different from our "lock and joiner" Aurora tracks on, generally, flat tables. All we had heard was that you needed a guide flag set up with "fuzzies" for pickups.

I built a pair of scratch-build can motor chassis with a guide flags and was planning to let the locals show me what "fuzzies" were when I got there. (They were just solder wick braid "combed" out.)

If memory serves (it is hit and miss), the tall, young fellow in the photo, Don Andrews, was the local HO "hot shoe" at Parma and had a chassis that was winning everything. They sold these chassis from the track showcase but I remember they were more than I wanted to spend (I only had a paper route to support my "habit").

Don was there that day, checking out the notorious WHORA guys, I imagine, and the locals introduced us. I told him how impressed I was with the workmanship (absolutely stellar, the best I have ever seen even to this day) more than the design. We started trading notes. He liked my chassis (one of the two was not "set up" yet) and we swapped chassis on the spot. I revered his chassis so much that I never did build it - besides, it would not likely work anywhere but on a routed track, which were rare at that time. If anyone knows Don, they should tell him how great his work was (is). This car had hinged pans and plumber action in an HO chassis! Cool stuff.

The criticisms I had of his chassis was that it had the front and rear clip taken directly from a Riggen (the same debate goes on today with "kit" cars versus true scratch built cars in the 1/24 Retro racing) and that his main rails were on either side of the can connecting the front to the back. This allowed the motor to be soldered in as a tested unit rather than having to install magnets, arm and endbell pieces "in-sutu" in a completed chassis.

The main rails took about 20% of the available space for a hinged pan, so I always opted to make my chassis with a higher, flexible rail and attach the rear axle bushings to a formed brass bracket soldered onto the back of the can (similar to the Bob Young chassis shown in another thread).

In the race, I qualified second or third, I think, behind Gary Rider and possibly Bill Thayer. My chassis really worked for me on that track. I think I stripped a Cobra crown gear or slipped a pinion or something.

The promoters chose to NOT run two of the lanes (the gutters, I imagine) so my qualification (top three from my side) guaranteed that I would run the Semi Main and that I could not finish lower than 12th - so that's what I did! I remember that the car was lapping as fast as anybody when it ran, so it was a big disappointment to not make the Main.