HO Brass Wars: Long Time Racer, current OLD SCHOOL Master Builder
            .....Doug Morris

(back to riggenho.com)

If you are reading this far in, you may already be aware of the contemporary AFX and other Brass based repro HO scale artworks built by Doug with vintage parts and hand cut brass....Here are some of his recollections of the era, and examples of his current builds--based upon what was ACTUALLY raced back in the day....

These excerpts are as told by DM to RB 3/2005……

"…Really what the order was this: T-jets with screw on pans, then the Tyco Pro (full history here..) came along and provided great gears and a great motor for the scratch built cars, especially when Tyco came out with the hop up kit with different gear ratios. Aurora then came out with the Tuff Ones to counter the Tyco Pro but it was just to buy time until they could get the A/FX to market. Then Riggen came out, basically a production version of a scratch built can car. Dynamic made their angle winder and Cobramite took their stab at a brass car. I bought and raced Riggens pretty much stock up until the A/FX pan car was developed. A few guys in the club, me included, took Riggen cars and replaced the flag with a brass piece and did pickups out of the .003 bronze similar to the later A/FX pan cars. We were also replacing the shaker plate with a hinged one with pin tubes almost identical to the ones later fabricated on the A/FX pan car. We raced Riggens for about a year and then pan cars for about 3 years until they figured out we didn't need the pans...."

The story continues...
".....Then the A/FX came out and once a pan was mated to it then it was the car of choice. It was the magnets all along that made it better, they had pull on the rails, just enough to make them better. Remember, the T-Jet lock and joiner track had massive rails compared to today’s Tomy and Tyco track. Then Aurora decided to make a pan car and after marketing and production engineering got done with the design it was the Super II, a lousy car that cost a lot. The only good parts that came out of the Super II was the running gear, you know, motor, magnets, 19 tooth crown and motor brushes and springs. One little note that a lot of people don't know, before the Super II came out we used Riggen and Tyco Pro 19 tooth crown gears in our pan cars, … The Tyco gear was more rounded, the Riggen more square, I also always thought the Riggen one was a little softer and less apt to break when installing on an axle.

Once it was determined that magnets were the way to go Aurora made the A/FX into the Magnatraction and HOPRA passed a rule that the only magnets allowed on the car were the magnets to power the motor. Then the pans slowly got smaller and finally disappeared so that by 1975 the car of choice at a HOPRA was a Magnatraction with bronze wipers and steel stepped down shims on the magnets. Even when Aurora came out with the G+, which was better than the Magnatraction in stock form, the modified Magnatraction was still better than the G+ for racing.

“I met Gary (Beedle) at the first HOPRA Nationals in 75 in Kansas City, won by Steve Brown. Tom Coyne raced in our club and most of the R&D work was actually done by a guy named Dave Livesay. I remember Marty (Thalison), always got my bronze from him, wish I could find it now. I also raced, or should I say got beat by Randy Kemp a few times. Randy Kemp was wheel chair bound also but he had full use of his upper body and could build cars, obviously wind arms and was a real good driver. The first time I ever saw a "magnet car" was in Elwood Indiana, Randy and his gang had them, they were just pan cars with toy magnets glued on. Most of them burned up, pulling the weight of pans and magnets but Randy won.

I really can't say for sure what part in that Marty (Thalison---Bronzeman) would have played, I don't know if you had ever met him but he was in a wheel chair and had very limited use of his hands. He must have wrote the text for Tom. He raced but he had to hold the controller up against his chest between his palms to operate it.

It's amazing how dumb we were when I look back. I mean we were all running pan cars and there was a HOPRA in Parma Ohio, the track was an 8 lane routed track built exactly like a 1/24th track, right down to the braid. We only ran six lanes because all we had were 6 lane race sheets. Gary Rider out of Muskegon Michigan won it with an almost stock Riggen, the pan cars simply would not stay on the flat corners, the reason was simple, there were no steel rails. Then an old guy in the club, Russ Beal, he's not with us anymore, made a lowered magnet car (magnets sitting on the pan) that just out ran everyone and we thought it was because with those big heavy magnets lower in the car it further lowered the center of gravity. I mean magnets and steel rails were staring us right in the eye all along and we just didn't get it. "

…. I raced Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan HOPRA and once even went to a Kentucky HOPRA race, just to do it and the 75 Nats. Yes, after Russ lowered the magnets, the next step was to cut down the bottom of the chassis even further, cut the brush tubes down, cut the brushes and springs in half, even cut some off the end of the arm a little, difficult to get it working good.

The TCP brush tubes are far superior to the Super II ones, they are more square in the bottom corner and the springs set better. Speaking of springs, we used to use Faller springs and brushes. In order to do any of the cars with lowered magnets brush tubes are a must because the stock brush springs have to be removed.

The TCP quality control wasn't really that great, after the pans are drilled and tapped it looks like they were run across a very coarse file to somewhat flatten the bumps caused by the tap and knock the burr off the edges. Also the pan is not always symmetrical, like his guide for the holes or the die was off a little, and the front wheel cutouts are not always centered on the AFX axle hole front to back. The front ends that are soldered up on his pans are terrible quality, I mean the axle stub is positioned correctly but the actual pieces are cut off really crude. … But you know it's just like old cars, say my Corvair for instance, the fit of the hood, doors and deck lid are terrible, but the truth is it was a cheap car coming down an assembly line and when I go to a Corvair show 98% of them are just like it. The other 2% are over restored and although they look great they don't necessarily reflect the way they actually were.

I don't know about the Cigar Box wheels then being anodized, maybe that's what TCP fronts were, Tom was a clever guy, the hubs are basically a T-Jet hub with a flange. It would have been a good idea, the Cigar Box was a huge flop, wheels may have been plentiful and cheap.

The biggest deal with these cars was getting them to run smooth, as was the same with the Riggen and scratch built can cars. … we were running threaded axles which are probably not the most accurate, I assume that was why they were eventually abandoned in 24th and HO. Tom would true the tires and then we would true them on the car and once you get the car to run smooth don't change the tires until they are wore out. A little trick I remember, and this applies to all of the non magnet cars, if you are running threaded and the car has a little hop, eyeball the tire real close while slowly turning it, if it's a little out of round then it sometimes can be adjusted by threading the tire out a 1/4 or 1/2 turn and tightening down the jam nut there . Riggen was way ahead of everybody with the set screw tires, I'm sure they were more accurate, I always ran TCP because it was a wider tire and Tom would put new sponge on them for 50 cents. Plus, I could never afford the 5.00 Riggen with the set screw tires, I always bought the 4.00 one with the push on tires. I never even knew that Riggen made kits until I saw them on Ebay…

… the only bodies we ever had access to were the Parma and Thayer. Bill Thayer was a member of the Westland club, near Detroit, so of course he was at all the Michigan HOPRA races and always had bodies to sell."

(from left to right.....car 3, car 4, car 7 more details in the links below..)

car 1--TCP Brass pro pan 1-A
car 2--TCP Steel Open Class Pan
car 3--TCP Brass Super Pro Pan .025
car 4--as above
car 5 and 6--Built exactly as directed from the TCP Pro kits
car 7--"Lowered Magnets" car
car 8--Anglewinder

car 15--Feb 2009

Prompted by Gary Rider's recollections.........here are some Doug Morris Ultralights...


December 2008, Recent Finds....Brass Pan Cans: Full Story here.... Cars and commentary from AJ Hoyt!

Build Example: "Reinforced" Riggen Style

Below is a copy of a Riggen like what you are talking about. I remember some guys using a plastic block instead of the brass. I only wish my building skills would have been this good back then! The piano wire idea is in force on one of my last TCP Afx pan cars, except in brass, evidently the width rule had changed.