Wednesday, 2 July 2014

REVIEW: Scaleauto BMW Z4 Super GT

Scaleauto BMW E89 Z4 GT3
SC-6028 - 'Studie AG', GT300 JGTC 2011 winner

"Don’t give up, Tohoku"
(Referring to the largest island off Japan, Honshu which was hard hit by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake, 11 March 2011.)


The 'Studie AG' BMW Z4 is a GT car that competed in the 2011 (18th) season of the Japan Automobile Federation Super GT Championship in the GT300 class.  The 2011 season consisted of 8 rounds at  historic circuits such as Fuji Raceway and the Suzuka Circuit.  The Studie AG team won the GT300 class with a total of 87 points after winning 3 rounds at Sepang, Fuji and Motegi.

This from BMW Blog: 'Studie is a Japanese tuning company of BMW and a Super GT racing team which participates in GT300 class. The team originally planned to participate as AS Studie Racing in 2010 season. But as one of their main partner Advance Step moved to the Super Taikyu series with Team Kyosho, they did not participate that season while their main sponsor Goodsmile Company moved to Porsche’s works team COX Japan that season.

However, after the end of 2010 season, they decided to return to the series as GSR and Studie. For the 2011 Super GT, the team is running with a BMW E89 Z4 GT3. In their first race at Fuji, the team scored a fifth place.'

What makes the Studie Z4 so eye catching is the striking and original race livery wish features the Japanese character Hatsune Miku.

A little background on Miku from Wikipedia: 'Hatsune Miku (初音ミク?), sometimes referred to as Miku Hatsune, is a humanoid persona voiced by a singing synthesizer application developed by Crypton Future Media, headquartered in Sapporo city.  She uses Yamaha Corporation's Vocaloid 2 and Vocaloid 3 singing synthesizing technologies.'

This from 'Euro Tuner': 'The company bought a BMW Z4 from Schubert Motorsport in Germany – the same company that builds the BMW factory endurance racers. The E89 Z4 was originally built to FIA GT3 standards and won the 24-hour GT3 race at Dubai last year. The car is powered by a 4.4L V8 from the limited edition E92 M3 GTS.

It develops about 460hp, but with the lubrication system changed to a dry sump system it has allowed the engine to develop about 500hp. Entered in the GT300 class, the team had to install an intake restrictor on this car that limits overall power to about 300hp.

With the car weighing 1150kg (2535 lb), the team’s two drivers have plenty of performance available to them.  The car is driven by Nobuteru Taniguchi, who is widely regarded as one of the top race drivers in Japan. He shares the car with Taku Banba, a young driver who is showing great potential for the future.'

The above Youtube video shows the Studie AG Z4 in the pits during some testing, some great footage of the team's pit box and the Z4.


You'll appreciate that Scaleauto have developed their own bespoke packaging which constitutes a plastic base with a cardboard high-gloss backing and base covering.  As you can see from the below photo, the packaging not to dissimilar to most slot car packaging. This is however the second iteration of Scaleauto packaging which shows that  they have been listening to the slot car community.

The original cardboard based packaging worked ok but had some annoying elements which have been corrected with this update - good work Scaleauto. The new packaging is a little bit smaller and more robust which you will be happy to hear. As you would expect, Scaleauto boxes can be easily stacked if you're lucky enough to have several in your collection.

The car is secured in place via 2 screws through the base and into the chassis ensuring the slot will not come away from the base during transit or handling. If you've ever experienced what I term a 'slot car milkshake', (where a slot comes away from its base during transit) you'll appreciate these screws which are pretty standard with most manufactures.

The clear lid is secured to the base via a snug fit to the base and 2 Scaleauto "Original Product" branded stickers. A nice feature for collectors which indicate if the box has ever been opened. One thing I'm very happy that Scaleauto kept from the older packaging is the raised platform in the centre of the base which keeps the slot's rubber from touching the packaging.


The following BMW Z4 specifications from Scaleauto:
  • Chassis is RT3 (medium wheel base)
  • Motor mount: Side-winder
  • Motor: SC-08b 'TECH1' Short-Can (20K)
  • Pinion/Gear ratio: 12z/32z (aluminium and nylon)
  • Floating motor-pod (4 point adjustment)
  • SC-1620 sprung guide
  • Front Rims: 17.5mm plastic hub
  • Rear Rims: 17.5mm aluminium hub
  • Height adjustable front axle
  • Calibrated axles
  • Bar magnet fitted (above rear axle)
  • Spare parts; front splitter, rear tail, 4 screws.
A change we have seen in Z4 standard kit is the inclusion of a sprung guide (SC-1620).  The older Z4s (SC-6018, Liqui Moly) came without a sprung guide and if you place one of these on a setup plate, you can see that the guide sits slightly (1-2mm) out of the rail.  The move to the Sprung glide corrects this situation and now the guide sits deeply into the rail.

The RT3 chassis fitted to the Z4, (in medium wheel base configuration) comes with numerous upgrade options such as lightweight interiors, sponge wheels and even a carbon fibre rear wing!  You can find more details about these upgrade options on the Scaleauto web site here.


I've said it before and I'll say it again, we will never have enough funds to buy all the slot cars we would like and unfortunately there are times we are forced to let one or two slip through the collection.  This section of my review concerns itself with the value a slot car marque represents as a way of helping with the dilemma of, ‘Should I really get this slot?’

From a straight comparison perspective, Scaleauto slots are a little more expensive than your average slot release, say a Scalextric, Flyslot,, SRC or a standard Ninco but they are cheaper than Black Arrow or NSR.  Scaleauto are more comparable with a 'Lightening' Ninco, MR Slotcar or Cartrix and when compared with these manufactures, Scaleauto represents solid enough value for your slotting dollar. 

While not the cheapest slot car on the market, Scaleauto are far from the most expensive and as you can see from the above photos, engineering levels are what you would expect from a release in the Scaleauto price range.

Another thing worth taking into account is the highly desirable models Scaleauto has been smart enough to release; Pagani Zonda, Honda HSV, Spyker C8, DeTomaso Pantera, Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 - some great slot cars you NEED to run on your track.


As we've come to expect from Scaleauto releases, finish and detail levels on the Z4 are excellent.  Paint finish, decals (wow the decals!) and level of detail such as front and rear grill meshing, front fender winglets, flexible aerials, bonnet intakes, double deck rear wing constructed, tow hooks, rear splitter and exhaust and those wheels, man they look awesome!

Personally for my taste, slot cars don't get much better looking than the Studie AG BMW Z4.

In terms of capturing the shape and look of the Z4, Scaleauto have done an excellent job.   That low, long nose and wide stance with flared wheel arches make the Z4 look awesome and even the most scale-orientated slot fan will be very happy.

The rear-end detail looks spot on, of particular note is the rear tail assembly (with double deck construction) which is mounted from the rear bumper - it reminds me of the HSV we reviewed in November last year.  The twin exhausts, grill meshing, tail lights and central break light, detailed rear splitter, BMW emblem and tow hook are all present.

On the topic of the rear wing mounting, while it looks robust enough but I don't think it would survive a heavy shunt to the rear.  Scaleauto have been good enough to include a spare rear wing although it will require painting and decals.  Unfortunately the spare rear wing looks as if it needs to be mounted on the rear boot meaning that it would be necessary to cut 2 small holes (or slits) into the body of the car.

I had always liked the look of the Z4, even as a street car it has a unique 'classic' shape and quality about it (it reminds me a little of the E-Type Jaguar). Scaleauto's offering is equally stunning in appearance and looks just fantastic running around the track.

I'm very happy to report that the side rear vision mirror do NOT protrude from the slot, in fact you can sit the Z4 completely on its side without the mirrors touching the track.  There's nothing worse than loosing a rear view mirror on the first running of your new slot.  I also appreciate the detail that Scaleauto have gone to with these little mirrors, they have 2 small mounting posts just as the 1:1 car does.

Although the mirrors are pretty safe, I would still like to see these mirrors made out of rubber rather than the hardened plastic.  Something I think all slot car manufactures should be including as a standard feature these days.

The front end detail is also high including lower fender grilling (which is a fine black meshing also used at the rear), front fender winglets, bonnet intakes, (cut through the body moulding)  tow hook, detailed front lights with indicators, BMW emblem, windscreen wipers and front splitter (a spare is also included).

Interestingly, the front fender winglets were not used on the Studie AG car (see very top photos) but I like to look of them so I think only the purists will take issue here.  I would have however liked to see the chrome body work that the Z4 has over the front central grill and front lights (almost eyelash like in appearance).  Interestingly, this detail is present on the 1/24 Scaleauto offering.

I know I go on about lighting too much but I wish more slot can manufactures would follow Scalextrics and Carrera's lead on lighting inclusion.  My son has almost 2 slot cars in his collection and the large proportion of them are Scalextric or Carrera due to this very reason.  There is however adequate room to include a lighting kit if you decide to do so.

A flexible roof aerial is present on the roof and side detail includes refuelling port and the stylish side body winglets (high just behind the front wheels).
  Driver and internal detail (dash, roll-bars, steering wheel, fire extinguisher, etc.) are all present as you would expect.  I'm always impressed with light-weight interiors and the Z4 has just that.  As with some other high-end manufactures, the bottom half of the driver figure is actually hollow reducing weight, (see below photo).  A light weight interior is also available if you wish to reduce weight and COG even more.

The driver's helmet, racing overalls and gloves have been painted white showing very little detail other than the driver's racing harness (red).  While not a huge issue, I would like to see Scaleauto raise the bar in this department as this detail level is unfortunately not on the same par as the rest of the offering which is a shame.

As you can see from the above photo, the wheels inserts look great on the car and are an accurate representation.  Included are also drilled brake disc and calliper detail with the inclusion of Yokohama sponsorship on the rubber.  In short, the wheels on the Z4 look wicked!

Although there are a few small omissions, (and additions) the Z4 is a very well presented slot car that you couldn't help but be very impressed with it in terms of detail and accuracy, well done Scaleauto.


As previously discussed, the 7mm deep red guide is sprung which works very well on my Carrera plastic track.   The guide has a high degree of movement and rotates freely (with approximately 160 degree of rotation) in the chassis returning to a central position which allowing the slot to corner well.

I know sprung guides aren't everyone's cup of tea, but in my opinion this is an improvement on earlier Scaleauto Z4 releases that had non-sprung guides.  If you wish, removal of the spring is simple enough.

From a purely aesthetic perspective, the guide is set at a good height for the front of the slot, the front splitter sits 2.1 to 2.2mm from the track and the slot sits realistically on the track.

The RT3 chassis comes setup standard with a strong bar magnet place directly below the rear axle.  I have discussed the RT3 chassis before and for my purposes and on my Carrera track, I find the supplied bar magnet too strong.  My layout does have some sections of vertical elevation which can result in the Z4 to getting stuck at times (particularly going up inclines) due to the strength of the magnet.

The RT3 chassis does allow you to swap this bar magnet for a smaller button magnet approximately half way along the chassis (on the floating motor pod).  If you have a flat track or intend to run the Z4 in non-magnetic trim, then this will not present an issue for you. I installed a 5mm Ninco button magnet in my Z4 but if you want even less downforce, then try a 2mm Scalextric button type magnet.

Similar to the Scaleauto Spyker C8 (which also runs the RT3 chassis) I reviewed last month, my only comment would be that in 'from-the-box' setup, the rear down-force causes the Z4 to be too 'stuck' to the track removing some of the pleasure and skill required to drive the slot.

The Z4 is very fast but a little too predictable to in driving dynamics.  As with the Skyker, removing or replacing the bar magnet with a smaller button magnet does reduces lap times but results in a slot car that is far more enjoyable to drive on the track.  As with all Scaleauto releases that come with the RT3 chassis, it's a choice of speed vs. driving sensation.   To me, the Z4 is a far more enjoyable slot car to drive with less magnetic downforce.

The front axle is height adjustable via 2 small Allen screws which are accessible from underneath the chassis, a small thing but this means you don't have to remove the body to adjust the ride height.

As with most slots that come with an height adjustable front axle, you'll need to set the front axle height to suit your track and taste.  From-the-box the front wheel grub screws are screwed fully in resulting in the front wheels not touching the track.  Once adjusted, the front wheels sit nicely on the track, turning as the slot runs on the track.  There is plenty of vertical play in the front axle so the front wheels don't interrupt the front guide resulting in potential despots.

The Z4 RT3 chassis comes setup standard in a side-winder motor pod configuration with Scaleauto's SC-08b 'short-can' 20,000rpm motor and in my opinion, this is a great motor/gear configuration.  The SC-08b is powerful enough (particularly with button magnet installed) on long straights without being ridiculous for home track purposes, meaning that the Z4 is well suited to most home tracks. 

For more specific information on the track used in this review please have a look at my track layout here.  

In terms of gearing, the nylon pinion is 12 tooth and the spur gear is 32 tooth.  The short-can motor is secured (fixed with a pair of small screws) well in the motor pod resulting in zero motor rotation under power.

The weight distribution of the slot is impressive, the upper body is light at 19.3 grams and although there are lighter offering out there, but probably not with this much detail and accuracy unless it's a or NSR offering.  The entire slots weight (chassis + body) is 76.9 grams.  By comparison, a contemporary Porsche 956C weighs 78.7 grams.

The body is held on with 2 long screws, an interesting feature of all Scaleauto bodies is that there are 2 metal knobs (see above photo) attached to the ends of the body mounting posts.  These metal knobs allow the body to freely pivot on the chassis, plastic tends to stick to other plastic preventing free movement so Scaleauto have addressed this issue in a clever way.

As an aside, you might want to super glue these knobs to the body mounting posts as they tend to fall off every time you remove the body from the chassis.  I don't think glueing the knobs to the body reduces the pivoting effect in anyway.  Once glued, I loosened the chassis screws and the motor pod screws a full turn and chassis works beautifully, allowing the body to pivot freely.

The Z4 performed impressively straight from the box, something I tend to take for granted these days.  It wasn't that many years ago you would be almost shedding a tears with some manufactures FTB performance.

That being said, I did the following adjustments to my Z4 after a few quick evaluation laps;
  • Loosen (1 turn) both body mount screws,
  • Check front axle for vertical freedom of movement,
  • Adjust front axle height so rubber just touching track,
  • Loosen (1 turn) all 4 pivoting motor pod screws,
  • Swap out standard bar magnet for 5mm, Ninco button magnet,
  • Check rear axle for rotation and lateral movement, adjust as necessary,
  • And of course, always lubricate gearing.
From the box, the front axle on my Z4 was a little tight, the hubs had been put on a little too tight resulting in the front wheels not turning freely and acting as anchors in some corners.  I easy adjusted this by hand ensuring the wheels had enough lateral play to move freely.

The standard rear rubber is soft enough giving a solid level of grip on my Carrera plastic track surface.  If you're after a casual racer, then you'll be happy with this rubber.  However, if you want the best performance possible then you'll want to upgrade.

So time to hit the track...  It's no big surprise that any slot body mounted on the RT3 chassis will be a quick straight from the box.  While all slot that run a RT3 perform well, they also all have to much magnetic downforce making them too predictable to drive.

That being said, there is a very easy fix that make the RT3 a vastly superior slot car chassis on the track - downgrade or remove the magnet.  Downgrading the magnet to a central button magnet turns the Z4 into a far more enjoyable slot car to drive performing well through corners, the tail end occasionally stepping out a little in a slightly sideways slide. :) 

The front and rear axles comes complete with brass spacers which is a nice touch, the Z4 rear end had the perfect amount of play or lateral movement, (i.e. less than 1mm).  I've spoken before about how close the rear axle is to the motor housing wrapper on the RT3 chassis so make sure you check this on yours.  If you find an issue, remove the motor wrapper which will give the axle a little more room.

While we are talking about the motor, it's great to see that Scaleauto have removed the non pinion end of the drive shaft which protrudes as much as 10mm on some of my earlier Scaleauto models.  This makes it much earlier to upgrade the rear rubber if so desired, nice work.

The Z4 is a bit of a rocket ship straight from the box lapping consistently in the low 6 second range, best lap time was 6.23 seconds making it a very competitive runner.  With the bar magnet removed and 5mm Ninco button magnet installed, lap times did drop the best part of a second.  Worth it?  Absolutely, the Z4 became more of a challenge to drive and behaved beautifully on the track.

Note: I should point out that removing the bar magnet is not the quickest operation.  Remove the body, rear axle, motor and finally the 2 grub screws that hold the magnet in position.

For the next iteration of the RT3 chassis, I would like to see the inclusion of a 2nd bar magnet position, perhaps where the button mag position is which would only mean updating the floating motor pod.  If not then perhaps the inclusion of a button magnet coming standard with the RT3 chassis (like the old LE Scalextric Sport released used to do).

In terms on non-magnetic performance, this slot is enjoyable to drive on the track but benefits from a rubber upgrade in terms of overall lap times.  I also added a little bit of weight up front which seemed to help keep the nose down (even with the sprung guide) and well slotted when I pushed too hard through the corners.

What I really like about the RT3 chassis setup is the configuration options for different slot driving styles.  If you want a rocket ship, then you'll be happy.  If you're after a higher level of connection to how the slot handles, then you'll you can have that as well - the choice is yours.  Worth pointing out is that the required skill level to get the most out of the Z4 is medium to high, this is not the slot cars for your 7 year old son (or daughter).

So does ManicSlots recommend Scaleauto's Studie AG BMW Z4?   Hell yeah!  The BMW Z4 is as impressive on the track as it is stunning to look at, especially in the Studie AG livery.  Detail levels, model accuracy, paint and decal finish are top shelf as are engineering, configurability and on track performance.  If you have the means to get your hands on a Studie AG liveried Z4, I strongly recommend you do so, apart from being a great runner, the livery is bound to be very popular.
  • Sex Appeal: 7th gear
  • Collectability: 6th gear
  • Build Quality: 6th gear
  • Attention to Detail: 6th gear
  • 'RTR' Performance: 6th gear
Overall ManicSlots' Score: 6.2 Gears.

For more photos of Scaleauto's BMW Z4, head over to the Scaleauto website by clicking the below link.

Scaleauto Slot Cars

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