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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hot Wheels Speed Slayer and Solar Eagle III

Automakers are always looking for a way to curb fuel economy and emissions from vehicles, and they do that not only with fancy sports cars but with plenty of testing as well.  One of those examples is land speed record vehicles, as in the Bonneville Salt Flat racer, the Speed Slayer, and the solar-powered endurance racer, the Solar Eagle III from California State University.

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The history of Solar Eagle, leading to the 1st place win

Solar race cars are a very popular contest for colleges and universities across the nation and globe to compete in, gain experience, and possibly show off their talent and engineering to potential clients, especially in the automotive industry.  Solar Eagle was Cal State's program for their solar race car in the 1990's.  The first Solar Eagle ranked 4th place in the GM Sunrayce and the top ten in the World Solar Challenge in 1990.  The second Solar Eagle, Solar Eagle II, ranked third in the 1993 Sunrayce and 13th in the World Solar Challenge, while also setting the fastest lap time in qualifying in the Sunrayce.  Solar Eagle II also gained plenty of sponsors that include: • AB2766 - Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee • Automobile Club of South-ern California • Caltrans • Hewlett-Packard Company • Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) • Los Angeles Department of Water and Power • MacNeal-Schwe-Corporation • NASA Langley: Center • Optical Coating Laboratory, Inc. • Society for the Avancment of Materia Process Engines. (SAMPE) • South Coast Air Quality Management District • Southern California Edison • TRW (Wikipedia).  Solar Eagle II was more structured, has more solar reflective panels, and a lighter weight than the first version by 99 pounds.  This is the only Solar Eagle not on display at Cal State, instead residing at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, CA.

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The third version would prove to be the champion:  Solar Eagle III.  In 1997's Sunrayce the third Solar Eagle placed first place winning the event with an average speed of 43.29 mph.  Weight grew by 67 pounds, but the whole design was revised by going back to the first version with a slimmer shape, especially at the passenger-less rear, solar panels focused at the rear with the driver's compartment at the front, and while the rear has less mass than the front it can use one wheel instead of two.  Somehow that shape caught the eye of El Segundo-based Mattel as Hot Wheels released the Solar Eagle III in 1998.  The first version is an exact replica of the winning race car with a yellow plastic body joining a metal base and a separate black canopy (no interior) and reflective blue for the solar panels at the rear.  The wheels on the base are three small discs borrowed from the Hot Wheels tanks, while the front and sides have the Cal State and Solar Eagle III logos's.  The red version features chrome solar panels and more expressive Cal State and Solar Eagle logo's.  Not shown was a diorama showing the similar First Edition Solar Eagle III along with a few small figures celebrating the victory of Solar Eagle's 1st place finish in 1997.  It's not exciting casting as far as function goes, but it is one cool casting to look at. 

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Slaying the Speed in a different way

I'm not a big fan of fantasy cars, so as you'd expect you wouldn't see any of it on this blog.  Then again some do capture my imagination, the more realistic the better.  This is the case for Speed Slayer: It looks like a real land speed racer for the Salt Flats!  The red body is plastic, though the gold metal base occupies half of the casting.  The front-end has a jet-like look with a central cabin flanked by large vents to feed the dual jet motors, just ahead of an aero spoiler to give it the jet-like look.  The wheelbase, flanked by thin pizza cutter wheels, is stretched to the ends with Speed Slayer graphics on the sides.  The rear has jet-like rear wings and turbine exhaust to give it an aggressive look and to finish off the styling inspirations of a jet.  The roof shows a smooth profile, right down to the smooth canopy showing off the single driver's seat with steering wheel, to the rear vent cover.  Note the logo's on top of the turbine covers: These logo's look real, but are actually Hot Wheels designer's names on logos to give it the realistic look.  Just like the Solar Eagle III, not too exciting at first, but very cool to look at.

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