Revell 1/24 Joe Amato top fuel dragster

Drag racing is not well known in Europe, and I've seen only a few races on Eurosport. Nevertheless I really like top fuel dragsters. When Revell-Germany issued the Joe Amato dragster in Europe in 1994, I bought one. Judging from a review in FSM January 1992 issue, the model was issued in the USA in 1991, and it represents the 1990 car. The Revell-Germany instructions don't mention this, but you can deduce it from the decals which are for car #2, the race number that Amato had in 1990, being the runner-up in the 1989 season.

The model

A review of the contents (in German) shows the starting point of this build. I was impressed by the frame, firstly because of its huge size, secondly because of its nice execution. Assembly seemed a challenge though! The chassis is an Al Swindahl design (aka Chassis Components Inc.), that was used the majority of teams. The engine is nice, typical American model style I would say. The rear tires are pretty bad, made of very thick vinyl in two parts with a nasty seam. The decals were printed nicely, but the decal film has yellowed very badly, directly after the purchase. The chrome plating on my model is flat, chips off easily, and rather looks like paint the way is collects on edges on the parts. Possibly a layer of matt clear was sprayed over the chromed parts? They are better stripped and repainted I think. The FSM reviewer judged the model to be excellent. The only problems that are mentioned are the body's wide panel lines and the two-piece tires.

The model was issued with at least three types of box art in the USA (shown below) with catalog number 7422. I think the Amato version was the only one that issued by Revell-Germany in the old world, with catalog number 07366.


As described below, finding dragster references is not easy here, so I can't comment too much on the model's accuracy. There are two aspects in the accuracy department that worry me. Since the body is rather thick, and a loose fit over the chassis, one of two parts must be considerably off-scale. I guess it's the chassis, and I'm not happy with that, because it's the part I like best! I've been told that some modelers build bodies from brass or aluminum, but in this case it could result in an underscale cross section.

Another issue is whether this is an accurate replica of Amato's dragster, or just a generic dragster (a situation similar to NASCAR models), but I really don't know. A fellow modeler reported that the model is surprisingly fairly accurate, and that cars usually differed in fuel and clutch systems. The model has been issued by Revell-USA nearly twenty times with other decals and a few new parts to represent newer cars. One change that is very visible is that the body has grown some aerodynamic surfaces behind the driver ('kick-outs'). New and much larger front wheels, and new wings are also included. To answer the question of it being a generic representation, I made the following list of all 'modern' 300 inch wheelbase top fuel dragsters issued by Revell-USA. It makes it clear that the Amato and Ormsby kits were the first issues, so it is can be assumed that the kit is mostly based on these two cars. I also wondered whether parts from the previous Revell top fuel dragster from 1987 (Swamp Rat XXX) were recycled, like the engine. But a study of this build report of the Don Garlits Swamp Rat XXX on the MCM forum shows hardly any parts that look like the Amato kit.

Revell code   Issued   Driver/owner Sponsor Season Links
7422 1991 Joe Amato Valvoline 1990
7425 1991 Gary Ormsby Castrol GTX 1989 ARC auto article by Brian Waldorf
7496 1992 Lori John Jolly Rancher 1991?
7497 1992 Tom McEwen Mobil 1 circa 1992
7354 1993 Ed McCulloch (Larry Minor Racing) McDonalds 1993
85-4135 1997 Cory McClenathan McDonalds 1994
85-7612 1997 Mike Dunn / Darrel Gwynn Mopar
85-7616 1997 Scott Kalitta American International 1995 ?
85-7650 1997 Eddie and Ercie Hill Pennzoil 1997
85-7651 1997 Shelly Anderson Havoline / Western Auto Parts America
85-7659 1998 Tony Schumacher Hollywood Video / Blues Brothers 1998 Internet Modeler review by Don Atherton
85-0536 1998 Cristen Powell Royal Purple Sequent 1996 Modeling Madness review by Shawn Payne
85-4142 1998 Hi-Lo O'Reilly Auto Parts 1998 instruction sheet
85-4143 1998 Revell Nationals 1998 instruction sheet
85-7680 2002 Tony Schumacher U.S. Army 2001? Internet Modeler review by Chris Banyai-Riepl
85-4159 19.. Joe Amato Superman
85-7694 19.. Kenny Bernstein Budweiser King 2002 ? Internet Modeler in-box review by Al Superczynski
19.. Doug Herbert Snap-on 1999 ?

I compared the instruction manual of my 1990 Amato kit (Revell-Germany) to the 1998 'Revell Nationals' kit (Revell USA), and found amazingly few differences. They are listed here in building sequence (step numbers are different in the kits, therefore not used).


Gathering references was difficult on the east side of the Atlantic ocean, but here's my list:


The huge frame looked like the biggest challenge, so I started with it. In order to build it as one piece, I had to deviate largely from the building order of the instruction sheet. The front part of the frame is single molding, with the result that the tubes are flat on the inside. I spent a lot of time sanding each tube round, a couple of hours work, but it improved the appearance enormously. The four cross members (one is visible here) were then added using CA as both glue and filler. Note that the frame in the photos is base-coated in a light grey.

Many years later, I learned more about the top fuel dragster chassis here: Mike Kloeber's nitro university - course 1, understanding the chassis. Part two is also very worthwile: Mike Kloeber's nitro university - course 2, the dragster body and aerodynamics. For example it explains why the Amato body has reversed NACA ducts on the sides of the body, just ahead of the cockpit.
The attachment of the roll cage to the front frame part is very difficult except if you use CA glue, which allows one to attach the tubes one by one. Again I used the CA as filler too, and I ended up with a very acceptable fit. The separate part running along the driver's spine, quite warped in my kit, was also quite easy to fit with CA. I should mention that I first tested whether I could fit the seat in the chassis before I attached the roll cage parts.
A modification that may prove to be superfluous is that of the front axle. I planned to close the (too large) cut-out in the body for the front axle, and mount the suspension arms after fitting the body. I cut part 20 in three parts, and used the middle part build the front frame. Its fit was pretty bad, and I also thinned the parts to make them look like an integral part of the frame. I will fit thin steel wire pins the suspension parts later. The frame was a bit 'bulged' in side view around the front axle, but fitting of the front axle helped to reduce it. I had to fiddle some more to make it straight.
The two rear frame parts were first sanded to remove the mold lines. I didn't like the way these parts attached to the front part. It makes the tubes they share very thick, and it spoils the appearance. I sanded these tubes considerably to make them fit in the overall picture. Note that the model's lower tubes have a slight kink at the connection of the front and rear parts. I don't know whether the 1:1 car has the same kink.
The rear of the frame derives a lot of stability from the rear axle fitted between the frame parts, but I didn't want to mount it yet, because of painting issues. I drilled a hole through the axle, then cut it in three parts, and glued the axle ends in the frame. The diff could now be fitted by pushing a steel wire through the parts, and removed for painting. The cross-bracing of the rear wing supports was also added. To my surprise the frame now looked like a pretzel: the rear end was severely twisted. It was easily solved though, but the method could be difficult to explain.

I considered the two frame sides as beams, and checked whether they would need to 'bend' upwards or downwards. The 'bending' was achieved by cutting either the top or lower tube, and putting a shim between it. Using this method I unwinded the chassis in one attempt. It was not the end of the story though, since the rear axle didn't sit square. I added 0.5 mm shims in both upper and lower tubes on one side (don't remember which side), which solved the problem. Place these shims as far backwards as possible, to avoid building a frame that is slightly kinked in plan view.
The engine was assembled to a point where it could serve to check its fit and alignment in the chassis. This meant gluing the block halves together and adding the front mounting plate (parts 42, 43 and 44). I then tuned the fit of the engine supports so the engine sat right. The forward mounting holes in the frame were moved a little to establish a stress-free fit, and the rear holes were filled completely. The reverse gear box was a little strange: the details molded in the left hand half were not copied on the right hand side. I added these using plastic strip and putty.

I learned later the engine position is not fixed: it's variable position is one of the tuning possibilities of the car.
The model was then stored in a drawer for a while, and one miserable day it got mangled while closing the drawer. The chassis lay in three pieces.. I repaired the breaks with thin steel wire inserts and glue. The whole frame was then painted light grey, because the white plastic made judgment of the repairs difficult. The result was very pleasing: it really looked like a steel-tube frame built from round tubing, with welds showing in places. Next step is painting it steel color.
On of my main doubts about the accuracy of this model was the loose fit of the Revell body molding. My doubts were fueled when I read a comment on the MCM forum that these Revell models look 'clunky'. But I did not know for a long time how to approach this question. The answer came when I was redrawing the decals, realising that I could make a paper or cardboard replica of the body, and then make smaller variants. Shown here, from left to right, the Revell body, the direct cardboard copy, and a copy that is 2 mm narrower and 1 mm lower. The latter fits fairly snugly around the frame.
Even in the front view I find it difficult to see the difference near the cockpit area, but the noses look different. Therefore I think the visual effect of a smaller body will be minimal.
Does this look less clunky? I think so, and I will probably build a new body for my model. I will most likely cut out some panels of the body to show the internals. The panels are fitted to the frame with some kind of quick-release fasteners, that are available as photo-etched parts from Scale Motorsports, Replicas & Miniatures Company and Detail Master.

MCW and/or BSR reportedly have a Valvoline blue in their paint lines.

Engine details

YouTube video What goes into rebuilding an 11,000-hp Top Fuel dragster engine? taught me a lot about engine details in general.

Aftermarket parts

Being an ocean away from the dragster modeling scene, my knowledge of aftermarket parts is rather limited. My modeling friend Eric bought replacement rear tires from SoReal in the USA (no longer in production I have heard). They are very nice and thin, and a huge improvement over the Revell tires. I had also read about resin tires with wrinkles in them, possibly Replicas & Miniatures Company or by MicroNitro, but these do not apply to a nineties dragster, only seventies dragsters had tires that wrinkled while at rest. American Satco also makes or made TF dragster tires (#10016).

Alfredo Stoca from Italy sent me the following links for dragster aftermarket parts:


Jim also found a Slixx decal sheet for my Amato car (catalog numbers JATF / 1084), which look 10 times better than the Revell decals. I really like details such as the blower belt decal! A big problem is that the instructions don't mention the year. Judging from the name of crew chief Jimmy Prock (who took over from Tim Richards mid 1993) on the decals, the car is likely from 1994 and/or 1995. The 1994-1995 season car ran with the taller (motorcycle) front tires instead of the small (aircraft) tires, probably with eight-hole wheels. The car also had the wings on the rear side of the body ('kick-outs' or 'elephant ears' as I used to call them). Information courtesy of Guy Beaudette.



I have some questions regarding this model. If you know some answers to the following questions, please drop me a message!

  1. Are there any references for this car, or for early nineties dragsters in general?

  2. Is this a generic dragster model, or an accurate replica of Joe Amato's car? Was this model perhaps the first of the series?

  3. Does Slixx have decals for other early nineties top fuel dragster, that I could use without the need to find larger front wheels and possibly extra parts (wings, body)? I really like the steel-colored chassis, so I prefer a car with a similarly finished chassis. Perhaps the Gary Ormsby Castrol car? I created a table of the Slixx decals for nineties Top Fuel cars that I found so far.

Slixx code Driver/owner Sponsor Season
1024/LVTF Darrell Gwynn (driven by Mike Dunn)   Winnebago / La Victoria 1994
1039/TJTF Tommy Johnson Mopar Xpress 1994
1042/PATF Pat Austin Castrol Syntec 1993 or 1994
1044/CMTF Cory Mc Clenathan Mac Attack 1992/93
1049/SKTF Scott Kalitta 1994
1050/SATF Shelly Anderson Slick 50 1994
1084/JATF Joe Amato Valvoline 1994 or 1995 ?
1193/KTF Joe Amato Keystone 1996
1194/DGTF Darrell Gwynn Mopar 1996
1269/GSTF Gene Snow Mopar early 90's
1274/SMTF1 Shirley Muldowney 1977/78/92
1277/97KTF Joe Amato Keystone 1997
1368/TTF Joe Amato Tenneco 1998
1421/TSTF Tony Schumacher Exide Batteries   1999
1446/99EHTF   Eddie Hill Penzoil 1999
1603/TSTF2 Tony Schumacher Exide (formerly listed as US Army) 2000
7026/JATF2 Joe Amato (driven by Morgan Lucas) Lucas Oil ?
7043/... Cory McClenethan Fram Air Hog ?
7063/... Melanie Troxel Skull Gear ?
7064/KBTF Hillary Will KB Racing ?
7071/... Tony Schumacher US Army 2007
7073/... David Bacca Matco Tools ?
7078/... Cory McClenethan Fram ?
7101/... Melanie Troxel POW/MIA ?


I finally found a few inspirational builds that show how to detail a top fuel dragster model:


A few top fuel dragster modeling links:

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