Justin Wilson CDW Champ Car
Sebastien Bourdais' 2005 Centrix Indy Car
Paul Tracy's 7-11 Indy 500 car
Paul Tracy's Mobil 1 Penske
Alex Zanardi's "last 13 laps" Champ Car
AutoRacing1.com paid a visit to Chapparrel's Diecast
in New Jersey recently to interview Gary Pino, the man behind some of the best
diecast Champ Car models money can buy.
Over the years Chapparrel's has been contracted to build custom diecast Champ Cars
and Indy Cars for some of the biggest players in the sport.
MARK CIPOLLONI: Thanks for taking
the time to talk with us today Gary. First off, how did you get into
making Champ Car diecasts? And why do you do this?
GARY PINO: I started collecting 1/43 diecast cars when my friend
got me into it in the early '90s. My main problem was being a Paul Tracy fan, I
was pissed off my cars all said PENSKE instead of Marlboro, so I decided to fix
MARK CIPOLLONI: So basically you started doing just basic decal
conversions in the beginning?
GARY PINO: Yeah, pretty much. I did decal work for a few years until I
was asked by a friend in Canada to make a 1992 Mobil 1 Tracy first ride in then
CART. I was reluctant to strip and repaint the car. I got through it and really got
a rush after it was done and seen by PT himself.
MARK CIPOLLONI: What was your motivation to take this as far as you have
now 10 years later?
GARY PINO: Look at what is available to Formula 1 and NASCAR fans from
Speedgear now. Champ Car which is now on the rise was really passed over for
years and the fans were getting disgusted with the lack of diecasts in 1/18th
scale. I decided to have Vic Varella make a small website and do some cool work
on the current grids. Then like wildfire, things just took off. I have done cars
for so many drivers, and team members, motorsport marshals, and was privileged
to meet some of the most diehard Champ Car fans around the world in this
MARK CIPOLLONI: Basically tell us what separates you from other
guys who do this hobby?
GARY PINO: Working in a machine shop since 1986, I have been working
with metal and doing fabrications for years before I even got into this. Now
with the complicated Lola chassis Champ Car has, it takes an ample amount of
time to duplicate them. I took painting lessons from professional detailers, and
have been blessed with the best equipment and supplies from being in the auto
business my whole life. PPG has anchored us for 2 solid years now as our sole
paint supplier, and it's tough to beat a PPG detailed diecast.
MARK CIPOLLONI: Who does your artwork for each Champ Car?
GARY PINO: I have had the luxury of having a handful of great artisans
over the last few years laying these complicated paint schemes out for me. I
worked with John Bartos for a few years and we did a lot of awesome projects
together. Things got real insane so now we are just good friends. I have an army
of talented guys who print the best decals in the world. Earl Ma “The Unions”, Indycals, Marksman, Chris Jerina to name a few are talented and make my job
MARK CIPOLLONI: How does this whole process work, and how long does
GARY PINO: Basically to have a custom car done you need to contact a
diecast store like Toronto Motorsports or Speedgear, and get a chassis.
Basically Toronto Motorsports has the widest range of models and they cover
pretty much everything. Then it would be mailed to me and I would get artwork
ready so when PPG is done with the paint match we are ready to roll. It takes a
lot longer than I wish it really would. I do this alone and have to watch my 2
boys all day so it’s difficult to get cars out as quick as I would like. I would
rather make someone wait longer than sacrifice perfection and rush to get a
model out. I have set a standard now of what these hand-builts should look like
and will never sacrifice it. When this happens, I will quit. Champ Car fans
deserve the best of whatever they want so when I am called upon, I don’t like to
MARK CIPOLLONI: What is your best project?
GARY PINO: My most personal project
was a recent one which really touched me and made me realize why I do this. A
personal friend of Alex Zanardi contacted me about doing the 13 laps at
EuroSpeedway Lausitz comeback car for Alex Zanardi, and I really took this project seriously.
I was lucky to get blueprints of the special cockpit made for Alex sent to me and
I actually replicated everything on this car I possibly could. The car is just
sweet and probably will never be replicated the way we did this. Steve Tarrant
(motorsport marshal) whom contacted me, who also is disabled, is close to
Zanardi because they both have similar injuries from racing so the whole story is
a heartfelt one. Honestly, I could have quit the day after I did this and my quest
may have been complete!
That whole month of fabrication was just awesome. I had guys I didn’t even know
e-mailing me pictures of the car helping out. It was quite a team effort and it
shows how again the resolve Champ Car fans really have. I have done cars for
dozens of drivers since 2001, but the Zanardi car stands alone, to me anyway.
We have been fortunate to have fans who love what we do. Gatorz sunglasses whom I
personally back makes the best shades on the planet and I am proud to be
associated with them. To make successful strides you need outstanding sponsors. I
am a big sunglasses freak, and honestly the best I have worn are the Gatorz
(American Chopper design) series. I am also proud to personally back
AutoRacing1.com because I like what they stand for. They do a professional job of
journalism, and for race fans on the go, who has time to read magazines.
In the future I plan on providing fans current grids of Champ Car stars so anyone
can have a car of their favorite driver and most of all special event cars.
Believe it or not a lot of fans want that Toronto Tracy with half of a wing. I
love doing things like that. Check out the feedback on our website
http://www.chapparrelsdiecast.com/ I take
a lot of pride in it so I will always be making a first rate diecasts for as long
as I can.
Vic Varella and I started the petition to save the Grand Prix of Long Beach
for Champ Car and I feel what we did showed a lot of support for our desire to
keep Champ Cars marquee event alive and well. I have and always will support the CCWS because I feel it’s the hardest form of racing in the world. You have to be
multitalented to drive on streets, road courses, short ovals, and superspeedways. Champ Car drivers have to be in top condition to drive these cars and I
feel deserve to be called the best core of drivers the world over. Andretti,
Mears, Foyt and Rahal to name a few, all have major career ties to Champ Car. Some
of the greatest drivers ever drove in the greatest series in the world to be
called the best. That series is Champ Car, CART, etc.
Our series was down, but Champ Car has turned around the entire program in two
years. I have never left them when they were down, and never will. I think
cracking the million mark in attendance is awesome for a series that most IRL fans
said was dead. The last 2 events Champ Car averaged 50,000 fans on Fridays! Not
even NASCAR can do that, so we are on the right track for sure.
MARK CIPOLLONI: I'm sure you have come into contact with many
people inside and outside the sport. What's your opinion on the proposal to
merge with the IRL that was floated for months.
GARY PINO: At this point, it would be good for the entire open wheel
community. The pieces are in place with the new chassis and engine package in
2007, but Tony George would want too much and I doubt if Champ Cars new brain
trust (who have schooled George) the last few years in courts and promotion would
hand over a product that may well be better than F1 in a few years.
Look what George has done to open wheel racing since 1995! I think he is a cancer
to the sport and maybe Champ Car is better off without him. Besides in 24 months
the IRL’s engine package is bleak. Think about this. He has the Andretti, Penske,
Foyt, etc. names in his series and they still are on life support. It says a lot
about George and the way he does things. Right now I kind of like the way things
are. I predict some guys over there jump the fence and come back to Champ Car. If
you’re a team owner or driver, how can you be sure about your future when you see
your engines walking out the door? Drivers today want job security, and it’s really
not there right now for them.
There are a lot of good things on the horizon for Champ Car fans here at Chapparrel's
so stay tuned.
MARK CIPOLLONI: Gary, your work is
perhaps the best we have seen. Thanks for taking time from your busy
schedule to talk to us.
GARY PINO: My pleasure, and thanks
for all you do for Champ Car and racing in general.
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