Maintenance: Sanding rear tires/ Regrip

With one of these old Clutch Poppers, there’s a good chance the rear tires have become quite shiny. This means they will not grip as well to a surface, therefore not travel as well/fast or spin out if going too fast on a shiny surface. There may also be some rubbish embedded in there that it would good to sand out/even out. They are made of pretty hard wearing rubber, and a light sanding can bring them back to full grip.

So take a small piece of sandpaper (120 grit or so) and just hold the rear tire and sand it lightly to rough the surface, slowly moving the tire around around doing a bit at a time until it is all even. Do the same to the other tire. Then as an optional extra you can tape a piece of sandpaper to a bench, spin up the tires to full speed and then slowly lower them onto the paper evenly a few times.

Now the thing with doing this, as well as the other two steps (axles and lube), is that if the motor is still in proper working order, the car may well go very fast if it gets revved up to max speed, and that’s where you’ll see whether you need to address any of the next maintenance steps. This one is one of the main fixes/hacks that will help it stay straight(ish) going very fast on a smooth surface, the other is weight which I’ll do another post about.


Maintenance: Lube around the motor

The next main thing you’re going to want to, after cleaning the axles, is is to get some lube around those axles and potentially (read ‘A bit about the motor’ here, and blog post here) into the motor. You don’t want anything too sticky or oily, I’ve found CRC 556 or CRC Noxy the best, this is because you don’t want anything that’s just going to attract more dirt (you want something that will repel it – CRC does that). Also it is difficult to get to the innards of this motor (unless you drill out the rivet), so you need something very fine that can penetrate through a small crack (again CRC). Once you sprayed a little around the axles – using a straw nozzle attachment, spray a little along the top (again with the straw nozzle), and a little around the flywheel axle joints. Then give it a good rev up a push the clutch flap (that button normally presses) to get the lube moving into the motor and parts.


Maintenance: Cleaning axles, motor (outside)

This is usually the first thing you’ll want to do, and often the main issue that will be stopping the car from functioning properly. After years of abuse a fair bit of gunk can build up where the wheel axle meets the body of the car and the motor. Once you’ve got the body off, and dust cover removed, you’re going to need a very fine screwdriver or tweezers. You’re going to use this to scrape out all the gunk from around the axles, bit by bit until it’s all gone. Don’t think about using water and some kind of brush for this – water and this motor aren’t great together, probably not the end of the world, but you don’t want to get water in there, and you don’t want to blow any of this dust and gunk into there either, so just pick and scrape it away. The front wheels don’t normally have any problem, but check those out while you’re at it.

As far as the motor itself goes, you’ll want to try and clean that down as much as possible without taking it out if you don’t need to. So easiest way to do that is with some cotton buds sprayed with CRC (WD40 will also be ok for that) then just wipe away at it, all around until it’s as clean as you can get it.


Maintenance: Disassembly

Removing the main body from the base

There are two main methods for the common Clutch Popper Chevy models. For both you’ll need a number 10 size star type Allen key or screwdriver. The Chevelle type (bonnet/hood screw) has standard Phillips head screw. You don’t want to do this procedure too many times, as each time you unscrew/re-screw you will be wearing down the thread channel in the plastic.

Chevy Monza & Vega (Red & Blue)

These two both have a ‘turbo’ block piece on the top of the front bonnet/hood, the screw on the underside in the front of the base screws into this block. Unscrew this screw (I find it easiest with an allen key star type), then lift the top off, the two tabs at the back will slip forward out of the base.

There is a plastic dust cover over the motor, remove this for maintenance but it is important not to lose and put put it back on before reassembling. That plastic cover does a very good job keeping dust and crap from getting sucked into the internal gears, which over time would clog it up, slow it down, and be much more difficult to fix.

Follow the listed maintenance steps described here, as with all of the models you’ll want to give everything a good clean while you have the body and parts separate so that you reduce the number of times it gets taken apart.

Chevy Chevelle (Yellow)

This one (and models of this type) has screw (Phillips head) going the other direction, and is in the top of the front bonnet/hood, under the decal, going down into the base. You’ll need to lift the decal to get at it so this one’s a bit more annoying and intrusive. If the car is already pretty beat up (good chance) then it doesn’t really matter that much and you could just lose the bonnet decal (can look really good – see here), if you’re not a fan of that then you’ll just need to be careful.

Once you’ve got that screw out it’s the same as above for the other Chevy types.

Follow the listed maintenance steps as per the other models, as with all of these you’ll want to give everything a good clean while you have the body and parts separate so that you reduce the number of times it gets taken apart.