1:72 Chardiv Laboratory of High-Speed Automobiles ChADI 9-II „скорость“ experimental high speed/land speed record vehicle (final form); Lake Baskunchak (Soviet Union), August 1989 (Whif/kitbashing)

Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!

Some background:
The Soviet Laboratory of High-Speed Automobiles (LSA ChADI, today the Chardiv National Automobile and Highway University) was founded in 1953. One of the laboratory’s founders was Vladimir Nikitin, a famous racer not only inside the Soviet Union but also around the world. The main purpose of Vladimir Nikitin’s of was to build the fastest car in the world. This idea of creating race cars became the purpose of the laboratory and has been continued by students of Nikitin throughout the years, with research and prototypes in various fields of car propulsion.

The first car created in LSA by students was ChADI 2 in 1961. The body of the car was made of fiberglass, the first time that this material was used for a car body in the Soviet Union. This technology was improved and later used in mass-produced cars. Another famous LSA car was ChADI 7. To create it, Nikitin and his students used airplane wing elements as car body material and used the engine from a helicopter to power it. The highest speed of ChADI 7 – 400 kilometers per hour – was recorded on an airport runway near Chardiv in 1968, and it was at that time the fastest car in the Soviet Union, setting the national land speed record.

After this successful vehicle, Vladimir Nikitin started a new, even more ambitious project: a speed record car with the jet engine from a high performance airplane! The name of this project was ChADI 9, and it was ambitious. This time Nikitin and his team used a Tumansky RD-9 turbojet engine with a dry thrust of 25.5 kN (5,730 lbf), the same engine that powered the supersonic Mikoyan-Gurewich MiG-19 fighter plane. He expected that this needle-shaped car would be able to break the absolute land speed record, which meant supersonic speed at level zero of almost 1.200 kilometers an hour. The car was finished in 1981, but unfortunately ChADI 9 never participated in any race and no official top speed result was ever recorded. This had initially a very practical reason: in the 1980’s there were simply no tires in the USSR that could be safely used at the expected speeds in excess of 400 km/h, and there was furthermore no track long enough for a serious test drive in the Soviet Union! In consequence, ChADI 9 had to be tested on the runway of a military airport in the proximity of Chardiv, outfitted with wheels and tires from a MiG-19, but these were not ideal for prolonged high speeds. Film footage from these tests later appeared in a 1983 movie called “IgLa”.
The Automotive Federation of the United States even invited ChADI 9 to participate in an official record race in the USA, but this did not happen either, this time for political reasons. Nevertheless, the main contribution of this car was gathering experience with powerful jet engines and their operations in a ground vehicle, as well as experience with car systems that could withstand and operate at the expected high levels of speed, and the vehicle was frequently tested until it was destroyed in high speed tests in 1988 (see below).

ChADI 9 was not the end of Nikitin’s strife for speed (and the prestige associated with it). The know-how that the design team had gathered in the first years of testing ChADI 9 were subsequentially integrated into the LSA’s ultimate proposal not only to break the national, but also the absolute land speed record: with a new vehicle dubbed ChADI 9-II. This car was a completely new design, and its name was deliberately chosen in order to secure project budgets – it was easier to gain support for existing (and so far successful) projects rather than found new ones and convince superior powers of their value and success potential.

ChADI 9-II’s conceptual phase was launched in 1982 and it was basically a scaled-up evolution of ChADI 9, but it featured some significant differences. Instead of the RD-9 turbojet, the new vehicle was powered by a much more potent Tumansky R-25-300 afterburning turbojet with a dry thrust of 40.21 kN (9,040 lbf) and 69.62 kN (15,650 lbf) with full afterburner. This new engine (used and proven in the MiG-21 Mach 2 fighter) had already been thoroughly bench-tested by the Soviet Laboratory of High-Speed Automobiles in 1978, on an unmanned, tracked sled.
However, the development of ChADI 9-II and its details took more than two years of dedicated work by LSA ChADI’s students, and in 1984 the design was finally settled. The new vehicle was much bigger than its predecessor, 44 ft 10 in long, 15 ft 6¾ in wide, and 9 ft 10¾ in high (13.67 m by 4,75 m by 3,02 m), and it weighed around 9,000 lb (4 t). Its construction was based on a steel tube frame with an integrated security cell for the driver and an aluminum skin body, with some fibre glass elements. While ChADI 9’s slender cigar-shaped body with a circular diameter and the tricycle layout were basically retained, the front end of ChADI 9-II and its internal structure were totally different: instead of ChADI 9’s pointed nose, with the cockpit in the front and ahead of the vehicle’s front wheel and a pair of conformal (but not very efficient) side air intakes, ChADI 9-II featured a large, single orifice with a central shock cone. A small raked lower lip was to prevent FOD to the engine and act at the same time as a stabilizing front spoiler. The driver sat under a tight, streamlined canopy, the bifurcated air intake ducts internally flanking the narrow cockpit. Two steerable front wheels with a very narrow track were installed in front of the driver’s compartment. They were mounted side by side on a central steering pylon, which made them look like a single wheel. Behind the cockpit, still flanked by the air ducts, came two fuel tanks and finally, after a chamber where the air ducts met again, the engine compartment. Small horizontal stabilizers under the cockpit, which could be adjusted with the help of an electric actuator, helped keeping the vehicle’s nose section on the ground. Two small air brakes were mounted on the rear fuselage; these not only helped to reduce the vehicle’s speed, they could also be deployed in order to trim the aerodynamic downforce on the rear wheels. The latter ware carried on outriggers for a wide and stable track width and were covered in tight aerodynamic fairings, again made from fibre glass. The outriggers were furthermore swept back far enough so that the engine’s nozzle was placed in front of the rear wheel axis. This, together with a marked “nose-down” stance as well as a single swept fin on the rear above the afterburner nozzle with a brake parachute compartment, was to ensure stability and proper handling at expected speeds far in excess of 600 km/h (372 mph) without the use of the engine’s afterburner, and far more at full power.

Construction of ChADI 9-II lasted for more than another year, and in May 1986 the vehicle was rolled out and ready for initial trials at Chardiv, this time on the Chardiv State Aircraft Manufacturing Company’s runway. These non-public tests were successful and confirmed the soundness of the vehicle’s concept and layout. In the course of thorough tests until July 1987, ChADI 9-II was carefully pushed beyond the 400 km/h barrier and showed certain potential for more. This was the point when the vehicle was presented to the public (it could not be hidden due to the noisy trials within Chardiv’s city limits), and for this occasion (and marketing purposes) ChADI 9-II received a flashy livery in silver with red trim around the air intake and long the flanks and was officially christened with the more catchy title “„скорость“” (Skorost = Velocity).

Meanwhile, a potential area for serious high-speed trials had been identified with Lake Baskunchak, a salt sea near the Caspian Sea with flat banks that resembled the Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA. Lake Baskunchak became the site of further tests in 1988. Initially scheduled for May-July, the tests had to be postponed by six weeks due to heavy rain in the region, so that the sea would not build suitable dry salt banks for any safe driving tests. In late June the situation improved, and „скорость“ could finally take up its high speed tests.

During the following weeks the vehicle was gradually taken to ever higher speeds. During a test run on 8th of September, while travelling at roundabout 640 km/h (400 mph), one of the tail wheel fairings appeared to explode and the ensuing drag differences caused heavy oscillations that ended in a crash at 180 km/h (110 mph) with the vehicle rolling over and ripping the left rear wheel suspension apart.
The driver, LSA student and hobby rally driver Victor Barchenkov, miraculously left the vehicle almost unscathed, and the damage turned out to be only superficial. What had happened was an air pressure congestion inside of the wheel fairing, and the increasing revolutions of the wheels beyond 600 km/h caused small shock waves along the wheels, which eventually blew up the fairing, together with the tire. This accident stopped the 1988 trials, but not the work on the vehicle. Another disaster struck the LSA ChADI team when ChADI 9, which was still operated, crashed in 1988, too, and had to be written off completely.

In mid-1989 and with only a single high speed vehicle left, LSA team appeared again with „скорость“ at the shores of Lake Baskunchak – and this time the weather was more gracious and the track could be used from late June onwards. Analyzing last year’s accident and the gathered data, the vehicle had undergone repairs and some major modifications, including a new, anti-corrosive paintjob in light grey with red and white trim.
The most obvious change, though, was a completely re-shaped nose section: the original raked lower air intake lip had been considerably extended by almost 5 feet (the vehicle now had a total length of 49 ft 1 in/14,98 m) in order to enhance the downforce on the front wheels, and strakes along the lower nose ducted the airflow around the front wheels and towards the stabilizing fins. The central shock cone had been elongated and re-contoured, too, improving the airflow at high speeds.
New tireless all-aluminum wheels had been developed and mounted, because pressurized rubber tires, as formerly used, had turned out to be too unstable and unsafe. The central front wheels had received an additional aerodynamic fairing that prevented air ingestion into the lower fuselage, so that steering at high speeds became safer. The aerodynamic rear wheel fairings had by now been completely deleted and spoilers had been added to the rear suspension in order to keep the rear wheel on the ground at high speeds.

This time the goal was to push „скорость“ and the national land speed record in excess of 800 km/h (500 mph), and step by step the vehicle’s top speed was gradually increased. On August 15, an officially timed record attempt was made, again with Victor Barchenkov at the steering wheel. The first of the two obligatory runs within an hour was recorded at a very promising 846.961 km/h (526.277 mph), but, at the end of the second run, „скорость“ veered off and no time was measured. Even worse, the vehicle lost its parachute brakes and went out of control, skidding away from the dry race track into Lake Baskunchak’s wet salt sludge, where it hit a ground wave at around 200 mph (320 km/h) and was catapulted through the air into a brine pond where it landed on its right side and eventually sank. Again, pilot Victor Barchenkov remained mostly unharmed and was able to leave the car before it sank – but this fatal crash meant the end of the „скорость“ vehicle and the complete KhAGI 9-II project. Furthermore, the break-up of the Soviet Union at the same time prevented and further developments of high speed vehicles. The whereabouts of the „скорость“ wreck remain unclear, too, since no official attempt had been made to save the vehicle’s remains from Lake Baskunchak’s salt swamps.

The kit and its assembly:
This is another contribution to the late 2018 “Racing & Competition Group Build” at whatifmodelers.. Since I primarily build aircraft in 1:72 scale, building a land speed record (LSR) vehicle from such a basis appeared like a natural choice. A slick streamliner? A rocket-powered prototype with Mach 1 potential? Hmmm… However, I wanted something else than the typical US or British Bonneville Salt Flats contender.
Inspiration struck when I remembered the real world high speed vehicle projects of LSA ChAGI in the former USSR, and especially the ill-fated, jet-powered ChADI 9, which looked a lot like Western, rocket-powered absolute LSR designs like The Blue Flame or Wingfoot Express 2. Another inspiration was a contemporary LSR vehicle called North American Eagle – basically a wingless F-104 Starfighter, put on wheels and sporting a garish, patriotic livery.

With this conceptual basis, the MiG-21 was quickly identified as the potential starting basis – but I wanted more than just a Fishbed sans wings and with some bigger wheels attached to it. I nevertheless wanted to retain the basic shape of the aircraft, but change the rest as good as possible with details that I have learned from reading about historic LSR vehicles (a very good source are the books by German author and LSR enthusiast Ferdinand C. W. Käsmann, which have, AFAIK, even been translated into English).

At the model’s core is a contemporary KP MiG-21MF, but it’s a hideous incarnation of the venerable Kovozávody Prostějov mold. While the wheels and the dashboard of this kit were surprisingly crisp, the fuselage halves did hardly match each other and some other parts like the landing gear covers could only be described as “blurred blobs”. Therefore it was no shame to slice the kit up, and the resulting kitbash with many donor parts and scratching almost became a necessity.

The MiG-21 fuselage and cockpit were more or less retained, the landing gear wells covered and PSR-ed. Fin, spine and the ventral stabilizer were cut away, and the attachment points for the wings and the horizontal stabilizers blended into the rest of the fuselage. Actually, only a few parts from the KP MiG-21 were eventually used.

The original shock cone in the air intake was used, but it was set further back into the nose opening – as an attachment point for a new, more organic shock cone which is actually the rear end of a drop tank from an Airfix 1:72 P-61 Black Widow. This detail was inspired by a real world benchmark: Art Arfons’ home-built “Green Monster” LSR car. This vehicle also inspired the highly modified air intake shape, which was scratched from the tail cone from a Matchbox 1:72 Blackburn Buccaneer – the diameter matched well with the MiG-21’s nose! With the new nose, I was able to retain the original MiG-21 layout, yet the shape and the extension forward changed the overall look enough to make it clear that this was not simply a MiG-21 on wheels.

With the spine gone, I also had to integrate a different, much smaller canopy, which came from an 1:144 Tornado. The cockpit opening had to be narrowed accordingly, and behind the canopy a new spine fairing was integrated – simply a piece from a streamlined 1:72 1.000 lb bomb plus lots of PSR.
Inside of the cockpit, a simpler seat was used, but the original cockpit tub and the dashboard were retained.
The large MiG-21 fin was replaced with a smaller piece, left over from an Amodel Kh-20 missile, with a scratched brake parachute fairing (cut from sprue material) placed under its rear. The exhaust nozzle was replaced, too, because the fit of the KP MiG-21’s rear end was abysmal. So I cut away a short piece and added an afterburner nozzle from a vintage 1:72 F-100, which fits well. Inside, the part’s rear wall was drilled open and extended inwards with a styrene tube.

The wheels of the vehicle come from an 1:72 Hasegawa “Panther with Schmalturm” tank kit – it comes not only with two turrets, but also with a second set of simplified track wheels. These had IMHO the perfect size and shape as massive aluminum wheels for the high speed vehicle.
For the front wheels, I used the thinner outer Panther wheels, and they were put, closely together, onto a central suspension pylon. This received a new “well” in the forward fuselage, with an internal attachment point. In order to streamline the front wheel installation (and also to change the overall look of the vehicle away from the MiG-21 basis), I added a scratched an aerodynamic fairing around it. This was made from tailored styrene strips, which were later filled and blended into the hull with putty.

The rear suspension was also fully scratched: the outriggers were made from styrene profiles while the wheel attachments were once part of an 1:35 tank kit suspension – I needed something to hold the three struts per side together. These parts look a bit large, but the vehicle is, after all, a Soviet design, so a little sturdiness may not be wrong, and I simply did not want to stick the wheels directly onto the outriggers. The rear wheels (in this case, the wider inner Panther track wheels with a central hub cover were used) also received a stabilizing notch around the contact surface, in an attempt to make them look slimmer than they actually are.

Final touches included the chines under the nose as well as spoilers on the rear suspension (both made from styrene profiles), and I added a pitot made from wire to the original MiG-21 angle of attack sensor fairing.

As an addition outside the model itself I also created a display base for the beauty pics, since I did not have anything at hand that would resemble the vastness of a flat and dry salt sea. The base is an 18×12” MDF board, on top of which I added a thin coat of white tile grout (which I normally use as a snow placebo, instead of plaster, which tends to absorb humidity over time and to become yellow). While the stuff was still wet I sprinkled some real salt onto the surface and wetted the whole affair with water sprays – hoping to create a flat yet structured surface with some glitter reflexes. And it actually worked!

Painting and markings:
I am not certain how ChADI 9 was painted (I assume overall silver), but I wanted for „скорость“ a little more color. Being a child of the Soviet era, red was a settled design element, but I thought that an all-red vehicle might have looked too cheesy. Other colors I considered were orange or white with blue trim, but did not find them to be appropriate for what I was looking. Eventually, I added some Russian Utilitarianism in the form of light grey for the upper hull (Humbrol 166, RAF Light Aircraft Grey), and the red (Humbrol 19) as a dark contrast around the complete air intake as well as the shock cone (somewhat inspired by the Green Monster #15 LSR vehicle), and then extended backwards into a narrowing cheatline along the flanks, which emphasizes the vehicle’s slender hull. For some more contrast between the two basic tones I later added thin white borders between them created with 2mm white decal stripes from TL Modellbau. Around the hull some bright red (Humbrol 238 Red Arrows Red) highlights as warning signs were added.

The vehicle’s afterburner section was painted with Modelmaster Steel Metallizer, the Panther wheels became Aluminum (Revell 99) with a black ink wash. Some black ink was also applied to the jet nozzle, so that the details became more pronounced, and some grinded graphite was used to enhance the burnt metal effect.

Since this would rather be an experimental car built and operated by a high school institute, and also operated in the Soviet Union, flashy sponsor markings would not be appropriate. Therefore I created some fictional marking at home with the help of PC software and printed them by myself. These designs included a fictional logo of the ChADI institute itself (created from a car silhouette drawing) and a logo for the vehicle’s title, “„скорость““. The latter was created from the cyrillic lettering, with some additions like the vehicle’s silhouette.
Unfortunately the production process for the home-made decals did not work properly – when coating the prints with gloss acrylic varnish the printer ink started to dissolve, bleeding magenta, so that the decals would look as if there was a red halo or glow around the otherwise black motifs. Thanks to the use of red in the vehicle’s overall design this flaw is not too apparent, so I stuck with the outcome and applied the decals to the car.
Beyond these basic markings, many stencils were added, including dull red inscriptions from an Italeri MiG-37 “Ferret” kit – finally, I found an expedient use for them! The Soviet flags on the fin came from an 1:144 Tu-144 airliner Braz Decal aftermarket sheet.
Finally, some panel lines were drawn onto the hull with a soft pencil and then the model was sealed with Italeri semi-gloss acrylic varnish. Just the black anti-glare panel in front of the windscreen became matt and the metallic rear section was left in “natural” finish.

I am very pleased with the outcome – the „скорость“ looks purposeful and does IMHO blend well into the line of spectacular USA and UK jet/rocket car designs that broke the 800 km/h barrier. I also find that, even though the MiG-21 ancestry is certainly there, the vehicle looks different enough so that the illusion that it was designed along the jet fighter’s lines (and not converted from one, like the real world “North American Eagle” which was built from an F-104 Starfighter) works well. I also think that the vehicle’s livery works well – it looks quite retro for a vehicle from the late Eighties, but that just adds to the “Soviet style”. An interesting project, outside of my normal comfort zone. 😀

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