3DRAP Vintage Formula 1 Sim Racing Steering wheels | Long Term Review
Steering Wheels seem to be the designer handbags of sim racing. We don’t need loads of them and they are generally a complete luxury item as we’ll still probably be beaten by someone who did something more sensible with their money. Even though we embrace budget sim racing on this channel, it’s impossible not to indulge in the collector aspect of this hobby.
These unique custom steering wheels made by Italian company 3DRAP are for the real enthusiast. In this video we’re going to transport back in time to the 1980s where health and safety was for hipsters. I’m Laurence, welcome to the channel!
Product link: https://www.3drap.it/tag-prodotto/vintage/
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These Steering Wheels are tiny. And I know what you’re thinking. Why do you have two of them, they’re almost identical. And yes, you’re right, they’re very alike but apparently quite different.
I love driving cars with small Steering Wheels. The first reason is because all of that feedback that your wheelbase is trying to send you is much clearer. The larger your steering wheel, the more leverage you have over the steering input shaft. This probably comes from a time where I used lower powered non direct drive wheelbases but the difference is noticeable with any wheelbase, strong or weak.
The second reason is the light weight associated with smaller wheel rims. Less weight means less steering inertia and a quicker perceived slew rate. But that’s not actually the reason these rims are small… you see, back in the day, Steering Wheels were tiny because quick releases weren’t really a thing and open wheeler racing chassis were cramped. Steering ratios and power steering were not as well engineered as nowadays and the people who drove with these Steering Wheels were definitley the type who giggled and ridiculed the first people to ever use a non round steering wheel.
This 260mm steering wheel comes from an era where incredible power to weight ratios were the main aim and oversteer was second nature. They basically took the lightest chassis they could make and married it to the most powerful engine they could build. And I dunno if it’s just me getting wrapped up in the nostalgia of it all, but these Steering Wheels bring me closer to that sense of danger.
That danger isn’t limited to the vintage F1 cars either. The skip barber comes to life and my favourite car to drive with this wheel is the Radical SR8. It’s an absolute BLAST.
- First impressions
Apart from looking period correct but still incorporating some modern sim racer necessities like paddle shifters, these Steering Wheels are as close as you can get to this era of F1 in sim racing right now. The build quality seemed decent for the price point although some little things like small strands or pockets of loose fabric did concern me at first. Part of the reason this review took so long was so that I could see how they hold up over time. The usb cable is hot glued and screwed into place making it difficult to remove and this connection was another concern of mine in the longer term. I did experience a shifter failure with one of my wheels which delayed this review significantly. I can’t help but feel that these wheels are still just a little too DIY for a serious enthusiast. As you’ll see in a later section though, 3DRap are very easy to deal with and getting a replacement was no problem.
These Steering Wheels start at €189 and go all the way up to the spec pictured here which is €319. That’s quite a large range in price but in short, you can order everything from a basic steering wheel with no buttons, to a very functional and usable modern steering wheel with flappy paddles and all. Yes, I know, these Steering Wheels didn’t have flappy paddles back in the day, but not everyone has a h pattern shifter or sequential shifter on their rig these days either so for some people it’s a very welcome option.
This price is relatively low. The quality is nice and a lot of work has gone into these wheels. However, it’s very important to note that these wheels are unlicensed replicas. With the Mclaren steering wheel you get a ‘Personal’ sticker and with the 98T you do get a Lotus logo sticker. But to make them complete, you should also get a honda logo with the MP4/4 and a MOMO sticker with the 98T. Either way, there are no officially licensed sim racing replicas of these Steering Wheels so this is as close as we’re going to get for now.
- Mclaren Honda MP4/4
The MP4/4 was a 1.5 litre Honda v6, which doesn’t sound great on paper. However, they got upwards of 650hp out of this little thing and then they bolted it to to a McLaren chassis to form a combined weight, including gearbox, tyres, you name it, of 540kg. Let that sink in for a moment. 650hp in a 540kg chassis. Even if the driver was a big guy like me, you’d still be in the elite club of race cars which offers 1000hp per metric tonne. That’s… utterly terrifying…
The MP4/4 sported the famous Marlboro livery and was driven by two of the most famous F1 drivers of all time. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. I’m not going to go into details about them and their rivalry but in their 1988 constructor championship they won 15 out of 16 races and got 10 fastest laps. Granted that’s not because of this steering wheel, but it’s the closes you or I will ever get to their legacy whilst sat in our sim rigs😛
- Lotus 98T
I say that the McLaren was frightening and that health and safety wasn’t a thing, but what If i told you that the Lotus 98T had 30% MORE power from a similar 1.5 litre V6 engine, 2 years before the aforementioned McLaren Honda rose to fame. It was also a 540kg chassis without a driver so its power to weight ratio was almost 1.5, or 1500hp per metric tonne thanks to some ridiculous turbocharging wizardry.
Sporting the iconic John Player livery which in sim racing, has probably been created for every single skinnable car imaginable due to its elite status. One of its drivers was Johnny Dumfries and the other driver? Well, there’s a common denominator between these two products because the other driver was none other than the aforementioned Ayrton Senna.
- Grips and Stitching
That’s enough history, let’s get back to the Steering Wheels. On the face of it, I assume 3DRap to be a DIY style business. However, the stitching and material quality of these Steering Wheels actually really impressed me. Initially, there was only one minor issue with the quality of the finish of my MP4/4 steering wheel as shown here. I haven’t done anything to fix this since I got the steering wheel several months ago. Luckily it’s on the bottom spoke which never gets touched while racing.
The handles are made of rubber and wrapped in a stitched Alcantara like material. This leads to a luxurious feel which moulds to the shape of your hands yet is still rigid enough to allow excellent feeling through your fingertips. One thing that worried me was these patches on the rear of my Lotus steering wheel which feel like they have let loose from the rim itself. There’s a small pocket of air underneath it on both sides and I have two of these lotus 98T wheels and both have it. Despite using it intensely with high powered steering wheel bases, both with and without gloves, these patches did not show any real signs of spreading or wearing.
Installing a quick release is pretty easy. It’s not perfect as there’s not a tonne of room for the bolts. I used an NRG style QR and I only used 3 bolts as the other 3 were impossible to attach. Even the bolts that I put in this are not as tight as they should be due to Allen key access issues. 3 bolts is plenty for our sim racing needs but if you’re using a similar quick release to me, I recommend using hex head bolts like this if possible.
As this product is completely designed and made in house, the compatibility options are rather impressive with Logitech, Thrustmaster, 50mm pcd and 70mm pcd flanges avalable.
As for hardware compatibility, there’s native PC support via USB but I’m sure they would also work on consoles with a drivehub adapter.
- Shifters and Buttons
Even with the top offerings, there are only 4 inputs and they’re all simply binary inputs. The shifters feature a carbon fiber sheet construction and powerful magnets to allow for a very tactile shift. It sounds really nice when shifting and feels very intuitive. There is some minor flex in this design as shown. This flex is insignificant. Everything went great and I was about to release this review, when on of the Steering Wheels had a shifter failure. This makes me question the long term quality of this product, however, the team at 3DRap immediately sent me a replacement and they assured me that they see very few quality issues like this.
The buttons on the MP4/4 wheel are labelled for radio communications and for boost but the 98T doesn’t have any labels on it. Of course these buttons can be used for anything you’d like in a sim but odds are that the buttons served the same purposes on the real life Steering Wheels. They feel good and tactile and look quite period correct. They don’t feel cheap but aren’t luxurious either. They just feel correct for these Steering Wheels. There’s a looseness and a rawness to them that just works.
- Which one should you buy?
At a glance these Steering Wheels are almost identical. On further inspection you can see that they have slightly different shapes. I asked 3DRap why they sent me the Lotus one when I already had the McLaren one and their response was actually quite interesting. You see, at the time, cars had slightly different characteristics and when the natural caster, toe, Ackerman and camber ranges of a car are all taken into account, having the steering wheel’s center at a slightly different point made a big difference in managing oversteer or finding the grip under braking for that particular chassis.
I’m entirely convinced that this was a real concern at the time, but because we have so much access to steering linearity, speed, etc in our wheelbase software, the actual effect in sim racing is negligible. At least, that’s from my experience. The science is apparently a lot more complex than what I’ve just outlined but that’s the gist of it. Honestly, if you’re on the fence about which one to buy, just but the one you think is nicer looking. The shifters and buttons are the same and there’s no noticeable difference for me when using each wheel with the same car on the same setup.
- Final thought
This is a collector’s status symbol. Nobody needs these Steering Wheels but a fan of the vintage F1 era will find themselves naturally drawn towards these products. That’s how I first stumbled upon them. I mean, who makes a good quality 260mm round steering wheel these days? The amount of force you feel on any wheelbase regardless of the power is sensational and it really injects some life into your racing experience. If you’re in VR, I imagine this sensation to be even greater as you cramp yourself into a 1000hp/tonne death trap.
The licensing of these Steering Wheels is glossed over and offset but a relatively modest price tag. If these were official, you’d expect that price to double and 3DRap’s sales volume would plummet. If you’re interested in buying one, I’d buy one now before they become too popular.
I love that they offer shifters as an option even though they’re not period correct. These Steering Wheels are built for sim racers who want to experience a glimpse of what it was like back in the 80s.
All in all, I think these Steering Wheels are great fun and decent value. As said, they’re a luxury item and something to brag to your friends about. They also look great when mounted on a wall. I have no issues recommending these products to those in the market. Thanks again to 3DRap for making this review possible. I stream every Tuesday and Thursday at 9pm Irish/UK time. I’m Laurence, and I’ll chat to ye later.