By Bob Beck
I’ve always wanted a Porsche 917 or any model Ferrari, but reality sets in and I know I’ll never have one. That said, there are some reading this that may have one, but in many parts of the country it is too cold, wet or snowy to take your exotic coupe, race car or hot rod out, so what is a car guy or gal supposed to do? The answer is Do what Ya Did when you were a kid! Race indoors!
That’s right, bring it back to your roots. Many if not most of us first raced on table tops or on the floor in the middle of our room or basement. We had expansive plastic race sets in HO, 1/32 or 1/24 scale. Aroura, AMT, Monogram, Strombecker, Eldon and Revell all made home racing sets. You could have the Corvette of your dreams or a Ferrari, Porsche, GTO or hundreds of other body type cars for just a few dollars.
If you were lucky, there was a commercial track nearby where you could pay a quarter or so and rent a lane for an hour and race on the huge wood tracks with the big guys.
Lexan bodies masked the brass or alloy frames below. A precision electric motor made the cars scream down the straight a ways while the foam tires with the help of tire goo gripped the corners at amazing speeds.
That was then, today the big commercial tracks are mostly gone, but the plastic home tracks are making a strong come back. There are message boards and websites dedicated to the home racer and the car details are up there with some of the best die cast models. Clubs of overage teen agers have sprouted up worldwide and the competition is better than ever before. Many of the drivers are still the same ones from this by gone era. A bit older, a little near sighted and grey, but they have returned to the hobby in a big way.
AMT, Revell and Monogram are still involved in providing ready to race (RTR) cars, but the Europeans have exploded on to the scene with companies like FLY, SCX, Scaletrix, Carrera, NINCO and others. Then there are the specialty body makers that use high tech resins like RMS in Colorado, Pendle Slot Racing in the UK and others.
No less important are the tires you race on. Small home grown companies that grew out of the need to just maintain their own collection sprang up. Tiny Motors casts replacement and performance silicone material tires. They even made special Land Speed Record tires for my personal slot car that ran 43 real MPH on a 250 foot long track in the warehouse of Green Motor Sales/Cincy Slots a few years ago. Many brave souls ventured to Ohio to set land speed records. At first it was just a lark, but now has become the annual Bonneville of slot car events.
Although the main focus of the major manufacturers are 1/32 scale cars that replicate road racings best, many cars are available to replicate the cars we grew up with such as the MG’s, Jaguar, Pontiac and Chevy’s of the 50’s 60’s and 70’s. There are literally hundreds of body types and era cars available to suit your tastes in HO,1/43, 1/32 and 1/24 scales.
There are even manufactures that provide the scenery details such as trees, buildings and the people. My latest personal track has all these details and my friends love to race here just to see the latest additions to the scenery.
Drag racers have not been forgotten either. Auto World has produced a HO scale drag race set for the likes of John Force and various other entities with functional Christmas tree and timing lights. The sets sell for just over $100. Extra cars are less the $20 each.
For larger scale racers, Parma a name from the 60’s still cranks out road race and drag race cars in 1/32 and 1/24 scale that will dominate a race anywhere. This can still be seen every week at the last commercial wood track racing facility in Southern California, Buena Park Raceway (http://www.gofastest.com/bpr/ )
I have attended a few races there and it is amazing to see the concentration of the drivers and the speeds they attain in their hopped up slot cars.
So, don’t sit back in that easy chair and think you have to watch Dancing with the stars. Slot Car racing is an all year sport…Seek out a club from the Home Racing website and start racing and building again. I got back into this hobby with a $200 set and three cars 10 years ago. Now I have three track sets with over 200 feet of racing surface if I set it all up and almost 300 cars… Hi I’m Bob Beck, and I have an addiction.
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