Slot Cars

After my apparently obscure reference in an earlier post to slot cars and the electric smell they emit, I embarked on a voyage into the dark corners of the internet to uncover a treasure trove of slot car awesomeness.

In my childhood, most slot car sets were HO scale and much smaller than the 1:18 – 1:24-32 scale cars and track that my older brothers raced on. The HO cars weren’t as fun and didn’t drift like the big cars. Drifting a slot car as a blocking or crashing tactic still brings back memories of late Saturday afternoons and Christmas holidays.

My older brothers were very into it in the 60s. For years, we had a bunch of track stored in the basement with a green toolbox that held the transformer, cars, controllers and spare parts. Once a year or so I’d bust it out and set up a course. For years I had grown up knowing that my oldest brother had competed on an eight lane track that was still around when I was nine or so and as a birthday present for one of those years, he took me racing. I used a car that was my middle oldest brother’s car, our fastest, but there were tweakers at the track that day with some crazy new tech and smoked me. The track closed soon thereafter, but being able to open up our fastest car on a huge track was exhilarating. It’s hard to explain the thrill of slot cars when there is a much larger following for radio-controlled cars, helicopters and planes.

When I was in middle school, one of my friends had a set that was slotless and had a limited steering controller that let a racer pass another one (like this set). We spent a lot of time figuring out how to build jump ramps and stunts not unlike:

But I didn’t have access to a video camera. I’m not sure if the brand (Scalextric) that is all over YouTube (see) is the same one that we had, but I have the same pull to watch slot car videos as I do for watching soapbox racing videos.

A big part of the appeal of slot cars came from the need that you had to build and wire the track every time you wanted to race. You had to secure the track pieces so current would run throughout the track, wire the transformer (on our primitive track) and you had to make sure the positive and negative leads were wired to the correct lanes. It was a technical feat just to get the track operable. Then you could warm up the cars and finally race. I’m hoping that at some point, Leta and I will get into it and have a set (one of my nieces asked for slot cars for Christmas and received a set that was a blast at a family party) and race. I’m not sure she’ll ever get there, but I’m hoping we can share some fun and she’ll know the smell of high RPM electric motors and melting plastic.