Category Archives: Slot Car Overview

Scalextric Ford Daytona Prototype

The Daytona Prototype series seemed like an odd choice for Scalextric to choose. This series is not the most popular, but there are those that follow it with a passion and having a new player in scale is a welcome sight.

One reason for the lack of a large fan club is most people simply do not like the look of the cars. And I cannot argue that because they certainly have a very unique shape. Just one of those types of cars that either you like or you don’t with no middle ground.

If you are not up to speed (ahem) on this series, here is an interesting overview. With the series going through a dramatic change for 2017, this mold by Scalextric will have limited liveries to produce, but with some creativity I can see it lasting for quite awhile.

This car represents the “Gen3” series of DP cars and the last of the series as we know it. As it is Scalextric did a fair job in 1/32nd scale. Nothing is ever perfect of course, but a clean and acceptable job all around for my eyes.

Quick Data
Height – 34 MM (36 MM @ Rear Wing)
Length – 145.5 MM
Width – 61.75 MM
Wheel Base – 87 MM
Weight – 74.8 Grams

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Scalextric Javelin

Scalextric 1/32nd Scale Javelin – 1971 Mark Donohue #C3731

Slot Car of The Year? In March? This could be true given all the buzz about this release. It’s easily the car of the year for Scalextric on this side of the pond and it is finally time to take a closer look.

How many years have we been waiting for this one? Since the day the first Mustang arrived in my shop back in early 2002, the pleas for this Javelin were heard. There have been many molds done over this time period but very few match the popularity of this one.

I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves. Overall I think Scalextric did a decent job of producing this in 1/32nd scale.

Quick Data
Height – 39.50 MM
Length – 151.5 MM
Width – 58 MM
Wheel Base – 87 MM
Weight – 72.2 Grams

By the numbers this car is VERY close to scale. It is slightly narrow but not enough to bother me.

This car is historic in so many ways. The dominance it had in the 1971 Trans-Am series was impressive to say the least. That year was called a “steamroller” with Mark Donohue at the wheel. He won seven races, including six straight, in this AMC Javelin. Donohue easily won the Drivers’ Championship along with AMC claiming the hands-down winner among the manufacturers.

Here is my video review.

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An Opinionated Opinion

Back in July,  I made a comment about slot cars not being well known in America. ‘Well known’ may be a poor choice of words, let’s go with popular. Why are slot cars not popular in America like they seem to be in other parts of the world? Unfortunately, slot cars in America are not like opinions, not everybody has one. As much as I would like that to not be the case, it is what it is these days.

Like the 1964 ½ Ford Mustang, slot cars in America were all the rage of the mid to late ‘60’s. From what I have read and heard in discussion, there seemed to be slot car tracks all over the country at one time. Every hobby shop had a slot car track, and every city had at least one hobby shop, with larger cities having one on just about every street corner. Yes, if you wanted to learn about slot cars, it was very likely that your attention would be grabbed by these cars of the slot just by walking down Main Street and peering through the front window of your local toy or hobby shop. Not so today.

So here comes my opinion. Okay, maybe you’ll get more than one of my opinions but nevertheless, feel free to disagree, as long as we’re talking about slot cars, I don’t mind. But first, a little back story of my early experience with slot cars, which, for this blog, is key I think.

My first introduction to slot cars was a trip to my best friend’s house back in the mid 80’s (the 60’s was a little before my time). He had an HO set, Ideal TCR, with what I think was a couple Corvettes. He had it and as with all kids, I wanted it. So it wasn’t too much later and Santa Claus brought me my very own slot car race set. It was made by Ideal and was themed, ‘CHiPs’. Yep, that’s the show. Ponch and John chasing down the bad guys. It featured gray track to look like a highway, a CHIP motorbike and a ‘bad guy’ van, black with flames. That van was bad looking, and by bad, I mean awesome! I played with the set off and on, but it didn’t go together very well so it usually stayed under my bed in the box. I had that set up until about 10 years or so ago and only wish I still had it for sentimental reasons.

I was blessed, or cursed, depending on how you look at it with another HO set made by Ideal. This time, ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’. Same story as the ‘CHiPs’ set; the track connections were poor, and something I didn’t mention earlier, the cars were just too darn fast. As a kid, I wanted to go fast. Had I known then what I know now, I would have enjoyed the set much more. If I had learned to slow down, I’d had been much better off. In reality though, when you are pretending to be one of your T.V. heroes chasing bad guys or outrunning the law, the last thing you want to do is slow down.

I think that the demise of HO slot cars is a good comparison to the slot cars of the 60’s. For the true hobbyist, you knew the ins and outs of slot cars; how to drive them, tune them, and get the most enjoyment out of them. For home racers, well, let’s face it, mass market, those important things did not transition well from the local hobby track to the kids playing with a set on their bedroom floor. The corporations that wanted to cash in on the rage of slot cars missed that important step. In addition, home racing sets, the cars, the track, the controllers, were no comparison to the items found at the local raceway most of the time.

So jumping to present day, the hobby shops have all but been replaced by the internet. Unfortunately, the consumer doesn’t get the interaction from the internet that they would from a hobby shop. You can walk in a hobby shop and actually touch the cars, but more importantly you can talk to people who are into the hobby and garner information from them as to how you can really get the most out of the slot car and all of it’s working parts. Not only that, but the nuances of actually ‘racing’ the slot cars. Consumers today rarely get any of this when they buy a set from the internet and set it up on the floor. Sure, they get a printed sheet that tells them how to put their set together, how to adjust the braids on the car, and maybe lubrication points, but that’s about it.

Okay, now you’re saying, “But there are online slot car forums where consumers can get all this great information.” Guess what? You are right, but how do the consumers know that these forums exist? Obviously in this day and age some of those individuals will search the internet and hopefully find one of them, but far too many will get frustrated with the set and/or cars and give up. Where we, as hobbyists will be thrilled to find their purchases in a yard sale or local thrift shop. So how in the world can we expect the hobby to be popular here in the USA if consumers have no first point of contact helping them out? Do manufacturer’s and retailers really care? Are they just fine with the one time sale as they wait for the next one to happen?

So now I’m ruffling feathers at this point. Good! Now take that anger and hostility and put it to good use by helping grow the hobby! How? Share your hobby with as many people as you can and as often as you get the opportunity. Support the retailers that truly care about the hobby, the ones that will not only sell a set to a soccer mom, but will offer to help her with input on setting it up. Those that will offer to show the kids how to enjoy the hobby at speeds that don’t have to be full throttle all the time. There are actually retailers out there that care to this extent and don’t just see dollar signs.

What if shops and online retailers, in addition to giving the customer a receipt, offered up a ‘We’re here to help you” card. A card that says they, the consumer, can contact the retailer anytime for help because they care and WANT them to enjoy the hobby by getting the most out of it they can. Oh sure, there are those that say they are there to help, but offer more! Offer up some racing tips that are both kid and adult friendly. Remember, the folks that we need to enjoy this hobby are the ones that have never done it, not the guys that have been racing slot cars for decades.

Joining a forum or frequenting a hobby shop and talking to the guys that are already in the hobby isn’t growing the hobby. Sure, we buy new products when they come out, and buy aftermarket parts when we have a car we want to tune or build, but that isn’t growing the hobby. All that is is the same group of people supporting the same group of retailers, who in turn, support the same manufacturers. Essentially, that’s only supporting the hobby and trying to keep it alive. We’ve got to reach out to folks that know nothing about the hobby and get them interested, and keep them interested.

Okay, enough with the doom and gloom already, right? Let me give you a good example of what I am talking about. I’ll give the condensed version now and if you want the details, you can get in touch with me later. I went to a hobby shop in Memphis about 15 years or so ago. There was a group of guys racing slot car, and one of them saw my interest. He wasn’t the store owner, but just a guy that liked racing 1:32 scale slot cars. He came over and began talking to me about it. By the time I left, he had given me one of his very own cars to help get me started. THAT is what I’m talking about. No, I’m not saying give away your slot cars one at a time to get folks interested. I’m talking about taking the time to share your hobby with someone new. The thing I remember most about that day was that he didn’t force his hobby on me. He showed me the track, how the controllers worked, how a car was put together and operated and a few tips on racing.

Having that friendly conversation was much more pleasant than some of the conversations I’ve been a part of where folks try to force their ideas on how slot car racing should be. New people in the hobby don’t need to know about all the crazy 10 bazillion magnet downforce racing, 18V of nutzo power, beam me up controllers, and ‘have to have’ these go fast parts, to have fun. They just need a basic understanding of how their set and/or cars work and then they can build on that. They have to be interested enough in the beginning to stick around and keep coming back, not turned away because they don’t have the latest and greatest of everything. The hobby is about having fun with friends and family and enjoying it. If we as hobbyists, dealers, and manufacturers don’t offer that, nobody will want to do it and the hobby will again, repeat it’s demise of the 60’s. So share the hobby with someone new and enjoy some simple slot car racing with them.

Jeremy ‘bibbster’ Bibbee

Carrera Slot Car Track Sets: Finding Your Groove

So you want to buy a slot car set, but aren’t sure which one to buy? Which brand is good, better, or best? Which one is best for kids (even though we know it’s for the parents)? Well, perhaps this article will help you to make that decision. We’ll discuss the things to look for in general that will help you get the most out of your new hobby as well as some detailed things to look for.

While there are many brands out there, the top brands are Carrera, Scalextric, and Ninco. And, of course, everyone has their opinion to which brand is best. I would like to suggest that you take a hard look at Carrera. My first and foremost reason for recommending Carrera is that their customer service is top notch. Though their quality and craftsmanship is impeccable, on that rare occasion when you do have a problem with a product, they are there to help you out. Not only do they work well with you, the consumer, they also support their dealers. Upon making your purchase, knowing that you can get help when you need it speaks volumes in my book.

Now you’re thinking, “Customer service is all good and well, but what about the product? Why should I choose Carrera?” As much as we do not like to admit it, we all shop with our wallets. Meaning that we buy products at the lowest price possible. Usually when you do this, you sacrifice quality. Not so with Carrera. The items in their track sets are extremely well made and durable. When you make a product for the entire family, it better stand up to some rough handling and Carrera has that figured out.

Aside from customer service, quality, and value, what makes Carrera stand out? Here are some things to note and keep in mind while you are shopping.

No Tools Required! You will get everything you need to start racing as soon as you get your new set home. Each set comes complete with the power supply, track, controllers, border, guardrail, and cars. Some sets also come with bridges, banked turns and supports where required. While I won’t cover them here, it’s also worth mentioning that Carrera offers both digital racing sets and wireless controllers. More on that in future articles, so stay tuned. The track pieces go together using a tab-and-slot system as well as clips. The clips help to hold everything in place to ensure that the track gets full power by the way of tight connections between track sections.

Carrera offers the widest track on the market. At 198mm (7.79”), it gives you the width needed to run both 1/32 scale cars and 1/24 scale cars as well. And yes, Carrera makes cars in both scales, something no other home set manufacturer currently does. The downside to this larger track is that the track layouts, or designs, sometimes require more space than other brands. This isn’t and shouldn’t be a deal breaker for you though. With an endless possibility of track designs, you’ll be able to create a track to fit the space you have available. Of course, another positive about plastic track sets, is that you can take them apart and store them away when not in use. Though once you see how much fun it is, you won’t want to put it away!

Carrera also offers track and cars in 1/43 scale, which are larger than HO, but smaller than 1/32. The track uses a smaller footprint allowing a larger race course to be created. Carrera 1/43 is a great way to get started into slot cars as well. All of the great features of the larger track and cars is also made into the 1/43 system and cars. So if space is a real issue or a smaller track is what you are after, look into the 1/43 sets as well. They are just as much fun as the 1/32 and 1/24 race sets and cars, and there are lots of cars to choose from in this scale as well.

A couple of things to note about what makes up each piece of Carrera track; the rails are stainless steel alloy and the track is made from durable ABS plastic, not vinyl. ABS will hold its shape under hot and cold conditions, whereas vinyl based track will warp and twist. The stainless steel rails that help deliver power to the slot cars will not corrode due to its stainless steel content, and while the amount of magnetism is less than other manufacturers because of this, it’s a small sacrifice that should be welcomed knowing you will not have heavy oxidation or rust on your track, which will occur at some point. Also, the less magnetic rail will afford you the opportunity to see more realistic movements and racing from the cars. To see a car slink through the curves and have a challenging yet fun time making it happen is well worth it. The plastic is rigid and provides a nice surface for the cars to race on. It won’t warp and there is no fear of twisting the track and bending the rails that carry the power. The track is yet another check mark in the ‘Yes to Carrera’ column of your shopping list!

The controllers that Carrera makes are called ‘thumb controllers’, meaning that you use your thumb to actuate a ‘button’ on the controller to make the car go. For me, this type of controller is much more comfortable to use than a pistol grip type of controller where you use your index finger to pull a trigger to make the car go. The controller from Carrera fits in your hand comfortably and is light weight so you won’t get tired of holding it.

With each Carrera set, you get two cars that are ready to run. Once your track is setup, look over the guide that comes in the set on preparing the car to run on the track. This guide offers simple tips to allow you to get the most fun out of your racing experience. Part of that fun is that no tools are required for preparing the cars so racing can happen quickly. Speaking of cars, there is what seems like an endless selection. From street cars, to classic and current race cars, there is something that everyone will like. Each car comes with some spare parts that can include braids, mirrors, or guides. Just a nicety that Carrera does to add more value to your purchase. So, add yet another check mark in the ‘Yes to Carrera’ column of your shopping list!

Your final selection, should you choose to make it, should have the name ‘Carrera’ on the package. There is no doubt that the products from Carrera are unrivaled. That’s why they are now the #1 race set brand worldwide! They must be doing something right, and that something is found in the smiles and fun that you’ll have with their products! So pick up a set today, you’ll be glad you did.

Jeremy ‘bibbster’ Bibbee

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Slot Cars

The average person has probably heard of “slot cars” at some point in their life; while most may not know exactly what it is, slot car racing has been around since the 1930’s.There is a significant segment of the hobbyist population that races slot cars in competitions, and while popularity may have risen and dropped several times over the past eighty years, there is still a core group of enthusiasts who race these small-scale vehicles. Slot cars are considered to be “classic” and oftentimes, worth a good amount of money. Many collectables are often modeled after real-life vehicles, making them very valuable. Just as vehicles change shape and size over time, slot cars often imitate vehicles of their respective time period.

What is a slot car and how does it work?

A slot car is a miniature scaled automobile that is powered by a small electric motor. Scales include: 1/28, 1/24, 1/32, 1/42 and 1/64 or HO. The cars are raced on a track that has a groove for each vehicle lane, and the slot car has a small pin or blade that extends from the bottom and into the groove.  The contacts for the electricity are picked up by the swiveling blade, or “guide flag” on the slot car, which provides the power to run around the track. The vehicle is controlled by a hand-held speed controller that filters in the voltage amount; the more that the trigger is pressed, the faster the car can go. The two types of controllers that are used are called analog and electric controllers. Analog slot car controllers allow the car to accelerate by distributing the desired amount of voltage to the car. Electronic controllers, unlike analog controllers, do not use the variable resistance method for power delivery, but instead use an electronic circuit to dispense the correct amount of voltage to the car. Because electric controllers offer improved control and the ability to command a wide array of cars, this type of controller is most recommended for a beginner.
What are the main parts of a slot car?

·         Body/Shell – The top of the slot car is molded and scaled to a real vehicle. The shape actually does not influence the car’s performance, as it would for a real car. Instead, the mass and distribution of the weight affects the car’s performance.

·         Interior – The interior often features a real driver and imitates the interior of the real, life-size vehicle. The driver and interior are typically modeled just below window height to allow more room for the motor. It is usually clipped or glued to the body shell.

·         Chassis – The bottom part of the car is called the chassis, which is often one piece but can be made with a separate motor pod section. This piece attaches all of the other parts.

·         Motor – The electric motor is what powers the slot car, placed at the front, middle, or rear of the car. It can be in-line, sideways, or at an angle. Like a real car, small gears transmit the power from the motor to the axle.

·         Axle – The axle is the steel rod in which the wheels are attached to.

·         Guide or Guide Flag – This is a plastic fin with the ability to pivot, which sits on the slot of the track and holds the braids.

·         Braids – Copper metal contacts or copper braids provide power to the car by making contact with the rails on the track. It’s important that these are adjusted correctly for optimal car performance.

·         Magnet – Front and rear magnets provide force to keep the car on the track.

·         Chip – This refers to the circuit board which interprets signals on the track and operating the motor for digital cars. Some conventional cars have a chip to control the lights, but many do not have a chip at all.

What are slot car racetracks made out of?
Slot cars include a variety of other features and parts and differ depending on when the car was made and the maker. The majority of the slot car racetracks used for home races are made from molded plastic snap-together track sections. This allows the racer to reconfigure their track at will. The tracks used for competition are often hand-built; the guide slots for the vehicles are routed into a type of sheet material, generally either medium-density fiberboard or chipboard. Voltage supplied to the track by the power supply is typically between 12 to 18 volts and 1 or 2 amps.

What types of slot cars are best for beginners?
Cars of the 1/32 scale are most recommended for beginners, as they are very durable and are actually the most common size among hobbyists. The cars with very strong magnets are good for beginners initially, but may limit the development of driving skills. As racing skills develop further, the magnets are needed less and less and you may find you need to update your slot car as your skills progress.

What types of racetracks are best for beginners?
A simple track plan allows one to learn how to drive properly and enjoy the hobby. Sometimes an oval of track is best so that beginners can learn the fundamentals of accelerating, braking and controlling speed in the corners.  A more elaborate and challenging track can be then enjoyed after some skill has been developed. Unfortunately, many sets do not have a good track layout for beginners.  The beauty of plastic track is that you can configure a simple oval first, practice and then expand the layout with the balance of the track to make a more challenging circuit.

Clubs are a perfect way to get more involved in the hobby. Whether it’s a few people getting together informally to share tips and run their cars for fun, or large clubs that are a little more serious, joining a club will allow you to get the most out of slot car racing. Major competitions do exist on large tracks in commercial raceways, but these are typically for 1/24 scale cars, which require more sophisticated cars and equipment.

Slot car racing is a wonderfully diverse hobby that can stay with you for a lifetime and can be shared by generations of enthusiasts.  Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned pro, there is always something new to keep you in high gear!

Lynne Bernhard

Modern Slot Car Racing

Not since the ‘60s has the hobby of racing tiny electric cars been so hot. The love of slot cars and friendly racing competition has racers gathering around slot car tracks across the nation, attracting the most serious slot-car racer and the casual racer alike. Some people like to simply collect racing slot cars. Some have a desire for a retro feeling or searching for the “good old days.” Others love nothing more than meeting a group of friends at a track for an evening of friendly, competitive racing. Whatever the reason, the zoom has definitely come back to the hobby.

Slot car racing also has one of the widest ranges in level of participation. Already captivating previous generations of enthusiasts, manufacturers have now gone to work teaming them up with a brand new age bracket of devotees. Baby boomers that grew up with slot cars now share the hobby with their children—and while kids are drooling over the cool slot cars and sets, their dads, and yes, moms, are modifying their cars for better performance.

One thing is for certain…these aren’t the slot cars of days gone by. Today the quality and variety of modern slot cars, race sets and accessories are unequaled. Slot car race sets today are amazing–the slot car models look and drive better, and modern technology has enabled the development of some very sophisticated electronic, digital, and computer devices. With the aid of the latest manufacturing techniques, the cars are as highly detailed as any collector die-cast car. Digital technology further provides the action of real racing with a realism that was previously missing – the ability to change lanes, draft your competitor and control your cornering, acceleration and braking.

The days of watching slot cars just going around the track are gone, and with a whole load of amazing new product innovations and a growing number of slot car enthusiasts, we can safely say that the slot car racing hobby is here to stay.

Lynne Bernhard