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LEB Product Review: Carrera D124 BMW M1 Procar slot cars, #23821

While the BMW M1 didn’t make a huge impact on the racing world back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the looks of the car and the drivers that raced them left a small mark in the racing history books. BMW hoped to compete with the Porsches of the day, but failed to succeed. While the M1 wasn’t much of a race car, it is hard to not do a double take at the body design and eye-catching liveries they donned on the race track. We’ll take a look at Carrera’s version of the car driven by Hans-Joachim Stuck in 1980, Carrera D124 BMW M1 Procar BASF, No.80 (item #23821).


For those with experience racing Carrera slot cars, the fact that this car looks great is no surprise. While there may be a sponsor logo missing here or there for licensing reasons, the artwork that is present is clear, crisp, and brightly displayed. Although with the BASF livery, you may have to give yourself a shake to snap out of the trance you’re in created by the red and white paint scheme!


I don’t want to jump ahead of myself, but when taking photos for this review, I happened to notice something that, while it makes no difference to the performance of the car, it does show just how detailed and to scale Carrera slot cars are. So imagine yourself following this M1 down the racetrack just hoping to get to the inside of the next turn. Too bad you won’t be able to because Hans sees you in his rear view mirror! Look closer!CarreraD124_BMW_M1_Driver_Rear_Small

Speaking of Mr. Stuck, the other details in the cockpit are impressive too!



Looking at the underside of the car shows the guide setup that has become the standard on Carrera D124 cars, which includes a double braid system to insure good contact to the track while racing. You’ll also see the small, white dip switch that changes the car from digital to analog, as well as the IR sensor for digital operation. One other thing to notice is the part number stamped on the bottom of the chassis in white, in this case ‘23821’.


Removing the body from the chassis is quick and easy by way of four screws, two near the front and two in the rear. With the body removed we can see the simple wiring that is nicely routed to and from the digital chip.


The front and rear lights are each on separate boards and are held in place by housings made into the chassis.


Taking a quick look at the parts that make this car go, we see the standard motor and gearing from Carrera, a 14 tooth brass pinion on the motor shaft and a 50 tooth spur gear on the rear axle. This gear combination give us a 3.57 gear ratio which is a nice setup for good top end speed as well as some quickness out of the turns.


The half tray interior can be seen from the underside of the body as well as the mounting posts with threaded brass inserts and blacked out areas that prevent light from showing through the red body where it isn’t wanted.


Now that we have taken a look at what makes this car not only look great but run great, let’s talk about how it runs on the track.


Since the majority of folks that race slot cars do so with a car that is unmodified and raced on a plastic track, that’s how I did the testing for this review. I removed the car from the case, made sure everything moved freely, checked that the tires were on the rims correctly, and began testing.


Right out of the case the car was smooth and quiet. All the lights worked as well as the digital functions of the electronics inside the car. The tires have sufficient grip and with help from the single bar magnet located just forward of the motor, the car zipped around the turns with ease.


While the Carrera D124 slot cars are quite heavy compared to most cars that are geared to organized racing, this BMW has no problem going from zero to fast. Throttle response is very good between the controller and the car. Braking (completely letting off of the plunger of the controller) nets a stop in less than 24”. The combination of acceleration and deceleration makes for a very responsive car in both the straight sections of track and the twisty technical sections too.


As with all of the Carrera D124 cars that I own, this one performs well. The quality is top notch in all areas and one would be pleased with adding this one to their collection. For those that are interested in scale racing, the Procar series was limited to the BMW M1 so your only option for a competitor car is the other livery of this same model that was just released, the Regazzoni, No.28, 1979 (item #23820). There are two more BMW M1’s scheduled for release sometime this year though, so a nice lineup of four of these cars racing around the track will be a great sight to see! You can see all four liveries being offered by LEB Hobbies HERE. Grab an M1, or two, and enjoy some friendly competition on the slot car track! And remember, when racing slot cars, if you’re not having fun you’re doing it wrong.


by Jeremy ‘bibbster’ Bibbee

Of Slot Cars, History, and Great Friends: Looking Back and Ahead to Tomorrow

by Jeremy ‘bibbster’ Bibbee

This is one of those things that is difficult to talk about. Yesterday I learned of a friend’s passing, Mr. Marty Stanley. And when I say friend, well, let me give you a little back story.

I first met Marty by way of a forum on the internet where fellow hobbyists of slot car racing, building, and collecting liked to hang out; Home Racing World. We exchanged conversation through this forum for quite some time and our friendship began to develop. We would exchange messages via private message about the slot car hobby as a whole, as well as what we did to get our cars to run better, shortcuts to building chassis, and painting and decaling tricks.

From there our conversation moved to telephone calls that went across the miles between his home in Florida and my home in Tennessee. Conversing with Marty via private messages was one thing, talking to him on the phone was another. You see, his typed words very simplistically conveyed how much he enjoyed his slot car hobby. Whether you, as the reader, were a new person to the hobby or a seasoned racer from the 60’s (just like Marty), one could very easily feel a connection with him. He wanted the hobby to spread and grow and had no qualms with sharing his ‘secrets’ of slot car building. Speaking to him on the phone only confirmed what one was reading. His voice was soothing yet bold and expressed well, the passion he had for slot cars. Marty was the real deal.

I had the opportunity to first meet Marty just a few short years ago while visiting my family in Florida. We made plans to meet at one of his favorite restaurants so we could finally put faces to names and voices. I’ll never forget that day. As with many days in Florida, there was a random downpour that didn’t last long. There is nothing like being in an unfamiliar area in rain so heavy that you couldn’t see the street signs from ten feet away. Marty and his wife patiently waited for me, my wife, and my parents to arrive. At last we had made it and just as we pulled into the parking lot, the rain let up.

We made our way inside to find Marty, a tall and burly man with a striking white beard. One look and you instantly knew what kind of guy he was. He had that look and aura of a big teddy bear. Yeah, that sounds sappy, but anyone who knew Marty would agree. While snacking on appetizers, we chatted for what seemed like only minutes, but those minutes were actually several hours. I can only imagine how bored our families were by that time. We wrapped up our conversation and said our goodbyes. That is how Marty and I became friends.

Over the next year or so, we would converse on the phone about not only slot cars, but family, the state of America, and the weather. Sometimes calls were merely minutes just to say hello, other times it was in depth conversation about what-ifs of building slot cars. Out of one of those conversations came Marty’s opinion that the slot car world needed a motor pod for a FC-130 motor, also known as an S-can, in an anglewinder configuration. It’s hard to argue with a guy that clearly knew what he was talking about. After all, Marty had raced slot cars since the 60’s and could build a chassis that was nothing less than a masterpiece. So plans were made for Devis3D Designs, a 3D printing and design business that I am a partner in, to create the motor pod.

By this time, Marty had gone through some major changes in his health. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had not been given much time to live. To say Marty proved them wrong was an understatement. And while he was fighting the battle I was afforded a second opportunity to visit Marty and his wife.

Last Thanksgiving, my wife and I went to spend the holiday with my parents who had since retired to Florida, so I planned a trip to see Marty while there. I had asked my dad to make the three hour trek with me to visit with Marty. I thought it would be a good time for Dad and me to spend some time together as well. Dad and I headed up the fast paced interstate, which is less than boring when it comes to scenery, even in Florida. We arrived at Marty’s on schedule and were greeted by Marty’s wife, Barbara. She came to the door with a smile and ushered us back to Marty’s bedroom. You see, by this time the cancer had taken it’s toll and Marty was, for the most part, relegated to his bed. The tall burly man that I met a couple years ago had been reduced to someone who did not look like the Marty that I knew. It was terrible to see him that way.

Marty, Dad, and I chatted for a few minutes and at that point Marty had decided it was time to sit up. He called for Barbara and asked for his wheelchair. With help, he was sitting up and, for the time being, the pain was tolerable for him thanks to the medication he was taking. The conversation we shared included his concern for our country, faith, and of course, slot cars.

Marty again called for Barbara and he requested that she get his red pit box which included his tools of the slot car racing trade, as well as some 1/24 scale cars he had built. He was eager to show me one particular car that he had built for commercial track racing. After we discussed the reasoning behind why he built the car the way he did and how he did it, he said, “Do you still have your wood track oval?”, to which I replied, “Yes, sir.”. He said, “Well, then, I want you to have this. And since I painted two other bodies to fit the chassis for different race classes, I want you to have them too.” In one split second my mind went through several thoughts. You see, I knew in that instant that Marty wanted me to have that car because he knew his time on Earth was coming to a close. At the same time, though, I knew he wanted to be sure that he did his part to share and grow the slot car hobby. He knew that I shared that same passion and in my heart of hearts his gift of that chassis was more than a gift, it was a challenge. A challenge to take that chassis, study it, race it, and learn it. Once I had done that and made myself very familiar with it, then came the final challenge; to build one of my own, share it with someone, and grow the hobby. That was what made Marty who he was. He was always thinking a few steps ahead and I’m certain, that after talking to him over the years, that he thought that way in everything he did.

We ended our visit with Marty suggesting we take a more scenic route back home. Boy was he right! While my heart was saddened to see Marty in the state he was in, the scenery allowed me to appreciate that time with Marty even more. How could a guy in that condition want to make sure that I enjoyed my drive home? You see, that was Marty. The hustle and bustle of the interstate I had traveled earlier was now replaced with a slow pace which allowed me more time for reflection.
With that challenge from Marty I mentioned earlier in mind, I think back to the time I spent with Marty and all the conversations that we had. Those will forever be great memories for me of a man that was passionate about not only his hobby, but friends and family too. Looking ahead to tomorrow and days beyond, it will be tough for many family and friends as this great husband, father, grandfather, and friend is laid to rest. For those that knew him well, we’ll know that his is now in a much better place. I don’t know that there are slot cars in Heaven, but I do know that there is now one more person that I look forward to seeing again someday. For now, though, I’ll continue to remember the good times and be forever grateful to have had the opportunity to know Marty.


A Triple Threat: Carrera Porsche 917K

Review by: Jeremy ‘bibbster’ Bibbee

What could be better than a Porsche 917K in 1/32 scale manufactured by Carrera? How about two Porsche 917Ks in 1/32 scale? How about three?! I’ll be reviewing all of the recently released Porsche 917Ks from Carrera which comes in two liveries; the Martini International Watkins Glen 6h, No. 35 (digital item# 30737) and the Martini International Kyalami 9h, No. 2 (digital item# 30736), the latter of which is also available in analog (item# 27498). I’ll take a look at all three of these cars, and though their mechanicals are the same, they all deserve a look especially if you like Porsches and slot car racing.

While the Porsche 917K has been produced by other slot car manufacturers, the releases from Carrera beat them all by a long shot. There is a lot of value and several features that make these cars shine. Hopefully I’ll be able to provide you with some information to help you decide which model(s) you will choose.


Before I go any further, I want to speak about the value aspect of Carrera slot cars for a moment. There are no other manufacturers that offer 1:32 scale slot cars at the price point that Carrera does. Period. While there are occasionally analog cars offered at similar prices, they usually have blacked out windows and no interior, among other things. Where is the fun in that? For approximately $32 USD, you get a very close representation of an actual car, interior, driver, and all. For about $12 more, you can get the digital version which comes with lights as well as the opportunity for you to change lanes, make pit stops, and various other features that come with digital racing. So overall, Carrera has the dollar, fun, value, and feature ratios set at a place where anybody can enjoy the hobby of slot car racing.


As I mentioned earlier, there are three models available from Carrera, which brings us to our first feature; digital and analog options. Whether you race digital or analog, Carrera has you covered in more than one way. If you are an analog racer, you can easily convert all Carrera digital cars to analog mode with the flip of a switch on the bottom of the car. After flipping the switch, put the car on the track and depress the controller throttle three times. The car is now in analog mode. Purchasing a digital car affords you to have lights in your car. Analog cars do not come with lights so if you like lights, go with the digital version(s).


The digital versions provide you with two liveries to choose from; the Martini International Watkins Glen 6h, No. 35 (digital item# 30737) and the Martini International Kyalami 9h, No. 2 (digital item# 30736). Both liveries look very nice and you may as well not settle on one. Go ahead and get them both, they are Porsches after all! Seriously though, each model is executed very well. The sponsor logos, text, numbers, and other graphics are all very crisp and the colors are vibrant. You can see just how nice these cars look in the various pictures throughout this review. So while other makers produce a detailed 917K, Carrera has upped their game over the years and provides a striking execution of this iconic race car that runs very well, as you’ll hear about later, for very little money.


The size of the car is very close to scale as well. While it isn’t spot on, the Carrera 917K is close enough that you won’t be able to tell, which makes it a very good representation of its full size counterpart. Here is the rundown on the measurements of the full size car and the slot car model.

1:1 – Length / Width / Height / Wheelbase 4,120 mm  /  1,980 mm  /  940 mm  /  2,300 mm
1:32 (True scale) 128.75 mm  /  61.87 mm  /  29.37 mm  /   71.87 mm
Carrera Model 130.51 mm  /  61.30 mm  /  29.20 mm  /  72.40 mm



Here you will see the mechanicals of the cars. The pictures below allow you to see the digital chip which is required to run on the Carrera digital track system. As mentioned earlier, you can run digital cars on analog track with the chip in place. The gear ratio is 3.37:1, by way of an 8 tooth pinion and 27 tooth crown gear. While typical gearing in Carrera cars is 3:0 (9T pinion and 27T crown), this car utilizes a motor that allows it to be competitive with other cars using the standard gearing. The motor in the 917K is a FF-050 (slimline) and is rated at 25,000 rpm. The extra rpm’s allow it to keep up easily with other cars motored with the Carrera E-200, which is rated at 21,000 rpm.


Notice that the lights at the front of the car are each on separate circuit boards. With the slope at the front of the body, a single circuit board is not possible. While the full size 917K did have brake lights, the Carrera model does not. You can’t blame them though as the car doesn’t lend itself to the required wiring and such while keeping kids safety in check. For those like myself that may have an urge to add brake lights to this car, the rear light plug (orange/white wire) is present on the digital chip so wiring will be pretty straight forward.



Carrera has done a nice job on blocking out most of the residual light from the LED’s, but there is still some very minor bleed through. The most noticeable amount of escaping light comes from the underside of the car, which you can see in the photo below. It is more prevalent on the #35 car than the #2 car that I have. If it really bothers you, some strategically placed black paint and/or electrical tape will take care of it. Me? I’m gonna race ‘em!



The bottom of the chassis shows the item number, the dip switch to change the car from analog to digital and the IR sensor (located on the digital chip), as well as the guide and magnets (one located just forward of the rear wheels and one inside the chassis just below the item number).


Okay, so how do they run? When reviewing slot car I take them right out of the box and head to the track. On my way to the track, there are three things that I do; make sure the front and rear wheels spin freely, make sure the guide braid is adjusted so that it makes good contact with the track rails, and make sure the guide turns freely. Carrera cars come from the factory with a decent amount of lubrication on the gears and axles which usually suffices for testing. All Carrera cars come with an instruction sheet on maintaining your slot car. It is easy to skip reading it since it is in the back of the case and we’re usually anxious to get started with racing, but give the sheet a good once over and you’ll be set for future purchases as the procedures are the same for all of their cars.


All three cars ran very smooth on my custom routed wood track. Typically, if a car is smooth on that track, it will be smooth on my Carrera digital track. That held true with all three of these cars. I had a spare digital chip, which can be purchased separately for any analog car (item# 26732), so I put it in the analog car and tested it on my digital track as well. Lane changing functions worked well as did all the other functions of digital racing, including pit stops, lap counting, and so on. Again, analog cars do not come with lights which means no night racing for this particular model.

Grip from the tires on both tracks was good for two of the three cars. One rear tire on one car was significantly harder than the others. It reminded me of Carreras old tire compound from a couple years ago. The tires, while the did have some grip, would quickly begin to lose traction. Their newer tire compound is almost more of a urethane type as they are much softer and hold their grip for many more laps over the older versions. Aside from that one single tire, the cars performed very well in the tire department.

In less than fifty laps, on each track, the cars became very predictable making them easy to control. Speed out of turns was quick with very little tail-out action. Braking was smooth and crisp with the cars stopping in less than a foot from full throttle to zero on both wood and plastic track. I was able to drive deep into the turns and find the sweet spot for exiting quickly. Racing these cars is loads of fun!
In conclusion, this model definitely does not disappoint in the looks department or the fun department. As I mentioned before, you’ll be hard pressed to find this much fun in an affordable package in the slot car hobby. Adding this model to your collection, whether it is the first slot car you buy, or you have hundreds, is a must! So give this one a try, you won’t regret it!

A Carrera Digital Slot Car Set: The Perfect Holiday Gift!

With so much technology for families to get wrapped up in these days, unwrapping a Carrera Digital slot car set this Christmas is the perfect way for families to unplug. How so you ask?

As you know there are smart phones, tablets, e-readers, gaming consoles, and more, that kids as well as their parents are deeply rooted to. We are more concerned about checking our social media pages to see what the Jones’s are up to than we are at spending time as a family.  We just can’t seem to put the gadgets aside these days. Gone are the days, for most, where families sit around the kitchen table and play cards or board games. It seems that unless there is a computer chip of some sort coupled with an LCD screen to look at, we’re just not interested.

What is this slot car set that I mentioned? To keep the answer simple I’ll offer you this. A slot car is an electric powered toy car that runs on a plastic track that resembles a road. The car is guided around the track by a ‘guide’ or ‘guide flag’ in the bottom of the car which rides in a slot within the track. So that’s the simple version. A digital slot car track works the same way except that the cars, with help from special track sections, have the ability to switch lanes.

Let me tell you about that Carrera Digital 132 slot car set that recently made its way into our home. The set is called D132 (which is short for Digital 132) Hybrid Power Race Set and comes with everything you need to play. Two of my kids, both girls, saw the set and liked the cars that were in the set, a Porsche 918 Spyder and a Ferrari LaFerrari. Yeah, they have expensive taste in cars, but no matter, the toy versions are very affordable.

When the set arrived, we began unpacking the parts, laying them in piles respective to what they were. While the package contains lots of parts, they are all easily identifiable and assemble simply. As they unpacked the parts, they made their way to the cars that they had seen in the catalog and online. Katelyn, 11, picked up the Ferrari LaFerrari, looked at it a bit and said, “These cars are really detailed.” While Kelsey, 8, grabbed the Porsche and exclaimed, “I like the stripes!” As with all the newest offerings of cars from Carrera, the detail on the cars is impressive, especially considering their low cost. There is lots of value in those little toy cars when it comes to quality and fun.

As we finished unpacking the box of parts, Katelyn said, “Man! How big is this track?” The Hybrid race set comes with twenty eight feet of track that sets up in a 10’ by 6’ area. We began putting the track pieces together making sure to use the interlocking red clips that help to ensure that the track stays together. We found that inserting the clips into the last piece of track and then adding the next piece of track was the easiest way to install them.

We worked our way around the track piece by piece which brought us to the first digital section of track. The girls liked the set when they saw it because of the cars that were in it. Once I explained to them that the set was digital and the cars could change lanes, they were really excited! So I showed them the lane change pieces and explained to them how they worked as we assembled them. We continued putting the rest of the track together as indicated in the instructions, which included another lane change section, the power base and the controller charging station.

Controller charging station? Yep, that’s right, the controllers use rechargeable batteries (included) and charge on a special piece of track border. Not only are the controllers battery operated, they are wireless. What does that mean? It means that there are no cords to get tangled up and that racers can move about the track to find their ideal viewing position. The controllers feature 2.4 GHz technology and are good up to a range of about ten feet or so. Not only will our family be unplugged from all the distractions to race cars, but our controllers will be ‘unplugged’ as well. Upon seeing that the controllers were wireless, Katelyn asked, “Are these controllers cordless? Awesome!” So not only was I excited to know that kids wouldn’t be getting tangled up in cords any longer, the kids were excited too. Once we began playing with the set, they each found a spot that they liked and sat and raced their cars. Another great benefit to the wireless controllers, is that parents can separate the little ones a bit to keep some of the ‘drama in the race pits’ from getting out of control. Of course, if dad and mom get a little too competitive, the kids can put them in separate corners to race as well.

Included in the set are sections of ‘guardrail’ that can be installed in key turns around the track. These barriers help to keep the cars from getting too far off the track should the racing become a little heated. When the racing is side by side, racers tend to push the car to it’s limits causing the car to deslot from time to time. The barriers are held into place with clips which snap onto the edge of the track. Then the barrier slides into the clips which can then be adjusted left to right as necessary.

Now that the girls and I had the track assembled, we were ready to start playing. The set came with a very nice operating manual that went into every detail of the set and how it operated. However, that manual is very lengthy for parents with kids who are eager to race, so thankfully, Carrera included a ‘Quick Start Guide’ with the set. The ‘Quick Start Guide’ covers all the necessary steps to get everyone ready for playing quickly. For a little better understanding of what digital racing is about, I’d like to go over the things that you can do with the set and cars before I tell you about the experience that my daughters and I had playing with the set.

Digital racing from Carrera offers a nice selection of things that can be adjusted to help you and your fellow racers enjoy the experience. Aside from each controller being assigned to a car, the control unit, which is like the brain of the set, has various functions that you can control. These items include programming the maximum speed allowed, the amount of braking, the lights of each car, and fuel tank capacity. In addition, a pace car can be programmed so that one can race against the control unit if racing alone, or as many as 6 cars, either 6 racers or 5 racers and a pace car, can race at once on the same track.

The speed control allows the user to set the maximum percentage of speed that a car can go. For instance, if you set the car to use 100% of the available speed and you press the throttle and don’t let go, the car will fly off the track when you approach a turn. If the maximum speed is set to only 10% of the available speed, the car is much easier to control when entering a turn.

The braking effect, also in increments of 10%, determines how quickly the car stops when a racer lets off of the throttle. At a low setting, the car will coast a bit when the throttle is depressed, at a high setting the car will stop almost instantly.

Using the fuel capacity forces the racer to stop his car for a ‘virtual’ fill up of fuel. This can be set, also in increments of 10%, to ‘Off’ as well, so that no fuel stops are required. Use of the fuel feature does require Carrera Pit Stop 30356, which can be purchased from the Carrera dealer where you purchased your set.

Also, the lights on each car can be turned off or on. This is a neat feature when the fun of racing during the day goes into the night. Most Carrera digital cars come with both headlights and tail lights. The tail lights double as brake lights while racing. When the throttle is depressed, the tail lights will become brighter indicating braking is underway.

With that overview of the set and how some of the parts function, let me get back to why slot car racing is a perfect gift for under the Christmas tree. It is all about F-U-N! That is a simple three letter word that is sometimes easy to forget exists these days. My daughters and I, after setting everything up, enjoyed lots of racing. What is great though, is that while we were having fun racing, we were also talking to one another and interacting in ways that families should. When someone would drive too fast into a corner and deslot, we’d all laugh and joke about it. Sure, there is a time for serious racing and if you want to do that, this set, as well as the others offered by Carrera can provide that, but more often than not, it is all about the fun. With fun comes great memories and an environment where families can break free from the chaos of life and just smile and relax.

My kids will tell you just how much fun racing slot cars is if you ask them. Guess what? So will my wife. Slot car racing is something that the whole family can enjoy. While there technically can be one winner, after only a few laps, it will be easy for you to see that everyone is a winner by nothing more than the smiles on the faces of each racer, or even those just watching. So add a slot car race set from Carrera to your wish list or buy one as a gift for a family that could use some ‘unplugged’ time. While socks, ties, and candy are nice, there is nothing like the fun that a slot car set brings to a family. Merry Christmas!

Jeremy ‘bibbster’ Bibbee

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

Slot Cars: Why I Do What I Do

When someone asks me what hobbies I enjoy, I eagerly reply with, “I race slot cars.” And most of the time the look I get back is the same as what is going through the inquirer’s mind, “What are slot cars?” As much as I’d like to think that everyone knows what a slot car is in America, they don’t. But that is a conversation for another day. After the brief explanation as to what a slot car is, I then get asked, “Why do you still play with toy cars?” This is often followed up with, “You’re an adult.” I really love people sometimes.

So with the question posed, my mind swirls with the best possible answer for the person in front of me that most likely won’t ‘get it’ no matter what I say. Although, sometimes I get the person who wants to know where to buy slot cars. While slot cars are not for everyone, here is why they bring me enjoyment.

As a kid, I grew up listening to stories of my dad and his real world experiences with theAmerican automobile. No, not slot cars, but real, life size, gasoline burning, tire smoking, cars. You see, my dad grew up in the muscle car era. Stories of big block Corvettes, Chevelles, and Impalas, along with the swift and nimble underrated 1968 Dodge Dart GTS, abounded as I grew up. Watching and helping my dad fix our family transportation also instilled in me a fondness of the automobile.

As I continued to grow, a talent in me started to develop. One that many folks call ‘artistic ability.’ I like to draw, paint, make, and design all sorts of art and art related things. As I began to understand art and all of its many facets and intricacies, I also began to look at automobiles much differently. Enter the Ford Mustang. The car that set the stage for what was to come in my appreciation of the automobile. I know, cliché right? Bear with me if you will.

As my passion for the Mustang developed, my dad would make sure that I attended a car show here and there. What did I look for? You got it, the classic Mustangs. The various body lines, the curves, the angles, the strategically placed ornaments, these weren’t just cars, they were rolling art. As I got a little older, I began looking at all cars differently. What were just cars to some, was actually a designer’s dreams and ideas as to what a particular car should look like. And that passion for design goes all the way back to the very first introduction of the automobile.

With my love of all things automotive, I still appreciated the classic Mustang, but I also began to appreciate other cars as well. When you are standing next to a 1948 Tucker, a 1963 Galaxie or Cutlass, or a 1957 Thunderbird, and look at the car, I mean really look at it, you’ll see what I mean. Look past ‘the car’ and look at each individual piece, and not only the body, but the interior and the engine compartment too. The vintage American automobile is amazing!

Just when I thought I had seen it all when it came to rolling art, enter the foreign automobile. Yes, my artistic eye and passion for cars was about to get a major rush of adrenaline. Sleek, sexy, and refined, all words I use to describe the Ferrari GTO, Jaguar XKE, and Porsche 911. Those are just a few of my favorite cars from the other side of the pond, but all are absolutely beautiful pieces of machinery. Sure, they have boots and bonnets instead of trunks and hoods, but they are still gorgeous!

So now that you know my history with cars, here is why I still play with toy cars. With time comes change, and one change is the value of cars. I remember seeing the classified ads in the back of muscle car, hot rod, and other auto related magazines as a teenager, and thought many a time how cool it would be to have enough cash to buy one of those cars. For example, a DeLorean. When I was a teen, you could buy them for a few thousand dollars. They were ‘lousy’ cars that nobody wanted. Well, except the pimply faced boys looking at them in classified ads. These days, you’d have to add a zero to that couple thousand dollars to buy one. And a classic muscle car or Porsche in just about any flavor…well, you better have some major cash tucked away.

Slot cars are small scale cousins to the real thing and can be had for a much lower price. Sometimes for fun during casual conversation, I tell folks I have several classic cars, including Mustangs, Porsches, Ferraris, and vintage race cars such as Richard Petty’s Plymouth and Dan Gurney’s Eagle Weslake. Of course, they call my bluff. I only have the Mustang, but that’s when I take the opportunity to tell them about all the wonderful makes and models of cars that are available in a smaller scale. I go on to tell them that not only can you afford these model cars but you can race them too! That, of course, leads to much more conversation than they probably were looking for, but anytime I get the opportunity to share my hobby with others, I do it.

So, now you know why I enjoy slot cars so much. Well, at least one of the reasons anyway. And in the slot car community, you’ll hear this same or similar story as well. I’ll share with you other things about the hobby that I enjoy some other time. Things that add to the pleasure of these little scale models that we affectionately call…slot cars. You can look at all the classic and modern slot cars for sale at LEBHobbies.com, the place that takes my hobby to the next level.

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