Scalextric's recent adoption of Bluetooth technology in its slot racing systems showed that the home sport still has some technological chops. It also proved that slot racing, which hit its popular peak under family Christmas trees more than a half-century ago, is alive and well.
We present photos depicting the history of slot racing and the gradual technical evolution of its products. From the clunky hobby cars of the early 1900s to the smartphone-enabled toys of today, we offer a brief look at the ultimate basement sport.
Click on the slot cars below to start the slideshow.
A slot car racing system from Scalextric pits a scale model of a 1995 Jaguar XJ220 against a Ferrari F40. (Source: Scalextric)
By the way, I found my TCR cars last night. I was digging through the basement, looking for my old matchbox cars to give to my son. When I opened the matchbox car carrying case that I located, I found the TCR cars (they appears to be glow in the dark) and one slot car (which I had repainted black and gold like any good young Steeler fan). When I pulled them out of the case, the tires disintegrated into hard chunks, but I have the cars.
Slot car racing is alive and well in the southeastern Michigan area. There are several active commercial raceways such as Lightning Speedway (Livonia), TSS (Monroe), Downriver Raceway (Lincoln Park), Slot Car Mania (Westland), and Cloverleaf Raceway (Milford). A 24 hour event was held at a private track in Fenton, where the 1/32 scale hardbody world record was broken by a team from New Jersey and Quebec. The winning car traveled approximately 270 actual miles. The race was run with 5 hours of darkness, so the cars had to be lighted. This is an annual event held every March.
My friend up the street and his dad bought a big 1/32 Strombecker layout and set it up on a ping pong table. To improve reliability of the track they soldered all the track's electrical connections! We spent hours racing, then started modifying and building cars. I found that I could buy a 1/32 scale model by Aurora and adapt it to the chassis. I think this is what led to later buying a '65 TR 4 from a wrecking yard and fixing it up to drive off to college. The speed and simplicity of electric slot cars made me think even then that I should be able to make an electric street machine. Here we are today, finally, with such cars available, and the torque and acceleration is similar in some of the more extreme electric cars.
Oh yeah! My TCR set rocked! At least, it did once my parents found a newer set at a garage sale that added 45-deg elbows, and a ton of extra pieces and parts, and my dad let me wire-up both power supplies together so the speed didn't drop-off using the 'pace' cars...loved it!
My slot-friends were suitably amazed at the six-wires electric wonder track with no slots in it - and speed! wow
With 45-deg pieces and sections to get away from the 'oval' setup, you could really mess with your toggle-switch timing to switch lanes fast and stay on the inside track, letting you actually take advantage of the ability to change lanes and pass the other player. Freedom from the slot!
Of course...it was constant cleaning and de-fuzzing and replacing the little metal pads on the bottom, and worn tires, and wiping slick-stuff on the bottom of the car and sides so it wouldn't drag, and all the stuff that makes you feel like you "did something" to help your car win :)
A2, Yes computer systems are more developed and more feasible, life has become more easy thanks to computers and the technology. But will it give the same feeling of the traditional games? Will it do the basics of a team game?
I too had a TCR set and it was pretty cool. Actually, after my last trip to clean out stuff from my dad's house, I found some of the track and at least one of the cars. The set that I had, featured a "jam" car which had the wheels steered to the side to keep it in one lane. You had to pass that car or be stuck behind it.
Each lane had three rails, with no slot. I think that one of the outside rails was common to both cars, with the different cars having either a center pickup or the other outside edge pickup. I think that the jam car had both pickups installed. To change lanes, I think that the switch on the controller reversed the polarity of the DC that was going to the cars, and there was a gear assembly which, depending upon the direction of the motor, would drive either the left wheel of the right wheel. Which side wheel was being driven resulted in the car being pushed towards one side of the track.
It was certainly exciting racing these cars and being able to pass. You always had to have enough speed so that you didn't get stuck between the lanes. Of course the biggest problems were like other slot car tracks: dirty contacts and weak plastic connectors which crack when you disassemble and reassemble the track too many times.
My then six year old son got a cheap, battery powered slot car track for Christmas last year and we enjoyed playing with it, but it was rather junky, of low chinese quality and many pieces broke after just a few days of play.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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