I learned what “tire stagger” was while rebuilding a Tyco 440 in an effort to set a new track record in our attic in 1977 while listening to the Bee Gees on the radio. I hadn’t discovered REO Speedwagon yet. I also learned about aerodynamics by gluing homemade cardboard rear wings on my slot cars. I invented the “wickerbill” on my HO scale track a decade before Indycar used them. I swear I am not making this up.
I absorbed the basics of electricity by rigging a set of miniature street lamps along my racetrack so my cousins and I could turn the lights out and hold “night” races every
evening that Charlie’s Angels wasn’t on ABC.
Slot car racing forced me to become resourceful. When no one else was available to race against, I would wrap a rubber band around the hand throttle, place a slot car on the unmanned opponent’s track, and then use a slightly slower car on the inside lane to try and catch it. When the hand throttle became too hot to touch I would take the rubber band off, install a new throttle and keep racing by myself. For five hours at a time. I am not making that up, either!
When my first son turned 10, his mom and I bought him a slot car track. It was like a hundred feet long, surely at the time the longest slot car track in the history of mankind! We removed the furniture from one room, combined our racetrack kits and set up for some serious racing. Then we found that the slot cars that came with my son’s new kit stuck to the track too much. They didn’t slide. You couldn’t drift them around a corner. We put them back in the box and got out my Dad’s cars from the 1960s. A week later my wife wanted the room back. Fine. We moved to the garage. By this time my second son had turned 12 and needed his own setup.
Today we have a slot car road course set up on a table built into the garage wall about four feet high. We have 20 vintage slot cars ready to race and a rack of spare parts. We have two full boxes of extra track and change the layout regularly between ovals and road courses. We have cushy bar stools for seats and double fluorescent lights – our stadium lights – hovering over the track. Behind the track, in the center of the garage, sits my real Mustang and ‘71 Torino. The walls are decked with pictures of my racecars from the past 20 years.
Television screens hang from the left and right, with constant replays of old Indycar
races. Talk about atmosphere.
So I guess it’s all come full circle. My Dad started racing slot cars in his garage with his son in 1969. His grandsons now do the same thing in their garage in 2013.
Yes, I have figured out what is wrong with America’s youth. Suffice to say, there is no problem on earth that cannot be solved with the proper application of slot cars!
NOTE: Chronicles Editor Marty Schorr still has some of his 1960s slot cars, above, displayed proudly in his office. They survived two generations of play!
Stephen Cox is a racer and co-host of TV coverage of Mecum Auctions, sponsored by http://www.boschett-timepieces.com/index.php