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Feature Article
Slotted Race Cars

February 1, 2002
By Scott Lewis

I have always been a fan of slotted race cars. Not the big ones you have to go somewhere to race, but the HO (actually 1/64th) scale AFX & Tyco style slotted race tracks that seemed very popular when I was growing up. My step father got me started. I was probably around 8 or 9 when I got my first track. Aurora AFX... I loved it. I had a cousin that was about 8 or 10 years older than me that lived down the street. He had the older, original Aurora HO (1/87th scale... true HO scale) track... held together with pins and clips. He gave me one car... a 67 or 68 Cougar. I don't know what happened to that car.

My First Track

Like I said, my step father got me started. I can't quite remember exactly what he got me, but I remember playing with it a lot. I remember how hard it was trying to keep those tracks working. They always broke. It was probably my own fault. I was just a kid, and I didn't really grasp how you needed to take care of them. My track had so many broken pieces that I couldn't build a working layout. That's when my step father bought a couple of pieces of track at a hobby store so I could at least have something functional. He bought me an intersection track, and a couple of special straights that were necessary to build a simple figure-8 track. I had a lot of fun with that simple figure-8. The intersection made it more fun to race around the little track trying to crash the cars. This meant I didn't spend much time taking the track apart and putting it together... the process that results in track pieces getting broken.

Alas that intersection eventually took a beating. My mother and step father split up, and my cousin and his family moved to New Jersey. I was on my own. I would take what little money I could save up to by some track to expand my layout. And I bought a lot of the special clips that they made to hold the track together when they broke. I became very good at keeping a nice layout. In fact, that intersection required about 6 clips to use it. Not fun, but usable.

Resurrection of the Intersection

A hobby store opened up in my town... walking distance from my house (about 3/4 mile). They sold a bunch of Aurora AFX accessories... including... an intersection. They had two, but I only had enough money to buy one. I tried to go back later to buy that second intersection... knowing how hard they were to find... but it was gone, and I never saw another one for sale after that. I still have the intersection I bought, and it is in perfect condition. Depending on how much time and energy I end up putting into this hobby as an adult, I may try and find another intersection on the Internet. We'll see.

Second Interest

I had gotten out of the slot car thing for a while. I was old enough to visit with friends by bike without supervision... as were all my friends at the time. So riding around the neighborhood on our bikes was more fun. Then a strange thing happened. My father (notice, I had a step father, my mother remarried) took my sister (older), my brother (younger) and me shopping for a Christmas present. Rather than trying and get us something, he let us pick any one thing we wanted. Low and behold I saw something that really caught my eye... A four lane AFX slotted race car set. He bought it for me and the hole family had a blast playing. My Dad, my brother, my step mother (my father also remarried), my step brother, and I all had so much fun that weekend. I still remember it.

Now the bug was back. I got that track home from my Dad's house and all I could think about was how to mix that track with what I already had to build really big layouts. It also turned out that my two best friends were big into slotted cars when they were younger. I setup a 4x8 piece of particle board in my bedroom, and everyone would bring their own cars over and we would all race.

I was in my mid to late teens now, and had a paper route, and then got a job at Toys-R-Us for a holiday season. I got some extra track at Toys-R-Us and found a new hobby store (the original one closed long ago... probably because I stopped spending my money there) that sold parts and special track. I built some amazing layouts. I would nail them down to make sure they would not get damaged. Those were some fun years.

Dusting Off The Old Track

When I joined the Air Force in 1986, I packed up my track and took it with me. I had it for about a year or two before I would bother to set it up. My roommate went away for the weekend and I setup a layout that ran all over the living room... even a long straight section behind the couch. I invited a couple of friends over and we raced for hours.

I did this again a few years later while I rented a house. My wife... then just my girl friend... and my roommate played with it for a little while. My wife still remembers it.

Slotted Cars Today

That was then, this is now. My track has not had a good life in the last 10 years. The box it was in got hit by a runaway water heater. But I was determined to get a house with a game room someday... and to setup that track up on a board again. Well that day has arrived.

I asked my wife to get me a 4 lane Tomy AFX slotted race car set for Christmas. The one I wanted was out of stock. But my wife was determined. She found a rather large (40' of linear track) race car set. It glows in the dark, which is really for the kids, but it is a big track. It wasn't Tomy AFX, which was the brand I would have bought. I wanted Tomy AFX because they make a Tomy AFX to Aurora AFX adapter. Fortunately Tomy AFX is popular enough in the hobby world that they make a Life-Line (the brand my wife bought) to Tomy AFX adapter. So... I ordered both adapters (the Tomy AFX to Life-Line and the Aurora AFX to Tomy AFX) online. This will be a bit of a kludge, but at least I can mix my old track with this new track. As I add track in the future it will most likely be Tomy AFX.

So... maybe you are wondering how much track could I really have had from my childhood. Well, I don't actually know. When I told my brother (back in New York) what I got for Christmas he told me that I didn't have all my old track. Apparently, I must have left some behind because he has a box of track stashed deep inside his garage. That means I will harass him to send it to me every time I talk to him until he finally sends the track to me. I can't image what I left behind so long ago, but I only found the good intersection in the box of track I do have. So at the least my brother has that old intersection that requires more clips than I want to wear out my fingers on. I will still bug him to send me what he has... you can't beet the price of shipping an old box instead of buying track.

How Much Track

Now... what you have been waiting for. Here is the inventory of the Aurora AFX track I do have:

Regular Track
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5  - 6" straights (2 bad)
3  - 9" terminal tracks (2 bad)
25 - 9" straights
18 - 15" straights (2 bad)

8  - 6" radius 1/4 circle
26 - 9" radius 1/4 circle (4 bad)

6  - 6" radius 1/8 circle
5  - 9" radius 1/8 circle (1 bad)
11 - 12" radius 1/8 circle
7  - 15" radius 1/8 circle
     Using the 6", 9", 12" & 15" radius tracks 
     you can theoretically make an 8 lane layout.

Special Track
-------------

1 - 180 degree 12" radius high banked turn 
        (2 - 1/4 circle pieces)
1 - 180 degree 9" radius high banked turn 
        (4 - 1/8 circle pieces)
The above two have special supports that allow them
to be used together to make a 4 lane high banked turn.

1 - 9" intersection
6 - 9" squeeze tracks (2 bad)
3 - 9" squiggly tracks
4 - 9" cobblestone tracks (2 bad)
4 - 9" criss-cross tracks
4 - 9" double criss-cross tracks
2 - 9" radius 1/4 circle criss-cross tracks

That adds up to 121 linear feet of racing track. Cool! As for the 14 pieces of bad track noted above, each can be used with one clip to hold it to another piece of track. I also threw out a little more than a dozen pieces of track because they were unusable. Some fell apart in my hands as I took them out of the box.

As for cars, I have a few "parts cars." Cars get cannibalized pretty quick sometimes. Here is a list of the complete cars I have:

42 - Magna-Traction or Super-Magna Traction Cars
20 - G-Plus or Super G-Plus Cars
2 - Tyco
1 - Motorcycle (Brand Unknown)

Some of these cars are missing shoes, the metal contacts that touch the metal grooves in the track. I'll bet most of these cars need shoes. These wear out faster than any other part. Some cars have shoes with complete grooves cut into them. I would like to find a place that sells shoes in bulk, and at a reasonable price. I have seen them on the Internet for around $1.00 to $1.50 a pair. But with some 62 cars to re-shoe, that will be expensive.

Magna-Traction vs. G-Plus

As a kid, the faster the car the better. But as an adult, I care more for having fun with the cars. So... G-Plus, and Super G-Plus, cars suck! (BTW, I think I can tell the difference between G-Plus and Super G-Plus, an extra set of magnets in front of the rear wheels... but I don't know how to tell the difference between Magna-Traction and Super Magna-traction... yet) Yes, G-Plus cars are super fast, with scale speeds so fast that they are not realistic. In fact, some G-Plus cars can be driven around the track at full throttle without falling off. Their traction magnets are so strong they don't require any skill to drive them. Where is the fun in that? I much prefer the Magna-Traction and Super Magna-Traction cars (How do you tell?). The Magna-Traction cars look really cool hanging their tails out around a corner... assuming you can recover and don't spin out completely. To win a race with the Magna-Traction cars you have to drive with... skill. I mostly let my kids use the G-Plus cars. They can do this until they get used to using the throttle at any position besides full blast.

Also in that box of track was a book. It's title is, "Aurora AFX Model Motoring Road Racing Handbook, The Complete Guide to Aurora Model Motoring Vol. III." That was a mouthful. It covers a lot of Aurora AFX and some Aurora HO (Model Motoring) information. It is a die hard hobbyist's book. Some of the stuff in there is so hard core that I can't imagine anyone really doing all that stuff. But I suppose if you actually went to events and competed it is useful information. What I liked about the book was the layouts in it. They had this incredible 4 lane setup that required two 4 x 8 sheets of plywood in an L shape. I remember making a scaled down version of that track on my one 4 x 8 board back in my bedroom. It lasted for a long time because it was a very fair race track. I will probably try to recreate it again someday. If so look for a picture of it on this site. Apparently this layout was an official track that was used in competitions. Whatever. I just know that my version of this layout was a lot of fun to drive on.

Miscellaneous Information

Tracker 2000 is a software program that lets you build tracks on your computer. It seems like a decent program, but I find it a little cumbersome. Considering the niche market they are catering to I can understand its limits. It has virtually no limits on what you can build for a track. Alas it did not have my intersection in it. I gave up on it pretty quickly and switched to Paint Shop Pro. I found I could easily create each track piece and then copy and paste them to a "board" easy enough. I think I will waste plenty of time with this.

Well, I have rambled on for quite a while. I have seen some people with some serious web sites on this stuff. HO Slot Car Racing is my favorite so far. This guy is serious. He builds some high dollar tables. He sells them... at very high prices. But he also shows you everything you need to know to build them yourself. He also sells track as he buys the stuff in bulk. For track he is the best price I have seen so far. Whenever I want to know something I check his site first. That says something.

Here are a couple of other places I found that sell slotted race cars/track/accessories:

Hobby Surplus - They are a bit pricey, but they have a lot of the original stuff... Aurora AFX and older Aurora HO stuff.
Model-Auto Slot Car Racing - This is the place I bought my adapter track. They have a good selection of stuff, once again a bit pricey.
Scale Auto - These guys have a slightly limited selection compared to some others, but their prices are the best I have seen. This is the place that ran out of the Tomy AFX 4-Lane Super International Race Set that I wanted for Christmas. I still want to get it. In fact I may get two. That way I can have 4 fresh power packs and controllers for four lane racing. But at $125 I may have to wait a little while. That's O.K. I have been waiting for over a decade for what I am doing now.

Conclusion

Well its time to stop writing about cars and start playing with them. I have an extra 4 x 8 sheet of plywood from building the house that I am going to hoist up to the game room. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Now it is time to start building layouts and playing with my track.

I remember from long ago that one of my friends had some original Aurora HO track. He didn't have much, it was from his older brothers when they were younger. But I vaguely remember getting adapter track that let us combine his Aurora HO track with my Aurora AFX track. The neat thing about the Aurora HO track was the switch tracks (similar to switch tracks for trains) and split track that would let each lane run by itself. I think it would be neat to get some of those special Aurora HO track pieces and adapters so I can work some of that special track into my stuff. How about a combination Aurora HO - Aurora AFX - Tomy AFX layout. That might be interesting.

Let's Race!

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