Slot cars, Slot cars, Slot cars…. where do I start? Where I started, that’s where…
1969, Christmas, BIG box under the tree, excitement plus, Santa had been for sure… ripping off wrapping and there it was… Scalextric, I can still smell Scalextric, it has it’s own peculiar aroma, the insides of a Scalex box, the plastic of the track, the Styrofoam, the oil on the cars, the funny smell from those silly Scalex wheel controllers….
What? I hear you ask? Yes, wheel controllers on 32nd scale Scalex, in 1969, Scalex had a GT40 set with steering, yep, you heard right, steering… I had a blue GT40 and a white GT40 with little arms under them that moved from side to side steering the car across the lane. The track came with boarders that went all the way around and little plastic moulds of rocks and grass mounds you stuck in the middle or on the edges of the track that you steered the cars around. You also had to move over to pass a car too, if the other driver was in the middle of the track.
The wheel on the controller reversed the current changing the direction of the motor which ran through a gearbox and moved the arm back and forth. Complicated to say the least and probably the reason I don’t own it to this day, it no doubt stuffed up fairly quickly annoying the crap out of my father… forcing him to get rid of it… pity really because I would love to get them out and fix them up so they kicked arse and still changed lanes….
In 1978 I once again got the bug. I was living around the corner from a good mate (amazingly I still live around the corner from him but both of us are now 1000 km further north) and we went halvsies in another Scalex track. We had our first 1:1 cars in the drive way and another mess of scalex track and cars in the lounge.
We started rewinding motors, blowing up controllers, sticking big orange foamies on model cars and cutting chassis to put in group 20 motors so we could get HUGE burnouts and MASSIVE speeds out of those poor little 32nd scale plastic cars… modifying Matchbox kits, cutting brass chassis up and putting holes in the walls…
As an aside Bill dropped all of his old track off at my house just the other day. Two hundred pieces of track, bridge supports etc, including an assortment of 70’s and 80’s classic slot cars, a dozen power packs, a collection of scalex controllers… it’s all there and still working once I get the rust off the rails.
During this time I owned a 24th Scale collection of hand made brass chassis cars that I raced when I had the opportunity, even though I had to travel to Sydney to do it. Yagoona Straightaways, Parramatta Slot Car Centre and Hornsby Slots (still there) were three places I travelled to. My last car was a Ford Falcon GTHO Ph3 painted British Racing Green, and completed in time to spend a few days racing at Yagoona. I think it did a total of 50 laps before it hopped out of the slot on the main straight and committed suicide on the barrier end…. That was the last time I raced 24th for many years.
I also had a collection of HO cars, mostly Ford stuff, hotrods, Capris, a couple of trucks with trailers, G+, some T-Jets, never really raced them because then, as with today, HO is pretty much ignored in Australia.
Eventually, as friends do, we moved on with each other’s life, and stopped racing slot cars on the floor. But that left me with a conundrum, I wanted to race slots, I still had my track and was still building cars, but now I was married so I had no one to race with. Why is it women can’t deal with Slot Cars? Is it they see them as just toys? Probably, but if we are at home in the Shed racing little toy cars, surely that is a better past time than picking up stray women or even just getting drunk and or stoned and never being home.
I sold my Scalex collection, I can still see that Tyrell P34 Matchbox kit I put the Group 20 in (from the GTHO), that just did incredible speeds on my little plastic track, among other kit bashed cars I’d spent hours detailing and getting just right so I could slam them through corners the way they were supposed to be slammed. (After some hunting I tracked down the same P34 kit, it resides in my cupboard waiting)
This ended my first slot car passion in 1982. I suppose when my marriage ended a year or so later it was part of the inevitability of it all. She never could deal with my passion for speed, and cars. After slot cars I just concentrated on my 1:1 cars, much to her disgust.
Slot cars took a back seat until I again married in 1995 and had a little baby boy all my own to play with. His second birthday was the beginning of my second great love affair with slots. I bought him a Bathurst HO layout and the passion was reignited. After building a 12ft by 4ft table to construct a lovely four lane HO layout I slowly began to realise that, as in the 70s and 80s, no one raced HO in Australia. So a change of plans, even though I had a fantastic collection of little HO cars that were beautiful, these were sold and a 32nd scale layout took the place of the HO. I also began racing with a group of great Lads at CARRACE in Canberra, on a fortnightly basis, we competed in various classes and I wanted to win.
These new 32nd scale cars were incredible. Where had I been during the last twenty odd years? Why had I missed this evolution into something that was almost perfect Scale at last? This was what I spent hundreds of hours creating with kit bashing, it was now available delivered to my door via ebay!
The garage was no longer for 1:1 cars (I had moved on to real speed anyway, bikes) the missus car was parked under cover, but not in the garage, that was for cars, toy cars.
Even though the club raced 32nd cars, I still wanted the speed that came with 24th scale cars, so I looked around very carefully before I invested in some Carrera track and cars. Boy was that a mistake at the time. It meant the current body of knowledge available at the club was useless because no one had any experience with the stuff. Note I said at the time, because it did leave me with a legacy I have used for Digital. But more of that later….
The club raced a selection of classes, including NASCAR oval racers. This included the usual suspects but the point I am making was I got a taste of Wood racing again. There were a few wooden layouts in the club, it was painfully obvious I was headed down that track, the garage looked like the perfect place to setup some power tools and start building.
And thus begins the second part of my story, the serious period in Slot Cars…..