Memory Lane: Slot Racing

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Hey, remember these–slot racing cars?

It’s my brother Mark’s birthday today, the weather is atrocious, and he and I were on the phone reminiscing about our old slot racing cars. He still has our set, vintage 1964; and after a fashion, it still works.

The cars had little pins underneath that kept them fitted to the slots on the track, and metal brushes to pick up the electricity from those white lines you see in the photo; they’re wires. You couldn’t steer the cars, of course, but you could control how fast they went. And you could lay out the track with enough curves to make speed control a kind of art. Do you slow down for the curve, and maybe let the other guy’s car pull ahead? Or do you go for the gusto, and hope the rubber guard rail keeps your car from winding up on the other side of the room?

The cars were only two inches long, tops, and you could customize them by fitting them with tiny racing slicks or fiddling around with the actuator on the inside: that was the thing that went up and down, moving the gear that spun the wheels. We had the first-generation slot racers, the design of which was so simple, even I could understand it.

It was a very simple pleasure, to be sure, compared to the fancy-schmancy electronic toys kids have today. But sometimes it’s the simple pleasures that you remember.

7 comments on “Memory Lane: Slot Racing

  1. I used to have the little Aurora HO slot cars, probably the same ones as you. The very first ones had controllers that looked like little steering wheels, which looked neat, but were hard to control. There was a front pin and a rear pin and we would always remove the rear pin, resulting in some epic oversteer.

    My favorite car, remembered 50 years later, was a tan AC Cobra. There was oil for the electric motors and if you put some of that oil on the back tires the car would spin its tires all the way around the trap; that is until the oil and the rubber got tacky and you started winning races.

    Man, I miss those days, but there’s no going back. If I had a huge basement I might build an HO train set and have a slot car set on the same layout, but it would be more as a crafts project than anything else. A few times I’ve tried to build a model car, but since becoming an adult I never finish one.

    1. Yeah, we had the steering wheels… which didn’t steer. Our cars only had the one pin in the front, though. That permitted some wild fishtailing… which we always enjoyed!

  2. Oh, the pleasure of actually thinking about how to play your toys! Today, the kids think about the glitches inherent in “low” tech and while they become savvy at “fixing” them, what happened to the fun?

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