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Perception of a Pastime

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  • Perception of a Pastime

    I wrote this piece almost 7 years ago, but it still pertains today, so I thought I would post it again. Happy Slotting!


    Very early this past Saturday morning Rob and Scott and I drove down to Georgia for two days of slot racing with the Atlanta Gang. We weren't able to depart on Friday afternoon and it's a bit over five hours to Mark's place from my home in North Carolina and so we left at 4 am.

    As always, we had a great time with fellow slotters - lots of laughs, good food, a little good-natured ribbing, sharing of tuning and driving tips, and competitive racing.

    So before I continue, I want to thank both Mark and George for housing and feeding us and for their warm, southern hospitality. And thanks also to the many guys for sharing their tuning tips with us.

    But this thread is not about that.

    During one heat of a race, Rob - a fellow SCANC, and I engaged in a discussion about the perception of slot car racing by the general public. Rob asked, "What do you think someone off the street would think about this?", motioning his hand past George's workbench and the surrounding pit areas.

    Now, like any other serious racer, George has on his workbench a menagerie of slot-related gear including at least one power supply, a tire truer, a soldering iron, lamps and magnifiers, assorted jigs and set-up blocks, drivers, pliers, strippers and shears, knives, and various tubes and jars and cans of adhesives, lubricants, putties, primers, paints, and other potions. And of course, George also has a plethora of spare parts. He's got car bodies, chassis, pods, motors, gears, axles, bushings, hubs, tires, guides, braid, wire, spacers, stops, and screws of various sizes.

    In addition to the paraphernalia that George owns were the slot boxes of over a dozen other racers, each stuffed with similar tools and equipment.

    I laughed, because I knew exactly what Rob meant. When I tell friends I'm into slot racing I get looks of bewilderment and disbelief. You'd think maybe I had three heads. Sure, some guys remember the commercial raceways of the 60s or home sets of one brand or another. But most folks, especially women, are surely thinking something like "You're 56 years old and you play with toy cars?"

    What Rob meant is that most folks have no idea of the DEPTH of our involvement. And if they did, they would certainly think that we be committed to some forgotten mental institution far from the most distant fringes of society. Often, I consider the amount of time and sums of money I pour into this pastime and think to myself, "Am I nuts?"

    Listen to the many conversations during a slot weekend and you're likely to hear about the best way to true a set of tires or debates about shore ratings and the advantages of one tire compound over another. Talk about controllers will involve ohm ratings, band numbers, and brake, sensitivity and choke settings. You're likely to hear opinions and unproven theories about the best way to break in a slot car motor. And you'll surely garner advice on how to correct handling woes.

    Like any other hobby or sport, the degree to which you can get involved in slot cars knows no bounds. Whether you're building a circuit, acquiring a collection, scratch-building a chassis, painting a body, casting parts, tuning a ready-to-run racer, improving your racing skills, or just socializing with good friends, slot racing provides a fun and challenging way to pass time.

    Rob and I had many hearty laughs last weekend because we imagined how ridiculous our activities might look to someone not in the know. But the conversation took a serious turn when Rob mentioned a magazine article he read recently. The article stated that one key to happiness is to involve yourself in something that you enjoy but that you also find regularly challenging and that gives you an opportunity to excel.

    For me, this pastime provides that key.

    We left Atlanta at 7 pm Sunday evening after some quick good-byes, words of thanks, and firm handshakes.

    I woke up this morning with a smile still on my face knowing that this was the most fun I've had in many recent weekends.

    Thanks again guys, for hosting.

    Cheers and happy slotting to all,


    Team SCANC
    Woodland Trace Raceway - SlotZuka - Bent Tree Raceway
    OFI - Buena Vista Motorsports Park - Slotkins Glen
    Leadfinger Raceway

  • #2
    You hit the nail on the head. Great piece.
    A guy named Budd Davisson wrote a book on the Pitts Special. In the book he described what it's like to fly a Pitts. He described it perfectly. You should write a book on what it's like to race slot cars.
    Butch Dunaway
    Oxford, Ohio


    • #3
      Indeed, and made me grin.

      Recently we had the chance to host a very small event here at the HRW HQ. It was the hobby store owner of the RC shop where we have our crawling events.

      They have wanted to come down and check out what these "big slot cars" were all about.

      When they arrived, there were quite a few laughs and heads shaking looking at all the cars and the Ye Olde Skunkworks work area. But the thing is, they UNDERSTOOD.

      That depth of involvement as you said, they know all about it. We had a great time and it was fun to sort have the "tables turned" as I was answering all the questions instead of asking.

      Are many of us nuts? No denying my condition. I happily accept it. If we didn't have this hobby...we would find other things to spend our savings on


      • #4
        Thanks to you guys my wife has not committed me yet, She shakes her head in disbelief, and says, “ Oh my, there are more”

        G.P Alberta


        • Scatman
          Scatman commented
          Editing a comment
          I have the ultimate get out of jail card, my wife and daughter each have their own horse they compete with and take lessons two times a week. With up keep and lessons, I will never be able to spend the amount of money they go through.

      • #5
        Great write up Steve! Thoroughly enjoyed it and can totally relate!
        Scott.....War Eagle River......Tampa, Florida, USA


        • #6
          I think most pastime activities if you want to be good the "stuff" will look like excess to outsiders. I was into tropical fish....did I only have one tank.....Nope....I had twenty tanks in a room in my home. Breeding African Cichlids and selling the young to pet stores. Fresh water fishing.....did I only own one rod and tackle box, Nope.... 15 graphite fishing rods and five tackle boxes. Anytime a new style of lure or technique came out I was into it and weeding out the old!

          There's more but I will stop now!

          Great write up so true for most of us in this hobby and other activities.



          • #7
            One early morning some years ago me and several other members of my club were going to carpool to an out of state race. We were loading up the car when the driver's wife came out and gave us this look. I could not let that just go by so I walked up to her and said that she should be grateful that her husband was not out picking up floozies in some sleazy gin mill. I never did find out if there were any ill consequences due to that remark, but at least they are still married.
            I come from the generation that at least knew what slot racing was, even if they were not in the hobby. Today most of the general public is not even aware that slot racing exists.


            • #8
              Great article Steve. I have had tendency to view slot racing as akin to model railroading. After seeing some of the layouts around here, I'm convinced it's the same affliction just a different outlet. Not a bad thing.
              The Wife accepts it, as she knows it's cheaper and safer than if I raced real cars.
              "I can't drive a stolen car!"
              "It's the same principle; four gears forward, one reverse."


              • #9
                I often get the same Click image for larger version

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ID:	64433 initial response, then I'll pull out my phone and show them the track in action they almost always want to know when the next race is. Until I met the guys from NASTE I had no idea that groups were still racing together either. After seeing my first routed track in a garage being a carpenter by trade I knew I could build that.


                • #10
                  Excellent telling Steve!


                  • #11
                    Great story.
                    HVAC and plumbing guys pass through my basement track/workshop area twice a year doing routine system maintenance. Most are in their 20’s-30’s and almost all ask questions and comment how cool it is and that it looks like fun. For most it’s something they maybe heard about but had never seen. But then again these are guys that chose to work in trades that involve hands-on activities, something few of their peers have any interest in.
                    I am so happy that I rediscovered the hobby after 50 years away and thankful that supportive communities like HRW exist to share it with. An early happy Thanksgiving to you all.
                    Mike V.
                    Western North Carolina


                    • #12
                      Great write up! I find my self asking old friends that we haven't seen for awhile,what they are doing for fun .Many times,the answer is nothing..............
                      I'm too much of a kid to not have some fun with my toys,err I mean hobbies.
                      I've be privileged to have been to Harry's and the General's house twice over the years.What I have seen there describes exactly what you are referring too.
                      The first trip I was amazed at the knowledge shared and the cool tools ,collection,and every thing else that is associated with this hobby.Great group of guys,having fun.
                      I raced,or at least ran around the tracks with the boys.
                      The second time was just as much fun,but I enjoyed it differently.Asked more questions,and really just enjoyed the guys running their fine tuned machines around the tracks.
                      Harry even asked was I was not running much.Told him I was having a ball standing at the end of his oval,watching the magic happen.
                      This hobby can mean many different things.What it has always meant to me was fun.
                      Thanks for sharing.
                      Last edited by ourwayband; November 23, 2020, 04:39 PM.
                      Humboldt ,out in the country in west Tn...


                      • Pappy
                        Pappy commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Rusty, I've got a friend who opened up a commercial raceway in downtown Cincinnati in an old warehouse he owned. He told the guys who raced there that when it ceased to be fun for him it would cease to be fun for everyone. When it became a pain in the rear for him he shut it down. If it wasn't fun, I'd quit.

                    • #13
                      During these times, we are really lucky to have a hobby like we have. There are four or more sub-hobbies of slot cars! They all involve using your brain and your hands. Every day there is something to do if you're bored and a sense of satisfaction when you see what you have accomplished. With great sites like HRW we can show what we've done and talk about it with like minded friends.
                      Matt B
                      So. In


                      • #14
                        Yep, nice write up... Someone long ago referred to what I do as being part of a "sub-culture" that few knew about.
                        Having been on the west coast for many years, I participated in Fray style TJet racing at the Fray in Ferndale. Many could not understand why one would travel once a year to almost top of California in the winter (rainy and cold) to commune in a fairground building with little heat with about 100 like minded participants once a year. Grown boys playing with toy cars.
                        Now on the east coast and playing with larger 1/32 toys, I still travel 1-2 hours just to play. It's a hobby that is for the builder/tinkerer and racer alike. Always a good day at a track.

                        "Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool."

                        Zen Raceway
                        Severna Park, MD


                        • #15
                          Great story Steve.

                          For me it brings back many memories of my first few proxy events and reading on SCI about races being organised and held at the tracks in and around Atlanta. George took over running the "rubber" years of the CANAM and they had great tracks in that area. Mark A. was (is?) an excellent slot car tuner and I remember seeing pictures of his great new track being build. Soon after that SCI, the CANAM and news from that area became a bit scarce. I think Kurt M. is (was?) also from that area and between those guys and Smokeio it was like reading the Cola War (Pepsi vs Coke) story all over again, lot's of bickering back and forth.

                          Thanks again for sharing.


                          "I don't make mistakes. I make prophecies which immediately turn out to be wrong "
                          "And that just shows you how important the car is in Formula One Racing"

                          Murray Walker