|What is Slotcar
By Ray Gardner
by Peter Shreeves
|What You Want To Know About
By John Sojak, Trik Trax, Inc.
The Handling Of A Slotcar Chassis.
By Ray Gardner
and repair a Slotcar Track!
by Ray Gardner with a slight edit by Bob Herrick
|Body Painting, Trimming And
By Ray Gardner
|An International Affair.
By Dan Green
| Drag Racing Specialties Home Page |
SLOTCAR TRACK BUILDING AND REPAIRING
By Ray "Old n Slo" Gardner
with very slight editing by Bob Herrick as noted.
If you only need to construct a flat, yet challenging 3, 4, or 6 lane road course, the next page shows a sample sketch of a relatively easy design that can be constructed on a flat surface. Start by constructing a durable platform of 2" x 4"s. The racing surface can be routed directly onto the table "top" but you must be careful where you locate the counter-sunk (we recommend sheet rock screws) fasteners so none fall where the slots would be located. This design has no banks no over-and-under "bridges just a fun design you have to drive by using the entire range of the controller. There is also another sheet which has numerous designs that can be built with any number of lanes. The vast majority of commercial layouts typically have 8 lanes although weve seen a few tracks with 9, 10 and even up to 12 lanes. We feel any more than 8 lanes can be self-defeating due to the difficulty marshalling the track during races. All the layouts, or anything you can dream up yourself can be built by any of the commercial builders. Should you decide you ultimately need a professional, call us for the list of available builders phone numbers.
The design you select, and the overall size will depend upon how much room you have available and how much money you want to spend. Commercial builders charge anywhere from $30-per-running-foot (8 lanes) for a "wood-ready-you-finish" layout up to $65-per-running-foot (8 lanes) for a "turn-key" completely finished layout. Naturally, if you know what youre doing; have all the proper tools; and lots of free time and patience, you can build your own considerably cheaper - especially if you dont factor the cost of your time in the final price.
Small club-type tracks which do not get mega-usage can also be cheaper if you use copper tape for the electrical contacts rather than stranded braid. Copper tape is available from Parma International, Inc. in North Royalton, Ohio. Parma also has a booklet on track construction. You can obtain these by calling them direct or having a local retail raceway order for you through their distributor. Copper tape is much cheaper and easier to use than stranded braid. But be advised that braid has an extended life and is definitely the best way if you plan to keep and use the track layout for a long period of time with a lot of usage.
(editors note: copper tape is also available at Hobby Outlets that stock supplies for making stained glass windows)
MORE BASIC BUILDING INFORMATION
Flat tracks are easier to build than those with "lifted" or "banked" turns. A flat track can be constructed directly on top of a pre-built table with the track surface routed directly into the top. Another method (more costly, but sturdier) is to build the table with a ½" to ¾" plywood top, then cut out, screw down and rout a separate racing surface of MDF (medium-density fiberboard). This adds considerable overall strength to the layout, but what determines your decision will be the amount of "play" the track will see during its lifetime. Commercial tracks need to be much sturdier and heavier because people lean against them and some unknowingly will try to get up and walk across the top surface. This can lead to costly lawsuits should someone slip and fall and should NEVER be permitted under ANY circumstances!!!
Tracks built by Altech, American Model Raceways and Stan Engleman in the 1960s were extremely heavy-duty. The American tracks had ultra-smooth Formica sides in different colors, depending upon the design. The 150 "Imperial" Red track had red formica; the 100 "Monarch" had orange sides, etc. Thats why you often hear the term "Blue King" to describe the very popular 155 design preferred by most professional drivers in the world today. The American tracks also had ¾" solid plywood BOTTOMS to which the legs were fastened. The original American Model Raceways tracks had racing surfaces made from rather rough, porous particle board. Each section was "braided" with thin, narrow (3/16") copper braid. Once the track was assembled, the sections were hooked together with thin-gauge wire through a series of screw-type buss bars. The power was supplied to the lanes using old style transformers which converted AC current to DC. Seldom was there sufficient power available for all eight lanes if the race consisted of a car on all eight lanes. What usually happened when a car deslotted was a "surge" effect which caused other cars - especially those in the curves - to get an extra "boost" of power, causing them to de-slot as well. A track that was priced around $10,000 in the 1960s would cost four times that amount if the same construction methods were used today. Thankfully, modern tracks are a lot lighter, portable, and ten times as smooth as the first commercial layouts used in this country. By the 1970s, better track construction began and more and more places were replacing old track wiring with heavy-duty wiring sometimes as large as 10 gauge.
Track owners began to install large, mega-amperage storage batteries in order to supply the needed power as slotcar motors became better, faster, and assembled to much more rigid standards than the original motors we were getting from the Orient. There is a push in many markets today to do away with storage batteries due to the constant maintenance required and the fact that not only do batteries give off fumes, they have been known to explode if not properly maintained on a regular basis. The last thing anyone needs is a lawsuit because a battery blew up and hurt someone - especially young children who frequent commercial raceways on a regular basis. The trend in many areas - especially those who specialize in the more affordable (what we call "low-end") classes - has been to do away with storage batteries and install modern power supplies such as the Rivergate which supplies 13.2 to 13.8 volts of direct current at a constant 75 amps - more than sufficient for every class of racing below International 15, Group 27 and Open (Group 7) - typically referred to as "high-end" by those for whom nothing but the ultimate in speed and handling will suffice.
It IS possible to run high-end cars on power supplies such as the Rivergate model, but you would need a "bank" of these - four, six, or eight - in order for high-end cars to be driven without problems. At nearly $250 apiece, this can get expensive, so some raceways who specialize in high-end racing still use batteries. Rivergate power supplies are available through ERI DISTRIBUTING in Congers, New York.
The modern commercial slotcar track has three completely different sets of wires running under the track. If youre going to "do it right," you have understand electrical wiring and know how to read a wiring diagram. The sets of wires are as follows:
One set of nine wires (one ground and eight for each lane) have to be hooked up from the power source to each lane. In order to prevent any type of "surging" from occurring, power "taps" must also be run, connecting the layout so current "feeds" in both directions. The typical tap setup is every 50 feet - although for Group 27 and Opens, many places tap every 30 feet. If you have a track of, say, 100 feet (thats the length of one lap per lane) you really need two, or even three taps. The best book ever produced on track wiring was written by PAUL PFEIFFER and his brother and produced and printed through the TOA in 1993. A copy can be purchased by sending a check or money order for $10 to ALPHA PRODUCTS and RACEWAY or the TOA Home Office.
The second set of wires (again, nine in all) can be a much smaller gauge because they carry only minimal current. This set connects the eight lanes to a series of mechanical twist timers (or a computer with a program designed to "sell time") either of which is located behind the sales counter. The lanes on the track are turned on and off at this location. Each pair of wires (one common ground and the other color-coded) is connected to a separate relay under the track which turns that lane on and off. These wires should probably be the same as the lane colors - Red, White, Green, Orange, Blue, Yellow, Purple, and Black - although you can use 9-wire computer cable. Just be sure to mark them so they are connected from the same color timer on the one end to the same corresponding lane relay.
The third set of wires must be connected from either the "dead" strip - a short section of track braid at least 8" in length - which is isolated from the other braid on the track. Once a car crosses this "isolated" section, the laps are both counted and can be timed - again, by computer. There are several very excellent computerized race director programs on the market which can be inserted into used computers. Some will operate (somewhat slower) on a computer as small as a 286. Most in use today are 386, 486, or even 586 - considered by some to be better. The wires in this set hook up from the computer to the isolated section (or can be to a light bar). The computers used by most commercial raceways are also used with color monitors and a printer which prints race results after each event or heat within a race. You can call the TOA home office should you need information on the various race director programs that are available, or, you can also check with one of the eight slotcar distributors around the country. They are more than capable of making good recommendations to you based on your needs and budget.
Be aware that the whole world is now run by computers and you must have a good working knowledge of them. I would never open another commercial slotcar raceway or ANY retail business unless I own a computerized point-of-sale system to keep track of sales (through the use of bar-coding), inventory, placing orders, doing reports, and keeping everything on the up-and-up for the dreaded tax man!
The masses of wires - especially those which run from the track(s) to the sales counters should never be run across the floor or even under the carpet where people can walk or repeatedly step on them. Wiring should be run through PVC (plastic conduit), up from the sales area, across the ceiling and down through another PVC pipe to the track. Neatness counts!
On with more of the tasks involved in building a track The first thing youll need to figure out is whether or not youre going to build the track in the same place that it will ultimately be set up and played upon. If you do, be aware that youre about to make one of the largest, nastiest messes youve ever seen! (Ever been in a saw mill?) We heartily recommend you try to find someplace else to build and make the mess - such as an empty warehouse - then bring it to the new building where your raceway will be. If that is impossible, do not - repeat DO NOT put ANYTHING else in the building until AFTER all the construction and mess-making is complete! If you do, youll be cleaning up for an extra month, just wiping dust from everything.
TOOLS YOULL NEED.
You cant build a good track without the right tools and equipment, and the list is lengthy. To really do the job right youll need the following:
Table saw and/or radial arm saw.
Circular hand saw.
A GOOD router and an assortment of bits to do several jobs. (More on bits later.)
Good electric drills and at least one very dependable, battery operated cordless drill and a wide variety of drill bits as well as Phillips head screwdriver attachments.
Good selection of various sizes of wrenches, both socket, ratchet, box and open-end.
Hand saw, coping saw, hack saw, hole saw.
Lots of other hand tools, such as good hammers, assorted regular and Phillips screw drivers as well as sharp hand-held knives. A good pocket knife comes in handy as well.
Portable sanders - one belt and one or two hand-held vibrator models, plus LOTS of sandpaper.
A good volt-ohms meter to do testing when youre doing hookups.
At least one large, heavy-duty vacuum sweeper. You will NOT believe the mess youre going to create! If you build on top of carpet, it will require a STRONG vacuum cleaner to remove all the sawdust once everything else has been picked up, cleaned up, and the floor swept about six times. It will probably take you four or five passes with a Kirby (or similar) vacuum to get the stuff out of the carpet.
OTHER THINGS YOULL NEED TO PURCHASE
Once you have determined the length and width of the layout you want to build and having made certain it will fit the space you have available, youll also need to buy
Enough 1 x 4s, 2 x 4s (minimum 8 foot lengths of good, sound, with few or no knots) to construct the table or to use as braces and support pieces under the racing surface.
Enough sheets of 4 x 8 x ½" medium density fiberboard to build the racing surface and to construct the adjustable legs. Fig 1
Enough sheets of 4 x 8 x ¼" and 4 x 8 x ½" plywood to build your side/retaining walls on both sides of the track all the way around the layout.
½" x 4" bolts, nuts and large (1.5") steel flat washers to connect track sections together. Figure 3 bolts (with two large flat washers per bolt) for each end. Bolts should have hex-heads to fit ratchet, box, or open-ended wrench. These have to be long enough to go through pre-drilled ½" holes in the 2" x 4" joint braces. The holes will be in 3" from each side with one in the middle. These 2" x 4" pieces should be pre-cut, pre-drilled, and assembled with the bolts, washers and nuts, then final trimmed as one piece on your table saw so top edge of both joint pieces are ultra smooth.
½" x 3" bolts, nuts and large (1.5") steel flat washers to connect adjustable legs to underside of track Fig 2. The leg pieces which fasten at the junction of two sections of track will have to be notched for access to the center bolt, nut and washer used to connect the two sections together.
You will probably need two quarts or a gallon of yellow carpenter glue, a small pan, and 3" roller to apply glue to braces which are fastened and screwed to the racing surface as well as the side walls to the bracing.
Plenty of large trash cans, waste baskets, and 3-ply, heavy-duty liners to place in them. (You also need a nearby dumpster or have access to a local landfill!)
Paint for the surface. There are numerous coatings which work well on slotcar racing surfaces. The current thinking in some quarters is to use a water-base Latex since latex is "rubber" and so are slotcar tires, traction is easily obtained. Some folks like to use epoxy and weve had good luck with a water-based, two-part epoxy available through Grainger. You will only need the "primer" hardener since youre painted wood and not metal. Dont buy the "finish" hardener you dont need it. Some tracks are painted with enamel which creates a "hard" surface and weve also seen tracks - once the color coding has been put on the lanes - coated again with a clear polyurethane or epoxy. This prevents anything from seeping through the surface and getting down into the wood. (The old joke about original American Model Raceways track surfaces was that they were so porous and glue-soaked that if you burned one the blaze would last for at least two weeks!)
Paint rollers, pans, and PLENTY of rags you can throw away when youre done.
Some type of gloss or semi-gloss enamel or similar to paint the side walls. While you dont have to do it, especially if you "hang" some type of opaque, plastic "curtain" around the track, it looks nicer if you also paint the legs. These can easily be spray-painted with the same paint you use on the racing surface. Should you elect to use a lighter color on the track surface - grey, light blue, or even white - then spray paint the legs black. Slotcar tracks arent moved very often, and dust and debris can collect under them faster than under your bed at home! To keep your place looking neat and tidy, either curtain off the places that people can easily see under or vacuum under your track(s) every so often. If you hang plastic material from the bottom of the retaining wall to the floor, in effect hiding the underside of tracks and the legs, these areas can also be used for storage of boxes and items not used that regularly.
Go ahead now - even though you dont need it in the beginning (or at least put these items on a list of things to buy later) - and buy several gallons of Coleman lantern fuel or Naphtha. You will also need at least one gallon of lacquer thinner. Keep these well away from any spark or fire!!
Wire by the mile. Youll need track hookup wire which should be a minimum of 10 gauge. The common (or ground wire) can be 8 gauge, although weve seen tracks that used huge battery cable the thickness of your finger. Youll have to figure how much "tap" wire you need and it should all be at least 10 gauge. All taps are recommended to be the same length, regardless of how far away or near the hookups are to the power source.
Approximately 100 to 200 feet of computer cable. Remember you need two sets of these wires - from the timers and from the isolated section to the computer and you have to figure the distance from the counters, up the pipe, across the ceiling, and down to the track. Always allow yourself plenty of slack, just in case.
Eight heavy-duty relays. Its also not a bad idea to go ahead and purchase two or three extra relays as spares in case one or more goes bad. The sealed variety are the best and weve had good luck with 25-amp Bosch relays we purchased from a Porsche dealer. Some high-powered tracks use relays rated even higher than 25 amp, but these are sufficient for most layouts. Check with your local electrical supply house.
Boxes of plastic or rubber wire twist-type insulators for connecting braid as well as where the wire hooks to the braid up under the track. Youll probably need a couple hundred before its all said and done.
Good hand-held or electrically powered staple guns. Its also a good idea to have one stapler for wire that shoots rounded staples for connecting loose wires up to the bottom of the track. You dont want miles of wire hanging down or laying all over the floor. Also plenty of staples for both styles of guns. If you have access to pneumatic staplers used by carpenters to build kitchen and speaker cabinets, they will make your job easier.
Boxes of assorted lengths of sheet rock screws. These are Phillips head and definitely the only way to fasten stuff together. Use at least 1" or 1 1/8" screws to fasten the racing surface to the under-the-track braces. Use 2" to fasten braces of 1" x 4"s or 2" x 4"s together. Fastening side walls to sub-surface braces/supports will require at least the 1" screws. These should always be installed using a variable-speed drill or cordless that runs them in slowly. All screw heads on the racing surface and side walls should be carefully counter-sunk at least 1/8", then covered with Bondo and sanded flush before the track is painted. Use a countersink drill bit prior to installing the final screws.
Bondo and hardener. Youll probably need at least a gallon. Also good, flexible putty knives to apply the bondo. Sanding bondo also makes a large pile of messy dust.
Assorted nails. We used a lot of "coated box nails" in lengths of 1", 2" and 3". Once these are hammered into place, you wont get them out, so be very careful!
Striping tool, available at any auto parts store to lay the color-coded stripes on either side of each lane. Use Pactra paint (small bottles) in the colors you plan to use for the lanes. You might want to also buy at least one ½ pint bottle of Pactra thinner should you need to thin the paint for ease of application. Be sure to stir each color thoroughly before you pour it into the small glass bottle that comes with the striping tool. Stripes should be a minimum of 1/8" to a maximum of 3/16" wide, and although Ive seen a few tracks with the colored stripes on only one side, I think it looks better if the striping is on both sides of the braid. Set the wire guide on the striping tool so the colored lines are approximately 1/8" OUTSIDE either side of the braid which is recessed on either side of the slot.
Sheets of ¼" Plexiglas to use as interior side walls where view is hampered. This is especially useful in Hillclimb layouts which have a higher top straightaway.
One box of nickel-plated steel "trim washer" to use with sheet rock screws when installing Plexiglas side walls.
Not completely necessary, but helpful if you have one large air compressor to use with pneumatic (air-powered) tools, staplers and paint spray equipment. Makes much easier fastening of racing surface to sub-service braces and supports.
Approximately 24 good "C" clamps, as well as long, adjustable clamps to hold sub-surface supports to track surface and side walls while installing sheet rock screws and/or pneumatic staples. (The support braces should also have a coating of carpenters glue applied to the top edge before being assembled to the track surface.)
A half-dozen Tacky-Mac wiping cloths to remove dust from track prior to painting.
You will also need to make one control panel for each available lane on the track. Will discuss later what you will need to purchase for these in a later paragraph.
26. Lastly, a LARGE tool box to put all your hammers, screw drivers, diagonal side cuts, nail sets for countersinking...you name it. If you think youll need it sometime, you probably will, so its best to have it on hand to start with and know where to find it.
LAYING OUT AND ROUTING FOR SLOTS.
Old style slotcar race tracks had a maximum lane spacing of 4" which was fine at the time because the maximum width of 24th scale cars was then 3". The older tracks also had very narrow "gutters" - the space between the outside lanes and the retaining walls. Modern 1/24th scale slotcars are now allowed a maximum width of 3¼" for the front and rear tires and body. Champion, Parma and Slick 7 all manufacture tech tools which check this measurement accurately. Because they are wider, and due to the popularity of the larger size 4.5" NASCARS, Super Trucks, a few GTP models and some models of hard plastic model racing, todays lane spacing for tracks has also been increased. Most are now 4.25" to 4.5" apart. In addition, modern day track builders are allowing for much wider "gutters" - some up to 6" to the outside wall; 3" to the inside, now making tracks anywhere from 40" or 41" wide across the racing surface. The only difficulty which has come about with wider surfaces and expanded lane spacing is the difficulty of turn marshalling the far inside lanes, especially by the youngsters who can sometimes have a problem reaching all the way across the track without laying on it. (Warn everyone to keep their shirts tucked in!)
It will be helpful if you will construct a simple "guide" to mark where your lanes will be across the surface to prevent installing sheet rock screws, staples or nails from being installed anywhere near where the router will cut the slots and braid recesses.
BUILDING THE RACING SURFACE.
While you can get by without one, a real handy thing to have (or build yourself) will be a 4 x 8 heavy-duty work table, on which to construct the individual track sections. Track building "guru" Damon DaPron, (the only modern-day track builder who will manufacture MDF tracks with a bottom) is the owner of Classic Custom Tracks. One of the first things he does on a new job site is to build him a large work table. While a bottom is not necessary, especially if your support braces and legs are close together, another advantage to is the additional strength it gives the overall track and virtually eliminates sagging. (We actually got up and ran around the track and through the high bank and it didnt budge. You cant do that on tracks without a bottom.) Adding a bottom to a track also adds several extra days to the construction schedule, and having assisted Damon previously, I can tell you this isnt as easy as it looks, especially in the high banks. Adding a bottom to the straight sections isnt difficult and I recommend it. A later illustration will show you what youll need to do because it is necessary to pre-cut two access holes on either end of bottom pieces in order to be able to get to your nuts and bolts as well as electrical connections.
ROUTING THE SLOTS.
Before you do any routing, filling holes with bondo and sanding operations, be sure to wear some type of dust mask! You do NOT want to be breathing this material!
Always rout your turns and curved sections first. Only buy and use 1/8" carbide router bits for the slots. Well talk about the special bit youll need for routing the braid recesses later on. Most modern builders cut and rout the curves and high banks prior to starting on the straight sections. Thankfully, medium density fiberboard is much easier to work with than plywood or particle board and banked turns are relatively easy to build. It took Hasse, Ogilvie, DaPron, the Tunkels (and former track builder Chris Dadds) a lot of trial and error learning how to construct wide, high-banked turns and get them baby-butt smooth so cars didnt "launch" going in or coming out of the turns. In the case of wide King layouts and Hillclimbs (which have a high bank which can drop as much as three feet from the top straightaway to the lower level where the drivers stations are located) it is sometimes necessary to have three different radii all in the same turn. Damon uses a router affixed to a pre-determined radius point to cut the outside of all his turns and bank pieces. This gives an ultra-smooth outer-edge which he later uses as a "guide" for his special router "plate" to cut the first (outside) slot. Once hes cut the outside lane, leaving a 6" to 7" gutter, the roller bearings are removed; a special pin bar installed, and he uses the first routed lane as a guide to rout the other seven. This method is called "elliptical routing" - pioneered by Hasse Nilsson - and gives modern tracks much smoother entrances and exits to the turns. Look at the difference between old, sixties tracks and modern layouts and you can actually see the difference. Old tracks started a turn at the very end of a straightaway and the next straight started right at the end of the turn. With elliptical routing, the turns start sooner and goes further. Elliptical routed turns are not 90 degrees to the slot like the old layouts.
If youre not able to use Damons method of cutting the outside radius of turns, youll still have to lay your turns out and scribe a pencil line using a radius point far enough back to get the amount of turn you wish. You can use a saber saw to carefully cut this radius, but should you use this edge as a guide for your router youll need to use a belt sander and get the curve as smooth and round as possible. If this not possible, attach the router to your radius point and having someone hold the radius guide point while you slowly and carefully rout the slot. CAUTION: Run the router in one direction only - preferably forward. Never pull the router backwards. This can change the radius point and cause the slot to become too wide. Always rout the curves and high bank pieces while still flat. Also rout for your braid recesses before you assemble the track sections and rout the straight-aways. NOTE: Routing braid recesses requires a special router bit which has a pin which rides down in the slot and the slot is the guide for the router. If you have access to a local machine shop they can make you one.
Modern track braid and wire- available from several sources and you call me for phone numbers now comes in wider widths and varying thickness. Most track builders now use nickel plated copper braid which is 9/32" or ¼" wide and has more strands and smoother than 60s variety. This carries the current much better and cuts down somewhat on wear and tear. Braid recesses must be carefully routed so the braid will actually rest .010" to .015" BELOW the racing surface. NEVER have the braid flush with the top of the surface, especially in the turns, as tire wear, gears too close to the track, etc. (why you should ALWAYS tech cars prior to BOTH practicing and racing!) will "peal" up the leading edge and cause you constant repair headaches. There is a braid available through a company in San Antonio, Texas, called MAGNATECH which is a combination copper-steel. While a bit more difficult to install, and with a slightly higher price, the advantages are numerous. With MAGNATECH braid you get five to seven years of life and dont have to replace the braid in the turns nearly as often as you will with standard copper variety. Another advantage to copper-steel braid is that you can use neodymium magnets - called "traction" magnets - affixed to the bottom of cars. This virtually eliminates the need for the application of traction substances (lovingly called "glue" by its devotees) and does away with the mess associated with "glue." Well discuss glue in a later chapter.
Once youve routed all your turns and bank pieces its time to construct the straightway. To save time, build yourself "guides" on the work bench or table to hold the 1" x 4" x 40" (or 41") supports. Once in place, roll carpenters glue across the top edge of these supports and carefully lay the pre-trimmed 40" or 41" wide straight section so the outer and inner edges are even and flush with the edge of the surface. Using your lane guide, install staples with your pneumatic stapler, putting at least one or possibly two between each mark youve made for the lanes. You wont need sheet rock screws for these supports. Youll only glue and sheet-rock screw the 2" x 4" end cap pieces where the sections are joined together with the bolts.
On the King track Damon built for me, he pre-trimmed both ends of the MDF sheets to give much straight, smoother edges for the joints. They were actually only 90" in length once he trimmed 3" from each end. Once he built all the straight sections, the track was assembled, the legs temporarily installed, and then he installed the bottoms, one section at a time. As the bottom was completed on each section, the adjustable legs were permanently attached by gluing and screwing to the bottom. If you do not wish to install a bottom to the track or your straights, go ahead and glue and screw the adjustable legs at this time. Do not tighten the adjustable leg bolts until youre satisfied that the top surface is where you want it and the surface is smooth and level. Youll tighten and add a sheet rock "locking" screw once you are satisfied with the overall surface layout and do this just prior to painting.
Sheet rock screws have a razor-sharp point and you can get extremely nasty cuts if you rake an arm, hand or finger across one! Any exposed sheet rock screw which extends down below the surface and you possibly could come into contact with later should be knocked off. This is done easily by hitting sharply with one or two hammer blows to bend it, then scrape it off.
(editors note: a Dremel tool with a cut-off blade, or a pair of diagonal cutting pliers may be a better way to cut the exposed screws.)
ROUTING THE STRAIGHT-AWAYS.
Not difficult, but still a rather tricky task - especially if you want them "straight" and youre going from one slightly banked turn to another banked section. Long straights can also compound the problem. Guides must be made of long, thin strips of wood - at least 10 or 12 - we used grade A lattice wood which had very smooth edges, yet would "bow and bend" slightly to allow it to be temporarily nailed flush to the surface using 1" coated box nails every two feet. Only drive the nails into the surface wood roughly half way so nails can be removed with a claw hammer. Have a helper hold the board tightly against the surface, moving along with you as you rout the straight slots. The router must be held very firmly against the edge of this guide and pulled from one radius point to the other. Let it slip just a bit and youll be filling a boo-boo with bondo!
As stated several times earlier, routing is a sawdust nightmare! It is heartily advisable that you have an extra person going along right behind you with that vacuum cleaner hose, sucking up sawdust as it is made. Even though youll do it probably two dozen times for each lane, its a good idea to use the back edge of a pocket knife and scrape the sawdust from the slot, then vacuum. Sure the next slot you rout will fill the first one, and youll have to vacuum it again. If you dont vacuum you wont be able to see what youre doing. Besides youll be standing in, laying across or sliding on the slickest stuff since oil.
Once all the straight slots are routed and vacuumed, now go back and reroute the braid recesses. Again, vacuum and sweep up as you go. Once all slot routing has been completed youre now ready to build and install the side/retaining walls.
BUILDING RETAINING WALLS.
Walls are put on tracks to (hopefully) keep the cars within the confines of the track surface (sometimes) but this is not the primary reason nor purpose. Retaining walls add a lot a needed strength to the overall track and you must do this job well. Retaining walls should be made from more durable plywood, especially in areas where racers or marshals might be located and who lean across the track. You can use scrap MDF for walls in areas that arent leaned upon. Walls should be trimmed to fit each section of track, then glued and sheet rock screwed to the support braces. One method that works well is to allow the outside wall to extend 2" longer while the inside is offset 2" the other way. When attaching the two sections together, the outside wall fastens to the next section and the inside to the previous section. On the straights and around turns which are flat or only slightly banked, the wall only needs to extend approximately 2" to 3" above the track surface but should go all the way to the bottom of your interior support braces. However, around high-banked turns, and sometimes the deadman or leadon, you might want retaining wall 3" to 4" high. Where a "blind" spot might occur, you can cut the wall flush with the top of the racing surface, then install ¼" clear lexan or Plexiglas to make ease of seeing cars better. Done very carefully, the top and bottom edges of retaining walls can be trimmed with your router, then sanded to remove any splinters and to make the top smooth with the edges slightly rounded prior to filling countersunk sheet rock screws, staples, nicks, etc. with bondo before the walls are painted.
I probably sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but once again let me advise you once every bit of sawing, cutting, routing, sanding, or any operation that makes sawdust or other mess, go back and clean up any mess. You might even want to mop the floors and dust off the walls and everything in the building to get rid of the stuff. It may take you an extra day of work just to get rid of all of it and the dust out of the air. You should probably NOT run air conditioners while routing. If you do, be certain to quickly change the filters just as soon as the construction has been completed.
PREPPING AND PAINTING THE SURFACE AND SIDE WALLS.
Once all the scrap lumber has been removed from the building and most of your mess cleaned up, its now time to fill all the countersunk sheet rock screw holes or anything else that needs to be smooth, especially on the running surface of the track. This is best done using automotive Bondo. Carefully mix the bondo using a 1" to 1.5" flexible putty knife. Mix only a small amount and do 8 or 10 screw holes at a time. Follow the manufacturers recommendations to the letter too much hardener and the bondo will set up too quickly too little hardener and it wont set up correctly. Many times you will have to make two applications of bondo to cover the holes completely. When thoroughly hardened, use a vibrating sander and remove any excess. The light "pinkish" bondo color should be round and just cover the screw , not showing any more than is necessary for a smooth surface. After all bondo filling has been sanded, vacuum the dust. Now fold over small (4" wide) strips of 400 grit sandpaper and sand both sides of the slot on each lane and rub it across the braid recesses. There should be no sharp edges or "burrs" on any lane or braid recess. Vacuum the slots and track surface one final time, then using Tacky-Mac wiping cloths, wipe the entire surface down to remove all remaining dust particles. You are now ready to paint.
PAINTING THE TRACK.
Some builders paint the racing surface first and do the retaining walls last. It really doesnt matter whatever youre most comfortable doing. I prefer to use gloss enamel on the side walls. Enamel paint requires 24 hours to completely dry, and youll undoubtedly need at least one primer coat and one or two finish coats. I like enamel on side walls because it makes for a more durable, shiny finish. Using paint rollers - especially on the racing surface - paint with whatever coating you prefer and will give you the finished results you want. Try to always roll the paint in the direction of travel on the track and be sure to paint the braid recesses as well. Check your work closely as you proceed. Make one final, light pass with the roller so there is no buildup of paint, streaks or runs on the racing surface areas. Be careful to keep paint from clogging up the slot. If paint gets down into the slot(s), remove it quickly with a clean rag on the end of a screwdriver or putty knife. Should you find any dried paint down in a slot after your finished, carefully remove it with a knife, but avoid cutting into the sides of the slot. Its preferable to put at least two coats of paint on the surface since the first will soak into the fiberboard. Dont be worried that you might "slop" a bit of surface paint onto the inside of the retaining walls. You can always repaint those areas with a small brush using the same color you painted the walls with. Some just paint the inside of the retaining walls the same color as the racing surface.
PROTECTING THE INSIDES OF YOUR RETAINING WALLS.
Once the track and walls have been painted and had enough time to dry thoroughly, you need to think about protecting certain areas that are going to see a lot of crashing - the high bank, deadman, lead-on, or the wall coming out of any curve or turn on the track. Something you might want to try and used successfully at many raceways is the installation of cove-base rubber molding. This can be very helpful in protecting the inside of the retaining walls, especially in the turns where they sustain a lot of damage from deslotted cars slamming into them. (Its easier to replace a strip of cove base molding than a section of retaining wall, or filling, sanding and repainting it every six months or a year! Cove base molding is available through many paint and wall covering outlets. They also sell a cove base glue but you can use the same contact cement you use for your track braiding operation.) After the second coat of paint on the surface is thoroughly dry, apply the color-coded striping to each lane. Again, if this is your first attempt, and you want to be consistent with the majority of color coding used around the country, the inside lane needs to be Black. Id start with the inside lane and work outward. The next seven colors, working outward from Black will be Purple, Yellow, Blue, Orange, Green, White, and the outside "gutter" lane will be Red.
Should you elect to install the cove base molding, the 36" lengths of the material are about 4" high and will require that you use a sharp knife to remove any excess from retaining walls that are less than 4" in height. We actually went to the expense, time and trouble of putting cove base all the way around both sides of the inside retaining walls on our tracks. This is a bit of overkill although it sure improves the overall appearance and makes the application of the section numbers easy put on and for people to see.
LOCATING THE ISOLATED SECTION FOR THE COMPUTER LAP COUNTER HOOKUPS.
You will want to put this in a section of your track that typically gets very few de-slots. Most places today locate this section as the cars exit the high bank turn. Cars are at full speed and unlikely to de-slot and miss the counter. If you dont have a high bank, locate the isolated section midway down a back straightaway or near the end of the main straight. It is never advisable to install your isolated section in a short straight, near the entrance to a turn or in a turn itself. Another place thats not advisable is on the main straight anywhere near the driver station panels. No driver should be able to pick up his car and set it behind the counter. Unfortunately, there are some who will employ this tactic in an attempt to gain extra laps or win a race.
While most commercial (as well as many home and club) tracks utilize the "isolated" section of track braid to count laps and lap times, you do encounter the occasional problem of having a car stop in this area during power-off conditions. The car must then be pushed across, but reassure the racers that their lap DID count because of the "minimum read" time setting on the computer which allows up to 2 or more seconds of "coast" time to insure that a car did actually cross the counter and the lap added to their total. An important note on isolated sections be sure to leave a gap of at least one inch on both ends of the braid on the track to the braid on the isolated section. The space between the two portions of braid are far enough apart that you have assurance the guide flag braid completely breaks the circuit.
There are other ways to count laps, and one method which doesnt use a "dead" strip (or isolated section) is one which utilizes "electric eyes" and an overhead light bar. Weve seen systems there infrared sensors are mounted down in the slot and the laps counted and timed when the guide flag breaks the infrared beam. If youd like more information on other types, give your distributor a call. They can point you in the right direction.
ADDING THE "SECTION" NUMBERS AROUND THE TRACK.
These are important, and will be one of the last finishing touches you put on your track. Every slotcar track should be divided into equal sections (or lengths) or approximately 10 feet. These can be white or colored vinyl (depending on the color of your track or inside walls) and are available in 1" die-cut form from any office supply or art store. Starting at the isolated section (where the laps are counted and timed) measure up 10 feet and put number "1." Then every ten feet you put another number "2", "3", "4" and so on. These can be placed on both sides of the track surface out next to the wall or on the inside of the retaining wall itself. For a 100 track, starting 10 down from the isolated section, you will end up with nine 10 sections. (We used to put the $-sign that came in the package with the numbers by the isolated section.) When the final heat of a race has been run, the "sections" are added to the racers total - either by inputting this number into the computer or by writing it down on the print-out sheets. Youll be surprised because occasionally you will end up with two or more drivers on the same lap at the end, so section marking is essential to determine each racers finishing position..
Another feature done on numerous tracks is to mark the lane color on the inside retaining wall directly in front of the corresponding lane and driver. Marshals looking across the track toward the drivers station can tell at a glance what lane the driver is on and can aid in better, faster marshalling. These colored lane markers can be made from a variety of sources - colored plastic tape or even lane stickers. If you use lane stickers put two or three side by side.
BRAIDING A SLOT CAR TRACK.
A time-consuming, but exciting time, because youre almost ready to begin playing on your new track! Should you decide youre NEVER going to move the track (until the building falls down) it doesnt matter how you do this. A word of caution Track braid tends to wear in the flat corners more readily than anywhere else on the track and you should most certainly separate the braid in the corners from that used on the straights. You will virtually NEVER wear out the braid on the straights and rarely in high banks. Should you, at anytime, wish to move the track, or sell it and replace it with a different design, the wisest move is to braid each section separately. (See illustration #13.) For many years, track builders have used an "overlap" method (see illustration #14) but this is counter-productive and makes a mess when you do need to rebraid.
Should you elect to lay the long strips of braid the full length of your main and secondary straight-aways, your next task is to roll it off the spool, stretching it the length it needs to be, and, leaving at least an extra 12" on either end, cut it with a sharp knife, diagonal side cuts, tin snips or an old pair of scissors you wont need later for other tasks. ALWAYS leave enough on each end to go down through the pre-drilled holes, through the thickness of the track, and still have enough to work with to make your sub-surface electrical connections. If youre building an 8-lane track and the slots for the straight sections are all the same length, cut 16 pieces of braid at least two feet longer. There are a couple of different ways to apply the glue to one side of the track braid. Two (or more) strips at a time can be carefully rolled around old (6" to 8" diameter) cardboard carpet tubes and held in place with masking tape. If you have the room (and enough tables, cover them with black plastic sheeting. Lay out all 16 strips, taping them every two or three feet with a strip of masking tape. Pour a quart of contact cement into a paint pan and thin with one-half pint of lacquer thinner. Stir until thoroughly mixed - it should be about the consistency of light pancake syrup - and using a paint roller, apply the cement to the braid. While this is getting tacky, either you, or a helper, apply full-strength contact cement to both sides of the braid recess, but do not recommend prepping more than two lanes at a time. The full-strength glue is applied to the braid recesses by using a clean, plastic mustard or honey dispenser which has a small spout cap.
Again VERY IMPORTANT that you do not allow the glue to get down into the slots. Keep the tip of the plastic dispenser toward the outside lip of the braid recess and away from the slot. If you slip, wipe up immediately with a rag, but dont use any cleaner (Coleman fuel, Naphtha, lighter fluid, etc.)until youve completed laying the braid on that lane. While the contact cement in the braid recess is setting up and getting tacky, go back and re-coat the braid with the thinned stuff and the roller. By the time the braid glue is "tacky" - almost dry - peel up two strips at a time and being careful to keep them apart, lay them well away from each other on the track. Start with one strip at a time, and put a bend about six inches from the end. Feed the end down through the pre-drilled hole and press down onto the recess glue.
Guide the strip of braid with one hand and press with the other, pushing it to the outside of the routed recess and as far away from the slot as possible. Be very careful to keep the braid from making contact with the glue in the recess until youre ready to press it into place. If contact is made between the two pre-glued pieces (or the other strip of braid), it will pull the glue up and off the recess and you might have to reapply new glue to that spot, holding up your operation. By the time you reach the other end of the straight you should have over a foot or two of excess braid. Trim off all but a foot or so and discard, then insert end through the hole and pull it down through until flush. Now do the other side of that slot before proceeding with the next lane. Once all eight lanes are braided, use a heavy braid roller or the edge of a yardstick and press vigorously in the direction of travel until it is all smooth and flat. Repeat this operation in the turns and banks. Naturally, the outside turn braid needs to be longer than those on the inside, so carefully measure before you cut any strips. In the banks and turns, I would only do one lane at a time. Theres no need to be in a reckless hurry now, so take your time. Once all the braid is laid and pressed, now starts the really fun stuff making all your electrical connections under the track!
RE-BRAIDING AN EXISTING TRACK OR ASSEMBLING A USED LAYOUT.
Many raceway owners find themselves in a position of having to purchased "used" tracks. You can sometimes find good deals this way, but we always recommend that you make every effort to go see a track before it is disassembled and put in storage. Once a track is torn down and stored, you cannot see how smoothly the joints are where the track sections are fastened together. By seeing it while it is still assembled you can check closely to see how well the joints go together and if there are any inherent problems with the layout. Always carry a notebook, 100 tape measure, and be prepared to ask a lot of questions. Youll need to make certain the layout will fit the existing space you have available at your store. Its a waste of your time and money to "buy a pig-in-a-poke" if, once you get it home, it wont fit the space you have. Many times raceways have shut down, literally in the dead of night and the owner sneak off - perhaps because they owed back rent they couldnt pay or just had to vacate the space in a hurry. When this happens, a lot of times they wont bother to do a proper job of disconnecting the braid where it goes down through the racing surface. Often youll see that the braid has been cut with a knife across the joints.
(Editors note: Fixing this is a major job, and you should completely rebraid the entire track to insure smooth braid. Performing braid splicing using different lots of braid can cause problems due to different thickness of the braid! Unless you have the roll of braid used to braid the track originally, proceed with caution.)
In either case, the first thing youll need to do is thoroughly clean the surface. Any area of braid which you find has to be repaired or replaced, the braid recesses must be completely cleaned (with SLOW EVAPORATING lacquer thinner) all the way to the paint or wood. There can be NO lumps of old glue remaining because the new braid will not lay flat, no matter how hard you press it down. For large areas its a good idea to re-rout the braid recesses with the special router bit discussed earlier. This job must also be done extremely carefully so you do not remove any more than is absolutely necessary! Just take it down to the paint, or barely remove the top layer of paint so the recess is smooth before you repaint, reglue and rebraid.
Should you decide to repaint the entire track after carefully removing all the original braid, you first must make absolutely certain you have removed every single bit of the old contact cement. The recesses, slots and the racing surface must be cleaned as thoroughly as possible. We like to use lacquer thinner for this cleaning operation, but be very careful! Its advisable to use very heavy-duty rubberized work gloves and ventilate the area adequately as lacquer thinner also gives off an unpleasant odor that can sometimes nauseate some people. Once the track is cleaned as good as you can, use 200 or 400 grit sandpaper and lightly hand-sand or use your rotating vibrator sander and lightly "scratch up" the old paint. Vacuum up the dust out of the slots and recesses, then wipe down the surface with clean rags using lacquer thinner, paint thinner, Coleman fuel or naphtha. You can also use Tacky Mac wipes. This sanded surface will give better "grip" to your new coating of paint. Once the new paint is thoroughly dry, rebraid , then put down your new color coding stripes.
GETTING READY TO HOOK UP THE POWER.
You still need to do a lot of stuff up under the track before youre ready to begin pulling the trigger and having fun racing. Now is a good time to borrow, beg, or buy an auto mechanics "Creepy Crawler" to make it easier on your body while you spend the next 48 hours, lying on your back and doing hundreds of electrical connections.
First, you have to carefully trim off all excess braid thats hanging down from each set of holes and be sure youre putting the correct "pairs" of braid together. These "pigtails" can be - probably should be - no more than 3" in length. Theres no need to solder these connections and you dont even want to try doing that job upside down! This is where you twist the braid together, then screw a plastic or rubber insulator twist connector onto the braid, then bend it up and staple it to the bottom of the track.
Do this on all the braid pairs EXCEPT where you will be locating your power taps and main power wires. Make certain the braid on the isolated section is stapled up and not near any "live" track braid pieces. Since electricity "feeds" in both directions, once youve completed a "circuit" on the lanes, use your Multi-meter and check each lane for continuity and absence of any connection which would short out the system. This can also be done by putting a car in a slot and touching each side of the braid with two leads from a battery or your power supply. The car should travel smoothly around the track and tell you whether or not youve completed a circuit on that lane and do not have any electrical shorts anywhere in the braid circuits.
BUILDING YOUR DRIVERS STATION PANELS.
When positioning your track, make sure to leave (if at all possible) a minimum of 48" from the edge of the drivers station to the wall. This might seem like a lot, but you occasionally get physically challenged individuals who might be on crutches or in wheelchairs and they need that much space to get between the track and the wall. Good advice is to have the drivers stations located on the side of the track nearest the wall so the drivers are out of the way of the flow of traffic by marshals and other customers. Sometimes this isnt practical, but look at trying to do this if you can.
Most commercial slotcar tracks have one long panel onto which are mounted the eight individual panels for each lane. There needs to be at least 36" between each panel for ease of access by the racers. Anything less than that creates crowding, especially by those who might be a bit on the large size. The gutter lane panels (Red and Black) can be mounted close to the ends of the panel, which you should figure to be at least 18" from each end of the long panel. A method which I like, but requires considerably more woodworking, are individual boxes on which the driver panel is located, hooked to the side of the main straightaway by using long piano hinges which allow you to flip them up for easy access should you have to work on them at some point in the future. Whatever method you elect to incorporate into your track, at least give the drivers enough space between panels and enough width from the outside retaining wall to the edge so they can lay an extra car or two, their tools, and hand control. Weve had good luck in the past mounting pre-bent broom holders, into which the controller handle can be placed, keeping hand controllers off the track surface and preventing them from falling off onto the floor which could cause damage.
Individually colored panels can be constructed easily out of 1/8" or 3/16" thick lexan which resists breakage when an angry racer suddenly jerks his hand controller loose from the connections. Weve also made these out of ¼" thick Plexiglas, but even that thick of material can break with severe misuse.
The three terminal hookups can be made from a variety of metal. Weve made them using 3" long by ¼" thick brass bolts and have had good luck making them from large (1/2" id) ring bolts. These can be hooked in any sequence you desire. The most popular was copied from the sixties tracks, putting Black on the left; White in the middle; and Red (brake) on the right. Just make sure the posts stick up at least 1" above the panel and are far enough apart that no possible shorting can occur should the controller insulator boots not be all the way down over the alligator clips. Some tracks arrange these three posts in a triangular shape with White on the left; Black on the right; and the Red brake terminal in the center on top. Regardless of how you position the terminal posts, be sure to adequately mark them with the correct colors. Many tracks also incorporate small "power" indicator lights on the panel so that when power is applied to the lane, the bulb lights up. This feature is not necessary but a nice touch. Many early tracks also had push-button circuit breakers mounted on the panel, but today most tracks have an automatic reset circuit breaker installed in the Red "brake" line. If a short occurs, power is interrupted to the lane and once the shorted condition has been removed, the breaker will automatically reset and power is once again restored. Recommend a minimum of 25-amp automotive circuit breakers for this purpose. The circuit breaker is best located close to the drivers panels.
The individual panels should be spray painted the lane colors and appropriate items marked. If youve got lots of money and want to get fancy, you can have these silk screened with your raceway logo and the other copy prior to painting. The silk screen process needs to be backwards on the back side of the panel, then spray painted. When you mount the panel, all the printing and colors are protected because they are on the bottom side.
Drilling the holes in the panels. Lexan is a lot tougher than Plexiglas, but both are tricky to drill. This is not a job for the speed demon. You might want to do what Ive had good luck with in the past, and thats to pre-drill all your holes first with a small bit - a 1/16". Then go back and drill the holes the correct size, using your pre-drilled holes as a guide. Be careful I do not recommend using brand new drill bits to drill lexan or Plexiglas, or even bits the same size as your final holes will be. A new bit can "grab" the material and spin it around. Always drill the final holes as close to the exact size of the bolts or other things that will be mounted onto the panel. The tighter the fit, the better.
Install and tighten the brass or steel terminal bolts, or ½" ID "ring" bolts in the three holes. If you use straight bolts, put a nut and washer on either side of the panel plate and leave yourself ¾" to 1" of bolt sticking down because you will be bolting your electrical wiring at this point using another washer and nut. All connections must be tightened so youll have good electrical contact.
Enclosed with this information is a wiring diagram which should be followed to the letter. If you are unfamiliar with slotcar track wiring, have your local electrician hook the track, timers and computer wires as shown in the drawing. (See wiring diagram - Illustration #18.)
PREPARING THE RACING SURFACE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS.
Its finally time to play and do a bit of "smoke testing" on your track to make absolutely certain everything is "according to Hoyle." Some track owners hate glue so bad they do not allow any type of traction substance to be put on the surface and insist that all racing by done on a "dry" and clean surface. Others adopt a more benevolent attitude and are not averse to traction substances. We recommend, whether you love glue or dislike it intensely, that you go to the trouble at least one time to apply a small amount of "spray glue" to the surface before it is run the first time. Spray glue is easy to make up just one bottle of "heavy" (brown) glue - either Koford, Camen, or other brand into a quart of Coleman fuel or Naphtha.
Mix very thoroughly and screw on the atomizer top. Lightly "mist" all the corners, high bank, braking areas and lead on to the main straightaway. Using old cars - even heavy rental cars - drive one lane at a time until the little bit of spray glue is tracked around. Chances are the car will pick up the final little bit of dust that, no matter how hard you tried, you werent able to vacuum out of the slots. Take a couple of slow laps per lane, then clean the tires with lighter fluid and take a few more laps. Recommend you do this operation yourself, preferably late at night when no one else is around.
Youll get all sorts of volunteers, but you need to do the testing yourself. You might find a joint or two that need realignment or readjustment, or a slot or two that arent perfectly aligned and you have to do a tad of careful trimming with a sharp X-Acto knife. This is also a good time to check your isolated section and computer program. Are the laps counting properly? Are you getting the correct lap time readings? It will take approximately one to two solid weeks of racing on the track to thoroughly "break in" the surface so traction is consistent all the way around and on all the lanes.
DETAILING AND DECORATING A HOME OR CLUB TRACK TO MAKE IT MORE REALISTIC LOOKING.
Commercial slotcar tracks are a classic model of efficiency. Most have eight lanes routed from super-smooth, medium density fiberboard, painted, color-coded, and wired with massive amounts of power for the ultimate in speed and handling characteristics. As such there is little or no room to do anything else. Occasionally you will see an Oval or Tri-Oval which has had a decorated infield added with parked cars, tiny figures working in the pit areas and sometimes even grandstands with spectators. Nice touch, but not necessary in a place that has to make lots of money to keep the doors open. Thats not always the case with home or club tracks. Given a little time, thought and spare money, one of these layouts can be made truly spectacular. As a general rule we see decor much more often on HO layouts than on 32nd or 24th scale tracks. By the same token, many true "scale" enthusiasts who have an affinity for realism rather than blinding speed will go that extra mile and decorate the layout. Its not difficult and here are a few ideas if youd like to try adding more pizzazz to your track.
Some of the most fun Ive had in the nearly forty years Ive been playing with slotcars was had in the early-to-mid sixties on a two-lane club track named "Thunder Road," named after the movie which starred the late Robert Mitchum. (See the really OLD photographs!) I helped the owner build it and we installed two "mountains" made of chicken wire and fiberglass. A waterfall cascaded down one side of a mountain, ran under one section of track and into a miniature "lake" - all powered by a small pump mounted under the track. The "over-and-under" part (what is called the "donut" today) went around the middle of one of the mountains and back down onto the main straight. This was a "table layout" and the elevated sections were made like California overpasses. Everything that wasnt racing surface was painted to look like grass and miniature trees were placed all over the layout. Around the racing portion were mounting miniature streetlights and we often raced "night" races under the lights. One of our racers (who also happened to be a great model builder) constructed us a miniature moonshine still and there were also several "wrecked" cars in the bushes. We began racing Strombecker 32nd scale cars, but quickly moved on to scratch building our own, ending with 24th scale Cox Chaparral and other body styles. Sadly, that track - except for pictures in my old box of stuff - is nothing more than a memory, much like the wonderful old Mesac layout that was so popular about the same time in California. Weve also seen layouts that incorporated model train layouts which ran through the scenery at the same time cars were being raced. Who says all slot racing has to be bland and unrealistic? So if you own a home or club track - or would even like to try something like this on a small scale in a commercial raceway, its neat and sure gets a lot of attention. Try it youll enjoy the labor and everyone will truly like the results.
PROVIDING ADEQUATE PIT SPACE
is vital if you want to keep your racing customers or club members happy. Pit space can be just about anything you want it to be tables, counter tops, or you can build your own out of scrap plywood, MDF, and the 2" x 4"s you have remaining. They need to be plenty durable, and the same height as a regular table - 29" to 30" high and at least 30" to 36" from front to back. If you build your own, paint them with a primer and finish coat to match your decor. Pit areas can be any length you wish and an 8 table will accommodate up to three racers if they only have one slot box each and arent very large people. There should be one extension cord with multiple electrical outlets available every 8 of pit space. Some folks have lots of stuff they plug in! The pit area needs to be bright with florescent lighting, although some racers will bring their own small light to light up their own area. Should you plan to host large races, you need to figure on enough spaces to accommodate up to 24 racers for your local weekly events; 40 to 50 racers for monthly regional races; and up to 100 spaces should you ever wish to host a national USRA-type event.
Once youre completely satisfied that everything is right and as good as you can possibly get it, youre ready to open the track for business and start ringing that cash register one of the prettiest sounds an owner can hear!
The TOA, its Officers and Board Members have always refrained from ever attempting to tell anyone how to run their business and were not about to now. However, consider the fact that in todays marketplace, given the high rent we all must pay for space in 1997 and in years to come, many track owners have discovered that the bare-bones minimum you should charge for track time is $10/per hour/per lane - and thats for people who have their own equipment. Rental equipment (cars, controllers and track time) should probably rent for something in the neighborhood of $5 to $7 for 15 minutes. The prices you charge for rental equipment has to be equal to (or come close to) the same amount a customer would pay to go bowling, play pool, miniature golf or any activity which requires the use of someone elses equipment. Most golf courses now charge from $40, $50 or even up to $100 for a single round of 18 holes. This includes the green fee and cart rental. It can be even more if the player has to rent clubs as well. And a round of golf takes anywhere from four to five hours, so you can see the $10/per hour price you charge is right in line with other leisure time activities.
Heres wishing you good luck and much success whether you build your own track from the ground up, or refurbish a used one youve been able to purchase at a fair and reasonable price. Should you have any questions or need help, dont hesitate to call this office or any TOA member, Officer or Board member.
Best regards, Ray "Old n Slo" Gardner, Editor, TOA Newsletter
REFERENCE GUIDE OF PHONE NUMBERS YOU CAN CALL FOR PARTS AND OTHER INFORMATION:
DRAG RACING INFORMATION:
Drag Racing Specialties PO Box 940891 Plano, Texas 75094-0891 USA - 972-881-0209 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Better yet visit THE SOURCE on the World-Wide Web for slot racing information at http://www.slotcar.com
PROFESSIONAL TRACK BUILDERS, WIRE AND BRAID
Give your distributor a call. They have all the updated information.
Most slotcar distributors also sell track braid. However, they will not sell to you unless you are going to be open to the public as a commercial raceway. If you decide to do so, send them copies of your business license, federal ID tax number, and photographs of your facility showing your race track(s).
You may call or fax the TOA Home Office for additional phone numbers and listings for all current slotcar distributors. We also have a wide variety of other information sheets which are available free to all TOA members.