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The Greatest Slot Cars Ever
Remember back to late 60's when Slot Car Tracks were the rage. The tracks were usually built in vacant downtown storefronts abandoned by the flight of businesses to malls and of the middle class to the suburbs. But every Friday and Saturday nights the places were packed with adolescents and twenty something men still living at home. Slot cars however were true race machines.crafted to the standards of precision watches. They were the hands on precursor of today's (virtual environment) video games. Racing a slot car you built yourself was the standard of the elite veterans who always got choice lanes nearest the center of the track while the rookies got the inside and outside of the color coded eight or ten lanes. The primary social challenge faced by all beginners to the sport was to gain respect with a quick car with a 16mm motor and small diameter tires. The intermediates usually used 26mm motors which the owner rewound, balanced and epoxied himself. The 16mm motors most often came from the manufacturer with the modification already done. Most true rookies ran cars which came as kits sporting a massive 36mm motor, a plastic frame and large hard rubber tires. There were a few short cuts to becoming respected. The easiest was to have an older brother just reaching puberty. You could race his cars in exchange for not telling your parents he hooked up with some of the Junior High girls constantly hanging around outside waiting to ambush any guy over thirteen.
All of the legendary cars were composed of home built chassis and clear plastic shell bodies painted only on the inside to get the thick clear coat look. All you needed was a brass motor mount with holes drilled for the bearings to guide the 7-12 tooth geared rear axle along. From that point about 70 cents worth of 3/32nds brass tubing would be enough to complete the frame. With the right set of needle nose pliers and soldering iron you could build a chassis as well as any Detroit automotive engineer. One big reason for building our own cars was the need for something to do since without the track the cars were worthless. It usually took a car battery to test a motor because the was no other source of DC voltage since the wall wart was not yet invented. The tracks faced the same dilemma getting a reliable source of DC power. Most quality tracks were powered by a bank of car batteries wired in series. This offered a constant voltage and enough Amps to prevent power surges.
A true racer carried his cars and equipment in what looked like a large fishing tackle box made from plywood paneling. The top of the box lifted to show five or more compartments covered with Plexiglas to protect complete slot cars. The front would open to allow access to a set of drawers to store extra parts like motors and tires and a large open space to store your trusty COX three wire controller with alligator clips to clamp on positive, negative, and brake poles which transferred power to the narrow braided wire strips embedded on each side of the 1/4" deep slot for each lane. The cars interfaced with these strips by means of a pair of braided chrome plated flexible copper brushes with a flange between them which fit into the slot and served to guide the front of the car.