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Howie's controller by Sandy Gross


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#1 TSR

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Posted 20 March 2007 - 10:34 AM

Another nugget in the museum's collection is this controller modified in 1967 by Sandy Gross for use by Howie Ursaner. In fact according to Howie, this is the only controller he ever had after it was built, until he retired from racing in 1971.

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A basic Russkit 10-ohmer, it was modified by Sandy and fitted with a new commercial-grade 5-ohm resistor.

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Sandy used three Cox Superflex wires to insure proper current transfer to the trigger.

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Ownership was clearly engraved on the handles . . .

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As well as manufacturing claim . . .

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The controller was disassembled, cleaned and oiled, then put inside a sealed bag until displayed with other artifacts in the museum.
I am sure that Sandy could comment on this pre-microswitch era of slot car pro-racing controllers . . . :)

Philippe de Lespinay





#2 loudspeaker

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 08:20 AM

Ah, memories. Now what about the claim that Howie's controller squeaked? Not if it was mine (ha, ha).
Sandy Gross

#3 TSR

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 11:10 AM

Have no more worries, the squeak is gone with a couple droplets of Voodoo oil . . . :lol:

Philippe de Lespinay


#4 don.siegel

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 04:20 PM

Speak of the devil, I just happened to be reading this old Car Model magazine last night, and who should I run into!

The one, the only . . .

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Here's the whole ad, for you Tower Stat nostalgics . . . I finally found one of these on eBay many years ago, and couldn't quite see what all the fuss was about - they don't seem all that smooth or anything. What was the charm?

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Don

#5 Uncle Fred

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 05:07 PM

Like the ad says: smooth, responsive, lightweight. The problem was when they would melt in your hand. :lol:
Fred Correnti

#6 TSR

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 08:15 PM

Yes, the Russkit do-hickey was definitely real progress . . . but I still LUUUV my Cox MKVII adjustable do-hickey. I will use it at the Convention next month . . . 8)
Never had a Russkit in the old days. My first "serious" controller was a Parma double-micro, and it kept falling apart from the heat melting the solder holding the microswitch brass plate. So I got peed off and made my own. :)

Philippe de Lespinay


#7 Ron Hershman

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 08:35 PM

My first "serious" controller was a Parma double-micro, and it kept falling apart from the heat melting the solder holding the microswitch brass plate. So I got peed off and made my own. :)

You mean the one Alex Gombach designed . . . right??? ;) :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

#8 TSR

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 11:58 PM

The very one! :lol:

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#9 Uncle Fred

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 10:13 AM

After Towerstats I used a much-modified Cox controller. I resisted the Russkit trigger style for quite a while.
Fred Correnti

#10 TSR

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 10:26 AM

The LASCM also has in its collection the very modified Cox controller used by the late Jose Rodriguez, Jr.
Another nice piece of slot car racing history. :)

Philippe de Lespinay


#11 Cheater

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 10:29 AM

There used to be a racer in the Atlanta area, Chuck Sears, who used a Russkit style controller but operated it with his thumb! Too weird, but Chuck drove very well that way.

As an aside, IIRC Chuck was an artist who worked for the US military in some capacity; he designed the paint jobs for the Army's dragsters when they first started sponsoring race cars.

Gregory Wells

Never forget that first place goes to the racer with the MOST laps, not the racer with the FASTEST lap


#12 Uncle Fred

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 10:42 AM

George Blaha actually built an . . . oh . . . mysterious metal box, presumably filled with capacitors and heat sinks, that you could plug a Towerstat into and it would never get hot! I won a 500 lap race at Glen Oaks using it. 8)
Fred Correnti

#13 tonyp

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 01:26 PM

I kind of liked the feature incorporated into the controller where it would get hot and just stick at full throttle.

"And if my thought-dreams could be seen they'd probably put my head in a guillotine. But it's alright, Ma, it's life, and life only." - Dylan

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#14 TSR

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 03:06 PM

Oh, you too? :lol:

Philippe de Lespinay


#15 tonyp

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 03:08 PM

At least twice before I could afford a new controller.

"And if my thought-dreams could be seen they'd probably put my head in a guillotine. But it's alright, Ma, it's life, and life only." - Dylan

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#16 Uncle Fred

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 03:43 PM

The flat resistors would swell up when they got real hot and jam the plunger. It became the style to "wear" an extra controller around your neck.
Fred Correnti

#17 loudspeaker

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 11:59 PM

I remember in the early days of our using the Russkits Cukras was still using the Cox controller. I think when Howie and I raced against Steube and Cukras in Memphis they were still using Cox controllers. I can't remember exactly at what point they switched over. Mike? John?
Sandy Gross

#18 Bob Emott

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 01:27 PM

The Towerstat was developed by a couple of aerospace electronic guys that were early racers at Polk’s Hobbies in NYC because at the time, the only generally-available controller was the blue, barrel-shaped controller made by MRRC in England. The MRRC worked with the early Pittman, Kemtron, and Mabuchi motors but it would get TOASTY with anything hotter (ie. Mabuchi 26D or the Pitman X-series motors). The MRRC resistor was made with wire wound on a sort of round paper core and coated with a varnish-type coating. You could tell when your controller was getting hot by the feel AND the smell . . .

The MRRC controller was an improvement over the early Scalextric or Strombecker type controllers because it was wired for brakes. Yes, the Towerstat did get hot but it made the cars much easer to control. The hot (cool?) tip was to put your little finger between where the wires to the track came out of the bottom of the controller and the plastic body of the controller where the bottom of the plunger came out and your thumb on the plunger . . . You didn’t hold the controller at all, it just sort of floated in your hand. A couple of racers put a loop of leather over the thumb button to help them hold onto the controller . . .

A couple of racers bought an extra set of cases for the Towerstst, put them together, and mounted them above the one with the resistors and connected them together with brass tubing . . . You held on to the empty top Towerstat and the heat was in the bottom unit . . .

The Towerstat was THE controller and worked fine until the advent of the Russkit . . .

BTW, Howie was the first to use the Towerstat in the NYC area AND the first to use the Russkit . . SMART KID . . . Eh . . .
Robert Emott, Jr
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#19 Bob Emott

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 03:14 PM

Yes, Sandy, Howie's first pre-Sandy Gross Russkit controller squeaked... And he got mad at me and actually yelled when he saw me about to oil it... And Howie did hum and/or sing nonsense quietly while he raced... You, on the other hand, just held your controller behind your back and leaned over the track a bit so you could see better... Of course, the guy next to you had to lean farther to see HIS car...

But that's not too bad... The hardest person to race next to was John Cukras... He smoked while he raced. He held his controller in his right hand and his cigarette in his left... On a King track, every couple of laps, he would put the cigarette in his mouth and inhale as he watched his car turn under the bridge and go up the donut... As he went down the straight, he would follow his car and blow out the smoke... towards the driver on his right... Meanwhile, he would swing his hand holding the cigarette (with a now brightly-glowing tip!!!) slightly towards the driver on his left... John also danced around a bit as he drove so he would sometimes bump lightly against the drivers on either side of him... (Remember the glowing ember??) When you raced with John, you had to keep an eye out for the glowing ember, or learn to hold your breath, or hold your ground if you got bumped... LOL.

BTW, John should also be on the list of the all-time best drivers in slot racing...
Robert Emott, Jr
12/15/40-4/21/14
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#20 Jon Laster

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 10:42 PM

I loved Bob Emott's description of Cukras driving! Who was the worst I ever stood next to? Not that bad!

And Bob's statement about his driving TALENT; in 1993 at the Nats in CA, I got John to drive one of my Eurosport cars on the back track (a 135 Engleman) and he drove it SO hard I was really impressed. I mean, I knew I'd morphed into a smooth type driver, but I never thought someone would drive one of my own cars THAT MUCH harder; then the guide tongue broke off from the strain...

Jon without the "H" and no smoke!
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