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Why did slot car racing fade so quickly in 1967-68?


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#51 Cheater

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Posted 08 December 2007 - 11:45 AM

Keep the focus on supporting your local raceway. Emphasize the fun aspect of slot car racing. Encourage and help new racers. Be unselfish and everyone will benefit. Hopefully, this approach will become more common throughout our hobby.

Keith,

The only issue I have with your "prescription" is that it suggests the best way for the hobby to grow is via "grass roots" efforts. That if the participants sufficiently patronize the raceways, promote the hobby, and assist the newbies, things will surely get better. And I don't believe that is the case.

If ones looks at other established leisure time activities, there's almost always some sort of organized advocacy group that works to emphasize "the fun aspect" and to "encourage and help new" participants. Often these advocacy groups are trade associations, sometimes sanctioning bodies, sometimes clubs. And, based on my observation, this is the approach that has generated growth for numerous other hobbies and LTAs.

Such advocacy groups perform the functions mentioned (and others) in that middle ground between the greedy manufacturers just out for a buck and the participants who just want to play without having to worry about the P&Ls of their raceway playground.

Slot racing really needs some sort of advocacy organization with the goals of increasing exposure and growth of the hobby in its charter. Individual trackowners cannot perform this function for numerous reasons. And the racers and players working individually are unlikely to get the job done, as history should prove. Assembling and funding the work of such an association for slot racing would no doubt be difficult, but I have to feel it's the only approach that will bear fruit. It certainly has never been tried, at least not in the manner envisioned.

Gregory Wells

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





#52 markdshark

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Posted 08 December 2007 - 05:57 PM

It seems that when people are selfish and only think of themselves, they tend to not see the big picture. Paul Sterrett and SoCal D3 is determined to keep the focus on supporting our local raceway to benefit everyone. We feel this is the long term path we must take to prevent the mistakes of the past from recurring and maybe, just maybe provide a future for commercial raceways and slot racers.

Keep the focus on supporting your local raceway. Emphasize the fun aspect of slot car racing. Encourage and help new racers. Be unselfish and everyone will benefit. Hopefully, this approach will become more common throughout our hobby.

I've seen many a raceway, here in the Detroit area, killed off by the better racers selling stuff (chassis, motors, and complete cars) out of their boxes. Sure, they pocket some money, but what it does is put another nail in the raceways "closed for good" sign!!! You can't expect to have a place to race without supporting it.
Mark Parus
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#53 m.milhas

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 08:34 AM

The excess speed, scratchbuilding, the cars didn't look like real cars, the constant evolution of parts and prices were why slot cars faded so quickly in popularity in Portugal but as in USA we had too a war and young boys went to Africa.
Miguel Pereira
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#54 Robert Livingston

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 09:59 AM

The excess speed, scratchbuilding, the cars didn't look like real cars, the constant evolution of parts and prices were why slot cars faded so quickly in popularity in Portugal but as in USA we had too a war and young boys went to Africa.

Thank you.
When you read the 1/32 forums, the guys who were around in the 1960s constantly say the scale issue was a big reason why they left slot car racing. The cars stopped looking like scale models as early as 1967. The current semi-scale, retro D3 interest that dominates this group, here on Slotlog, seems primarily the opinion of guys who were NOT turned off by the non-scale aspect. These guys persisted (or started) post-1967. The scale guys all left. Thus, the discussion here is limited to guys who don't have a more than casual interest in scale racing. It is a self-limiting discussion, and is bound to de-emphasize one of the more important elements of why slot car racing faded.

The resurgence of 1/32 plasticar scale racing is way bigger than D3 and/or commercial track activity. Thus, any discussion of why slot car racing faded out c. 1967 would have to include the lack of scale realism as an important factor, even though this forum is focused on the semi-scale, scratchbuilding, commercial track side of the hobby.

#55 Vay Jonynas

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 10:47 AM

You could be right. I remember being very disappointed when I saw the vacuum-formed bodies with which Monogram had replaced the hard plastic bodies in their last generation of kits. I just didn't think they were "right". I was also very much unimpressed with the "flattened-out" hard plastic bodies that came with Cox's IFC kits.

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Of course by 1967 I was fifteen and other things were drawing my interest anyway.

:huh:
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#56 TSR

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 10:56 AM

I was also very much unimpressed with the "flattened-out" hard plastic bodies that came with Cox's IFC kits.

Uh, only the Cheetah was modified, lowered by 1/8". The other three were not, and that includes the Dino of which only changes were a one-piece window and slots on its side to fit the alloy body mount.

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#57 Cheater

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 12:59 PM

The resurgence of 1/32 plasticar scale racing is way bigger than D3 and/or commercial track activity. Thus, any discussion of why slot car racing faded out c. 1967 would have to include the lack of scale realism as an important factor, even though this forum is focused on the semi-scale, scratchbuilding, commercial track side of the hobby.

No doubt it was a factor, but I think it is overly simplistic to suggest that "scaleness" is the primary reason the commercial raceway industry crashed, just as I believe it is overly simplistic to suggest that the primary reason for the growth of 1/32 plasticars is due to scaleness. (It ignores the fact that 1/32 racing is overwhelmingly practiced at home or in a club, not in a commercial establishment, and it also ignores the nearly 100% RTR approach of the 1/32 plasticar industry.)

As I pointed out very early in this thread, the cars raced at commercial raceways at the time of the crash were considerably more scale than became the norm in the '70s and beyond. And then there's HO, which has exhibited a reasonably consistent sales history in spite of being very non-scale.

If scaleness is the most important factor, where is an example of a successful commercial raceway based on that concept? I don't know of a single one; do you? If the success of commercial slot racing facilities hinged solely on the scaleness of the cars used, why hasn't at least one businessman followed that simple "prescription" to create a stable and profitable commercial raceway? If it is that simple, why hasn't someone done it?

Sorry, gentlemen, this never-ending insistence that the scaleness of slot cars is the critical factor in the decline of 1/24 slot car raceways is not supported by the facts as I view them. Proponents of such opinions are clearly incorporating their own preferences and, it must be remarked, seem to be overwhelmingly hobbyists and participants (insiders) as opposed to non-involved analysts and businesspeople.

Please note that I am not suggesting that scaleness is not a factor, but IMO it is not the critical factor, as many insist.

Edit: One further thought, if the scaleness of the current 1/32 scale plasticars is so attractive and compelling, why are there no stable and profitable commercial facilities catering to 1/32 scale racers? Or is there one somewhere that I don't know about...

Gregory Wells

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


#58 Prof. Fate

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 01:09 PM

Hi,

While I have been in some of these conversations about the "why" part, I can be honest that I don't KNOW. No way to test a hypothesis, really. I "think" it was a combination of things.

And a basic one, it was a fad. Pet Rocks, Hoola Hoops, Beaney Babies. A fad.

It persisted as a hobby.

But the scale issue: I started with 1/24 in '59 due to the Merit and Stromie kits, and went to 1/32 later. But always did both scales. In the "fad" period, my 1/32 groups faded until '67 when it was down to the occasional run on my Revell track at home. In '68, I was waiting for a serious money main and started BSing with some of the guys. A couple said, "Remember when the cars were scale?" I said "there are no non-scale 1/32 bit available". So, we formed a formal 1/32 club which persisted from there to the mid-'90s. The end for that club happened when the later members who outnumbered the "founders" declared it illegal to build. For "fair and equal" racing, we could only run plastic RTR. The fighting resulted in the old guys dropping out. But the "reformed" club still races today every Thursday.

Fate
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#59 don.siegel

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 01:28 PM

Two quick points that I've made before, backing up some of what's been said here:

1) Commercial racing was never that scale, by the nature of the beast. Sure, there were moderately-scale hard plastic cars for a little while, but when you get millions of kids doing this more as a fad than a hobby, the bulk of them were quickly not very scale.

2) Commercial slot racing was in a perpetual crisis! And perhaps it's the commercial model that was, as Rocky said, the fad, and unsustainable. I've got a trade mag from late 1965 - height of the commercial racing business - that says in big, bold letters: Slot Racing: Boom or Bust? And looking through R&C for the RTR Roundup information, there was already an editorial in early or mid 1966 about the "panic" in the commercial raceway field.

That's not to say that scale/competition issues didn't play a role. When Jeff Davies and friends interviewed the early rail racers in England a lot of them said they dropped out when slot racing came in, because it was all becoming too serious... (I'm simplifying this a bit, but that remark was heard several times).

Don

#60 markdshark

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 03:25 PM

There have always been two types of racers. Those who were racing scale-appearing model cars, and those who were just plain racing. The latter didn't mind what the thing looked like, just as long as it was fast. The problem, for raceways, has always been, to find the happy medium, between the two.
Mark Parus
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#61 TSR

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 03:53 PM

This is where D3 comes in. :)

Philippe de Lespinay
 
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#62 Cheater

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 04:22 PM

There have always been two types of racers. Those who were racing scale-appearing model cars, and those who were just plain racing. The latter didn't mind what the thing looked like, just as long as it was fast.

Yep, there are indeed two main groups: modelers and racers.

The problem, for raceways, has always been, to find the happy medium, between the two.

Not totally accurate. The problem for raceways has been getting sufficient patronage resulting in enough revenue to cover the overhead and to give a decent profit.

The "happy medium" to which you refer is the ability to attract a decent level of patronage from both groups, and I would agree that this "balance" is something that the majority of raceways never achieve.

Gregory Wells

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


#63 jimht

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 04:39 PM

There have only been 2 kinds of customers:
those who want to play & those who want to race, with much crossover between them.
BUT...those who only want to play have not been the primary market since the Sixties.
It's easy to sell toys; it's harder to sell a Hobby.
The success of 1/32 is based on aiming only at the players, which has been done by a fanatical dedication to scale on the part of the manufacturers.
It's not that scale is necessary to have a strong racing program, scale is necessary to attract the players.
Our mistake in the 1/24 business is that we stopped making & selling toys that would appeal to a broad market.
AND we never adjusted the size of the tracks to match the rising cost of good retail floor space.

Jim Honeycutt

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#64 TSR

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 04:59 PM

It's not that scale is necessary to have a strong racing program, scale is necessary to attract the players.
Our mistake in the 1/24 business is that we stopped making & selling toys that would appeal to a broad market.

Which I have repeated for years preaching in a desert of incomprehension or insults for even mentioning it. Now it is simply a desert.

Philippe de Lespinay
 
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#65 Robert Livingston

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 07:20 PM

This was the original question:

What do you think was the main reason that slot car racing faded so quickly in popularity in 1967-68? Had technology evolved so rapidly that the typical ten to fourteen-year-old did not have the money to buy what was needed to stay competitive, let alone the metal cutting and soldering skills required for scratchbuilding?

Or was it simply a case that popular culture very suddenly evolved away from models, cars, etc., so that even pre-teen fellows wanted to play in rock bands like the Beatles and the Stones instead of being car nuts/grease monkeys?"

The question of what happened to slot car racing is not exactly the same as what happened to commercial raceways. The commercial raceway trend was nearly over as soon as it started, due to the basic economic flaw in which overhead exceeded income, for various reasons. It was a blip in the history of the hobby. Slot car racing is a much longer lived phenomenon, and goes on to this day. Today, it is an RTR hobby which is about highly-detailed, brightly-colored race car models, which are to reasonable 1/32 scale, and work reasonably well, more or less, on the small tracks for which they are intended. It is not in the center of popular culture as it was in 1965-67, but as Rocky has pointed out repeatedly, the fad is not the same as the hobby.

That a few survivors of the commercial raceway heyday ("pro" hobbyists) have resurrected their former hobby is a trend we have seen in other activities. It reminds me of circle track, modified stock cars with flat head motors, lovingly restored by ancient guys who raced them in their youth; it reminds me also of static plastic modelers, buying and building surviving kits, and reproductions, to build that aircraft they had botched as a kid, but to today's high standards. There is a large element of doing it right this time, making the wrongs right.

The question of "scale" is really a question of appearance. If there is to be a complete visual representation, the models must look good, at rest, as well as acting like race cars when powered up. I believe that slot cars belong on tracks with realistic roadways, and realistic scenery, and that a good-looking race track appears to follow real terrain, not just be an abstract roadway hanging in space. A good-looking raceway has a sense of place. To capture the public imagination, and bring more people into the hobby, the racing and the modeling should both be there.

There is a guy named Luf Linkert building a model of the Nurburgring, with a very long straight with ups and downs, and a compound banked, Karoussel turn. This is a private club-like raceway, housed in his place of business. Voltage is around 10, scale is 1/32. This is the future of the hobby, in my opinion. Model railroading followed the same turn, from large clubs in rented quarters, giving public shows, to private clubs, refining their art under more controlled conditions, not supported by the general public at all. I really don't know, but take a look anyway:

Posted Image

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www.oldslotracer.com

#66 Cheater

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 11:16 AM

Robert,

I agree with you that slot racing's future in the US most likely involves clubs and home tracks, as is the case in the rest of the world.

As for the original question, surely the reference to "slot car racing [fading] so quickly in popularity in 1967-68?" specifically means the commercial raceway slot racing scene, for no other part of the hobby experienced the precipitous downturn mentioned.

Regarding the "hobby which is about highly-detailed, brightly-colored race car models, which are to reasonable 1/32 scale, and work reasonably well", it seems to me that the functional quality and durability of most 1/32 RTRs is not high, resulting in "racer" participant frustration, at least based on posts made to other boards. I suspect it has also caused some to exit the hobby. Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of modeling in the 1/32 plasticar arena?

Many of us have made the comparison between model railroading and slot racing and I still think it is a valid one. The model railroading hobby has achieved a far better balance between the modeling and performance aspects, and has elevated itself to a level of maturity (for lack of a better word) that slot racing would do well to emulate.

Gregory Wells

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


#67 don.siegel

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 11:44 AM

Except that there is no "performance" aspect per se in model railroading, Greg - it's a pure hobby, meaning one that can be practiced alone, even if a club or friends can enhance the fun.

Slot racing is not in this situation and will always be caught between the sport and hobby (racing/modeling) aspects, so is doomed to cyclic activity of ever decreasing frequency...

The low point in the industry was probably in the late '70s, when even the comparatively healthy home set market was hit by all the usual ills - video games, poor corporate management, etc.

In a sense, we're just going back to where it started, as a niche hobby, for hobbyists who like to model nice cars that work, and the market will be further scattered into retro, vintage, repro, wing, non-wing, front wheel, no wheel, scratch, bash, etc. Luf's track is beautiful, but this kind of activity will be limited to a relatively small group of people, and most racing will continue to be under the Xmas tree for two months after Christmas, like it always was, even during the '60s....

Don

#68 TSR

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 12:00 PM

Except that there is no "performance" aspect per se in model railroading,

I designed a racing train for Cox, once, called "The Championship Trail"... it sold quite well if I recall. Of course, the train itself was not racing anybody! :laugh2:

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#69 Cheater

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 12:29 PM

Except that there is no "performance" aspect per se in model railroading, Greg - it's a pure hobby, meaning one that can be practiced alone, even if a club or friends can enhance the fun.

Don, when you read "performance" you must have interpreted it either as "competition" or "speed". 8-)

There certainly are performance aspects to model railroading. Just some examples: how slow a locomotive will run and how smoothly, how well MR rolling stock will operate on different code (size) track and through various sizes and brands of curves and turnouts, how well the various couplers between cars operate and interoperate, how many cars a locomotive will pull on level track and what % grade it will climb, etc., etc. These performance parameters vary considerably between brands.

I'd be willing to send you a few issues of Model Railroading magazine, so you can see for yourself the level of attention given to performance in that hobby. MR even features "track tests" that mimic the sort of road tests you will find in car mags, including data such as starting, top speed, and full-stall voltage readings.

Many of the NMRA's actions (i.e. their standards and recommended practices) were and are focused on improving the performance of model railroads, as well as on reducing the fragmentation you mentioned in regards to slot racing. Also, within the NMRA, there are indeed competitions, for rolling stock and structures (and some of the classes are only for scratchbuilts!). I also feel that the NMRA's proactive efforts in the digital area have accrued enormous benefits for that hobby and will continue to do so.

When I mentioned maturity earlier, it was in specific reference to improvements brought to the model railroading hobby though the formation and operation of the NMRA.

Gregory Wells

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


#70 sportblazer350

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 08:02 PM

Well, it seems that after much discussion and opinions, that some of you are talking along the same lines as the way I see it today. That is, the slot car hobby growth in 1/32 scale by way of race sets and rtr near exact scale cars. And that these sets and cars are being collected as well as raced in homes by individuals and small clubs. The mere fact that there are hundreds, if not over one thousand, different 1/32 rtr slot car produced in the past 10-15 years is staggering, and identifies as the hobby's source of growth.

I agree with the points about slot car commercial track racing. It is after all a hobby, serious for a few as racers with skills to tune a car and race it. For more, it is a hobby to have fun with. I see the sale issue like this- yes the hobby started out as a scale car, with model kits and rail cars and tracks as their origins. And in the early days it seems that slot cars were a hobby for track (with scenery) and car builders, that raced their cars on their custom built tracks. the cars, the track, and the scenery being recreations of the real thing.

The toy companies in the 1960s jumped onto the bandwagon with their home race sets. Commercial raceways were a fad, today we see that as a fact. And that only really lasted for a few years in the 1960s. To view that for its time, we have to acknowledge that the rtr cars, and the Thingies that younger kids enjoyed, helped the fad/craze grow. One with no experience could buy a car and a controller and onto the track to PLAY with their new toy car.

Key words for that time period: TOY CARS, and PLAY.

Today, we adults talk back and forth about all of this, as we are doing once again here. Scale played a part in the beginnings of this hobby. Today, it is hard to not acknowlege that scale is playing a huge role in slot car hobby growth, in today's rtr plastic car 1/32 scale.

Some ask why there is not a huge growth within 1/32 scale and commercial raceways. Here is how I see it: 1/32 rtr cars and race sets are sold in hobby shops. Not toy stores, not in commercial raceways. If a raceway were to fully stock 1/32 cars, parts, accessories and race sets, as well as some general and related hobby items- then needing space for retail sales- advertise as a hobby shop (for the retail sales) and a raceway (for the racers), build smaller tracks out of plastic sectional track, then there would be hope.

Think of it- a father/parents buy a 1/32 race set. The father/parents and children PLAY with their toy race cars and track. They see what can be built with the very same cars and tracks with more space, and there are organised races for both novices and more serious, kept separate. Other hobby items are available to sell, such as paints, glues, model kits, etc for related hobby interest. Issues for the shop owner are retail space vs track space, time to organise and run races. And the owner must know the hobby!!

Can it be done? I think so. And the shop owner must work with the local small home club racers to attract them into his new shop and to race, buy their cars and parts, and work with the novice customers to encourage them, and to help build the hobby.

A personal note- I spent several years doing this exact thing at a small local hobby shop with a 1/32 scale and ho scale track. I actually helped inquiring customers, and made sales for the shop owner. I did it to help others to get into the hobby. I NEVER got a thank you, a discount, or anything like that from the shop owner.... :angry: .....needless to say, most of my slot car money is spent elsewhere.

So- we can discuss the reasons why this or that, both today and 40 years ago. All of what is being discussed here are valid points, and a little of this, a little of that, adds up to the answer for the topic here.

I still think that this hobby is seeing the beginnings of huge growth, and that growth is in 1/32 rtr plastic cars first, followed by h.o. scale.

The issue of scale in today's world: DivIII (D3) shows that scale is coming back in 1/24 scale. The addition of a small but growing 1/24 scale company: BRM from Italy shows that scale is popular in 1/24 and hopefully these 2 small groups can help scale to come back into 1/24. Carrera makes plenty of 1/24 scale plastic track and cars, even though the cars perform as toys vs racing a slot car.But- the scale and quality is there to enjoy.

Compare to 1/32 scale: Slot-it from Italy has proved that a slot car can be: scale, top quality to race, and inexpensive. All 3 of these qualities proves that scale can be part of racing- these two segments of this hobby can, and do, live in harmony, just in 1/32 scale for now. BRM proves it in 1/24 scale, but the cars are a bit expensive in comparison, hopefully just for now.

And look outside of the USA: 1/24 scale is enjoying a huge following with SCALE bodies being built onto racing chassis. So there is proof that scale and racing can live together in 1/24 scale as well. However, it has not caught on here in the USA. Our slot car makers bang out the commercial raceway model of a racing car, leaving scale realism completely out of the picture.

Lastly, as I know I am going on a bit here, the internet has opened up a new window of hope for this hobby. Again, I see lots of opportunity for growth in this hobby: slot cars. Racing is just one aspect of the overall hobby. And I enjoy just about every aspect of it nowadays. :D

Glenn Orban
vintage slot car enthusiast
NJ SCALE Racing

Hardbody Racing at The Race Place


#71 Rick

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Posted 14 December 2007 - 08:36 PM

You have dozens of members of this board. What was it that had many or most of them quit the hobby, when they did? How about some chiming in on that.

You do a HOBBY because it either challenges your mind or your body AND because it is FUN. When the fun goes, so does the patron. What zaps the fun?

What is it that keeps people from returning the next season that does not occur in bowling or golf or hunting or fishing?

Why not put Womps and TCR cars in WALLY WORLD? Exposure?-none better. It's like flashlights and batteries. Fly, Ninco, Scalex, Carrerra all need to be in Wal-Mart. You lose the initial sale but gain the exposure, they need parts etc. Better to have 20% of something than 100% of nothing. I would rather have 1/10th of 1% of all the Wally World customers than 100% of the people that will never cross the threshold of a slotcar track.

Ever wonder how many new people Radio Shack sends to RC shops selling those junk RC cars? ( EVERY YEAR) When they break, junior needs it fixed, where do they go for parts? cha-ching a sale to get him a car that is repairable.

No one ever followed the format before them to make a slot car racing scheme work. JimHT somehow has been selling fun for over 30 years and still at it. Obviously he found something that eluded most all the others.

WHAT ZAPS THE FUN?
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#72 Tex

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 10:13 AM

In my case, nothing zapped the fun. I just got married and all income had to go for food, clothing and shelter.... no disposable income. After a while, slot cars faded from my memory. Thirty-three years later, I re-discovered slot cars..... and have some disposable income!
Richard L. Hofer

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#73 The Bugman

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 11:04 AM

I totally agree with TEX, marriage, kids, a home to support, food/clothing, A REAL 40 hrs a week job, etc., etc.
I am a 58 yr old & raced in the 60's til growing up and facing the real world and all it entailed. I passed up racing til the late 80's due to all the above,,and since then with NO MARRIAGE (WHEWWWWWW! T.Y.) kids grown and gone,and all major bills gone too there was extra $$$$$ so been racin ever since, 1/24 & H.O.'s,,,, THE FUN IS STILL THERE, whether RACING or just having fun driving my SCALE stuff, with buddies.
JUST PRIORITIES took over during those years, but I am sure glad I stayed WITH THE HOBBY !!!!!!!!!
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#74 Prof. Fate

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 11:20 AM

Hi

It is regularly pointed out that I am not the market.

I never stopped. Marriage, job, kids? Well, for me, slot cars weren't the goal, the one hour "vacation" at the bench was the goal.

So, I never stopped, but then my motives for doing it weren't typical.

Rail is in decline. There has been a steady decline in circulation for the mags, and while everyone tries to figure out why, from the mystical "the kids of today don't see the romance of the rail like we did growing up in small towns"; to the sublime "the kids today don't build". While I like the railroad/model type aspects to the layout, I haven't seen that driving the hobby anywhere.

The local hobbyshop does what is proposed above. They ONLY run modern rtr plastic. One shop has a routed custom 50' Oglivie, the other shop has a 120 Hillclimb (Hasse). And the thought behind doing it was "grow the hobby/modern times" as referenced above. They even have a breakout system in the races where the race director doesn't allow the fast racers to turn more laps than a decent newbie can do (meaning 6 people on the "same" lap). All of which resulted in the small track closing after 2 years, and the big track having the same 8 racers it has had for 15 years. Oh, the big track sells a lot of SETS over Christmas. And late winter will usually bump the field up to 14 or so for a few weeks, but somehow the same hobbyists are the only ones who race.

I don't know the situation can be addressed by the commercial track model.

Again, locally, we have a club with several tracks and weekly racing. But the politics of the club has clubs dropping out and coming back all the time, so it is hard to keep track of the soap opera enough to know who is racing and who isn't.

A long way of saying that I don't know if any of this discussion is correct.

Rocky
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#75 markdshark

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Posted 16 December 2007 - 05:43 PM

Like many racers, here in Detroit, we moved on to R/C. When R/C got to expensive, or we just became old and uncompetitve, we had forgotten about slot racing. Myself, I have a weird work schedule and can't really race either one.
Mark Parus
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#76 CruzinBob

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Posted 16 December 2007 - 06:02 PM

Chock one up for Scale on the vs Thingie thing :)

I'm currently setup with mobile track at the Ventura Marina and had a customer who used to race in '70s in the SF Valley with an actor from the Brady bunch (he said his name but I never watched the show). He's 45 and mentioned seeing a segment on the History channel last night that featured slot car history for about 15 minutes. He said that a fella being interviewed believed that (insomanywords) "going for the speed at the expense of scale" led to its decline.

While I believe Scale helps tremendously, I think there were many reasons for it's decline.

I stopped participating in slot cars late '68 and for about 20 years was quite lost. :crazy:

#77 Frenchbuilt

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 03:41 AM

Hi,

There are usually simple answers to most questions. The main reason that this hobby died so quickly was that cars were always flying off the track. Lots of low cost sets sets... Eldon... Strombecker... Sears, etc. etc. were sold during the '60s and most of us "non-professional" users tried to make these things work. The exciting box illustrations and adverts sold the product but after one or two times setting up and running, these things found their way into the closet. It was almost impossible to keep the cars on the track and patience in kids and parents ran out quickly. And, most kids did not go to the commercial tracks, or if so, rarely. The heart of the industry died since the product was not up to the expectation of the buyer. The rest of the industry went with it. There is a big return to the hobby now that cars stay on the track (magnets, etc.) and electronics allows racing to match the box illustrations. In fact, now it is fun for the non-professional, too.

Dan

PS: I am interested in Cox history, any photos out there of the factory or design area??
Dan Abramson

#78 don.siegel

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 05:14 AM

Dan,

I'm afraid your explanation doesn't hold up: sales of the home sets actually continued fairly strong, until they were hit by the recession and video craze of the '70s. For instance, Revell and Strombecker continued producing home racing sets long after they stopped their commercial raceway product lines.

While some of these home sets were not great, others worked fairly well, especially the Aurora T-Jet line, which was extremely reliable. And the Strombecker and later Eldon sets were decent as well. In any case, at some point maintenance was always needed and that's when it changed from a Christmas present to a hobby, if the kid and/or father was really interested.

To those of us going to commercial raceways, it seemed very widespread, but you may be right about relatively few kids knowing about these... I've never seen any hard figures, but would be interested in this. Actually, according to one poll commissioned by the hobby trade association at the time, only 30% of Americans were even aware that slot racing existed.

Don

#79 TSR

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 11:10 AM

The rest of the industry went with it. There is a big return to the hobby now that cars stay on the track (magnets, etc.) and electronics allows racing to match the box illustrations. In fact, now it is fun for the non-professional, too.
PS: I am interested in Cox history, any photos out there of the factory or design area??

Dan, the "big return" has little to do with how the newer cars run or stay on te track and a lot to do with the way they look with over 80% bought as display pieces that never touch the track.

The raceways went out for lots of reasons, the main one being that the commercial equation simply did not work, not because the cars did not. In fact, that NEVER entered our mind in the 1960's and most of us were surprised and very disappointed when our local raceway closed. We simply did not understand...

Very few pictures survived of the inner sanctum at Cox. there wll be a few in my new book whenever it comes out.

Philippe de Lespinay
 
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#80 don.siegel

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 11:27 AM

There was actually a big feature on the Cox factory in Rod & Custom models, but it was in mid-'64 before they came out with the slot cars, so it mostly talked about their new gas-powered models, and showed the huge slot track for those, plus glow-plug fuel, etc... Not a hint of the slot cars, which must have been in the planning stage already!

Philippe, did you just make up that 80% figure, or have you seen that somewhere? It sounds a bit high, but I don't have any figures myself!

Also, if you look back at the trade publications from the 60s, the operators were pretty aware of the problems involved, and were always trying to balance budgets. Rents weren't crazy yet, so there were a lot more raceways in cities, and not just suburbs like now, so turning a profit was at least more feasible than it is now. The problem was keeping up the high growth rate of the first couple months, when everybody and his mother would at least buy a car and try the track. It's not easy coming up with a program that will keep attracting new people and getting them to spend money - sort of the equivalent to home tracks, the first time dad or son has to clean the lint off the car axle, replace a motor brush, etc.

Don

#81 havlicek

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 12:35 PM

"Why did it fade"... economics. Running a track and keeping the cashflow alive dealing with small margins is a tough nut to crack.

I didn't move away from slot cars because of R/C cars... all the tracks near me simply closed. As to the whole question of how to attract and maintain a paying clientele, I don't think any one answer applies. Organized racing is sure to be one way though and keeping things in check (common-sense rules and regs such as those for retro racing) so that it doesn't simply become a matter of "he who spends the most wins" is probably one good way. I do think that tracks should embrace all forms of the sport though... just seeing some of the really fast cars run once in a while as a kid was a real motivator for me and kept me coming back (well... that and the smell of "oil of wintergreen" :) ).
John Havlicek

#82 markdshark

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 03:06 PM

Also, here in the Midwest, slot racing became more of a seasonal thing. For many racers, it was something to pass away those cold winter nights. But, when summer came, they were off to other interest. This made for some very rough going, for raceway owners, who still had to pay the bills, not to mention make a living. The financial strains force many a raceway to close.
Mark Parus
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#83 TSR

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 04:11 PM

Philippe, did you just make up that 80% figure, or have you seen that somewhere? It sounds a bit high, but I don't have any figures myself!

These are from the people at FLY. They were in an interview in a slot mag from Spain.

Philippe de Lespinay
 
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#84 Frenchbuilt

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 07:30 AM

Old stuff, new memories...

Don, what are you doing in Paris???!!!
Dan Abramson

#85 Vay Jonynas

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 09:27 AM

I am interested in Cox history, any photos out there of the factory or design area??

You might want to check THIS THREAD in which Philippe posted some very good pictures of MIB Cox cars.
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#86 Cheater

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 10:47 AM

Don, what are you doing in Paris???!!!

Don's what is termed an "expat", i.e. someone now residing in a country and culture different from his own.

Since I think he grew up in the Chicago area, perhaps he got tired of the weather... :laugh2:

Gregory Wells

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#87 TSR

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 10:56 AM

Or the awful sausage... :laugh2:

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#88 don.siegel

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 10:58 AM

No, not quite Greg - good theory though! I actually left Chicago when I was about 18 (couldn't wait to get out of there!) and lived on the West Coast until I left for Europe. My last four years were in San Francisco, and I also got tired of the weather there - too perfect!

I've been in France for nearly 26 years, vs 30 in the States, so soon things will begin to even out and I'll be Franco-American (still a US citizen however, but French resident).

Why did I come here in the first place? Cherchez la Femme!

Don

PS: Philippe, I saw that! And that's the one thing about Chicago I'll defend to the death: the best hot-dogs in the world! Kosher style of course... Now, if you think the French sausage is good (and it's not bad...) you should here what my German friends think of it!
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#89 TSR

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 11:00 AM

And she is very nice, too... :wub:

Philippe de Lespinay
 
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#90 sportblazer350

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 11:24 AM

Thank you.
When you read the 1/32 forums, the guys who were around in the 1960s constantly say the scale issue was a big reason why they left slot car racing. The cars stopped looking like scale models as early as 1967. The current semi-scale, retro D3 interest that dominates this group, here on Slotlog, seems primarily the opinion of guys who were NOT turned off by the non-scale aspect. These guys persisted (or started) post-1967. The scale guys all left. Thus, the discussion here is limited to guys who don't have a more than casual interest in scale racing. It is a self-limiting discussion, and is bound to de-emphasize one of the more important elements of why slot car racing faded.

The resurgence of 1/32 plasticar scale racing is way bigger than D3 and/or commercial track activity. Thus, any discussion of why slot car racing faded out c. 1967 would have to include the lack of scale realism as an important factor, even though this forum is focused on the semi-scale, scratchbuilding, commercial track side of the hobby.

I agree completely! I wish i was able to voice my thoughts in this amount of words- direct and precise. The true scale issue is a real factor in slot cars overall. In this hobby, in any scale- we have "scale", we have toys, and we have "race cars" that are NOT scale, and have nothing to do with any type of scale realism.

I view today's retro racing as not having much at all to do with vintage era cars except for re-issue era vintage bodies. the rest is all new, just with an inline motor mount. It is however a small step in the right direction. The more serious D-3 racers have a style of building and racing that is for the extremely talented chassis builders and pro racers. This does not offer anything for those who enjoy this hobby, but are not pro chassis builders and pro racers. And i for one do not need to be used for a track marshall.....

But don't get me wrong here- there has to be a place in this hobby for those with high chassis building and racing skills. I enjoy the fact that retro Can-Am and other vintage type of retro classes is popular vs wing cars with strap motors and the like. I see enough interest in retro racing outside of the more experienced builders and racers that it can grow into something even bigger and allow more novices into it. And i hope that the more experienced will stickaround on race dates to help and encourage the more novice builders and racers to carry on this hobby.

Glenn Orban
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#91 sportblazer350

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 11:54 AM

I agree with you that slot racing's future in the US most likely involves clubs and home tracks, as is the case in the rest of the world.

As for the original question, surely the reference to "slot car racing [fading] so quickly in popularity in 1967-68?" specifically means the commercial raceway slot racing scene, for no other part of the hobby experienced the precipitous downturn mentioned.

Regarding the "hobby which is about highly-detailed, brightly-colored race car models, which are to reasonable 1/32 scale, and work reasonably well", it seems to me that the functional quality and durability of most 1/32 RTRs is not high, resulting in "racer" participant frustration, at least based on posts made to other boards. I suspect it has also caused some to exit the hobby. Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of modeling in the 1/32 plasticar arena?

Many of us have made the comparison between model railroading and slot racing and I still think it is a valid one. The model railroading hobby has achieved a far better balance between the modeling and performance aspects, and has elevated itself to a level of maturity (for lack of a better word) that slot racing would do well to emulate.

Sorry, Cheater, don't agree with your points here. I have been involved with the current resurgance of SCALE 1/32 racing with today's RTR plastic chassis cars. Oh yeah, the reports of these cars as being "junk" is only from those whose expertise is in pro commercial racing. It is like comparing apples to oranges. 1/32 plastic car racing is very much enjoyed for reasons of highly-detailed AND good-performing cars. And the fact that non-traction magnet racing is growing in popularity lately is proof that real scale racing can and does work! And when some 1/32 cars are issued that begin to lose their scale appearances, these makers take some harsh criticism. The fact remains that in 1/32 plastic cars, scale is where we want it to stay.

And high cost need not be a factor! Take this example of the Scalextric $17 retail (yes!! I paid the actual retail of only $17 !!!) modern F1 cars, just added my own paint and decals, and had a great racer right out of the box! And right up to today's cars such as under $50 RTR Slot.it cars that perform perfectly with or without traction magnets. And it is this very type of 1/32 SCALE car that has thousands of new racers join this hobby each and every year, especially in the past 10 years, more so in the more recent years. And this is due to cars going from toy-like in appearance to real SCALE.

Another post tried to point out that commercial raceways have not used this approach with results to prove thoughts like mine. Well, look at the commercial tracks: all are made and designed for the fastest cars, and today's 1/24 commercial faster cars are high priced, and do not resemble what many of us think of as a slot car. The tracks are huge and swopping, full of high speed banks and straights.

Today's growth in this hobby is in 1/32 and HO scale, with home/club smaller road courses, and are mainly only four lanes. And take a look at the amount of cars and money spent by 1/32 racers today, compare it to today's 1/24 commercial racers. And I am talking about the AVERAGE buyer, enthusiast, and racer, not the pros, who are only in the minority.

And NO - there are not 1/32 scale racers leaving the hobby due to poor performing cars. The cars and parts, as well as tracks and accessories have been contantly improving in the past 10 years. Look at this past decade in 1/32 scale plastic cars and tracks, and compare it to slot car racing in the 1960 era decade. Today we have GROWTH, then we had a fad, and then near death.

Today in 1/32 scale, there is constant talk of racers keeping cars from a few years ago current to new issues with both manufacturers as well as after market parts. Older cars also become collectible, not turned into yesterday's trash, as in the past.

You and others may not agree, but the facts remain the facts, like them or not. Home/club tracks thrive because raceways have not jumped aboard this train and made tracks that will attract the 1/32 racers, nor do the commercial raceways stock the cars and parts for these cars. So - commercial raceways try to carry on with a old and unsuccessful method of doing business.

Glenn Orban
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Hardbody Racing at The Race Place


#92 Vay Jonynas

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 02:14 PM

I view today's retro racing as not having much at all to do with vintage era cars except for re-issue era vintage bodies.

What I find particularly puzzling is that most retro racing classes are for vacuum-formed bodied cars. The slot car offerings of Revell, Monogram, Cox, Eldon, Strombecker, etc., in the early sixties were all hardbodied!

:angry:

I've always thought of vacuum formed bodies as a "modern" innovation, barely over forty years old!

:laugh2:
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#93 Keith Tanaka

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 05:26 PM

I agree with Glenn's comments. Although I never raced "scale" slotcars in the '60s, I envied those who were members of "MESAC". In those days, MESAC was a club with a waiting list. You had to be nominated into the club.
I was/am a commercial slot car builder/racer. I do like the scale cars though.
Since BPR acquired their new flat track, it has become the most popular track to race on. "Hardbody" races on the flat track are a lot of fun and I do believe we might see "growth" in this type of racing.

Since 1/24 commercial slotcar racing has been predominantly about "speed" and/or "handling", the scale aspect has been secondary.
D3 is not a "scale" racing class, but it is a good representation of what was the most popular "racing" period in the '60s. Slotcars based on actual 1/1 racing cars is what racers then and now still enjoy doing.

Hopefully, the hardbody racing will grow in popularity at BPR. We have NASCAR hardbody races now and may have "Trans Am" racing in the future. It would be nice to see a strictly 1/32 race track in a commercial raceway, but so far the home club racers do not appear to be interested in racing their cars on a commercial track. Who knows, maybe someday that could change.

We do have one D3 racer who is exceptional with 1/32 scale cars. He builds/modifies them to "handle". He wants to race them at BPR, but so far there have not been enough other racers to support it.

Keith :rolleyes:
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#94 Noose

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 09:43 PM

Keith,

Scale was awesome back here during the NAMRA days when the car you ran was pretty much a real scale version of the 1/1 car. Your wheelbase and width were scale to the real car. Made for a lot of Ferraris! Tony P and I were talking about this the other day.

Also, does anyone remember when you were running your car on the track with some other guys and the owner / worker would come up and announce there was going to be a race on a bullhorn with those red, blue, and yellow ribbons in hand? It was a way to get guys interested in coming to the regular races.

Joe "Noose" Neumeister
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#95 Mike Patterson

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 10:56 PM

Excuse me, but if we are going to talk "scale", in terms of attracting new blood, let's first define what "scale" we are racing. Most 1/24 "scale" bodies available today are more like 1/28-1/30 "scale". A modern Champ car, Indy car, F1 car has a LONGER wheelbase than a stockcar (whatever that is!). What I'm getting at is the damned cars are TOO SMALL!!!

BTW, I'm an old fart with thick glasses :laugh2: !

Mike Patterson

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#96 Vay Jonynas

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 09:48 AM

It would be nice to see a strictly 1/32 race track in a commercial raceway, but so far the home club racers do not appear to be interested in racing their cars on a commercial track.

Interesting. At my local track there are formal racing programs for 1/32 scale with magnets for kids, 1/32 scale magnetless for adults, and 1/24 scale magnetless, all hard-bodied and all on the same track. It works since a track built for 1/24 scale racing is actually more to scale for 1/32 cars. Running 1/32 cars on the track is actually great fun.

:)
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#97 Prof. Fate

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 10:49 AM

Hi,

Oh, I remember the days where there was so much traffic that the guy at the track would just say, "Hey, lets have a real race in 5 minutes".

But to be fair. When I lived in San Antonio in the '80s, before flexis, Jim Honeycutt did the same thing. He was building a lot of chassis for people for the various classes. But for RTRs it was pretty much just Womps and Whisperjets.

I used to travel with a box with cars, but the first ones out were always the Womps. My concern was that on a mixed track a two-second car might get in trouble if kids were running whispers or womps.

There were three tracks in the San Antonio area, and arguably, the Texas Series was the "big dog" at the time, more tracks in driving distance, more races and organization than anywhere else. So, visiting the Jim's track and running a Super 80, Jim just grabbed up the people running and waiting for time and organized a race on the spot. I think that afternoon, I was in five races total before dinner.

So, it wasn't just the '60s... but being in the right place as well during the "dark ages".

Fate
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#98 sportblazer350

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 07:52 PM

Wow - someone agrees with my thoughts!! Thanks, Keith!! :D

Like it or not, 1/32 scae hardbody plastic cars with plastic chassis is where the slot car money is nowadays, yet not in commercial raceways, sadly. Since 1/32 home/club racing is very big in the US, someone needs to figure out a way to bridge that gap. There is an entirely new type of slot car enthusiast out there: 1/32 plastic car racers, who collect and spend lots of cash on their collections, as well as cars and parts for racing. The only thing missing: plastic tracks at commercial raceways, and fully-stocked counter of cars, parts, and race sets. This is a new era in slot car racing for 1/24 and 1/32 scales. there are also plenty of non-Flexi types of chassis for model kits out there too, such as Plafit, H&R Racing, ProTrack, TSRF, and others.

Raceway owners are missing the boat here, as well as a lot of additional sales and profits. Races are easy to schedule, so many different classes can keep a full racing program going just for 1/32 racers on a plastic track in a raceway. Any good 1/32 club racer can help a raceway owner to get things started. We need raceways to build the home/club size plastic tracks, especailly good is Carrera which handle 1/24 scale cars as well. And there are plenty of RTR 1/24 plastic chassis cars to race as well. And there are a lot of novices racing these plastic 1/32 and 1/24 cars each and every week all over the US.

It is quite evident as to what is not working (commercial raceways) and what is working (1/32 plastic cars and race sets). To deny it is to miss out on the future of the hobby. There is room in the hobby for the serious wing glue racers on the big banked tracks, and the smaller 1/32 scale racers on 4-6 lane plastic tracks. We need a meeting of the minds in these two arenas to learn to work together, and to play together. Count me in!!! :)

Glenn Orban
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#99 JimR

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Posted 09 January 2008 - 08:28 AM

... Any good 1/32 club racer can help a raceway owner to get things started...

That's if the raceway owner wants to (and has the space). How do you make them want to?

I think that slot car racing faded because, for a large majority of the players, it was a fad. The main participants at that time were kids like myself. Everybody and his brother was racing in '65 and '66 (which is the warm memory we all share), but our focus changed as we got older (school, girls, cars, military, marriage, witness protection, whatever). Surely (don't call me Shirley), some of us still had a keen interest, but there were no longer enough paying customers to keep the local (or not so local) parlor open (forcing more fans to leave). There certainly weren't enough warm bodies to keep the bigger manufacturers interested, and as the hobby drifted (back) towards scratchbuilding (and developed a higher cost to participate), even more people drifted away (I'm also of the opinion that the collapse of commercial racing eventually dragged basement racing down with it - here in the U.S. anyway - I could be wrong).
It went from an almost invisible basement hobby for adults to a skyrocketing coast-to-coast wonder that just as quickly burned out and crashed to Earth (how's that for fancy writin'?). It's been kept alive these last 35 or so years by a dedicated few, and now it's back to - well, what?
:huh:
Jim Regan

#100 Vay Jonynas

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Posted 09 January 2008 - 11:51 AM

Glenn:

We need raceways to build the home/club size plastic tracks...

But I don't see any reason why 1/32 plastic chassis cars can't be raced on the existing tracks at raceways.

:huh:
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