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


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#26 sportblazer350

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 01:41 PM

In reading these posts, and references to Retro racing nowadays (how great it is), reasons why the hobby faded 40 years ago - I see a (maybe?) parallel... now I know this may ruffle some feathers, but let me throw this out for thought: one of the (many) reasons for the hobby fading seems to have been serious slot racers. Comments about the serious racers who (1) did not buy much from the shop owners, (2) built their own chassis and motors, (3) sold their hand-built products to others vs the raceway selling parts and/or RTR cars.

... Now here is a similar situation today: Retro/D-3 racing: scratchbuilt chassis built by the race winners, then these same folk selling their hand-built chassis to others for joining into this class... again, raceways NOT selling chassis and/or RTR cars to would-be racers...

Don't get me wrong here - I am one to be joining into retro and D-3 racing very soon, as well as true vintage 1960s racing. I just happened to notice this similarity in your posts, and thought it might be "food for thought". The retro racing, using RTR or chassis kits sold by the raceways, gets $$$ in their pockets on top of the track time and race fees.

And another 1960s reason for shops closing you others brought up: new rules, causing older products to be non-sellers for the raceway owners - I have seen this first hand, today, at a raceway I know of... where constant rules changes got an owner stuck with hundreds of $$ of products now deemed illegal in retro racing... how does that help an owner to stay in business?? I think the racers themselves, as another posted, can be part of the reason for decline in the hobby. We must take the raceway owners into consideration - no raceways, no hobby, unless it all retreats to garages and basements... :angry:

Another segment of the hobby that is growing each and every month worldwide: 1/32 scale plastic cars. Like them or not, it is GROWING and 1/24 commercial is... not...(?)... at least not at the same rate 1/32 scale is. Again, food for thought and discussion.

Glenn Orban
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#27 Prof. Fate

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 02:14 PM

Hi,

... then these same folk selling their hand-built chassis to others for joining into this class......again, raceways NOT selling chassis and/or RTR cars to would be racers...


This part isn't accurate. With a few exceptions, the chassis is the ONLY part not sourced at the shop (except most shops carried pro chassis as well), and the shop supplied the drop arm, brackets, pre-fab pans, and the brass and steel.

Local tracks outside of LA but in driving distance, often sent people to the Arcos in CA to buy chassis from people like Steube and Tore to sell in their shops. Often Steube was being conned. That is, the guys would see some earnest kid, and since they were doing a new set of chassis anyway, would GIVE the chassis to the kids, not realizing that the tracks were sending "shills".

But from the standpoint of the track, the only difference between a D3 racer and the Flexi racer is the cost paid for the chassis.

Fate
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#28 Robert Livingston

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 09:03 PM

I was one of the earlier drop-outs. I started with a Strombecker home set c. 1963, and by 1965 I was racing 1/32 scale, scratch and parts-built cars to Aintree/Southport rules in a club. In 1966 the commercial tracks (as opposed to the hobby store with a store-built four-laner in the basement) started drawing the racers, and I built a car for a buddy to drive. Cars were still scale models. By 1967 my old racing friends had dropped out of the hobby for college, and by 1968 it seemed the hobby had disappeared. I went on to Industrial Design school, and bought out a fellow-student's entire slot car pile of parts and cars from his time at Polk's Hobbies in NYC, a few years earlier. I was still interested in slot cars, but there didn't seem to be anyone racing the way we did in 1965. The slot car parts and cars were gone from the hobby shops.

Over the next decades, I set up floor tracks in my various apartments and houses, off and on, scouring flea markets and close-outs for cars and equipment. I always had friends interested in building models, but mostly of mililtary or railroad subjects. Though these years, I would occasionally walk into a surviving slot car raceway, only to be confronted with ugly, freeway-wide eight-lane tracks, devoid of even an attempt at scenery. Since my cars had been developed on sectional floor tracks, they were pretty hopeless, and lost on these mega-tracks. And the cars that DID race there looked like, well, they looked like they had roller skate wheels, and they looked like they had been built by adults, but designed by children! They were the ugliest, most badly-proportioned models I had ever seen. As a model maker (I had worked as a professional for a while, oddly enough in a place that had a track in the 1960s, and had manufactured slot car parts) I didn't see much value in non-scale models. My background was in scale modeling.

It wasn't until the plastic RTR upsurge that I came back into the hobby full time, and started applying my 1965 slot car skills again. It is good to be back, racing in the club scene again, and running 1/32 scale proxy races through the internet.

To me, the biggest problem slot car racing has had is the non-scale approach. But that's just me, and a few other guys.

#29 Keith Tanaka

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 11:58 PM

Glenn,

D3 racing here in SoCal is set up to not repeat the mistakes of 40 years ago. At BPR, you'll find that the local chassis builders (Steube, Easterly, etc.) sell their chassis thru Chris at BPR. The revenue generated by our SoCal racing goes thru Chris. The D3 motor we use is sold thru Chris. Legal D3 bodies are sold thru Chris at BP.

Paul Sterrett well knows the pitfalls of the past and has remained steadfast in not giving in to others' wishes. He is determined to be the "benevolent dictator of D3" to steer D3 in the right course and not allow the mistakes of the past to ruin the "rebirth" of the golden years of slotracing here in SoCal.

Let's hope others across the nation and the world for that matter join in realizing the long term health of our beloved hobby depends on supporting (with purchases) our local raceway. Strict control of the D3 rules will always be towards supporting our local raceway, otherwise a repeat of the mistakes made 40 years ago will once again ruin our hobby.

Keith :rolleyes:

Team Rolling Hills circa '66-'68


#30 gascarnut

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 03:26 PM

I think that most of us who are building Retro frames for sale to new racers are trying to do so through the local raceway(s). Sometimes it is just not possible, but we all recognize the need to keep the raceways open.

But even if we don't sell everything through a raceway, the frame alone is not the only piece that needs to be bought and it is not the piece that generates the most income for the raceway owner. Motors, tires, bodies, and then all the other running gear, all generate income to the raceway owner, as well as the race entry fees.

Every extra racer is a potential source of extra income to the raceway owner, whether he bought his frame over the counter or not.
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#31 Noose

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 04:20 PM

Let's hope others across the nation and the world for that matter join in realizing the long term health of our beloved hobby depends on supporting (with purchases) our local raceway. Strict control of the D3 rules will always be towards supporting our local raceway, otherwise a repeat of the mistakes made 40 years ago will once again ruin our hobby.


Raceways here aren't close and some don't sell much retro stuff at all, even though races are held there. Thus, the internet is making up for that void so I encourage raceways to sell via their websites, too.

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#32 Rick

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 10:28 PM

Raceways here aren't close and some don't sell much retro stuff at all


Definitive retro parts = complete K&S rack. LOL.
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#33 Noose

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 07:48 AM

That's the truth for sure!

Joe "Noose" Neumeister
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#34 Cheater

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 09:01 AM

To me, the biggest problem slot car racing has had is the non-scale approach. But that's just me, and a few other guys.


PdL and I argue about this point all the time.

While I agree that commercial slot racing's increasing non-scale aspect didn't help, I really can't agree that the "scaleness" factor is the "biggest problem". Consider that the slot cars raced in commercial raceways were quite a bit more scale in the '60s, yet the overbuilt raceway industry still crashed. The move to less-scale cars happened after the raceway industry experienced its great contraction.

Revenue/income per square foot of store space, a commonly-used metric in retail, is miniscule for most slot car raceways and that's the central problem. That same square foot of retail space has a cost (overhead) that must be paid. If the income it produces is not sufficient to cover the overhead, it's only a matter of time before the door gets locked for good. And I really question whether having slot cars as scale as HO trains in the display cases would have a significant impact on that metric or on the numbers of people coming in the front door.

Scale appearance is a factor, but it is not the critical factor IMO. If that were the case, where are the reports of raceways achieving notable success by taking that approach? I certainly haven't heard of any...

JimHT, Cruzin' Bob, and Mike McM. understand that the vast majority of their customers will be players, not racers, and that making it easy and painless for the players to have fun is one of the best ways to increase the above-mentioned sq ft income. The real question (as Mike McM. raised) is whether the players and the racers can happily co-exist as components in a raceway's clientele. I'll say this: not many raceways seem to have had much success is achieving such a goal.

The racing organizations, while professing a desire to increase participation in their niche in support of the raceways, have tended historically to drive people away, largely due to their overly complex and confusing rules and classes (while de-emphasizing scale appearance), combined with the promulgation of "faster is better" and "speed secrets" mindsets.

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#35 CruzinBob

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 12:05 PM

Well, 'spose it's time to chime in here....

Greg is totally wise within his years. :laugh2: There are certainly many reasons for the failings of raceways thru the years and I think he's pointed out the biggest factor - rent. Some have said you must keep your rent down to survive... SURVIVE, what a defeatist attitude! BUT there have been some open raceways who are not racers but true businessmen (Cruzin' Tarzana; Chequered Flag, Reseda; Raceway USA, Portland) and did very well for a short time. Cruzin' had a good one-year run focusing on rentals and parties. Chequered Flag did the same (rentals/parties) and also did very well with hardcore racers but there was that difficult mix just like oil and water.

Jim does well with an appropriate attitude towards rentals in a mall setting. Buena Park does well servicing the hardcore racers in an OK location. Don't forget BP has about 10 million potential racers in a 100 mile radius.

I like to think that scale cars bring forth much more interest than the blob slot car. And from what I've experienced in my raceways and on the road this is absolutely true. BUT just as soon as one pulls the trigger, they no longer think about what the car looks like, only what great feeling they have with the quick response the little missile gives them. The initial interest of racing a scale car is overshadowed by the adrenalin of actually racing it. The thing that I am wondering about is R-E-S-P-E-C-T... the true scale car inspires respect for the car and will have a lasting effect while the blob car inspires awe for its speed and handling and that has fleeting inspirations.

It's always interesting to see what everyone thinks. :)
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#36 jimht

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 03:04 PM

What do you think was the main reason that slot car racing faded so quickly in popularity in 1967-68?



OK, I'll chip in...Personally I was in Nam from '67-'69 so it was obviously caused by the fact that I was no longer involved. :laugh2:
When I got back I merrily went on my way playing with slot cars wherever I found a Raceway, unaware that such things were dying everywhere. In fact, I proceeded to buy one & keep it going ever since, not realizing I was beating a dead horse.
Such lunacy aside, I think it was not so much the move away from scale that caused the problem, but what caused the move in the first place: unrealistically big tracks that allowed speed rather than limiting it.
This continues today with the "King", or any other similar track that has long enough straights for horsepower & aerodynamics to dominate.

Tracks shouldn't drive away those who really prefer realistic slower cars or force them to go faster to play.
This doesn't mean it's necessary to have small tracks, just tracks that have shorter straights.
Conversely, track designs that are both big & slow aren't good for commercial locations...time wasted chasing the car & inefficient use of expensive floor space.
How to make money from any leisure time activity: Golf, Bowling even Slot Cars... biggrin.gif
Rig it so anyone can play whether they own the equipment or not.
Charge those who rent premium prices.
Don't assume anyone is willing to stop whatever they're currently doing to get involved:
"I've already got enough Hobbies."
Sell the equipment to those who want it, but don't change the environment to cater to them.
Remember, the profit margin is much higher for the player than the addict.
Don't set up race programs that require large investments in inventory. Racers are merchandisely fickle.
You can't sell from an empty cart, but it's not necessary to tie up a lot of money in inventory to sell merchandise.
If you can't get it quickly, the manufacturer probably changed it already.

Jim Honeycutt

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#37 GT40

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 03:15 PM

If I did not have slot racing experience from my childhood I would consider the raceways I am familiar with pretty intimidating places to try to learn about the hobby. And there's not a lot of user friendly introductory material out there. For that matter I still shake my head and go "Huh?"when I try to read the USRA rulebook.

I understand the importance of casual customers to a business; but I would think one always hopes to convert the birthday party types into hobbyists at some point.

I recall when I was kid, there were always two tracks reserved for rentals and practice, and one track for racing.

I have heard that the drag racers are the guys that contribute the most to keeping Buena Park Raceway open. We didn't have a drag strip where I was as a kid, but it seems like a good way to get started in slots. The driving and cars are (seemingly) less complicated than road cars.
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#38 jimht

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 03:43 PM

I understand the importance of casual customers to a business; but I would think one always hopes to convert the birthday party types into hobbyists at some point.



You're right, but you miss the point.
There's no need to do that to make money, in fact it's possible to make more by not doing so.
The only sure thing is the higher the bar, the fewer that will step over it.
Whacking a ball with a stick isn't too complicated, beating Tiger Woods is.
However, one can have fun playing with the same toys as Tiger, on the same links as Tiger, vicariously pretending to be Tiger...even, as long as you don't have to beat his score.
When it becomes about the score, instead of "the journey", most walk away or just watch.

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#39 Cheater

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 03:54 PM

Damn, Jim, you've been making some excellent posts on this subject, both here and elsewhere, but the one above is one of your best.

The only sure thing is the higher the bar, the fewer that will step over it.

Whacking a ball with a stick isn't too complicated, beating Tiger Woods is. However, one can have fun playing with the same toys as Tiger, on the same links as Tiger, vicariously pretending to be Tiger... as long as you don't have to beat his score.

When it becomes about the score, instead of "the journey", most walk away or just watch.


Gregory Wells

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


#40 stumbley

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 04:47 PM

Greg, it's obvious why Jim has been succesful; he "gets it."
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#41 jimht

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 05:09 PM

:thank_you2:
Hindsight is perfect.
:dash2:
Maybe I should retire & be a consultant... think it would pay more per hour than a Birthday Party?

Jim Honeycutt

"I don't think I'm ever more 'aware' than I am right after I hit my thumb with a hammer." - Jack Handey [Deep Thoughts]


#42 Tex

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 05:27 PM

Maybe. But then you'd miss out on getting to keep any food or grab bags left behind.
Richard L. Hofer

Remember, two wrongs don't make a right... but three lefts do! Only you're a block over and a block behind.

#43 stumbley

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 06:28 PM

... Kind of like having their cake and eating it, too?
Stan Smith
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"No one is completely useless - you can always serve as a bad example." -PartiStan

Democracies endure until the citizens care more for what the state can give them than for its ability to defend rich and poor alike; until they care more for their privileges than their responsibilities; until they learn they can vote largess from the public treasury and use the state as an instrument for plundering, first those who have wealth, then those who create it -- Jerry Pournelle.

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action. - George Washington

Things that are Too Big To Fail sooner or later become like Queen Bees, the Alpha and Omega of all activity, resulting in among other things, the inability to think of anything else but servicing them. - Richard Fernandez, The Belmont Club

#44 CruzinBob

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 07:33 PM

Maybe. But then you'd miss out on getting to keep any food or grab bags left behind.


Don't forget they let them run around with alcohol in that mall. biggrin.gif

#45 Tom Thumb Hobbies

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 10:02 PM

Such lunacy aside, I think it was not so much the move away from scale that caused the problem, but what caused the move in the first place: unrealistically big tracks that allowed speed rather than limiting it.
This continues today with the "King", or any other similar track that has long enough straights for horsepower and aerodynamics to dominate.


As a King track owner, I, of course, don't agree. What drove, and still drives, racers away is not the attempt to push the speed limitations of the track but the chase for the speed of their fellow racers who invested more time and money than they were willing to do. The only advantage, IMHO, to a smaller track is less rent.

When GT40 said "I understand the importance of casual customers to a business; but I would think one always hopes to convert the birthday party types into hobbyists at some point." you responded with a truly awesome comment.

There's no need to do that to make money, in fact it's possible to make more by not doing so.
The only sure thing is the higher the bar, the fewer that will step over it.
Whacking a ball with a stick isn't too complicated, beating Tiger Woods is.
However, one can have fun playing with the same toys as Tiger, on the same links as Tiger, vicariously pretending to be Tiger...even, as long as you don't have to beat his score.
When it becomes about the score, instead of "the journey", most walk away or just watch.


I completely agree. However, I try to convert those who get more serious into hobbyists so as to separate then from those who still just want to play. That way, those who are all about the "score" can be challenged without dampening the mood of those who care only about the journey.

One thing I know for sure. There about a million ways to make more money with less effort than owning a slot raceway. But few of them are as much of a challenge and VERY few are as much FUN. biggrin.gif
Mike McMasters
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#46 Ron Hershman

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 10:41 PM

I like to think that scale cars bring forth much more interest than the blob slot car. And from what I've experienced in my raceways and on the road this is absolutely true. BUT just as soon as one pulls the trigger, they no longer think about what the car looks like, only what great feeling they have with the quick response the little missile gives them. The initial interest of racing a scale car is overshadowed by the adrenalin of actually racing it. The thing that I am wondering about is R-E-S-P-E-C-T... the true scale car inspires respect for the car and will have a lasting effect while the blob car inspires awe for its speed and handling and that has fleeting inspirations.

It's always interesting to see what everyone thinks. smile.gif


While I was racing the Retro cars at the Sano, I was thinking... it's hard to tell the difference between a Ti22 and a Lola when the cars are at full speed on the track buzzing around. There could have been a wing body on a Flexi (with no air control) on the track going the same speed and the guy off the street would not have been able to tell a difference.

Only when there is a track call can one see how cool the cars look or the difference between styles. Not to mention those cool detailed bodies and interiors.

#47 jimht

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 10:57 AM

We must remember that Hobbyists are not necessarily racers.
Have we been successful by aiming at Racing as the be-all & end-all?
The question to ask ourselves is whether tracks that allow speed & expense to dominate actually have been good for our business generally.
I think not.
Renters & Birthday Parties are the perfect example:
much fun for all concerned, but it's the action rather than the speed that's the key...little cars crashing, competing...everyone involved...it's not the outcome that's important, it's the journey.

The Industry has had rather a narrow mindset product-wise since the boom of the Sixties.
"Improvements" have tended to be speed & racing related, rather than having a Hobby orientation.
The Peter Principle applied to slot cars. :laugh2:

There's little difference between a Flexi & a Wing Thing technically, one's just faster & more expensive than the other...& that's strictly a racing thing, not a Hobby thing. Simplicity may make for a good race car, but it's dull to tinker with.
I look at those cars & the tracks they're designed for as candy for the player that is attracted to speed & competition...& could care less about the Hobby.
Unfortunately, my experience is that the sale of these cars does not create long term Hobbyists.
...and that brings us back to the point of the thread.

It's obvious that some of us have been able to make a go of it in spite of the big fast tracks (I've got one), but the number of failures using the same format is countless...starting with the decline in 1967-68.
As I've said elsewhere, if you're going to hang your hat on a customer that is attracted to the track & the speed, you better make sure you've either got a bunch of them or you've got a few with very deep pockets.
No-one has been able to find a bunch of them...and the ones with deep pockets don't seem to care much about anything but "the adrenaline rush", cost be damned....and there aren't enough of them to keep us in business.

Jim Honeycutt

"I don't think I'm ever more 'aware' than I am right after I hit my thumb with a hammer." - Jack Handey [Deep Thoughts]


#48 stumbley

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 11:31 AM

Commercial raceways that are successful are in the business of selling entertainment, not racing. People come back to "race" because they had fun, not just because they "won."

An example: I belong to a club that has about 16 die-hard members who attend pretty nearly every race we have (every two weeks on average). There are two members who pretty much dominate the racing, winning consistently and often. The rest of us realistically have no chance of beating them in ANY case, barring severe car malfunction, yet we continue to show up. Why?

Because during our heats, there's competition amongst the lower-ranked guys, to the extent that at our last event, we had a "dice" going in which two racers were virtually side-by-side for about 10 laps in a 25-lap race! That was fun!

... And neither of those racers wound up in the top five for the day, didn't make the podium... but they had FUN racing. That's why they keep coming back. That, and that we have cars that look like cars, run on lower voltage on shorter tracks so that you actually can tell the difference between them, and we can all believe that we're actually driving a Ferrari or McLaren.

This is not to say that wing cars and big tracks don't have their attraction, but it does explain why many who "just play" avoid the commercial scene.
Stan Smith
------------------------------------------------------------------------
"No one is completely useless - you can always serve as a bad example." -PartiStan

Democracies endure until the citizens care more for what the state can give them than for its ability to defend rich and poor alike; until they care more for their privileges than their responsibilities; until they learn they can vote largess from the public treasury and use the state as an instrument for plundering, first those who have wealth, then those who create it -- Jerry Pournelle.

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action. - George Washington

Things that are Too Big To Fail sooner or later become like Queen Bees, the Alpha and Omega of all activity, resulting in among other things, the inability to think of anything else but servicing them. - Richard Fernandez, The Belmont Club

#49 Prof. Fate

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 12:55 PM

Hi,

When we were having the annual spring convention in Vegas, our traditional last event of the weekend was a stock Carrera 1/24 vintage race.

I promise that when that very-scale Corvette is turning 15 second laps EVERYONE can see it.

Grin.

Fate
Rocky Russo
3/6/48-1/1/12
Requiescat in Pace

#50 Keith Tanaka

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 11:08 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.

Keith :rolleyes:

Team Rolling Hills circa '66-'68






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