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What & where were the SoCal raceways?


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#1 Keith Tanaka

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 11:38 PM

Since the Valley tracks have been posted, what about the other tracks in SoCal?
I had read somewhere that there were 400 slotcar raceways in SoCal at the peak of our hobby (mid-'60s).

I'll start by mentioning two tracks I'll call my home tracks back in the '60s.

First track I learned about slot car racing was Checkered Flag Raceway in Torrance (next to Gable House Bowl). It had a checkered flag reverse king type track. Bumps in the straightaway and a sweeping left turn into the donut with a slight S-turn exiting the donut into the 180 lead on turn. This track was the site for one of the Rod and Custom races.
I'll always remember Checkered Flag since it was there that I saw Team Russkit for the first time. This was probably late '65 or early '66.
I had read about this team in the magazines back then and always admired them. On that day, Mike Morrissey, Ron Quintana, and Rick Durkee were present to take many hot laps. Since this was before I had done any actual racing, I couldn't believe how fast their cars were.
Team Russkit definitely started the "Golden Years" of slot car racing by touring the country and displaying their scratchbuilt cars.

The second track was Rolling Hills Raceway in Torrance (near the Torrance airport). The main track was an Imperial track. A fast track in those days. No bumps in the straightaway, but a killer bank which destroyed your car if you launched in the bank due to the top rail barrier.
Lee Hines remembers the "gremlin" on the black? lane which mysteriously appears once in awhile to launch your car into the bank!
The final Car Model race to decide the 1967 champion was held on this track. The final race was memorable. It was for F1s. Mike Steube had his car stolen before the race! Doug Henline won the race. Terry Schmid won the '67 championship.

The front track was an orange layout. Simple track with a donut as I recall. I only remember one night I was on the front track by myself and in walks a stranger. It was Parnelli Jones! Since Vels/Parnelli Jones dealership was down the road, I guess he decided to see what these slot cars were all about. He actually sat down next to me while I took some laps. Too bad I was so shy in those days. I didn't say a word to him. He did seem to be very interested in how my car handled. Maybe he picked up an idea or two by watching slot cars!

Keith :rolleyes:
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Team Rolling Hills circa '66-'68




#2 68Caddy

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Posted 16 January 2008 - 12:07 AM

Man,

It's funny how these old stories catch our childhood memories and, Keith, you where there to enjoy this things.

I forgot all about slot car for thirty-five years and I found my way back to my childhood enjoyment.

Thanks, Keith, for sharing this story. :friends:
- Gabriel
Nesta Szabo

In this bright future you can't forget your past.
BMW (Bob Marley and the Wailers)

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I'm racing the best here at BP but Father time is much better then all of us united.
Not a snob in this hobby, after all it will be gone, if we keep on going like we do, and I have nothing to prove so I keep on posting because I have nothing to gain.
It's our duty to remember the past so we can have a future.

Pistol Pete you will always be in my memory.

#3 Mark Wampler

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Posted 16 January 2008 - 12:21 AM

Being from Arizona originally, while at a military school in Long Beach, I remember Hobby City on Beach Blvd. 1965. It was a coin-operated hillclimb... I think.

Then I remember a track in Pico Rivera, but I can't remember what it was called.
You can quote me.

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#4 idare2bdul

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Posted 16 January 2008 - 03:02 AM

Hobby City was unique. Nets on the ceiling to catch your car were not a good omen. The guide slot was so narrow in places your guide had to be so thin you could almost read through it. On the plus side they often had Neat Things RTR's in the counter and they took plastic when most tracks didn't. The real track in that neighborhood was Monaco.

I never raced at Ron Granlee's Speed and Sport; wasn't it in that general area?
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#5 John Gorski

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Posted 16 January 2008 - 06:00 AM

Don's Raceway Downey, CA.
Speed & Sport Lynwood, CA.
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#6 Roger U

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Posted 16 January 2008 - 12:45 PM

Thinking about it now, there sure were a lot of tracks in the '60s. The tracks I ran at most in the mid to late '60s were, as Keith mentioned, Checkered Flag and Rolling Hills Raceways both in Torrance.

When I first started in '63-64 I remember Western Model Raceway, on Western Ave and 132nd St. in Gardena. Bob Braverman used to run there on the dragstrip. Then there was G&F Raceway on the corner of Crenshaw Blvd and Lomita Blvd, in Torrance, and Lomita Model Raceway which was about a half mile away on Lomita Blvd. Lomita was the first track where I actually entered a race.

Lee Hines, a couple of other friends, and I went to a few races at Checkered Flag in San Pedro, on Pacific Ave. This is where I first saw spoilers (they called them diaplanes) on the front of slot cars, to try to keep the front ends down over the bumps of the King track. Those cars were driven by Team Russkit - Mike Morrissey, Rick Durkee, and Ron Quintana. Jim Russell was at this race.

There was an "unusual" track in a shopping center on Silver Spur Road near Hawthorne Blvd in Palos Verdes; it was made of cement. It was slick and after two or three laps you had to stop and clean the cement dust off your tires, very strange. Not sure how long it lasted as I went there only one time.

These tracks, and probably a few more, were all in the South Bay area of Los Angeles and within a very few miles of each other. :)
Roger Uusitalo

#7 Keith Tanaka

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Posted 16 January 2008 - 03:30 PM

Another track Roger, Lee Hines, and I raced at was Don Peter's American Raceway in Hawthorne. The weekly races would attract some of the fastest racers in those days (John Cukras, Mike Steube, Terry Schmid, Bryan Warmack, Dave Grant, etc.). I believe Tore (John then) Anderson also raced occasionally at American Raceways.

Of course Revell in Inglewood was another big raceway. Hopefully, someone out there will tell us about Revell since I wasn't a regular racer there.

I did happen to race a few times at Checkered Flag raceway (also in Inglewood?). We used to call it Arbor Vitae (since it was located on this street). One of the most difficult tracks to race on. It was a flat track with nine turns.
If Jim Fowler can respond on this track we would appreciate it. I understand that Jim worked the counter at this track and was very familiar with its history.

J&J's in Long Beach and Checkpoint raceway in Paramount are two of the most famous raceways in SoCal, but I did not race at these two tracks much. I think I was too intimidated with the "star" racers who raced regularly at these two great tracks. Hopefully, Cukras, Warmack, Steube, Hines, etc., can comment on these famous tracks.

Keith
Team Rolling Hills circa '66-'68

#8 Mark Wampler

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Posted 16 January 2008 - 03:38 PM

I'm curious about the American Raceways franchises in SoCal. Here in Pismo Beach, we had a full on American setup with four of their tracks. Originally opened in '64 and finally closed in '88.
You can quote me.

-Mark

#9 Roger U

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Posted 16 January 2008 - 06:13 PM

Keith, yes, I do remember racing at American Raceway in Hawthorne, as well as Revell and Arbor Vitae in Inglewood, fairly often. It seems like the owner of Arbor Vitae was Ray Crawford (?) and he had owned another track before which had a 1:1 sprint car on display in the raceway... or maybe not :unsure: . We also raced some at J&J's, Checkpoint, and Bellflower Hobbies.

There was a track on the Redondo Beach pier, can't recall what it was called or the brand of track. We raced there a few times, once in a 24-hour enduro.

I can't recall any more right now. My memory is tired, as it hasn't been used this much for quite some time, just ask my wife. :laugh2:
Roger Uusitalo

#10 threegz

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 02:52 AM

Hi Keith,

I got my very short start in the late '60s at a track in Temple City. Now it's a parking lot. Can't remember the name of the track. Barry Obler, Greg Gilbert, and others would know more about it than I remember. I went there a few times then did my time in the Army. A few years later when I returned to Temple City the track was gone.
Ray Gonzales

#11 Foamy

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 05:53 PM

No love for the O.C.? Well here goes. . .

Santa Ana Raceways in Santa Ana was the bad boy in the O.C.
John Hale was the owner, had several tracks over the years.

Knapper's Coins in Orange had a homebuilt hillclimb. Ran Enduro's all the time.

The Bicycle Shop at the Orange Traffic Circle.
Another homebuilt track in the basement, tracktime a penny a minute.

Miniture Freeways in Huntington Beach, near the Orange County Fairgrounds. Owned by a retired music teacher, had homebuilt tracks in two different locations. Freeway construction killed the first one, his weird rules killed the second.

Miniature Grand Prix in Tustin, Westminster, etc. You all know what they had for tracks.

The Big A in Anaheim had the biggest I have ever seen. Giant banks and long straights. The big track had driver hookups on both ends of the track. On the same lane. So your "friends" could cream your car for you...

Bud's Hobby in Tustin had a banked figure-8 with noooo brakes. You just needed a microswitch for a controller. My father and I would run these rewound ball-bearing Kemtron jobs. When the power went off, you could coast a half lap. The others were not amused.
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#12 The Bugman

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 08:26 PM

Well, seeing as we're jumpin' in with our oldie slot stories, here goes for me, too.

I grew up in Hawthorne and I actually started in 1961 at Western Speedway, with a Strombecker and a doorbell button for a controller.

I personally knew Bob Braverman and his son Davey. Bob was the B.M.O.C. there in drag racing. His kid and I played on the road course together. Bob used to build all my mag chassis for our Pittmans...

I also raced at Hawthorne American Raceway (early '60s) and most of the local Inglewood places, too... Wheww, so long ago, tough to make the brain go back that far. :shok:

I raced Pittman 196s, 65Xs, and 85As at Western Speedway's dragstrip long before the Russkit came along.

I remember the Torrance tracks... and my dad used to take us kids to race at Redondo Pier. It was downstairs by the local 1/2-3/4 day fishing boats. This was in the early to mid-'60s.

I raced til the late '60s, all fairly local in the South Bay areas. I rode my bike everywhere in those days... so I stayed within an easy pedal (5-10 miles).

Mike Morrisey and Team Russkit showed "us kids" how to solder and make our own chassis from 1/16" brass tubing, for the Russkit motors. Wow, those were fun days.
That's why D3 is so much fun... just like the old days (almost!!).

OK, nuff ramblin', I could go for hours telling old slot stories, too...

Just hadda throw my 2 cents in, too. :yahoo:
Oscar Morales
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#13 Keith Tanaka

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 11:11 PM

Thanks for the memories, Roger, Foamy, and Oscar.

Oscar, by all means let us know more stories of what it was like in the '60s racing here in SoCal. Most of us oldtimers have forgotten a lot since those days, but when someone posts their memories it helps all of us to remember some more!

Foamy, what year did you race at Knappers? Although I never visited Knappers, Bryan Warmack did race there early in his slot racing days.

Keith :rolleyes:
Team Rolling Hills circa '66-'68

#14 S.O. Watt

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 06:41 PM

OC is a good place...

No love for the O.C.? Well here goes. . .

... to be from.

Santa Ana Raceways in Santa Ana was the bad boy in the O.C.
John Hale was the owner, had several tracks over the years.

I only raced a couple of times there (John didn't like me winning every race I ran there - NCC20s :laugh2: ) but hung out there a few times. The best remembered event by some old pharts - the 28 hour enduro where Pete Z. stepped through the track... :shok:

Knapper's Coins in Orange had a homebuilt hillclimb. Ran enduros all the time.

The track I really learned to race on. The Riverside track is still a favorite of mine. Six lanes, varying esses, downhill sweeper that tightened up then went the other way off-camber. And Doug Henline working there, he talked me into entering my first race ever.
Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

The Bicycle Shop at the Orange Traffic Circle.
Another homebuilt track in the basement, tracktime a penny a minute.

The Bike Shop, still owned by the same family. It was the very first slot track I ever drove on (other than my HO set). The car? A Masser Strombecker with a Red Hot in it and some Vecos (?), car given to me by my future bro-in-law.
Posted ImagePosted Image

Miniture Freeways in Huntington Beach, near the Orange County Fairgrounds. Owned by a retired music teacher, had homebuilt tracks in two different locations. Freeway construction killed the first one, his weird rules killed the second.

First met Boola Gil there during a 24-hourr enduro. A bunch of us sat in the infield and played a card game called "Liar". Quick track if I remember right.
Posted Image

Miniture Grand Prix in Tustin, Westminster, et. You all know what they had for tracks.


I raced hard plastic stockers there and got my first ever win. The car? - a Lotus 25b on a 196 with a 6v Kemtron, Daytona tyres (local Anaheim track, Warmacks home track ?), car was loaned to me by a builder that couldn't drive.
Posted ImagePosted Image

The Big A in Anaheim had the biggest I have ever seen. Giant banks and long straights. The big track had driver hookups on both ends of the track. On the same lane. So your "friends" could cream your car for you. . . .

We raced USRA stockers there in '69. First time I ever saw a "blow over".
:blink:

Bud's Hobby in tustin had a banked Figure 8 with noooo brakes. You just needed a microswitch for a controller. My Father and I would run these rewound ball-bearing Kemtron jobs. When the power went off, you could coast a half lap. The others were not amused.

Can't place the track but have vague memories of being there like once.

Tom Hansen
Our Gang Racing Team
Cukras Enterprises

Team Camen

Chassis By Hansen

I race and shop at Pacific Slot Car Raceway


#15 S.O. Watt

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 06:48 PM

I remember racing in an enduro against Warmack, Anderson, and Grant (with leg cast!) there, the amateurs against the pros. We had them them first half, the second they out-motored us.

Foamy, what year did you race at Knappers? Although I never visited Knappers, Bryan Warmack did race there early in his slot racing days.

Keith, I think I met you at a little custom three-lane scale track in a garage in Orange just off Tustin Ave. I believe Doug had you come over and check it out, maybe '66, '67? I was a young high schooler then.

Tom Hansen
Our Gang Racing Team
Cukras Enterprises

Team Camen

Chassis By Hansen

I race and shop at Pacific Slot Car Raceway


#16 Keith Tanaka

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 11:07 PM

Tom, I can't remember ever going to a track in Orange in those days, but my memory is quite fuzzy these days!

I sure wish Doug Henline would come see us race at BPR. I think he would get a kick out of the D3 F1 races. Doug was the "King" of F1 racing in those days.

Keith :rolleyes:
Team Rolling Hills circa '66-'68

#17 TSR

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 11:19 PM

The good news is that there could be a new raceway not too far in the future in Santa Ana or Tustin... I am told. :)

#18 Mark Wampler

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 11:27 PM

I'm skipping through these posts, but has anyone mentioned Circle T? That was a mom and pop shop that I'm told was one of the few tracks that survived the '60s and was opened longer than any other. I'm thinking it was in North HO. I was there only one time.
You can quote me.

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#19 Keith Tanaka

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 10:44 PM

The good news is that there could be a new raceway not too far in the future in Santa Ana of Tustin... I am told. :)

Philippe, how far in the future? Anyone we know?

Keith :rolleyes:
Team Rolling Hills circa '66-'68

#20 TSR

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 09:41 AM

A new afficionado who would run it for fun rather than profit. He owns a big photo lab.

#21 CruzinBob

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 04:32 PM

The good news is that there could be a new raceway not too far in the future in Santa Ana or Tustin... I am told. :)

I hate to continue off topic but I beg to differ. :blush:

Good news would have been one opening in the San Fernando Valley, Riverside, or San Diego, not some 10 miles from Buena Park... surely the additional exposure will have a drifting effect BUT another "come 'n go operation" via the excitement of one who can afford such expenses can only lead to disdain in the long run.
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#22 Mr Dynamic

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 06:01 PM

Zombies need more Brains!

Who of you reckless ramblers remembers the famous "Bellflower Raceway", home of the mighty "Aristocrat" track?

Where are walking undead from the Redondo Beach Pier track?

What was the US Hobby and Raceway Center, in Alhambra, CA?

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#23 Larry LS

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 09:16 PM

Well whatever, Southern CA. :laugh2:

lt was not the only place in CA that had tracks for years.

I started racing at a small shopping center in Santa Maria, CA, in 1963 just shortly after President Kennedy was shot. It was a small mall shop with a store for parts, etc., on one side and across the mall isle they had a small four-lane 1/24 scale routed track that was fun to race on.

The next year they opened two new tracks, one in Arroyo Grande, CA, and one in San Luis Obispo, CA, 15 miles apart. These ran til about the end of 1968. During that time, a track in Lompoc, CA, also opened by Earl Olsen. He ran a nice track and we had hardbody NASCAR races between them, Arroyo Grande, and San Luis Obispo tracks every month on a rotation basis. We usually had 60+ racers each weekend. Saturday was practice and qualifying races. Then the two A and B main races ran on Sunday.

The Lompoc track, besides local racing, also sponsored and ran two big enduro races in 1964 and 1965. The 1964 24-hour race my team won with a Pittman 705 motor setup. In the 1965 52-hour enduro we ran Pittman 706 motors that I had rewound to about 6 volts. We finished second by 206 laps after 52 hours of racing. We changed motors every 6 hours, and changed the brushes and tires, etc. We had three motors to use. We could change motors and rear tires out in one minute. We were beat by a team with stock 6 volt Pittman DC65x motors because they were a bit lighter and faster per lap than us.

The Lompoc track had the Russkit drivers in for a weekend challenge race and I managed to finish third behind two of them and the rest of the pack. Don't remember which drivers were there but there were four Russkit drivers that showed up. We had about twenty local drivers running against them.

A year or so later there was Champion challenge race at the Pismo Beach American Raceway track and I ran against some of the SF team Champion drivers in that one. I believe we had to use the Champion stock chassis and NCC 20 motors in that one. On the American orange track I got a second in that race I believe. Been too long ago.

We then had a another track open in Santa Maria and another one in Paso Robles that did not last long. Another two tracks also came in to San Luis Obispo. And another one in Grover Beach run by a highway patrolman and family. So between 1963 and now there has only been one year, 1970, I did not race, as the Pismo track did not have races set up to run then.

The next year they did and I was back in racing again. So in 45 years I have only missed one year of not racing slot cars in this area. There have been about 14 tracks in this Central Coast area over the 45 years with Foster's Raceway being the one remaining.

Still is a fun place to race in. Been a fun 45 years of slot racing that hopefully will continue for a while longer.
Larry Shephard
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#24 The Bugman

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 09:54 PM

Who of you reckless ramblers remembers the famous " Bellflower Raceway" home of the mighty "Aristocrat" Track?

Ahhhhh, mighty Zombie leader, I was one of the Bellflower Raceway 36D hardbody racers, and I grew up racing/playing with my slots under the Redondo Pier, next to the seashell store, in front of the 1/2 and 3/4 day fishing boats, early '60s here...

Thank you, oh mighty Zombie leader! B) :ph34r: :wacko2: :victory:
Oscar Morales
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#25 Pablo

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 10:31 PM

LeMans Raceway in La Mesa.
YMCA in downtown San Diego.
There were raceways in El Cajon, Spring Valley, and Clairemont. I forget the names but I remember big fat Ben in Spring Valley.
In the late '80s Chula Vista had a track.
Gary Cleverly had a raceway in North County circa 1990.
Every single one of them vanished without a trace :dash2:
Paul Wolcott





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