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Rodney's Oakland Speedway cars and memories - Part 2


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#1 dc-65x

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 03:23 PM

Here is part 2 of Rodney's story:
 
The Downstairs Track:
 
Back in the day, Oakland Speedway's downstairs track was considered the longest and largest slot car track in the world.  A reporter for the local slot car magazine, "The Guide Flag," reported the following regarding the monster ten lane downstairs track:
 
"As you walk through the front doors, the first thing to catch your eye is a huge curved bank that extends the width of the building that houses the two tracks.  In order to reach the control and hobby counter you have to walk under the same bank curve, which gives you a feeling of leaving the past and entering the future.  As you glance up to your right (and I mean up) you will see approximately a 90 degree bank which runs along the base of the ceiling.  Just a little ahead is a hill type banked curve which is 12 feet in height and precedes the 90 degree bank.  You are now looking at the biggest of the two."
 
"Now, let's take a quick run through the larger of the two--as you push the plunger down on your controller, you car will surge down a short straight-away (because of the slight decline) at a high rate of speed and into what is called the "Shoot" which is almost a full 180 degree turn.  Coming out of the shoot you go into another short inclined straight-away and into a 30 degree bank and right back into a 20 degree bank, up the 12 foot hill, back into the 90 degree bank, down and around a 60 degree bank and end up back at the start."
 
"Of course the only way to experience this course is to try it out for yourself.  So if you're ever out that way be sure to drop in, and if you really want to see how fast your car is, be sure to try the longest straight-away in the world."
 
My recollection of the Oakland Speedway downstairs track is that it was like a giant hill climb layout.  The banking of the straights and turns was so steep that only the fastest cars could stay on the track. 
 
The controller panel was on the right front section of the "hill climb."  The track ran counter-clockwise.  Place your car on the track in front of the controller panel and immediately drive uphill on a short straight to the furthest right banked turn.  This 180 degree turn would lead you to the upper straight.  This long main straight would lead to the upper banked turn that crossed over the front entry double door.  What a monster banked turn!  Leaving the upper banked turn would lead you to a short straight going downhill into a couple of turns and short straights and into the 180 degree banked turn located under the monster banked turn.  Exiting the lower banked turn would require a clutching of the controller/car because of the bump/launch ramp at the end of the banked turn.  Travel down the lower straight into a steep 180 degree banked turn. This steep banked turn leads to a straight going uphill to another 180 degree turn and back to the controller panel area.
 
The first track picture shows most of the track.  Someone is standing between the upper and lower long straights.  The large banked turn above the front doorway is at the top of the picture.
 
Oakland1.jpg
 
The second picture shows the two long straights and the large upper and lower bank turns.
 
Oakland downstairs1.jpg
 
The third track picture gives you a feel for how steep the track is.  This is one of the connector turns.
 
oakland downstairs2.jpg
 
The Fastest Car in My Neighborhood
 
The slot cars I assembled at the time were the Cox Cheetah featured above, a Monogram Chaparral 2D with silicone tires, and a Pittman- powered Dynamic chassis car with a Lancer Mecom Lola body.  None of these cars could complete a lap on the steep downstairs track.  You needed a lot of speed and tire bite to make a lap around the downstairs track, attributes the cars I built lacked.
 
I did have a car that could make it around the steep downstairs track though.  This car is the Honda F1 car featured here.  I call it the Hom Honda.  This car is fast!  No problems getting around the downstairs Oakland Speedway track's steep straights and banking with this car. 
 
oakland 4 honda.jpg
 
The Hom Honda was built by my neighbor Brian Hom.  This car was the fastest car in my neighborhood.   During the mid 60's it seemed like everyone was running slot cars.  This included the kids in my neighborhood.  In addition to the large commercial tracks to race on, there were routed tracks in neighbors' garages to race on. 
 
Brian was an older kid and had great slot car scratch building skills.  He was the only one in our neighborhood who could solder properly at the time.  The Hom Honda has a wonderful brass frame built by Brian.  The car is lightweight and has perfect weight distribution.  The Hom Honda is powered by the hot motor setup of the day.  The motor used is a Pittman 196A with a Pittman 65 armature.  The car also features flangeless ball bearings, blue sponge tires, and bevel gears.
 
oakland 8 honda bottom.jpg
 
Brian was kind enough to give me the Pittman-powered Hom Honda back then.  Brian replaced the Honda in his racing stable with a scratch- built car powered by something new called a can motor.  There were these new can motors called 16D and marketed by Revell.  Brian rewound, epoxied, and balanced the 16D armature, and shimmed the magnets with coffee can shim material.
 
Driving the Hom Honda today is a real treat.  On Eddie's road course, I was turning 9.47 second laps.  The car has absolutely neutral handling.  The motor is geared for a larger track but still has good acceleration on the short infield straights. 
 
Now on to the King track which is closer to the Oakland Speedway downstairs track.  On Eddie's Blue King, I was turning 7.46 to 7.76 second lap times.  These times are even with clutching the bank turn.  The car is fast down the straight.  It is amazing how much speed I could carry around the doughnut turn.  Both of Eddie's tracks have very little spray glue.
 
oakland 5honda blue king.jpg
 
The Oakland Speedway downstairs track was one of the largest slot car tracks of all time.  It took special cars like the Hom Honda to conquer the track.
 
Holy Smokes Rodney! That's quite a story....as they say, "those were the days!" :shok:
 
Thanks for sharing Rodney :)

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#2 Dennis David

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 03:31 PM

I can't say I've ever been to or even heard of this track even though I've lived in the Bay Area since 1958.

Dennis David
    
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#3 Lone Wolf

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 03:34 PM

Great car, great story, great memory. The fact that you saved it all these years is fantastic. I must admit when you said it was fast I was expecting to see a 26D under there for some reason. Shocked to see Pittman power.

 

Just cool stuff all around  :)


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#4 dc-65x

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 03:39 PM

Pittman 65X's are pretty fast for their day. My Tyco sidewinder with a 65X arm was the fastest sports car at our R&C Proxy race.

 

We'll ask Rodney for an approximate date. My guess is before the 26D, maybe 1965? Rodney goes back to "The Dawn of Slot Car Time". :laugh2:


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#5 SlotStox#53

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Posted 24 September 2015 - 06:03 PM

It's amazing the scale of both tracks in that place of slot car heaven!!!

Beautiful Pittman hybrid F1 :D

Hearing how fast it is now and was around that huge track makes you wanna build one :heart:

Shows there's still a lot of life in the old design, back when Dad used to race in the UK the Hornchurch club lap record was held by a 196B powered F1 and still stands since it folded in 70/71.


Thanks for sharing the cars & memories of such a great period in time Rodney & Rick :good:

#6 dc-65x

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Posted 30 October 2016 - 11:48 AM

Here is an addition to part 2 of the story..........part 2.5 if you will. In Rodney's own words:

 

Oakland Speedway Memories 2.5 - A Gift from Chris
 
Oakland Speedway, like most raceways in the '60s, was full of cool slot cars and parts.  It was fun going to the raceway to look at all of the slot car stuff on display.  At Oakland Speedway, there was one car that was prominently displayed.  The slot car was displayed on its own shelf on the back wall behind the cash register. 
 
Les Amos was the owner of Oakland Speedway.  I asked Les about the car on display.  Les told me, "Chris Chan was in the Bay area to cover a race in San Francisco.  He visited the raceway and gave me the Chaparral."
 
Les loved cool slot cars and proudly displayed the "Chris Chaparral" as he called it.
 
This car was one of the cars entombed in the porch of Les' house after the raceway closed.  This car and other Oakland Speedway treasures were recovered by one of my buddies, Ron Purdy, decades later.
 
I did a mild restoration on the "Chris Chaparral".  The Chaparral suffered from corrosion of the magnesium parts.  The wheels and Pittman motor were beyond hope and were replaced.  A new Lancer wing was also needed.
 
The car shows nice detail and, like all of the Chris Chan cars featured in magazines, the car is not overly done.  All of his cars have a certain cool look to them.  The car was not built to be a race car, hence a production Cox chassis was used.  The sidewinder motor configuration allowed for the full Lancer interior.
 
Oakland 1.jpg
 
oakland 2 chaparral.jpg
 
oakland 3 chaparral bottom.jpg
 
Great story, thanks Rodney!  :)

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