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John Cukras, 1948-2020

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#51 Jay Guard

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Posted 02 December 2020 - 01:45 PM

I only met John one time at the Checkpoint Cup way back in 2010. It was great to finally get to talk to one of the legends of our hobby and one that I had followed during my early years of slot car racing in the mid/late '60s. I used the pictures of his winning chassis shown in Model Car Journal to make my own chassis.  


RIP, John 'The Jet.'

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#52 MSwiss


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Posted 02 December 2020 - 01:57 PM

For those who missed it, here's some great stuff with John talking about his early days of slot racing, drag racing.

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#53 Bob Chaney

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Posted 02 December 2020 - 06:22 PM

As soon as I moved to California, I headed for Buena Park to meet the heroes of my youth at the Checkpoint. That is to say, to meet John Cukras.
John was openly friendly, and generous to a fault. Through the several races I attended, the number of hands he shook was uncountable. Always smiling, happy to be alive, happy to share a moment with “you.” He accepted your fan-based adoration, humbly. And in the quietest moments it was his voice you heard, holding an audience in the pit area about the past glories, the current setup, or a future HO release.
No, we did not get to know each other well. But there was this one heat where I was fortunate enough to be a lane away, and side-by-side, pulling down the straight and through the bank; learning where the real breakpoint for the deadman is. Shooting the finger and the dogleg; keeping up through the finger only to find out I will never time the lead-on correctly. I know I was not keeping up but he had the graciousness to let me think I was.
My moment of glory came when introduced as the next qualifier, he spoke up, telling those assembled, "He tests the walls harder than anyone I've ever seen.”

No more track calls John. Power on!

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#54 loudspeaker


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Posted 02 December 2020 - 07:50 PM

I was very saddened to learn that John had passed away. It was certainly a pleasure and a privilege to have known John and to have raced with him.


Back in the day we were a small group of jet set slot car pros that competed strongly but likewise hung together and enjoyed our time in a legendary time, not just slot car wise. John was a unique character, just look at the pictures of him intently racing, two hands on his controller, and cigarette hanging out of his mouth.


John was a fierce competitor to be sure, but that fierceness of John's never intruded into his personal relationships, as it did perhaps with some others. As Howie has written, East met West in Memphis when John and Mike Steube competed against Howie and me in an enduro, a triumph for the West. Some years later I won a Car Model race at Don's, beating the West on home turf, and it was a thrill. John was not in top form that day, but usually he was and very difficult to beat.


I feel very lucky to have been able to see and spend some time with John a couple of years ago when I visited the Slot Car Museum in LA with my wife and daughter and Philippe arranged a nice luncheon that John, Brian Warmack, John Anderson. and others attended. John had mellowed dramatically from his halcyon days, kind of like a fine wine, and I can still remember his big warm hug.


Rest in peace my friend. 

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#55 W. J. Dougherty

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Posted 02 December 2020 - 11:52 PM

Like many here, I started racing in the Midwest during the period when John was racing on the West Coast. As I have mentioned before, my first real race motor was a pink can Mura Cukras 28/29 double. I loved that motor and it brought me some success at local level.


Since then I've looked with envy at all the link can motors posted here. I've always wondered if there was anything special between John and those pink cans? Did he actually race pink can motors or was that a marketing ploy developed by Mura? Thanks for any information.


John, RIP (Race in Peace)...

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#56 stumbley


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Posted 03 December 2020 - 12:53 AM

I only met John a couple of times when I was still in L.A. He was a very gracious and warm fellow, and could drive anything: HO, 1/32, 1/24, wing cars, you name it, he could drive it pretty much better than anyone else. I "raced" (ha ha) against him once. The man was fast.


RIP, John. The hobby will miss you greatly.

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#57 stoo23


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Posted 03 December 2020 - 09:14 AM

Oh dear... so saddened to hear this news.


I guess like many here I spent my 'formative' early slot car racing years eagerly reading about the various exploits of John "The Jet" and others pros of that era and over the years owned many Cukras-branded Mura products.


I am sure, like so many others here and around the world, he will be warmly remembered.


May you rest in peace, John.

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#58 elvis44102


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Posted 03 December 2020 - 10:54 AM

When I was about 14 in 1969 or so, I had read about John Cukras for years... touring the country for Mura (probably staying at Ken MacDowell's house) This was two-minute qualification days... Brooklyn Raceway (Ohio) and we are in a local Cleveland Series race... got to the track early and nobody was there hardly. Ran car which was a missile... track conditions had changed by qualification time and I crashed religiously through the two minutes of it.


Started in B or C Consi and I looked over at Cukras and he is in it as well. Cukras and I moved up together up into the Main... one of the most memorable racing experiences I had... patching together a runable car through all those move-ups LOL. Just happy to finish the Main in sixth.


Never put a car away without seeing how track conditions are at the time of the race.

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Posted 03 December 2020 - 12:08 PM

Video by Nesta Szabo. Much more here than just an interview with Cukras.

This video is one of a series of interviews Nesta did three years ago with some of the icons of the slot racing hobby. It will be well worth your time to check out his YouTube channel.


68Caddy YouTube channel

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#60 Uncle Fred

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Posted 03 December 2020 - 04:31 PM

This is very sad news for the slot car community. John was legendary. Fast, cool and always the man to beat.


RIP, my friend.

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#61 HarV Wallbanger III

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Posted 03 December 2020 - 09:44 PM

So sad about John...

One of my childhood heroes!

Easy to approach and a great guy to race with.


Prayers for your family, John.


RIP, Jet. We will all race again...

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#62 Cheater


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Posted 04 December 2020 - 03:45 AM

One of the best pics of John I've seen.



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#63 Bill from NH

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Posted 04 December 2020 - 02:11 PM

That looks like Paul in the background.

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#64 Mr Dynamic

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Posted 04 December 2020 - 06:18 PM

AltUniverse Cukras.jpg


See you in the next universe, John!


Jeff Bell

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#65 Pablo



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Posted 05 December 2020 - 10:20 PM

John Cukras has eternal life. If you don't believe it, just type 'Cukras in the Slotblog search engine and click on the green button.


Nobody has built more Cukras replica race cars than me, and it was always pleasing work to copy a master of masters.   :heart:

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Posted 06 December 2020 - 03:46 PM

Just like practically everyone here I read voraciously about John in the '60s. It's funny looking back and remembering that someone would start a rumor at a raceway in St Louis - "Cukras is coming." Finally the excitement would die down after a couple of weeks only to reappear a couple of months later.


I had the pleasure of meeting John at at couple of the Checkpoint races at BPR. I told him that story and he laughed. He'd probably heard similar stories over the years. That's what I'll remember about John, that smile.


RIP, John.

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#67 Big E

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Posted 09 December 2020 - 01:19 PM

Sad to lose one of the great legends of our hobby/sport.

His driving articles taught me the correct, smooth, approach to winning slot car racing.

Thank you to him for all his contributions to our common passion.


Sympathies to his family and loved ones. Rest in peace, Mr. Cukras. 


Remember "The Jet."


-- Ernie 

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#68 LindsayB


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Posted 09 December 2020 - 10:02 PM

Got to meet John at BP raceway in LA and got talk with him which was an honour. Very sad to hear he has passed away.


Very sad time. RIP, John.

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#69 Bryan Warmack

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Posted 11 December 2020 - 10:57 AM

John's daughter informed me yesterday that a memorial service will be held for John on Tuesday, December 15, at 9:30 AM.         


Forest Lawn Memorial Park

4471 Lincoln Ave.

Cypress, CA 90630

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#70 Haaz007


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Posted 13 December 2020 - 01:10 PM

My good friend Charlie Nelson informed me a few days ago that John has passed. So very sorry and my deepest condolences.


I used to read the slot car magazines at our local tracks, South side Chicago, late '60s-early '70s. One name stood out, "Cukras." Tracks came and went, but I had subscriptions to what ever slot car mag I could find. Five or six years ago I went to BPR with Charlie. I met John, and he had no idea I was like a kid (now 60) meeting a slot car idol. I had read about for years. I've been going to BPR once or twice a year now, for the last five years.


My greatest memory was last year ,in a Retro Can-Am heat John and I going at, side by side the whole heat, talking, etc. I don't know who won but for me that was the best.


Thanks, John. I will miss you more than you will know. Correction... now you do know.


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#71 NSwanberg


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Posted 14 December 2020 - 05:09 AM

My apologies if this has been posted. It only took me and Google one try to find it.



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#72 John Gorski

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Posted 03 February 2021 - 03:07 PM

John and I had similar driving styles. These pics are from Tom Thumb East in Columbus, OH. The event is the Mura Am-Pro Spectacular  in Jan.1969, which he won.


We miss you, champ!



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#73 Howie Ursaner

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Posted 04 February 2021 - 02:51 PM

Good One ! Thats special !

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