Nomad Slot Racing and Nomad Raceways were founded by Jim Cunningham, whose passion for and vast experience with, slot car racing, began with the fun of playing with slot cars as a young boy. His lifelong participation in the hobby at all levels, including building of world class tracks, cars and victories in international competitions, has given him a deep understanding of the attraction and advantages of this form of miniature auto racing;
Before founding Nomad Slot racing in 2001, Jim founded, built and lead a team of craftsmen at CyclArt, Inc. performing exacting restoration services, and creative finishing for the bicycle industry. Clients included the most exacting of collectors and the marketing departments of the world’s largest bicycle companies. Jim has provided Technical and marketing consulting services throughout the bicycle industry.
He has applied this experience as a designer, product engineer and marketing consultant to cultivate slot cars as an attraction, and marketing tool for other businesses.
A slot car racer since age 7 in 1963, I grew up in New Jersey. My mom helped me build my first model kits. Dad built full size drag race cars and the family spent many weekends at drag tracks from New Jersey to Indianapolis. The big New York Auto shows were a event I looked forward to every year and often participated in the model car contests.
When I was in grade school, my family built an HO train layout in the basement. We really enjoyed detailing our little world, every house, store and miniature person had a story. In 1963 a slot car set appeared under the Christmas tree. Soon, we gave the trains away to build a detailed, scenic HO raceway. The track side figures and landscaping still had stories, but now there were challenges and competition to add to the fun. I read Car Model Magazine and Model Car Science and learned to adjust and tune the cars for top performance.
I became a “cellar dweller”; building slot car tracks, award winning models, for model car contests presented at the New York Auto Show, local hobby shops and Car Model magazine. I was always planning another project. I built WW2 aircraft models, a whole range of automobiles and flew model rockets. My most ambitious models were prototypes of new designs I had worked out. Two of my favorites were a rear engine sidewinder top fuel dragster and a four wheel steering, fuel cell sports car that attached like a “command module” to the front of a large SUV.
When I was 12, one of my dad’s drag racing buddies, Fred Farrell, who had been big into slot racing in the early days before there were good ready to run cars. I was given a big box of his scratch-built “obsolete” race cars. I repaired, tuned and developed the cars, then enjoyed beating the latest releases with the relics at the local raceways. I competed through the 1970’s with the latest HO and 1/24 cars, mostly at the Closter, NJ and Elmsford, NY raceways. I saw the boom and bust of the commercial slot tracks and as a result I have great respect for commercial track owners and always encourage racers to support their local track with purchases. When I visit family in NJ, I often visit Elmsford Raceway, still going strong under the wise guidance of Lou del Rosario and his family.
Being one of those strange kids who took care of my ”things” I still have my first slot car and most of them since. I continue to add to my collection. While I love all forms of slot cars, my collection focuses on handmade cars, mostly from the 1960’s or made with parts from that era. . I still have many of those old cars, and I continue to add to my collection of vintage slot cars. I see them as a form of “folk art/engineering”. I appreciate and encourage those who continue to build such cars and love to teach the skills.
As a high school senior science project, I was given access to the wind tunnel lab at Stevens Institute of Technology and used it to test 1/24 scale slot car bodies. I learned a lot, as I documented drag and downforce on nearly all bodies available at the time, then I tested cars on the track to confirm correlation between the data and real world application. but the magazine that was to publish the results in folded before I completed the project.
Moving to California 1974 to go to college, slot racing took a back seat, but never really went away. I raced at several Southern California tracks including the San Diego YMCA, LeMans Raceway in Vista, Mini Motorsports in Escondido, Billiards & Slots in El Cajon, Buena Park Raceway and Santee Model Raceway. I returned in 1999 to my favorite track in Elmsford NY for their 30th anniversary. In 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 I won a class in each of the Marconi Foundation Proxy Races, an international competition for 1/32 scale cars which bring out many of the world’s best scratch-builders.
I’m an avid reader and collector of vintage “Car Model Magazine”, “Model Car Science” and other magazines and slot car books of the 1960’s and 1970’s, as well as the current “Model Car Racing” Publications. I am a frequent contributor on several industry websites.
In 2003 through 2005 I produced and promoted a series of four “Dino Derby” slot car events at Local commercial raceways for vintage and scratch built slot cars. The idea was to provide a bracketed race format that would allow a wide variety of older and hand built cars to be raced in a format that was exciting and yet easy on the precious old stuff. I also made an effort to promote the event widely, mostly outside of the industry in hopes of finding racers who had not been involved for years and encouraging their return. The events drew a fine field of entrants and competitors from across the US and Germany.
In 2005, I founded Nomad Slot Racing as a club which conducted it’s events at several local raceways and clubs. I developed a set of rules that continues to serve our race program. Our race program has avoided the many pitfalls of commercial and club track systems I have experienced and insures a fun and flexible program our racers enthusiastically support. In 2006 I launched Nomad Slot Racing as a business, focusing on mobile track events, with a unique and successful event presentation.
In 2005 I also contributed most content to two slot car websites, nomadraceways.com and www.nomadslotracingestore.com
I continue to write content and fulfill website orders.
I have designed dozens of large slot track for home, museum, video and commercial use. Among these are the spectacular track used in Mariah Carey’s video, “Touch my Body” the event track for the Marconi Automotive museum, the Blue Coat International Speedway for the 2007 Exhibitor International trade show, and the “Fast Track” in San Leandro California. Many of these tracks have been delivered as turnkey systems complete with training and support. Recently I have visited and teamed with Dave Beattie of Slot Mods to sell and support their fantastic, top quality dioramic tracks.
My vision for Nomad Raceways is quite ambitious and if realized will take slot car racing to another level of fun, competition and professionalism. Also, unlike much of the hobby’s history, I plan to be profitable.
In order to accomplish my vision, I have sought partners to bring the full Nomad plan to fruition. Early on, I was joined by Bill Hoskins an automotive engineer, race car builder and model and slot car enthusiast. Bill convinced me the time was right to start Nomad, but soon after, he died and momentum slowed as I split my time between two businesses. Recently another partnership was proposed and more progress was made, but that partnership never came together.
For more than year, Joe Wind has helped with events, set up our new inventory systems and provided all kinds of technical support to my efforts. He is a partner in the Nomad Raceways, LLC. but is part time until we have funding to move ahead with expansion. We need an investor.
I now have great support and depth in working with the Nomad Slot Racing Club members who support my efforts in many ways, we are almost ready for the next level!