Are any slot car tracks still open?
When entertaining with our portable slot car tracks, I am often greeted by people surprised that slot cars “still exist”. The question is often phrased: “Are there any slot car tracks still open”?
I understand the reason for the question: With the avalanche of entertainment and distractions available today, nearly all requiring batteries and electronics; a hobby that requires considerable space and fosters hands on skills to build, tune and maintain actual hardware may seem prehistoric.
Those who remember the 1960’s saw slot car industry boom and bust. About 5,000 huge slot car tracks opened filled strip malls coast to coast. Newsstands had 3 or 4 monthly publications dedicated to miniature motorsports. Things have certainly changed. But the industry is actually more accessible, varied and affordable than it was at peak of the 1960’s fad. Setting aside what happened then, let’s look at what exists now.
A few of the original commercial slot car tracks are still open. We lost two of the oldest, Buzzarama in Brooklyn and Tom Thumb Hobbies in Columbus Ohio during covid. Others with log histories like The Race Place in Farmingdale, NJ, Buena Park Raceway in California and Downriver Speedway are still with us. New raceways open every year. Nationwide, approximately 180 large raceways are open to the public despite the challenges of high lease costs and competition from online another entertainments. The map above shows locations of current raceways and clubs open to the public. But this is just the tip of slot racing culture today, as most slot racing activity today occurs in homes, private clubs and of course, the Internet.
Some of the large commercial tracks have found homes in warehouses museums and private locations. Unbelievable collections are achieved and displayed at the Los Angeles Slot Car Museum and Bernard’s Slot Car Museum. Thousands of smaller tracks support slot car enthusiasts today. Commercial tracks were mostly used by the large 1/24 scale cars, but 1/24 scale cars can run on smaller tracks and all scales of slot cars from a variety of manufactures are available today. A commercial raceway with a huge selection of cars, track and accessories for sale on line and in person is ScaleRacing in Tacoma, WA.
Today, more than a dozen manufacturers produce beautiful detailed ready to run slot cars in 1/32 scale. Veteran companies like Scalextric and Carrera produce whole race sets and smaller companies like Slot.it, NSR, Revoslot, and Thunderslot create dozens of new cars every year. New companies producing cars parts asn accessories using new 3D printing technologies.
1/32 enthusiasts often build tracks with scenic detail. There are several manufacturers specializing in scenic accessories for slot cars including Race Track Scenics, and Slot Track Scenics. Most 1/32 cars are detailed models of race cars. There are specilaist providing decals, bodies and highly detailed figures sometimes modeled carefully after specific drivers and racing personalties. Examples include Patto’s Place and Immense Miniatures. Amazing craftmanship is on offer from Neimas Models, Osterero Models and Velasor Legendary Models .
SlotMods now builds elaborately detailed 1/32 scale race track installations often costing as much as $100,000.
1/43 scale slot car racing is growing with low cost sets including track and cars under $10. While mostly exclusively geared to children adults also adopt them because the tracks are a more manageable size. Because 1/43 is a popular scale with model trains and diecast cars the scale also has potential for those who want a diorama track.
HO scale slot cars share a popular size with model trains and Hot Wheels. These small cars have always been popular in home or garage racing, either on inexpensive plastic snap together track and on custom made, CNC machined track by companies like Viper Racing and Brad’s tracks.
Nomad Raceways brings tracks to events as a featured entertainment. Our tracks range from small table top units assembled from flight cases to full sized commercial raceways 160′ feet long. We travel world wide and have been featured at conventions, auto races, corporate events, company parties and family gatherings. Thousands of people have been reintroduced to slot racing at our events every year since 2003.
Slot car culture also supports several online magazines including SlotCarMods, Model Car Racing, Old Weird Herald, and forums like Slot Car illustrated and Slotblog.
Slot racing actually provided a testing ground for early development of race car aerodynamics and high performance electric motor design. It may now have anticipated our future with the growth of “Proxy Racing”. For Proxy events racers build cars and ship them to events. Entries are judged for craftsmanship beauty and engineering, then raced under equalized conditions. Photos and video are posted online. Awards are shipped with the returning cars. This a perfect hybrid of virtual and actual events. As a write this, I am planning the Slot Car Drag Race Proxy World Challenge. Anyone, anywhere, can enjoy slot racing and join an International competition. No map needed!
Rumors of the death of slot car racing are greatly exaggerated!