Slot car racing in its many modern forms originated around the end of the 1950’s, and has grown, shrunk, grown again and developed in a myriad of different directions ever since.
Better historians than me have already chronicled and analyzed this history, I will post some links for those interested.
Basically, all slot cars rely on the same technologies:
- Tracks with slotted lanes in which the cars run and are guided around the turns by a flag or pin on the car running in the slot.
- Power is provided to the car by conductors laid either side of the slot. This power is generally Direct Current, at voltages between 10 and 18 volts.
- The cars pick up this power through wipers located on or next to the guide flag or pin and this power drives a small electric motor which turns the rear wheels (and sometimes the front wheels as well) through a set of gears.
- The speed of the car is controlled by a hand-held controller operated by either thumb or forefinger. Brakes are applied by releasing the trigger of the controller completely.
- No steering is necessary, as the cars are guided by the slots.
- Successful operation of a slot car depends entirely on rhythm and timing, applying the right amount of braking or acceleration to the car as it negotiates the straightaways and turns of the track. Too much speed will result in the car’s flag leaving the slot.
Types and Scales of slot cars:
Slot cars are generally available in three common sizes (or scales):
- HO-scale – these are the tiny cars often seen in home sets, although there is a large following amongst serious racers.
- 1/32 scale – this is probably the most popular scale world-wide, thanks to large numbers of manufacturers and enthusiasts who build and race these cars on home and club tracks around the world.
- 1/24 scale cars are the largest and fastest, usually requiring much larger tracks. These are the cars most people associate with the commercial raceways that existed in great numbers in the 1960’s and continue at a lesser level today.