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Slot Car Gallery

 

2001 Slot Car Convention

by Alan Swartz

 


So here I was in Mr. Hertz's car, heading to the airport to catch the red-eye back to Baltimore, and reflecting on the fact that it seemed more like 3 hours than 3 days since I had driven out of the airport on my way to Rad Trax and the 3rd annual 1/32 Slot Car Convention - time flies when you are having fun. Before I get to a disjointed narrative, let me give you the bottom line: Best One Yet -by the time I was settled (no, make that stuffed) into seat 17C, I was already rolling around plans for next year. Friday morning: arrive, find baggage (the clothes, the car box rides with me) get car, find hotel, register, and arrive at Rad Trax by noon. I'm not the first, Larry Shephard has already arrived and Marty Alvarez has his usual assortment of interesting cars and bits on display. Jon appears and almost the first thing I say to him, after appropriate greeting is: " Where are the Professor Motor controllers?" only to be told that he is sold out. A few minutes later, like the movie scene where the cavalry appears over the hill, a large box is delivered filled with - you guessed it. I immediately laid claim to one and began to play with it (more about that later).

About as soon as I had my box opened, I asked Larry to drive my spectacularly unsuccessful entrant in the Daytona west Proxy II race. I was curious about its behavior. We put it on the Blue King. Larry (as it turned out) was really kind in his appraisal. He then brought out one of his (lost in the post) entrants that didn't make it to the race - overlaid on the sound of his car was the crackling sound of styrene doors being blown off my Fly Porsche body! Yes, there is a difference.

Professor Fate (AKA Rocky Russo) arrived with a large suitcase in tow - holding, I would guess, something in excess of 50 cars. We immediately began to grab cars and go to the various tracks to see who was to retain spitting rights for the year. With one exception, it was pretty much a series of non-events. There is this unspoken rule that if the cars are not even enough to provide a decent race, why bother? As it turns out, his venerable 36D powered D-50 ran away from my DynoCharger motivated 250F (1/24) and my Clubman chassied 250f couldn't run with his 1/32 D-50. We also ran a couple of 1/24 Maserati 4CLTs - but again, my brand new, steel chassied Cheetah powered car was out handled by his venerable Pittman machine. (Later on he pointed out a tire problem on my car that I corrected but, while testing prior to issuing a new challenge, I pretty much demolished the car on the banking) Seeking a different venue, I offered 50's sports cars on the 6 lane 1/32 track and managed to retrieve a scrap of dignity when nothing much could challenge my recently completed (started in '63) 300 SLR. It will, however, never be a candidate for the Marconi races as there is only about 0.03" clearance under the Pittman DC 705.

About mid-afternoon, Stan Smith arrived. He is evidently a keen scholar of the '99 event as pictured on the Rad Trax site because, after introducing himself, he correctly identified several of us who were sitting around during a break in the action.

The first organized race was a regular Rad Trax Friday night event. Unlike last year's race, which was, for modified, multi magnet cars, this one was for, as far as I could gather, any non-magnet euroscale car with no silicones and no mods except that added weight was allowed. The only thing I had brought that was close was a Ninco DTM Mercedes so I slapped some stick-on lead on the bottom, grabbed my new controller and joined in. The format was the same "crash and burn" used before: 3 minute heats with stops at each minute to restore deslotted cars. The tail happy nature of the Mercedes forced a very conservative driving style and I was able to garner a third place - my only "podium" appearance of the weekend. (Observation: the weekend results strongly suggest an inverse relationship between the quality of my driving and the speed of the car). Sometime after 9:00 PM we "rounded up the usual suspects" and headed off for dinner.

By Saturday afternoon, a motley crew was assembled for the "We Wish You Were Here" Russell Sheldon race. (Remember - us easterners were jet lagged) There were 4 Alfa 8Cs - Russell's Marconi proxy car driven by the redoubtable PDL, my Marconi car (an earlier chassis) driven by Luiz Valdetaro, Rocky's Sheldon chassis driven by Larry Shephard and my Mk II Sheldon chassis - decorated in unfinished glass and Bondo, running sans driver (literally, and, as you will see, figuratively as well) The field was rounded out with Len Jackson driving a Prof. Fate Auto Union and Rocky with either his Type 159 or a W-163 Mercedes (Sorry, I'm too busy trying to suppress the results to recall) Philippe just ran away from us completing 164 laps on the 6 lane track. Rocky and Larry ran 116 laps, Len completed 100 and Luiz and I crashed at every opportunity garnering 81 and 66 laps respectively. (Since I know that Luiz is a good driver, and the last two were cars that I had prepared, I am now discussing with myself some aspects of set-up skills).

The St. Louis, MO crew rolled in on Saturday and we were joined as well by Bob Poman from New York, in town for the NAB convention. They were all there for the big event of the weekend, the Scalextric/Rad Trax race. Here's how it worked: Alan Smith provided 6 Scalextric GP cars with rear wings painted White, Red, Blue, Orange, Yellow and Green. (For ID purposes, not lane assignments) 6 teams were formed and each team raced the cars in a standard crash and burn format in unmodified form. After the first race, Alan passed out bags of Slot-It parts - a V-12 2 motor, magnet and rear axles assembly with metal set-screw wheels, silicon tires, brass bearings and Slot-It crown gears. These were assembled under Alan's careful eye - no fiddling the magnet height, sanding down the rear wheels, etc. and the race repeated. There was an additional twist - if you crashed and broke the wing, you had to repair it before continuing. (Only the Green team encountered this problem) As has been previously reported, Team White, PDL, Rocky and yours truly, managed a series of errors that effectively snatched defeat from the jaws of victory but a wonderful time was had by all. Thanks, Alan, for a great idea. Incidentally, the race was run with the now standard Rad Trax rental controllers, the new Professor Motor units. The old guys were pretty beat by this time, so off we went for dinner.

Sunday was pretty much devoted to playing and schmoozing. Philippe's TSRF 1/32 car saw a lot of track time as everyone wanted to play. It is simple, elegant and extremely effective. I was skeptical about the pin guide - my only previous experience being with the 60's Scalextric embodiment but I was convinced - I'm going to try it but that notwithstanding, I was some of the chassis as soon as they are available.

This is a natural lead-in to another topic:

Next year's convention:
There was a good deal of conversation on this topic - time - probably about the same - third weekend in April but, of course, that's Jon's call. Events: we certainly hope that Alan will come up with another innovative contest. Luiz made a really interesting suggestion - how about an endurance race - perhaps 4-6 hours - teams with a "you marshal your own car" format we could run 6 cars on the 1/32 track or 8 on the Blue King (two very different types of race) we could debate rules forever but one approach would be to base the cars on the TSRF chassis if they are available in time. (And, of course, with the intro to "Man of La Mancha" playing in the background, I intend to have another go at Rocky's seemingly invincible vintage machines). Other highlights: Larry's Greenwood Corvette body - boy, is that big. He gave me one and I carried it home in a slot in my box set up for 1/24 cars. The Electric Dreams new Vac-form bodies - beautiful - I'm going to have to build one even though I don't race 1/24 any more - The Professor Motor controllers - did I like them? After buying one of the "pro" models to use, I bought 4 of the standard versions to take home for my home track. As I headed back to the airport, last of the conventioneers to leave, (is there a "survivor" prize) I was already mulling over what cars I wanted to build/prepare/repair for next year's event.

Alan Swartz

 
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