225% up to $12250
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Slot car racing is an exciting, interactive hobby for automobile fans and anyone who likes speed and competition. Slot cars make a great alternative to video games because they tap into similar skill sets hand-eye coordination, risk-reward thinking, competition, manual dexterity yet remain physical, i.e. hands-on, three-dimensional and face-to-face.
We carry two high quality slot car brands: Carrera, which tends to appeal to younger racers, and Scalextric Sport, which attracts an older audience and enthusiasts. In other words, Carrera is a little bit toy, while Scalextric is much more hobby. In this post, I ll explain some of the features of each brand to help you make a better purchase.
Both Carrera and Scalextric offer analog and digital formats. With an analog set the sort that has been around for half a century you can only race as many cars as you have lanes. Your controller adjusts the current sent to the track lane, which speeds up and
There are a few things to consider up front if you re looking at a slot car set:
How old are your racers? I do not recommend slot-car racing for very young children. Ideally, a child should be eight or older, and certainly no younger than six or seven. Eight might even be pushing it for the more technical demands of an advanced Scalextric set.
You need a good deal of skill and finesse to navigate the track, especially around turns, and practice is absolutely necessary. You can t simply haul back on the throttle and expect the cars to zoom around flawlessly. They will hop out of the slot and skitter away. Of course, that s part of the fun. If there were no skill involved, you would get bored pretty quickly. For the most part, a child younger than 8 simply lacks the dexterity and coordination to grasp the finer points of adjusting speed to stay on track, and may not have the patience to put in the necessary practice.
Where will you put your track? The three-dimensional, hands-on, physicality of slot racing is great, but this does mean that you need space to dedicate to your layout. Even the smallest tracks are several feet across. You don t want it in the middle of the living room where it will get stepped over or on! bumped, full of cookie crumbs and pet hair. The track pieces are generally pretty flexible and robust, and are designed to withstand a trodding or two, but they aren t indestructible.
How often will you be racing? It's not a good idea to set up the track, race a few laps, and then pack it away again. The tracks are designed to be assembled and disassembled without too much effort, but only infrequently. Pulling track pieces apart is usually a little tougher than clipping them together, and can require a good deal of force. You want to make sure that you tug evenly so you don t snap off the connector tabs that hold them together. Repeated assembly and disassembly will also eventually wear and loosen the connectors, when what you want is a snug fit.
Your best option is to set up the track in a place where it can be left out, ideally on a table or platform of some sort. Take it apart only when you want to add to or modify the layout.
Carrera has two product lines: GO. (analog) and Digital 143. Both are 1:43 scale, so a little on the smaller side. Carrera GO. is a perfect starter line. With fun themes like Mario Kart, and Disney/Pixar s Cars 3, and exciting action features like loops, jumps, elevated banks that run up walls, the tracks are ideal for children around eight years old. Sets and accessories are modestly priced, too.
Digital 143 is more advanced, and pricier. Digital cars, for instance, are about double the cost of analog. However, if this is the first track, starting with a digital set can be a good investment, because upgrading from analog to digital requires a bunch of new equipment, including a new powerbase, new cars, and some lane-changing track. The good news is that standard track pieces are universal, so the majority of a GO. setup will be ready to go should you decide to upgrade to Digital 143.
The benefit of Carrera s digital sets is that it supports up to three cars at once and allows for lane switching. Lane changes are done by holding a button on the controller before reaching a special crossover track. For the Digital 143 line, Carrera makes crossover tracks red (or green on the MarioKart set) rather than black so you can identify them easily. Crossover tracks can be single (right-to-left, left-to-right), or double ( X -shaped).
Our Scalextric sets are the better choice for hobbyists. Scalextric sets have bigger, more detailed cars (1:32 scale), some of which sport cool features like working lights and, in the case of James Bond s Aston Martin from Goldfinger, ejector seats. They let you build bigger and more technically challenging track layouts, and offer bigger and better opportunities for customization and modification, especially with Scalextric s digital sets.
There is even a dedicated community of Scalextric racing hobbyists, who conduct full-on tournament racing with rules and regulations. With this in mind, you ll find that Scalextric tends toward more realism you won t find jumps and loops here and more technical demands.
Scalextric makes a wide range of track pieces to customize your layout. Straight tracks come in a number of lengths and formats. Some of the unique pieces that are available include starter grids, crossovers for making figure-eights, side-swipes for bumping other racers, and single-lane tracks to run alongside pit lanes. There are borders and guardrails that clip along the side of just about any piece of track to help prevent you from jumping the track. Because the track is flexible, you can give some height to your layouts with elevation supports, banked curve supports, and elevated crossovers.
There are numerous options for curves, from lazy wide turns to harrowing hairpins, crossovers and side-swipes, letting you add a ton of variety and challenge to your set.
The track selector wheel demonstrates the range of curves available. You can find lots of support at scalextric.com/uk-en/, including a download for a Track Designer to help build your layout. It s also very easy to find online forums and communities to get ideas for customizing your setup.
One of the nice things about Scalextric is that the transition between analog and digital is pretty smooth. Upgrading an analog set will require a new power base, transformer, and some lane-changing track, but the cars are not hooked into one or the other exclusively. Analog cars will run on a digital set with a few button presses on the power base. Lane-changing will be disabled, obviously, but it s nice to know that your old cars won t be obsolete if you upgrade. You can do the opposite, too: a digital car will work on an analog set, should the need arise. Most of the analog cars we stock from Scalextric come digital ready, and can be upgraded to digital with the simple installation of a microchip. And yes, like Carrera, standard track is compatible between digital and analog; only lane-changing elements are exclusive to digital setups.
Most digital sets from Scalextric come with a power base that supports up to four cars, and can do a few neat tricks like set the cars to run either clockwise or counterclockwise. Stepping up to the Advanced Six-Car Power Base brings a ton of features, like the ability to program various racing modes, set speed caps on individual cars, set cars to reduce speed or even pause in the event that one racer jumps the track, and so on. As far as I m concerned, however, the coolest feature is the ability to run ghost cars, so you have some competition even when you re racing by yourself.
The ARC ONE, ARC AIR and ARC PRO (for digital sets) are the latest additions to Scalextric s product lineup, which takes advantage of hand-held smart devices to add a whole new dimension to slot racing as a hobby. Set up a Bluetooth-enabled device opposite the power base and use the free iOS or Android application to create and control races, track your statistics, manage and share your collection, and more.
Before you start, you can choose from several different types of races, including Quick Race, Practice, Grand Prix, Endurance, Tournament, Drag Race, Arcade and Pace Car, although not every race is available in all ARC systems. As you play, the app monitors just about anything you can think of, from lap times and lap counts, to speed and penalties. There are several cool additions to mix things up. Turning on fuel consumption, tire wear, or car damage, means that you have to keep an eye on the condition of your car and make a stop in the pits when necessary or risk disqualification. There are even random incidents like engine blow-outs and punctured tires that can bring another measure of unpredictability and realism to the race. After the race, you get analytic breakdowns of your speed, start reaction times, fuel use, and so on, which you can post to Twitter or Facebook.
Finally, there is a Garage mode, in which you can catalogue the cars in your collection, save track layouts, and post photos. You can also log your track pieces and accessories and use the app to explore possible layout designs.
BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
Anthony Ramses of Independence Township feeds his need for speed on his hand-built 264-square-foot slot-car race track in his basement.
This is my a man cave, my big boy hobby, said Ramses, who moved to the Clarkston area with his wife, Marvella, three years ago from Bloomfield. I work hard, and I do this to relax and escape. The guys come over and we race.
With technical assistance and tools borrowed from his friend Lance Thomalson , Ramses embedded a 33-by-8-foot Carrera Digital race track into a woodframed table top built up with foamcore and wired by hand, decorated with styrofoam, plaster, aquarium sand, model-railroad landscaping, and trees made from bushes from his own yard.
I watched a lot of model train videos, and put my own spin on things, he said. Its all designed to replicate real racing on a 1:32 scale.
The race cars look identical to their fullsize counterparts.
As a digital track, racers can use their wireless controllers to make the tiny cars change lanes as they speed down the 140-foot track. His fastest lap time so far is 12.3 seconds.
Friends have started this, too, he said. We race for 5-6 hours. Its really competitive.
Drivers have to watch their speed to avoid flying off curves, and also have to keep track of fuel consumption.
When it uses fuel, the car becomes lighter. When it starts to run out of gas you have to have a pit stop, he said. If theres a crash, the emergency car comes out and the track goes into safety mode.
Growing up in River Rouge, Mich., he has always been a fan of racing but didnt get into slot-car racing as a kid.
I had a train set, but it was nothing like this. My mother threw it away when I went to college, he said.
He saw a video on slot-car racing on Youtube last year and loved the idea.
I got a small set and it grew, taking up most of the carpet, he said. Thats when my wife stepped in. The question was where to put it I put it in the basement mechanical room with the furnace.
It took about a year and a half to buy about $15,000 in track, racecars, and material, and put it all together. Work continues, with plans for more trees, shrubbery, and flowers to add color.
I like the feel of real racing. It s really kind of cool, he said. Its make believe, but it takes a lot of effort. I like creating the diorama. It s a lot of fun.
Tinkering with the cars, experimenting with tires, motors, and other components is a big part of it, he said.
It s a whole lot better than video games, he said. The beauty is it s an exact replica of the real things.
Hes a pastor at Kingdom Living Church in Grand Blanc and an empty nester with his wife, with four grown children.
They thought I was nerding out. I m a nerd by nature, Ramses said. When it was finished, they were like, Wow, you were serious.
One of his hopes is to get others interested in the hobby. He has a YouTube channel, Anthony Ramses, with videos of his track, including first-person racing shots made with tiny cameras mounted on the cars.
He is also featured in the July-August edition of Model Car Racing magazine in the article Ultimate Digital Race Track, and is working on a business idea to build custom-made slot-car track stanchions with advertisements on them.
Hyper-realism is name of the game for slot-car racer added by Phil Custodio on December 4, 2019
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