Slot Car Enthusiast

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Greg Wells

Associate Producer
Ray Gardner

Slot Car Racing & It's Origins:
A Brief History

Slot cars were born of necessity. Since the very origins of the automobile, toy makers have tried to duplicate their self-propelled quality.

In 1908, the famous American toy manufacturer Ives produced a circular layout, on which a windup car could be operated on rails similar to model trains.

Shortly after, the German company Marklin offered a similar set, but this time with electrically powered cars running around a tortuous layout with tinplate buildings. In both cases, the cars’ chassis were derived from toy train parts.

Lionel made the first true racing car set in 1912. It featured well-engineered cars, guided by a single rail, and the two cars could race each other by using two adjustable transformers.

During the Thirties various countries produced more or less sophisticated miniature racing car sets, including Marklin and Tipp in Germany.

The greatest limitation of the rail system was that the cars could neither drift nor spin, taking away much of the realism of real racing cars.

In 1935, a British engineer by the name of Charles Woodland had a better idea, namely to re-place the rail by a slot, thus allowing the car to drift or even spin clear across the track. It took fourteen years for him to make it practical, but by 1949, Woodland had built a successful slot car, using a slim line train motor and various off-the-shelf (mostly toy train) components. Other enthusiasts continued to develop new concepts in the following years, and discussed their ideas via Model Maker and other magazines.

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This early slot car was made in Spain in 1939 and is one of the first ever made using a slot and a guide flag instead of a raised rail. This was discovered as recently as 1990, throwing a wrench into was was thought to be established history.

Spanish-born, mechanical genius Matthieu Canellas designed and built a table top motorway with urban like surroundings as early as 1940. He built at least six cars of approximately 1/24 scale, with many modern features. A brass guide provided positive electric contact inside the slot, while a copper pad supplied negative current on top of track. Cables above the track operated multiple lane crossovers, triggered by a tab at rear of the car. Twelve-volt motors powered the cars.

Canellas charged customers for playing with the set at open markets in the French city of Toulouse, between 1940 and 1944.

A practical rail system proposed by T. H. Tebbutt in the December, 1954, issue of Model Maker inspired the Southport Model Engineering Club, which was looking for a new attraction for their upcoming exhibition. By the middle of 1955, they had constructed.........

Read the conclusion in the April/May edition of Slot Car Enthusiast

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