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HO or1/32 SCALE – WHICH HOME SET IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

....by Jeff Buyer


To start with, let me say that I am a novice in the realm of HO slot car racing, having only recently started racing in this scale. I wanted to write a review of what most consider the best deal in HO race sets, but I wanted to write this review with the home racer in mind, and compare home HO race sets with 1/32 scale race sets. I chose the Artin 4 Lane Race Set (1/32 scale) and the Tomy AFX Super International Race Set (HO scale) since both are four lane sets that cost about the same price.

The Tomy AFX Super International Race Set comes with 25 feet of track for four lanes, or 50 feet of track for two lanes, 4 Super G-Plus cars, 4 controllers and 2 power supplies. There is also an adequate supply of guard rails and bridge supports, all of which makes this a great value at $169.00 retail.

The Super G-Plus cars normally retail for $25-30.00 – adding to the value of this set. These cars are ridiculously fast and are most likely to be used as missiles by young children. The controllers offer a 6 foot cord, but the trigger is extended forward to allow for the long throw. This forces the driver to constantly ride the resister, which also causes it to heat up and smell somewhat.

The Tomy track is considered the best in the industry and comes with a variety of curves and straights to make for many possible track configurations. Tomy has “improved” the connections on their track, making it easy to assemble and take apart. Older tracks had locking tabs which tended to break after repeated disassembly. The new connections, however, do tend to come apart quite easily. In setting up a 4 lane course, I found that the track sections often present gaps between the inner and outer tracks. This was evident in the turns as well as the straight sections. My local shop has several Tomy tracks set up and the same problem occurs there as well.

Tomy track needs to be properly prepared prior to racing. First roll the rails with a rolling pin. This sets the rail down as far as they can go in the plastic track. Next, turn the track upside down, and put black max glue on each open rail area and let sit over night. This will hold the rails securely in place. After the glue has dried, remove the bumps from the lock tabs, then assemble your layout and find the high spots in the rails and hone them down. This is accomplished using a honing tool from Slottech or your own homemade tool. Check any 6" turns to make sure the G3 or Storm does not get stuck making the turn; if so, hone the rail even with the other track, then sand the edge so that it is at an angle and the pickup shoes slide up it. Clean the rails with WD40, wait 10 minutes and clean with Fantastic or Windex.

If you are making a “permanent” layout, you might consider soldering all of the rail joints to ensure proper electrical connectivity throughout the track. I found this is also a good way to set the rail height so that it is even from one section to the next. Of course, it will be quite a challenge to disassemble if you ever decide to change your layout.

The Artin 4 Lane Race Set comes with 21 feet of track for four lanes, or 41 feet of track for two lanes, 4 cars, 4 controllers and 2 power supplies. The Artin set also comes with both inside and outside turn borders. Some of the sets include a set of bridge sections and borders for the bridge and straights as well as the turns. The Artin set also sells for $169.00.

The Artin cars do not offer as much intricate detail as other brands of 1/32 scale slot cars, but they drive quite well and make for fun competition. The controllers work very well for the cars included in the set, but may not be well suited for some of the hotter motors available in this scale. The track assembles with ease and holds together well when unsecured to the table. The outer and inner tracks fit together like a glove and can be lock together by the supply of clips provided in the set. The slot is deep enough to accommodate any 1/32 scale car and it is possible to drive two 1/24 scale cars on a 4 lane layout. Some sets come with four bridge track sections; these are OK for slower 1/32 scale cars, but faster cars tend to launch if they hit the bridge with any kind of speed. Also, 1/24 scale cars will bottom out on the bridge sections.

Having put together a 1/32 scale race set on a 5’ X 16’ table, I was at first a bit disappointed with the Tomy AFX track. My 1/32 scale Artin set snapped together with ease and, more importantly, stayed together while my son and I raced on it before securing it to the table. The Tomy track tends to come apart at the slightest nudge – very troublesome. The Tomy track is also a bit sloppy as far as the rails fitting together properly. One website recommended soldering the rail connections to make for a smoother ride. I found this to be the only way to ensure the connecting rails are at the same height.

Another problem I had with the Tomy set was the controllers. It was nearly impossible to control the G-Plus cars with the controllers provided in the set. I ended up using the Artin controllers for the G-Plus cars. Below is a pic showing the Tomy controller (in the middle) next to the Artin controller and one made by Parma. While the Artin controller is bigger than the other two, it does feel comfortable and works well with the Artin cars and the G-Plus cars.

Considering the inadequate controllers, the incredibly fast cars, and the track sections that come apart easily, I would not recommend any HO set for the home slot car enthusiast who wants to occasionally setup a track on the floor and take it apart to try different race course layouts. I would, instead, recommend one of the 1/32 scale sets. While, with the exception of the Artin sets, the 1/32 sets usually cost more money, they hold up better after repeated disassembly and the cars are generally easier to drive.

If, on the other hand, you are planning on building a dedicated layout on a wooden table, then HO is definitely something to consider. You can build a nice layout in a small space, or an extensive layout on a larger space. I put together a challenging HO course on a 36” X 80” table built using a door as a base. This is easy to move when I need to store it, and still fun to race on. It was, however, much more work to get the track right than the 1/32 set from Artin.

The Tomy Super International Race Set is a great value for the amount of track, but you will need to replace the controllers and it will be more fun racing T-Jets or X-Traction cars than the super fast G-Plus cars that come with the set. If cost is an issue, then you must factor in the expense of replacement controllers and possibly the slower cars.

A 1/32 scale race set can be fun whether set up temporarily on the floor or built on a dedicated table. For a permanent layout 1/32 scale generally needs at least a 4’ X 8’ area to even start to have a nice 2 lane layout; and even more space if you want four lanes. My set is on a 5’ X 16’ table and is a blast to drive on. Most 1/32 sets come with cars that are fairly easy to control so you will spend more time racing than picking the cars up off the floor. The controllers are usually well matched to the cars that come with the sets, however most racers invest in upgraded controllers. The Artin sets offer the best overall value. The lane spacing is 3.5” which is a bit narrow when compared to other brands, but the slot is ¼” deep which is deeper than Scalextric, and is sufficient for the 1/24th scale cars using a regular Parma guide.

Here is my 5’ X 16’ Artin layout; I used two sets for this track and it’s a fun track to drive, especially side by side.

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