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Slot Cars Then and Now Part 2 Slot Cars Go Tech

The year was 1967. Slot car racing had officially abandoned scale appearance in favor of speed. This was a natural progression but one that would have long standing consequences.

The motor of choice until this time was the Mabuchi 16D, a motor popular for its balance of low weight and power. From the factory, these motors were not competitive. To make a competitive motor the internal armature would have to be altered. The easiest way, was to have some of its windings removed to decrease it's resistance which was called de-winding. The best modification, was to remove all the windings, and replace them with thicker gauge wire with less turns. This was called rewinding and it became a cottage industry of it's own. Small companies would rewind the armatures, epoxy it all in place and even balance it. As these armatures utilized lower gauges of wire, the term “hotter” was coined.

Hot arms draw more current through them. More current means more heat. The component of the armature that accepts the electricity into the armature is called the commutator. Mabuchi made theirs out of plastic with 3 copper plates. Yes, plastic melts, so soon the need for a better commutator became necessary. The endbell of the motor that holds the motor brushes that contact the commutator was also plastic. That needed a better replacement also.

Can you see where slot car racing is going next?

With speed becoming the appetite of the slot car racer, manufacturers in America set up shop full time to produce high quality components that could withstand the high power requirements. Motors used high temperature endbells and thick steel motor cans for more reliable magnetic fields. Companies like Mura and Champion of Chamblee made these, as well as armatures designed by real engineers and scientists to reduce heat and increase performance. The research done during 1968-1969 was lost and forgotten about by the mid 70's. Even today, motors being produced costing over $300 are technologically inferior from a science perspective, to the 1969 motors.

The slot car viewed from above, still appeared as a recognizable race car. It was from the side that it was not at all realistic. The wheels were much too small, and the profile much too low. Unrealistic spoilers started to appear. From a drivers standpoint, these cars were really fast and stayed in the slot very well, even for the average participant.

This speed and handing came at a cost. The price of a slot car had escalated, reducing the number of kids who could participate. The loss of detail resulted in a lower appeal for the new prospect seeing slot cars for the first time. Where before everyone could relate, now fewer and fewer were interested.