Australian Muscle Car
By now you’re probably sick of hearing about Corona virus. It’s affecting everything, and that includes the slot car world. The Social Distancing laws and (mostly) common sense self-isolation have really changed our working and social lives. I work in the heart of the Sydney CBD right near the Pitt Street Mall, and was struck one morning by the sight of one of the busiest locations in the country looking like a deserted street from the Will Smith movie, I Am Legend. Minus the Shelby Mustang from the opening scene, of course.
Just as all regular motor race meetings at least for now have been cancelled, so too have slot race meetings. Slot Shop in Arncliffe, Sydney, which has the largest shop presence with multiple public tracks, has had to stop their use and is limited to retail trading. Naturally this also stops club racing at the venue, and those racers rocking through the doors and consuming then buying spares or the latest bright shiny thing.
Retailers like Slot Shop have also been hit by the uncertainty surrounding the manufacturers. Unbelievably, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 live tracker, the countries where slot cars are manufactured are sadly amongst the worst hit. Six of the top seven hardest hit countries including China, Italy, Spain and Germany, are the home to all of the mainstream slot car manufacturing.
Supplies to retailers here and overseas have almost ceased. The stock that is trickling through is likely to have been coming down the pipeline before the crisis hit. News coming through from online sellers such as our friends at MRE in the UK is that their commercial estate where their premises are located is in lock-down. They can only get limited access to process stock and one day of the week to be able to post out customer orders. Similarly, hobby retailers in Germany are citing restrictions by companies such as DHL that prevent them from delivering international orders apart from the US. In addition, there are likely to be delays for those orders that can get out, due to ight restrictions and border controls.
You don’t have to have to be a marketing expert to realise this is not good news for our hobby. Commercial centres relying on bodies through the door will suffer as the rent still needs to get paid. Customers facing unemployment or at least job uncertainty, may think twice about when they spend their spare cash. The reality of what the effects are in China are always veiled by the bamboo curtain, but hopefully the reported dramatic fall off in COVID-19 case number there means that things will get back to normal sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, it is difficult to see that the announced product ranges for 2020 will actually be ful lled.
However, it’s not all doom-and-gloom. There has been some upside to the current plight. With so much spare time, there has been a noticeable rise in people pulling out their stockpile of projects for a rainy day. Across the worldwide slot car community on forums and Facebook
people are using their spare time to getting down and dirty with a wide variety of rebuild and even scratch build projects. Retailers are reporting increased sales in train and slot car sets as people search for home-based activities to keep young minds occupied.
Projects I have on the go include a John Goss XB Falcon to be rebuilt into an XA, a 1963 Galaxie, some Le Mans cars that need to be renumbered or rebuilt as winning cars and a 1/32 race transporter. Hopefully that last one comes off as planned, as it has a great history.
The Australian Scalextric club was extremely fortunate to be able to run its annual Swap Meet at Hornsby on 1st March, before the dreaded lurgy took hold. Once again there were a wide range of delights, with sellers and buyers coming from interstate to trade their wares. I picked up some bargains – a pair of Ninco V12 LMRs including the 1999 Le Mans winner to add to my collection. I also able to help out one of my Brisbane-based decal suppliers by nding him a Carrera Richard Petty Ford Torino.
While this type of public activity is going to have to go on hold for a while, you can do your bit to maintain the hobby. Drag out those old cars and sets. Consider spending some of your recreational money on buying safely from online slot shops. Use the internet to stay in touch and support other slot car fans. Introduce the bored youngsters in your family to the slot hobby.
If you are interested in movie cars for the slot track, the I Am Legend Mustang mentioned at the top of this column was a supercharged 5.4-litre 2007 Shelby GT500 and it still exists. The movie production company ordered six identical cars, ve of which returned to Ford when the movie was nished and were subsequently crushed. The one kept tidy for ‘beauty’ shots was kept by the lm production company, and came up for sale at the end of last year.
Maybe it’s time to add this movie star to your slot project list. Carrera, Scalextric and Ninco all produced a bundle of Ford Racing GT500s, with the Ninco cars having impact-resistant bodies – ie: blacked out glass and no interior. Not so long ago, retailers were looking to get rid of excess stock and they were advertised very cheaply – if you look around you can still nd them. Combine that with a Men In Black Will Smith gure and a German Shepherd to ride shotgun and you have an instant project with no race numbers or sponsor decals required. If you decide to go with the Ninco Mustang, then you will have to source clear windows and an interior. The Electric Dreams website tells you exactly how to do it. (https://www.electricdreams.com/let-the-sunshine-in/)
There is no better time to get involved in slot cars. Suggest it to your neighbours and friends, help keep them off the streets and put some money into this hobby. Above all, stay safe, stay sane and I’ll see you on the other side.