Australian Muscle Car

Slot Ad­dic­tion

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Un­cer­tain Times

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.

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