Slot car racing caught on with me around the time that I was around 8 or 9 years old. I first saw a television commercial on during the “Spiderman and His Amazing Friends” Saturday morning cartoon for this awesome Spiderman Slot Car racing set. Once car was painted to look like Spiderman with bright reds and blues and had this crazy large Spiderman head attached to the front of the car.
The other car was painted a garish green and purple and looked like Spiderman’s arch nemesis The Green Goblin, and it had a crazy large Green Goblin head attached to the front of it.
Slot cars are named so because each car had a slender metal peg attached to the bottom of the car. The tracks that the cars would run on had a slot carved into each lane that ran all the way around the track. The peg on the bottom of the car would fit into the slot on the track. This way, as the car got going faster it would stay on the track and not go flying off. Here is a diagram that really explains it well:
These cars would run off of electricity and each of the two people controlling the cars would hold what looked like a small, usually orange colored, gun device with a trigger on it. The more you would squeeze the trigger, the faster your slot car would go.
While not setting any land/speed records, these little cars could build up quite a head of steam and really move around the tracks. There were usually curves that were built into the track as well and it was here that the player would have to use some skill, because if you blazed full speed into these turns your car would go flying off of the track! Of course this was always fun to do and the farther you could get your car to fly off the track the funnier it always was. That was until you slammed your car hard enough that it would no longer work, which seemed to happen more than you cared for. Some tracks could get really complex, such as the one shown here:
This Spiderman racing set actually had an objective which was kind of new for slot car racers at that time. As I mentioned there were these large plastic heads on each of the cars, one for Spiderman and one for the Green Goblin. I should also mention here that while you were controlling the slot car, if you totally released the trigger on the controller and then immediately pulled on it all the way, your car would actually switch lanes.
The object was to get behind your opponents car and then ram them, which would make the large plastic head go shooting up into the air, which made the other car stop in its tracks.
This actually worked out extremely well, as it was quite rewarding to pop the other guys head off, kind of like Rock Em Sock Em Robot style.
It also worked out well for the makers of the set because by constantly ramming the cars into one another, the cars would quickly break and you need to keep buying new cars all the time.
Soon after the Spiderman set came out, there was an amazing Star Wars racing set that debuted that had Luke’s X-Wing Fighter and Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter in place of the Spiderman Head and the Green Goblin head. This set had some electronic sound effects included that sounded like the ships roaring through space.
Man I really miss my slot car racing days. As time went on, the sets got more and more complicated. The last set I remember seeing actually saw you building your track straight up a wall and the cars would climb the walls! Mind blowing for that technology.
Here’s hoping that slot car racers make a hug comeback one day, especially given the technology that we have today.