Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Missing Images: Slot Car Racing

As I grow older, I find myself lamenting all the things I've forgotten - people and events that should have left indelible impressions, but have instead faded away. It's especially disconcerting when someone you know and trust relates a shared experience that you don't recall at all. 

I've always relied on photographs and home movies to combat this phenomenon, but of course we can't record every waking moment. So today, before I forget, and because I don't have a single photo of the events in question, I'm going to remind my future self that once upon a time, I raced slot cars. 

For my 13th birthday, my parents gave me an Aurora slot car racing set. The big black-and-white box came with about twenty pieces of track, including straightaways, curves and crossovers, two cars, orange pistol-grip throttles, supports for turning track sections into bridges and overpasses, and of course a massive power transformer that would heat up to dangerous levels if you played too long.

I don't remember makes and models of the cars I gradually added to my collection, but I do remember some of my favourites: a police car whose lights flashed as it drove, a wood-panelled station wagon, a blue-and-white striped Camaro with a "3" on it, and a green VW Beetle. The nature of slot car racing removed steering from the equation back in those days; you controlled only the car's speed. It followed the track by means of a pin beneath the car, which fit into one of two slots in the track, hence the name of the hobby. Manipulating the throttle to avoid flinging your car off the track at the curves was key to winning races...but then again, half the fun was making the cars crash.

Eventually the set wore out. The cars gradually slowed down and stopped, their tiny gears clogged or broken. The track pieces would snap in crucial places, thanks to being assembled and disassembled too many times. Loose wires and overheating rendered the controls useless. The set died at just the right age...soon enough that I was sad, but not so soon that I wasn't quickly distracted by other pursuits (girls and Dungeons and Dragons, if I remember correctly).

Looking back, I probably only had the set for three, maybe four years. It seemed like forever then; it seems like the wink of an eye now. Time races on.


Sean said...

I *loved* playing with that set.

I seem to recall something...happening to one of the cars. A change that suddenly made it go much faster.

Does this sound familiar or is my memory playing tricks?

As well, I remember all those cars you mentioned.

Earl J. Woods said...

I remember that too, Sean. One of the cars was considerably faster than the others, and it wasn't always so.