July 8, 2011
Do you remember Slot Cars! On July 16 & 17, slot cars will
be coming to America On Wheels Museum. Visitors will enjoy
viewing tracks running HO and 1/32 scale slot cars. The
East Coast HO Racing group will be running a race in their
series of competitions on one of their tracks using vintage
Aurora cars modified to the ECHORR rules. The first Ford/Aurora
Champion from 1962, Henry Harnish, will be among the more
than one dozen racers competing in this event. A representative
from Carrera USA will be bringing a Carrera 1/32 track and
museum patrons will be able to try out these cars on Saturday
in the Long Haul Room, located on the Museum’s 2nd floor.
Vendors will be set up throughout the museum on both days.
On Sunday, the ECHORR track will be available for running
HO slot cars, too. Executive Director Linda Merkel says
“We are excited to present this history of slot car racing
to our visitors. We believe America On Wheels is the perfect
venue to host this event because of our commitment to all
things associated with transportation in all its many and
Dave Reese, Coordinator for this event says, "Like many
in the hobby of slot cars, I played with them until High
School, when girls and real cars became more interesting.
I was surprised years later when I discovered on-line that
the hobby was still alive, well, and thriving. I started
to get back into the hobby of slot cars about 10 years ago,
buying a few items on eBay. Finding my old toys the interest
has continued to blossom with a larger collection and my
own basement layout, as well as showing some of my slot
car collection in the lobby display case at America On Wheels."
For a sneak preview of a slot car display, a preview of
the event can be seen on-line at http://www.tiny9.com/u/AOW_Slot_Car_Video.
Also on display will be the cars of the 100 Years of Chevrolet,
as well as the museum’s displays of classic and unique vehicles,
and our own display of slot cars in the museum lobby.
History: In 1966 there were 3000 commercial tracks throughout
the nation, as well as, many private and club basement layouts.
The Lehigh Valley had several places that rented track time
and sold the latest models of racers. Slot cars had their
heyday in the 1960’s, but electric table-top car racing
started much sooner, and is still active today. In 1912,
the Lionel Manufacturing Company introduced their electric
model racing car.
The first of the popular home slot car sets in America
came from England starting in 1957. The early companies
included Strombecker and Scalextric, who initially specialized
in 1/32 scale, and Playcraft with their 1/76 scale sets.
Aurora Plastics in West Hempstead, Long Island, New York
saw the potential of the Playcraft Highways cars developed
by Derek Brand, and bought the US marketing rights in 1959.
In the1960’s, companies such as Aurora, Tyco, Atlas, Lionel,
Cox, and Riggen jumped into the HO slot car market with
constant updates of the now popular home slot car. Aurora
updated their cars with the Thunderjet pancake motors in
1963, and this chassis is still the basis of much of today’s
HO slot car racing. The speeds of the cars rose as manufacturers
improved can motors, pickup systems, and added magnet attraction
to the track. Aurora teamed with the Ford Motor Company
to have races run at local hobby shops with the champions
from the different shops competing regionally. The national
finals were broadcast on national TV with celebrity racers
such as Sterling Moss involved. The 1962 Ford/Aurora Grand
Nationals were won by Henry Harnish (www.hendryharnish.com)
of New Jersey live on the Today Show. At age 15, Henry won
a 1962 Ford Thunderbird Convertible.
AOW also offers a museum scavenger hunt opportunity for
the children and a museum store for our visitors’ enjoyment.