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  • HO n20

    Back in 1994 (Yes! 25 years ago!) I tried to introduce improved HO slotcars and tracks. I wanted to make it inexpensive and easy to race on smooth, swoopy routed tracks with copper tape for power conductors. The idea was that clickety-clack plastic track with rails for power conductors was holding back HO slot racing as a hobby. That is where the Slide Guide came from.

    I guess I don't learn too quick. Here it is 25 years later and I'm going to try again.

    What I am proposing is a new class of HO racing, which I am calling "HO N20". It is another attempt to make it a whole lot easier to make routed HO slot tracks a cheaper, easier, better option, and to make new cars easy to produce in quantity, or custom fabricate.

    What has held back new HO cars are the motors and the pickups. The oversize motors had to be integrated into the chassis -- a complex design and production challenge -- and the pickups were also complex and finicky. But today it is possible to buy high-performance HO motors in a compact, standard "N20" package, and there are a number of options for Slide Guides and slide-guide-like guide shoes -- many 3D printed.

    By standardizing on an N20 motor many of the complex issues in chassis design go away. Much simpler chassis in any number of configurations become possible. And all of the fussing with motor configurations and tuning go away also. You just buy an N20 motor and plug it in.

    By going to a slide-guide-style pickup system you eliminate the fussy complexity of spring-loaded pickups, and make it possible to use copper tape for the power conductors on a track. Copper tape works wonderfully for slot racing -- witness all of the 1/32nd scale tracks that use it. It is cheap to buy, easy to apply, and extremely low maintenance. But it requires cars with braid or wire pickups. Hard pickups just don't work. So, Slide Guides.

    Also, note that by going to copper tape traction magnets become useless. Lift-pin tech inspection goes away. Gravity racing only. The magnet racing nightmare is finally over!

    So where do you get the routed slot tracks? You could build them yourself, or you could buy them from a woodworking shop with a CNC router. Pre-designed track plans with the necessary CNC program could be available online, similar to Shapeways or other 3D print design sites. Or you could create a CAD file to hand to the shop for translation into CNC instructions. Or you might even buy one from someone who has decided to turn his hobby into a sideline business.

    Slide Guides? Buy 'em, build 'em, or 3D print 'em. I really don't care. I never patented the design. It is my gift to the hobby.

    Chassis? Roll your own, print them, or buy them from garage-shop fabricators. A whole new world of design possibilities exists.

    Here we are, 50-plus years on from the birth of HO racing, and we are still saddled with the design compromises that toy manufacturers made deep in the last century. I have no illusions about the likelihood my proposal will catch fire, but maybe I can start a conversation.

    Ed Bianchi

  • #2
    Gee except for mandating slide guides and N20 motors you just invented the HOPRA gravity class and Al Thurman's proposed BRASSKAR class. Both of those classes allowed any kind of motor, pickup assembly and guide pin/flag. Both classes required a pin test but that was easy to do.

    Comment


    • #3
      Or you can get a routed track from MaxTrax, Viper, etc. And Viper offers kits that greatly reduce the cost of a track. With these tracks, you still get magnetic downforce for those of us who enjoy that type of racing. As Maddman has said, the pin test for the Gravity test is simple.

      Comment


      • #4
        Start with US$25 for a 4 x 8 sheet of MDF. A laminate trimmer can be used as the router. With a router bit, call it US$125. Paint, add another US$25. Copper tape, maybe US$35. Material cost? US$85. Tooling cost $125, but that laminate trimmer isn't a throw-away. Add in 10 hours of labor at whatever rate you think is appropriate.

        Point is, if you substitute copper tape for steel rail the cost for building a track becomes much less than buying a rail track. That's right, you could build your own track for less than what some HO cars sell for! And yes, you can build that track yourself. Getting rid of the steel rails turns it into a middle-school shop project.

        As for motors, US$3 can buy you almost any N20 motor on eBay. The tires on your car will probably cost more.

        HO N20 would make an end-run around all of the expensive and finicky stuff that has held back HO for decades. Copper tape, N20 motors and slide guides are all it takes to make it work.

        Ed Bianchi



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        • #5
          I'm curious how the motors and pickups have "held back" the HO racing hobby for the past 50 years. All I see is improvement in performance. I don't see magnet racing as a nightmare, I see layers of performance levels that people can choose from. AF/X is producing some of the most detailed and beautiful bodies HO has ever seen. Boutique manufacturers like Viper, BSRT, Wizzard, etc, all have high performance "hobbyist" class chassis that are better than ever. They even have weighted ones, built with the idea of slowing things down. It seems that the complex issues of design are being overcome with ingenuity. Routed tracks are already becoming the defacto standard, even for home racing.

          No, its not the motors and pickups, or the tracks, that have held HO back. What has held HO back is the demise of the Sears Christmas catalog where boys drooled over the latest Super International set, the demise of hobby shops that had a track set up and a large collection of cars for sale, and the invention of computer games. The hobby literally went underground when we all retreated to our basements to race.

          Taking the hobby back 25 (or more) years isn't going to help. Young people today grew up in a high tech world. If you want to attract their attention you have to give them high tech - slick routed sintra tracks, fast but easy to drive cars, and pretty computer screens to look at, and even apps on their phones to view the race results. Few of them have the patience for anything less.

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          • #6
            Backmarker,

            Nobody is asking you to give up the kind of HO racing that obviously works for you, and for many other people. No more than I would ask someone who is thoroughly into NASCAR to give it up and follow Formula One. Different strokes...

            From what I have seen in my own pursuit of the hobby, there are folks who discover that breaking with tradition and re-creating the hobby as one for those who build their own stuff is an entirely new way to have fun. All I am doing is proposing a new formulation for cars and tracks encompassing the simple changes that will make it a hobby for tinkerers and fabricators.

            In 1/32nd scale there is a sub-class of folks who build their own tracks and their own cars. Not nearly so many as build their tracks out of plastic sections, or race cars bought ready-to-run, but that isn't the point. They have found that "rolling your own" offers unique kinds of fun and satisfaction. They are fortunate that 1/32nd scale has always offered them the opportunity to do it all themselves. And they are yet more fortunate when they are able to link up with other such hobbyists to enjoy their own kind of slotting.

            HO hasn't been there. Rail tracks and integrated motors have been the issues that have frustrated folks who wanted to do it all themselves. But for those of us who enjoy slot racing and have the desire and skill for fabricating, but don't have the space for the larger scales, there is a way home. You can do it yourself. And it isn't at all hard if you just borrow a little bit of tech from the larger scales.

            A few of my friends and acquaintances have tried this kind of HO racing, and found it engaging and enjoyable. Enough so that I think it is worth promoting.

            HO N20, if it ever happens, will be a sub-culture of an -- admit it -- not-too-popular hobby. As I said in my first post, I don't expect my proposal to set the world on fire.

            It would be nice if it became a small campfire in the wilderness for a devoted circle of friends.

            Ed Bianchi

            Comment


            • #7
              Where can I get good N20 motors? In the past I have gotten that type of motor from China via eBay. The motors have been cheap and the service was OK, however the motors are a crapshoot. There are usually no specifications beyond the size. What are the ohms, magnet type or type of motor brushes? I am not about to race a motor that has plain metal feelers, rather than proper carbon/copper brushes. If you order some motors and they prove to be satisfactory often you will not be able to get more of them. I see that Lucky Bob's has HOST motors, but I don't know if those are N20s.

              Comment


              • #8
                More power to you Ed. Everyone should do what they want. I've seen guys who build HO monster trucks, not my thing, but they are interesting in their own way. I just don't buy the statement that HO has been held back by motors and pickups. There are probably a thousand reasons why the hobby is languishing, but in my opinion its more about the hobby being kind of hidden away rather than the technology.

                In an effort to recruit a new racer, I was talking to a 22 year old kid who is a teller at my bank, and he had no concept of what a slot car was, NONE. I showed him a video on my phone, and he thought it was kind of cool, but the fact remains he never even heard of slot cars until I mentioned it to him. THAT is why the hobby is suffering, its just not out there anymore.

                As for your concept, I have a set of 4 MS Mini Coopers (courtesy of Gareth and Woodcote). As you probably know, MS cars have braids rather than shoes. The cars are pretty quick, but they bounce around quite a bit, making them difficult to handle. I suspect its the because the braids are pushing the car up and out of the slot.. Maybe I haven't learned to adjust them correctly, or maybe the car is too light to hold them firmly in place, I don't know, but the experience has led me to believe that ski style pick up shoes are far superior to braids in HO scale.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Braid actually works well once you get the hang of adjusting it. Sort of like learning how to tweak pickup shoes when you come down to it. In regard to pickup shoes running on braid or copper tape, as Ed has previously mentioned, there are some definite negative performance issues. What Ed didn't mention is that he designed/developed/and produced these gizmos called "Braiders" that clip on to existing pickup shoes. These devices have these flowing fingers than mimic braid and work extremely well on flush braid or copper tape. A couple of tracks that we (HOCOC) run on have braid that is 0.010" proud of the track surface. Properly adjusted pickup shoes work very well on this raised braid.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I spent a lot of money developing and producing "Braiders". Sad to say they do NOT work well on copper tape, which was a primary goal of my project. I've decided not to market them because I don't think they're a good enough product.

                    As for useful N20 motors, I have bought over 100 of them on eBay, specifically because they have carbon brushes and rare earth magnets. They are rated at 7.2 volts, but run just fine on 12 volts. Common to all of them is a cooling hole in the can. A quick search brought this posting up. A tad more expensive than the US$3 price I quoted above:


                    The reason I am proposing copper tape instead of braid for HO N20 is because it is cheap, easy to apply and low maintenance. Braid is a great upgrade, but I'm proposing copper tape because it is simpler to install, and almost as good. Cars with braid or wire pickups work just fine on copper tape.

                    I want to post some photos of some tracks and cars that would be suitable for HO N20 racing -- including a car Gerry built for me. I've got to work through the process of uploading some photos to the new SCI website.

                    Ed Bianchi


                    Post edited to remove ebay links

                    Please remember we do not support linking to ebay sales.

                    Thank you

                    Alan
                    Last edited by Scaleracing; 03-24-2019, 08:25 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Of course with the new Micro Scalextric system arriving on the market in a few weeks time, the N20/braid concept will have a major manufacturer producing something compatible, plus some hobbyists converting existing HO cars to flat rails with Slide Guides and 3D printed SLS chassis.

                      Building a routed copper tape track is a doddle, as we say here... and cheap.

                      The 1/43 scratchbuilding world is interesting to look at in terms of home-spun chassis and die cast conversions etc. Not to mention Model Murdering’s work in HO.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by gmcullan View Post
                        Braid actually works well once you get the hang of adjusting it. Sort of like learning how to tweak pickup shoes when you come down to it..
                        The braids certainly gets power to the chassis, and they wear like iron. This thread caused me to break out my Mini Cooper's for a closer inspection, especially the braids. My cars are completely stock with no aftermarket wheels or tires. The chassis definitely sits higher than my other chassis in the front, and looks as if the braids are pushing the front end up. Even so, the tires roll when you push the chassis. The braids are not as stiff as I remember, but are extremely thin, maybe 2/3 the width of a T-Jet pickup shoe. Watching the car rock and roll around the track I'm now thinking that a wider braid to ensure constant contact with the rail would improve performance. Still impressed with the out of the box quickness of the car. If I can figure out how to make the braids more efficient, the Mini's would make a fun IROC race.



                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Try teasing the ends of the braids apart with a pin or a toothpick, separating the ends into individual wires. Just the ends -- maybe about the last third or fourth of the braid. This makes the braid less stiff and gives the wire ends more freedom to make individual contact with the track. The better to assure you always have good contact.

                          My Slide Guides use a special wire I call "Pickup Wire" instead of braid. Pickup Wire has 45 strands of #40 AWG copper wire. When you spread out that large number of strands under the guide, it almost guarantees that at least a couple of strands will always have good contact. The proof is that Pickup Wire lasts a very long time, despite how thin the strands are. It lasts a long time because there is no arcing. And there is no arcing because good contact is maintained. Arcing burns contacts, but arcing only happens when you momentarily LOSE contact.

                          There is a trade-off involving forceful contact at the pickups. High force helps make good electrical contact, but it also creates high front-end drag. Front-end drag not only eats up driving force, it also makes the car want to swap ends in the corners. So you want the least amount of contact force that still assures you good electrical contact. Lots of wire ends help make that possible.

                          Ed Bianchi

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Backmarker View Post

                            The braids certainly gets power to the chassis, and they wear like iron. This thread caused me to break out my Mini Cooper's for a closer inspection, especially the braids. My cars are completely stock with no aftermarket wheels or tires. The chassis definitely sits higher than my other chassis in the front, and looks as if the braids are pushing the front end up. Even so, the tires roll when you push the chassis. The braids are not as stiff as I remember, but are extremely thin, maybe 2/3 the width of a T-Jet pickup shoe. Watching the car rock and roll around the track I'm now thinking that a wider braid to ensure constant contact with the rail would improve performance. Still impressed with the out of the box quickness of the car. If I can figure out how to make the braids more efficient, the Mini's would make a fun IROC race.


                            The MS braids are somewhat thick and stiff. You might try substituting different sizes of solder wick braids. They are usually copper and widths of 2-3mm would be a good place to start. My experience with them has only been in drag racing but have gotten good results.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              They may be fine for drag racing, and also probably work well enough on flat rails (or copper tape). But they are shifting laterally going around turns on the raised Tomy rail. The car starts out just fine, but performance deteriorates after a few laps as the braids get worked out of position. Having both ends of the braid attached to the chassis would probably solve the problem.

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