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MEET THE MEMBERS OF SCI...Robert Livingston

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  • MEET THE MEMBERS OF SCI...Robert Livingston

    Good Morning Robert,

    I have been summoned to question you . Seriously, Robert has been active for years on SCI with over 7000 posts. He participates in most, if not all, of the proxy series mentioned on SCI. I know him a little better than some although we've never met. Robert's nephew, Dave Kennedy, has introduced me to Robert and his extrordinary slot skills. Robert and I also share a common bond in medicine although he deals (or should I say dealt with) the 2- legged patients. So, without further introduction, I am proud to present to you Robert Livingston:

    1) Robert, would you mind telling us some of your background, including your medical background as you and I tried to help calm peoples' fears when the lead paint foul-up came out?

    2) What got you started in slot cars and please feel free to share pictures?

    3) What is your favorite part of the hobby? Racing? Building cars? Testing theories on cars? Repainting car? You get the drift......

    4) What was the funniest, gut-busting moment you can think of while you were racing slot cars?

    5) Classical music, Nine Inch Nails, or BB King?

    6) Football, Hockey, or basketball? I know you will choose auto racing .

    7) Plastic or wood track? 10, 12, or 14 volts? Silicone, polyurethane or rubber tires?

    8) What is the best slot car track(s) you've ever raced on?

    9) What do you foresee as far as the future of Slot car racing as a hobby in North America?

    10) When you buy a new slot car, would you mind giving us an example of how you tune the car from start to finish......without giving away secrets.

    Thanks Robert. Personally, I am very interested in your medical background so maybe we can talk by PM. I have plenty more questions in that area.

    And once Robert finishes answering his questions, please feel free to fire away with your ouwn questions. You are up "Uncle Rob"......best of luck.

    KIITS,
    Lawrence

  • #2
    1) Robert, would you mind telling us some of your background, including your medical background as you and I tried to help calm peoples' fears when the lead paint foul-up came out?
    I am a School Psychologist; this is not a medical profession, it is educational, but I work with medical people. I have worked for decades in hardcore, inner-city schools, with the kids who are having the biggest problems. I learned about inferential statistics, and the workings of the human mind. I have dealt with highly agitated, acting-out people. Only some were students. I have done a whole lot of psychological assessments and counseling. I am semi-retired, finally, and hope to get the heck out of Dodge alive. Fortunately, the crack-war guns-in-school era seems over. The closest I came to collecting a bullet was when my office window was penetrated. I did get hit on the head with a thrown donut, once.

    I also have a BS degree in Industrial Design, which field I did not enter, due to my lack of interest in planned obsolescence and profit, at the expense of quality. I studied sculpture at Bard College. I prefer working with people, not things; but my hobbies are about the things people make. Usually, those things roll, or at least move. But I also like models of old buildings.

    I built my first unassisted plastic model at the age of 7, a Revell B-25. I still have it. I redid it when I was in junior high school (painting some parts with a brush and shiny paint). I have built hundreds, or thousands, of models since then, including an entire Russian heavy tank regiment in 1/35 scale, for outdoor war games (in the snow, rain, and cold, as well as the broiling hot summer). I co-authored a book called WWII Ballistics: Armor and Gunnery which you can Google, if you like. It may be still around, somewhere. The role I play as “expert” and know-it-all in slot cars, I once played in armor theory as related to WWII. Slot car guys are generally a more well adjusted, nicer bunch of people than war gamers. You all can congratulate yourselves. I really mean that.

    I was a professional model maker for a while. I worked on Pratt and Whitney jet engine display models in scale, and a 1/48 scale nuclear reactor cutaway model which appeared in Combustion Engineering ads in Time and Newsweek. The indoor pollution in that job drove me away.

    I have also been a model railroader, mostly in HO. I built the East New York Railroad, and was able to achieve derailment free, scale-high-speed running, on the 60” minimum radius main line. Concentric, wobble-free wheels are just as important in that hobby as in slot cars. Working locomotive and passenger car suspension is part of the hobby, for me. My father built 1/16 scale steam and electric locomotives, the kind you ride on, and working out suspension issues with him was fascinating to me. Needless to say, those engines tracked flawlessly at up to 160 scale MPH (10 mph actual).

    I hope to complete the current version of the East New York Railroad, some day, but slot cars are just too compelling an interest. That is because the people doing slot cars are more my kind of people than model railroaders, or war gamers.

    I am pretty much a fan of machinery worked to its limit, whether it be ships, aircraft, railroads, trucks, or race cars. Or tanks in battle . . .

    2) What got you started in slot cars and please feel free to share pictures?
    When I was 14 or so (1964) I read about Scalextric and Strombecker slot cars in Car Model magazine. They looked pretty cool! I met a guy in high school whose older brother was in a slot racing club (we called it slot racing, not slot car racing); that club was older guys (married) who didn’t want a bunch of unskilled kids around, so we started our own club, and started building and racing cars on a 90 foot, 4 lane wood track that magically appeared in the basement of Hull’s Hobbies, in New Haven, CT. My first “serious” car was a Porsche 904 (#16) consisting of a Monogram body on a brass plate chassis, with a Pittman DC-196A motor, sent to me by a friend who had moved to California, during the great Pittman shortage. All kinds of other motors were adapted and used; the rewinds had not yet been invented, and the early Mabuchi’s were only so-so in performance. We used Monogram and Cox tires on the wood track, which had a very fine grit in the black paint. They hooked up pretty well.

    Here is the “Midwest Flying Shingle”, copied from articles in Car Model magazine. The Pittman had its own rear axle bracket, making things easy. I cut the brass plate using shears, as you can tell. Motor to plate brackets are aluminum, because that is what I could find. Reused the Monogram front end bracket. Drilled four holes under the motor for looks, rather than any idea about weight distribution. Tradeship 4:1 bevels; I recently tach’d the motor through the rear axle at 26.1k RPM/12v. Pittman now has 1966 vintage 196B armature, and modern Neos for added field strength. Porsche 904 body was changed to Ferrari 250 GTO, when Porsche cracked in too many places:



    Unfortunately, the hobby disappeared by 1967; scale model cars were upstaged by flattened aero cars with roller skate wheels, and most of the tracks had closed, anyway. Goodbye!

    3) What is your favorite part of the hobby? Racing? Building cars? Testing theories on cars? Repainting car? You get the drift....
    Building cars is no. 1 with me. I am a fair driver, and love to race, but I prefer to race cars I build, which are mostly vintage. I would love to build faster cars, and try to do so all the time. I have tended to build experimental cars for proxy races, which has resulted in some failures.

    4) What was the funniest, gut-busting moment you can think of while you were racing slot cars?
    It’s all a blur. It has to do with Smokeio, Wayne, Mongo, RichD, etc. Those guys are a gas. No pun intended. Let a curtain of discretion be drawn.

    5) Classical music, Nine Inch Nails, or BB King?
    Ragtime, Bluegrass, Mississippi Delta blues (non electric), John Fahey, Steely Dan/Donald Fagen, Central Park Shieks, Marshall Tucker, Southern rock, Thin Lizzy, mid-era LA hip-hop, early NY hip-hop, Third Base. Etc. One of my early faves was the soundtrack for Victory at Sea, by Rodgers and Hart. Still is. I also like Andean pan-pipes.

    6) Football, Hockey, or basketball? I know you will choose auto racing.
    Stick and ball? Never heard of it. I like auto racing, it is true. Vintage machinery appeals to me more than current era stuff. My cut-off date is about 1967. In every interest I have had, there has been a cut-off date. It used to be 1945 for nearly everything, although for race cars it is c.1967. I also have a fondness for Victorian English locomotives with single drivers. And old barns.

    7) Plastic or wood track? 10, 12, or 14 volts? Silicone, polyurethane or rubber tires?
    Wood tracks, if done right, for their smoothness, and lack of repetitive curves. My track is set to 13.6v, but that would be too much for tighter tracks. I like fairly open, flowing tracks. 10v is best on tight tracks. Around here, Super Tires are necessary to be competitive, on the later-model cars, but I don’t like their flat-sided ugly looks. I prefer Ortmann repros of 1960’s scale models of tires, where you can read “Goodyear Sports Car Special” in raised black letters.

    8) What is the best slot car track(s) you've ever raced on?
    I recently had a great time on Bart’s Wings ‘n’ Wheels Scalextric track, running Scalex powered Vintage Race Across America c. 1966 cars on 8.5 volts. That track has a great flow, and the step-stool gave me the necessary birds eye view. I like looking down on the cars. The best track I have seen on the internet is Luf’s Nurburgring. To me, that track looks ideal. The scenery is unobtrusive, but absolutely necessary to create the mood, atmosphere, and “sense of place.” I have a weakness for verdant countryside. I like slot car tracks that look like model railroads in their overall appearance. I care less about detail than overall shape, color, texture, and a conveyance of the thing being larger than it really is.

    9) What do you foresee as far as the future of Slot car racing as a hobby in North America?
    Local, unaffiliated clubs will continue to dominate “serious” adult level racing. I doubt much will occur on a national level to organize and sanction racing, other than loose federations of local clubs, as is currently occurring in the US Northeast. I see an increase in toy-RTR racing through the marketing push from companies like SCX, with their 1/43 cars in Target stores. Digital may gain in popularity, as it increases in reliability, and plug-and play ease. I think slot car racing is simple and inspiring enough to outlast all of us, in one way or another.

    10) When you buy a new slot car, would you mind giving us an example of how you tune the car from start to finish......without giving away secrets.
    First I check for lube, then I throw it on my track and go. I time for the car’s best lap, center lane, 13.6v. Usually, I work on the wheels and tires, sanding both true. More timing. Depending on what is in need of attention, modifications begin, if the car needs to go faster or slower to fit in with my speed classes. I have about 35 running cars tuned to relative speed, from 1930’s GP cars to LMP’s. The top end on my 61’ track is around 4.6 seconds, the bottom end is 6.5 sec. lap time. I spent the first couple of years of the current spate of interest (beginning 2004-5) remotoring and rebuilding everything from 1960’s metal frame cars to plastic RTR’s to make the fleet coherent. So, mid-sixties race cars lap in the 5.6’s, 1950’s F1 cars do 5.8’s, weak-kneed 1950’s sports cars do 6.0 or worse, etc. I don’t necessarily tune for more speed, I tune for appropriate speed.
    If you are interested in racing, I would say, without giving away any secrets, that achieving more true wheels and tires is my number one priority these days.
    Last edited by Robert Livingston; 01-14-2008, 12:56 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Robert, where did you study ID? That part of your story sounds a lot like mine. I studied Industrial Design also, but it was a BFA program at the University of Kansas.

      Comment


      • #4
        The University of Bridgeport, in CT. I graduated in 1973. Some of my friends went on to jobs at Milton Bradley, Play Skool, GM, Tonka, Mattell, etc.

        Comment


        • #5
          Robert
          It seems we share several interests. I have been in Wargaming since my Grand Father got me started when I was six years old playing H.G. Wells' Little Wars, with 54mm tin soldiers.
          I am also known on The Web as The Old Sage.
          You listed some Great Music.


          Tom

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          • #6
            Robert,

            Maybe if you stuck with ID you'd be designing better slot cars for all of us today, instead of beating us in proxy races with your home-built specials. Just an idea... Ah, what could have been...?

            More tuning tips please. A hungry nation yearns...

            Old23

            Comment


            • #7
              Hot tuning tip: don't use Slot.It offset gears in your proxy cars. Keep them for those sprints at home. Both my CPR cars with those gears are grinding themselves to nothing. The other, straight-geared car is doing fine.

              As for ID, I am glad I stayed away. But you do have to wonder . . . the kinds of stuff I really wanted to design were done by engineers. Now THAT's what I shoulda bin.

              War gaming notes:
              Started with HO WWII armor battles, did 1/285, then moved up to 1/35 outdoors. We developed a placed shot armor system where we plotted the point on the surface of the tank where each shot landed. Lots of ballistic study there. This system requires very accurate models. Unlike slot car racing, you can't do much field research by going to watch battles like you can if you go to watch real cars. We scoured the US National Archives, and the National Technical Information Service for ballistic test reports of shot vs. plate from WWII to the present.

              Also did a little medieval combat in HO/20mm, and plenty of fantasy role-play just as Dungeons and Dragons was becoming popular. Naturally, we used our own systems, no D&D for us. My main character was Axlerod the Cleric.

              Played a few Naval games in 1/1200, where you call out the range at which you think the enemy ship is, estimated to the nearest inch, and the judges measure out the actual range you call, up to 10 feet away. The ships are 1/2" wide and 5" long, if that. Hard to get a hit. I was a good gunner but a lousy commander; I lost the British Fleet in the Java Sea, but got long range hits on the Japanese cruisers as I went down.

              Comment


              • #8
                Robert, you're an interesting character, and obviously have a good mind; very incisive. Also noteworthy is your diverse interest in everything from architecture to practical physics.

                You seem somewhat mercurial, in terms of how you have adapted to your own life, if you know what I mean; and no doubt there are at least a few good years left in you!

                So now as retirement looms, and you find yourself with a different focus, what are your plans for the future? With your intellectual curiosity, I would have expected that you might want to take up something new and completely different; or to wish to travel and see more of the world.

                What will Robert Livingston have to share with the rest of us, ten years hence, from his experience and enjoyment of life?
                Last edited by Wet Coast Racer; 01-15-2008, 09:59 PM. Reason: This keyboard doesn't spell properly sometimes

                Comment


                • #9
                  My ambition is to build better and faster slot cars, and finish my model railroad.

                  I don't like traveling.

                  I don't really want to take up anything new, I just want to finish what I started. A lofty goal.

                  South staging yards, to be covered by the City of East New York, Brooklyn:


                  Tracks everywhere, in cuts, tunnels, and on embankments:
                  Last edited by Robert Livingston; 01-16-2008, 06:07 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Great hand at writing...

                    One of the things I like about SCI, other than all the slot wisdom and humor, is the possibility of "working" my English, which I learned more than 43 years ago and has been "kept" by reading thrash thrillers during all this time.

                    I must say that here at SCI there are some people who have trully mastered the art of writing and one of them is surely Dr. Livingston! His posts are very concise, precise, full of great info and almost always amusing. In other words, they're a real pleasure to read.

                    Now that I know a little more about him, I can see why: congrats Robert, you're doing a magnificent job here helping those who need it!!!

                    Cheers!
                    BigDog

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      When I first joined SCI and ran across some of RL's posts and the attention to scale and detail I thought it was over the top but I was a newbie. I since have come to respect that, it's pretty amazing actually....although I still don't see why it's wrong for an Austin Healey to be faster than a Porsche 956. Thanks for sharing the knowledge & all the help.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Slot car guys are generally a more well adjusted, nicer bunch of people than war gamers. You all can congratulate yourselves. I really mean that.
                        I can totally agree with that. When I recently found SCI and started reading and posting, I remember commenting to my wife how different things are in this forum compared to other industry forums. I participate in other forums that are in other industries - some are for business. Many are filled with the inability to compose a sentence, and in general there can be the lack of respect for anyone else participating. Every forum has its debated topics and sparks can fly now and again, but I must say that what I read on SCI impresses me in its content, willingness to share, structure of the text, and feeling of community. With the level of participation that Robert has proivided, I'm sure he's had a huge impact on that development and Robert, I definitely appreciate all your replies you've posted to help get us rolling this last Christmas.

                        -Shaun

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