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Are Ready-To-Race Cars Possible?

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  • Are Ready-To-Race Cars Possible?

    Let's just start by saying Ready-To-Race cars are desirable. And let's assume that a particular brand and type of RTR car could be raced as a class, with strict tech inspection limits. Basically only allowing part replacement by OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) part number.

    Is such a class possible? Yes, indeed it is. Will all the cars be equally competitive? These days, nope. And probably never completely equal. But I do believe we could get an awful lot closer. Close enough that it would be a fun and practical class to race. It all comes down to design and manufacture.

    If slotcars were approached as technical products instead of toys, uniform performance could be approached if not achieved.

    Slotcars are quite simple machines. Compared to technical products mass-produced for consumers and industry, their characteristics and tolerances are primitive.

    I am reminded of the technical challenges of Timex mechanical watches -- decades ago cheap, mass-produced, but remarkably accurate and reliable wristwatches. All the gears were stamped from sheet-metal, with all their teeth formed to tolerances measured in millionths of an inch. That accuracy was simply necessary, and at high production speeds and lowest possible cost.

    Timex worked it out and kept it up for decades making the go-to watch for ordinary folks. And they did it inexpensively. They were an early example of the principle that extreme precision isn't inherently expensive. It just requires really careful design in your tooling and processes and relentless attention to detail. If you are making hundreds of millions of parts that have to fit together precisely it is the only sensible way to run production.

    Do slotcar gears need to be spec'd to millionths of an inch? No. But they can be done better than they are today. No question. And probably for pennies each, not dollars.

    Then there are the slotcar chassis. Almost all made from injection-molded plastic. To sloppy tolerances that would be a scandal in most other industries -- medical, consumer electronics, automotive, aerospace.

    I am reminded of the receptacles for central processing chips used in the computer industry decades ago. Designed to accept chips with 40 or 60 leads spaced a few thousandths of an inch apart. Made from a plastic known as Ryton (I didn't name it!) that was so hard and stiff that if you dropped one it rang like a metal bell.

    Do we need that kind of high-performance plastic made to such microscopically-tight tolerances for our slotcar chassis? Probably not. But they can certainly be made better.

    Or we could simply go the route of 1/24th scale racing making chassis out of laser-cut steel plate. Designed in CAD and then sent straight to production with no investment at all in specialized tooling. Well, except for some cheap forming tooling for details that need to be bent.

    Wheels, tires, bearings, axles, guides -- all the parts can be made better. The technology exists. But toy manufacturers aren't going to use it if it adds pennies to their cost. Nor are they going to sweat the details of assembly. Lowest possible labor costs. And these days even China may be too expensive. There are a number of other countries trying to underbid China for that work.

    Why automate assembly when you can do it with cheap hand labor? Automation would ultimately be cheaper and higher quality if you are going to make tens of millions, but not worth the investment for a short run of toys.

    Is there a market for slotcars of high-enough quality that they can be raced as a class out-of-the-box? That is the real issue. The technology exists, and it does not have to be prohibitively expensive if a large enough market is there.

    We have actually come close. But we aren't there yet.

    Ed Bianchi

    PS - You don't think manufacturers care about a penny in added cost? I once worked at Detroit Diesel -- manufacturers of large industrial diesel engines. They had a problem with their engines blowing crankcase oil out through the crankcase vent stacks. The knew how to fix it. It would have cost five cents per engine to fix it. Management would not approve the fix. They would only approve changes that reduced the cost of their engines!

  • #2
    There really is no such thing, somebody will always find a way to work on a car, making faster it than those belonging to people who don't.

    Which is both how it should be, and good.
    Last edited by NicoRosberg.; 08-07-2021, 11:57 AM.


    • #3
      Spec single brand and make of car. Glue and true tires. Race.


      • #4
        Then somebody will buy 40 motors to find one killer.

        The tighter you make the rules the more expensive a class gets.


        • #5
          I wanna play with toys, not dental drills. Machines decorate these cars like no human can. Why automate when human is so cheap? Because machines can be made to do it better, faster, every time.


          • #6
            Raceable out of the box...if they come with glued/trued tyres front/rear, zero grip fronts, all parts deburred and clearances made, dead flat chassis, perfectly balanced, perfectly weighted to your preference...etc.

            ...raceable and ready to race aren't the same thing.


            • #7
              Are Ready-To-Race Cars Possible?
              Possible? It could probably be done. But it would require tremendous effort in terms of manufacturing the materials, and then assembling them by hand - automation is great for stuff like tampo printing, but they haven't made a machine yet that could assemble them as perfectly, as consistently, as a well paid, dedicated human being. Everything would have to be perfect, and identical.

              Why hasn't this been done by now? Oh, probably because there isn't any real demand in the market for slot cars that cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars - which is what they would have to retail for, in order to cover the cost of manufacture and production.

              I'm not the world's greatest slot car racer. Hell, one time in Port Angeles Slotbutton suggested that the race marshals should be issued with baseball mitts just so that they could catch my car and put it back on the track quickly so as to connect the straights for me ... I think he was joking ...

              But I'll tell you what. I can reassemble, and modify (within a rules set) a slot car as well as anybody. I once smoked Smokeio in the RAA with a Fly Porsche. One of my proudest moments was when Maurizio Ferrari drove a round of the Shootout in Chicago (where my Lancia placed 2nd in that series' final round) and gave me a nod of respect for how good that car was. (Can it be a coincidence that their Group C cars all started being manufactured with 16.5mm rear wheels after that - I think not.)

              The point being, most of us aren't made of money, so those 'Ready-To-Race Cars' would be about as feasible as ordering up a Slot Mods race track.

              But most of us have honed our skills, and learned how to take a 'child's toy' and make a decent race car out of it. Sure, it takes some engineering skills (which not everybody has), but we figure it out, and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes from taking that mass market car and getting the best out of it.


              • #8
                No one is going to pay the price of a properly race tuned car. They'll complain that it's too expensive, and had to work on it anyway, because it would only be race tuned for a particular type of track.

                If you want an out of the box, ready to race car, then you'll pay the top tuner at your club to take it out of the box and tune it, then put it back in so YOU can take it out and race it. If you're not willing to do that, then you're not willing to pay the cost of ready to race cars.


                • #9
                  I'd say for most of us making something go better is part of the hobby, where's the fun buying something to race that you've had no input into?


                  • #10
                    I agree, but we both know the hobby is stuffed with people who complain about racers who do that, wanting to restrict them 'for the good of the club' and to 'level the playing field'.

                    It is all tosh, just as 'ready to race' is.


                    • #11
                      If you want a level playing field run an IROC style race where everyone drives supplied cars that stay in their lanes.


                      • #12
                        Which will still not be level, since the way the cars behave will suit some more than others.

                        I think it is best just not to worry about it. To race cars, in any scale, will never entirely be about driving skill.


                        • #13
                          One of the lessons of modern engineering is that precision and quality don't have to be expensive. Take a look at a flat-screen TV. We are making TV's today that are gigantic by historical standards, with unimaginable precision, yet affordable enough that they're sold by mass-market retailers to ordinary people. Gadzillions of full-color pixels, and every one of them works!

                          Or ordinary automobiles, containing tens of thousands of parts with scads of auxiliary features, and more often than not everything works, Day 1.

                          Or your cell phone, with more on-board technology than a NASA moon rocket of the 1970's. Have you ever bought one that was defective?

                          What makes technical products cheap and reliable is decades of development driven by the demands of a large-volume market. If you look at the technology that the average person can afford, with high performance we all take for granted, it is staggering. What used to take a room-full of equipment can now be done by something that fits in your pocket.

                          So here we are, 60 years into slotcar evolution, with products that aren't much evolved from the earliest models. It is kind of amazing that a classic like the Aurora Thunderjet 500 is still a baseline technology, actively and enthusiastically raced more than a half-century later.

                          What I am proposing isn't a modern miracle. All I am talking about is refining the technology that has been with us since the beginning. Motors, gears, chassis, bearings, axles, wheels, guides. Done well enough that you can pick any finished car off the production line, put it on a piece of test equipment, and get predictable performance numbers that are within a percent or two of spec. That isn't asking for a miracle. That is asking for what modern production technology can crank out with mind-numbingly boring regularity every freaking day!

                          Most folks here may never have heard of six-sigma. As an engineer I got fed to the back teeth with it. At root, it is the concept that two or three defective parts in a million is a freakin' train wreck. But that is exactly right. In modern production you need those nose-bleed levels of quality to keep the production lines running. The bar has been raised that high, and every day folks are trying to raise it higher.

                          My apologies. Long, long rant wrapped around the idea that slotcars could be more consistent in quality and performance. I say could be. Maybe should be.

                          Ed Bianchi


                          • #14
                            I think some slot cars are within one or two percent, but in racing terms that is eons.

                            This is why none of your analogies work.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by HO RacePro View Post
                              At root, it is the concept that two or three defective parts in a million is a freakin' train wreck. But that is exactly right. In modern production you need those nose-bleed levels of quality to keep the production lines running. The bar has been raised that high, and every day folks are trying to raise it higher.
                              Our plastic toy slot cars aren't made by the million, some are made by the hundreds, some parts look like they're made on a manumold.

                              Let's say a manufacturer decided to 'go for it' cars that are properly ready to race but cost £150 each...count me out, I'll set it up myself.

                              Some people just aren't happy with what there is, I've never bought a car and thought I'd been ripped off, TBPH compared to R/C cars and equipment our Slot cars and equipment are a ripoff, obviously it's due to economies of scale and the sad fact is our hobby is small potatoes.


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