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  • Slotcar Sales Volume

    A vital bit of information missing from another thread, about improving slotcars, is just how big a market the slotcar industry is.

    It is obviously big enough to support a toy segment, plus a enthusiast hobby segment, and a fair number of specialist supply companies for serious (fanatical?) racers. On top of that there are what I call "cottage industries", which are basically sole proprietor efforts done more as a hobby than a full-time pay-the-rent-and-groceries business.

    (I fall into that last category. My 'HO RacePro North America' company is a hobby business in two senses of the word. In my best year I had about US$10,000 in sales. Pretty small even by cottage industry standards. Fortunately that income wasn't what kept a roof over my head. I do it because I want to, and it helps pay for my slotting addiction.)

    All of those companies have historically made enough money to keep slotcars in commercial production. But maybe just barely. Aurora Plastics may have been the last company to really do well in the business, and not for all that long.

    As I understand it Alan Smith, who sponsors this website and forum, spent quite a few years working for Scalextric, which has a long history of survival if not success in producing slotcars. It would be nice if he could shed some light on how big the numbers were back when he had access to them.

    There may be others on SCI who have had personal experience in the business end of the hobby. Again, a few numbers might help us understand just how big the industry is.

    Why would I want to know that? Oh, just idle curiosity. Really. Nothing to see here...

    Ed Bianchi


  • #2

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    • #3
      Originally posted by HO RacePro View Post
      Really. Nothing to see here...

      Ed Bianchi

      Good one.

      Now you have some actual numbers do you still stand by your premise in this thread ?

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      • #4
        Many thanks Mr. Flippant for posting that video. It is good to hear some actual numbers.

        My take-away, however, is the short production runs are for particular bodies, and their chassis. The actual running gear, I have to assume, is common to many of those short production runs. Perhaps hundreds.

        Not an especially current example, but while Aurora may have made hundreds of different bodies in short production runs, the Thunderjet chassis common to all of them were made in huge numbers over quite a few years and many production runs.

        The current slotcar industry, apparently, makes bodies and chassis in what are known as "soft molds", designed to be run for one day (!!!) and then disposed of. There is no point in producing a "hard mold", good for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of parts if you won't even run two thousand parts. Hard molds are expensive. They are more expensive to design and more expensive to produce. They are usually designed to be refurbished so you can get even more parts out of them. You can only justify the cost of a hard mold if you are going to run it all year and turn out a warehouse full of parts.

        Soft, disposable molds helps explain why slotcar chassis tend to warp. Not only do the molds wear, but you have to do best-guess design for their cooling. Plastic injection molds are cooled by water passages incorporated into the mold. If the cooling isn't even, the finished part will warp.

        How you inject the molten plastic into the mold matters too. The process of squirting hot plastic through "gates" into the mold cavity adds heat, and how that heat gets added matters. Fact is, if you try to fill the mold too fast you can actually burn the plastic -- it isn't far off of how a diesel engine ignites its fuel.

        A molding shop is always motivated to run everything as fast as possible while still getting parts that can be used. Not perfect. Usable.

        It all comes down to trying to do everything fast and cheap. You take your best shot and hope it works.

        Okay, that is all about bodies and chassis.

        As for running gear, that is a whole other issue. Parts that get used under many different bodies have a different set of motivations and economics. You want to invest more time and money in the tooling because it is going to be with you for years. Now you think about hard molds. Now you worry about ergonomics and the automation/labor trade-off. Now you sweat the design details so the parts can be used under as many different bodies as possible.

        Are the SlotIt motor pods molded in hard tooling? Count on it. Wheels? Hmmm... well the front wheels maybe, if they are not specific to any one body. Gears? Yessiree Bob.

        So, we have learned something about bodies and chassis. Not much about the rest. Interesting though...

        Ed Bianchi






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        • #5
          The pictures that I have seen of tooling for modern slot car bodies show the "hard mold" sort. The problem with most 1/32nd slot cars is that the chassis, interior and wheels are not shared between different cars. The makers like to do cars like the Porsche 956/962 because those were raced with many different liveries. I suspect that the chassis are sometimes warped because they were ejected from the mold before they had cooled enough. If a chassis is cooled too quickly it might have stresses that cause it to develop a warp later on.

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          • #6
            I'm not sure what the manufacturing method for a given part has to do with the volume of sales or how the car is assembled. Obviously, if you start with crappy parts you're going to end up with a crappy car, but just because you start with great parts doesn't mean you will have a great car unless the assembly and testing make sure of that.

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            • #7
              Our scale racing model cars can't have standard chassis. Even standard motor pods are tricky, because some cars just can't take some kinds of motors. The whole point of a motor pod isn't for better performance, it's for modularity, so that companies CAN make larger numbers of those standard parts.

              But let's throw all that bickering away for a sec... let's say a company DID invest all the time and money into making a precision engineered, RACE ready (not ready to run, but ready to RACE) car, out of the box. They designed and built all the fancy tools to make sure every single car off the line was precisely tuned to race. Properly lubed, properly "run in" motors and gears with the proper mesh. Everything straight and set up. Flex in the right places, stiff in the other places... All the stuff the pros do to their cars to win with.

              On Ninco track with traction magnets and N18 tires.

              Oh wait... I don't run on Ninco, or with traction magnets, or with those tires.

              Point = moot.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by MrFlippant View Post
                ...Oh wait... I don't run on Ninco, or with traction magnets, or with those tires.

                Point = moot.
                Then there's non magnetic tracks, bumpy Rally tracks, digital cars, tracks covered in goop, tracks covered in flour, drag racing etc. etc. etc....then in different scales, HO, 1/43, 1/32, 1/24

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                • #9
                  On the BRM website it says they have sold 100000+ model cars since 2007 that they sold 3000+ Mini Cooper "Gulf Edition" 1/24 cars and 10000+ Porsche 962 1/24 cars.

                  I know that some Scalextric runs are Ltd Editions of 1500 and some where Ltd Editions of 6000. Some of BRM 1/24 cars often came in runs of only 250. I bought a Revoslot twin pack of Porsche GT1 and it is 16 of 200 - they also sell the same cars as single packs I don't know how many of them they make - maybe 1000 of each???

                  cheers
                  David

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                  • #10
                    Don't forget that BRM is a model company - not just a slot car company. Did they break down how many cars sold are actual slot cars?

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                    • #11
                      Well, if they're model cars, aren't they just waiting to be turned into actual slot cars?

                      Heck, some guys have done this with die-casts ...

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                      • #12
                        My Wingmaster Sprints are converted die-cast models. And I once developed a chassis to convert Hot Wheels cars to slotting. Not hard to do, and kinda fun if you run them against each other. Not as fast as made-for-racing slotcars. Top heavy. High-energy crashes!

                        The Hot Wheels conversion chassis used the boxy open-frame Mabuchi motors common to Tomy Turbo chassis and the like. Brass angle was used for the frame. Simple inline design. Not particularly challenging to build.

                        Ed Bianchi

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