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July 27, 2023

Long Before the Popularity of Car Racing Video Games, Slot Car Racing Was a Popular Fad in the 1960s

Slot car racing was born in the early 1900s, but the hobby languished until the 1950s, when English entrepreneurs began to build electrified tracks and controllable scale-model cars to race on them.

The new system spread to America. By the mid-1960s, there were more than 3,000 public race tracks in the U.S. Manufacturers Scalextric, Revell, Aurora, Carrera and Tyco were together selling $500 million worth of cars and equipment a year.

Kids began frequenting tracks where, for only a few dollars, they could spend hours racing with their pals. As the fad peaked and then waned, slot car businesses found themselves unable to turn a profit charging teenagers small amounts of money to use their large tracks.

By the early 1970s, slot car centers — like the once-prevalent ice-skating rinks, bowling alleys, pool halls and miniature golf courses that also required a large real estate footprint — were folding. Fewer than 200 tracks were still in business by 1975, and gradually most of those closed, too.

1 comment:

  1. We had one of these businesses in my town during the 1960s. It was a popular place for youngsters but I could only afford the crummy track for racing. The cost of renting and racing cars on nice tracks was too much money for a kid with limited resources.

    The business closed sometime around 1970 after the proprietor was arrested for immoral behavior with minors (yep, that kind of behavior). That news made me glad I couldn't afford to spend much time there.




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