Slot car racing is a hobby that began decades ago and has recently seen a surge in popularity.

Slot car racing is a hobby that began decades ago and has recently seen a surge in popularity.

Photo provided by Mike Stott


Slot car racing remains an enjoyable pastime

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published August 21, 2019

METRO DETROIT — Despite all the advances in technology and the numerous options people have for entertainment, some hobbies never completely fade away.

For some, one of those hobbies is slot car racing, which occurs when people come together to race miniature, electrically operated toy cars on a slotted track.

Mike Stott is the co-owner of Cloverleaf Racing in Highland Township, and there are races held at his retail store on a weekly basis.

There are four lanes on the track at Cloverleaf, which means that four people can race at a time via a hand-held device.

Aside from kids being allowed to participate, Stott said a lot of the clientele at Cloverleaf are in their late 50s and early 60s.

“A lot (of) people like the nostalgia, for one thing,” Stott said. “I grew up with local kids and my dad playing with the cars in our basement. That’s a lot of it.”

Aside from nostalgia, there are other reasons for slot car racing’s appeal.

“You can’t afford to own a Ferrari, but you can buy a slot car that is a Ferrari,” Stott said. “And there’s always a competition. I don’t care how old the kid is, or the adult, (the) first thing they (want to) do is put it on and race. … The racing aspect is a big part of it, I think.”

The winning car is the one that goes the most laps within a given time frame.

Although the races can get competitive, Cloverleaf employee David Wickham hasn’t observed many people getting out of hand at the store.

“We don’t race for prize or money,” Wickham said. “It’s a pretty friendly competition. … Most of the people, they want somebody to be as fast as them so that they can drive even faster.”

Dalton Rhodes is an employee at Nankin Hobby in Farmington, where slot cars are sold. Although there are no longer slot car races held there, he recalled that there were “crazy fast times.”

“You see a blur going around the track; you physically cannot see the car,” Rhodes said.

While some have to pay out a lot of money in order to indulge their hobbies, that doesn’t have to be the case with slot car racing.

“They’re not (going to) cost you any more than a hundred bucks to get a top-quality race slot car,” Rhodes said. “But even then, a lot of the fast cars, they start at around ($40), so you can get into the hobby for decently cheap, in comparison to like the RC cars and real cars, even. So that’s a big attraction, is being able (to) be competitive in racing, being able to tune and all that at a lower cost than things that are bigger.”

Those who haven’t participated in slot car racing in a while may enjoy what a current race on the track can look like.

“Most people don’t know that they can switch tracks now,” Rhodes said. “You can actually run like five cars in one lane if you want to, where back in the day if you had more than one car in a lane, they were all powered by one controller. … You can switch lanes, actually cut people off and block them from passing you, which is a pretty cool thing that they’ve added.”

Aside from all the fun that can be had with slot car racing, it’s a hobby that can also provide an education.

“It’s a great hobby,” Stott said. “And as opposed to video games or something, you can actually learn a lot about mechanical things; how things get put together. There is some electrical. You’re much more interactive.”

People who may have thought that slot car racing was a thing of the past will be in for a pleasant surprise.

“I wish more people knew about it,” Stott said. “It surprises me when people come into the store (and) go, ‘I didn’t even know they were still doing this.’ … It kind (of) died off in the late ’60s, early ’70s, and then came back.”

That comeback is one that pleases Stott.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “We actually get a lot (of) kids coming in. Their parents or grandparents bring (them) in. I’ve got 16, 17-year-old kids. They’re coming in (and) they’re actually enjoying it. They remind me why I do it, and they remind me of myself too.”