Slot cars are miniature replicas of vehicles that are constructed to scale. The cars are used in racing competitions that involve a specialized track that is equipped with a groove or slot. Along with the detailed look of the slot cars, the design includes a small blade on the underside of the vehicle that fits into the groove and keeps the car on course as the car races around the track.
Slot cars made their first appearance in the early 20th century and quickly became popular with both children and adults. The earliest designs relied on a raised rail embedded in the track, and did not include the ability to adjust the speed of each vehicle. Some work was done in the 1930’s to build slot cars that were powered by small internal combustion engines. Over time, this method was replaced by the use of electrical current. By the 1950’s, the tracks were refined to feature a groove instead of the raised track and the flow of current through the groove made it possible to adjust the speed by using a hand-held controller for each car in use. These refinements made it possible for several people to enjoy slot car racing on the same track.
As slot cars became more sophisticated, the popularity of slot car racing became more popular. Clubs of slot car racers began to spring up in both the United Kingdom and the United States. A number of sports and toy manufacturers began to offer slot car sets, complete with a set of cars and sections of track that could be enhanced with add-on kits. During the 1960’s, the slot car racer had a wide range of cars and track configurations to work with. For the serious racer, it was possible to construct an intricate track that would easily take up a surface larger than the average dining room table.
By the end of the 1970’s, the popularity of slot cars had begun to wane. However, the sport has continued to have a core group of avid supporters. Today, slot cars have continued to evolve, with the creation of wireless control systems that rely on digital technology to operate the cars. Computer technology has also led to slot cars that are more detailed than the cars of a few decades ago, with many slot cars featuring working components that were not formerly part of the original cast iron design.