Scalextric is a brand of slot cars, those little toy cars that race around a groove in a track. They were released in 1960 (You should check out some of the vintage Scalextric sets if you haven’t seen them!). So these improvements to Scalextric sets will probably work with most slot cars but just so you are aware they are focused and design for Scalextric.
Now I’m a big believer in you should measure before you improve and in this case it a fun too! So grab some track and build a simple course the cars can’t fly off at high speed. Grab to cars and get them to race around at the highest speed. If they don’t finish at the same time have a go though a few of your cars until you find two that do. That’s our baseline! So do the modifications below to only one car and one side of the track and see the difference.
Now before you go modifying anything make sure you aren’t messing with any Vintage Scalextric cars. These can bit worth quite a bit of money in their original form so don’t mess with them. Hell, send them to me and I’ll send you two new ones 😉
So let’s get Modifying! When thinking of how to improve performance in a Scalextric car it’s the same as what you would do to improve your own car, better motor, tires, roads etc. In fact if you know anything more about cars than I do (and that’s probably likely) then you probably have a few more suggestions that I do so please send them on but here’s some that you can try.
Let’s start with the car because that’s where you can get the biggest benefits. Let’s start with the best mod, a new motor. The motor that comes with you normal cars runs at X revolutions per minute (rpm’s from now on) but you can get motors of the same size that run at up to Y rpm. So you can take out your old motor and put a new one in. Of Course the fast your motor goes the fast your car!
The next thing you can do is improve the gears. Your normal car runs faster in 5th than 1st right? And so will your Scalextric car runs faster with different gears. Gears change one rpm at the engine to a different rpm at the wheels. Now you can’t be in the cars changing gears like your normal one so the so have one set installed. But you can pull them out and install a different set. If you’re old gears meant that one revolution of the motor turn the wheels twice and your new configuration means they turn four times then you’ve just doubled your car speed! Be careful though, your motor only has some much torque/ power so if you gear it to highly the motor will not be able to handle it and your car won’t make it up any slopes or worst yet not move at all. It may take a little experimentation to get it right for your motor.
So now you’ve ramped up your rpm but some of your power is wasted on friction. The only thing you want the motor to be doing is to be turning the wheels against the road (the bit where you want friction) but it also turns the axles and gears against their bearings, and you don’t want to waste power here. So you need to reduce the friction as much as possible. You can do this by installing better bearings, which works great but is a little hard to source. You can also add lubricant the existing bearings and gears to reduce the friction. Or better yet, do both!
Just as we tried to reduce the friction where we didn’t want it we want to try and add it where we do want it – the wheels. It’s not good getting you tires spinning twice as fast if they just skid on the track and your car doesn’t move forward. To improve this you can get high performance tires and swap them for the ones you have on. They grip the road better and make sure your rpms are turned into kpms aka speed. Also, normally included in the cars design so there’s not much you can do about it, but you can add fins etc that use the wind against the car to push the car tight to the track increasing performance again.
So now you have your car running pretty fast – probably as fast as you can practically make it go; now it’s time to look at the track. Like the tires on the cars you want a high amount of friction on the track so the combined grip of the tires and track make for a great grip, the highest friction possible and the no lost rpm’s. Scalextric has a new sports track out designed to do that but there is some DIY you can do on your own track. One simple thing you can do is make sure your track is clean and clear of dust. As you can imagine dust on the track is like driving in mud and your car will slide.
Once again you’ve added friction to the track, now you want to remove it from anything unnecessary. As the car run around the track it runs on a slot. That slot in most homes is a natural place for dust and debris to collect and the car has to push through it to make its way around the track and it loses speed doing that. So clean the slot of the track regularly. I adjusted one of my cars to do it for me, adjusted the gears so it went slowly with a lot of power and put some replaceable tissue around the post that goes into the slot. Then all I had to do was drive it around once or twice! The other place where you can get friction in the slot is the track joints. If joints are lose or don’t line up the car to bump a bit as it goes through and this slows it down too. Quite often the metal connector between the tracks bend a bit and creates a bit of a disjoint. Bend the metal back into place and make sure the connection is not loose.
Last and probably least, the power to your car comes through the track to your car. For the more speed you want more power so you want to make sure it is all making it to your car. So check the contacts are all clean and not loose so there are no gaps in the power supply.
Now comes the time to test again. Get the same cars on the track and race them again, improved Vs original. If you don’t notice a huge difference (then you have probably done something wrong 😉 )I’ll eat my pants.