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John Bamonte’s Slot Car Blog

 

SEPTEMBER 4, 2012

A New Slot Car Season

September is here and along with it a new slot car season.  I am doing my best to get back to the workbench for preparation and a bit of of catch-up.  Seems like I have projects galore in the queue, not to mention the upcoming racing classes to look after.  Family and business “distractions” seem greater than ever though.

This season the club is starting fresh with three diverse racing venues and a more varied mix of racing classes.  All four racing circuits – if one includes my oval – are quite varied in both size and configuration. Featured in the mix are two TKO and two Bowman creations.  Maybe the Wizzard drag strip will also see a little action this season.  With three venues hosting a total of nine race events it should be a win-win all around.

The issue of racing chassis classes is always a sharp point of discussion.  Too many and they become difficult to manage, too few and a lot of fun cars are missed.  In general our group prefers a diverse mix.  In the mix should be something for both the beginner and casual racer who want to just pick up a car and go, and something for the builder/tinkerer.  I hear it on both sides, as I am sure is true for most of the local clubs around the country.  On the positive side a majority of our classes are of the pick-up and go variety with only one true builder’s class, represented by a 2-1 ratio at each race event.  And of course the body themes are ever popular and provide a cool on-track look to the races.

Hopefully the club members who have read this far are committed to a fun and enjoyable slot car season.  The club get-togethers have been marked in the family calendar, right?  And hopefully I am not the only one starting to putter around the workbench.

 

JANUARY 6, 2012

Tuff Ones Class for T-jet Racing

Tom Ficarri and I have often lamented over the lost opportunity for super stock T-jet racing to be based on the Tuff Ones chassis width and rear slip-on silicone tires.  Arguably the cars would look a little better but still have a wider stance and good handling, and the rear slip-on tires would work at keeping the handling a bit more realistic and challenging and the long-term costs down.

Fun speculation only.  It was inevitable that the top levels of super stock T-jet racing – Fray in the west and VHORS then ECHORR in the east – would evolve to the 1/64th scale width and silicone sponge tires on the rear.  After all, this style of t-jet racing is based on taking the car to the limit – sort of the Formula 1 of T-jet racing.

Still, not everyone is attracted to Fray and ECHORR style super stock T-jet racing, and I suspect many of the ‘rank and file’ slot car enthusiasts in local areas around the country would prefer a simpler option that doesn’t require the time commitment, building skill, parts sorting and overall expense that is required to be competitive.

The Thunderjet Racing Association of Central Kentucky (TRACK) is one such club, and the group even found many of its racers drifting away because of it.  The club was resurrected – and quite successfully – by shifting gears a bit and developing a simpler super stock T-jet racing class based around the Tuff Ones chassis width of 1-3/16” and rear slip-on silicone tires.

Without getting into the specifics, there is enough latitude in the TRACK “Tuffy” rules to satisfy both the builder/tinkerer and the more casual racer, keep the expense low, and still permit a relatively level competitive environment.  Plus the cars are lots of fun to drive.  The “Tuffy” as a super stock T-jet class combined with a more traditional stock T-jet class has proved to be a real winner with their group, and TRACK seems to be stronger and having more fun than ever.

The point is there are alternatives.  I suspect there are scores of local clubs and small groups around the country that are never heard about on the traditional HO slot car message boards, and it is likely many are having fun with a variety different styles of HO racing.  There are many possibilities out there for local clubs to enjoy HO slot car racing.  A good approach is to be fully aware of the national rules and trends but adapt what your local group desires. 

 

DECEMBER 22, 2011

The State of the G-Jet

It is no secret I am a big fan of the BSRT G-Jet.  The G-Jet is a thoroughly modern and contemporary HO slot car featuring no traction magnets, brass weights, a 9-ohm motor designed to have low current windings, and realistic speeds and handling.  The car is easy to drive, reliable, easy to maintain, and levels the playing field for any skill level of HO slot racer.

The G-jet was introduced in 2006 and since then has gone through three evolutionary changes.  These changes involve the magnets, the rear tires, and the front weight.  The change in chassis from the G3 to G3R is not counted since the performance between the two is identical with regards to a G-Jet.  The chassis change only affects the so-called magnet cars since the little shelf on the traction magnet keeps the G3R square without causing flexing of the chassis.  The G-Jet does use traction magnets.

Below are descriptions of and the reasoning behind each of the three major changes.  As you will likely take away from this essay, the G-Jet is now more in line with the type of slot car it was intended to be and solidly positioned for the future.  Credit for this information goes to John Stezelecki, an avid G-Jet racer from New England.

The first change that has an effect on the G-Jet would be the magnets.  This was done as a cost factor and an equalizer.  Ceramic magnet technology reached its peak in the late 1980s.  It is dinosaur technology that is very expensive to produce and cut.  They are not molded, so every magnet is hand machined which results in varying sizes and strengths.  Very few companies make ceramic magnets any longer.  BSRT was buying the motor magnets from the same factory in China as Tomy.  The quality was very poor the past ten years.  Actually they were so poor that almost a third would not meet BSRT gauss reading standards and many of the cuts were tilted and not straight.  These magnets were set aside in boxes that are still on BSRT shelves.  The other issue was the strength.  Magnet strength was all over the place.  Some people got good ones and others got so so ones, and a few got great ones.  This issue had a great effect on performance of a car.  The new C4 polymer ceramic grade magnets are almost as good as the very best ceramic magnets ever made by Tomy in the early 1990s.  The best ceramic magnets were made in Japan for a very short time.  The cars were packaged in Japanese printing for the Japanese market and were called the EX Tomy cars.  The magnets were all fantastic but the top 10% were incredible.

The problem faced today with the G-Jet and all ceramic magnets cars is that racers are up against those who purchase many magnets and spend a fortune looking for the perfect set.  Expensive gauss meters pick up the high gauss reading as well. Custom made ceramic magnets have been filtering into the hobby for years.  A racer can actually go to a magnet company and have them cut a pair of motor or traction magnets that will have not only have a high reading but also have many high readings throughout the entire magnet.  You can even have them oriented the way you want.  This issue has been going on since the first T-jet came off the assembly line.

To stop the ceramic magnet issue, BSRT spent thousands of dollars with the premier bonded magnet manufacturer in the US to make a ceramic grade injected molded magnet.  These magnets are far superior in strength to the Tomy magnets of the past ten years.  They are equal to 90% of the EX Tomy magnets but not as strong as the top 10%.  They are injected molded so all magnets are exactly the same.  Magnet strength varies only by 5-8 points on a high quality bench gauss meter.  We finally have a high quality ceramic grade magnet that cannot be copied and most importantly equal for all.  The most current G-Jet rules sets eliminate the ceramic magnets, and thus anyone with the EX magnets or custom made ceramic magnets would not have an advantage.  In order to create an equal atmosphere so that everyone can compete equally clubs are encouraged to adopt the new and updated G-Jet rules, including a switch to the new magnets.

The second change is the move to a slip-on silicone tire. Like the magnet change this should also reduce costs in the long run as well as equalize the cars.  Plus the car will be slightly slower and thus more realistic.  A little history. The original G-Jet was designed to have the slip-on tire. The problem was that all existing slip-on tires when molded can vary up to .010.  Therefore BSRT went to the more expensive AST.  However, AST tires also have a problem with consistent size: over time they have been shown blow up or increase in size due to humidity.  Recently, a company was able to use industrial strength silicone and injection mold it.  This opened the door for BSRT to make an injected molded silicone tire which will be the same size every time it is molded.  This may be the only company presently making an injected molded silicone tire.  These tires have shown minimal wear and may well last forever.  Now that silicone tires can be made perfectly round, consistent in size, durable, and inexpensive this may be the tire of the future for HO slot cars.

The last change is the front weight. The original G-Jet had a heavier brass handling plate. The new lighter weight was designed to complement the rear slip-ons, still allowing spin outs, 180s and 360s but not as severe as with the original heavier weight mated with slip-ons. The heavier weight can still be used but must be used by all racers to keep it equal.  This lighter weight is also used on the F1 G-Jet as this car also uses rear slip-ons, and so that the front axle will fit over the weight. This allows the front axle hole to be used which makes the F1 G-Jet look more realistic.

There are no other changes coming to the G-Jet aside from a new body clip being developed for hard body racing. If you like hard body racing, you’re going to love the new body clip.

One last note.  A few clubs have noticed the G-Jet exhibits lots of downforce on the TKO and MaxTrax tracks.  It is suggested that with these type tracks the power be increased from 12 volts to 12.6, but no higher than 14 volts.

Parts needed to update an original G-Jet:
#290 – G-Jet C4 Ceramic-Grade Motor Magnets (pair) $10
#888 – G-Jet .032″ Brass Handling Plate (each) $4
#879 – G-Jet Double-Flange Rear Rims (pair) $4
#880 – G-Jet Black Injection-Molded Silicone Rear Tires (pair) $6

References
1. Correspondence with John Stezelecki
2. BSRT G-Jet web page: http://scaleauto.com/bsrt/gjet_car.htm

 

DECEMBER 16, 2011

2011 in the Western Pennsylvania Slot Car Club

For my first slot car blog essay I decided to reflect on 2011 in the Western Pennsylvania Slot Car Club.  And what a year it has been, filled with highs and lows.  By all rights there should be nothing to reflect on, just getting together to have fun with the slot car hobby and without all the drama.  A goal for the future indeed!

The year started off on a good note, with a fun and well attended race event in January at Treesdale Motorplex.  There had been a reconciliation of sorts with the other T-jet oriented club in the region, with an agreement that members could attend each club’s races.  The day was spoiled though when a number of expensive super stock T-jet chassis turned up missing, and it was all the worse that the cars belonged to the two young boys in our club.

During the winter and early spring a handful of us completed work on the Asylum, turning the old garage into a top notch HO slot car racing facility with four tracks and one more on the way.  This was a high point of sorts for the club with great promise for the future.

During the approach to the annual Boneshaker weekend race event in April a blow-up occurred related to the previous missing super stock cars, leading to an end to the previous reconciliation between the two clubs.  This was followed on race day by a dust-up over the post-race technical inspection involving several club members and out-of-town guests.  All in all it was a trying weekend indeed.

Things settled down in May with a fun race night at the Asylum, and the club settled into the summer.  I hosted my annual summer get-together at Treesdale Motorplex in July featuring stock T-jet convertibles.  We enjoyed a cookout dinner under the tent and talked for a long while about the club and the future.  It was an excellent time and the future of the club looked bright.

Then a disagreement within the club in late summer led to a few members stepping away from it all, and at least temporary loss of the Asylum and Boneshaker as race venues.  Plus the heater in the Asylum has been non-functional limiting its use during the traditional fall and winter slot car season.

A positive in the late fall was one of our newest members ramping up his interest and ordering a new TKO race track for his home.  And his place is perfect for low-key and fun club races and get-togethers.

So among all the positives, a clustering of negative events in the winter, spring and summer of 2011 led the club into the fall slot car season with less active members, only one home race venue, and a reduced schedule.  Temporary lull, evolving once again or downward spiral?

On the positive side of the ledger, long experience has convinced me the club has, albeit small, a good core group who take pleasure in the many facets of the slot car hobby and who enjoy getting together, enjoy each other’s company, and enjoy sharing the hobby together.  And so the club presses on.  Hopefully to a calmer, more peaceful and fun laced 2012.

 

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