If you have not had much experience with slot cars or it was more than a few years since you last raced them in your younger years, it can be confusing working out what to buy to get started. My aim is to provide an overview of these cars to help you in choosing the slot car set that is right for you.
There are two types of slot cars, there is the analog cars and the new digital ones. The traditional or analog slot cars are those that you might remember from your younger days. This is where it was one car per slot and the car had to stay in that slot for the whole race.
With digital sets another dimension has been added to the racing action. You can race more than one car per slot and change lanes, make passing moves or blocking moves, program in pits tops, ghost cars, yellow flags etc. This is much more like the real motor sport. There are sets where you can race 8 cars at the same time on a 2 lane slot car set. They are more expensive than the analog sets.
Digital cars can some times work on analog sets but analog cars will not work on digital sets with out a digital plug upgrade.
Slot cars also come in different sizes. The smallest size is HO or 1:64 scale. Originally they were made for inclusion with model railways but now these little cars are very fast and have some amazing track layouts. The next size up is 1:43 scale and is designed for the younger racer with many fun features and character cars. The 1:32 scale is a popular size car for racing at home and there is a wide selection of sets. The biggest size car is in the 1:24 and is commonly found racing at slot car raceway clubs.
Cars from different scale will not work well on tracks of a different scale as they are designed to work on the same scale track (except for Carrera has 1:32 scale cars that race on 1:24 scale track).
Slot cars of the same scale from different manufacturers can race on the same scale track. However, tracks of the same scale from different manufacturers will only go together by using a special adapter track piece, that can be bought separately.
There are a number of different manufactures. The most popular ones are Scalextric, Carrera, AFX, Life Like, Revell and SCX. Sets for these makes are available from hobby stores, large dept stores and from online shopping sites including Amazon and eBay. Scalextric, Carrera and SCX have the widest range of cars including analog and digital sets.
One of the areas of slot car racing that can be frustrating to someone new to the hobby is that the cars will come off the track if they are driven too fast around the curves or too slow through some of the obstacles. This is something most people get the hang of pretty quickly.
To help with keeping the cars in the manufacturers have added traction magnets to the car to exert downward force thereby allowing cars to stay on the track at faster speeds. This also allows the cars to make vertical climbs and do a loop the loop.
For the younger beginners and those without much space the Carrera Go range will make a good place to get started. There is an interesting selection of cars and being 1:43 scale you can fit a lot of action into a relatively small area. They are an analog slot car set and this helps to keep the cost more affordable.