In contrast, Russ’s other two Minis run compact Italian motors, one of them capable of spinning up to 22,500rpm and developing 230g/cm of torque, and the other 25,000rpm and 240g/cm. A third one in Russ’s ‘pit garage’ can also spin to 22,500rpm but develops an almost uncontrollable 430g/cm of torque.
Another difference between his modified racers and the Scalextric car is the size of the crown wheel, or diff, which has 24 teeth. Also larger and longer is the pick-up guide that slots into the track. This is because, unlike Scalextric cars and the plastic track they use, the club’s slot racers and wooden track are non-magnetic, while the cars themselves weigh just 90g. Like real racers, their tyres also play a crucial role in keeping the car pinned to the track, while the absence of magnets allows expert racers to drift their cars around the corners.
The undersides of the modified Scalextric cars are extremely well finished. Snug in the centre of each is the motor with not a single wire on show. This is the work of Angelo Amato, another club member. By day he’s a whizz in computer-aided design, but as the sun falls he brings out his 3D printer…
“The guys give me their Scalextric car shells and I design and print a chassis to fit the original mountings, as well as accommodate the new motor and running gear,” he says. “Each one takes up to two hours to print. We’re one of the few clubs with the ability to do this.”
Russ breaks off preparing his Mini for the next race (he’s been sanding the rubber tyres on a lathe to make them perfectly round, before smearing them with a little 3-In-One oil to soften them) to explain just how good Angelo’s printed chassis are.
“You want a stiff chassis but with some float in the motor pod, which is our term for the power and drivetrains,” he says. “You need it because there’s no suspension so what little movement there is allows the wheels to remain in contact with the track as the car moves about.”
Not that Angelo has a monopoly on chassis designs. Other classes of slot-car racers, such as pre-war, have piano wire or brass chassis. Russ picks up an exquisite Mercedes W154 racer and turns it over to show me its chassis, lovingly crafted from lengths of piano wire. The club runs support races featuring it and other cars. One member tells me how he has a model of Stirling Moss at the wheel of his racer, but in a manner that suggests the border separating fantasy from reality is becoming blurred…