What HO Race System Is For Me?

I am asked the question: "What Track System is BEST?" quite often. Tough question to answer straight away, but let's sort through some things. First an approximate chronology of Track Systems in the United States: 1960-1970 Aurora Lock & Joiner. Adapter to AFX Quick-Click System available.

1963-1970 TYCO-S Click Track. Adaptable to TYCO Slide-Lock.

1963-1972~ Atlas, Bachman, Faller, Lionel, Minic, Rotofast & Various Others Dabbled in HO Scale Racing.

1971-1997 TYCO Slide-Lock Fits with Current Mattel Track.

1972-1984 AFX Quick-Click Track. Will Adapt to TOMY with adapter track

1986-Current TOMY Inc Releases a NEW Scissor-Lock Track System called TOMY AFX (www.toyracecars.com)

1988-1995 Marchon & subsequent Empire Adaptable to Micro-Scalextric (www.scalextric.com)

1993-Current LIFE-LIKE, Rokar, AmRac, Galoob & Cox. All Track Systems are compatible & Adaptable (www.walthers.com)

1997-Current Mattel Inc. Purchases & Releases a TYCO Compatible Mattel HO Track. Adapts to Several HO Rcae Track Systems.

1998-Current Model Motoring Inc. Releases a Lock & Joiner Style track (www.model-motoring.com)

2007-Current auto world inc. Releases a ALL NEW HO TRACK CONNECTION SYSTEM (www.autoworldslotcars.com)

CLASSIC: 1960's Aurora Lock & Loiner is dear to the hearts of many traditionalists. This IS the system that started it all. Very true to life with dotted center-lines, Railroad Crossings & even Functioning 4-Way Traffic Lights! Phenomenal! But at a price; The Lock & Joiner system relied on every 1/16 inch piece of metal tab directly contacting every Other 1/16 inch metal tab to conduct electricity effectively. There are 4 tabs on each track, 8 to a make one connection of track. multiplied over 50 pieces of track, the chance for non-optimal electric connections was probable. Add humidity, rust & the change of seasons expansion & contractions, getting an older track to run well, is truly a Labor of Love. Probably still my favorite system, but you really have to, Want To use it. Distributing power to multiple track locations is key to running a smooth system. Screwing down the track to a 3/4" Plywood surface also helps a great deal. Adding track repair clips underneath each track section from the on-set, also helped Smooth out the system. Following an iffy-conection-system with another, worse one, Aurora released the AF/X Quick-Loc System in the early 1970's. Again, Traditionalists love it, While Racers Absolutely Adore The Deep Grooved Track, idealy suited to high speed racing. Trouble was doubled though, as Aurora did not improve the connection-tab-issue as well as adding Plastic Connection Tabs which easily broke. It is no wonder, Aurora gave you free track repair clips with nearly every set they sold! & Again, a Fun Track System, but frought with pitfalls for the casual racer or hobbyist. Once up & running though, the AFX Track System offered a nearly unlimited selection of track sections from banked hairpin turns, to pre-formed S-Curves and just about everything in between. Vintage track adapters are also around to adapt from the Thunderjet era, Lock-and-Joiner system to the AFX Quick-Loc track system.

VALUE: TYCO Made a Really lousy system in the 1960's, which was very similar to the later AFX Quick-Loc system, but followed in the 1970's with their radically different, slide-to-connect method of track connection. Out was the 1/16 inch metal tab, & in was a 1 inch 'slider' connection, which made good, dependable, electrical connections. TYCO-Mattel has been the same race surface since the early 1970's until present day. Garage Sales & Flea Markets tend to be a hotbed for finding old TYCO Slot Car Race Sets; Mostly found These Days, WithOut Vehicles :(! They also released the US-1 Trucking System in the early 1980's that is very sought after today. Very neat gray track with forward, reverse, & Many operating functions such as an Airport & Bulldozing accessories! Best of all, it all still fits with the newer Mattel/TYCO released track systems of today. Although the two systems from TYCO & later Mattel are not identical, they still match up, & interchange, just fine. The combination of all the vintage accessories, coupled with new releases from Mattel make the TYCO system an obvious choice when budget or basement dictate. Overall a very dependable system to set up permanently, or even just a weekend.

TOP NOTCH: Short of ordering a custom Routered Track System, TOMY makes the best overall, HO Scale, Electric Race Systems. They are also among the priciest & until this year, the least available. Great track lock system though. A Scissor like connection, make this track, By Far, The Easiest to Set up, Race or Take Down. 2006 is scheduled to usher in a new HO Track Competitor in the market. The AutoWorld brand of race sets will connect directly with TOMY. Cool.

ALTERNATIVE: LIFE-LIKE Racing Systems have been an up & comer for a decade now. They remain near the forefront of HO Racing Technology. Their cars Dependability, Speed & Handling are second to none. They also tend to be on the bleeding edge of specialized releases such as Super Modifieds, Authorized Current NASCARs & even SkateBoards with Forward & Reverse! Their Track System, while not the optimal at making easy connections, has some of the best specioalized features around. Jumps, Loops, 3' Tall SKY Loops, Double Loops, Banked Turns & other special track pieces make for a real fun racing experience. Their Hobby Quality Track, Cars & Accessories are really well done in the fit & finish area.

& Then They ROUTERED! The king of HO Slot Car Racing is a routered race track. a routered track starts with a smooth surface. Anything from masonite to stainless steel (!!) have been used. add a CNC machine or a really good jig & a race track is born! Making it superior to any other HO racing surface is two things, Smoothness & Power distribution. both are nearly perfect. Add to it the ability to use the Surface-As-Rail, as in a stainless or aluminum track, & Finally, you will Never wear out another pair of pickups! Because the entire flat surface becomes 'hot', no rail as we know it is needed! Wow. Cool. God Bless America! I Love This Country! A typical 4-Lane 40' Routered 4'x8' track will set you back a couple $K new.. Great deals are available used all the time; as long as a good road-trip is possible!

& Then there were adapters. we used to mock up competitors afx to tyco adapters, because we had a bunch of both & wanted to use it all! Today you can widely buy adapters from TYCO to TOMY or AFX to Tyco or TOMY to Life-Like or even Life-Like to AFX! Generally most of the newer style adapters are about $5 each. Rememeber you need at least Two adapters to go back And forth. Also available on the used-market are the ThunderJet Style, Lock & Joiner System to the later AFX Quick-Clik system track adapters. Expect to pay $10 or more for a clean piece of vintage adapter track.

Adapters allow you to mix & match your track selections. Also, if you have a closet fulll of your old vintage stuff, it's great to drag it out & integrate it with all the new tracks & vehicles. TYCO/ Mattel, TOMY or Life-Like; Vintage to modern day; Few Hobbies allow you to combine so many competing systems over so many decades, like Electric HO Slot Car Racing! It is in a Class by itself!

Whatever system you choose, HO Scale Electric Racing is the perfect hobby for the entire family. In addition to many hours of competitive fun, Slot Cars offer a myriad of educational opportunities in engineering, mechanics, physics and more! For under a couple hundred dollars, a race track can offer a winters worth of enjoyment, year after year! You may even find yourself racing on a warm summers night! Enjoy.