Advanced Slotless Racing with TCR Joe

March 6, 2008


I am in Vineland, NJ, (about a half hour southwest of Atlantic City, 45 minutes south of Philly).
I was recently cleaning out the attic and came across an old Aurora AFX Ultra 5 set that I had way back when.
I had completely forgot about it until now. It was originally a Grand National set but I had bought several other sets and sections of track to make a huge layout back then. There's roughly a 3x3x3' box of track all stacked neatly and a half dozen cars or so. I think there's only one or two transformers though.
From what I can remember it never really worked all that well. I had some problems with dead sections of track, which was one of the reasons I had so much of it, and as you described in one of your eBay Guides, the cars would 'stall' often. Running side by side wouldn't work since the inside lane car wouldn't ever stay on track on turns, there always seemed to be a rough spot or high spot someplace that would catch the car somehow, and the controllers seemed to be all or nothing with very little speed control  on only the upper range. (It  was nearly impossible to run a car slow enough to keep on track on a turn and lane changes were only about 20% successful.
Anyhow, that was then, back when I knew a lot less and had far less patience to fiddle around with things to work the bugs out. I found a few new old stock controllers, I have enough cars and parts to get up and running, but the tires are rotted and worn pretty bad. The front tires are foam, so they turned to dust over the years. The track was well stored, so there's no rust. I do lack straight sections to do a really long simple oval though and have only about 8 sections of straight track including the main terminal track. I had soldered on better connections to the main terminal track and hard wired another section with a spare set of controllers back then for some reason. I had it all set up on a 6x10 3/4" plywood table with no overpasses, just flat sections. I had gotten tired of chasing cars all over the room.
I set up a small section to test a few things and find that the cars won't track at all, so I guess tires are going to be the first order of business. The cars are all the oem body Porsche and Lotus, and a few stock cars. Most of the bodies are well worn, but mostly from sailing off the table.
My only other experience with slot cars was an earlier track I had that was probably late 50's early 60's 1/32 scale Aurora. I still have the track but the cars all burned up many, many years ago. They were both E type Jaguar E type bodies that had major traction problems and issues with controls. The controls for those were like those on a train set, not hand held.
I have never run or used a true HO slot car set, so once I pretty much gave up and boxed this set up years ago, my interests turned to real cars and dirt bikes.
It really never got any serious use. The track sections are mostly like new, even the most used cars are fairly clean. I do need a few new pickups, and if I remember right, they didn't last very long for some reason, the rough edges between track sections seemed to gouge them up pretty fast. I also found a shoe box of just chassis', I don't recall why or how I got those, they may have been from other sets I bought back then. (Every kid in the neighborhood had one of these, I had bought or traded for most of their sets soon after they too gave up or got disgusted with the stalls and poor workings of these sets).
So, my questions are:
Are tires available for these?
(How do I know which tires I need?)
Is there any cure for the controller issues?
Are pickup shoes available? (Both A and B styles).
How about straight sections of track?
How many feet can the stock controller power?
Is a better controller available?
Should I just forget the whole mess and find something better to put my time into?
Slot type sets seem to be pretty common at yard sales and flea markets.
I also have parts of an Ideal TCR set, no cars and only one damaged controller, I have no idea how I ended up with that, but a few of the cars may be from that set as well.
At this point I think I'd go so far as to put enough money out to revive the cars I have and to maybe do about an 8' long oval to start with.
What is available yet?
I don't really have much interest in collecting, if I can't use it, I really don't have much interest in it.
Can the Ultra 5 be made usable or will it always be a hassle to keep running?
Joe McKishen

Thanks for the quick reply, I got home too late to call tonight.
I did read through your guides at eBay, it's what really got me thinking about putting this back together and trying to work some of the bugs out.
I have three types of track, two of which fit together, the other (Ideal TCR) is totally different.
The other two are basically only different in color, the original track that came with my original set is really black, all the other track is a dark charcoal gray color.
I have a few pieces that look nearly identical but the center tabs are rounded not square. There's loads of curves, but no where's near enough straight sections. For some reason, even back then I could never find straight sections.
When I had this set up years ago, I had screwed the track to a sheet of 3/4" underlayment board and had hinged the top and had holes drilled below where each track section joined so that I could wire the sections together. I probably would have soldered them if I could have found enough straight sections to build what I wanted. I would like to have at least an 8' long oval with two super long straight runs. I don't really feel like dealing with these things with left and right turns.
Back then I had used printed circuit ink to fix the connections between the sections, it worked well, but I still had a few sections of track that just didn't mate up well.
I had sanded a few corners to keep the cars from catching the corners of the guard rail area of the track.
I had severe front tire wear problems and would waste a set of pickup shoes in a matter of a few hours too, the front tires are needed to direct these cars into the wall as a guide but since they're always turned, they wear super fast.
I only really messed with it all for maybe a few months and gave up on having to buy parts and I got tired of chasing stalled cars or those that flew from the raceway after catching the edge somehow.
I was reading your guide on these and you mentioned both wiring the power supplies in series and using an AC transformer. I have two transformers, but one it a box style, bought as an accessory, the the other is a wall plug unit. I do have one of those dial type AC transformers which I bought to control router speed too, but I am not sure how something like that would benefit me with a slot car track? Those transformers are capable of way more power than these things need? What is the maximum voltage that they can run?
I never paid much attention to these things in the past, I've probably passed up dozens of complete sets over the years at yard sales. I think I did buy one set once way back when just to get another master track section and some more straight sections. Most that I see are the pin type of actual slot cars.
*From what I can see I can run Speedsteer cars?
What are the differences and can I use my same controllers?
*Including the two new ones I have here, I have about a dozen original controllers. Many are missing their plugs, they used get stuck in the track section and the plug often broke when trying to get them free of the master track.
How about tires?  Are they still available? Maybe an after market option that will work on what I have or on the Speedsteer cars?
*I see you mention something called 'track savers'; *
Is there anything like that to bridge this type of track?

Ok, I got home again pretty late again last night and am off to work now. I did get some time to dig out all of the Ultra 5 pieces I have and took a rough inventory.
I have:
16 pcs or 15" straight track
15 9" curves
1 timer track
2 starting line terminal tracks
2 box corner hazard bends
1 suicide crossover, (had two but one was completely rusted and brittle for some reason)
2 pit row straight tracks.
6 controllers, 2 good used, 2 new in package, 2 that have been modified to a 2 wire with no steering wheel?
1 box style power supply, one wall power supply
1 bridge or ramp that sits in the middle of the track
2 overpass or banking curve support sets, one blue, one orange, and a set of low yellow supports that are not pivotal
3 slalom chicanes, 6 yellow flags
One original box lid only from the original Grand National set
There are 3 running cars, one Mercury Stock car, one Shadow and one Porsche. There is also a spare newer Porsche body. There are two more chassis that are pretty well gutted and a coffee can of used parts.
I was able to get the cars running by using O rings for front tires and I had some silicone rear tires. The O rings actually work really, really well. The original foam front tires were hard as stone and crumbled as did the original rubber rears.
All sections of track look really good, no breaks and every pair I attached so far made good connections. All of the cars are well used, one or more of the running cars will need brushes, I had to stretch the springs to get them running right. The O ring front tire trick seems to work too well, they are faster than normal and steer super well. I was actually surprised at how well they hold the track with those, I tried a set of silicone fronts tires that I found, they work on the Mercury body only, on the other bodies they rub the wall to hard and slow the car. The front tires have to be half the width or less of the rear tires. wearing in the rear tires also helps both traction and the ability to hold the track.
I messed around with short oval and the cars for about an hour, I was surprised at how fast it all came back to me. I have one car that I shortened the body and added rear weight, after a quick cleaning and lube it was back to wear it was 35 years ago but this time sporting a pair of 5mm neoprene rubber O rings as front tires.
I do need both A and B pickup shoes, shoe springs, brushes, brush springs, and some tires. I would also buy a couple pair of cars if you have something, I don't care about collectible, anything that will run well on this track. The smoother the sides of the car the faster they seem to run. The Mercury seems to hit the track seams too hard with the bulges of the fenders and at slower speeds often gets knocked around a bit. I seem to be fine on track, but am interested in my power supply options. I have enough track to build a super long, 12' narrow oval, the goal is to make a super fast track as long as I can. My concern is how long can I go and still have enough power with the stock controller? I have a variable AC transformer, but am not sure how using one of them would work? I take it that I'd tune it to 30 volts or maybe a bit more? I don't suppose the steering function needs anymore than the stock transformer?
I am trying to remember what else I did to the one car chassis back then, I remember cutting and shortening the body, the magnets and armature are different but I don't remember what they came from. The tires are silicone of some type, and a bit narrower and a bit shorter, and they've been sanded in or run in to scuff them up a bit.That car is 5 times faster than all the others, I did find some pin type chassis and parts but most of them are intact.
The TCR track is in decent shape with a two curves having guard rail or walls flared a bit near the connections. I don't have anything other than the track and a power plug for the TCR track, but I think that maybe the two modified controllers may have been for that track.
I was looking at your web site, I see you have just about everything but I don't see narrow front tires? I do see the pair of Speed steer cars listed, would they work for me? (Camaro/Vette combo?)
Give me some idea on how late or how early I can call too, I leave normally before 5am 7 days a week and don't get home till past 7pm most days. On occasion I am home during the day but it's rare this time of year.

I did some checking on how these Ultra 5 systems work just out of curiosity, each car runs on 0-7.5 volts, over about 12 volts and the steering solenoid starts to buzz and get erratic. The diodes on the steering solenoid seem to do two things, they filter or block voltage to the steering solenoid which is full time connected to the pickup shoes and brush plates, and polarize the current supplied to the front solenoid. The steering will actuate in the direction which the controller steering wheel is trurned, the voltage getting to the steering solenoid has to be getting converted to DC though the diodes. The total circuit consists of three diodes if you count the two on the car and one on each leg of the track for each car. I am thinking that this is rectifying the current. The steering wheel produces a momentary surge of 15 volts which at that time the diodes sort of leak enough at that voltage to allow the solenoid to trigger. The solenoid stop plated and magnet frame act as a two way switch in conjunction with the diodes so that the solenoid is powered in the correct direction. The magnet is polarized as well. See picture with lane rail application explaination.
The differences in the A and B cars are both the shape of the pickup shoes and the polarity of the motor magnets, a car can be converted to the opposite type by reversing the motor magnets and changing the shoe types.
The amperage output of the transformer is 25 amps on the 30V feed, about 12 amps on the 14v feed. This power is divided up at the terminal track circuit board. There is also two types of terminal tracks but both seem to function the same. One uses a circuit board with several diodes and two large resistors on it, the other is just plain steel links with two soldered diodes on the controlled circuits and two resistors on the common rail power supply terminals.
I was tinkering around with an idea, if I run two terminal tracks, plug one controller into each appropriate A or B socket, and run a separate box type power supply plugged into each terminal rails, the running of the other car does not drop the available amps but yet the voltage remains the same since each cars respective rails are powered independently. While this doesn't increase the amps, what it does do is keep each car supplied with an equal supply of power.
What I found was that cars which were slower with only one transformer, now are equal to the others. The way they supply power, the car with the least resistance in it's shoes and motor overall gets the most power, the car with the higher resistance suffers. This would explain why the one car I had modified ran so much faster since when shortening the car I also shortened the pickup shoes and coated them with silver solder. That same car also has a different armature which appears to be lighter wound with an amber colored wire instead of red. It not only in effect made it a lower voltage car, by being a lower resistance overall, it robbed the most amperage when it needed it. 
I took apart the two modified controllers, the complete internal resistor and arm are different, they do not have the same size variable resistor bar that the stock ones do and when these are used the cars are supplied just under 9 volts each. There is a separate set of terminals on each side of the internal lever and winding contacts for something that's not there, the shape and size of the internal parts wouldn't allow the steering trigger and spring to be installed, the one bracket reads Ideal.
I am guessing that someone did a crossbreed of two types of controllers. The actual internal boards are marked A or B. I am wondering if someone didn't modify these to run Tyco TCR cars on the Ultra 5 track? The way they are set up now, the cars would be lane specific, but one of the things I found was an end of track catch box with a net and foam. I am thinking now that maybe it was set up for drag racing, that would also account for the various different types and height rear tires of various hardness'.
By looking at the Speed Steer track you have listed online, it looks like it has no resistors or diodes on the terminal track itself. If so, that would mean that the voltage delivered to each car might be higher in the first place?  I see that the SS controller still uses a steering wheel? Did some use a button?
I resized the pics of your Speed Steer chassis and there's not much similar to an Ultra 5 car chassis, the only way that can be switching the steering is by stopping the flow of power to the motor and when the wheels coast, it must engage an opposite clutch pin on that second ring gear which in turn would turn the armature backwards and engage the front steering cam or gear? That make total sense and simplifies the starter track and controller, but is must mean that the armature is never at rest when you let off the trigger? that would mean that it would change lanes every time you  the power was taken away from the car by letting off the trigger?
I attached pics of the two different style terminal tracks, a close up of the Ultra 5 chassis, and a pic showing rail usage and voltages.

I did some checking on those transformers you have that are for 220/50hz, the voltage can be adapted, but being that it's a transformer, running those at 6 hz would most likely cause an overheat problem. There are several types of transformers and only one style will run on either, you have a 50/50 chance of them working at 60hz if you adapt 110VAC up to 220VAC. (Make sure that those require AC power, there are a few countries that run DC yet).
I had to deal with a few items that came from Russia, two were motors and one was a power supply charger. The charger wasn't convertible, but the motors worked fine either way with just a step up converter.
A dual tap transformer or ac to dc charger type of transformer won't usually work. The only way to really tell which type it is would be to hook one up and see what happens. It will either overheat and short out or work just fine. The final voltage may be slightly higher than what it's listed at 50hz too.
The only proper way to convert or increase the HZ is to use a motor generator which is similar to a rotary phase converter or aircraft dynamotor.

I attached a few more pics of the pickup shoes for the Ultra 5 chassis,  one of the power supplies I have, and the brushes and holders.
I also found a perfect solution for the front tires, I took surgical tubing that we use for trolling offshore, it fits tight, is super resilent and the perfect height. I was able to set the car pictured up with the trigger taped on an oval and let it run for almost an hour without a single stall. It even allowed the car to be driven at a slow speed around the inside lane. It looks a bit redneck but all I had handy was red, it comes in brown, red, green and orange. The steady run that I set that car on did in the pickup shoes, they were near new at the start but they don't last very long at all.
I need to find pickup shoes, brushes, brush springs and pickup shoe springs, an tires no matter what I do. If I do end up packing away the Ultra 5 stuff and converting to Speed steer, I don't want to unpack it again in 20 years and have no way then to get parts.
The tires are most likely the same as the Speedsteer, the brushes I am not sure, take a look at the pic and see if the diameter looks possible. The ones I took the pic of are too short to stay in the holder at all, but you can get an idea from the pic. I also need springs. Those have been stretched out too many times.
The rear tires look the same, and I think the one set of rubber fronts I have on the Mercury stocker car may be Speedsteer tires.
I am also missing a few pair of pickup springs.
The pickup shoe numbers on the ultra 5 are: (A), 2901-20 and 2901-21, and (B) 2901-20 and one offset shoe that's not numbered.
I have silver soldered a few of the shoes, even did a few new ones and it does make them last longer, but mainly since I just keep adding metal and filing them smooth. I was doing that way back then since once Two Guys went out of business, there was no place around here to buy parts from.

I did some checking and comparing with the TCR vs Ultra 5 cars and track today, they WILL NOT run on each others track, the rail spacing is different, the car body width is also different, and the rail usage is totally opposite. The Ultra 5 cars also won't run on the TC power supply, the increased voltage overspeeds and quickly overheats the motor. The rails are located to far inboard of the outer wall for the AFX cars to ride and make contact and the A vs B cars are wired differently
I picked up two cheap TCR sets at the flea market and another Ultra 5 set with just track and power supply. I paid $8 for all three. The flea market was pretty bare since it was too cold, but the seller that had these had them last summer and still hadn't sold them. The one TCR set is pretty decent, that combined with the other track will make a pretty huge run, but I doubt that their transformer will power it all. The TCR set uses controllers with buttons that steer the cars, and two wire controllers. The cars look a lot like the Speedsteer cars, but if speed steer will run on Ultra 5, then there's no way that the TCR cars with run on the Ultra 5 or Speed Steer track. The one kit had what looked like one of the AFX tractor trailers in it, but it had a pin in it yet still had steering. I figured someone had converted it and removed the pin, but it won't run on the Ultra 5 track, it fits the rails, but runs backwards and with the opposite controller.  ('A' controller powers a Speed Steer B chassis truck backwards. I didn't have an A Speed Steer car to try to see if only the letters were different. I had no way to work the steering but the truck seemed to run all over on it's own, it kept changing lanes by itself.
Also, the TCR kits came with blocker cars, they run full time without a controller, they will not run on the Ultra 5 since the rails are not always hot. The jam car has both A and B shoes, three in all. Adding the jam car slows the whole track down since it draws power from each of the cars. The fact that its a common element between the two car circuits, if I do the separate terminal track and controls like on the Ultra 5, I can't run the jam car since it bridges the circuit and ups the voltage. The voltage on the TCR is a full 13.6 volts at full throttle. The power dips when steering but doesn't look like it drops off completely, it's too fast of a dip to see how low it goes. It's a lot simpler system, no electronics or circuit boards and no diodes or resistors. However, unlike the Ultra 5, adding a second car will slow the first one down, the opposite seems to happen with the Ultra 5. Whether it increases the transformer amps or simply better 'warms' the track, two cars run far faster than a single car for some reason. The voltage don't seem to change either on the Ultra 5 with two cars, where as the peak volts drops with the TCR on all but the shortest tracks.
I think I will stick with the Ultra 5 and not mess with the Speed Steer conversion, I have loads of gray track, plenty of controllers, and if I can find cars and bodies from other AFX cars and things like tires, shoes, and brushes, I think I can get the Ultra 5 set going pretty good. The small oval is working perfect, but it's better with some cars than the other, but swapping the tires as well swaps the performance to another car, so it's tires and traction that are the issue right now.
I'm not sure what I intend to do with the TCR stuff, but I do like that track better, it's a far smoother transition between sections, the cars don't make all the clicking sounds as the pass over each seam. They also seem to be far easier on shoes because of that. That also seems to make them faster, and the track walls are taller so the cars stay put better. The magnet effect is also stronger on the TCR track.
The differences in the two brand tracks are the height of the rails, they are nearly flush on Ultra 5, but raised on TCR, TCR track is narrower, has taller walls, and the transition or joints are far better. The cars run far quieter on the TCR track.The angle which the wheels are always pointed or steered is less on the TCR car too, thus eliminating the way that they slam the wall on a lane change. They drift over straighter with the TCR set.

I think we need to really make clear the differences in "TCR" vs Speed Steer" vs. Ultra 5.
It appears to me at this point that there's not much in common between the "Ideal TCR" and Aurora Ultra 5.
The Ultra 5 cars share pickup shoes with some Speed Steer cars, and it looks like the back tires and brushes from a G+ car are the same on most.
(I do have one chassis that uses an odd ball brush size, but the brush holders and armature were different. Possibly some after market car from back then?).
I want to do more tests on the Ideal track too. I'm not totally convinced that these run on clean AC voltage. The power supply for the Ultra 5 says AC, but the presence of the diodes in line makes me wonder if it's really getting pure AC voltage. If they do recieve totally AC voltage, then two things should hold true, one, at least the A car would run backwards, but on the Ultra 5 it don't, that tells me that the diodes somehow affect power flow to the armature as well. Second, the front steering solenoid would have to be polarized in both directions or spring loaded somehow, but it's not, so that tells me that it reacts to a reverse polarity situation somehow. The steering wheel on the controller provides a momentary short between the T1 and T2 taps of the power supply, nothing more, nothing less. The windup mechanism is just there to prevent some kid from holding the steering wheel to one side or the other and super charging the cars till they fry. Also, the burst of higher voltage that is sent down the A or B signal wire can be as high as 30v/25A if only one car happens to be steered at that particular time. If a small kid happened to be leaning on the track with a sweaty hand at that time, the result would feel about like getting bit by the spark plug wire on a lawn mower. It don't feel like much to us with thicker skin and dry hands, but I can imagine a kid would get quite a shock. I can't help but notice that this transformer seemed to go away after Ultra 5? Unlike on DC voltage, combining two transformers doubles the voltage if done wrong, sort of like rejoining two 120V lines run on separate legs of your circuit box gives you a 240V line. From what I can see, these cars can't run on much more than about 9v safely, any more and they get hot real fast. They also can't be run on a DC circuit even though the motor is AC/DC design, the diodes in the system prevent power from flowing in one direction and the motor will only run backwards with the current diode configuration. Reversing the polarity in DC results in only a left turn function of the solenoid and the diodes block the power from getting to the motor. I called an electrical engineer buddy of mine on this and emailed him a diagram of the chassis and control panel, I tried several times to explain how it was wired, but none of it made much sense to him either. He spent some time in toy manufacture years ago but currently is working for a power company in Washington, DC. He pretty much reacted the same way I did when I first really looked at how these are wired and how they work.
I am pretty much convinced that the motor is running on AC power, but the steering surge must be high enough to exceed the limit of the diodes allowing the current to flow through to the solenoid. With the polarity of the steering magnet the way it is, it favors a right turn, but holds either way due to the voltage at the supply terminal. The Ultra 5 cars will selfsteer back to the right after a few laps on their own if you never manually return to the right lane, I haven't found a way yet to tell if it's a build up a current that actually steers the solenoid back, or if it's just track conditions and the polarity of the magnet that makes them favor the right lane. I don't think these would be able to run the opposite way if you were to switch everything else on the track to the reverse wiring and run the cars as is, I think the diodes and steering magnet would have to be reversed so as not to have cars that wander at will.
The surge from the steering also gives the car a shot of maximum speed to help propel it across the dead zone to the other rails.
From what I can tell so far, the Ideal TCR cars roll and change lanes much easier and they coast better. The track walls are also much higher which stops all the catching of the cars up on the wall. One of the problems I have with the Ultra 5 cars is that when the old tires start to spin and they get some wheel hop, that hop can bounce the car high enough that centrifugal force pushes the car over the rail enough to get the back wheels off the track. The higher rails on the TCR track hold the car down much better, they don't bounce around like the Ultra 5 cars do when the tires spin. I find that if I use a piece of 320 sandpaper and hold the car over it and spin the tires till the shiny gloss is gone, the cars will run absolutely perfect until the track and tires glaze up again. I get about 10 good laps before the tires start to let go. The smaller the tires get, the better the car holds the track, not only due the magnetic force being greater, but the lower the car the less likely the edge of the body can get up on the wall edge.  With a fresh cleaned track and fresh scuffed tires, the cars go around almost too fast to see or control but they hold the track perfect. I can toss the steering any direction at any time with no concern of a stall. The A cars run better that way than the B cars due to the way the rails are separated, the car can hit the next lane at a greater angle and still make contact, with the offset shoe on the B car, it can approach at a bad angle or bounce slightly off the wall and if it deflects slightly, it can lose contact. The A cars are just better centered contact wise and therefore more forgiving to lane changes.
The TCR cars are also a bit wider and the taller track doesn't favor body styles as much. I find that the Can Am cars are the ones that tend to climb the wall.
I only have two TCR cars here, but I noticed that they are both nearly identical in weight, while there's a pretty wide difference in the Ultra 5 cars weight wise. The heaviest that I have are the B cars with any of the longer bodies. The added brass on the left shoe plus a longer body with often a set back spoiler all adds weight, which is very minimal but at that scale, it makes a big difference in traction.
The key to steering and being successful seems to be in both the front and rear tires. The car has to have sufficient traction to accelerate when the boost of power hits and the front wheels turn, if the rear tires don't bite, the car often won't gain enough momentum to make it to the next lane. The front tires also have to be the correct height and the right balance of traction vs plow to allow the car to still power down the track without excessive drag from the front tires. The front tires are super sensitive to size and material. Too slick and car won't turn, too soft and they drag the car down to the point that there's not enough speed to complete the lane change. They also cannot protrude past the edge of the rim, if they do they will catch the seams in the track walls and bounce the car around. Years ago we used to sand and wax the track walls and the cars to make the wall slicker. Removing side decals also helps, but you also don't want a super smooth car against the wall, the least area of contact the less drag. I also found that on the longer track, the car has to have something on the side, either a decal or paint to prevent plastic to plastic contact at speed, the sides of the cars actually melt or look smeared from the friction created from rubbing the track wall. This leaves white plastic spots all over the track. Again, wax seems to help there too.The track itself is super hard and don't show any wear, but the cars show wear pretty fast. I take it that this was a good thing on their part to sell more parts and cars?
I set up a quick full length 13' oval with a slight down hill in one direction using all the straight sections and only four turns and running two terminal tracks, one on each side. the result on a freshly cleaned track and well scuffed tires running  O rings for front tires, was a car that hits the curve so fast that is slingshots around so fast that it comes out of the curve sideways and rolls to the inside lane and continues, self steering back to the right lane by itself from the impact. I ran a second car, a slower B car in sort of a head start drag race, the slower B car met the other car at the curve and the collision at that speed removed the front corner of the roof from one car. They run fast up the return side but on the downhill straight, they're insanely fast, but the tires only last one of two laps like that. They stay on track and I find it nearly impossible to stall the car unless a collision knocks the car off the rails. (Such as pinning the second car in the left lane into a curve and then passing it leaving the inside car to skid into the corner, that car will stall about 10% of the time. Once the tires glaze up, the track and tires have to be wiped down and the tires rescuffed or the car will just slowly keep getting slower and have increased wheel spin till it just can't maintain speed. I find that nearly all cars are equal on good back tires. The best for speed overall is the o rings, the best for all around steering is the homemade surgical tubing tires. The first one's I made got pretty well glazed up already with just a bit of use, but no wear, the orings get torn a bit, as do the original foam tires. The Speed Steer rubber fronts last well but drag the car down a bit. The last tubing tires I made were from thicker but smaller diameter tubing, much cheaper stuff, but they stay in place better, (they have to be stretched on with a pair of needle nose pliers, and they seem to be the best all around next to the Speed Steer tires. The rubber Speed Steer tires seem to make the most reliable lane changes, since they roll the best and have more traction to actually steer the car quickly to the next lane.
The problem is that with this long track and the faster speeds, which I am sure will increase even more once I find some better tires, is that the shoes and tires wear super fast, and I suppose the same for the motor brushes and gears. I already noticed a lot of slop in the front wheels of one car, my shortened car which is by far the fastest. One of the reasons I like the TCR brand track better is the smoother transition between sections, the Ultra 5 track has gaps, the rails are stepped down at the ends and it leaves a gap about 3 mm long or so, enough that a car if going super slow and stall in the gap when the shoes find themselves no longer touching the rails. That can't happen on the TCR system and it also eliminates the click, click, click of the shoes hitting the gaps.
The Ultra 5 cars dirty the track pretty fast with both tire rubber, side wear and metal off the shoes. If I wipe the track down clean with alcohol and a white rag till it's clean, run one car full speed about 10 laps, then wipe the track with a fresh rag, the rag comes up black that fast. If you continue to drive at full speed beyond the traction point and manage to keep it from climbing the walls at the end of the curve, the wheel hop will actually chop up the tires as the car steers and spins over the gaps in the track. I have one tire that looks like it's got chunks out of it. Of course this is all with 30 year old tires on most of these cars. I only have one set that's decent but I've had to sand them several times. There's also a bit of oil that gets on the track from a fresh oiled car. I have a few older corners that are so rubber stained on the corners that there are black tires marks on the blue/gray track surface that won't come out. The fact that the rear axle is solid also adds to the rubber loss in the corners since the one wheel must slip to get around the corner.  I attached a pic of a corner track after about 100 laps of hard use. The pic was right after a good cleaning, the track staining and wear don't come out. This is of course both use with home made front tires and super high speeds on the down hill side. The upper corner don't get that kind of wear or tire marks, almost none at all. The lower side the track don't get dirt fouled nearly as fast the high side does though.
These sections were nearly mint when I started yesterday with the longer track. The high side is only about 4" higher than the low side, partly since I have it on the floor, running between two upstairs rooms, it's not permanent and I didn't use the best track yet, but I wanted to see what they would do on a longer, harder run. So far I'm pretty impressed, they didn't run this well back then, but I also only had the foam tires and bone stock cars. I also probably never properly cleaned the rails. I made a straight edge sanding block that allowed me to sand only the tops of the rails, this really smoothed the rails down a lot, I also hand sanded the ends a bit to soften the blow on the shoes as they cross each gap.
When the track is clean, and the tires are freshly sanded, it's better than I ever remembered, but I think at that age, I never gave any thought to the tires glazing up or getting contaminated. The cars also seem to pick up steel shavings from somewhere, it looks like steel wood after a while around the motor, it has to be rail wear? there's no wear items on the car that are magnetic. I can clean the track and car, vacuuming the track and doing an alcohol wipe and then run several laps and still pickup metal fuzz on the magnets. I've even wiped the track with a heavy magnet, which would have pulled any particles from below or along side the rails. This fuzz don't seem to bother the cars but I can't help but wonder where it comes from. The cars aren't hitting the track underneath since the only wear is in the magnets.
Are front rims replaceable on these? How do you get them off if they are? The rims spin on what appears to be a push on steel hub, they don't spin on the axle itself. The wear surface looks to be the inner hole of the rim and the outer surface of the steel hub. I didn't want o just pry and take the chance of breaking one, that would leave me minus another car.
I need to find a bucket of these cars, the way it looks they wear pretty fast, if not that, keeping this running will take a lot of spare parts.
Check out the track pics I attached, do slotted cars do this as well?  The track marks won't rub off with alcohol, but I can scrape them away with a finger nail, it's not so much that the track is worn, it's rubber embedded in the texture of the track surface.

I took a few more after pics of the the cars I do have after an extended run, so you can see what problems I do have and to compare the same points with the Ideal TCR system:
The above pic is an Ultra 5 car on the Ultra 5 curve, with tire spin and some wheel hop, the rear of the car only has to rise up about .035" to get it stuck up on the wall, one of two things happens when this occurs, either it stalls and gets stuck as you see it, or it continues to slide and then has a 50/50 chance of either recovering out of the curve or sliding sideways onto the first section of straight track where it gets broad sided by the next car. On the longest track, the spoiler being raised and pinned as shown here is the only way to keep it on the track on the long downhill straight away. With the spoiler level as it comes, (keep in mind that this body is shortened, lightened and is running non AFX tires, armature and magnets), the car loses traction and spins the tires, often just spinning out and nearly changing direction. I would have never in a million years thought that the spoiler on one of these actually had any effect on the car at all. The draw back to this position is limited lane change ability at full speed, the it's actually too light in the front for the tires to steer the car. The home made tires are slightly taller than the original foam tires, but not as high as the Speed Steer tires. Using those limits the top speed quite a bit. This car as it stand is mainly only good for super fast straighaway runs. It has trouble with climbing the wall as pictured above as do all three of my Can Am style cars.
This is the same car on the Ideal TCR track for comparison, the walls are double the height and there's no way for a car to ride up on the wall or leave the track without the assistance of another car. The TCR track is also narrower, which allows two cars to continue around the curve with the inside car being held on track by the outboard car. On the Ultra 5 track, the inboard car can never maintain power due to the angle of the track and it's added width. This make it imperative that any passing driver on the inside lane get past the right side car and beat them to the curve or it will mean a certain stall. This actually makes racing for the curve and position more realistic, but it can also cause big crashes and damage cars. The added height of the TCR track also adds some friction to an already steering handicapped car.
On either track, mixing body styles almost always ends with the Can Am style car 'shoveling' the higher rear ended car off the track. Clipping the nose of the Can Am cars helps stop this and improves car tracking and speed. The TCR track also enjoys much taller rails, and far smoother joints the clips form a far smoother transition than does the flat, end to end bent tabs of the Ultra 5 track. While I feel there's far more tension and a better electrical connection between the Ultra 5 type track, the resulting gap in the rails due to a beveled end of the rail at every joint causes many stalls and is quite hard on pickup shoes. The side walls of the TCR track also form a better transition point than does that of the Ultra 5 track.
Another point of concern is the terminal track outer wall of the Ultra 5 track, there's a place where the wall rises near the terminal area which creates a catch point for nearly all cars. It's most noticable on stock car bodies. This is a really bad area for some non Ultra 5 bodies when run on an Ultra 5 chassis. Any vehicle a flared fender and not flat sides will catch this point and the result is either a derailed car or a hard hit that not only kicks the car to the left, but loses speed as well. The lowest possible tires helps these problems, but even the lowest tires tend to be a bit high. I've sanded my tires to the minimum to help this and the above situation. This provides about a 50% improvement. Nothing helps the stock car type bodies. I've tried both the Mercury Stocker and AMX stock cars, and a few other non Ultra 5 bodies, and these have the most trouble with the wall height transition at that point.
The above pic shows the aligment concerns with the pickups showing an Ultra 5 A style car on an Ideal TCR track. The inner shoe almost makes it, but the outer is in an unpowered rail for this style shoe configuration, so only the one inner shoe is sort of hitting a hot rail. The power is also applied in reverse as well.
Cars are not interchangable between TCR and AFX Ultra 5. Both of these systems were from 1977.
*See attached pic for description of TCR terminal and rail usage: *
(It's almost as if they intended to be an exact opposite).

I took a few pics to show what I meant about the gap in the rails on the Ultra 5 vs. TCR track, the Ultra 5 gap is enough to catch the foot of the shoe in the gap, and the transition is rough. The TCR is only a tiny area and it's not a complete drop since the wavy part of the rail is still able to carry the shoe pad across the connection without the loud click that is heard from a car passing over the Ultra 5 track joint.
There is however a number of large recesses that can on occasion catch a tire, while the front tires don't seem to be affected since most or about half the weight of the car is supported on the pickup shoes and springs, the rear tires often bounce over the openings and this can be slightly noticeable. It really only happens if a car happens to be leaving the lane and a rear tire hits it just right, but I've observed it several times already. The cars are wide enough that on a straight run the tires sort of only half way run across the track gap. You can also see the beveled edges on the TCR track.
In the other pic, you can see the bottom of the TCR terminal track, I can see where the crimped on connection to the rails could be a problem. This one had about 30 ohms of resistance in that connection, I will either solder it or clean it and use either rear window defogger paint. The steel strips are simply pushed down over the staple like pins on the rails, then the rail pins are just folded over or twisted a bit. It makes for a rather loose connection that I would think would be prone to corrosion. The one version of Aurora Ultra 5 terminal track uses a similar connection but they soldered their connections.
The overall fit and appearance is better on the Ultra 5 track, but the engineering seems to be better on the TCR track.
The rails fit better together, the track walls provide less chance of impact or catching the car's body, and they are taller. Both tracks actually measure the same width, 2 3/4" wide, but the Ultra 5 cars are narrower and therefore have more room on the track to move around, the tighter fit of the TCR cars makes for more consistent cornering.
The advantage of the Ultra 5 track on the other hand is that it's flatter, had less bumps in the road surface and fits together tighter. (Only the rail gaps being the issue).
The Ultra 5 track stays flatter when on uneven surfaces like overpass supports or other, the way they attach prevents one track from being higher than the last.
On the TCR track you have to push the rails and connections down flat and if the track isn't secured to a flat surface, it's bound to move. The Ultra 5 track also has it's mounting holes outside the road bed where as the screw holes in the TCR track are dead center of the road bed. The bottom line so far is that the TCR is friendlier to the cars overall, but might take more fitting to make it perfect in the beginning. The electrical connections on both have their advantages, the TCR is easier to assemble and simpler, but the Ultra 5 track seems to make a tighter connection provided all the rail ends are in tact and not bent over too far.

I emailed a copy of the chassis photos and a description of the circuit to a design electrical engineer at a local power company who also happens to teach an advanced physics course. He's the first person I talked to that agreed that the use of two diodes would only partially convert the AC power from the rails to DC. What it in effect does do, is not convert it to true DC, but polarize it as what they refer to a Rectified AC power. This allows it to actuate a push/pull type of solenoid and he said that the diodes being on only one side on each end of the circuit would also prevent the steering pulse from feeding back into the controller resistor element where it could produce a spark or at the very least create excess winding wear.
That bid of info clears up any questions on how these work and function. Being that they run on such an unfiltered so to speak power supply, makes them a pretty simply circuit. He also said that the motor is what they refer to as universal, and will run on either AC or DC power. Just like most power tools which use brushes.
So they are most likely using the same motor design for several cars. He also said that the steering solenoid probably isn't regulated in any way, it's just wound to a higher voltage and simply won't respond to any lower voltage, the diodes are only there to polarize the power to the solenoid and make it reversible, but the solenoids ability to not steer the car under normal rail power is simply due to the heavy windings that just plain need more volts to make them work.
I attached some text that better explains the various types of power with some sine wave charts to show what the difference is at the bottom of this message. He also said that the voltage often tested can be as low as half of the maximum volts since the meter can only see one half of the sine wave. He went into explaining the difference between nominal and RMS readings when testing voltage as well as rated voltage.
His oppinion on  the European power supplies was the same as every other oppinion I got. You have a 50/50 chance of it not burning up, and even if you do convert the voltage to 110, there is no way to cheaply or easily convert the transformer since the core or carbon pile at the center of the windings is calibrated for 50 hz, he did say that if it did work, the output would be far less than what is desired. The most likely situation would be higher volts, and lower than usable amperage.
he did say he's be willing to take a look at one, but no guaranties. He did say that if they were AC to DC transformers, you would have a far better chance for some reason, but I don't think that would make much difference myself.
*Magnetizing Current*
As seen in the previous pages, electric current is often used to establish the magnetic field in components during magnetic particle inspection. Alternating current and direct current are the two basic types of current commonly used. Current from single phase 110 volts, to three phase 440 volts, are used when generating an electric field in a component. Current flow is often modified to provide the appropriate field within the part. The type of current used can have an effect on the inspection results, so the types of currents commonly used will be briefly reviewed.
*Direct Current *
*Direct current (DC) flows continuously in one direction at a constant voltage. A battery is the most common source of direct current. As previously mentioned, current is said to flow from the positive to the negative terminal. In actuality, the electrons flow in the opposite direction. DC is very desirable when inspecting for subsurface defects because DC generates a magnetic field that penetrates deeper into the material. In ferromagnetic materials, the magnetic field produced by DC generally penetrates the entire cross-section of the component. Conversely, the field produced using alternating current is concentrated in a thin layer at the surface of the component.
*Alternating Current **
*Alternating current (AC) reverses in direction at a rate of 50 or 60 cycles per second. In the United States, 60 cycle current is the commercial norm but 50 cycle current is common in many countries. Since AC is readily available in most facilities, it is convenient to make use of it for magnetic particle inspection. However, when AC is used to induce a magnetic field in ferromagnetic materials, the magnetic field will be limited to narrow region at the surface of the component. This phenomenon is known as the "skin effect" and occurs because induction is not a spontaneous reaction and the rapidly reversing current does not allow the domains below the surface time to align. Therefore, it is recommended that AC be used only when the inspection is limited to surface defects.
[See attached charts for visual description]
*Rectified Alternating Current*
Clearly, the skin effect limits the use of AC since many inspection applications call for the detection of subsurface defects. However, the convenient access to AC, drives its use beyond surface flaw inspections. Luckily, AC can be converted to current that is very much like DC through the process of rectification. With the use of rectifiers, the reversing AC can be converted to a one directional current. The three commonly used types of rectified current are described below.
*Half Wave Rectified Alternating Current (HWAC) *
*When single phase alternating current is passed through a rectifier, current is allowed to flow in only one direction. The reverse half of each cycle is blocked out so that a one directional, pulsating current is produced. The current rises from zero to a maximum and then returns to zero. No current flows during the time when the reverse cycle is blocked out. The HWAC repeats at same rate as the unrectified current (60 hertz typical). Since half of the current is blocked out, the amperage is half of the unaltered AC.
This type of current is often referred to as half wave DC or pulsating DC. The pulsation of the HWAC helps magnetic particle indications form by vibrating the particles and giving them added mobility. This added mobility is especially important when using dry particles. The pulsation is reported to significantly improve inspection sensitivity. HWAC is most often used to power electromagnetic yokes.
*Full Wave Rectified Alternating Current (FWAC) (Single Phase) *
*Full wave rectification inverts the negative current to positive current rather than blocking it out. This produces a pulsating DC with no interval between the pulses. Filtering is usually performed to soften the sharp polarity switching in the rectified current. While particle mobility is not as good as half-wave AC due to the reduction in pulsation, the depth of the subsurface magnetic field is improved.
*Three Phase Full Wave Rectified Alternating Current *
*Three phase current is often used to power industrial equipment because it has more favorable power transmission and line loading characteristics. This type of electrical current is also highly desirable for magnetic particle testing because when it is rectified and filtered, the resulting current very closely resembles direct current. Stationary magnetic particle equipment wired with three phase AC will usually have the ability to magnetize with AC or DC (three phase full wave rectified), providing the inspector with the advantages of each current form.

March 12, 2008

I noticed one major item about the Ultra 5 systems last night, there were two separate versions of this system! Those that came with a two wire power supply and those that had a three wire supply. It seems that they did a mid year change somewhere in the coarse of production. There are two and three pin versions of the terminal track and three different versions of the power supplies. There are two wall unit power supplies, one with two voltages, and a single 14VAC wall transformer, which appears to be the same as that for the Speed Steer sets. The third is like my two larger box type power supplies which has both 14VAC and 30VAC outputs. The track with only two pins uses a capacitor to create the power surge for the steering and barely has enough output for one car let alone two, but the 30VAC supply and the three pin terminal track has more than enough power to run two cars for any normal length of track. I find it nearly impossible to dip the voltage even on an 8' oval with the larger transformer but the small transformer barely can power the original set when steering comes into play.I attached two pics of both types of track. I had both styles here and never noticed the difference till I was trying to set up a test strip for an tire experiment.

It looks to me like they may have tried to change the design to make it safer, the track with the high amperage power supply and 30V pin can give you quite a shot if you touch the rails while a car is being steered. The other one give no shock at all. The 2 pin version barely creates enough power to steer the cars let alone push the car to the next lane, the 3 pin version works like a charm, no issues at all. Both carry the same part number and date on the bottom, (3158). The smaller power supplies are about worthless, they put out less than the power supply for most cell phone chargers. The box style is a beast, it hums loudly when in use.