Accessorizing Your Vintage ‘Glass: Buy Your Own Race Track! Turbo Drive Slot Car Arcade

Hi Gang…

What’s a car guy to do?

There are so many directions to take the hobby we love so much.  License plates, hood ornaments, vintage literature….so much to collect….so little time.  But you can’t have it all – you don’t have the space!  So in quenching your thirst for an auto-related item to add to your collection, what unique item should you consider?

How ‘bout a race track?  Slot car race track that is….

When I was growing up, I loved slot cars.  Racing around the track at the local hobby shop – “Tony’s Hobby Shop” on Dundee Road across from Kmart – in Wheeling, Illinois.  What fun I had racing my small collection of cars ’round the track.  Saving up to buy the ultimate in speed – a car that would beat all others on the track…a sleek monsterous yellow-bodied race car.  Such memories.  It took me nearly a year to save up and buy that super slick slot car – and I still have it.  Actually, I still have all my cars.  Never sold ‘em.

Go figure!

I needed to recapture my youth, so I experimented.  Ebay is great and you can buy some nice slot car sets – Strombecker, Aurora, Eldon….go on eBay and stroll down memory lane.  Great illustrations on the boxes, fantastic 1/24 and 1/32 size car bodies – all of our favorites.  And now you can even buy Kellison and Devin slot cars.

Hmmmm…another opportunity for Rick D’louhy and I to shake up an interest area, and get them to notice the long-lost fiber cars of the ‘50s?

Perhaps another day.

But slot car sets are small, and they didn’t feel right in setting them up.  Too small.  Tracks came apart.  My efforts in recapturing the joys of youth seemed to be slipping….but I kept up the search.

Finding The Right Accessory:

So I searched and searched looking for the ultimate way to recapture my youth and celebrate my love for the automotive hobby.  And then I found it…something that would meld my youth and auto appreciation all in one fell swoop.  It was giant.  It made racing noises.  You could hear the gears change on the speakers – there was even an announcer talking to you during the race.  I had found…

The Turbo Drive Slot Car Arcade – by ICE

Forty feet of 1/32 scale track on 4 levels – all under a plexiglass dome.  I was in heaven.  Perfect for the garage or game room.  Built to stand the test of time – and bar / game rooms across the country – so you know it’s rugged.  The “guides” that hold the cars on the track have been modified so the cars don’t fly off the track, but the concept fits everything a car guy would want – the ultimate car accessory for your hobby.

And you can charge your friends money – quarters – to play it!

How great is that!

Researching Turbo Drive

My appreciation for this game started several years ago when I became a fan of another game by “ICE” – bubble hockey.  Those of you who have seen this game may know it by another name – Super Chexx or Chexx Hockey.  Another great game for home play.  ICE made a similar soccer game too – which is rarely seen in the states called “Super Kixx“, but the rarest game of all produced by ICE was Turbo Drive– the ultimate slot car arcade game.

Several years ago I had a chance to tour the ICE Corporate Headquarters in Clarence, New York – not far from Buffalo.  How could I pass up such a chance?  I spent half a day with them learning about their operations and gaming – and the history of their company.  When I focused on the Turbo Drive Arcade Game, they shared with me some interesting information.

The game was originally developed and built in Spain.  It was licensed and built by ICE in the late ‘80s and updated for the North American gaming market.  It was expensive and originally sold for approximately $4500.  After building / selling approximately 240 games, they ceased production and continued with the bubble hockey games (Super Chexx) which continue to be popular today.

I was told there were two primary reasons that it did not succeed:

  • First, it was expensive.  $4500+ was a lot of money – than and now.
  • Second, it was complicated for a typical arcade owner/business to operate.  If you were a slot car guy it was a piece of cake.  But arcades were evolving in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and slot car guys – in arcades – were not that common.  And…if you were a slot car guy – who knows how to operate an arcade game.

What you need to find is a slot car racer and arcade game enthusiast all rolled into one.

Just like me!

How It Works:

Turbo Drive uses slot cars that are 1/32 scale.  There is 40 feet of track that snakes up on 4 different levels.  Two cars race one against the other.  If you only have one quarter and one person –  you can press the right button and race against the computer.  If you have two people – prepare to race against each other.  Too much fun!  Laps are recorded and the arcade also records your best time – lap by lap.  Wow!

But watch out!  There are 3 different locations where posted speed limit is shown on a digital indicator.  And as you watch your speed on the scoreboard you need to take heed of the speed.  If you go too fast when you pass one of these indicators, your car is shut down for one second – and the other car – your friendly competitor – can fly by you lickety split.

So control your speed – and no “texting” allowed.

How This Is Done:

Sensors are built into the track and when magnets that are attached to the car pass the sensors – your car is timed for speed.  There are  3 sets or pairs of sensors on the track and 3 posted speed limit digital displays.  And the speed limits are tricky “digital” ones.  During game play, the speed limits “change” and what was a slow area can become a faster speed limit.

Watch those changing speed limits gang!   I’m glad this doesn’t happen when I get in my car and drive down the road 🙂

Not to challenge you more but you can’t just press on the gas and make it go faster.  Your joystick control is used to pace thru each of the 4 gears (and it’s your gas pedal too).  Start out in the 4th gear and your car goes slow – just like in real life.  You have to start off in first gear and pace thru all four gears to maximize your speed.  Too much fun!

And watch out for that chicane!  Some Turbo Drive arcades had the optional “squeeze chicane.”  First car to the chicane shuts down the other car for one second of operation.  Not all games had this feature, though.

All in all, this is one challenging game!

Size Matters:

Manifest Destiny!  Turbo Drive needs space.  It’s 6’ 7” wide, 3’ 6” deep, 4’ 8” high, and weighs 280 pounds.  Perfect for a gameroom, garage, or dining room – as I had it in my house when it first arrived.  But you might have to choose between a loved one or this game.

My cats like it fine:

Bringing One Home:

Recently, I found lucky enough to find a Turbo Drive Slot Car Arcade Game and brought it home to Florida.  I wanted to attract the least amount of attention possible – so I strapped to the front of my open trailer in front of the Covington Tiburon.

We did this last year when we were returning from Milwaukee, Wisconsin from the 2011 Milwaukee Masterpiece Concours d’ Elegance.  And with this “disguise” neatly in place, we stealthfully returned from Wisconsin to Florida with both items in tow.

I can’t imagine how many pictures were taken of our “load” as we criss-crossed the Eastern part of America.

Choice of Cars:

I currently buy Scalextrix cars (a company from England) and with a little modification they run just fine this on this track.  But you can use the original cars that come with Turbo Drive – it’s just that there are “cooler” cars out there.

And now that I’ve found Devin and Kellison slot cars….hmmmmm?  I wonder if they are the right scale for a Fantastic Forgotten Fiberglass showdown…

In any event, the cars you can choose from at Scaletrix are phenomenal.  Click here to check out some of their cars.  Choose the category that you want to review which is shown on the bottom of their webpage.  You can review American Classics, Formula One, NASCAR, Road & Rally, Touring Cars, Endurance, Historic Formula One, PRO Performance, and Classics.

These are not your father’s Oldsmobile type of slot cars gang!

My favorite way to play this game is at night.  Two fluorescent lights illuminate the track beautifully.  These are part of the game and add a nice element at night.  Turn the lights off in your gameroom, get something to drink, put “LeMans” on the DVD player and line-up your favorite slot cars to play along.

Let’s take a look at some pictures of the Turbo Drive Slot Car Arcade Game.  Be sure to click with your mouse on each picture to make it appear larger on your screen.

Turbo Drive Slot Car Arcade Photos:

Learning More About “Innovative Concepts in Entertainment:” ICE

Included in today’s story is an excellent article about ICE published several years ago that you might be interested in reading.  The full article appears in the photo gallery below.

Summary:

I’ve learned to maintain Turbo Drive just fine.  It’s fairly easy, but requires dusting the track/debris from time to time.  I’ve also made some upgrades to my game to make it easier and more reliable to play.

By the way…I just found out that Eldon made a drag race slot car set back in the ‘60s – with a Christmas Tree setup lights and flags at the end of the track to mark the winner.  I wonder if…….

Stay tuned gang 🙂

Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…

Glass on gang…

Geoff

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Comments

Accessorizing Your Vintage ‘Glass: Buy Your Own Race Track! Turbo Drive Slot Car Arcade — 19 Comments

  1. Somewhere in a box, I still have all my old slot cars stuff… Enough to open a hobby shop….As a matter of fact, I bought one out one day.. john

  2. How cool is this! One NEAT find! I used to race 1/32 scale cars back in the 60s. I started out with stuff from Strombecker, but quickly grew into aftermarket tires, motors, controllers, etc. What started out as a fun, inexpensive hobby got fairly expensive in a short period of time. All in the name of fun.

  3. That is one FANTASTIC find.,..I have never seen a slot car track like that beore…I like the fact that they wont fly off the track.

    Mel

  4. ~ lucky or good ? you’ve managed to consistently find the overlap & accomplish both. the many highlighted links turn single page articles into hours of engrossing reading.

  5. I’ve got a 1/32 Porsche 356A coupe that I’ve never run. Booking a ticket to Tampa and bringing my cat, and the car… so get your race face on.

  6. Rodney….we’ll cristen the arcade… “Forgotten Fiberglass Raceway.” We’ll label your car, “The Packwood Special…” 😉

  7. Great nostalgia Geoff! – My favorite childhood Christmas gift ever… an HO scale roadrace set that kept growing with the addition of more track & cars (plastic bodies no less). My favorite racers were an AC Cobra & an E type Jag both of 1962 vintage. It was common to find my dad & my uncles clamoring for a turn & hogging the track but I didn’t mind because it was so bizarre to see them acting like I’d never see them act at any other time. (And, yes, it was fascinating to see how fast our cat’s head could turn around & around.) My uncles & friends were eager to try & take on the AC & the Jag but I’d learned the trick of removing the rear slot pin. If I timed it right I could accelerate on an inside turn, sliding out the rear & send my opponent flying! I became quite adept at this bit of cheating – I mean fancy driving. One of my uncles (a hot rodder himself) became wise to this & I had to come up with a different tactic. A trip to the hobby shop with some coins from my allowance & I came home with an open wheel Lola Grand Prix car that no one could keep up with. I was cruel. In the midst of yells of, “No Fair! That car’s in a different class!”… I’d have to remind them whose track it is.
    What ever happened to my racetrack? Probably gave way to real cars & trying to impress girls.
    Whatever happened to the real cars & girls? The girl I impressed the most is now my wife of 35 years & the real cars sit in the garage awaiting my inner teenager.

  8. Alan….great memories and story. But….you have room for such a track, again, in your theater downstairs. Are you and your family ready to find a Turbo Drive for you and the neighborhood? *wink* Thanks for sharing and always good to hear from you. Geoff

  9. Neat find Geoff! I too blew what little money I managed to scrape up on slot cars at commercial tracks…and I wish I still had them. I had a Cox La Cucaracha…very cool! I took my son to a commercial track a few years ago to introduce him to slot cars, but the sport has changed to paper-thin bodies and chassis, and they are so fast, you can barely watch them. It’s just not the same as the old cars that could fly off the track and put a hole into the sheet-rock or someone’s head! (I soon learned that the really fast cars were because guys were running 6-volt motors on a 12 volt track! So much for playing fair)

    I know you are the master of tie-down techniques and are a major contributor to the well-being of the ratchet-strap industry, but I cringe at the thought of anything happening to that plex bubble….it has got to be irreplaceable! I would have made a second trip with a small enclosed U-Haul myself!

    I’ll be over shortly with my quarters!

  10. Hi, I have one of these standing in my garage.. unfortenatly it is not working… Is it hard complicated to repair? How much is a machine like this worth?

    I bought it with the house 🙂

    Kind regards

  11. I just bought one of these and think it is really cool. I am currently not able to get it to work. Does anyone know an expert that I could contact. I can get the cars to move and it does most functions in test mode but it doesn’t seem to go into play mode. Help! 402 669 5626 Omaha NE

  12. Hello Geoff,

    Wow. For whatever reason, I just don’t recall the Turbo Drive arcade track setup. But wow, would I love to have one!

    Yes, I could never part with my slot cars or sets either. As a silly result I still have between 280-300 cars and about 75 sets. My favorites were always 1/32 scale, but I have a few 1/24 ands 1/25th scale. The latter are Cox, Monogram, Revell, AMT and more.

    But like you I have been a longtime fan of Scalextric. I started collecting Scalextric sets and cars in the early 1960s. I still have sets I’ve never assembled still in the boxes and cars I’ve never run. I have a pile of the early rubber track and a bit of the later “Plexy-trac” along with accessories and power packs.

    I have the wild 1/25th scale AMT “Authentic Model Turnpike” sets, tracks, controls and a dealer demo track. These cars could run on the same lane, do 360 burnouts, actually steered, and much more.

    Other cars and tracks I have:
    • Strombecker (early to late)
    • Revell
    • Cox
    • Atlas
    • VIP
    • Varney
    • MPC
    • Eldon
    • Marx
    • A.C. Gilbert
    and more.

    I have tons of literature, magazines and a few books. I used to drop my paper route money and my allowance at the local hobby shop… and boy, do I miss that place! I never spent my time at the big tracks because they became populated with guys running “thingie” cars and they didn’t give a hoot about whether their slot cars looked like the rear cars. They just wanted to go as fast as possible. Nothing else mattered. So I usually ran my cars at home on a track I built in my attic. I sure miss those days, but I don’t miss my slot cars and tracks because I still have most of them!

    So slot cars of the 1960s are still dear to my heart!

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