What is Slotcar Racing.
By Ray Gardner
Wheelie Car Basics.
by Peter Shreeves
What You Want To Know About Magnets.
By John Sojak, Trik Trax, Inc.
Improve The Handling Of A Slotcar Chassis.
By Ray Gardner
Build and repair a Slotcar Track!
by Ray Gardner with a slight edit by Bob Herrick
Body Painting, Trimming And Mounting Techniques.
By Ray Gardner
An International Affair.
By Dan Green
Last modified: September 29, 2005

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Wheelie Car Basics.

By Pete Shreeves edited by Bob Herrick

It never ceases to amaze me. Whenever I go to a slot car track people ask to see my wheelie cars. I have several specialty wheelie cars I enjoy showing off and I even let other people drive them from time to time. I built the cars for that purpose so, naturally, I'm happy to show them around. But, why is there such a fascination? It's almost as though there is something magical about slot cars that can pop wheelies. Perhaps its just because they are unusual nowadays. Road car chassis like Flexis and Eurosports stopped using drop arms long ago and wing car chassis never did have them. The current array of drag racing setups have no drop arms and typically sport outlandishly long solid wheelie castors to keep the front of the car down. I'd be hard pressed to find a chassis produced today that is capable of pulling a wheelie let alone sustaining it over any distance.

There isn't any magic involved. Most slot car motors have more than enough power to pull up the front of a car. All you need is a drop arm and a high enough center of gravity to let the car rise up under acceleration. Anyone who can solder can add a hinged arm to a chassis to allow the slot pin to swing down. Anyone can remove or bend upward the wheelie castors to allow the car a given amount of front end rise. If I can contribute any knowledge to this genre it may simply be in the area of making sure they car is stable when it does the wheelie. After all, why pull a short wheelie when you can pop the car up on any spot on the track, hold it up all the way down the straight-away or even around turns!

Actually, I started making wheelie cars at the same time my friends and I started slot drag racing in the late 60's. We originally established three categories; Pro Sock, Funny Cars and Wheelie Exhibition cars. The wheelie competition included two factors, elapsed time and who could hold the wheels in the air the longest!

The first complete slot car I ever scratch built was a stage coach wheelie car. It was based on the MPC kit of the custom car produced for the singing group Paul Revere and the Raiders. My main competitor was another wheelie car built by George Henderson based on the Boot Hill Express. (The Boot Hill model kit has been re-released in recent years but the Raider's Coach has not. I still have and run my old Coach!) Both cars were powered by 36D motors. The Coach has the motor mounted cross-wise behind the rear axle so it consistently won the wheelie contests in terms of length of wheelie. When it was new it was able to hold the front end up all the way down a scale quarter mile track. George's Boot Hill Express mounted the motor on its side between the frame rails turning an in-line gear assembly. The Boot Hill only made short wheelies off the starting line but was a tad faster than the Coach.

In building wheelie cars I was not so concerned with speed or traction as I was with keeping the car stable once it was up. Using a rear-mounted motor the Coach has a relatively low center of gravity even with the front up and is fairly stable despite the bouncing it takes on its hard castor. It can accelerate around a turn with the front up and the wide rear wheelbase keeps it from tipping sideways. This is a good formula for a stable wheelie car.

Most wheelie cars are not so well behaved. I put together a '57 Nomad wheelie car decked out as a Dominos' delivery car with the idea of using a low power 16D motor. The car is heavy with a high CG. The motor is mounted high behind the axle with a steep 6 to one gearing to allow the puny motor to lift the car. The car looks great and has no trouble pulling high, longish wheelies. However, it is so tall and narrow that it can be hairy to drive! The little motor provides almost no brakes and the car likes to roll over in a turn even with the front end down!

During the 1980's I had the idea of building a wheelie car to be produced commercially for kids to enjoy. I made up some drawing s of a stamped chassis similar to a flexi but with a rear mounted motor and a drop arm. To check out the concept I built a mule from brass rod with a '70 Mustang body. The car is a blast to drive and has survived the attentions of many unskilled drivers over the years. The low center of gravity and long drop arm make the car almost as tractable as a road car and the soft castors let the car glide along with the front wheels in the sky. My sons invented a maneuver called the 'Alligator' where the car sneaks up on a competitor, opens its mouth (lifting the body like a gater's upper jaw) and pouncing on the unsuspecting victim! Plans for producing the kids wheelie car were dropped but the mule still runs great.

(Caption to Willies photo. Another attempt at a kid's wheelie car was the Willies Coupe shown here. A fun car but not easy enough for kids to drive.)

One of the great things about making wheelie cars is that you can make them out of almost anything. I recently built my own Boot Hill Express and an Ice Cream Wagon using 16D motors. I use them for entertaining match racing whenever people are in a mood for a grudge race.

Some recent wheelie cars I've made are based on toys rather than model kits. The high impact plastic used for these toys the cars far better suited to the abuse a slot car gets than with polystyrene model car bodies. The Corvette is a rip-cord inertia wheel type toy with chassis I made from brass flat stock. The Prowler is a conversion of the smaller RC car available in many toy stores. Both of these cars are powered by a Super 16D. The Viper chassis is simply a NASCAR flexi chassis with the center 'finger' separated and hinged to provide a quick drop arm conversion. Neither car has wheelie castors and simply bump the track with their bodywork. Wheelie castors are not really required for show cars so long as the part of the body that touches the track isn't metal which can scratch the surface or short the braids. However, you might want to be sure your track owner has no objections.

So there you have it. Wheelie cars are a lot of fun and there is nothing magical about building them. Try one yourself and see!