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John O ‘Brien Slots of Fun

July 13, 2011
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Here’s a good story about John O ‘Brien. John has been collecting slot cars since he was a kid. This developed into hobby and now John competes yearly at the HO Professional Racing Association (HOPRA) held on June 23-26 in Noblesville, Ind.

From initially thinking of selling off his cars and track, O’Brien, who has taught math in Belleville grade schools the past 19 years, enjoyed his finest showing on the national stage by placing 12th in the Neo Modified category.
“I actually went up into the attic to put everything on eBay,” said O’Brien, 41. “Next thing I know I was building a track.”

For the uninitiated, slot cars are powered miniature cars that race around grooved tracks. Like most young boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s, O’Brien began his fascination with this form of racing after seeing the Aurora AFX cars and tracks sold in the Sears Wish Book as well as buying cars at the now-defunct Two Guys department store.
“The next thing I know I had a 4×8 sheet of plywood covered with track,” O’Brien laughed.

However, hobbies changed and O’Brien packed away his cars and track until about 2005. Although the cars he originally bought for $3-4 now sold for $30-40, he decided to keep his old collection.

After tooling around with his old cars, he looked up some local H.O. clubs where he could compete with others who still enjoyed the competitive charge of their childhood hobby.

“I had no idea what I was up against when I showed up to that race with one car and a controller,” O’Brien said.
These days, O’Brien has spent “several thousand” dollars on his collection of 400-plus slot cars, some of which are custom-made and cost up to $300. And instead of competing on the old, snapped-together plastic tracks of his youth, raceways are now often made from formica or linoleum.

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