The LeMay Museum’s Amazing Slot Car Track
After only being open a short time the LeMay Museum, also known as America’s Car Museum, is well on its way to becoming the premier automotive museum in the US. Located in Tacoma, Washington, it houses not only rotating exhibits from the late Harold LeMay’s enormous and eclectic collection of cars, but also many other cars on loan from other collections and individuals.
It’s four levels showcase everything from the very first primitive cars to the latest exotic sports cars and racing cars of all kinds and eras. It’s definitely a must-see for anyone who appreciates cars in all their amazing variety.
Of special interest to all slot car hobbyists is the Speed Zone (designated H in the above diagram). It includes racing simulators of the same kind used by pro drivers as a part of their training and, most important, a huge Slotmods 4-lane slot car track. If you’re not familiar with Slotmods, it’s a business that makes custom-designed slot car tracks for wealthy people to put in their man-caves. Each fully-detailed track sells for anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. Jay Leno is one of their customers. The museum’s track is said to carry a price tag of $75,000 at list. The purchase was funded by one pf the museum’s patrons. The track is undoubtedly a great advertisement for Slotmods, since thousands of people, all interested in cars and, therefore, potential slot car hobbyists, pass through the museum and see the track every week. More important, the wealthy collectors who lend their cars to the museum for display are all part of the prime target market for Slotmods tracks.
The museum charges $3.00 to race a car on the track for 10 minutes, which is good value for the money. The track is supervised by a museum volunteer. The cars have extra magnets and the power is turned down to make them just fast enough to be both fun and easy to drive even for a complete beginner. The reduced power also prevents errant cars from doing damage to the track’s truly fabulous scenery.
A lap of the track begins on the relatively short front straightaway. In the photo above the drivers’ panel is just out of the picture to the left. The track is equipped with Professor Motor controllers. All the cars in the pit area are available for use by museum visitors and they can choose the car they want to drive.
From the front straight the cars go through a banked uphill sweeper turn and onto the back straight, the longest one on the track.
The back straight ends at the Corkscrew, a sharp left leading into a downhill run, just as its full-sized namesake does.
The track descends rapidly then climbs back up into its inner loop. Note the strategically placed crash wall and catch fencing.
The inner loop twists around the control tower and descends toward the Dunlop Bridge.
The Dunlop Bridge, modeled after the famous structure at LeMans, spans the first of a series of downhill esses.
The esses, modeled after a section of Pacific Raceways, drop the track back down to the level of the front straight and start-finish. It’s quite a roller coaster ride.
The track abounds with all the structures and other features that make it into a highly realistic representation of a full-sized road racing circuit. The massive control tower is a modeling masterpiece all by itself. The architecture is interesting and original. All areas of the layout are populated with hundreds of figures, each one painted individually.
This elevated flag station is full of realistic details. Note how the floor is painted to simulate the wear of countless corner workers walking on it.
These grandstands are scratchbuilt and populated with individually painted and detailed spectator figures.
Note the tire wall and the openings in the catch fence for corner workers to wave flags through, just as seen on many race tracks around the world.
This is absolutely the best thing you can possibly do with a Scalextric Ford Torino.
Things are getting a little chaotic in the paddock. We wonder where the tunnel is supposed to lead to. The cars were all supplied by Slotmods as a part of the package.
The museum management has plans to establish an extensive schedule of slot car racing events at the museum, ranging from weekly or biweekly races for local hobbyists to events of national and world stature. These races won’t be run on the Slotmods track but on other tracks brought in for the occasion. This is because the Slotmods layout, while it is a beautiful example of craftsmanship, is really more of a museum exhibit than a race track. Its design makes it almost impossible to turn marshal without damaging the scenery. The scenery is also vulnerable to crash damage if hit by cars traveling at the speeds they would reach at full race power. So, the plan is to preserve the track as a fun interactive attraction for museum visitors and to run serious races on other tracks better suited for the purpose. The museum is in discussions with various slot car businesses to sponsor events and support the operation of its slot car program.
One idea that has been proposed is to run an annual “24 Hours of LeMay” endurance event. This would see three 6-lane tracks, each built with a different track system and layout design but all controlled by a single race control system, accommodating a total of 18 multi-driver teams. The teams would rotate across all lanes of all 3 tracks as if they were one 18-lane layout. Part of the challenge would be to set up the cars to handle the variations in the tracks and for the drivers to master the three layouts, none of which they will have seen before arriving for the event. A number of other ideas are also under development. Announcements will be forthcoming as plans are finalized.
The LeMay museum is an experience you really need to add to your bucket list. Plan to spend most of a day, at least, and that’s if you only come to look at the cars and not to run a slot car race. And all the exhibits are changed every 90 days or so. Save up your frequent flier miles for repeated visits.
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