We’ve all raced a slot car, right? You pick out your car and carefully line it up with a thin groove running along the centre of a track. With the remote in hand, you watch it zip around and around along a circuit you spent hours dreaming up and building. It’s a fun activity for Christmas morning or a rainy weekend with family.
There are, however, some people who take their slot cars more seriously, dedicating entire rooms to their elaborate tracks or clearing out garage space to build a course. And that’s where Michigan-based Slot Mods Raceways comes in. Since 2009, the company has made a name for itself building some massive tracks for the world’s biggest car fans.
“I was racing slot cars with friends in the basement,” says David Beattie, founder of Slot Mods Raceways, when we caught up over Zoom. “I ended up building a custom wooden track. It was in my basement, six lanes, and I started just messing around with building structures. I really enjoyed it.”
Beattie then began to wonder if there were people out there that might like a track like his of their own. So pinned up business cards around town and, eventually, someone reached out to order one.
“A gentleman grabbed my card and said ‘I think I might want a track’,” explains Beattie. “I ended up building one, that was the only one I sold and I was just like ‘oh, OK’.”
Since then, he’s received orders from people like McLaren CEO Zak Brown and Ford boss Jim Farley, who both now have impressive Slot Mods tracks of their own to play with. On each layout Beattie creates, buyers can customize the track and the scenery to their liking. There are even options to recreate famous circuits from anywhere in the world and Farley has a miniature version of Laguna Seca.
“It’s all unique,” says Beattie. “That’s just because I like challenges.”
After cutting its teeth installing massive tracks for car fans and corporate clients, Slot Mods Raceway took on a larger challenge that, ironically, was quite a bit smaller.
“The Porsche 917 was always my favorite car,” says Beattie. “And this race car replica place that’s close to me made full-size 917s.”
So Beattie bought one and then set about turning it into a pop-out slot car track that every race fan would be jealous of. To do this, he commissioned a frame that would fit snugly inside the recreated bodywork. This held the track in place and allowed the car to retain things like working lights and suspension components that you can see when you open it up.
“There was a lot of thought that went into it because I really didn’t know if it was gonna, you know, work,” he says.
As well as building a frame to hold all the components inside the car, Beattie and his team worked out a way for the Porsche’s entire bodywork to open up and reveal the secrets hidden inside. With the touch of a button, the car’s top half opens up.
Then, he had to fill the space he’d created. But he explains that building the track was a challenge that started long before the car showed up at his studio.
“We do the math on the inside to figure out what that cavity is and what we can fit into the body,” explains Beattie.
“Normally, I’ll tape it out on the floor in the shape of what we have and I’ll stack foam to kind of recreate it. It’s easier for me to see it in my head through my eyes on the floor so that I can pick elevations and get the shape going.”
Once the space is mapped out, Beattie starts working out how much scenery he can squeeze around the track, which with the Porsche 917 build included recreating things like the Le Mans grandstands. When everything is mapped out, the construction begins.
“We double check our measurements, we start cutting,” he explains. “We put in the base, the platform and then we start routing the track, pinning the track, backfilling it and doing all the small scenery.”
Once complete, the car looks amazing. The pristine Porsche 917 bodywork is finished in a period blue and orange Gulf livery, and the detail you’ll spot across the track is incredible. It’s a recreation of Le Mans and the completed creation hit the headlines earlier this year when it was sold on Bring A Trailer for more than $200,000.
The response to the build was “overwhelming,” and Beattie soon started getting inundated with orders for builds that featured other famous race cars. That’s what led him to his latest project, a model of Le Mans built inside Ken Miles 1966 GT40 MK II and Jacky Ickx’s 1969 GT40 MK I.
“It’s been an idea for quite a while,” says Beattie. “I’ve always wanted to do one. So I’m currently commissioned to build one and I have a second and a third one that I’m waiting to be finalised.”
Inside each, race fans will find a “Le Mans-inspired layout” that features two hairpin turns, a pit area packed with crews, grandstands and scenery like lighting towers, hay bales, trees, and shrubbery.
The process of building models such as these takes about “seven months” to complete, Beattie explains. After which point, he’s ready to move onto the next project. “I tend to get bored,” he quips. “So I don’t want to build too many of the same cars.”
Photo: Slot Mods Raceways
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