Novi resident Tim Quinn was already planning out what he’d like his slot car race track to look like long before he retired from his career as a senior sales manager at BorgWarner. 2.5 years later, the track is not quite completed; however, the 5’ by 15’ platform the four-lane track sits on is getting closer and closer to what he had always pictured being in his home.
“[It] contains hills, rock cliffs, a waterfall that streams into a pond, valleys and bushes and trees of various sizes and types,” said Quinn. “It also includes a lighted partial downtown area, lighted billboards (including a Lifesavers sign and a Good Humor sign), numerous grandstands, a parking lot, refreshment stands (including a KFC), restrooms, an overpass, a pit lane, a lap counter system and 62' of CNC routed track built to specification in California.”
To learn more about his inspiration for this project, we sat down with Quinn, who not only explained the design and building process, what he’s enjoyed most about the track so far and what his plans are for the track in the future, but he also shared some advice for those in the community who are considering building their own slot car race track.
WHAT FUELED YOUR INTEREST IN SLOT CAR RACING?
When I was about 10 years old, my father bought me a 1/24th Scale Strombecker race set. It included a small layout and two cars. When I was 12 years old, I got an HO Scale Aurora slot car track. I put it in our attic and expanded the track all over the entire room. Then, I started racing at the hobby store on Main Street in Plymouth every Wednesday night. This all began in the ‘60s when slot car racing became extremely popular.
WHAT DROVE YOU TO DESIGN YOUR TRACK?
As a maturing adult, I frequently and fondly remembered the old slot car days and thought that one day, when I had some time, I would try to design and build my own track. As a recent retiree (December 2018) [and] when COVID hit last year and forced everyone to “stay home,” I realized I now had plenty of time on my hands to do a project, and I thought now is the time to build the track.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON THE DESIGN AND BUILDING OF YOUR TRACK?
I actually started to design the track in 2018 before I retired. I created a design that would fit on a table that would fit within the area I had in the basement. So, first came the area design, then the table design and lastly the track design, which includes the track layout, the elevations, hills, landscaping, buildings, etc. I started the actual build in August last summer and have completed what [is pictured] in just under four months.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR FAVORITE PART OF HAVING YOUR OWN TRACK SO FAR?
Honestly, it's been the whole process of creating something. To design, create and bring it to “life,” and the challenges it creates, and the problem solving required to overcome the obstacles. And, I created it to be “modular,” which was a huge challenge in itself, so that one day I can disassemble it and give it to one of the grandchildren or to one of the family members who may want it.
WHAT DO YOU STILL HAVE LEFT TO DO?
Well, like many train set builders say, it is a project that is never completely done. You are always adding or subtracting something. But there are a few key things to finish before I can say it's basically “done”: first, the track walls and signage need to be completed. Second, the landscaping needs to be finished (buildings installed, waterfall completed, additional bushes and trees, etc.). Third, the lighting needs to be added for night racing and ambiance. Lastly, the race circuit needs to be connected to the computer for calculating lap times and race controls. That's about it.
IF SOMEONE IN OUR COMMUNITY WANTED TO BUILD THEIR OWN TRACK, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THEM?
First of all, have patience. Take time to plan what design you want given your space requirements. Second, research the techniques that others have used to create their tracks. There are literally thousands of ways to build tracks, create layouts and design environments that meet your taste and desired outcome. Third, dive into the project. Don't be afraid of making mistakes. Trial and error are the best ways to create. Believe me, my garbage cans were full of mistakes I've made! Finally, anyone can do this! The internet is full of ideas, projects and answers to all of your questions. Just get started!