There used to be an ad for the Fiat Coupe – you know the one, Bangle wheel slashes, double-bubble headlights, loopy turbocharged versions – with the strapline, ‘In Italy, no one grows up wanting to be a train driver’. Good ad, that. Got the point across, and was enhanced immeasurably by the car itself being incredibly desirable.
Applicable in all kinds of situations too. You could imagine Fiat posting a similar ad in the 1960s, saying something like ‘In Turin, no one grows up wanting to be an accountant’. And below it, full bleed across two pages, there’d be a photo of Fiat 500s racing around the famous oval test track on top of the Lingotto factory.
The track’s closed today, and Lingotto’s a hotel and shopping complex, but one lucky slot-car enthusiast will get to experience some of our imaginary ad thanks to Slot Mods Raceways in Detroit, which has replicated the entire factory as a 15-foot long slot-car track.
Built for a private collector, the Slot Mods team have spent the last two years working on the model, and frankly it’s incredible. Measuring six feet tall, four feet wide and fifteen feet long, the factory is constructed from wood, with a four-lane slot-car track positioned on its roof, complete with banked turns just like the real Lingotto circuit.
It’s not just the scale that’s astonishing, but the details too. Below the test track level Slot Mods has modelled a factory production line, complete with 3D-printed miniature Fiat 500s, and below that a museum-style arrangement with various Fiats from history, many positioned on rotating turntables. Offices, a furnace room and Lingotto’s internal ramps are also modelled, while the entire model is lit from within bringing even more life to the diorama.
The real factory is perhaps best known for its appearance in The Italian Job, where the Minis led police around a few laps before leaping to another building – though those familiar with Lingotto will know the jump wasn’t taken from the factory itself, which is rather taller than the ramp depicted in the scene.
The building was something of a masterpiece, containing production lines that fed cars out onto the track above for pre-delivery testing – and then back down, ready to be shipped away via the nearby railway network. While the factory was closed in 1982, its lower levels now contain a shopping centre and cinema, while the roof – still ringed by the circuit – houses a dramatic art gallery structure.
Slot Mods meanwhile has undertaken numerous other incredibly detailed tracks in the past, (some documented by us right here) replicating raceways both real and fictitious or, for instance, building an entire diorama on top of a Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.
If nobody in Turin grew up wanting to be an accountant, anyone who sees one of Slot Mods’ race circuits may well want to grow up to be a model builder.