When it comes to bragging rights, CEOs and entrepreneurs are always on the search for the next neat thing that will impress their peers. Home cinemas with virtual reality capability, an exact copy of The American Bar at The Savoy, a dressing room with the entire colour spectrum of Manolo Blahnik heels or a mirrored turntable to display their classic cars on; all this and more contributes to oneupmanship. But for petrolheads, nothing can rival the incredible slot car racing scenes created by Slot Mods.
It’s perhaps partly why Zak Brown of McLaren, Jay Leno and racing legend Bobby Rahal all own a slot car track created by the American company – a company that would never have existed if David Beattie, its founder, hadn’t lost his job and wondered what to do with himself.
Rahal ordered a 22-foot exact replica of his favourite track, Road America Raceway in Winsconsin. Other clients have opted for iconic circuits including Le Mans and the undulating landscape of Laguna Seca. Some prefer to have a fantasy track of their dreams. Either way, the 1:32-scale slot car tracks stand out for their intricate detail.
These may seem like toys but the cost is a far cry from the sort of set you might find on the highstreet. Prices start at £38,000 and can reach as much as £250,000, while the largest setups span 30 feet.
Slot Mods’ base-model Standard Scenic Raceway, which measures 6 x 12 feet, costs £38,000. Each is made to order and takes upto four months to complete. Custom Scenic Megatracks – limited only by space and budget –start at £60,000 and take longer still to bring to life.
Slot Mods dates to 2008, when Beattie turned to one of his childhood hobbies after being laid off from his job as a printing company manager. “Out of fear can come a lot of creativity,” Beattie told CNBC in 2017, “and you’ve got to be open to those vibes that are coming through.”
Beattie tried selling do-it-yourself slot car kits at a model shop over weekends, and although he had just one buyer, Beattie’s hard work wasn’t for naught. A Ford executive looking for something fun to do with his son saw Beattie’s cars and, later after seeing the raceway that Beattie built in his basement using 170 feet of track, commissioned one of his own tracks for £3000.
Encouraged, Beattie began contacting car magazines to drum up publicity. Several stories about his detailed creations led to more orders – Pebble Beach officials were among the first to call – and the more tracks that Beattie built, the larger and more expensive they became. Slot Mods’ staff and work space grew too, and these days Beattie and a team of four craftspeople build about six tracks per year.
With exclusivity assured, it’s little wonder that Slot Mods finds itself in demand with those looking for something that will outshine Scalextric sets and impress their peers. The bad news? Don’t expect it to be ready in time for Christmas.