Monday, October 2, 2023 Oct 2, 2023
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Gentlemen, Start Your Batteries

By Mark Henricks |

The old saying about the difference between men and boys being the price of their toys certainly rings true when it comes to a new craze, remote-control model car racing. The cars, which can cost up to $1,500 each, are the vehicles of boom that in the last three years have made remote-control racing almost as popular as its faddish predecessor, slot car racing, was in the Sixties-despite the high cost of the sport. And for the truly adventurous, ever more exotic toys are available, including airplanes, submarines, and even helicopters.

About sixty cars are bought every week in Dallas, several times the number bought two years ago, says Lee Thomas of Dallas distributor Ja-Lea Co. That means the sports enthusiasts are either growing in numbers, or Dallas’s remote-control drivers are worse than the drivers on our real streets.

Mike Belden, manager of Checkered Flag R/C, a Dallas hobby shop says that children find the new cars riveting and their parents tend to get hooked next. The competitions may especially appeal to aging Yuppies, who find things like tennis balls are moving much fester than they once did. “Anyone can do it; that’s the key,” Belden says, adding that the cars have become easier to operate.

Thomas, on the other hand, figures off-road appeal begins at home. “You can run them in the front yard and chase the cat,” he says.

But the tracks are where the real action is. Nearly any Friday or Saturday and many an evening during the week, up to several hundred fans can be found clustered around at least one of a dozen permanent tracks in the Dallas area, some indoor and most featuring both oval and off-road racing. Admission is free and families abound. A couple of the larger tracks are RC Cars in Garland and Indoor RC World in Mesquite.

Dallas boasts several strong competitors, like thirty-year-old Haggar Apparel Co. executive Bruce Richmond, who was on the American team that finished first, second, and third at the world championships of remote-control aircraft racing in Melbourne, Australia, last April. But in the gas car field, most of the nation’s quarter-million off-road racers hail from the mountain states and the West Coast. At one recent race at Wild Bill’s Hobby Shop in Irving, the methodical manner in which one competitor lapped the entire field prompted a request for an explanation. The bleak response: “He’s from California.”

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