What better way to spend a hot, humid Sunday Brooklyn afternoon than checking out Buzz-A-Rama, a 1960′s era slot car parlor in Kensington? Inside this unassuming storefront are 4 or 5 large twisting tracks, where children and adults race cars about 3 inches wide by 6 inches long, much larger than the matchbox-sized slot cars I played with as a kid. Amateurs like us use slow cars rented from Buzz. The pros, however, bring their own custom lightning-fast cars and controllers, and they are quite serious about them.
The car chassis are cut from lightweight aluminum composite using electrical discharge machining. Motivation is provided by high-performance brushless DC motors. Wheels and tires are made of special sticky, heat-resistant rubber, with a set of chemicals and rituals for cleaning and warm-up before a big race.
The lightweight plastic body can be either an aerodynamic wedge shape that directs airflow up, forcing the rear wheels down for better traction, or a more traditional scale model of a production muscle car. Super-cool retro body styles are available as well.
The controllers are also semi-custom built, and are adjustable by the operator to conform to his or her desired level of aggression in acceleration and braking.
You can buy the cars as ready-to-run products, but many racers customize theirs and/or build their own from the ground up, choosing the best components, and tweaking them for the best performance. The cars we saw were mostly made with components from Koford Engineering, and the controllers were from DiFalco Design, although apparently there are other companies serving this market as well. The fastest ultra-light cars we saw cost as much as $500.
Buzz has a good stock of generic aluminum and brass bar stock, motors, electrodes, dremel bits, lubricant, etc., behind the counter, so this could be a handy resource for local hobbyists and hackers building other electro-mechanical gadgets as well.
Buzz-a-rama is only open on weekends, and it is closed for two months in the summer starting tomorrow, but if you get a chance, stop by and check it out. It’s worth the trip:
69 Church Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11218-3791
View in Google Maps