Making Your Childhood Dreams Come True, One $50,000 Slot Car Track at a Time

slot mods track closeup porsche 917
$50,000 Slot Car Dreams Made RealSlot Mods

The economic collapse brought on by the Great Recession was particularly gruesome in the Great Lake State. Michigan faced job losses in the seven figures, with unemployment reaching over 15 percent, the highest levels in the country during the downturn. It wasn't what most would consider the time or place to start a new business, especially one tangentially related to cars. And yet, amid all of that uncertainty, Slot Mods founder David Beattie left his established career to chase a recently reignited passion from his youth: slot car racing.

Beattie had been getting back into slot cars for a few years already, after his wife Shari got him a set of 1:43 scale cars for Christmas in 2004. It wasn't quite the dream 1:32 Carrera set that he had seen in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, but it sparked something that grew much greater.

"I was like, I need to go to 1:32, so I bought one of the out-of-the-box 27-foot tracks. Before I knew it, I had 119 feet of plastic track in the basement on all of these rickety tables, and I just loved it," says Beattie. "It was a great stress relief."


So, too, was it a link to his childhood, and the joy he shared with his siblings. Beattie grew up in a house of 11 children, with older brothers who had an interest in slot car racing. Beattie and his twin are the youngest of the bunch, and he recalls spending time serving as a de facto corner worker during those contentious races around the living room. While Mom and Dad put the kibosh on micro racing after lighter fluid started finding its way onto the track, motorsport would remain a fixture in the household. When Beattie was seven, his older brother Leo signed on to work for McLaren Racing. That was 1971. The elder Beattie specifically worked for the Can-Am team, which was based in Metro Detroit at the time. Beattie watched as his brother traveled with the team from Road America to Watkins Glen with Peter Revson's racer in tow. The legendary machine even made an appearance at the Beattie household on occasion.

1971 monterey castrol grand prix laguna seca can am
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"One day he was coming home from Road America back to Livonia [Michigan], and they had Peter Revson's Can-Am car on the back of the truck," Beattie tells Road & Track. "It was just covered up. We kinda peeked at it, but all we were interested in were the pit bikes. We were in the backyard jumping them and stuff, and they kept saying 'be careful!' I think they were like Honda 70s or something. It was really sweet, seeing that was like a big deal. And then he'd bring home spent tires with all of the chords, and we'd roll them around and play with them."

The elder Beattie would later work with McLaren's Indycar effort with driver Gordon Johncock, ensuring that racing remained regular family viewing back home.

Like many Michiganders, Beattie's established career in operations management was cut short in 2008 following a wave of layoffs. He was in his late forties with young children, and unsure of what was coming next. By that point, Beattie had grown out of his plastic tracks, having constructed his own wooden unit with the guidance of former Ford engineer Jimmy Attard. Beattie used his personal build to host local slot car races with fellow enthusiasts, as well as the local Porsche club. Slot Mods had already been a side project for Beattie starting in 2007, but the career shake-up gave him the confidence to jump in full time. With some help from his young daughter, he made a display at the local hobby shop, while also printing some ads to put up at the local AutoZone. Not long after, he sold his first track for around $4000.

slot mods laguna raceway build
Slot Mods

The guerilla marketing tactics at AutoZone also worked, as Beattie soon received a call from a well-known gearhead around the Motor City. That man is named Jim Farley, the current CEO of the Ford Motor Company and an accomplished vintage racer in his own right. The automotive executive wanted a track inspired by Laguna Seca and worked with Beattie to hone the design with specific callbacks to the track out of dremel-cut foam. Farley was just the first of many well-known clients, with the likes of Bobby Rahal and Zak Brown ordering up tracks of their own. The brand's corporate clients have also expanded, including Formula 1, Audi, Ford, and Mattel. Slot Mods is even working with Hot Wheels to create larger-than-life tracks for use in their flagship stores around the world.

"I could have never imagined when I first started that I'd have these sorts of clients," says Beattie.

More than a decade later, Slot Mods has garnered a lot of attention for its complex track builds, but none have captured the attention of enthusiasts quite like their Porsche 917 build. That's rather fitting, as the idea came as a result of Hammacher Schlemmer—the same catalog that had kicked off everything back in 2004—reaching out to Slot Mods for a build. The track itself is located inside the shell of a Porsche 917 racer made by the crew at Race Car Specialists, who are based in Clinton Township, Michigan. The bodywork is hinged, allowing you to open it up and see a masterful recreation of Le Mans as it was represented in the famous Steve McQueen film. The track was a viral hit, helping it to capture a sale price of over $200,000 on Bring a Trailer. Demand for similar builds came flying in at Slot Mods, with five additional orders sold within 15 minutes of the sale. Beattie ultimately wasn't able to secure more 917 shells for a continued run, so the track remains a one-off for now. That said, the team has been working on a pair of GT40 builds based on Ken Mile's 1966 car and Jacky Ickx's 1969 GT40. Each costs about as much as a solid GT40 replica.

slot mods porsche 917 le mans track
Slot Mods

Today, the brand's tracks are largely classified as "megabuilds," which are large-format units inspired by the great tracks of motorsport. The layouts aren't meant to be direct re-creations of the well-known circuits, but rather "spirit of" interpretations. The entire process can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months, with customers allowed to be as involved as they like. Beattie and his crew painstakingly design the build with customer input, cutting and shaping the scenery by hand. The hand-painted detail work is also impressive, helping to breathe some life into the iconic corners and straights. All of the tracks are constructed in a modular fashion, which allows them to break apart into prefab sections for ease of transport. That's important when dealing with tracks the size of your average living room.

Slot Mods tracks aren't for everyone, with prices starting at around $50,000 for entry-level builds. A fully customized unit can cost customers as much as a new Ferrari. But for the well-heeled enthusiast who started their passion with 1:32 racing, there is no substitute. The tracks are designed to bring you back to those early days of automotive enthusiasm and allow you to share them with your friends and family. That's a treat even for the most spoiled collectors among us.

slot mods globo rojo track build closeup
Slot Mods

"I'm very grateful for everything I have," Beattie says. "People will say 'well, how many cars do you own?' I have a Toyota 4Runner and a 1000-sq-ft home. But life is good. There are days where I get up and I tell my wife that I'm so glad that I don't work for anybody. Not that there's anything wrong with that. People ask me 'why did you found this company?' Because I never really fit anywhere. I interview really well, but then they'd smoke me out. I wanted to work somewhere where I could express myself and manage people how I'd want to be managed. Slot Mods have kind of given that to me, and I don't know what I'd do without it."

slot mods closeup on quadrophenia build
Slot Mod

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