One question asked by many slot car racers is Which Scale is Best? There is no right or wrong scale when it comes to slot cars. It really boils down to how much space and money you have available to devote to your raceway and car collection.
The first issue is one of space. While a challenging HO slot car track can be built in as little as 4×8 feet of space a 1:32 scale track will require at least twice that, or an 8×16 foot table to build the same 4×8 foot HO raceway. A 1:32 scale track will be twice as long and twice as wide as a comparable HO track. That equates to four times the area. You’re going to need a much larger room for a nice 1:32 scale track. Keep in mind too that additional walking space is required around all sides of the table so that cars can be re-slotted after a crash.
A 1:32 scale slot car weighs considerably more than an HO car, so it requires a much longer straight to get up to full speed. 1:32 scale slot car track is typically twice as wide as HO track. HO scale track is 3 inches wide while 1:32 scale track is at least 6 inches wide. The larger size of 1:32 scale track also requires a table that is much deeper than the average HO table. This added table depth and length results in a much larger area required for a challenging raceway.
While it’s possible to build a 1:32 scale raceway on a 4×8 or 5×9 foot table it isn’t going to be much fun to race on. A 1:32 scale car just needs a lot more room to get up to speed.
The layout diagrams below illustrate the differences between essentially the same raceway configuration when built with Tomy AFX HO (1:64 Scale) track, 1:32 scale Scalextric Sport track and finally 1:24 scale Carrera Exclusiv track.
Tomy AFX HO Raceway – 4×8 Feet
This first layout diagram is for a 4-lane HO track built using Tomy A/FX plastic track. This layout fits on a simple table built using a single 4×8 foot sheet of plywood. Each lane has equal lap lengths of 33.5 feet.
Tomy AFX Track Inventory
(28) – 15″ Straights
(8) – 9″ Straights
(8) – 6″ Straights
(16) – 12″ Radius Turns
(20) – 9″ Radius Turns
(4) – 6″ Radius Turns
35′ – HO Turn Border
Scalextric 1:32 Raceway – 8×16 Feet
This next layout diagram is for a 4-lane 1:32 scale track built using Scalextric Sport plastic track. This layout fits on a table built using four 4×8 foot sheets of plywood. Each lane has equal lap lengths of 65.79 feet. Here we see that the same track configuration that in HO required a 4×8 foot table, now requires a table twice as large at 8×16 feet.
Scalextric Track Inventory
(70) – Full Straights
(12) – Half Straights
(15) – R4 Radius Turns
(40) – R3 Radius Turns
(11) – R2 Radius Turns
(3) – R2 Radius Half Turns
(15) – R4 Outer Borders
(25) – R3 Outer Borders
(15) – R3 Inner Borders
(25) – R2 Inner Borders
(52) – Half-Straight Borders
(8) – Lead In/Out Borders
Carrera 1:24 Raceway – 10×20 Feet
The third and final layout diagram is for a 4-lane 1:24 scale track built using Carrera Exclusiv plastic track. This layout fits on a table measuring a whopping 10×20 feet. Each lane has equal lap lengths of 76.92 feet. Here again we see that the same track configuration that in HO required a 4×8 foot table and in 1:32 scale required 8×16, now requires an even larger table of 10×20 feet.
Carrera manufactures both 1:32 and 1:24 scale slot cars, but offers only a single 1:24 scale track system. Carrera 1:32 scale race sets include the same 1:24 scale track used in their larger 1:24 scale race sets.
Carrera Track Inventory
(92) – Full Straights
(14) – Third Straights
(4) – Quarter Straights
(11) – R3/30 Radius Turns
(26) – R2/30 Radius Turns
(15) – R1/30 Radius Turns
(11) – R3/30 Outer Borders
(15) – R2/30 Outer Borders
(11) – R2/30 Inner Borders
(15) – R1/30 Inner Borders
(36) – Straight Borders
(12) – Third Straight Borders
(4) – Quarter Straight Borders
(8) – Right/Left End Borders
The cost of your raceway and your collection of cars also increases as you move up in scales. As the layout diagrams above show, a challenging HO track can be assembled for under $350, while the same raceway constructed using Scalextric sport track will cost nearly two and a half times as much at just over $1000. The 1:24 scale Carrera track costs even more at nearly $1300.
If you’re on a tight budget, or plan to introduce slot cars to younger kids with limited bank accounts then HO may be your best option. Not only are HO cars about half the price of a comparable 1:32 scale car, the parts needed to maintain and improve performance also cost about half what 1:32 scale cars and parts cost.
The average Ready To Run HO slot car costs between $14.95 and $24.99, while 1:32 scale RTR cars start at around $34.99 and can cost as much as $79.99.
Younger racers normally have an easier time driving and controlling an HO car due to it’s stronger traction magnets. Most kids are familiar with Mattel Hot Wheels and Matchbox toy cars, so HO slot cars is a natural progression up from their push toys.
Recent 1:32 scale slot cars offer more in the way of detail. The 1:32 scale slot cars from manufacturers such as Scalextric, Ninco, Carrera, Fly and Slot.It. are beautiful to behold. The level of detail possible with a larger car is why many people are initially attracted to 1:32 scale slot cars.
The additional detail found on larger scale cars comes at a price though. Mirrors, wings and other small body parts are the first thing to break off when a car crashes. This is particularly true when younger racers are at the helm.
Side-By-Side Slot Car Scale Comparison
The picture shown above provides a side-by-side scale comparison. The car on the left is a 1:24 scale slot car intended for use on a Carrera Exclusiv raceway. The car shown at the center is a 1:32 scale car as used with a Scalextric Sport raceway. The car on the far right is an HO slot car for use on a Tomy AFX track.
Boxed race sets are available for all of the popular scales. But here again prices rise quickly as the scale of the cars increase.
All slot car track regardless of the scale is 2-lane track, wider 4-, 6- and 8-lane tracks are created by simply placing 2-lane track sections next to one another. Different turn radius sizes nest inside of one another as well to create curves of more than two lanes.
The Tomy AFX Super International Challenge is the most popular selling HO race set at $199.99. It provides enough track to build any number of 4-lane race tracks with lap lengths of just over 25 feet. You can also build 2-lane race tracks with lap lengths of over 50 feet with this set.
Scalextric race sets start at around $120 and go up to over $350. These are 2-lane race sets, unlike the 4-lane race sets common in HO.
Carrera offers race sets in both 1:32 and 1:24 scale. Here again these are 2-lane sets and cost between $149 and $399 depending upon the amount of track included in the set. Carrera 1:24 scale sets use the Exclusiv brand while 1:32 scale sets are called Evolution.
Carrera Exclusiv 2-Lane 1:24 Scale Race Set
Carrera Evolution 2-Lane 1:24 Scale Race Set
If you have enough room to build a 1:32 scale track and your budget allows for the higher costs then by all means try 1:32 scale racing. Keep in mind that an 8×16 foot 1:32 scale raceway with enough space to walk around all sides of the table to re-slot cars will require a room at least 14 x 22 feet in size though. And if you also want room to work on cars and display your collection you’ll have to increase the room size accordingly.
If space is an issue, your budget is somewhat limited, or you have young racers, then you may find HO slot car racing to be your best option. HO racers outnumber 1:32 scale racers by about 25 to 1, so you’ll be in good company. A 4×8 foot raceway with room to marshal cars from all sides of the table will require an area at least 10 x 14 feet in size. You can also place one of the 4 foot sides of the table against a wall and still be able to marshal an HO raceway. This reduces the room needed to about 10 x 11 feet, or the size of an average second bedroom.
If you have a truly large area available that you can devote to a dedicated slot car track then you may want to consider the Carrera Exclusiv track system. It allows you to race both 1:32 and 1:24 scale cars on the same track. The longer straights possible on a 10×20 foot table will really allow a 1:32 scale car to show its stuff.
Whichever scale you select try to build the largest table you can. I’ve used a 4×8 foot HO raceway for these comparisons, but if you have more room and still want to race HO then try a larger 5×12 or 6 x 16 foot table. HO cars too, are even more fun on longer straights.
What scales do I race? Well I’ve got all three. A 4×8 HO raceway just like the one discussed here, a 2-lane Scalextric Sport track on a 6×16 foot table shown below, and a Carrera track that is set up Outdoors in my backyard.
Scalextric Track Inventory
(32) – Full Straights
(2) – Half Straights
(15) – R4 Radius Turns
(12) – R3 Radius Turns
(8) – R2 Radius Turns
(1) – R2 Radius Half Turns
(15) – R4 Outer Borders
(12) – R3 Outer Borders
(8) – R2 Outer Borders
(1) – R2 Outer Half Border
(15) – R4 Inner Borders
(12) – R3 Inner Borders
(17) – R2 Inner Half Borders
(140) – Half-Straight Borders