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Slots of Fun: Racers gather for a good cause

Wed, 28 Jul 2010

“This wasn't your traditional fundraiser,” said slot-car-enthusiast-turned-fundraiser Bruce Talamon. “This wasn't your traditional, ‘Hey, come drink and sip white wine or do a run or do a bike ride.”

It was slot cars, which turned out to be a lot more fun. But it wasn't just a couple guys in a garage with some plastic track and a transformer.

“We have the largest selection of slot-car tracks ever assembled in the United States,” organizer Steven Farr-Jones said with considerable conviction. “I've done a little bit of research and found that the largest single-day event previously was eight tracks in the 1960s.”

“Slot Cars at the Petersen Automotive Museum” had 12 tracks, all of them far more elaborate than anything you'd see set up in a basement or on the kitchen table. One replicated the 1950s sports-car track at Paramount Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains. Another gave an excellent taste of the Rally Monte Carlo. And one even recreated Le Mans 1970, right down to Vic Elford driving the No. 25 Porsche 917 and Tony Adamowicz piloting his Ferrari 312P. We're not talking little plastic figureheads of Elford and Adamowicz, either. These were driven by the real guys.

“I've had no experience myself with actual slot cars,” said Adamowicz. “But it was a lot of fun.”

“They just asked me to come to help promote the whole charity event,” said Elford, whose team won the Le Mans recreation. “It's a very good cause.”

The cause was an organization called MSFriends, which operates a 24/7 helpline for people who have multiple sclerosis. (You can find out more by calling 866-MSFRIENDS or going online to

What's the connection with slot cars? Amelia Davis, founder and president of MSFriends, was business manager for rock-and-roll photographer Jim Marshall. Marshall always supported MSFriends by donating prints for auction. Marshall also knew photographer Bruce Talamon. Talamon was a slot-car racer. He got to know Davis. He asked Davis if they could use slot-car racing as a fundraiser. She said yes. Slot-car clubs came out of the woodwork. Twelve tracks were set up at the Petersen on July 24. Racing ensued. A great time was had by all, especially the celebrity racers.

“[It was] interesting,” said Adamowicz. “The correlation between the slot car and the real car . . . you have to really drive the car in a similar fashion going into the corners. What you don't have is behind-the-wheel feel, you don't have the road feel, you don't have the noise, but you do have amazing speed with these little cars.”

“Well I suppose it's the same thing [as real racing],” said Elford. “Two or three times, I was running very close to somebody, and I discovered you've got to be very careful because you're getting a little bit excited and you crash. And then you lose half a lap.”

Which would have different results at Le Mans, of course.

“Oh, then you're done,” he said, “in my day.”

By Mark Vaughn