Date: October 2017
Location: 5822 W Forest Home Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53220, USA

 
Games:

  • Road Kings (Williams) 1986, 50 cents/credit or $2/5 credits
  • South Park (Stern) 1999, 50 cents/credit or $2/5 credits

The histories of the model car racing and pinball industries have had many parallels; both were wildly popular in the USA in the late-1950s to 1960s, were all but extinct in the 1970s-1980s and have had peaks and valleys in consumer interest since then.

Up until the recent resurgence, both model car racing (also known as slot car racing in the USA and often as playing Scalextric in the UK) have had largely an underground and cult following, and had their share of highlights and lowlights.

 

Dadd's Track at Lucky Bob's Raceway in Milwaukee
Dadd’s Track at Lucky Bob’s Raceway in Milwaukee

Slot car racing’s zenith was probably the model car race broadcast 15th November, 1970 on the Ed Sullivan Show involving Dan Gurney, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart and Sterling Moss. The event was sponsored by the Aurora Plastics company and the purse was (US$) 50,000.

Where pinball games supply the player with all that they need to enjoy the game, generally slot car racing is a hobby/sport where you buy or build your own equipment to race. Some commercial raceways have racing equipment to borrow or rent and almost all commercial raceways sell ‘track time’ to any and all of those want-to-be Roger Penske or Colin Chapman.

The slot car racing world championship was recently contested in Sulmona, Italy. It was held 6th-14th October, 2017 and one of the highlights was the 2-driver team race that attracted in excess of 150 drivers from 17 countries (ref: hisra2017.com/entrants/). There is a lively debate if racing at the international level is more a hobby or a sport.

During the peak of interest in the model car racing hobby, major cities in the USA generally had 15-20 commercial racing centers that were operated with open practice times as well as leagues and tournaments. Slot car racing was so popular in the USA that the largest of the major commercial slot car track manufacturers (American Model Car Raceways Inc., Burbank, CA) was purchased by AMF, who also manufactured many other types of recreational equipment used in bowling, archery, bicycling, skiing, volleyball, golf, tennis, fishing, and for a while AMF owned the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company.

In the present day there are two commercial raceways in Chicago (host city of the 2016 Slot Car World Championship) and two raceways in Milwaukee. Recently I visited one of the remaining commercial slot car racing centers in the Milwaukee area and was surprised to find that they also have pinball games.

Lucky Bob's Raceway in Milwaukee
Lucky Bob’s Raceway in Milwaukee

Lucky Bob’s Raceway hosts regular regional and national slot car racing events as well as offering open track time and parts sales. They have tracks built for both 1/24th and 1/64th scale racing cars. The raceway is located in a residential area and any dining and refreshment establishments are a few blocks away.

Lucky Bob's Scorpion track
Lucky Bob’s Scorpion track

The pinball games are located in a small ante-room next to the wash rooms. I am told that you generally need to ask an attendant to have them turned on.

The two pinballs at Lucky Bob's
The two pinballs at Lucky Bob’s

Both machines are in fair-to-average-appearing condition. Due to time constraints I wasn’t able to play either of them to determine if there are any malfunctions.

Road Kings
Road Kings
South Park
South Park

Lucky Bob’s Raceway does not have a private parking lot, but there is plenty of parking on West Forest Home Avenue and nearby South 60th Street.

Many people consider both slot car racing and pinball to be ‘throwbacks’ to another era; at Lucky Bob’s Raceway you can experience both. If you are in Milwaukee I hope that you will give Lucky Bob’s Raceway a visit.

Additional resources:

Slot Car History by Dennis David
Slotblog is the Slot Car equivalent of Pinball News for the USA

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