The explosive wave of slot car racing's popularity began in the late 1950s to early 1960s. By the mid-1960s, there were more than 3,000 public race tracks in the U.S. Manufacturers Revell, Aurora, Tyco, Carrera, and Scalextric, were together selling $500 million ($4,9 Billion in 2024) worth of cars and equipment a year.
As the fad peaked and waned, slot car businesses could not profit, charging teenagers small amounts of money to use their large tracks. By the early 1970s, slot car centers dwindled to fewer than 200 tracks and were still in business by 1975, and gradually, most of those closed, too.
The Tom Thumb Hobbies & Crafts store co-owners Cheryl Anderson and Arthur Harris, at 1026 Davis Street in Evanston, Illinois, moved to Niles in 2014.
Tom Thumb had six 1/32 scale slot car tracks and one complicated HO scale track simultaneously. They sold, repaired, and carried slot car paraphernalia, too. It was the largest slot car venue in the Chicagoland.
I spent many Saturdays and Sundays at Tom Thumb, racing slot cars in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Some parents would crawl under the tracks to position themselves inside the open area and help place cars back on the track when kids took the curves too fast. It was a great time. I had two cars and a great controller. I had a product like "stick'em," which was applied to the tires, that helped the car hold the turns.
In the 1990s, JK Raceway in Greenbrook Plaza, on Lake Street, Hanover Park, Illinois, had three 1/32 scale slot car tracks and one drag strip track. At least one of the tracks was from Tom Thumb in Evanston.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.