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Play Track Dynamics

Created by dave. Last edited by dave, 10 years and 92 days ago. Viewed 4,596 times. #2
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Play Track Dynamics

It occurs to me that I've been describing some of the cars here as "good on the track" or "not good for the track". Perhaps I should take a minute to talk in more detail about my criteria.

Collectors seem to have three options when it comes to playing with their hotwheels -- they can leave them in the factory bubble pack, or they can play with them on the track system, or they can ram them into one another and watch the resulting crashes.

Personally, I've never seen the point in leaving them in the bubble pack -- they are toys, and as such should be played with. Even if merely being kept for display purposes, the cars are much more attractive if extracted from their bubble pack.

I know that some people look on them as an "investment". Well good for you if your $1 toy is worth $50 in 50 years. I personally doubt that the current cars will ever be worth a lot (with the exception of the artificially rare Treasure Hunt series). Look at it this way -- by opening and playing with (and thus, by your logic, devaluing) my cars, I am very slightly increasing the scarcity of your cars, and therefore very slightly increasing the value of your cars. You should thank me.

On the other extreme of the usage spectrum are the kids who open them up and play hard with them -- whipping them into things and each other so that they make huge crashes. We all did this when we were kids -- just check out the gratuitous damage done to the cars in the "unknown" section of the website for evidence of my wife's childhood. While amusing to the adolescent boy (and girl), I think that many of these cars are works of art in their own right and therefore while we should play with the cars, there is no reason to deliberately damage them.

So for my own cars, I take them out of the bubble pack, take pictures of them, and play with them on the track system. I have some Turbo Curve packs, a Spiral pack, and a Loop pack. Along with this, I have two sets of the black track, and three or four pieces of the more traditional orange track.

While playing with them on the track, I have naturally noticed that some cars go better on some tracks than others due to their designs and constructions. So I looked more closely in an attempt to understand what made a good track toy.

My findings can be put into these categories:

Car Weight
All things being equal, a heavier car runs better than a lighter car. I think this is due to the principles of inertia -- heavy things like to keep on doing what they are already doing. Since the heavy car picks up more energy during a run down an incline, it carries on further down straight pieces of track, and has more ability to overcome resistance in the corners. Typically, I have found that most of the older designs, which appear to have more metal in them, are more likely to succeed than some of the newer designs which have more plastic in their construction.

Car Width
Some cars are wider than others. Consider these two cars, both placed right up against one side of a segment of orange track. Note that the Hyperliner has less space between it and the other side of the track than does the Olds 442.

The narrower car is more likely to get upset by the randomness in the track -- unequal rises and descents, track joins, that kind of thing. It will therefore rattle its way down the track, expending energy in the constant bouncing action back and forth, especially when exiting the turbo curve.

By contrast, the wider car will be straightened out sooner than the narrower car, because it has less distance to go before it gets corrected. Long, wide cars like the Hyperliner are the best, since the maximum angle that they can collide with the side of the track is much shallower than that of the shorter, narrower car.

Front and/or Rear Overhang
The sad truth is that some cars just don't go around the turbo curves or the loop as well as others. The reason is the difference in design of the front and rear overhangs, or as I've referred to them in the past, the chin and flank ground effects.

We can see this illustrated through these two cars below. What I did was turn the loop upside down, place the car in the loop, and take the picture.

As you can see, the Cougar 1968 has a nose and tail which is well clear of the track surface. The car only has its own rolling resistance plus gravitational considerations working against it.

By contrast, look at the Shadow IIa's nose. This part of the car is clearly in contact with the track surface -- what you can't see from this view is the fact that the front wheels of the car are completely off the track. This means that as this car goes through the loop (or around the turbo curve, which is similarly deflected) the car scrubs off a huge amount of its energy through friction. Cars which are extreme can have both the front and rear acting as frictional surfaces, robbing the car of any reasonable capability. Over the long term, this friction will cause damage to this part of the car's finish.

One last thing about this section. I will be the first to admit that these problems are a direct result of going for form over function, and since I choose these cars based on whether or not I think they look cool at the time, I really have only myself to blame. I was just a bit disappointed the first time I ran my cars on the track sections and my favorites did not perform as well as they looked. It definitely has not stopped me from buying them.

Track Width
By track width I am referring to the spacing between the car's wheels, not the width of the running track. Many of the cooler looking cars have wheels which are tucked inside bodywork -- for example consider the Super Tuned above -- both the front and rear wheels are recessed slightly. This seems to have an effect on the stability of the car's axles, meaning these cars are less likely to roll well. Also, there seems to be some side effect of the friction between the side of the track and the car's bodywork -- this seems cause by the fact that when the wheels are properly placed at the edges of the car, the angle of the track side ensures that the wheel is the only part of the car in contact with the track.

Roll Quality
This last section is entirely subjective. Anyone who has played with cars knows the difference between a car which rolls well and one which does not. There are many causes of bad roll quality -- crooked or improperly seated axles (a common occurrence in childhood cars), improperly mounted wheels, or badly finished bodies. Right now I cannot say if there is any pattern to this behavior. I have seen cars which roll fine, while a re-release of the same car with a different paint or decal design has worse roll characteristics. I've even seen nice heavy wide cars like the Ferrari F355 Spyder end up with disappointing roll quality.

Whew, that really sucked the fun out of playing with hotwheels, didn't it? Anyways, all that should give you some idea where some of my comments come from when I say certain things.

(Originally written in February 2002)

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