The Corkscrew at Laguna Seca is one of the most daunting curves in racing, but you come barreling out of the turn looking like a pro. Your ride starts to fishtail as you gun it into the straightaway, so you back off the juice—just a touch, enough to keep the pin from jumping the slot—as you shoot to victory. Afterward you bask in the begrudging nods of your buddies.
The toys of baby-boomer boys never really go away, they just come back in more sophisticated and pricey forms. The latest mid-century plaything to get the upgrade is the much-beloved slot car track, in the form of hand-made, bespoke layouts crafted by a man named David Beattie, who runs a small company called Slot Mods out of—no kidding—Detroit.
The Slot Mods story is a classic entrepreneur’s tale of hobby-turned-business. After Beattie’s wife gave him a basic slot car set as a gift, he got hooked in a major way, and scratch-built a 20-by-20 foot layout for himself. A friend, impressed by the creation, asked Beattie to do one for him, and that commission led to others, and to the birth of a business. Beattie’s big break came in 2010, when he brought a layout to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Jay Leno spotted the Slot Mods display and featured it on his car-themed website, “Jay Leno’s Garage,” generating major buzz for the fledgling company.
To date, Beattie and his staff of three have hand-built more than 20 custom layouts for both corporate clients and private individuals. The designs are based on, or include elements of, famous real-world racing venues. The largest layout from the workshop so far is a replica of southern California’s storied Riverside Raceway, styled to look as it did in the late 1960s. It measures 12 by 30 feet and features 95 linear feet of track. The one pictured is a layout honoring the track at Watkins Glen, atop a real ’69 Camaro.
It takes Beattie and his crew about four months to create a layout. All the elements—from the signage, to the guardrails, to the trees lining the track—are made by hand. The tracks themselves are custom-cut from wood and painted to mimic tarmac, including hand-painted skid marks.
Slot Mods layouts are built to accommodate standard 1/32 scale cars. Currently, Slot Mods creates only custom commissions. Prices range from $50,000 to $150,000, including installation.