Always on the lookout for something interesting that we don’t know is happening right under our noses, Dave & I recently stopped by the A.B. Charles Hobby Shop in Mount Lebanon for… wait for it… slot car racing!?
Okay, I’ll get to exactly what slot car racing is… but first, A.B. Charles. The name itself sounds like a cross between one of the early Presidents of the United States and perhaps an eccentric billionaire who runs his own circus. Turns out, A.B. Charles has been delivering the hobby goods to our area for 60 years… and the place is huge! If model cars, miniature railroad and stuff like that is up your alley, then the big barn building should be a planned stop for you. It’s right next to Atria’s and used to house the old Rollier hardware store. You can’t miss the place if you’re ever on Banksville Road near the Dormont Pool.
Okay… slot cars? If you were thinking pine wood derby, forget about it, but if you were thinking hot wheels, you are in the ballpark. And if you’re a dude and over the age of 20, then you might remember having an AFX track as a kid. It was like having electric-powered hot wheel or matchbox cars. You set up the track, plugged it in, put your car in a lane (or slot as it’s properly called) and let it rip with your hand controller. Now you remember!
Well guess what… the lower level at A.B. Charles is a giant slot car room. There are 3 huge tracks set up that range from easy Sunday drive to fierce Indy 500! They also have a straight-away drag strip to separate the men from the boys and I guess the boys from the girls?
So who’s doing this? Well the random night we stopped by, turns out it was a huge cross-section of ages. Kids were there having an all action birthday party, parents and some grandparents were there with other kids interested in racing, and we even found a league of seasoned pros who’ve been racing for years.
I have to admit, watching those little cars zipping all around the tracks was at times hypnotizing, and at other times enough to drive your eyes batty, but we did get to try it, and it was cool.
The guys doing the racing were also pretty hospitable to us. And these guys mean business. Not only do they all have stables of really high end cars, but they travel with giant tackle box tool kits that bring to mind NASCAR pit crews. We learned a lot in a very short time just talking and hanging out with them. And they gave us pointers as we raced. So if you want to try this and have no idea what the ‘h-e-double-hockey-sticks’ you’re doing, there are plenty of people on both sides of the counter at A.B. Charles to help you out. Besides in this economy, who can afford to buy their own life-sized race car anyway?
This is the sort of TV shoot that on the surface seems kind of ordinary, but since we’re shooting in HD and Frank is behind the lens, this racing-world-in-miniature actually transforms itself into something eye-poppingly-cool and really visual. Everytime we see stuff like this, the word ‘eye-candy’ comes to mind. And we say that because we know how awesome the HD video will look. Look for the story soon on “OnQ!” – Dave H.