Development of The Magnet Car

Magnet car development at HORA of Fargo grew out of our efforts to find more performance and handling in our HO slot cars. Ed Bianchi published the idea of adding a third magnet infront of the front motor magnet to give a car more torque. We took that idea and added another set of motor magnets to the sides of the car. These were ground down to keep within the 1 5/16" width rule. We found these cars to have more torque and also handle better. At that time I was trying to make other marques competitive with Aurora. I had a worm drive Atlas that was almost competitive, then started working with the Bachmann. The Bachmann was fast enough, and had super brakes thanks to the worm gear, but just didn't handle. I glued a small craft magnet on the rear of the chassis and a nut to the front to balance things out, used aluminum wheels from Champion on the front and my favorite rear combination of Dreher aluminum hubs and Richard Harrison's Hobby House silicones. This car was truly competitive with the Aurora and I had some memorable battles with Orv Banasik. Who made a critical error in one race trying to outbrake the Bachmann at the end of his track's long straight, resulting in a wall shot. It's amazing how these races, so long ago, are still fresh in my mind like it was last week.

Of course once the same technique was applied to Aurora cars, the Bachmann was done. I started building magnet cars for everyone in H.O.R.A. and then it spread to other clubs in the Northern H.O.P.R.A. region. The first time the magnet appeared outside of our area, was at the HOUROC open race in L.A. in the Spring of '72. Dave Ferguson has an excellent article in HO Slot Car Journal Issue 8 on the Brass Wars, which mentions this significant race. After that I started making some Indiana HOPRA events, and Randy Kemp and his partner George Sherlock traded me some of their beautifully crafted brass pan AFXs for my MK II magnet cars. They promptly used them to stomp the Michiganers at the annual Indiana vs. Michigan race. That caused Howard Kilgore to publish a column in CarModel mentioning the magnet phenomenen. After that everyone in the country, running HO cars knew about "Magnets for Handling".

Oscar Koveleski, of AutoWorld fame, called me up shortly after Car Model went to print with Kilgore's column. He wanted to pay for a patent search on my behalf, which I consented to. He also wanted to use my idea and market kits with magnets. The instruction sheet for "MagTrac", which was two magnets, is shown below. Then AutoWorld came out with two different pan ideas, using craft magnets attached. The Tracksticker was the first of these, and the instructions are also shown below. The second iteration of this concept used an injection molded piece to fit around the chassis. This was 1974 and Aurora's MagnaTraction was to shortly make its appearance. Oscar commissioned the patent search and found a couple related patents for magnetic axles in model trains, to allow them to climb steep grades. The attorneys felt that a patent would not be wide enough to commercially successful. I wrote three articles for the AFX Racing Handbook, the one on how to make a magnet car, never appeared in any publication. The handbooks did carry an article on painting clear bodies and also a split pan AFX, called the ZIP pan.

ferrari.gif...The Bachmann powered Ferrari 612, that was the first magnet car...

proto.gif...The Bachmann chassis featured a rear mounted alnico traction magnet, with Champion front tires and wheels, Dreher rear wheels and Hobby House silicones. The nut kept the front end on the track!

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Mk II chassis instructions

Instructions shipped with the "Bowman Midmounted Magnet Racing Chassis", otherwise known as the brp MkII.

MagTrac magnet weights

Instructions for building the AutoWorld MagTrac, actually two alnico craft magnets that you had install in your AFX, using my method.

MagTrac magnet weights side two

TrackSticker

AutoWorld's second product using magnets, was a very thin pan, with two alnico magnets attached, front and rear.

trackSticker page 2

A later version, had an injection molded black plastic frame that fit perfectly around the AFX chassis.

In the interests of historical accuracy, here is an email exchange between myself and Phillipe de Lespinay, regarding the origin of the magnet car concept: PDL email