The life story of Wes Raynor, told by Wes.
I was born in Leicester, England, a long time ago, before radio control was invented!
I was always interested in models, model aircraft and model railways and when I was about 13, I found some 1/32 model car kits (made by SMEC) for electric RTP (round the pole) racing. Four cars could race on a banked circular track with power from four wires from a centre pole. I had the idea of converting these cars to be guided by a rail, and also I think by a slot so I think I invented slot racing but I was too young to do anything about it! Of course other people were doing similar things about the same time and firstly rail racing and then slot racing appeared some time in the 50’s.
Later on, in my 20’s, I started a plastics vacuum forming business (I had a partner David, my first name is Martin, so the company name became Mardave) Amongst the many things we made were slot race bodies. I was aware of the shortcomings of slot racing at that time and I had an idea for lane changing and running two or more cars in the same slot.
I had a pendulum in the cars. When the car accelerated, the guide flag was biased one way and, when the car reached the lane change point in the slot, the car would change lanes. When the car was braked, it would turn the other way. Remember, this was way before digital or radio. The pick up tapes were down the sides of the slot, at different heights. There were a few problems so this didn’t get very far. I used an MRC 1/24 car chassis I think. I gave up on this and a year or so later I saw in a magazine a picture of a 1/8 scale r/c car made in the USA. It seems that proportional radio had arrived and suddenly cars were a possibility. I drove down to London and bought one from a model shop. It had an MDF (wooden!) chassis and a 3.5cc glow ignition motor.
Within a few weeks we had built a kit car with an aluminium channel chassis and vac. formed Matra-Simca F.1. bodyshell.
The first race meeting for r/c cars in Europe was held in Berkhampstead in about 1969. We had sold about 15 cars by then and one of our customers won the F.1. Race. All other cars at the meeting were either US made or scratchbuilt prototypes so we were able to claim the title of first European manufacturer. My partner was not interested in model cars so I bought him out and continued on my own.
I also build the first (perhaps in the world!) permanent r/c race track. It included a hill and I have still not seen another to this day! That’s me doing the lap counting. It was in a disused railway cutting. Drivers were on the bank above the steps.
I used to race most weekends and my furthest outing was to Paris around 1971/2 Photo shows me on the right holding my 3rd place trophy! Several famous names from early r/c racing in the photo.
We made a wide range of models in three different scales, selling around 5000 each year for nearly 30 years. The company is still in business and there is a historic Mardave website with many old photos.
This Maserati was an early i.c. powered project. We ordered 500 sets of wheel components, axles etc. but only sold 2 cars. Racers didn’t want to spend time on such a model and then break it when racing.
This model of a BRISCA F1 Stockcar however was an instant hit and sold all over the world.
Drivers could crash this without fear of damage!
In the 70s, rechargeable nickle cadmium cells appeared and suddenly electric r/c cars became possible. This 1/12 scale BRM F1 was probably Europe’s first electric car kit and was soon followed by a range of 1/12 cars and later by 1/10th Buggies and road cars.
Digital Slot Car racing
After retiring! I opened a restaurant with my son and ran it for a couple of years. We couldn’t get used to working in the evening however and soon found someone else to run it.
I then discovered that digital slots had arrived. I built a scalex track based circuit and then built my first Targa Florio track. See pic. Pity about those slots and tapes!
This was possibly the first wood digital track and can still be found on Slot Forum members tracks. I enjoyed building the track but Digital suffers even more from the old slot race problem of spinning cars blocking the track and having to wait for marshals and I can see why it never caught on for racing
About that time small low cost r/c cars were appearing in toy shops. I bought one and had the idea of fitting a peg slot guide to the front and running it round the Targa track. I did this and the rest, as they say, is history.
I spent a lot of time devising point systems in the slot with steerable flag guides in the cars . The problem was always trying to stop the guide flag from hitting the fixed point of the lane change.
Even with a very sharp metal point on the guide, it could eventually hit the lane frog point. I had magnets in the track on each side of the point to bias the guide one way or the other but I was never completely happy with it.
I saw the Faller model road system and tried this but the magnet was in front of the wheels and it lifted the rear wheels off the ground! So I went back to the slot again. Eventually I went back to magnet and redesigned the steering so that the magnet was in line with the front wheels and of course this worked.
I spent some time working on patents to cover the idea and then tried to find a company to manufacture it but the only interest was from people who wanted to convert the idea into a toy,
which I was not interested in.
So my only option was to go back into business and manufacture it myself. Producing the cars was fairly easy for me but I had little knowledge of electrics. I was fortunate to find a good man just a few miles away who I think did a good job of the radio design. I then found a local firm to assemble the rx and tx boards ok although there were always ones which didn’t work and the cost of finding the fault was always more than it was worth and I have far too many bad ones. The major problem came in the last batch because the manufacturers of the RF module had stopped producing the ones we used. We had to buy from a distributor in East Europe and half the rx modules were faulty. Producing small quantities of electronics is expensive and difficult.
The biggest problem with Magracing is perhaps the accuracy required in building the track. I admit to spending many hours leveling and adjusting our Linford track but today it is 100% and would be suitable for any major competition.
The system has many good features but perhaps the best is the possibility of racing for, say, 30 minutes without the need for a track marshal. Given good run-off areas such as Linford has, if drivers make a mistake, they can correct it themselves. Magracing is the only model car race system where this can happen. R/C race tracks have limited space and marshals are still needed occasionally. I have seen many marshals tread on a car whilst marshalling!. Overtaking on short straights which most tracks have is never easy but if pressure is put on the leading car, he will eventually make a mistake. Or maybe not! But in that case he deserves to win! Much like full size racing. Magracing has almost every driving challenge which full size racing has. Such a pity that so few people appreciate it.
Thanks to Wes Raynor for sharing his story.
Tags: Wes Raynor, MAGracing, Slotless Racing, Model Car Racing.