john cukras on track

MCHOF’22: John Cukras was The Biggest Thing in Slot Cars in the 1960s

john cukras slot car racingIt’s hard today to fathom how big slot car racing was in the 1960s. By the end of the decade, it had grown from a hobby to a sport, with many drivers achieving professional status. John Cukras was one of those pioneers and was instrumental in growing slot cars from a hobby to a sport. For that history, he is posthumously inducted into the Model Car Hall of Fame as Slot Car Racer of the Year for 2022.

In the early 1960s, slot cars were kind of seen like model railroads. Tracks were set up with lanes going in opposite directions, and the skill was to drive at sensible speeds and obey little plastic traffic signals. Of course, kids got bored with that pretty quickly and decided to have the lanes run in the same direction and go as fast as possible against other kids. 

When the hobby went from “motoring” to “racing,” it soared in popularity. John Cukras was pivotal in developing new technology that allowed electric motors to be smaller, lighter, and faster. The result was the explosive growth of the HO-scale slot car on the way to becoming the speedy, magnetized rockets they are now.

john cukras awards

In 1968, at the Hemisphair (World’s Fair) in San Antonio, Texas a large track was set up to show off the capabilities of the hobby. Cukras, his ever-present cigarette dangling from his mouth, cruised to victory, inspiring other hobbyists to start using newer style pistol grip controllers still in use to this day.

Consider the popularity of slot car events of that era to be like an Overwatch video game tournament today. Now consider how lucky he was to be involved at that time. For helping to popularize slot cars for the masses, Jon Cukras is our Slot Car Racer of the Year for 2022.

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