Diecast Drag Racing Cars
It’s underground racing at its most literal: a series of tracks - from a quarter-mile strip to the winding mountain run - all tucked into a basement of a house in St. Peters, Missouri.
That the tracks are designed to accommodate 1:64-scale toy cars helps. This is Die Cast Racing, one of a handful of leagues dedicated to running stock and custom die-cast cars (think Hot Wheels and Matchbox) down elaborate custom tracks. Run by Tony Pratt and his father, Jim, DCR evolved from backyard family-and-friend downhill races revolving around larger, customized 1:18-scale cars.
So, DCR isn’t exactly a huge moneymaker. But it’s building momentum, and we could see Pratt’s operation serving as an officiator of sorts for smack-talking car-modders worldwide. Think you’ve built a fast machine? DCR will race it, record the results and post the videos online for all to see. It costs to enter two cars in DCR’s periodic matches - a bargain price for bragging rights—and there’s also a fantasy league for those who prefer not to field a car but want to get in on the action anyway.
We couldn’t turn down Pratt’s invitation for DCR’s annual Fourth of July Drag Races, and we sure as heck weren’t going to jump in with a bone-stock car. After settling on a Hot Wheels 1952 Hudson Hornet - a capable stock car in its day, the ’52 was similar to Mario Andretti’s first hacked-up dirt-track ride - we got to work.
Our Hudson Hornet shell, midway through its custom paint job.
First, we carefully drilled out the rivets holding the Hornet’s metal body to its plastic chassis and disassembled the car. Carving out the chassis opened up room to pack in lead tape, giving El Hornito, as we dubbed the car, a 27-gram advantage over a stock model. Paint stripper uncovered a skillfully sculpted Hornet body; delicate details muddled by the durable Hot Wheels-spec finish popped under our fresh matte-gray paint.
Strapped for time, we threw a miniature Mexican serape blanket over the Hornet’s tiny bench seat and shipped it off to DCR with a still-curing spray job. Seems just about right for a race car.
Then, racing. If you’re looking for an underdog success story, look elsewhere: El Hornito got smoked in a head-to-head with K & O Racing’s Hot Wheels 1970 Charger R/T on our first day of racing. It wasn’t even close: Out of a 19-car field, we managed 18th. But we looked killer doing it.
After the dust settled on the Fourth of July blowout, Pratt was gracious enough to run El Hornito against a stocker Hornet. We prevailed against the unmodified opposition in all but one of the courses—partial vindication of our rookie car-building skills.