(An event so insane Mattel would not sanction it!)
While the above picture could have, most likely, been taken any time in the last 40 years or so, it is, indeed, from this past weekend. Got to love Photoshop and sepia-tone. My friend Jimmy D, the Viceroy of Ridicule, has been an avid collector of Hot Wheels Cars since he was small. Jim is possessed with a freewheeling lifestyle, limited responsibility, and a fair salary (not unlike Yours Truly), so one of the things he continues to do is fortify his collection with new Mattel releases.
Jim got to thinking we ought to get together and have a race. Now, mind you, we have gotten together in the past for more than one event the average adult could easily consider juvenile. There are the regularly-occurring Risk games, often a marathon stretching out over the hours and cases of Yuengling like some real-life, alcohol-soaked Falklands conflict. There was the idea (though rejected) of a back-to-back showing of every Star Wars movie-the hard part was deciding on order-is it I-VI, or IV, V, VI, I, II, III ? (The event would have been further made enticing by a keg and the offering of Depends to those who felt they did not want to get up to use the bathroom all day.) Finally there was Jim's bachelor party, where we camped out, rode mini-bikes, nearly set each other on fire with potato cannons, wrecked a truck, and found out Dave D can bend time and space to appear and disappear at will.
As Jim tells it, somewhere along the line recently, there was a shortage of Hot Wheels track. I'm not sure if it was an artificial shortage, or one due to a great demand for the stuff, but for a long time, apparently, you could not get it. Recently, one can assume, the floodgates have again opened and the (now) orange track is available in all its extruded glory. Jim promptly plunked down around $125 for enough track to go to the Van Allen Belts and back.
(A partial lineup. From left to right: Aaron's (Brain's kid) dragon car, Dave D's Datsun 128x, Brain's 'Cuda "Savage Grace", my belly tank lakester "Twelve Lashes", Ian's (Brains other kid) '57 Chevy, Gerald's concept car, Jimmy D's "BFC", and Chad's "Your Momma". Missing from the photo is Daryl's Lexus, "Relentless Pursuit". Special thanks to Labatt's Blue for unofficially sponsoring the event, or at least for letting us drink their beer after we paid for it.)
The contestants ages spanned the years from around 12 to well over 40. Despite this, the trash talking was intense, and even prevented one contestant (Stiv) from showing up at all, despite spending all night drilling out his entry's body and adding weight to the chassis. While the younger set chose cars more on flash or street cred, The adults considered factors like weight, aerodynamics, ground clearance, roadholding capability as well as the aforementioned aesthetics. Many potential entries were quickly discounted in the test runs-some were too heavy to negotiate the trademark Hot Wheels loops, others allowed centrifugal force to get the best of them in the curves.
The events would be fairly simple-a "road course" track of our own design, and a flat-out drag strip. Standard elimination would rule, and a loser's bracket was created to make up for an odd number of contestants. Contestant over the finish line first won-in the likely event both cars jumped the track, the one travelling farthest overall would be determined the winner.
After taking a good hour or more to set up our tracks, we were ready to (literally) roll.
My entry was quickly eliminated in the first round. However, I was able to make up for it in the loser bracket, and gradually worked my way up through the pack to the top. A lot of track adjustment was going on, to the pleasure of some and the chagrin of others. It became obvious that the inside or "house-side" track was a hot setup, and the "alley-side" had more than it's share of troubles.
(Lonely at the top. We had an exhibition race for our friend Danny, stationed in the Gulf-two military Hummers-either way, Army was the winner. House-side is left, Alley-side right. Blue US Postal Service tape is horribly misappropriated as a smooth transition to the loops. Note Daryl standing in the distance, just above Brian's head at near 12 o' Clock-he's watching the finish line of this massive track!)
(Since Jim was racing, Big George (L) filled in as professional heckler and all around pain in the ass. Dave looks to be watching his chances at victory slowly slip away-it was that kind of afternoon for some.)
(more than one person had a problem with Chad, an attorney, running the starting gate. Here, Gerald looks on for any malfeasance and stands prepared to pound him into a pulp should he start trying to lawyer his way out of anything. Brian, his hand seen at left, has already decided to disqualify Chad altogether.)
Towards the end of the first event, I worked my way up to the Number Two spot, paired off against Jim, organizer of the event. Now mind you, Jim and I have been trading insults and wisecracks for nigh on 25 years now, so there was no shortage of intimidation attempted, and no amount of efforts rebuffed-it would simply have to come down to a race. I had not run in some time, so I had the opportunity to test-run. I quickly checked the alley-side track, in case lane choice was mine. In the end it would be a good move. I ended up winning the race, and a $10 side bet with Jim. In an amazing show of cunning, he promptly reminded me I owed him a Fin for the beer, and I handed him back his money.
(One weird Winner's Circle-Jim, the closest thing we had to a Trophy Girl, congratulates me on my win and awards my my price-a large-scale Hot Wheels car and track set!)