So early on in this pandemic thing I started buying the odd lego car for Micah and I to assemble together. We both like legos, he loves cars, and Lego's "Speed Champions" series - which are modelled after real cars - is pretty cool, so it seemed like a fun thing to do. I was specifically getting the larger, more detailed sets, because they would be a good challenge for the 4yo, and they were, in my opinion, the cooler ones.
As we built 2 or 3 of these cars, I had an idea - an idea I will freely admit was inspired by 3DBotMaker's youtube channel where they race diecast cars - that, when we had a good number of cars, it would be really fun to build some sort of track to run them down and see which one was the fastest.
I had some 1x2's in the basement, and some sheets of some kind of thin plywood that we used to have under our foam mattress before we got our current bedframe. A few weeks, a number of hours, and some masking+spraypaint later, I had a pretty cool, straight, 4-section track. Micah saw me doing the checkered line at the end and figured out what it was. His excitement was adorable.
Now I just needed a sunny day that wasn't completely intolerable. Given that I'm on vacation this week and the forecast is "forever storms", I thought I should probably jump on the time when it presented itself - so today became the day, even if it was a hot one.
I figured the hill in the backyard would provide most of an adequate incline to give them some speed heading down, supplemented by elevating some of the upper sections with stacked 2x4's.
My plan had been to bridge the seams with bits of cardboard taped down - something that had worked very well when i tested the track concept a month or so ago, but that was not having any of it today. I'm not sure if it was the humidity or if the painted surface just didn't like it, but I couldn't get the tape to stick hardly at all. I probably should have resorted to duct tape, but I didn't want to mess up the paint job I'd worked pretty hard on. We rolled with it, but it was less than ideal.
I engineered a gate-like device, also made of legos, that when you pulled on a string, it would raise bars to either side of it, allowing gravity to pull the cars down the track. I also constructed some overhead signs that spanned the track with green lights at the top and one with a checkered flag at the bottom.
I decided that for a car to be eligible for our tournament, it had to have a design consistent with most of what we had. This meant that it had to have the wheel size (and mounting) of the others, it had to be generally sedan-shaped, and it had to have a width of 8 blocks. At present, lego has 5 cars that fit this description, so we acquired and constructed all 5: a Jaguar, a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a Nissan, and an Audi. The plan was to race each car against each other car twice - once on the left, and once on the right (since there were certainly some imprefections in the track). After that point, we would see which car won the most races, and, if there was a tie, we would race the tied cars until there was a winner.
The cars turned out to be pretty evenly matched. One won 3 races, 3 of them won 4, and the fifth won 5 races. The tape proved to be a problem on some of the races, and there were a few that we re-ran because they were deemed unfair. Also, the track had a slight lean to the right, and, since the 9 and 4 year olds were in charge of aligning the cars for most of the races, well, that might not have been fully controlled either.
Even so, it felt good. We had some exciting close races, some spectacular crashes (a couple of which resulted in us combing the grass for missing lego pieces), and the kids had a blast counting them off and running them down the track.
The car that ultimately won - the red Ferrari - was actually the smallest and lightest. It seemed to roll faster off the starting line than most of the others. When it went straight, it usually won, but the other cars would often be gaining by the end. I suspect that if the track was longer, the cars with greater mass may have pulled ahead.
This was, in fact, a great time all around. For friends, there are a few more pics and videos on my facebook page. I tried to live-stream the final race, but, well, i may not have done that correctly for Reasons.
Anyway, I'm a little proud of myself. It was the sort of project that I'm likely to say "yeah, that would be cool" but then never do it. Well, this time i did.