In an auction chock-full of amazing automobiles, is it possible that some 1:32-scale slot cars might just steal the show at RM Sotheby’s Abu Dhabi auction? Definitely. It isn’t just the cars that are getting attention, either—it’s the track that they call home.
Built for financially secure adults who never want to grow up, the large and ultra-detailed Formula 1 slot car track at RM was custom-built by Slot Mods Raceways near Detroit. Shipped from venue to venue during the 2018 Formula 1 season, it was used at each event by patrons of the Formula 1 Paddock Club.
RM says proceeds from the auction on November 30 will benefit the Reaching the Last Mile Fund, an organization "inspired by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed's global health campaign to eradicate preventable diseases" and a joint initiative with the Bill Gates Foundation. Offered without reserve, the track carries a pre-auction estimate of $20,000-$30,000.
If it sells that low, Slot Mods' David Beattie says the buyer will get a bargain. "This track would cost me $125K to build today," he told Hagerty.
Beattie is clearly proud of the brand he has created, and rightfully so. Slot Mods dates to 2008, when Beattie turned to one of his childhood hobbies after being laid off from his job as a printing company manager. "Out of fear can come a lot of creativity," Beattie told CNBC in 2017, "and you've got to be open to those vibes that are coming through."
Beattie tried selling do-it-yourself slot car kits at a hobby store on weekends, and although he had just one buyer, Beattie’s hard work wasn’t for naught. A Ford executive looking for something fun to do with his son saw Beattie’s cars and reached out, and after seeing the raceway that Beattie built in his basement using 170 feet of track, he commissioned one of his own for $4000.
Encouraged, Beattie began contacting automotive magazines to drum up publicity. Several stories about his detailed creations led to more orders—Pebble Beach officials were among the first to call—and the more tracks that Beattie built, the larger and more expensive they became. Slot Mods’ staff and work space grew too, and these days Beattie and a team of four artisans build about six tracks per year.
Slot Mods’ base-model Standard Scenic Raceway, which measures 6 x 12 feet, costs $50,000. Each is made to order and takes 3–4 months to complete. Custom Scenic Megatracks—limited only by space and budget—start at $75,000. Beattie’s largest creation was commissioned for more than $300,000.
Among Slot Mods’ clients is racing legend Bobby Rahal, who ordered a 22-foot exact replica of his favorite track, Wisconsin’s Road America Raceway. Jay Leno also commissioned a track, as did McLaren CEO Zak Brown.
The F1 raceway on offer at RM’s Abu Dhabi auction measures 7 feet by 16 feet.
Beattie refers to his 1:32-scale wooden creations as “interactive works of art,” which is an apt description since all are built with meticulous attention to detail—from smaller items like people, trees, hay bales, tire barriers, fencing, and cars, to larger objects like signs, buildings, pit row, spectator seating, and the track itself.
“I could say that we just make slot car tracks, but when I say that, people think of the old-school plastic out of the box, and that’s really worlds away from what we do,” Beattie tells CNBC. “Each piece that we create has to be unique for that person who has commissioned us to build it.”