Do you love cars and racing, but you don't have the bankroll of Jay Leno or Bill Gates? Well, you can still own some of the world's greatest cars and drive them too.

Almost every major make of automobile has been modeled as an HO Scale slot car at some time or other. Road cars as well as racing cars are available. Late model cars may still be in production from many of the major slot car manufactures, and those cars that are no longer produced may still be available on the used market.

Two different scales are widely available; 1:76 or HO scale cars and the newer 1:64 AFX scale. Both scales will run on the same track. The HO scale is actually 1:87 while early Aurora, Tyco and Atlas cars were modeled at 1:76 scale.

HO or Half "O" scale cars were originally introduced in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Cars manufactured by Aurora, Atlas and Tyco were modeled in this HO scale. The Aurora Model Motoring Thunderjet series were by far the most popular models, with thousands of sets sold throughout the world.

In the early 1970's Aurora introduced the AFX line. These were 1:64 scale cars that could still be run on the original Model Motoring track. Slot cars in this scale were slightly larger and provided an easy means of adding realism to the car bodies without making Model Motoring layouts obsolete.

The 1:64 scale also made it possible to add a second set of magnets to the chassis that were positioned directly above the track rails. This chassis configuration made it much easier to drive these cars, as the magnets held the car on the track while turning.

The 1:64 scale chassis was also large enough to fit with a more powerful motor which substantially increased the speed of the cars.

Today's HO slot cars are all 1:64 scale, but you may still hear of them being referred to as HO. Tomy now owns the AFX license and Tyco slot cars are marketed as Mattel Electric Hot Wheels.

A healthy cottage industry has also sprung up recently to supply slot car bodies for the older Model Motoring and Tyco models which are no longer available. These replicas are quite well produced and can be found for $5 to $10 dollars each, or as entire kits including a vintage Thunderjet or Tyco chassis for under $35.

NASCAR racing fans will find almost every major Winston Cup Stock Car and Craftsman Super Truck available in their favorite driver's colors. Fans of Formula One, IndyCar and FIA GT Prototype racing series have a good selection of race cars available as well.

HO slot cars are classified as toys by the US Government, and because of the ban on tobacco and alcohol advertising to minors some of the sponsor decals on these cars are not as they appear on the actual race cars. HO cars imported from Canada, Japan and Europe do not have this restriction.

If you are looking for a slot car that is no longer manufactured check the eBay Slot Car Auctions. Just about every slot car ever made can be found there. Prices range from as low as $5.00 to well over $750.00 for very rare models.

The eBay Slot Car Auctions are a great place to find those old Model Motoring Thunderjets and Tyco Pro slot cars from the 50's and 60's. The eBay Slot Car Auctions are also a good place to just look to see what cars are available and what their average prices are.

As with any auction set a limit as to how much you are willing to spend for an item and then stick to it. It is very easy to get caught up in the emotional frenzy of bidding and spend more than you originally intended to. Use the Proxy Bidding feature on eBay auctions to limit your expenditures. Unless an item is truly rare you will undoubtedly be able to participate in another auction again in a week or so. Millions of these cars were originally produced, so there is a good chance another one will come up for sale again soon.

An eBay auction normally runs for 7 to 10 days, so do not be too sure you have placed a winning bid until the last half hour or so of an auction. Savvy eBay bidders often wait until the last minutes of an auction to place what they hope will be a winning bid. If you are not monitoring an auction during the final 15 minute bidding period you may lose by as little as .50 cents. Here again, Proxy Bidding provides a means of increasing your bid as others place their bids, while limiting your high bid to a predetermined amount.

Another thing to watch for is a bidding "Ring". A "Ring" is a scam set up by the seller, where they have designated buyers up the bid in hopes of luring other legitimate buyers into placing higher bids, and thus increasing the final sale price. If you suspect this is being done notify eBay.

Several good HO Slot Car Collector's Guides have been published recently. If you plan on collecting HO Slot Cars as an ongoing hobby, investing in a few of these books will make you a more informed trader. You will also be able to readily spot the truly rare cars that come up for sale from time to time. The Publications section lists a number of these invaluable guides. These guides are normally written for a specific brand. Guides are available, for Model Motoring, Tomy AFX, and Tyco, etc.

What you collect is up to you, but most collectors specialize in a brand or type of car. The choice is up to you. If you are a NASCAR fan you might want to build a collection of Winston Cup cars, or you might want to collect only vintage Aurora Model Motoring Thunderjets.

Whatever you finally decide to collect, keep in mind that this is a hobby, so have some fun. You are probably not going to be able to quit your day job. These cars are just not worth enough to get very rich at it. Collect what you like.

HO Slot Cars in their original boxes or blister packaging are the most sought after. Cars having authentic paint schemes are also more valuable. For example, a green Ferrari is not as desirable as a red one would be.

Occasionally a manufacturer will release a collector's edition series of cars. The Tomy EX Series is one example of a set of cars manufactured and packaged specifically for the HO collector.

HO Slot Cars in their original boxes are referred to as Mint In Box or MIB. While opened cars are graded based upon their condition using a scale of C1 to C9, with a C9 being almost mint condition and a C1 being junk or a parts donor only.

One thing to watch out for when buying older Aurora Thunderjets is the condition of the rear wheel wells. Many of the original owners, myself included, increased the size of the rear wheel openings in the bodies to accommodate large slicks. These cars are worth next to nothing these days, as are those bodies that have been repainted.

If you would prefer to build a collection of currently available cars for the future, then buy them two at a time; one to race, and one to keep in its unopened box or blister pack. I have been doing this for the past ten years and now have a pretty good collection of cars that are worth 3 to 4 times what I originally paid for them.

I've found that buying a pair of new cars provides me with one for racing and a second one that I am not so tempted to open. I find nothing as frustrating as owning a MIB Ferrari Daytona Coupe that I dare not open and drive. So I have a second example that I can drive. Its missing those high mounted mirrors that make the MIB item so much more valuable, but its still fun to blast around in.

Mattel and Tomy have been releasing selected cars in Pit Crew versions recently. These include a race car and several pit crew members surrounding the car as though they were working on it during a pit stop. These are sure to be valuable in the future, but only if they remain in unopened packages.

Aurora Model Motoring collectors can still purchase a New Old Stock (NOS) Thunderjet chassis from several sources. A NOS Thunderjet 500 chassis sells for $7.99 and when paired with a replica body costs less then $20.00.

Aurora Model Motoring race sets were very popular during the 1960's and can still be found at many garage sales. These sets can usually be purchased for only a few dollars. What you're after though are the cars themselves. The track is not worth much these days, but the cars can be quite valuable.

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