A Conversation with Gary Beedle about the BSRT G-Jet® Car


Just after the 30th Annual HOPAC Western States held in July 2006, we had the opportunity to sit down with the “Guru” of H.O. scale slot racing, Gary Beedle, an
d we asked him to discuss the ground-breaking BSRT G-Jet car. This is the first installment of our series of talks we had with the “Guru” about the design, development, and importance of BSRT’s G-Jet H.O. slot car.…
 

"As we've developed more and more magnetic downforce, the speed of today's H.O. slot cars have gotten quicker and quicker. It's to the point where the performance of today's race cars are getting beyond the driving ability of the average racer"

"Here's the important point to remember... the G-Jet is it's own thing. It wasn't designed to be a slow Super Stock car. It's not a magnet car and it's certainly not a T-Jet. It was never intended to be a car that fits into some pre-existing class."

"By copying what BSRT has already created with the G-Jet, you'd be admitting BSRT had a great idea and, by trying to copy it, you'd be giving the idea your complete endorsement. In that light, I wouldn't want to be the one to copy the G-Jet...."

 
There’s quite a buzz going around the H.O. slot car community about the BSRT G-Jet. Can you tell us what a G-Jet car is?

Beedle: 
It’s great seeing the positive response the the G-Jet has been generating everywhere it’s gone this past year. The G-Jet is, basically, a big step back to a bygone era of H.O. scale slot racing when cars ran without traction magnets. Clearly, the timing for it’s release couldn’t have been better and it’s quite obvious a car of it’s performance level has been sorely needed. If you think about it, there hasn’t been a new non-magnet car introduced in decades. What about the recent pancake motor car releases? There’s no original thinking going on there as they’re nothing more than nostalgic “Made in China” copies of the original Thunderjet 500 and AFX/Magna-Traction car platforms originally released by Aurora in the early 60’s and 70’s. The upcoming Auto World cars promise more of the same.

H.O. slot racing’s true “Golden Era”, the years between 1970 and 1973, saw the release of the last of the original “non-magnet” cars before magnet cars took over completely. When you take into account the new cars produced during this short time frame, which includes the Aurora AFX car, the Super II, the first TycoPro, the Riggen, the Cobramite, the DynaBrute, and the last pancake-powered design by Aurora, the Magna-Traction, it’s been well over thirty years since something new has come along to address the needs of the “non-magnet” H.O. slot car racer. Yes, the venerable old T-Jet is still kicking but, until the G-Jet came along, there’s been no other “non-magnet” car alternative.

Regarding the car itself; what we’ve been working at creating for the past few years is a great performing, non-magnet car that was dead reliable and would run at a realistic speed on today’s H.O. slot car tracks. While we could have done something from scratch, and we did have a couple of designs we could still do, it made a lot more sense to utilize an existing proven platform if possible. With the BSRT G3 car, we had the most advanced, state-of-the-art H.O. slot car platform available for us to build around. Because of the many unique features the G3 offers that today’s other cars do not, it had tremendous potential to be developed into a non-magnet car. The most important feature, the compression spring pickup shoe system, was the big key to getting the package to perform properly without magnetic downforce. Deciding to utilize the G3 platform was, essentially, the easy part.

After making the chassis choice, we spent a couple years carefully researching what would be the ideal speed for the car. The performance level goal was to fit the car in-between the speed of a Fray-style T-Jet and the most entry level magnet car with the speed closer to the T-Jet. That way, racers could come from both directions to run the car. Because this is something we didn’t just think up overnight, we were able to engineer a complete package that went that speed while retaining a great deal of what we call “play factor.” If the feedback we’ve received so far is any indication, we’ve hit a home run out of the ballpark.

 

What makes you think there’s a need for a car like the G-Jet?

Beedle: 
The answer’s pretty simple, isn’t it? As we’ve developed more and more magnetic downforce, the speed of today’s H.O. slot cars have gotten quicker and quicker. It’s to the point where the performance of today’s race cars are getting beyond the driving ability of the average racer. This doesn’t even take into account all the potential new racers that are quickly scared off by the speed of today’s cars, even in stock form. Of course, we have to shoulder much of the blame for the increased speed since BSRT has been the top H.O. slot car high performance company since it’s start-up in the mid-seventies. For decades, the H.O. slot car racing community has demanded faster and faster cars and speed parts for their race programs and that’s exactly what we’ve delivered. The problem is, the speed of today’s magnet cars have increased so much, it’s in danger of alienating an awful lot of racers that simply do not have the driving skills to keep up with the speed of the cars any more.

Of course, they could race T-Jets but, let’s face it, it’s very difficult for a newcomer to get involved with the T-Jet now without having to spend an extraordinarily amount of time and money obtaining all the “right” parts to go racing. Plus, once you’ve committed yourself to a T-Jet program, you can’t move on to one of the many classes of magnet cars where the majority of racers are running. You’d have to start all over again with cars, parts, tools, etc. It’s tough because there’s no crossover there. It works coming the other direction as well; it’s highly unlikely a magnet racer is going to slide over to racing T-Jets for the very same reasons.

The G-Jet, being based on the G3 platform, has a lot to recommend it including readily-available parts, ease of assembly, and the fact you’re not just throwing your money away should you want to move up, speed-wise, and try some type of magnet racing. By investing in the G3 platform, you can start with a non-magnet G-Jet car and move up to whatever speed of car you feel comfortable with. The beauty of it is; the cars are all based on the same G3 component parts.

 

Where did the idea for the G-Jet come from?

Beedle:  The whole idea, or concept, behind the G-Jet got underway about fifteen years ago. John Hinchcliffe, a friend of mine who also happens to be a brilliant design engineer, also goes back to the real beginnings of H.O. slot racing in the 60’s as I do. Aurora got things going with their Vibrator car in 1959 but, let’s face it, the Vibrator didn’t really light anyone’s fire. While the larger scale 1/24th slot cars really got the craze going, the car responsible for originally putting H.O. slot racing on the map was the Thunderjet 500 released by Aurora in 1962. Within a few years, an Aurora H.O. slot car set was on every kid’s Christmas wish list. John and I, growing up in different parts of the country, received a race set for Christmas and so started our entry into the world of slot cars.

Before BSRT started up, there were very few speed parts available to the general public so we, as racers, had to scratch-build everything. In fact, we made far more custom parts and performed more modifications than the guys racing T-Jet cars do today. Since there were virtually no limitations on the rules, the cars had custom wound arms, brush tubes, custom made front ends and rear tires, lightened gears, pickup shoes bent into a more efficient shape, different gear ratios, fully articulated brass handling pans, adjustable guide pins, lightweight vacuum formed bodies, and on and on. Just like today’s magnet cars, every part was replaced with a higher performance part; they just weren’t available down at the local hobby shop. After about a week’s worth of work was performed on the car, you could actually get some decent performance out of a T-Jet.

While I’ve kept an example of every state-of-the-art race car built after the T-Jet era, John kept one of his full-blown T-Jet race cars from the day. About fifteen years ago, John was getting rid of some of his old slot car stuff when he pulled this particular car out of his archives. It was a real step back in time for the two of us and we ended up trying the car out on a brand new Bucktrax, the original continuous-rail H.O. slot car track. Although the car was drastically slower than the magnet cars of the day, it was still fun and brought back many great memories of our childhood. We came up with a variety of designs for a modern T-Jet car without all of the inherent design limitations of the original car. We use to laugh about it but, we called it the “Beedle-Jet”, or “B-Jet” for short. John eventually faded from the picture but now, fifteen years later, we’ve finally released that non-magnet car. But, instead of calling it the B-Jet, we felt the name “G-Jet” made much more sense since that would tie the car in with the family of G-Plus, G2, and G3 cars we had developed and sold over the past fifteen years.

 

Are there specific parts that make up a G-Jet?

Beedle: 
Yes there is, and this is a very important point. The G-Jet was designed around using specific parts and it’s these specific parts that make it a G-Jet. From the very beginning of the project, we wanted the car to really appeal to someone looking at H.O. slot cars for the first time. One very important lesson we learned from running a retail store was how difficult it was for the first-time customer to come in and negotiate our H.O. slot car track. Even the most basic, entry level cars were too fast at 18-volts so we wound up turning the voltage down to 12-volts right off the bat. This helped, but it was still clear we needed a car that was very drivable out of the box but ran at a more realistic speed. As part of the investment in our retail store, we could use our customers for research and development feedback on our G-Jet project. During 2002 and 2003, we tried just about every conceivable combination of parts to see at what speed novice racers were comfortable getting around the track. Actually, at that time, we used the code-name “G3 Lite” as a disguise to try and keep all the copy-cats out there from catching on to what we were developing. When the final version was ready, it was called the G-Jet which is the car we released and have been running here on the West Coast for the past year. The final version of the G-Jet reflects years of research and development which gave us the spec component parts list that makes up the car.

Here’s the important point to remember…the G-Jet is it’s own thing. It wasn’t designed to be a slow Super Stock car. It’s not a magnet car and it’s certainly not a T-Jet. It was never intended to be a car that fits into some pre-existing class of H.O. slot racing. The G-Jet is it’s own thing. It’s not a car to be raced against anything else but other G-Jets. The G-Jet follows a very specific set of rules using BSRT-specific parts. If these BSRT spec parts are not used; you’re not racing a G-Jet. Plain and simple.

By doing this, it offers racers, and racing organizations, a great new class of racing that makes perfect sense in today’s world. As I’ve already mentioned, we designed the car to perform around a certain performance level. By following the G-Jet’s specific rules and spec parts, a car has been created that’s, not only a blast to drive and race, but it’s a spec car that completely levels the playing field for any skill level of H.O. slot racer. Plus, by following the G-Jet guidelines, the cars are easy to build and even easier to tech.

There’s a lot of very positive reviews of the G-Jet in circulation and nearly all of them mention the car runs similar to a slightly quicker, more reliable Fray-style T-Jet but is much easier to work on. This was exactly the speed level we had designed into the complete G-Jet package and this was the very positive reaction we were hoping to get from the H.O. slot car community.

 

You mentioned using 12-volts in your retail store. Is this why you wound up using 12-volts as standard power for the G-Jet? Why use 12-volts? And, do you think racers will accept running 12-volts on their own slot car track?

Beedle: 
Let me start my answer by asking; why is it we were forced to run on 18-volts of power while the rest of the slot car world standardized on 12-volts? Actually, I’ll answer that for you. There’s a very good reason why H.O. slot cars got stuck using 18-volt power from the very beginning. Derek Brand, designer of the original Vibrator car, originally envisioned his slot cars as being an accessory for H.O. scale trains. At the time, trains were the 800-pound Gorilla of the hobby trade, so it made perfect sense. With that in mind, he designed the cars to run efficiently on power up to 20-volts just like H.O. trains use to power their layouts. You have to keep in mind, he likely had no idea H.O. slot cars would end up becoming as popular as they did… and not as an accessory for trains. It would be another few years before their popularity took off, mainly from the public’s interest in the larger 1/24th scale slot cars. H.O. slot cars rode on the coattails of their larger brother’s popularity with H.O. cars having the advantage of lower cost and the ability to be set up and used at home.

Since the first Playcraft H.O. slot car sets used the higher voltage power packs it made sense, when Derek designed the Thunderjet 500, he would develop this car for the same purpose, only this time with the reliability that D.C. power offered. Why did the ThunderJet car wind up having so many gears on it? Simple. It wasn’t for efficiency, it was for gear reduction; so the car could run steadily at slow speeds around the track, with the speed controlled by voltage. For years, Aurora only produced street cars which looked “normal” on train layouts. Of course, things changed once slot cars really started taking off in the mid-sixties. They no longer were an accessory for trains and soon the slot car industry eclipsed trains when it came to annual sales figures. But, it was already too late, H.O. slot cars were stuck with 18-volts of power in order for the T-Jet to get out of it’s own way.

Fast forward ten years, to the 70’s, and now, everyone is faced with the challenge of trying to come up with decent 18-volt power to run the cars of the day properly. And, you know what? We still have the same problem today, over thirty years later; finding sufficient 18-volt power at a reasonable price. The past seven years we’ve handled the Tomy AFX warranty technical phone calls and, annually, that’s the number one problem customers complain about. One car runs great but slows down when the other car is on the track. Or, your car speeds up when the other car crashes forcing your car to crash. Performance parts are pretty much out of the question since there’s not enough power available using a wall pack. The slot car manufacturers will not put in a high-output 18-volt power supply simply because the current wall packs they use are already more expensive than the rest of the components in the race set combined. We certainly don’t like the idea of recommending a $150-$200 power supply to a customer that just forked out $125 for a large 4-lane race set. The customer’s going to wonder why a sub-standard power supply comes in the set in the first place. What do you do?

Deep cycle marine batteries will work, provided you can find good ones at a decent price. And, no matter what you do, you still have a maintenance issue to deal with, just to keep them properly charged. Who really wants to hassle with that on a regular basis? Plus, they typically only last a few years at best. I know I finally gave up on batteries. What do I use to power our tracks? I found a couple of “proper” Sorensen variable D.C. power supplies that could be turned up to 18-volts with enough amps available to run any type of H.O. slot car. I bought these power supplies second-hand from Motorola when they closed a local manufacturing plant and I got lucky, getting them for ten-cents on the dollar. I still wound up paying $500 a piece for them, and that was a bargain. Is the average H.O. racer going to spend $500 on a power supply? Highly unlikely. You can find home-made power supplies and low-end commercial units out there that put out 18-volts but, even a decent one that puts out enough amps to run almost everything, is going to run at least $200. I’m not talking about power supplies rated at 8 to 10 amps here. We’ve found a minimum of 25-amps is necessary to run all types of H.O. cars the way they were designed to perform.

Why do I bring up this problem dealing with 18-volt power? Because 12-volts is just the opposite. That’s why all the other slot car scales started out at this voltage. It’s very easy to find excellent 12-volt power supplies and at very reasonable prices. All you have to do is look around a bit to discover this. In fact, we’re selling the official G-Jet power supply for a retail price of $28.00. Using the G-Jet 12-volt power supply, it’s powerful enough to run up to a six-lane track full of G-Jets. Battery power is the same way. You only need one 12-volt battery to power your track. If you’ve already invested in battery power on your track, it should only take a minute to unhook one battery and go with 12-volts. Pretty easy and it makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it?

Running 18-volt power has always been a major issue when it comes to powering H.O. scale slot cars. It will continue being a problem until someone has, pardon my French, the “balls” to offer something different that makes more sense any way you slice it. We’re doing that. As I’ve already mentioned, we have carefully thought through and engineered every facet of the G-Jet package to offer something different, exciting, and new for the H.O. slot car enthusiast. The complete G-Jet package has all sorts of advantages built into what we’ve designed with the power source being just one of them.

 

With so much interest in the G-Jet, aren’t you afraid someone will try and rip-off the whole idea and concept behind the G-Jet? If someone does, what do you think they’d come up with as an attempt to copy the originality of the G-Jet?

Beedle: 
The G-Jet car makes so much sense, and works so well, I don’t think there’s any doubt someone will try and rip it off. Of course, anyone wanting to rip-off the G-Jet simply has to take a look at one of the many G-Jet cars already out there. Everyone copies our products and we’ve had racers come from all over the country to run the car with us over the past few years. We’ve held 6-Hour and 9-Hour Enduros for these cars in 2003 and 2004, hosted by Dave Rothwell in Southern California. We ran it at the Western States in 2005 and it was one of the two featured racing classes at the Western States this year. So lots of serious H.O. racers have already bought the car, understand the concept as we presented it and, no doubt, the word has already gotten around about the G-Jet and how much fun it is and how well it performs. The final production version of the G-Jet car has been raced here on the West Coast this past year so the car has actually been available for sale for months now. It was a huge hit at this year’s HOPAC Western States where we sold every G-Jet car we had in stock. Realistically, the car has been available for some time now which means anyone could rush out a knock-off of the G-Jet and I’d be willing to bet someone will.

What would they come up with if they tried to copy it? Because we’ve sold so many G-Jets already, the blueprint for this type of H.O. slot car was available to copy some time ago. So, adding brass weights in the same locations we did would be a simple thing to copy; we’ve already done all the homework. What you really need to look at is the motor and track power combination. It took us a long time to get exactly the level of performance we felt was right. The shortest route to creating a cheap knock-off of the G-Jet would be to throw a few brass pieces on a car and utilize the already existing stock 6-ohm motors used to power today’s magnet cars. If you didn’t spend any time on research and development, you’d likely take the shortcut of running the car on 18-volts power. This was our starting point years ago but we quickly realized this combination was not going to work properly and, most certainly, was not going to be much fun to drive. In my opinion, this combination of parts and power would be the easiest and quickest route to producing a rip-off of the G-Jet.

No matter what the competition comes up with as a copy of the G-Jet, they’d have to rely on the H.O. community not being very smart about the whole thing. Everyone knows the G-Jet’s been running out West for years now. By copying what BSRT has already created with the G-Jet, you’d be admitting BSRT had a great idea and, by trying to copy it, you’d be giving the idea your complete endorsement. In that light, I wouldn’t want to be the first one to copy the G-Jet...

Then there’s the performance. We’ve been working on engineering the G-Jet to perfection over the past four years, figuring out the perfect speed, dialing in the design and placement of the brass parts, pickup tension, perfecting the tires, gearing, ride height, the correct power (12-volts), manufacturing an armature with the correct resistance (9-ohms), and on and on. The G-Jet is an entirely new car and concept that is it’s own thing. You can’t simply pull the traction magnets out of one of today’s magnet cars and, poof, have it work properly as a non-magnet car. If that’s all you did, you’d be ripping off your customers. You’d be offering nothing new or different other than pulling the traction magnets out of an existing car and trying to sell it off as something new.

As the manufacturer of the G-Jet, we feel like we’ve really put together something special. We’ve done our homework and it’s been clear for years now, this entire concept of a modern H.O. slot car, developed to be a non-magnet car running at a realistic speed, started at BSRT. Anyone who copies it at this point is underscoring the point and would be admitting, very publicly, they’re copying us once again. We really have no protection against getting ripped off so we have to rely on customers being intelligent enough to know the difference and support us in what we’re doing. In the end, the well thought-out “total package” that constitutes the G-Jet will, ultimately, separate the G-Jet from any copy-cats. If nothing else, I suppose we could look at it as being the sincerest form of flattery.

 

This is the first installment of our series of talks we had with the “Guru” about the design, development, and importance of BSRT’s new G-Jet H.O. slot car. Hope you found this informative and, if you did, stay tuned for the next installment where Gary tells us lots more about the G-Jet including how the speed of the G-Jet was arrived at, the realistic appearing bodies coming on the G-Jet, in what forms the G-Jet will be sold, the specific G-Jet rules, and more about why the G-Jet makes so much sense. Stay tuned...

 

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