Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
Blutrack: open-ended die-cast racing track
My daughter recently took an interest in die-cast toy cars. So in advance of Christmas I set out looking for a Hotwheels race track I remembered from my youth, but instead of using eBay, I found a better product…
Blutrack [caution: auto-playing audio] is a free-form racing track sold in 18, 24, 50 and 100 foot lengths — one continuous piece, not segments. Unlike race track kits that tell you what to make using a hefty set of instructions, with Blutrack you just get a big coil of track in a cardboard box. It’s up to you and your kids to decide what, where and how to design your track.
More importantly, you don’t need a spring-loaded car. Your vehicles travel as fast as gravity and your track design allow. There’s a greater chance for screw-ups — cars not completing a loop or flying off the track — and thus greater opportunity for learning as your design is adjusted in small ways.
Here’s how it works:
1) Hang one end of the track on a wall using an included suction hook (or your own nail or picture frame hanger).
2) Roll the track out over couches and your floor, using books and other household objects at hills.
3) Optionally create loops using Blutrack ramp holders.
4) Attach stiffener bars in places you need to stabilize the track on the floor. It seems that if your cars are going really fast, the track moves slightly, and because track movement slows the cars, a purist will want to eliminate all movement. Options are included for both carpet and hardwood floors.
Is the hill in that video a pile of shoes?
You can buy 6-foot track extensions which attach to your existing track using adhesive pads.
On the flipside, the Redline Derby Racing Blog contains a significant criticism of Blutrack (in an otherwise positive review).
Namely, it seems the plastic is less flexible in colder weather. Its ideal temperature is 70 degrees. By less flexible I mean the track doesn’t always lie perfectly flat on a flat surface. The recommended fix is to place the coiled track into a bucket of hot water for a few minutes and any odd bends should mostly smooth themselves out. I’ll be buying a 24-foot Blutrack Challenge Pack, so I’ll let ya know what I think after Christmas.
I bought three Matchbox car 5-packs: emergency vehicles, service vehicles, and passenger vehicles at K-Mart. I avoided race cars because I don’t envision my daughter’s pretend play including driving her Lamborghini to the grocery store or to drop her kids off at school.
You won’t want to mix Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars because Hot Wheels are faster by at least a full car’s length in speed tests conducted by Redline Derby Racing. I opted for Matchbox because they’re less expensive and more readily available in non-grand prix styles. The cars are rated for 3-years-and-up.
That’s a 24-foot track in the video above.
- Flickr photo #1 (I should have bought a two-story house)
- Flickr photo #2 (another home track photo)
- 24ft Performance Kit at Amazon (contains loop ramps)
- 18ft Starter Kit at Amazon (no loops)
- Direct sales from blutrack.com — More configurations and accessories are available. There is also an online deals section that seems geared toward existing customers. At the moment of this writing, there is also discounted shipping, a freebie offer and a Thanksgiving Day special on a separate discount page.
My new-found German toy spy alerted me to the Darda Create-a-Course Building System. If I had a small living space, I might go for it… but at its heart, it’s still a track kit with lots of pieces that take a lot of time to assemble. I expect a lot of the fun of Blutrack is found in making quick minor adjustments as a track is fine-tuned. But in the interest of equal time, here’s a video of one of many Darda systems that exist: