David Beattie, founder of Slot Mods in Clinton Township, has come a long way since playing with his older brothers’ slot car set when he was young.
Now he creates elaborate wood slot car sets in his 6,000-square-foot shop. The sets, which feature tracks as well as cars, typically are patterned after real-world racetracks.
“To me, it’s interactive art,” says Beattie, who started Slot Mods in his basement in 2008 when he lost his job as an operations manager at a local display house. “If you’re not racing on it, you’re looking at it.”
Slot Mods tracks range in size from 32 square feet to 420 square feet, and range in cost from $20,000 to $250,000. On average, a track takes eight months to build and runs between $150,000 and $175,000.
“I found out there are people out there with the means to afford the hobby that I love in the scale (1:32) that I love,” Beattie says. “With the slot cars, it’s not how much money I can make, but the money allows me to make the tracks people love. I just really love the hobby.”
The artistic creations Beattie builds with four full-time employees have attracted big-name customers. Newly minted Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley was an early customer. Farley commissioned a track that resembles Laguna Seca Raceway in California, complete with its famous “corkscrew” turn.
“Beattie is a true artist who understands the importance of accuracy when creating scale models of iconic tracks,” Farley says.
Slot Mods created a replica slot car track of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for former owner Tony George. Beattie has also built tracks for former Indy Car driver Adrian Fernandez and Indy 500-winning driver and owner Bobby Rahal, who asked for a replica of his favorite track, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
“I grew up at Road America with my dad racing in the ’60s, and myself racing there later,” Rahal says. “I told (Beattie) I didn’t want it to look like the current Road America. I wanted it to look like the Road America of my youth. There’s the old pagoda, old pits, guardrails, bridges, the barn that used to be in turn 14, and the topography is very much like Elkhart Lake. All that stuff dates from the ’60s. When people come here and see it, they’re wowed.”
Among Beattie’s corporate customers is the Formula 1 racing series.
“That Formula 1 track has gone around the world to every race on the circuit,” Beattie says. “Ultimately it was auctioned off in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) after all of the drivers signed the main straightaway. I never could have dreamed something like that could happen.”