I stumbled across this interesting little set online the other day and took a punt on it. The Teamsterz Street Race Showdown set. It normally retails for around £30 (about 37 USD) but I picked it up on a deal for £20.
- Orange track compatible
- Beam sensor finish line rather than paddle
- Timer + lane indicator for winner
- Have to manually release cars to match timer
- No end-track connections
- Sensor might have some reliability issues
- Single start gate for each lane
You can buy online from The Entertainer toy shop (UK)
Obviously its just another cheap Hot Wheels imitation with two start gates, a few feet of track, two loops and some generic junk cars. What I was interested in was the finish line.
What you get is a 2-lane battery operated finish line with LEDs to indicate the winning lane and a timer. It is not connected to the start gates in any way. You press the button on the top and it emits a countdown of three short beeps followed by a longer beep. The timer starts on the longer beep, the idea being that you manually release the cars at that time. It then plays some mildly annoying generic F1 style engine noises until the cars cross the finish line, breaking the white light beam in the center of each lane. The first car to break a beam stops the timer, giving you the time of the winning car (to tenths of a second only) and a red LED to indicate which lane won. It also then plays some cheering crowd and camera flash noises. You can't connect track after the finish line - there is just a plastic ramp on the other side.
Now obviously there are issues with this set up. Times will be influenced by variations in the manual release of the cars, which needs to be coordinated manually with the beeps, so it is of no real use for comparing times across multiple runs. Timing to tenths is limiting on drag runs that may only last 2 seconds. And the sound effects are a bit childish and could grate after a while. The inability to connect track after the gate is also a bummer.
However, it does in theory give you a cheap finish gate that will tell you the winning lane even in close finishes. The tabs are compatible with orange track (Teamsterz uses little triangular raised notches to secure its track pieces to corresponding triangular holes in the track pieces but any orange track will just slide over these). The countdown beeps actually add a bit of drama, and the engine noises are mostly drowned out by the swish of the cars going down the track.
Of greater concern is that occasionally it simply fails to register a car breaking a beam and I can't immediately work out why that is. The car must be breaking the beam as it passes through and the material the car is made of shouldn't affect that. A car might fail to trigger the gate one time but trigger it the next, so I am at a bit of a loss to explain it. However, it only happens maybe one out of 30 runs and seemingly only with certain cars.
As a bonus you also get an interesting design of start gate ramp in the set, albeit, annoyingly, two individual gates rather than a dual gate. It may be that you could engineer a bar to link the two release levers so that they released simultaneously.
However, the main reason that you might pick up this set is for the finish line, particularly given that 3Dbotmaker has ceased production of his finish lines and all the other retail options that I have seen are specialist and very expensive. This is clearly a toy grade finish line, and a pretty cheaply made one at that. It is not going to satisfy the more serious modders and racers. However, if you just want a finish line to tell you the winner of your drag race, can't afford the more sophisticated specialist timers out there, and don't have the skills or inclination to build your own, this might be worth picking up. Just bear in mind the question mark over the reliability of the sensors.
[This article was edited by RLD staff for clarity and emphasis.]