Rocky Russo AKA “Professor Fate” was one of slot racing's great personalities. He traveled widely, racing all over the country in the 1960s. If he never became one of the finest drivers or builders, he made up for it with persistence, generosity and an encyclopedic knowledge of slot cars and diverse fields including aircraft and military history. He participated extensively in online slot forums and was a contributor and editor for Model Car Racing Magazine. Like me, Rocky liked to build interesting cars and run vintage cars for fun. I always wanted to pit next to him just so we could talk. Rocky usually arrived with a massive armada of slot cars often loaned cars to practically the whole field. Often, especially when the car offered was a 40 year old scratch-built or something equally precious, and the loan offer was met with “I’d be afraid to crash it”. Rocky's reply was “they are all doomed! Don’t worry, drive it!”
Rocky’s family has maintained this spirit in offering Rocky’s car collection to friends of his at the Slot Shop. Don Haase and two of Rocky’s friends Doug Larsen and Mike Kelly conduct an annual Rocky Russo Memorial race. The first, held in 2013, using a field of Rocky’s cars.
Recently, I visited the Slot Shop and was given some of Rocky's cars and parts. This one is my favorite, as it competed against cars I built for the 2001 Marconi Proxy races. The full race report can be seen here.
As received, things were a bit out of square, the gears and rear axle carrier were worn out:
Left side pans were bent to reduce dragging, Left side plumber hinge was interfering with wheel rotation.
Several solder joints were broken. The wires soldered to the top of the guide caught on the body.
The guide tongue was binding the guide, and the blade was cut too short.
Still, as received, it was easy to drive to a 4.68 on Quadrophenia. The old girl still had Rocky’s touch for building a sweet runner.
My intention was to restore the car, repairing only damage and correcting flaws while preserving it in a state as close as possible to the way it appears on that 2001 race day. So here she is now: Front and rear axle tubes have been squared up, all bad solder joints repaired. The only parts replaced were the guide, and as the spur gear - I used a 1960’s era lightened brass gear for style.
Everything is now square, level and secure. Well, mostly as I did not mess with Rocky’s hand-cut pan edges, they add character, and I don’t think he’d approve of spending too much time making this pretty in non-functional ways when I could be driving it. Speaking of which, the car is now .5 seconds per lap quicker than it was. And still an easy, forgiving and fun to drive car.
Ready for our Nomad monthly Vintage races!