Superstition Mountain - build progress

Jeremy_McDiarmid Saturday, 10/29/2022

Not quite a build journal, I intend to use this thread for ongoing shares, feedback and opinions.  This contraption is similar to what some users build and refer to as a motor plex or raceway as it will eventually contain various separate tracks but will be connected scenically in a single geographic location. I have one course planned that shares part (and the finish line) of another longer track and a monster truck track for my son that jumps over a section of the main downhill open track straight of the first initial track.

When thought up the track was a generic realistic mountain road design where tracks would weave around declining cliff faces and I avoided any unrealistic corners above 180 degrees or places where the track would need to tunnel through a cliff to cross under track above it; shape S but not shape 8 for example.  With those constraints and a preference for symmetrical track length and alternative car speeds with varied declining track areas along with a preference for seeing close races across a variety of car types, I know I am in for a long build.  Each section goes through an extensive but fun cardboard box period with me and my 5 year old in the living room where we can easily see the effects of angles and height changes before I transfer it out to the track room and fabricate semi permanent structure for it.

The Room, is a common feature of homes in my area and is referred to as an Arizona Room.  Like a covered porch/patio it runs the length of the house and has glass window walls other than a door on each end and 18" of block from the expoxied concrete floors to the metal roof.  This is a shared room and is used mainly for sitting, reading or crafting.  My track area is 5' by 20' though the tighter I can keep most of the track running along the walls, the better.

The Structure, as I mentioned is semi-permanent, rigid but adjustable and made from the lightest materials possible.  1x4 is the most common track support bed material held up with vertical 1x2 or 2x2 with adjustable X feet.  Where plywood is used horizonatally to support complex curves 2x3 legs and support frames are used to secure it.  The deadman's curve just after the start is one such large section and another will be necessary at the other end 15' down where my wall boundary is.  Polystyrene sheets may be used in final detailing phases or depending on the fate of the track my be finished with just glue coated kraft paper to give the impression of mountainous features the track is following.

Track A will be the longest and first to be built.  It has 2 main levels and is 50/50 roughly between dual lane orange track and crash racers open track.  The upper level is the start with the starting drop, a deadman's curve (180+) followed by a straight track "freeway bridge" to another mountain cliff and several Tracer Racer curves before switching to Crash Racers track and following the same cliff features heading back towards the starting area.  Functionality goals are to have the main action portion of the track at or below eye level for my 5 year old AND to have cars finish near the starting line.  Anyone with young kids knows how quick walking back and forth to get cars and lifting a kid up to place cars on the starting line gets old. 

Track B will start at the far end just before the switch from dual orange to crash racers track and will enter onto Track A to use its finish line.  If I ever get around to scenic detailing I love the idea of a dirt road race at dusk ending up onto a professional road course by use of Y track!

C, D, or other track ideas exist but require expanding the track further along the longest wall and using the starting point elevation only rolling down on their own tracks in the opposite direction.

Photos to follow.


Cardboard box phase barely fits in the living room.  This was an early draft of how to avoid crossing under the track above. In the track area the track would have needed a final 90 turn at the bottom to run along the wall that the starting track came from.

Another early configuration showing the two tier idea and the general shape of the track area.  The orange track deadmans curve was moved after this photo further from the corner to better allow the lower track to follow the same cliff features that warranted it being build there on a real mountain road.

Plywood structure for deadman's curve featuring a 90 to 180 to 90 section of equal lanes.  All track is declined and all curves exit at lower elevation than they start.  Here I was finishing the shim placement under it as the entrance and exit tracks are parallel and need to also both decline.

Here is the current state of the build showing a complete deadmans curve section and easily adjustable starting and run-out track.  I will most likely be here for a while to fine tune the start angle by comparing how a range of cars look on the roll-out track.  So far I get the impression I am close as most cars exit faster than I would like but there is some slight fine tuning to the 180 which effects that also.

  • cool, I like the fact you are including the development of the idea/complex, and the r&d steps needed — dr_dodge
  • Thank you dr_dodge, this approach is a fun compromise between over-engineering on paper or PC which is no fun for my son and investing time into structure that has insurmountable flaws in design. Lots of lessons learned applied but the biggest is to have fun. — Jeremy_McDiarmid

Having some difficulty working out how I want the upper tier to end and how the crash racers lower level should look.  The frustrations invited in as a result of building section by section I suppose.  Not a suprise to most I am sure my hurdles are:

My own design constraints.  *More on that below.

Crash Racers turns are enormous!  Quite hard to get the tight to a wall winding track I want.

Hotwheels track can be maneuvered in more ways but the custom work required for corners is daunting.  *Even spending $$ for vintage dual lane curves or 3D printed options only helps so much.

I'm adding so positive notes below so I don't seem fully negative.  I did after reaching frustration with not seeing more track installed, went back and nailed the deadman's curve section by swapping out the hotwheels 90s for Tracer Racer 90s.  The entrance and exit on those fits the track perfectly as there is noticeable slowing and speeding back up now that I wanted.  I even put some bed layers of 'mountain' around the track to help keep me inspired.

The actual Superstition Mountain is within view of my driveway and I think I'm doing it justice so far.  Hard to tell with these angles but this area has 3 sides with vertical cliff faces and 1 side connecting it to the mountain proper which has a more typical 45-65° profile.

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Endcount 11/3/22

Nicely done so far. I hope your finished build comes out the way you envisioned the idea. Have fun. 

  • Thanks endcount. Oddly enough, finishing it (detailed landscape, etc.,) wasn't included in my vision for it. At my son's age his interests change more frequently but my hope is that we still have it should he decide to make it his own with details or mods. Lately we have been visiting shows more and he loves racing at the diecast store in our local mall so hopes are high! — Jeremy_McDiarmid

I have decided to give cardboard corner building a try after reading some threads here about it.  I see it done typically for rally inspired courses but a few times for smooth paved tracks. 

I also decided with this length I can do less-is-more on total curves if I hit the other design goals; competitive, realistic racing and wide range of cars running smoothly.  

Something I really enjoy about the open-track is the illusion of control or intent cars display during overtakes and on corners.  With longer straights ending in brief inclines before a turn I should see plenty of that with a few handmade turns and then some wider high speed 90s or a 180 near the end.

Any advice on how to design cardboard open corners for competitive racing?  I am putting a few of my tricks in elsewhere when a turn has to be modified for lane symmetry (speed bumping as a last resort but things like lane switch 180 turns where the faster lane goes high) all to get the cars to the open track together.  Crash Racers corners do IMO favor longer wheel base cars but are pretty consistent across different weights.

  • I have created a formula that lets you build custom cardboard turns with custom track width , banking , and radius . When I get back home tomorrow , I'l make a post to explain it . — Deedose
  • Yes! I will keep an eye out for that post. They call it STEM now but science, engineering and math for me is just how the world works. Very curious to see your formula and what value you assign different variables. — Jeremy_McDiarmid

I am interested in this build because I am doing something similar, but on a much smaller scale. I basically designed a small street in my head, which is the track I'm starting with, then started thinking of other things that could work around it in a semi-real way (a mountain leading to the street, a mountain away from the street, etc. including Rainbow Road up in the galaxy lol)

Have you tested the track that you've put up so far to ensure that a variety of cars make it from your current beginning to your current ending?  I'd love to see some short videos as proof of concept as you go along.

You did mention the monster truck track and I infer that you've got two tracks in your current progress from your initial post:

I have one course planned that shares part (and the finish line) of another longer track and a monster truck track for my son that jumps over a section of the main downhill open track straight of the first initial track.

and then express frustrations :

Having some difficulty working out how I want the upper tier to end and how the crash racers lower level should look. The frustrations invited in as a result of building section by section I suppose.

Might I suggest, if you need to feel more inspired after a daunting day, rather than put more effort into something that isn't .. "complete" ... per se, you focus more on mentally deciding all the tracks you're going to include.  I've found that this, at the least, helps fine tune the transition from one to the next and where and ending might be as you visualize each individual track.

  • I appreciate that and given some thought I may already have some solutions brewing. The other courses mentioned are not conflicting at all with the current primary course BUT they could be part of the solution. Elaboration to follow in another new comment. — Jeremy_McDiarmid

Videos are being taken along with more photos than I need.  Most of them I hope will eventually be mashed into something uploadable to YouTube but... that is a case full of cans of worms for another time.  Short explanation is I have an output bottleneck for ideas related to YouTube and a backlog of 'need to finish' projects waiting to consume all of my time.  Entire channels (plural) worth of content waiting to be video edited once I learn to video edit.  

Seems like a silly thing holding up so much but knowing myself I temporarily enjoy that excuse sitting in place because once I start editing and posting that would become my hobby and eat into the time I currently spend on what makes sawdust and smiles around my place.

Future Track Plans vs Current Course Progress (from the previous post's suggestion)

Imagining the track in simple terms there is a down and back course I call A which if all turns are removed is descent along the wall, turn around and come back along that wall in a sideways U.

Future monster truck track will look in that example like a strike through of that U before it is rotated.  It doesn't interact with course A other than to jump over it and has a separate start and finish line.  It angles and turns slightly as it follows hillside geometry but for simplicity of explanation it can be considered straight and non-interacting.

Course B however can help me with how I lay down Course A!  To imagine Course B, the capital U rotated clockwise becomes a large lowercase n, rotated counter clockwise.  A starting line down where the turn around and come back happens gets a Y section allowing it to follow half of course A and share a finish line.  Conceptually my very large n rotated 90 (strike through happening before rotation for monster trucks haha) demonstrates all current courses with points and approximate connection locations. 

What I had not considered until your suggestion is that the Course B start area does not need to be just a 6" long starting gate.  It could start anywhere and weave a path on the mountain side before ultimately connecting to Course A in that area.  If course A has 2 turns after the turn around point, course B can have 3 turns before that point and my mountainside now has TONS of roadways weaving around it!  That gives the entire scene more depth even if course A cars don't utilize those turns, bravo and brilliant!

Course B was hoped to be more gravel and dirt style track (prior to the cars "sneaking" onto Course A) which means tighter, rougher lanes and possibly even merging into single lane if necessary.  That can be fun if done in a way that doesn't cause crashes every time.  I have created prefered lanes in crash racers track where (most) cars line up and weave around obstacles due to subtle high points in the track bed.  Very cool effect when cars racing can weave through cars not in the race that are stationary on the street like mid-day stop light traffic.

  • rather than a y into coarse a, you could jump down into it, (1/2 a dead bridge, land on straightaway of coarse a) that way you could make coarse a work great to start, and not need to add an intersection — dr_dodge

It took a lot of thought and some very much appreciated comments to go from idea to now a track plan.  Thank you!  Below are some pictures of Superstition Mountain Course A track layout & plan.

Some of the runs between turns may need adjusting but I am happy with the general way the crash racers (lower tier) follows the same general shape of the orange track (upper tier) which when cliffs and Mountain sides are done will make more sense.

This was the important feature for me to work out that made the orange track interesting but simple and fast.  I don't "love" the bank on the 90s so may experiment with lower speed turns to see how often card fly out.

Long shot photo showing the general idea start to finish.  From here I can quickly get 1"x4" up onto adjustable stands and begin section by section tuning.  Deadman's Curve's exit elevation is 48" and the distance from there to the far corner is around 15ft for a nice smooth run to the crash racers track which in my experience doesn't need large elevation drops or downhill sections if momentum is considered in the plan.

New photos by this weekend with (I hope) some rough terrain inplace.

  • nice progress so far. I like the explanation of what you want, and how to achieve it. I have built 1:1 cars for customers, and the first thing I would do is just what you have done, define the goals. Doing that helps keep the build on track (pun intended) and prevents project creep. — dr_dodge

After more testing I decided to revert the 90+ corners of Deadman's Curve from Tracer Racers, back to HW banked 90s.  The slow down I first thought I appreciated was stealing too much momentum during a section that needs to carry the length of the track with minimal descent.  Further down the track, at coasting speeds, these turns trade momentum better as the cars slow slightly making it up the banked turn but gain it back as they finish and that works better at lower speeds.  What I have only ever heard called "coasting curves" from the old Super 6 in 1 set are rigid and smooth.  So far no issues with them even at higher speeds as long as the connected tracks have the ability to pre-bank.  Instead of the tall purple clips these came with I flip grooved orange pegged clips (pre blue circular trackbuilder style) upside down and they fit tight and let these 45s sit more level.


Quick video showing one of the test cars doing the track as-is.  We are close to final position though A LOT of testing to do this weekend before leg heights are fixed and track height becomes less adjustable.


Slightly longer video showing more track detail from the car perspective at a slow walking pace.  At the end where Crash Racers track begins I am referring to as the lower tier.


Track is going to be held into position primarily with jumbo popsicle sticks with standard popsicle sticks holding them up off the 1x4.  Where track is forced to roll into and out of banked turns,  Liquid Nails will be used.  I plan to fill the undertrack slots again with giant popsicle sticks cut perpendicular to their length.  This keeps the tracks as flat as possible and gives the Liquid Nails the role of bed, support and adhesive.  Any comments or insights into that idea is appreciated because I plan to start that process before continuing with the lower tier 

  • Obviously not Fast Fish. Clip Rod snuck himself onto YouTube because I lost track of which video was which at upload time. — Jeremy_McDiarmid
  • Starting a separate discussion topic about an open track issue I am facing. Correction, I am searching for the issue to see of it has been discussed before. If I can't figure it out; I will then start a new thread. — Jeremy_McDiarmid
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