Wauwatosa Hobbyist Lives Life in the Fast Lane


By Ryan Ward | October 20, 2018

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Gene Wenzel loves loud noises. “It’s just a cool feeling. And I like loud noises. Especially when it’s coming from a hot rod car or something,” Wenzel said.

Wenzel is a slot car hobbyist. A slot car is a miniature auto vehicle powered by electricity that uses a grooved track to race around. Wenzel began racing when he was a kid but soon expanded to building his own slot cars and even designing an original track. “It’s like a model railroad where you can always add subtract, build something new,” Wenzel said.

Wenzel gets creative with his building. Using materials you’d likely see when building a house rather than a motorized slot car track. “This fencing is vinyl siding that I cut in strips. And it’s nice and flexible, it’s easy to bend and it’s easy to work with,” Wenzel said. “All the lighting on here is LEDs which helps a lot. Years ago, that’s all I had was just regular 12 volt. Incandescent lighting and it was quite draining on the power system. But now I can run hundreds of lights with just the single source. LEDs made a big difference.”

However, it’s the thrill of racing that really draws people in. Wenzel meets with a group of friends almost every month to hang out and take part in a little friendly competition. “Well, we usually try to race once a month on Friday nights. And again, depending upon weather during the wintertime, and who is available,” Wenzel said. “Usually I send out an email or whatever a couple weeks in advance saying we’re going to be doing such and such this night. And we’ve had four people all the way up to 15.”

It was Wenzel’s dad that originally got him into slot car racing as a young child. The track and cars are dedicated to him. “My dad and I started that back in 1976. We always went to visit the Wisconsin State Fair Park. Back when I was a kid, my dad would take us for the Indy car races,” Wenzel said. “After he passed away, I was bound and determined to keep this thing going. Wenzel even has an entire cabinet dedicated to his dad’s memory next to the track. Inside are several miniature cars and vehicles his dad designed and worked on over the years. “He was a big part of it years ago, and I always wish he was back,” Wenzel said.

After all of these years of building and racing. Wenzel is still surprised at what he’s created. “To this day I never thought it would be like it is today,” Wenzel said. “It was just a hobby. And it still is a hobby, but it’s a lot of fun.

Ryan Ward

Ryan Ward is a videographer and editor for the “Wisconsin Life” project and can rest easy after he finally found the perfect jar of homemade dill pickles at the farmer’s market in Madison. … just like his Grandma Shirley use to make!
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2018-11-01T15:55:40+00:00Tags: |

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