"BANDIT MAN" - FROM A R/C RACER TO A HOBBY SHOP OWNER
The journey began in 1982 with the purchase of my first R/C car, a Associated RC10 kit. After spending over a week to get it assembled, painting the body, it was time to get the steering & speed controller servos installed. With that task completed, I installed AA batteries in the radio, turned it on, installed a 6 cell battery pack in the car & as I connected the battery pack, I watched in amazement as my new R/C car went wide open and flew off my work bench. The realization that I must not have things adjusted correctly quickly set in. It was also the moment that I realized at there had to be a better speed control than the resistor/wiper one that came with the kit. Novak was the answer!
After getting over the shock of seeing my new car flying off the work bench, I was able to get everything correctly adjusted and it was time for the fun to began. It only took a few minuted of running the car in the parking lot across the street to realized that I was hooked! From that simple beginning, my journey in R/C racing took many directions which allowed me to race & meet many new friends in places across the US.
It was during those early years of being involved in the hobby that I became a fan of NASCAR driver Harry Gant and the #33 Skoal Bandit race car. From then on, almost every R/C body I painted for my cars were "skoal" green & white and number 33. Many times when I arrived at a R/C track that I had previously frequented, I could hear a familiar comment from some of the local racers, "here comes that Bandit Man". The Bandit name stuck with me and for 30 years it has been the name of my hobby shop, Bandit's Hobbies Limited now located in Hartsville, SC. Even one of my best friends today still calls me "Bandit"!
In the 23 years after getting my first of many Associated RC10's, I was fortunate enough to live, work & enjoy my hobby in many different locations. A few of those locations that bring back lots of memories of good times & great friendships were: Greenville, SC, Selma, AL, Orlando, FL, Richmond, VA, Quakertown, PA, Pennsburg, PA, Pottstown, PA, Easton, PA, Lansdale, PA, Valley Forge, PA, Pulaski, NY, Oswego, NY, Syracuse, NY, Skaneateles, NY, Charlotte, NC, Aberdeen, NC, Irving, TX, Lafayette, IN, Indianapolis, IN, Memphis, TN, Norman, OK, Jackson, MS & Darlington, SC.
Until my transfer to Pennsylvania in the spring of 1984, my R/C experience had been limited to bashing around in a parking lot alone or sometimes with a couple of buddies. My first taste of real competition R/C racing came about during that first summer after I discovered a small dirt oval in Pennsburg, PA. There were a great group of guys there and they were all very helpful in getting me headed in the right direction. The summer & fall of 1984 was a blast, but with the cold Pennsylvania winter approaching, I began to seek out indoor places to race. The fist track that I found was at a Hobby Shop in Pottstown, PA. I entered their 16 week winter pan car series which was held on their indoor carpet track. Race Place in Quakertown also held several indoor carpet races that year and I was there for all of them.
By 1985, my "fleet" of R/C cars had grown to the point that trying to carry them all in the trunk of my car was all but impossible, especially considering the fact that every car had it's on transmitter, I had two (2) Plano Phantom Pro Tool Boxes, plus batteries & chargers and lots of spare parts. Then I came across a small trailer that was for sale & that was the ticket to haul all my "stuff" with me when I went to race. Today, seeing trailers at R/C events is quite common, but back in 1988-1989, the only trailer I ever saw at a R/C track was mine. I don't think I started something, but it doesn't hurt to think maybe I did.
During my time there in Pennsylvania, I made it up to Easton , Pa to Trains & Lanes and spent many hours on their indoor carpet oval track. In January 1986, I has fortunate enough to participate in the R/C event held at the Valley Forge Convention Center, as part of the Miller Beer World of Motorsports Exhibition.
Even as early as 1988 while living in Pennsburg, PA, the idea of owning a hobby shop kept entering my mind as something that might be fun to have once I decided to retire from construction, but at that point in time, I wasn't sure when that might be. I had made friends with the owner of Stahl's Hobby there in Pennsburg and he & I had many after store hour discussions on the pros & cons of owning a hobby shop. Where the idea would go at that point wasn't clear, but it was definitely stuck in the back of my mind going forward.
I met and became friends with many, many R/C racers over the years, met many R/C track and Hobby Shop owners that I have stayed in touch with over all these years even after opening my own Hobby Shop in 1991. I have raced on dirt ovals & dirt off road tracks, asphalt oval & road course tracks, carpet ovals and what I consider the most fun of all race tracks, R/C Club Racing in a city parking lot on a Sunday afternoon.
In April of 1989, my work took me to Oswego, New York and soon after getting my family settled in, I discovered Oswego Hobby and the owner, Dave Patty. Soon after I met a R/C racer named John Cianfarano who knew quite a few other racers and within a short time the Oswego R/C Club was formed and we were having Sunday afternoon R/C races in a city parking lot in downtown Oswego. Our parking lot races became a hit, not only with the racers whose number steadily increased, but our activities were drawing many spectators to the parking lot to watch. In addition to our parking lot racing, our club put on several visible events during the Labor Day weekends in association with International Classic Race Festival at the Oswego Speedway.
My work in Oswego kept me there for almost 2-1/2 years which gave me the opportunity to get in lots of indoor carpet oval racing on those cold, snowy New York weekends. I spent many snowy Saturday night at R/C Competition Corner & at Walt's Hobbies, both in the Syracuse, NY area and on warm sunny Sunday afternoons at Salmon River Hobbies in Pulaski, NY. They had a very large flat asphalt oval track in one of the city parks and I was a frequent competitor there during the summers of 1989-1991.
The pictures I have posted below were taken during my time in Oswego, NY. In the last year, I have been able to make contact with Dave Patty (Oswego Hobby) and John Cianfarano. I wish I could remember who all of the club racers were from back them. Of those pictured below, there are only three (3) that I can put a name with the face; one is Joe Johnson, another is my son Brad and lastly, John Cianfarano. If anyone who visits this page is able to put some names with the faces, I would appreciate you contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OSWEGO, NY - OSWEGO R/C CLUB
PULASKI, NY - SALMON RIVER HOBBIES CITY PARK R/C TRACK
BANDIT R/C RACING - VINTAGE RIDES
A few pictures of some of my most memorable R/C Cars from the past. Definitely vintage by today's standards, but in no way were slow. Back then there were No Lipo Batteries, No Brushless Motor/ESC Systems and NO 2.4 Hrz Radio Systems. Can anyone remember the days of having to "impound" your radio?