They are, kota slot scaled down versions of actual racing cars. They’re electrically powered through the tracks, have engines, a chassis, and sometimes a magnet to keep them from toppling over even if they collide with another car or speed down too fast along a curve.
The basic versions of the model cars have metal pickups so they only run when these metal pickups contract the track. The power source of the track is a power pack which looks like a small generator close to the switch boards of the track. Controllers are also affixed on the track to regulate the power current (hence, the speed) that they receive. The power pack attached to the car’s tracks has low current electricity, which makes slot cars very safe toys for children eight years old and up.
The first models weren’t run on electric tracks but raised railways. They were made with metal bodies and had no individual slot controls. The production of these models in the USA stopped when the Word War I broke out, really because the War caused sales to drop by over half.
The hobby rebounded, and reached its peak again during the 60s and 70s. Interest in this racing hobby faded as the 80s approached, but because the hype died down, these models quickly became collectibles. Had they remained mere children’s toys, serious hobbyists wouldn’t be paying so much attention to them now.
Now, more advanced technology is applied to the very best of slot cars and tracks. The tracks now have digital counters, keeping track of a particular car’s track performance. Some have magnetic fields too so they won’t easily topple over when they reach curves. Of course, serious racers consider magnets “cheat” tools and they would much rather hone the skill of applying the right speed at curves than depend on magnets for down force.